Some Initial Thoughts on Charlottesville

[Update: This assessment of the events in Charlottesville was originally posted on Monday, August 14. As of August 16, I  have added some additional comments where indicated.]

[Updated: Additional comments have been added as of August 19.]

I’m still trying to find out more about what happened in Charlottesville on Saturday. But from reviewing news reports on the incident from across the ideological spectrum, and speaking with people on “both sides” who were present at the melee, here are my initial thoughts.

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  1. I favor preserving the Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, for the same reason I would favor preserving Lenin’s mausoleum in Moscow or the statues of Sacco and Vanzetti in Boston.
  2. Decisions about what kinds of public monuments to put up or maintain should be a local community decision with non-residents getting no rightful say in the matter [Update: I am told that the city of Charlottesville does not have sole jurisdiction over the decision of whether or not to remove the monuments, and that there are relevant state and federal laws involved as well as private leasing agreements. This has yet to be confirmed. A reader has provided me with the following information: The Deed for both Lee and Jackson Parks gave ownership of both the land and the monuments to the Commonwealth of Virginia — but only so long as none of those factors are changed. Changing the name of the parks, or altering or removing the Monuments in anyway violates the agreement and causes the park to revert back to the Foundation (who’s name I have again forgotten). So even changing the name to Emancipation Park was illegal. And that is included in the existing lawsuits. Charlottesville’s only recourse is to stop maintaining the parks and to publicly declare the parks are no longer associated with the city government.”]
  3. The Alt-Right people had the right to engage in a peaceful protest/rally and the city of Charlottesville screwed up by trying to revoke their permit to assemble while leaving the permits of counterprotestors in tact. A federal court agreed that the revocation of the permit by motivated by political bias, and eventually the permit for the Alt-Rightists was reinstated. Requiring permits to hold a political event is dubious from constitutional perspective anyway.
  4. Counter protestors, including Antifa, had the right to engage in peaceful protest as well [Update: While most of the counter protestors were not Antifa, it should be pointed out that Antifa is by nature a violent movement and exists for the purpose of carrying out violent actions and confrontation. However, it is inappropriate to tarnish all counter protestors by labeling them as Antifa as most of them were not.]
  5. The Alt-Rightists went over the top by holding a torchlight parade after dark on Friday night. This seems to have been an attempt to intimidate the local community and their political opponents rather than to merely express a point of view. An unnecessarily provocative bad move [Update: It has been claimed that the Alt-Rightist were attacking university students who were bystanders during the torchlight parade. The videos of the parade do include evidence of scuffles between Alt-Rightists and hecklers with the question of who actually initiated physical action being very difficult to determine. The torchlight parade itself seems to have been very well-organized with marshals attempting to keep the marchers in line. A claim has also been made that the torchlight marchers attempted to surround a church where an interfaith worship service was being held for purposes of intimidation, threats, or possible violence. If this is indeed true, this would be a very serious action. However, it is unclear as to weather the torchlight marchers were actually threatening the church, passing by the church during their march, stationed in a location near the church, or engaged in a protest against the service itself. While the latter is certainly intimidating and grounds for severe criticism, and the people inside the church would have found the situation to be very frightening, it is not by itself illegal. As an illustration, gay rights organizations have conducted demonstrations outside of services being held by homophobic churches, and even disrupted the services of such churches. I have also been criticized by some Alt-Rightists for my criticisms of the torchlight march. There is nothing “wrong” with a torchlight march per se, it was certainly not illegal, and perhaps it was all intended as the equivalent of a helicopter joke. But it is fairly obvious the intent was to create an intimidating Klan/Nazi-like atmosphere in a way that unnecessarily escalated hostilities, particularly given the nature of the chants that were being recited at the same time].[Update: The video evidence shows that participants in the torchlight march at one point began chanting “You will not replace us” (a reference to their opposition to the demographic change of the USA by immigration),  and that the chant then changed to “Jews will not replace us” (a reference to the view that it is Jewish political power that is fostering mass immigration as a strategy to replace the white majority with immigrants). Both factually and tactically, this was an extraordinarily stupid action for obvious reasons.
  6. The participants in the Alt-Right rally seemed to reflect the entire Alt-Right/Alt-Lite/fellow traveler configuration. My contacts have claimed there were at least a handful of people of color on the Alt-Right side in the demonstration (as is the norm with these events). [Update: a photograph has emerged of an Asian man participating in the Alt-Right march, though he could have been a bystander or from the media.]
  7. While it is not true that all participants in the demonstration were neo-Nazis, some clearly were as evidenced by their Roman salutes and displays of the swastika. The organizers of the rally screwed up by allowing groups with this orientation at the rally, and allowing this kind of behavior by those who were present. Neo-Nazis are freaks and losers with a dangerous philosophy that can only detract from any serious political event. [Update: It has been claimed that the organizers of the rally specifically invited neo-Nazi organizations to attend the rally, or made no effort to exclude them when they knew they would be showing up. This indeed seems to be true, as I previously suspected, and was a very severe lapse of judgment by the organizers of “Unite the Right.”]
  8. The message of the Alt-Right rally was unclear and incoherent, and on par with the usual confused nonsense that goes on at Leftist rallies, i.e. this was an “Occupy Wall Street” of the Right. What was the intended purpose of this demonstration? To defend a statue? Oppose immigration? “Unite the Right”? Unite the Right to do what? Piss off leftists? Piss off local officials in Charlottesville? Would any casual observer have a clue as to what this demo was even about?
  9. The carrying of weapons by the Alt-Rightists was legitimate given the well-known violent propensities of the Antifa [Update: Multiple groups were carrying firearms at the event. Some of them were Oathkeeper, Three percent, and Militia types who were apparently trying to keep the peace between the neo-Nazis and the Antifa with varying levels of enthusiasm and success. At least one leftist group, an Antifa oriented tendency called Redneck Revolt, were carrying firearms. At least some neo-Nazis were carrying other kinds of weapons such as sticks and pepper spray, but it is unsure what other groups were carrying firearms. The carrying of firearms at such an event is no doubt intimidating to onlookers, but it is not illegal as Virginia is an open carry state.]
  10. There is no evidence that the Alt-Rightists initiated any violence as the rally began on Saturday morning [Update: Counter protestors have disputed this claim, arguing that neo-Nazis were venturing into the crowd of protestors for the purpose of conducting physical assaults, that such provocations were organized, and that the police failed to restrain them. This is certainly plausible give the well-known violent propensities of neo-Nazis, and the presence of angry people holding intense mutual hatreds. However, if true this does establish that such actions were intended by the rally organizers who represented very diverse groups.]
  11. The initial group of counterprotestors that showed up were also peaceful, consisting mostly of people from the local Charlottesville area [Update: Apparently, there were significant numbers of people from outside of Charlottesville who were present among the counter demonstrators. Once again, it is also very important to distinguish peaceful counter protestors from members of violent leftist groups such as Antifa,  just as it is necessary to distinguish the range of tendencies representing the Alt-Right from violent neo-Nazis.]
  12. The chaos began when the Antifa and other comparable groups showed up with weapons of their own and began throwing various items, ranging from rocks to water bottles [Update: It has been claimed that neo-Nazis instigated violence against counter protestors prior to the arrival of Antifa.This is certainly possible or even probable given the circumstances. However, the “Who? What When?” details of such claims have yet to be deciphered. This is probably the most controversial aspect of the buildup to the conflagration. The evidence is overwhelming that the Antifa intended to shut down the rally by means of violent force. This is in keeping with standard Antifa practice. The Alt-Right was apparently anticipating this and came prepared to stand their ground. Hence, some Alt-Rightists were carrying sticks, shields, pepper spray, helmets, sometimes firearms, and other combat related accoutrements. Additionally, these elements among the Alt-Rightists gave the appearance of having practiced quasi-military maneuvers prior to the rally. In particular, it seems that one organization, the Traditionalist Workers Party, was planning on serving as the frontline troops in the confrontation with the Antifa. In all probability, the actions of some Alt-Rightists, particularly neo-Nazis, involved initiating violence against counterprotestors and hecklers, as well as violent leftist groups. Observers have reported that many little fights were going on simultaneously between various individuals and smaller groups, and that in some cases it was difficult to tell which combatants were on which side. The principal questions here are these: To what degree did the Alt-Rightists, or individuals among the Alt-Rightists, initiate violence prior to the arrival of the Antifa? To what degree did the Alt-Right initiate violence prior to the shutdown of the rally by the police when they were subsequently dispersed into the crowd of protestors?].
  13. When the violence began, the police moved in to shutdown the rally, declaring the situation to be a “state of emergency.”
  14. The order for such a shutdown seems to have been declared by local Charlottesville officials, probably the mayor or vice-mayor, and arguably in violation of a federal court order. Still looking for additional confirmation on this.[Update: The state of emergency may have been initially called by the Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe. It not clear as to whether local officials gave the order to shut down the rally before the Governor’s decision.]
  15. Those who ordered the shut down of the Alt-Right demonstration were apparently trying to use the violence instigated by certain subsets of counterprotestors as a pretext for shutting down the rally. Such an action by local officials may have been planned beforehand. [Update: At least some violent confrontations may have taken place between rival sides prior to the arrival of the Antifa]. See point 12 above.
  16. By shutting down the rally rather than arresting those responsible for the violence, the police predictably failed to both uphold the law (i.e. the First Amendment bolstered by a federal court order) and protect public safety. Although the primary blame goes to those who were giving the police their orders rather than the individual policemen themselves [Update: A Charlottesville police officer has allegedly claimed that the the police were ordered to stand down against their own wishes.]
  17. The Alt-Rightists who refused to disperse when ordered to do so by the police were engaged in justifiable civil disobedience in defense of their constitutional rights.
  18. It has been claimed that the police screwed up by ordering the Alt-Rightists to disperse in such a way that they would come into direct contact with the counterprotestors. I’m still trying to find additional confirmation and details on this [Update: This seems to have indeed been the case].
  19. Not all counterprotestors were violent or associated with left-wing extremist organizations. The majority were not. The counterprotestors appear to have represented everyone from local Charlottesville residents, conventional civil rights organizations, ordinary liberals, those associated with non-violent leftist organizations, loopy but non-violent SJW types and curious onlookers as well as members of violence-prone Antifa, anarcho-communist, and Marxist organizations [Update: While the violence escalated significantly when the Antifa showed up for the purpose of inciting a riot, it is important to once again point out that most counter protestors were peaceful. I hope I am making this point clear. MOST COUNTERPROTESTORS WERE NOT VIOLENT]
  20. While Black Lives Matter was supposedly represented at this event, and people of color were present among the counterprotestors, a super majority of the counterprotestors were white based on the video recordings and photographs taken on Saturday [Update: Individuals and groups claiming to represent Black Lives Matter were present and were carry BLM banners].
  21. Most of the actual violence that was initiated during the melee was started by the Antifa and other “hard left” contingents among the counterprotestors. This is not to say that all counterprotestors were to blame for the violence on their side. Again, most of the counterprotestors were non-violent [Update: Again, the question of to what degree violence has been initiated by either side before the arrival of Antifa is umcertain. There may have been acts of violence by neo-Nazis against counter protestors or hecklers previously, and other protestors may have engaged in acts of violence independently of the Antifa contingent as well]. [Update: Evidence has emerged that various groups of protestors were trying to block the Alt-Rightists from entering the park by means of standard leftist “civil disobedience” tactics, that the Alt-Rightists attempted to push their way through the protestors, and that the Antifa moved in to support the protestors as the Antifa were pushing their way through. In such a situation it is difficult to determine who is actually using violence and who is not. Blocking the entrance to the park is not on part with throwing rocks and physical assault, but it is still an illegal interference with other people’s freedom of movement to attend what at the time was a legal rally. One can argue plausibly that pushing one’s way through a group that is trying to block one’s freedom of movement is legitimate within limits. No doubt such actions would inspire additional violence from the Alt-Rightists, particularly neo-Nazis, which would inspire still more violence from the Antifa].
  22. While the leftists seem to have initiated most of the violence on the collective level, there were plenty of incidents of the rightists initiating violence on an individual and small group level. The most egregious incident of non-lethal violence inflicted by Alt-Rightists reported thus far was the beating of Deandre Harris by five Alt-Rightists with sticks [Update: This has been one of the most controversial claims that I have made, but so far I stand by it. The evidence is clear that Antifa came to the event for the purpose of preventing the rally from taking place through the use of violence. At least some Alt-Rightists were anticipating this and planning on using retaliatory violence. Given the level of anger, hatred, and hostility in the air, it is almost certain that at least some Alt-Rightists engaged in non-defensive violence of their own. Some of it may have even been organized by groups attending the rally, although there is no evidence that the rally itself was intended to be an instance of initiating violence as opposed to the usual collection of chants, slogan shouting, speeches, and heckling opponents. There is also a qualitative difference between groups that attend an event for the purpose of initiating violence, and those who attend with the intent of engaging in defensive or retaliatory violence. There is also a difference between violence carried out by organized groups, as opposed to individuals sets of hotheads and shouting matches that spiral out of control]. [Updated: It has been claimed that Deandre Harris was involving in attacking Alt-Rightists with a stick or a club. There is some evidence to support this claim. However, the spectacle of five guys with sticks beating on man on the ground after he has been disarmed is more than mere self-defense.]
  23. There have been reports that acid was contained in the pepper spray used by the Antifa on the Alt-Rightist known as “Baked Alaska.” Still looking for confirmation of this [Update: It does indeed appear to be true that “Baked Alaska” had some kind of acidic or corrosive substance sprayed into his eyes during the melee].
  24. Clearly, the most egregious example of violence on either side was the ramming of a car into a crowd of protestors by Alt-Rightist Jason Fields, killing one person and injuring between 19 and 34 others (I’ve seen conflicting reports as far as the numbers).
  25. Assuming that Fields is guilty as charged (innocent until proven guilty and all that), there is of yet no evidence that any other person was involved in carrying out this attack, although it has been reported in the MSM that the feds are conducting an investigation.
  26. Some Alt-Rightists, and even at least one journalist covering the event, have claimed that Fields was acting in self-defense in order to avoid a Reginald Denny-like situation. However, the video footage and witness accounts released thus far would seem to make this a highly dubious claim, given the speed and direction of the vehicle.
  27. The person killed in the car-ramming incident, a 32 year old paralegal and left-wing activist named Heather Heyer, does not appear to have been engaged in any violence and was merely a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time [Update: I have heard additional claims that Heather Heyer was either involved with Antifa, or was trying to assist in an assault on Fields’ vehicle when she was killed. I have seen no confirmation of this, and am highly skeptical of this claim]. [Update: It has been claimed by Antifa sources that Heather Heyer was a member of the IWW, a radical leftist group, and an “antifascist comrade.” However, there is no evidence that she was actually a member of an Antifa group].
  28. Those who have applauded the killing of this woman are cretins.
  29. The Charlottesville police revealed themselves to be utterly incompetent when it comes to their basic professional responsibility of maintaining public safety. According to numerous reports, the police essentially disappeared just as the violence was escalating [Update: Apparently the police were absent for at least two hours, perhaps longer].
  30. A public riot and melee of this kind would normally justify dozens if not hundreds of arrests. However, as of this writing apparently only five arrests have been made. One was Alt-Right leader Richard Spencer, who was arrested for trying to give a speech after being ordered to disperse. Another was Jason Fields, the suspected car rammer on murder and other charges. Three others were arrested on misdemeanor assault and weapons charges. [Updated: According to Augustus Invictus, one of the scheduled speakers, Nathan Damigo, another scheduled speaker was also arrested at the same time as Spencer for engaging in civil disobedience.]
  31. It has been claimed that the Charlottesville political leadership ordered the police to stand down during this incident, presumably for the purpose of allowing the Antifa to “have at” the Alt-Rightists, though such claims are unproven. However, similar patterns have been observed when incidents like this have occurred in “college towns” with left-leaning local governments.
  32. The response by public figures to this event, including politicians, media personalities, celebrities and other assorted douchebags has been lame and predictable. The near universal chorus has been one of “Official Bad People marched in Charlottesville! Eww, bad!” in a manner akin to school children pointing to a kid picking his nose in the cafeteria.
  33. The most reasonable response thus far has come from, ironically, President Trump himself for daring to point out that violent street fighting involving “hatred, bigotry and violence” actually occurred on “many sides” during the course of this disaster, rather than merely taking one side as if violent Communists and other left-wing extremists are not dangerous and undesirable in a manner that parallels their fascist/Nazi rivals [Update: Trump has since given a press conference on this event. While he has been criticized for not criticizing the neo-Nazis harshly enough, he clearly criticized racism and violence, and fixating on these elements would have been redundant given the already universal unpopularity of neo-Nazis. Trump appeared to be trying to deescalate the tension rather than fan the flames which is appropriate. I’m not personally a Trump supporter, and I’m sure I’ll get plenty of hate mail from Trump-haters for these comments, but too bad.]
  34. Given the racially charged nature of this event, it is important to point out that African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Middle Easterners, Native Americans and other minorities appear to have had very little to do with this incident from any direction. A super-majority of participants in this conflagration on both sides were white people. Actual people of color have admirably avoided participating in these Left/Right skirmishes for the most part (this is not to say that there are not other serious problems in many communities of color). It would seem that such incidents are largely the responsibility of rival factions of loser white people.
  35. The nature of these conflicts appear to be less racially or ideologically motivated, and more psychologically motivated.
  36. Contrary to frequent misconceptions, the current Left/Right battle in the US is not between races, genders, sexual orientations, social classes or even ideologies as is often maintained. Instead, it is a battle between tribes representing certain psychological types.
  37. The psychology of the Left is aptly described in the “Mass Psychology of Leftism” section of Ted Kaczynski’s “The Industrial Society and Its Future” (this not to say that Kaczynski is an admirable person or that his wider anti-tech ideology is correct).
  38. Kaczynski accurately characterizes the Left as follows: “Leftists tend to hate anything that has an image of being strong, good and successful. They hate America, they hate Western civilization, they hate white males, they hate rationality. The reasons that leftists give for hating the West, etc. clearly do not correspond with their real motives. They SAY they hate the West because it is warlike, imperialistic, sexist, ethnocentric and so forth, but where these same faults appear in socialist countries or in primitive cultures, the leftist finds excuses for them, or at best he GRUDGINGLY admits that they exist; whereas he ENTHUSIASTICALLY points out (and often greatly exaggerates) these faults where they appear in Western civilization. Thus it is clear that these faults are not the leftist’s real motive for hating America and the West. He hates America and the West because they are strong and successful. Words like “self-confidence,” “self-reliance,” “initiative,” “enterprise,” “optimism,” etc., play little role in the liberal and leftist vocabulary. The leftist is anti-individualistic, pro-collectivist. He wants society to solve every one’s problems for them, satisfy everyone’s needs for them, take care of them. He is not the sort of person who has an inner sense of confidence in his ability to solve his own problems and satisfy his own needs. The leftist is antagonistic to the concept of competition because, deep inside, he feels like a loser.”
  39. Back in 2003, I described the kind of people who comprise groups like the Antifa in the following way: “…nutjobs, freaks, dysfunctional personalities, punks, brats, crackpots, thugs, crybabies, mediocrities, Peter Pans, cultists, ignoramuses, sociopaths, reactionaries, authoritarians, totalitarians, Communist dupes, left-wing fascists, liberal butt-lickers, tree-huggers, intellectual incompetents and stooges for the left-wing of state-capitalism…” Then as now, this would seem to be an accurate description of the general character of the hard Left in its contemporary Western form (though not necessarily in its historic or contemporary non-Western form).
  40. The psychology of the Right is more difficult to pinpoint, because the Right is a nebulous collection of those whose only unifying thread is opposition to the Left. The psychological makeups of the Right appear to range from conventional “right-wing authoritarians” (Altemeyer) to those with a conservative “moral psychology” (Haidt) to transgressive individualists to sociopathic opportunists to run of the mill adventurers to youngsters engaged in rebellion against perceived leftist authority to well-intentioned but largely uneducated persons to any range of cranks, hobbyists, social failures, misfits, criminals, and mentally disturbed persons [Update: Believe it or not, these comments have been interpreted by some as “too friendly” to right-wingers even though I am largely hurling insults at the far right in this section.]
  41. In many ways, these battles are comparable to religious conflicts between those who become fixated on various archetypes for whatever reason and consequently embrace the identity of those who share a similar or related fixation. In other words, the Left/Right conflict, at least in its present day Western (and especially, American) form is essentially a religious battle akin to a rivalry between Protestants and Catholics or Sunni and Shiites.
  42. During the time that this conflict has been going on, the US Congress is trying to pass legislation that would be among the most restrictive of political freedom in US history, i.e. the criminalization of the movement to boycott Israel. Looking over all of the leading Alt-Right websites in America, I can’t find any discussion of this proposed legislation. What could be better evidence of Zionist power over the political process? And yet all of these professional anti-Semites couldn’t care less. Likewise, the only leftist criticism that has been voiced of this legislation thus far has been from the genuinely anti-imperialist sector of the far left, mostly Stalinists and liberal non-interventionists, which hardly represent the mainstream of the Left. Ironically, while this is going on, both Left and Right in the US are hardly noticing, and are instead fighting in the street over statues commemorating a state that only existed for 4 years, and was defeated 152 years ago. This indicates that both Left and Right, in their present forms, are generally worthless as a foundation for building a genuinely revolutionary, radical, or even authentically oppositional movement in North America.
  43. I’ve been saying all along that eventually someone was going to get killed in these street fights, and that the state would certainly use this as a pretext for a crackdown on political freedom, and with the support of much of the public who see these events as nothing more than lunatics wreaking havoc. Many alt-rightists and leftists I know have fantasies of some kind of Weimar-like epic battles, to which I always respond that America is not some weak nation devastated by world war and depression like Weimar. The US has an elaborate an internal security apparatus as East Germany during the Stasi era. Pretty soon they will start making examples of the leaders of these actions [Update: Christopher Cantwell, another speaker at the rally, has had felony arrest warrants issues against him in Virginia on the illegal use of weapons.]
  44. One commentator has summarized the situation very well:
    “The average person is ignorant to the fact that 1) the State is an institution of violence that inherently leads to division and loss of freedom 2) the ruling class behind the state (call them Illuminati, new world order, deep state, etc) have always used Order Out of Chaos as their method to divide, conquer, and pick up the pieces, ensuring their agenda continues.Even those who recognize the violence of the state don’t always understand the depths to which this conspiracy goes. Until you become aware of BOTH these pieces of information you are missing the bigger picture.For example, the altright and allied racists are bigots but they are also responding to years of bullshit from the extreme left telling them they should feel guilty for their heritage or that they are to blame for everything. It doesn’t justify their hate but leftists need to be aware. But at the end of the day both sides are being played.The ruling class creates and funds movements across the board. They create wars, create refugee/migrant crises and stoke the flames of reaction. They fund the good guys and the bad guys. They fund revolutionary and the counter revolutionary. Even when it came to Hitler he was being funded by interests that had their own agenda. If you are allowing yourself to be reactive and your actions dictated by these movements you are what is known as a useful idiot.Think deeper. Look at who benefits from your actions. The people at the top, behind the scenes, have studied human behavior and psychology. They seek to control world events and manipulate us into supporting our own division and eventual domination. We have to be smarter than them.”
  45. Amen.