Is it even newsworthy that Trump’s press conference about Charlottesville was misleading and disingenuous? Probably not. Trump is so dishonest that it is no longer an interesting question that he mislead us but rather to ask how and to what end he lied. Sometimes, of course, the answer seems to be “because he felt like it” or “because he is so unconcerned with truth that he doesn’t even know he’s lying anymore.” I’m not even going to bother with the nonsense about “both sides do it,” I’ll leave that to Driftglass. I’m more interested in Trump’s challenge to a reporter who dared ask him a question:
When you say the alt-right, define alt-right to me. You define it. Go ahead. Define it for me, come on, let’s go.
Trump claims he “never spoke to Mr. Bannon about” Charlottesville. Maybe when he bothers to do so, he can ask him to define “alt right” since Bannon knows all about it. Heck, he even published a whole guide about defining the alt right. Maybe an aide can make a pretty picture book about it so President Pop-Up-Book can understand it.
We don’t need a precise definition of the alt right. It isn’t important to have a sharp line dividing insiders and outsiders. We don’t need team jerseys. The reason for this, is that on many important policy items, there is no significant difference between the alt right and the mainstream right. Just as there is no important differences between Trump’s talking points and the talking heads of Fox TV, on most things, the alt right, including the neo-Nazi racist right, they are all on the same side. When you agree with the big things, does it really matter of the Jews or the liberals are destroying the country?
For example, Trump said:
Those people – all of those people, excuse me – I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there, because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue Robert E. Lee.
“Those people” attended a rally organized by neo-Nazis, some of whom are now really scared that they are in trouble. They were there to condemn the removal of a statue to a traitor to his country who took up arms in order to keep people enslaved. Just one of many monuments to the Confederacy that were erected in order to celebrate white supremacy. At that point, who cares if “those people” are “really” neo-Nazis or not? There is nothing consequential separating them from neo-Nazis.
There are other similarities between Trump and the some of the ugliest racists of American history. In the early 1960s, the Freedom Riders, and integrated group of black and white people, rode buses into the American south in order to protest segregation. Southern law enforcement looked the other way, and sometimes encouraged, violence against the Freedom Riders:
The ride continued to Anniston, Alabama, where, on 14 May, riders were met by a violent mob of over 100 people. Before the buses’ arrival, Anniston local authorities had given permission to the Ku Klux Klan to strike against the freedom riders without fear of arrest. As the ﬁrst bus pulled up, the driver yelled outside, ‘‘Well, boys, here they are. I brought you some niggers and nigger-lovers’’ (Arsenault, 143). One of the buses was ﬁrebombed, and its ﬂeeing passengers were forced into the angry white mob. The violence continued at the Birmingham terminal where Eugene ‘‘Bull’’ Connor’s police force offered no protection. Although the violence garnered national media attention, the series of attacks prompted James Farmer of CORE to end the campaign. The riders ﬂew to New Orleans, bringing to an end the ﬁrst Freedom Ride of the 1960s.
Trump rode to the Presidency encouraging violence against his political enemies, although his mouthpieces lie about it to this day. More disturbing is that Trump has rolled back any federal investigation of white supremacist terrorism. Just as Bull Connor winked at the Klan and told them to have their fun, Trump has effectively told the racist right the same thing according to counter-terrorism expert Peter Vincent:
I was deeply disturbed to see that the White House, shortly after taking power, decided to stop focusing countering violent extremism efforts and funding on all sorts of extremism, and to focus it solely and exclusively on radical Islamic terrorism, as the president points out…. With respect to killings associated domestically in the United States, associated to terrorism, 70 percent of those have been committed by white supremacists, so-called white nationalists.
It is an article of faith among the right that any act of terrorism committed by a Muslim is the product of a violent ideology, but that any act of violence by a white supremacist is the product of insanity for which the right bears no responsibility. Despite lots of counter examples. In the case of Charlottesville we have a young man who drove his car into a crowd of people he hated; people speaking out against racists. What could possibly have inspired him? Newest Fox golden boy, Tucker Carlson’s website, The Daily Caller, posted a video that advised its readers how they should drive their cars into protesters, telling them that the video, could “prove useful.” Since then, they have taken it down, seemingly completely unware that nothing ever goes away on the internet. Fox News, of course, also posted the video and now has taken it down. “The item was inappropriate and we’ve taken it down. We regret posting it in January,” they said as if that means a damn thing now that a young woman is dead. And, while Trump has promised white supremacists that the federal government won’t investigate white supremacists for terrorism, other Republicans are trying hard to make sure vehicular manslaughter is legal if the death is of someone Republicans don’t like. There is a word for this: Lynching. We used to be really good at it. I guess this is what Trump meant about “Making American Great Again.” Think of it every time you see one of his stupid hats.
Finally, Trump said:
So this week, it’s Robert E. Lee, I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after. You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?
Wrong question: the proper question is: when does it start? When do we fully face our racist past? Looks to me as if we have started. We have started admitting what we should have admitted a long, long time ago: that our wonderful country has an ugly racist past and, worse, an ugly racist present. Some of us are dealing with it by removing Lee’s statue, It is happening fast. We have started with the traitors. Will we get around to Jefferson and Washington? Maybe. If we decide their own racism and enslavement of people means they don’t deserve a statue. That’s for us to decide and not for the racists and their allies, even if their allies are powerful media groups. Even if their allies are in the office of the President.
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