I like to think of myself as a thoughtful, logical, reasonable person. And because of that, all of the noise surrounding the events in Charlottesville over the past several days really has my brain spinning. So many people are saying “what they’re supposed to say” or what they believe that others think they should say. And hardly anyone allows themselves to see the hypocrisy that’s permeating the news coverage and social media.
We all start out on the same page. The first amendment. The right to assemble. The right to free speech. And when that idea suits someone’s agenda, they’re certainly all for it. But the gathering of white nationalists and other racist white groups in Emancipation Park… because it’s widely accepted (and in my opinion, correct) that being white and racist against African Americans and jews is a very bad thing, that group that wanted to exercise their right to speech and assembly didn’t stand a chance.
They knew that their gathering would be triggering to many people, and perhaps they even wanted to disrupt the calm on purpose… and they came in helmets, carrying sticks, shields, pepper spray, etc. And as you would expect, there was a large group of protesters of the event on the other side, and many of them even came with things that could be used as weapons. It was a powder keg, and things played out in the way that you’d expect such a passionate gathering of opposing forces would do.
What’s bothering me is that nearly all the news outlets, as well as the views on social media, seem to be relieving the protesters of the event of any responsibility or blame for the way things went down. That’s difficult for me because we’ve all seen the videos… people from the white nationalist group attacking protesters, protesters attacking the white nationalists. This was something that most definitely went both ways, despite news personalities like Joy Reid saying “there certainly was not” violence coming from the protesters.
Because their views are understandably unpopular, the people who organized and attended the event are the ones that are getting all the blame. Photos and videos of them getting attacked are celebrated. People are doing everything they can to identify them, post their personal information online, and even get them fired from their jobs or expelled from their schools. Statues of Confederate “heroes” are being torn down, spit on, kicked, etc… and again, all of it to the cheers of the humans.
If you are a guest on a news program, even if you lead with condemning the racist views and actions, if you dare to point out that protesters also participated in the violence as well you will be shamed or shouted down. If you assert anyone’s right to assemble and speak, you’re going to be labeled a Nazi sympathizer or worse. If people really looked at this, it should scare them… mob mentality, justifying violence if someone’s views are different than yours, cheering vandalism, turning a blind eye to illegal actions if they are done by someone who is confronting a politically incorrect symbol, idea, or view.
I have friends who also share this view. The white nationalists, just like anyone, had a right to assemble and assert their right to free speech. They should have known that it had the potential of blowing up, which it did, but that shouldn’t preclude them from doing it. For those that went there and got into fights, on either side, it’s obviously wrong. You don’t have to like what someone is saying, but that shouldn’t give you permission to physically attack them (again, on either side) and it certainly shouldn’t result in the cheers and praise of the mob.
Nobody seems to be doing the “if the shoe was on the other foot” thing. If an extremist black group were to gather and speak, would the media be as quick to essentially praise anyone that attacked them, simply because such incendiary speech “shouldn’t be tolerated” or whatever? Would that group be treated with the “they should have known better” mindset like the people who gathered in VA? And would people (in general) tolerate taking photos of all of the black people, blasting their information all over social media, and doing everything that can be done to destroy their lives? I really don’t think so.
I’ll be honest… of those that gathered, I don’t have any idea what they were speaking about. I’m pretty sure it was awful, difficult to listen to, and probably meant to get people fired up like it did – and yeah, everything that happened because of the event is horrible – so I don’t know what can be done to prevent such things from happening. The idea of “hate speech” vs “free speech” is obviously a tricky one… but if you take away the political correctness, if you take away the passionate views, it comes down to one group interacting with another group, with each side having a portion of violent actors within it, and anyone that participated in physical violence is just as bad as the next one, regardless of their reason for doing it.