On its first anniversary, it is worth revisiting what we may now refer to simply as “Charlottesville.”
Thanks to the assistance of Republican politicians and their apologists in Big Conservative media, the left didn’t hesitate to transform this event into an ideologically and politically-useful weapon.
Of course, Charlottesville could serve the left’s agenda only if the official interpretation of circumstances defies reality—as it does.
On August 12, 2017, hundreds of people gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia for what they called a “Unite the Right” rally.
They would be met by an even greater number of leftists of various sorts, self-described “anti-fascists” and “anti-racists.”
Immediately, elites in Washington D.C. and their fellow travelers in Big Media (of both the “mainstream” and “conservative” varieties) laid the blame solely at the feet of “white supremacists.” Every politician, Democrat and Republican alike, and every commentator, Fox News contributors and talk radio hosts no less than their leftist counterparts on the other networks, spared no opportunity to show the world that they were even more repulsed by this exhibition of “white supremacy” than the next person.
Make no mistakes about it, the wailing and gnashing of teeth, the fever-pitched waxing of indignation, was political theater at its absolute best—or worst. It is inexcusable that anyone who purports to be in the know, let alone those, like politicians and media figures, who are expected to be knowledgeable of current events, should not have been able to discern from the jump the gist of what occurred in Charlottesville on that fateful day.
President Trump elicited much criticism for claiming at the time that there were good people amongst both the demonstrators and the counter-demonstrators, and that both sides contributed to the violence. The President did misspeak, but not in the ways in which his critics charge:
First, it is manifestly absurd to characterize as “good” those—like the militant leftists who converged upon Charlottesville—who routinely violate the Constitutional rights to speech, assembly, property, and bodily integrity of, not only those of their fellow citizens with whom they disagree, but as well those of their fellow citizens who they deem insufficiently supportive of their “anti-fascist” agenda.
Second, not a single hair on the head of a single person would have been harmed, much less would anyone have been killed, had it not been for the “anti-fascists” and “anti-racists,” the “counter-demonstrators” who initiated the violence.
(1)The organizers of the Unite the Right rally acted lawfully, availing themselves of their Constitutional right as Americans to peaceful assembly. The organizers applied for their permit months in advance of their demonstration. It was granted and then withdrawn. The organizers appealed and, thanks in no small part to the American Civil Liberties Union—hardly a right-wing operation—a judge determined that the city of Charlottesville had no legal grounds on which to deny them a permit.
In other words, the organizers of the Unite the Right rally acted in good faith, with fidelity to the law, every step of the way.
(2)The counter-demonstrators, in stark contrast, conducted themselves lawlessly: They had no permit and never even applied for one. Quite the contrary: The “anti-fascists” armed themselves with weaponry—clubs; bricks; bottles and balloons filled with cement, urine, and feces; bear mace; baseball bats; bows and arrows; and a makeshift flamethrower—and, quite literally, hit the streets. They formed mobs and took to intersections, blocking traffic and attacking motorists.
For this reason, because of their lawlessness, their flagrant criminality, it is a misnomer to describe the “anti-fascists” as counter-demonstrators. They composed a mob.
(3)It’s true that a few of the demonstrators were seen sporting KKK and neo-Nazi paraphernalia. It is equally true that the vast majority of the rally-goers who gathered in Charlottesville were doing no such thing, and that several of these endeavored to remove those showcasing KKK and Nazi symbols.
The lion’s share of rally attendees descended upon Charlottesville on that fateful day not to affirm “white supremacy,” “white nationalism,” or any racial fiction that the media would ascribe to them, but, rather, to demonstrate against the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, an act that symbolizes to many patriotic Americans the radical left’s ongoing attempt to fundamentally transform Southern culture specifically and that of the United States of America generally into something in the image of their own ideology.
And, to repeat, there weren’t so much as dirty looks exchanged, to say nothing of overt violence, until lawless leftwing mobs, so-called “Antifa” and Black Lives Matter, in particular, arrived and instigated every bit of it.
(4)The foregoing facts were available at the time. Big Media—both the “mainstream” or “liberal” media as well as such “conservative” media as Fox News, talk radio, National Review, The New York Post, etc.—just weren’t interested.
Those who were interested had to go underground, to the internet, to Youtube, to gather eyewitness testimony from those who were actually in Charlottesville. The most reliable testimony comes from the members of several “Patriots’” organizations, self-described “civic nationalists” (as opposed to racial nationalists) who came to Virginia to keep peace and safeguard the Constitutional rights of their fellow American citizens (See here and here).
Most of these men (and some women) are military and police veterans who remain committed to upholding the oath to the American Constitution that they pledged upon embarking upon their careers in law enforcement. These are the same people who those in Big Conservatism (the Big Con) tirelessly “thank” for their service. Yet when these retired soldiers and officers of the law were physically besieged by leftist criminals and corrupt Charlottesville police alike, Big Conservatives were all too eager to side with militant and radical leftists and blame the protestors and these Constitutionalists for the unprovoked violence that they suffered.
(5)This brings us to the next point: As some of us knew then, and as the Heaphy Report has subsequently confirmed, violence would have been averted not only had leftist street thugs shown the same respect for the law as that shown by the Unite the Right demonstrators. It would have been averted had the governments of Virginia and Charlottesville—the governor and mayor, the state and local police—and the University of Virginia conducted themselves more responsibly.
The governor declared a state of emergency, in effect canceling the demonstrators’ permit at the last minute, while the Charlottesville mayor ordered the police commissioner to in turn order his officers to stand down.
But even this way of putting the matter is understatement. The police didn’t just do nothing as innocent citizens were assaulted. They encouraged the violence by forcing the Unite the Right rally attendees to vacate the premises by way of walking through the wall of volatile leftists that were waiting for them.
From these facts, we can deduce another: Contrary to the conventional (Politically Correct) wisdom, far from being aggressors, the only party in this story that is innocent of provoking violence is that of the rally demonstrators.
Fairness, however, forces us to go one step further: It is the rally attendees, and them alone, who showed respect for America, for its traditions, laws, and the Constitution, for preserving the history of their country, civility, free speech, and peaceful assembly. No other actor in this melodrama can claim credit for doing the same. Every other actor, in fact, revealed themselves as decidedly anti-American.
A final point: While the overt left has long ago put us on notice as to its desire to destroy (“fundamentally transform”) America as it has existed, the response of Big Conservatism to Charlottesville proved, if proof was still needed, that Big Cons are but an alt-left. Big Cons incessantly whine over the left’s suppression of free speech whenever it is one of their own—like, say, Ben Shapiro—who is prevented from speaking at a college campus. Yet their eagerness to buy hook, line, and sinker the interpretation of Charlottesville favored by Antifa and Black Lives Matter confirms that they care as much about protecting the free speech rights of those to their right as they care about “supporting the troops” and “blue lives” when law enforcement veterans are lumped in by the left with “racists,” “fascists,” “white supremacists,” and, simply, “the alt-right.”
Never again can anyone within the Big Con be regarded with seriousness when they espouse platitudes concerning the Constitution, free speech, tolerance, civility, or, for that matter, respect for veterans and law enforcement. Though few people have yet to grasp this, the truth is that Charlottesville comes as close as anything to serving as the criterion, the test, for determining one’s commitment to the Constitution, law and order, free speech, civility, tolerance, and all of the rest.
The Big Con failed this test miserably.
Jack Kerwick earned his doctorate degree in philosophy from Temple University. His areas of specialization are ethics and political philosophy, with a particular interest in classical conservatism. He has been teaching philosophy for nearly 20 years and his work has appeared in both scholarly journals and popular publications. Jack is the author of four books, including Misguided Guardians: The Conservative Case Against Neoconservatism and the recently published, Higher Miseducation: A Dissident’s Essays on the Assault Against Liberal Learning.