This post conveys my contribution to a Facebook discussion of the confrontation in Charlottesville, VA during the weekend of August 12-13, 2017, with updates from other material.
The Vice Video
What Is “Unite the Right”?
Coverage by ProPublica
Trump’s Press Conference: The Antifa
A Poll of Public Opinion
Doxxing: Getting Them Fired and Evicted
Roots of Media Bias
The Media Starts to Come Around (?)
Later Items: Boston, Slate, ACLU, FAIR, Fox & Breitbart
I should say, at the outset, that I don’t believe I have ever voted Republican in my life. Certainly not at the presidential level. Moreover, I am not very motivated to write anything defending Donald Trump. As I have stated repeatedly, in this blog and elsewhere, I do not think he is qualified to be president.
Note, also, that I spent years as a PhD student in social work, one of the most liberal and female-dominated fields in any university.
Eventually, however, I did come to realize that there is a reason why social work ranks as one of the least respected academic fields. Another blog presents some of my findings in that area.
It was quite a shock to discover that, as a white male in social work, I had to protect myself against abusive faculty, students, and practitioners in social work — which is supposed to be a helping profession, and many of whose clients are white males.
Even so, as I say, I have still not been inclined toward a Republican perspective. To me, there has not been much to admire in Republican leadership in Congress and the White House since 1980.
Finally, I have learned that I may have to be the fair listener in a debate. I have discovered that, too often, journalists (liberal and conservative alike) — indeed, many PhDs — find it inconvenient to be honest or to think critically. Some of that emerges in the following material.
The Vice Video
In our Facebook discussion, I found myself advised to watch this video from Vice:
The participants in our FB discussion were not white. They seemed to share a left-wing interpretation of the video and of related actions by Donald Trump. I did not think the situation was as simple as they claimed. I wrote a long reply, reporting my reactions as I proceeded through the video. I will start by simply presenting that reply, with a few edits. I am open to suggestions on things I might have overlooked. Here’s what I wrote in that FB discussion:
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First, I’m sure y’all are talking about the whites, and I agree to some extent. I have no use for the anti-Jewish chants, for example. Just paused here at minute 7 to note, however, that so far it does seem the white protesters are the ones being attacked. Christopher what’s-his-name has twice been maced by leftists; some of the video seemed to show the leftists pushing into the rightist line. He said the rightists were obeying the law, and so far that’s how it looks.
Continuing to view: I will add I have zero use for Robert Ray, the Daily Stormer guy. I can understand intense language from someone who has been stepped on; that’s how many Jews speak of the Nazis, for instance. Regardless, I didn’t get the impression Ray had any interest in dialogue, understanding, or anything other than making his views dominant (not to mention his more genocidal utterances). Black or white, Jewish or Muslim or whatever, that’s a no-go for me.
I’ve often heard of David Duke. I think this is the first time I’ve seen him on video.
The man being interviewed at this point utters an odd mix of anti-communist remarks and accusations that the leftists serve the capitalist class. During the anti-Jewish chants, I saw some guys were not participating. I wasn’t sure whether that signaled internal dissent. I don’t get the feeling this is a homogeneous movement. That’s what I would expect. I think the Left is driving a lot of diverse whites to come together in self-defense. I think that’s a real part of why we got Trump as president.
I felt for the cops, out there in the heat in all that riot gear. Black, to boot.
Minute 11. That guy driving into those people. That was shocking. If you wanted to see an act that would bring home the level of hatred in someone like Robert Ray, I guess that would be a pretty good illustration.
I understand the aggrieved reaction of the black guy saying afterwards, something like, “We told the City Council we did not want them [i.e., the Nazis] here. They let them come.” But that’s what political protest in a free society is. It’s not like a college campus, where administrators can shut down anyone who doesn’t say what the administrators want them to say.
I feel that the leftists who were so surprised to get hit by a car should have been thinking about that possibility when leftists were physically attacking Trump supporters during the election. They thought physical violence was funny then. What goes around comes around. It seems that, every few generations, people have to relearn that war is not a game. Keep playing with fire; you’re going to lose some loved ones. If you don’t like that game, then don’t play it.
Minute 15. Trump was right to condemn hatred and bigotry “on many sides.” Some get it from the right; some get it from the left. I get it from both. All kinds of people, feeling righteous about their half of the picture. Like the black woman (minute 16): “Right is right and wrong is wrong.” She thinks her side is always right. As if the other half weren’t human. That’s the meanness and stupidity that leads to war. And it’s on both sides, right now.
Minute 18. The rightist (Jason Kessler) is trying to speak; the leftists are trying to shout him down. He’s asking for rational discussion; they are giving him the bird; they are physically intimidating him. He was not the one driving that car. But they don’t care. These are not people who want dialogue. Blood was shed; now they want blood in return. That’s war. It’s complete stupidity.
So then they physically attack a man for standing at a microphone. Why was that response better than listening to him and responding intelligently? Is middle America going to watch that and vote with the protesters?
The Democratic Party has been losing ground in recent polls; it has been losing elections. It has lost Congress, the White House, and a majority of governorships. This is not wise strategy. (See Mark Lilla in the Times.)
Minute 19. Christopher Cantwell showing off his guns. It wasn’t my idea to let gun nuts arm themselves to the teeth. It was the idea of people like black Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, supporting Justice Antonin Scalia’s grossly illogical Heller opinion.
Minute 20. Cantwell justifies the guy hitting that crowd of people. I rewatch. I see the silver muscle car (a Dodge?) hitting the cars ahead of him and then backing up for, like, a block. Cantwell says the driver was attacked and saw no other exit; he just had to hit the gas and plow through the crowd. That doesn’t seem likely. The street behind was fairly clear; the street ahead was obviously packed; and the driver was able to jam it in reverse and steer a fast, straight line backwards for a considerable distance. Self-defense does not justify harming and potentially killing dozens who happen to be in the path of one’s alleged flight to safety. [I heard later that the driver had been charged with second-degree murder. That seemed appropriate. I also eventually encountered a left-leaning website that acknowledged that this was behavior that the right-wing organizers strongly disfavored, if only because the media would use it to paint them all as murderous.]
Minute 21. I won’t get into Cantwell’s views on what he calls the ethnostate. He is correct in saying that these people (i.e., the Left) want violence. Not everyone on the Left, obviously, but enough to provide at least an excuse for people like him. Like violent people on the Left, the armed Right thinks violence is OK. So I guess we’ll have more of it.
That’s what I got out of the video. Sorry it’s not as simple as y’all claim.
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I understood that Facebook is not really a forum for intelligent conversation. I also understood that FB users, myself included, could be pulled in many different directions — that people were not generally inclined to spend a lot of time reading scholarly articles on important subjects, much less my own personal interpretation of a video. In addition, I appreciated that my sudden and relatively intense interest in the events of Charlottesville might just represent me getting up to speed on things that others already knew.
All of which is a roundabout way of saying that the FB discussion did not continue long after my review of that video. I was grateful at least that one participant did read my long writeup and offered her own reactions, phrased well and considerately. She did not agree with everything I wrote, but I felt she was trying to understand. Meanwhile, though, I did continue to add material to this post, as I became further informed on the Charlottesville situation.
What Is “Unite the Right”?
I came back later and added this section on September 3, after writing those that follow. I belatedly realized that I had just gone along with the media approach of treating all of the right-wing protesters in Charlottesville as though they shared the same views. That would not be consistent with the name that organizers gave to the event: it would make no sense to “Unite the Right” if the Right were already united. In writing this section, I included a few paragraphs on my own orientation and experience, which generally seemed to leave me somewhat independent and critical of both left and right.
I started with a search for information on Unite the Right. That led to a New York Times “Guide to the Charlottesville Aftermath” (Astor et al., August 13) which, sadly, referred to both “white nationalists” and “white supremacists” without explaining either term. Trying elsewhere, Wikipedia said this about white supremacy:
White supremacy or white supremacism is a racist ideology based upon the belief that white people are superior in many ways to people of other races and that therefore white people should be dominant over other races. . . . Different forms of white supremacism put forth different conceptions of who is considered white . . . .
White nationalism . . . holds the belief that white people are a race and seeks to develop and maintain a white national identity. . . . White nationalists say they seek to ensure the survival of the white race . . . . [and] hold that white people should maintain their majority [and their dominance and culture] in majority-white countries . . . . Many white nationalists believe that miscegenation, multiculturalism, immigration of nonwhites and low birth rates among whites are threatening the white race, and some argue that it amounts to white genocide.
So, roughly speaking, white nationalists believe that, regardless of whether white people are superior, they should have, and should be dominant in, their own white nation-state. Interestingly, the Wikipedia page on white nationalism also said this:
In February 1962 George Lincoln Rockwell, the leader of the American Nazi Party, spoke at a Nation of Islam rally in Chicago, where he was applauded by Elijah Muhammad as he pronounced: “I am proud to stand here before black men. I believe Elijah Muhammed is the Adolf Hitler of the black man!” . . . In 1965, after breaking with the Nation of Islam and denouncing its separatist doctrine, Malcolm X told his followers that the Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad had made secret agreements with the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan.
The concept there seemed to be that white and black nationalists shared a belief that each should have their own physical territory. One could almost say that was the standard belief in America, insofar as there did not seem to be many white couples clamoring to live in the black parts of town. Those white couples might flatter themselves on their broadmindedness in having black friends. They might even indulge the fad of trying to downplay their whiteness. But they would still want their kids to go to Harvard (to prove their superiority) before going to South Central Los Angeles (to serve the poor).
Not to overstate. There were whites who were admitted into Harvard (or Stanford, or Yale, or . . . ) but declined. Not many, but some. There were quite a few more whites who considered their race or culture superior, for the understandable reason that it was what they had grown up with, what they knew, what made the most sense to them. That seemed to be how people of any race or culture tend to see their own society of origin. Obviously, Jewish kids are not generally raised to believe it would be better to be a Gentile, and likewise across other religious and non-religious forms of belief, socioeconomic perspectives, and cultural backgrounds. It appeared, in other words, that there was probably a degree of white (or Hispanic, or Asian, or . . . ) nationalism and/or supremacism in most people.
I was aware, from my years in academia, that liberals tended to see themselves as multiculturally flexible. My sense was just that they tended to be more urban, or at least suburban. That is, to the extent they were exposed to different appearances, they grew more accepting of superficial variations. Overwhelmingly, though, they still tended to dress, act, and think more or less the same as one another, within prevailing boundaries. There tended to be a shared sense of what makes someone a jerk, for instance, and a general understanding of when one should and should not dress up. Liberals were quite capable of intolerance toward unfamiliar and/or unwanted perspectives and behaviors — toward female (as distinct from male) genital mutilation, for example, or toward conservative Christian belief. It seemed that liberals were very tolerant of gender-based fears and assumptions regarding rape propensity, however unrealistic, but were very intolerant of race-based fears and assumptions regarding violence propensity, however realistic. These discrepancies generally seemed to be supported more by ideology and cultural bias than by data.
In the present case, it was clear that the media were not attempting to make careful distinctions among different kinds of pro-white views. The purpose was patently not to understand, or to teach. If it had been, my search would have led directly to mainstream media sources that would have sought to clarify and treat fairly the different viewpoints at issue. I wanted CNN to give me actual reportage instead of propaganda; but what I got was Vox (Lind, August 14), vaguely lumping together “the Klan” and “the 3%” with unspecified “others.”
At this point in my inquiry, things turned a little crazy. Business Insider (Bertrand, August 14) quoted Jason Kessler, organizer of Unite the Right, as saying, “We’re trying to show that folks can stand up for white people. The political correctness has gotten way out of control.” That was white-conscious, to be sure, but it was far from KKK-speak. What was crazy was that, according to The Daily Wire (Barrett, August 15), Kessler previously “embraced the far-left Occupy Wall Street movement and was an Obama supporter.” This guy was being lumped in with the neo-Nazis? Apparently Kessler’s background was news to some on the Right as well. A Reddit thread offered a theory: “‘Unite the Right’ is a Soros-funded honeypot psyop . . . to damage the Republican brand by insinuating that Antifa goons disguised as Nazis represent the views of the entire Right Wing in America.”
Well, that was certainly interesting. But I still wanted to know who actually showed up at Unite the Right in Charlottesville. Trying again, I looked at some of the many different organizations named in Wikipedia‘s list of participating right-wing groups. Wikipedia’s links led to several articles noting that, as ProPublica (Thompson, August 13) put it,
Old-guard groups like the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nations and the Nazi skinheads, which had long stood at the center of racist politics in America, were largely absent. Instead, the ranks of the young men who drove to Charlottesville with clubs, shields, pepper spray and guns included many college-educated people . . . . A large number have adopted a very clean cut, frat-boyish look designed to appeal to the average white guy in a way that KKK robes or skinhead regalia never could. Interviews show that at least some of these leaders have spent time in the U.S. armed forces.
It seemed ludicrous to suggest that the “clean-cut” haircuts worn by men who had spent years in the Army were “designed” to beguile people. It would have seemed more balanced if ProPublica had made any similarly petty comment about the appearances of the leftists in Charlottesville. More to the point, Thompson did acknowledge that this was predominantly not what the media generally made it out to be: a stereotypical conclave of old-fashioned KKK and Nazi nutjobs.
Note: in this discussion, I tended to disregard the characterizations provided by ADL and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). As noted in several other posts in this blog, I found both of those sources to be guilty of hype and exaggeration of threats, evidently indulged in order to stimulate donor contributions. Regarding ADL, numerous sources (including Jewish sources) agreed. Likewise, many sources (e.g., Politico, Wikipedia, The Atlantic, New York Times) were expressing increasingly grave doubts about the accuracy of SPLC’s reports, along with concerns that exaggeration might be driven by the quest for ever more financial contributions, reportedly resulting in the transfer of millions of dollars to offshore bank accounts.
According to Wikipedia, the rightist groups participating in Charlottesville included the following:
- Contrary to Vox (above), Thompson noted that the Three Percenter Militia from New York “says it disapproves of racism but is dedicated to defending the free speech rights of all.”
- According to USA Today (King, August 12), the Traditionalist Workers Party participated at Charlottesville, in support of the slogan, “We must secure the existence of our people and the future for white children,” due to a fear that white identity, culture and religion are increasingly endangered.
- Wikipedia described another participating group, The League of the South, as opposing discrimination and favoring equal treatment under the law, and seeking “a free and independent Southern republic” with “a more traditionally conservative, Christian-oriented” Anglo-Celtic culture that emphasizes immediate relationships over abstract ideas (e.g., nation, environment, global community).
- Wikipedia reported that Richard B. Spencer “rejects the label of white supremacist, and prefers to describe himself as an identitarian” who “has advocated for a white homeland for a ‘dispossessed white race.'” Elsewhere, Wikipedia described Spencer’s National Policy Institute (NPI) as purveying an “academic racism” that the New York Times called “a more highbrow approach, couching white nationalist arguments as academic commentary.” But, I wondered, what’s with the “couching” lingo? If the NPI arguments are false, just debunk them, or point to sources that do so. I had no idea what those arguments were, or whether there was any truth to them, and the NYT did not help me with that. (NYT evidently assumed that its readers knew NPI’s arguments were false without needing evidence or theory to support them; the article cited no specific countervailing sources.) I could not say in advance that it would be evil to advance scientifically supported views; science will always stand for things that someone won’t want to hear. Depending on specifics, it seemed that Spencer’s views might be as tolerable as articles in which, for instance, women described themselves as having certain sex-based advantages over men.
- According to its website, “Identity Evropa is a fraternal organization for people of European heritage located in the United States that engages in community building and civic engagement. . . .We are not supremacists of any kind and we reject the term ‘white supremacist’ as an anti-White pejorative used to silence anyone who dares to stand up for the legitimate interests of European Americans.” The website further remarked on what it called “the most unprecedented attack on the free speech of American citizens by anti-White corporate and political interests in history,” insofar as “social media giants” terminated the accounts of Identity Evropa and other “pro-white websites” in order to squelch their free speech rights. (See Roots of Media Bias, below.)
- Wikipedia says Augustus Sol Invictus earned a B.A. with honors in philosophy and a J.D. from DePaul, the latter including a fellowship at the International Human Rights Law Institute focusing on international criminal law and the laws of armed conflict. He apparently passed four different bar exams and practiced law. He favored “an expanded federal role in protecting the environment” and “policies that would streamline the process of immigration and naturalization so that immigrants who wish to integrate and work in the United States can do so with ease.” SPLC labeled him a Holocaust denier because he said he was waiting for proof that Hitler killed six million Jews. But prominent Jewish scholars were waiting for that proof too. I watched a brief excerpt from a debate between Invictus and a leftist, filmed just one month before Charlottesville. He was no dummy.
- According to its website, “Oath Keepers is a non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders, who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to ‘defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.'” Proffered examples: “orders to disarm the American people, to conduct warrantless searches, or to detain Americans as ‘enemy combatants’ in violation of their ancient right to jury trial.”
With few exceptions, as we are about to see, the mainstream media left me in the dark, regarding these groups’ activities at Charlottesville. Were they indeed there, as Wikipedia claimed? If so, what were their people doing? Did academics like Spencer, and lawyers like Invictus, participate in the violent clashes, or were they instead debating or negotiating with others on Right or Left? Were any bonds formed, truces declared, issues clarified? And so forth: many questions, all neglected by the sources on which the public relied for information. The media wanted to present a circus, and that’s what the public got.
So, OK. That was my latter-day addition to this post, to offer some clarity on white nationalism and supremacy. I didn’t know all this when I wrote the following sections; please pardon any inconsistencies or, if you prefer, comment on them, so I can try to clean them up. This post returns now to the material that I wrote as the Charlottesville aftermath was first unfolding.
Coverage by ProPublica
ProPublica (Aug. 12, 2017) offered a stark photo of bodies flying from the car that piled into a crowd of leftists. It was an image straight out of a Hollywood movie — but in real life.
Unfortunately, in some instances the ProPublica article did not seem to strive for accuracy. For instance, I doubted its claim that there were “countless” confrontations between leftists and rightists in Charlottesville that weekend. Also, while there certainly were “older and gray-haired” leftists, I also saw plenty of violent young males in the Vice video (above). ProPublica would have been closer to the mark if it had risked political incorrectness by remarking that there were more women among the leftists. That was my observation, and I consider it an appropriate one: women are generally understood to be less inclined toward direct physical violence, especially when opposed by men. (Later, though, in another video, I noticed at least one woman preparing for violent attack, among the leftist protesters.)
It is possible that, in the scene reported by ProPublica, the rightists were responsible for commencing the physical attack. That did not seem to be the situation in the video, but (a) the video was not very clear and (b) given ProPublica’s claim of “countless” confrontations, possibly some were started by one side and others were started by the other. The video did capture repeated instances of physical provocation and violence by leftists, who evidently were not intimidated by their adversaries.
That was surprising, given ProPublica’s report that the rightists included “a group of assault-rifle-toting militia members from New York State, wearing body armor and desert camo, [who] played a more active role in breaking up fights.” I have to question ProPublica’s implication that these guys carried those rifles out there in the struggle. A rifle is a potentially deadly liability in a fight, if you’re not going to use it, or at least point it at someone. Neither the video nor ProPublica provide any specific indication that anyone was pointing guns. I doubt the right-wing protesters were interested in prison, never mind being shot by one of those highly placed police snipers visible in the video. Most likely the guns were left behind, in the van or the hotel room.
(Later, I would discover that one KKK member, Richard Wilson Preston, evidently did fire a gun at some point during the protest, though as far as I could tell he was not trying to hit anyone. I also found another ProPublica article (Thompson, August 13) that said, “Throughout the weekend, right-wing and left-wing militias equipped with assault rifles, pistols and body armor patrolled the streets of Charlottesville.” In other subsequent developments, (1) I saw a Slate article offering a different perspective — an interesting one, but somewhat short of specifics; and (2) there were indications that police might be using Charlottesville as an excuse to resume the militarization of police departments. That is, they may have allowed opposing groups to come into physical contact in hopes that there would be gun violence, which they could then use as a reason for needing armored cars.)
ProPublica says those New Yorkers worked to break up fights, not to beat leftists. This seems consistent with the impression that the rightists were not homogeneous. In that case, it appears media outlets like ProPublica continue to disserve the public by casting all rightists as if they were cut from the same cloth. The risk in that journalistic irresponsibility is that it may help to bring about what it imagines. The more these right-wing protesters are treated as one and the same, the more they are likely to become exactly that.
ProPublica says, “[T]he white supremacists who showed up in Charlottesville did indeed come prepared for violence. Many wore helmets and carried clubs, medieval-looking round wooden shields, and rectangular plexiglass shields, similar to those used by riot police.” So, again, that reference to assault rifles appears to have been gratutious if not downright misleading. Also, obviously, a shield is for protection. On the matter of carrying weapons, it seems both sides were equally culpable:
[W]hat had started hours earlier with some shoving and a few punches had evolved into a series of wild melees as people attacked one another with fists, feet, and the improvised weapons they’d brought with them to the park. White supremacists and anti-racists began blasting each other with thick orange streams of pepper spray.
The word “improvised” seems inaccurate there. In that other video, black-clad leftists were carrying expensive-looking sprayers, presumably the source of that pepper spray. That is not improvised.
The main argument advanced in the ProPublica article is that the police stood by and did nothing. ProPublica quotes “Miriam Krinsky, a former federal prosecutor who has worked on police reform efforts in Los Angeles, [who] said it was too early to assess the law enforcement response in Charlottesville”; but Krinsky did seem to feel it would have been better if police had formed a barrier between the two sides. That seemed feasible, given ProPublica’s report that hundreds of state police officers and National Guard troops were available. (Later, I would come across a right-wing webpage expressing equal frustration with the police refusal to separate the warring sides.)
ProPublica quoted one of the rightists as saying, “We’re defending our heritage.” I don’t know what kind of trash heritage would be based on beating women and old men. As I say, I don’t think that was the full nature of the situation, but it does appear there was some of that. That sort of thing is not likely to yield wide public support for the right. I do think, however, that it may resonate among a visible percentage of white men who feel obliged to do something about perceived threats to the nation and/or to themselves personally.
In this regard, the people who are criticizing Trump for failing to speak out quickly against the alt-Right may be missing the point. People on the Left might find it gratifying to hear the president tell them they’re correct and virtuous. But his better mission would be, not to join some quasi-religious leftist shaming ritual, with the goal of excluding rightists from the nation’s ongoing political dialogue, but rather to strive to keep most of them engaged in that dialogue. I don’t mean to imply that his personal motivations were so high-minded; I would tend to think he was just being attuned to his supporters’ views.
Trump’s Press Conference: The Antifa
The American Conservative (McConnell, August 17, 2017) discussed Donald Trump’s August 15 news conference. The New York Times (August 15), among others, offered a video and transcript of that conference.
McConnell said that Trump intended to talk about infrastructure, in that conference, but “The media wanted to talk about Charlottesville.” That appears correct. Trump’s statement dealt entirely with infrastructure. He then invited questions. The first question from a reporter was, “Why do you think these C.E.O.’s are leaving your manufacturing council?” Trump’s remarks about infrastructure had said nothing about manufacturing, about that council, or about CEOs. Likewise, the next question asked about Charlottesville. Trump replied and then said, “How about a couple of infrastructure questions.” The press largely ignored that suggestion; only one of more than two dozen questions addressed infrastructure.
In that sense, it appears disingenuous for the Washington Post (Jennings & Stevenson, August 15) to headline its version of the transcript as “Trump’s off-the-rails news conference.” If one is inclined to fault the change of topic, the better headline would be, “Trump’s hijacked news conference.”
While the Post did not explain its headline, CNN (Collinson, August 15) seemed to. It appears that the Post may have been referring, not to the change of subject away from infrastructure to Charlottesville, but rather to Trump’s way of handling the latter topic. Collinson said the session produced
one of the most surreal political moments in years . . . . In the most incredible moment, . . . [Trump said,] “I think there is blame on both sides . . . [the rightists included some] bad people …. but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.” Trump accused counter-demonstrators of being as violent as the white supremacists.
If New York militia were trying to break up fights, as ProPublica said, then I think that could be an example of fine people on the right, putting themselves at serious risk of harm in order to reduce the level of violence. I think there were probably a lot of guys on the right who were there for reasons that had nothing to do with the KKK. Although I have drawn a lot of racist and sexist hostility from people on the left, I would have to assume that some number of counter-protesters were likewise there to oppose groups like the KKK, not to spew race-based hatred.
Collinson quoted Trump as saying that the leftists “came charging with clubs in their hands.” Collinson did not offer any evidence that this was not true. As noted above, that seemed to be what ProPublica and the Vice video indicated. Collinson’s view seemed to be that the reader would find it simply “incredible” that anyone on the Left would bear any responsibility for the violent conflict in which, as noted above, both sides were carrying weapons and spraying mace.
In fairness, one would have to assume that CNN and Collinson know their audience. These news sources do seem to have assumed that their audience wanted reassurance that the world remained the same — that, now, as throughout the past 90+ years, people prefer a message that boils down to Nazi = bad and anti-Nazi = good. Unless Collinson grossly misreads his audience, it does actually appear that most CNN readers must not be particularly fairminded or honest. Because an honest person will tend to ask, first, exactly what Trump said: at Charlottesville, did it not take two to tango?
Which returns us to the complaints McConnell presented in The American Conservative. On Trump’s key claim that there was “blame on both sides,” according to McConnell, Trump denounced
what he called the “alt left,” or “Antifa,” which showed up in Charlottesville, without a permit, intending, as was evident to anyone paying attention to the group’s past actions, on physically attacking those attending the alt-right demonstration.
I was not very familiar with the past actions of Antifa (“anti-fascist”) groups or individuals. The Atlantic (Beinart, August 16) said that the antifa movement began in the 1920s, was revived in the 1970s, and is now seeing “explosive growth” in response to growing white supremacism. According to Beinart,
As members of a largely anarchist movement, antifa activists generally combat white supremacism not by trying to change government policy but through direct action. They try to publicly identify white supremacists and get them fired from their jobs and evicted from their apartments. And they disrupt white-supremacist rallies, including by force. . . .
[S]ome of their tactics are genuinely troubling. . . . [F]or all of antifa’s supposed anti-authoritarianism, there’s something fundamentally authoritarian about its claim that its activists—who no one elected—can decide whose views are too odious to be publicly expressed. That kind of undemocratic, illegitimate power corrupts. It leads to what happened this April in Portland, Oregon, where antifa activists threatened to disrupt the city’s Rose Festival parade if people wearing “red maga [i.e., Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’] hats” marched alongside the local Republican Party. Because of antifa, Republican officials in Portland claim they can’t even conduct voter registration in the city without being physically threatened or harassed.
So, yes, antifa is not a figment of the conservative imagination. It’s a moral problem that liberals need to confront.
More to the point, violence by either right or left is a legal problem calling for prosecution. People who fear the rise of Hitler-style Nazis sometimes forget the alternative of Stalin-style communists. Both killed tens of millions in the 20th century. Beinart says rightists have committed the large majority of politically motivated murders in recent years, but neglects to mention that the U.S. experienced “all kinds of left-wing terrorism” in the 1960s (The Nation, 2017, quoting Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center). Beinart does not explain why that could not happen again. Indeed, the recent attempt to murder numerous Republican congressmen demonstrates that it could. Beinart could also have said what the Philadelphia Inquirer (Eisenberg, 2017) said:
There have been no right-wing groups storming campuses and flinging feces at speakers we don’t like; no tea party mobs destroying property, assaulting police officers and paralyzing residents of our major cities . . . . From Portland to New Haven to Washington, D.C., the violence we’re witnessing is largely a product of the hard left.
But perhaps Beinart was trying, in his own way, to be fair. The photo at the top of his article did show a burly Antifa warrior, carrying a stick, marching (with a number of similarly armed colleagues) directly into a line of rightists who were simply standing still, mostly appearing to protect themselves behind their shields.
In a separate Atlantic article, Beinart noted that Antifa seeks to disrupt peaceful rightist meetings, shedding blood as needed; and he described how the mainstream Left approves:
When [a] masked antifa activist was filmed assaulting . . . [alt-Right leader Richard Spencer], The Nation described his punch as an act of “kinetic beauty.” Slate ran an approving article about a humorous piano ballad that glorified the assault. Twitter was inundated with viral versions of the video set to different songs . . . . In June of last year, demonstrators—at least some of whom were associated with antifa—punched and threw eggs at people exiting a Trump rally in San Jose, California. An article in It’s Going Down celebrated the “righteous beatings.” . . .
A few weeks after the attacks in San Jose . . . a white-supremacist leader announced that he would host a [peaceful] march in Sacramento to protest the attacks at Trump rallies. Anti-Fascist Action Sacramento called for a counterdemonstration; in the end, at least 10 people were stabbed. . . .
A politicized fight culture is emerging, fueled by cheerleaders on both sides. As James Anderson, an editor at It’s Going Down, told Vice, “This shit is fun.” . . .
[As anarchists, the Antifa] don’t want the government to stop white supremacists from gathering. They want to do so themselves, rendering the government impotent. With help from other left-wing activists, they’re already having some success at disrupting government. Demonstrators have interrupted so many city-council meetings that in February, the council met behind locked doors. . . .
To provide security at [a Trump rally in Portland in June], Gibson brought in a far-right militia called the Oath Keepers. In late June, James Buchal, the chair of the Multnomah County Republican Party, announced that it too would use militia members for security, because “volunteers don’t feel safe on the streets of Portland.” . . .
The people preventing Republicans from safely assembling on the streets of Portland may consider themselves fierce opponents of the authoritarianism growing on the American right. In truth, however, they are its unlikeliest allies.
In that last sentence, Beinart drew my attention to two facts. First, when forced, the public is going to choose law and order, every time, and will sacrifice civil liberties if that seems conducive to a restoration of peace. (Example: Germany’s recent decision to shut down websites advocating left– or right-wing hate or violence.) Second, the Antifa seems to be driving people on the right to find common cause among previously fragmented groups. Politico (Michel, June 30) elaborated on Beinart’s remark about the Oath Keepers:
[T]he likelihood of a confrontation may increase if Buchal, the head of the local GOP, follows through on his plans to hire militias—Oath Keepers and Three Percenters—as security at future events . . . . [According to University of Wisconsin researcher Stanislav Vysotsky,] “What we’re really seeing are these very strong alliances being forged between Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, and … white supremacists and white nationalists.”
There has been a huge upsurge in left wing violence during the past year. . . . Murders of police officers are accelerating, in some cases cold blooded assassinations by Black Lives Matter supporters. Right wing speakers such as Ann Coulter, Milo Yiannopoulos, Charles Murray and Ben Shapiro are regularly prevented—by violence—from speaking on college campuses. . . . Those attending a pro-Trump inaugural ball, “the Deploraball,” were pelted by batteries and bottles and chants of “Nazi Scum” by the same antifa . . . [even though the] Deploraball organizers had in fact gone to considerable lengths to bar white nationalists from involvement in the planning or speaking; it was a pro-Trump, multicultural, and multiracial celebration.
The excuses for leftist violence are not just at the fringe. The Washington Post (Bray, August 16) described Antifa in glowing terms: “bursting into the headlines,” “captivated the public imagination,” merely seeking to “defend themselves and others from white supremacist violence,” striving to protect us by stopping Nazi and fascist forces before it’s “too late,” “spending thankless hours” in search of neo-Nazi gatherings, in order to “shut down fascism by any means necessary.”
That was the second bizarrely one-sided Washington Post article I had encountered, in this brief review of materials discussing Trump’s news conference. The thought did cross my mind that perhaps this was Jeff Bezos getting even with Trump. Be that as it may, such excuses on behalf of Antifa seemed to be why the Philadelphia Inquirer (Eisenberg, 2017) said,
If you think Republicans are murderers, you’re an extremist. If you’re trading in that kind of rhetoric just to shut the other side up or raise a buck, you’re giving cover to extremists. And if you object to political violence but fail to speak out, your weakness is causing our society to fracture. It’s time for liberal America to speak out against violence and the rhetoric that incites it.
Returning once again to Trump and McConnell, then, it did seem that the mainstream media had actually managed to make our president appear statesmanlike, when he hesitated to blame the problems solely on the alt-Right. McConnell seemed entirely accurate in his belief that Antifa did intend an illegal violent disruption of the alt-Right’s legal demonstration in Charlottesville.
From the way the media covered the event, you’d think the Nazis had launched a military attack. It is absurd to defend Antifa extremists who assemble, without a permit, for the purpose of attacking peaceful protesters. In that sense, irresponsible mainstream media coverage runs a real risk of casting Nazis in the role of victims, in the eyes of those who prioritize the right to protest peacefully.
(Note: a week after writing this post, I did find a contemporaneous New York Times article (Fuller et al., August 17) that seemed to strive for an accurate depiction of the violent orientation of the Antifa. I also found a Gallup piece noting that Republicans are far more skeptical than Democrats toward mainstream liberal media. In this Charlottesville case, that skepticism seemed justified. Consider, for instance, Joe Biden’s very belated decision to jump on the bandwagon two weeks later — conveying the same lack of conviction (if not outright cowardice) that moderate liberals have historically displayed in other battles.)
McConnell reviewed the coverage provided by a handful of mainstream media outlets. Of particular interest, he noted that New York Times reporter Stolberg tweeted, from Charlottesville, “The hard left seemed as hate-filled as alt-right. I saw club-wielding ‘antifa’ beating white nationalists being led out of the park.” Later, she revised that to say the hard left was merely violent, not hate-filled. Some suspected that she had decided, or had been encouraged, to toe the party line. Nor was her revision persuasive. It was not clear on what basis she felt able to peer into their hearts. If anything, her follow-up merely underscored that hate is a red herring. If someone is beating someone else, the contents of their thoughts and feelings are probably not the top priority.
A final note: another American Conservative writer, Rod Dreher (August 18), pointed to a Slate article (Lithwick, August 16) featuring interviews with several liberals who were present in Charlottesville. Dreher pointed out that Lithwick’s interviewees said they encountered physical contact (e.g., shoving) and violence when they attempted to prevent the rightists from entering the park where they were scheduled to conduct their political protest. Dreher cited, for example, Lithwick’s words from a liberal minister, Rev. Seth Wispelwey:
Out of my faith calling, I feel led to pursue disciplined, nonviolent direct action and witness. I helped lead a group of clergy who were trained and committed to the same work: to hold space on the frontline of the park where the rally was to be held. . . . A phalanx of neo-Nazis shoved right through our human wall with 3-foot-wide wooden shields, screaming and spitting homophobic slurs and obscenities at us. It was then that antifa stepped in to thwart them. They have their tools to achieve their purposes, and they are not ones I will personally use, but let me stress that our purposes were the same: block this violent tide and do not let it take the pedestal. . . . White supremacy is violence. I didn’t see any racial justice protesters with weapons; as for antifa, anything they brought I would only categorize as community defense tools and nothing more. Pretty much everyone I talk to agrees—including most clergy. My strong stance is that the weapon is and was white supremacy, and the white supremacists intentionally brought weapons to instigate violence.
A rather remarkable statement. Wispelwey considered himself “nonviolent” when he attempted a physical block of entrance into a public park, and when he countenanced the use of unspecified “community defense tools” (example: a shovel? an ax handle? a baseball bat?) by antifa people committed to violent action. This was definitely not the nonviolence of Gandhi and King. The response of Dreher, himself a decidedly religious and substantially pacifistic individual:
Stunning. “White supremacy is violence.” So, simply holding an opinion that the Left deems white supremacist is the same as physically assaulting someone — and therefore, the holder of that opinion deserves to be beaten up.
In a separate post (August 23), Dreher provided an interesting perspective on the roots of rightist views — a perspective that, to me, appeared vastly more thoughtful than the following words from an Antifa member quoted by Fuller et al. in the Times:
Ms. Nauert said she believed that, now more than ever, “physical confrontation” would be needed. “In the end,” she said, “that’s what it’s going to take — because Nazis and white supremacists are not around to talk.”
The implication was, of course, that America’s government and people have fallen before the Nazi onslaught, ever since the Nazis tried to march in Skokie in 1977. And yet that was obviously not true. In other words, Ms. Nauert and the Antifa seemed to be looking for an excuse for unnecessary and potentially counterproductive violence.
After I substantially finished this post, I saw a webpage listing recent late-night jokes by Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, and others. I have been enjoying those guys for years. Normally, I would just go along with it. Donald Trump has made that easy: his bizarre acts and utterances make it easy to assume that whatever the comedians are laughing about is probably on point.
In this case, however, I had become somewhat informed. Given that, it was rather appalling to see what was being sold to the public. Quotes from Jimmy Fallon:
Yesterday, President Trump gave a big press conference on the subject of infrastructure. And all he had to do was stop right there. Just. Stop. Talking. For five minutes, just stop talking!
And mind you — this is him on vacation! He can’t even get VACATION right. Imagine coming back to the office — “Hey, how was your two-week break?” “It was good — I defended Nazis. What’d you do?”
As indicated above, the transcript of the conference did not suggest that Trump needed to stop talking. He solicited questions on infrastructure. The press went elsewhere. Fallon seems to say that he should not have answered questions on Charlottesville. But that, too, would have been criticized. Nor did Trump defend Nazis. His statement in the Times transcript (above) was clear: “[W]e condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. . . . “[Y]ou had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent.” These appear to be accurate statements.
So here I am, defending Donald Trump, because people like Jimmy Fallon are falsifying what he said. Another example: Stephen Colbert:
Last Saturday, Nazis and the KKK provoked violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. That’s what they wanted. That’s why they went there. After a Nazi killed a young woman named Heather Heyer, Donald Trump made a statement and improvised during the statement, that there was violence on “many sides, many sides.” And people were upset — other than Nazis. Nazis liked it.
The first statement appears to be false. As far as I could tell, the Nazis went to Charlottesville to engage in legal political protest. It was Antifa that deliberately sought to disrupt that protest and to initiate violence. There might have been none if they had simply allowed the Nazis to exercise their constitutional rights. As I said above, I don’t like the Nazis’ views either. But it’s not my call. That’s life in a multicultural society.
Colbert was right about one thing. The neo-Nazis did like Trump’s statement — because it was correct. A president is not a Nazi, nor does he necessarily support Nazis, if he defends their right to assemble and present their views. To the contrary, he is upholding the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights of the United Nations. And the right does tend to be big on upholding laws.
A Poll of Public Opinion
The American Conservative (Dreher, August 17, 2017) reported on the results of a post-Charlottesville NPR/PBS Marist poll. Dreher’s article was titled, “Trump Is More In Touch Than You Think.” The results of that poll suggested that, here again, the Democratic Party that was so surprised to lose to Donald Trump may remain dramatically misguided regarding public opinion. Key results:
- Trump’s disapproval rate has not changed substantially all year.
- 62% of Americans favor leaving the Confederate statutes standing as historical markers.
- 44% of blacks and 65% of Latinos feel the statues should remain standing.
- 59% of Republicans are satisfied with Trump’s response to Charlottesville.
- 71% of Americans are unsure or have no opinion regarding Antifa. Of those having an opinion, five times as many people oppose it as support it.
- Continuing to attack Confederate statutes is a big loser for Democrats.
- If liberals only pay attention to the media and each other regarding the statues, they are going to alienate a lot of people.
- Americans probably do not consider themselves racist for wanting the statues to remain.
- The media have been seriously distorting public reaction to Trump’s handling of Charlottesville.
Doxxing: Getting Them Fired and Evicted
Within a few days after Charlottesville, USA Today (Cummings, August 17) reported that the online accounts of Christopher Cantwell, the skinhead featured in the Vice video (above), had been shut down by Facebook, Instagram, and PayPal, among others. I also saw reports that, as indicated by Beinart (above), someone had been getting other right-wing protesters fired from their jobs. Here was an example of one such report on Facebook, with someone named Shaun King approving the outcome, followed by my response (which was one among many):
Alan Perry and Erin Zebrowski did not reply. It seemed they might just be trolls, administering drive-by insults without any interest in serious discussion. A few days later, I went to their FB homepages. Erin’s motto was, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” The photos there were consistent with that. I decided not to pursue further contact with Erin. I did leave a follow-up message for Alan, a nice one, including a link to this post and an invitation to take a look when time permitted. Alan did not reply. So, in their case at least, I seemed to have a degree of confirmation, on the subject of sincere commitment to peace and understanding.
My remark seemed clear enough. It drew upon the longstanding and oft-cited examples of Joe McCarthy and the blacklist, representing a dismal time in American political life. The point was, if you think it is appropriate to get someone fired for their political views, that may come back to bite you.
Incidentally, it was interesting to view the Ray Harrell discussion that followed mine, in that same FB image: a mob attack on a black labor lawyer who tried to present the law on the matter, as distinct from random uninformed opinion. As many have found, FB did not necessarily provide a good environment for reasonable discussion of such matters.
I posted a reply in that Ray Harrell discussion. My reply said that I admired his style. It was true: I thought he did a good job, standing up against that mob. Later, it occurred to me that this would be the kind of guy I’d like as a Facebook friend, so I sent him a friend request. I also sent a message, explaining that I was making that request because I would like to send him a link to this post, and get his reactions. I guess I should have expected, from his remark about “the institution of whiteness” (above), that he would snub all three of those gestures on my part, without the courtesy of any reply whatsoever. I couldn’t say whether he was motivated by racism, though obviously his remark about whiteness would point in that direction.
On the matter of getting individual rightists fired and evicted, The Atlantic (Madrigal, August 22) would later quote other sources with a cautionary note:
Disrupting their lives—getting them fired from their jobs, disowned by their parents, or dogpiled with threats on Twitter—may give a satisfying jolt of schadenfreude, but it also cuts them off from the remaining moderating forces in their lives . . . . When that happens, they will not learn to love; they will only commit further to the dangerous communities that are willing to embrace them.
Roots of Media Bias
At about this point in my inquiry, several threads came together to pose a different question. One thread had to do with this practice of destroying people’s lives to punish them for expressing their views and/or to deter others from speaking freely. Another thread involved my recurrent finding (above) that, to varying degrees, mainstream media outlets were visibly reluctant to conduct investigations, state facts, or express opinions that might entail fairness to right-wing perspectives. A third thread arose from the neo-Nazi inclination to blame Jews for a variety of problems. In this section, I describe how these threads tied together, and what I concluded.
I should say, first, that there are many fine Jewish people in this world. That’s not theory; that’s fact. I have known some of them. Some have been lawyers and professors; some have been bus drivers and postmen. You can’t summarize all Jewish lives any more than you can summarize all whites, or all blacks. Among Jews or any other group, the focus should be on the problematic ones.
So, first, to continue with that matter of disrupting the private lives of people who have expressed a public opinion, I found related behaviors on an organizational level — behaviors that would potentially affect thousands. Specifically, in response to post-Charlottesville decisions in which major Internet companies shut down the Daily Stormer site, New Scientist (Adee, August 17) offered an article titled “Web firms shunning neo-Nazi site isn’t necessarily good news.” Adee contended that
if mainstream companies won’t provide these services, others will. We could see the fragmentation of the internet into an open, public web and an immoral dark web . . . . And what happens if web firms start rejecting less obviously disagreeable sites, such as those dealing in contentious moral issues like abortion?
[Bharath Ganesh at the Oxford Internet Institute] isn’t sure [this] moral activism . . . will have the consequences we want. Pushing these kinds of sites into the shadows will cut them off from polite society and could interfere with their ability to radicalise everyday people. Or it could have unintended consequences, such as making them harder for the authorities to monitor.
In any case, we don’t know if shutting down Daily Stormer’s protection against DDoS will have an effect on their ability to radicalise people. It could just become a badge of honour.
Adee was particularly concerned with Cloudflare, an Internet company that provides security services for websites:
After the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer – which organised the rally – mocked the dead protester and urged its readers to target her funeral, several web hosts refused to carry the site’s content on their servers. Then yesterday, Cloudflare, which provides security services for websites hosted by other firms, did the same.
Cloudflare’s CEO, Matthew Prince, acknowledged that by taking a moral position, he had set what he considered to be a dangerous precedent: in hosting content or merely providing other services, any tech company is now implicitly endorsing the views of their customers. . . .
For a long time, web hosts and other technology companies have excused themselves from any responsibility for the “content” other people give them to distribute, saying that they are neutral platforms, and that the free speech of their users is paramount.
The Huffington Post (Schulberg & Liebelson, August 18) echoed Adee’s concern, quoting a statement from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: “On the Internet, any tactic used now to silence neo-Nazis will soon be used against others, including people whose opinions we agree with.” Slate (Oremus, August 16) was among the first to agree: “[I]t’s hard to shake the feeling that concentrating editorial discretion in [the hands of tech companies unqualified to judge, or perhaps willing to discriminate in undesirable ways] is a gambit that will eventually backfire.” Regrettably, that was not a principled argument in defense of First Amendment rights, but at least it was practical.
I noticed, in particular, the process by which Cloudflare decided to drop Daily Stormer. Adee says Prince explained his decision in an email to Cloudflare staff in these words: “I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet.” The decision was remarkable in light of Prince’s stated policy: “Both sides have an absolute right to tell their story” (Start-Up Israel, 2014).
Prince’s capricious exercise of media power, and his willingness to violate his own policy in the case of the extremely anti-Jewish Daily Stormer, was interesting to me because Prince (German: Prinz) can be a Jewish name. (I know — I used to have in-laws so named.) Matthew is not a common Jewish name, but it is of Hebrew origin, and there are Jews named Matthew.
I did not know whether there was any relationship between Jewish heritage and Prince-like power to control vital aspects of the Internet. Not surprisingly, the question had been raised; a search led to numerous pro- and anti-Jewish websites. An organization called Freedom Research had assembled a 90-page PDF titled “The Jewish hand behind Internet” (2009). A brief look suggested that this document sought to illustrate the extent of Jewish influence at Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, and elsewhere. I was aware of Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page and Facebook’s Zuckerberg. I was not surprised to find that Jews had been successful in tech. But then, so had Asians — Chinese, notably, and Indians, among others.
On that topic, it was reassuring to encounter instances where Jewish opinionmakers displayed divergent attitudes toward Charlottesville. For example, I read, in the New York Times (Kershner, August 18), that
Mr. Trump even received some [Israeli] backing for his “two sides to the story” approach, including from Yair Netanyahu, [prime minister Netanyahu’s] elder son, who weighed in with a blunt post on his Facebook page denouncing the far left anti-fascist groups and the Black Lives Matter movement as “thugs.” . . .
Oren Hazan, a Likud parliamentarian, chimed in on Twitter, writing that “Trump is right. Violence and extremism from any side is prohibited and must be condemned!” In a subsequent post he clarified that there were “no worse people than the neo-Nazis,” while reiterating that nobody was authorized to take the law into their own hands.
Then again, it was not reassuring to discover that, while I was writing these words, Yair’s Facebook post was deleted, presumably due to political pressure. It became clear that other influential Jewish individuals and organizations did not see things as Yair Netanyahu and Oren Hazan did. The Times article itself reported predictably strong Jewish reactions against the neo-Nazis in Virginia, and against Trump’s failure to issue an immediate, one-sided condemnation of them — which would have implied that Antifa was not a significant part of the problem.
So now, having read Beinart’s words (above), explaining how Antifa would strive to get neo-Nazis fired and evicted, I recalled the remarkably similar words of Manny Friedman, published in The Times of Israel (July 12, 2012):
[T]he funny part is when any anti-Semite or anti-Israel person starts to spout stuff like, “The Jews control the media!” and “The Jews control Washington!”
Suddenly we’re up in arms. We create huge campaigns to take these people down. We do what we can to put them out of work. We publish articles. We’ve created entire organizations that exist just to tell everyone that the Jews don’t control nothin’. No, we don’t control the media, we don’t have any more sway in DC than anyone else. No, no, no, we swear: We’re just like everybody else!
Does anyone else (who’s not a bigot) see the irony of this?
Let’s be honest with ourselves, here, fellow Jews. We do control the media. We’ve got so many dudes up in the executive offices in all the big movie production companies it’s almost obscene. . . . But that’s not all. We also control the ads that go on those TV shows.
Specifically, I recalled Friedman’s statement, “We do what we can to put them out of work.” Of course, Jewish individuals or organizations are not the only ones who could use that tactic. But, given the understandable Jewish hostility to Nazi ideology, it seemed legitimate to ask whether powerful Jewish forces might be especially inclined to use extralegal means to silence unwanted political views in America. That possibility did seem consistent with what Friedman was describing.
In a simple world, I would be considered an antisemite merely for raising the question. The rule favored by some Jews — like the party-line types you might encounter in virtually any group, organization, culture, or race — is that the official view is the only view that people should be allowed to speak, hear, read, or write.
My own suggestion to the contrary, developed in another post, is that Gentiles like me may contribute something of value to the protection of the Jewish people, insofar as we say that trying to deceive the American public is not a prudent long-term strategy. You can fool some of the people all of the time, etc. If Jews control media, say so, and deal with it. Adhere to ethical practices that the public will predictably expect from anyone with that kind of power. Don’t abuse your power to “take down” people who think or speak in ways you don’t like. That shortsighted behavior will predictably feed the old stereotypes. And don’t condone those who do practice such abuses. If possible, live up to a standard, even when the Gentiles around you don’t. Don’t sneak around; don’t let your actions be dragged into the spotlight, exposé-style. Be proactive. Get out in front, on the difficult issues, and stay there.
Otherwise, as indicated in my exploration of what happened in Weimar Germany during the pre-Nazi era, you risk repeating historical mistakes — notably sweeping stuff under the rug, in the rather silly hope that your enemies won’t eventually find a way to use it, to turn public opinion against you. In the real world, people get resentful even when your financial advantage and political power are won fairly and squarely, never mind when they aren’t.
What I saw in various media outlets (above) raised the question of whether those outlets were giving the public distorted coverage of Charlottesville just because Jews hate Nazis. It’s not that Jews are wrong for feeling that way. It’s that the public has a right to the full story, not just the story that someone wants to tell. Failing to tell that full story — to speak in defense of the Nazis, if and when that becomes the truthful thing to do — would support a Nazi claim that Jews try to hide the truth.
Ironically, evidently The Times of Israel sought to silence Manny Friedman by removing his article from its website. Fortunately, it remains available in the Internet Archive and in the link provided above, among other places. In that article, Friedman went on to offer a positive interpretation of Jewish influence:
The truth is, the anti-Semites got it right. We Jews have something planted in each one of us that makes us completely different from every group in the world. We’re talking about a group of people that just got put in death camps, endured pogroms, their whole families decimated. And then they came to America, the one place that ever really let them have as much power as they wanted, and suddenly they’re taking over. Please don’t tell me that any other group in the world has ever done that. Only the Jews. And we’ve done it before. That’s why the Jews were enslaved in Egypt. We were too successful. Go look at the Torah — it’s right there. And we did it in Germany too. . . .
Now, the reason groups like the ADL and AIPAC hate admitting this is because, first of all, they are secular organizations. Their whole agenda is to prove that every Jew is the same as every other person in the world. I cannot imagine a more outlandish agenda. No, we’re different. We’re special. . . .
[B]eing special simply means a person has a responsibility to do good. I think that’s the real reason most Jews are so afraid to admit that there’s something inherently powerful and good about them. Not because they’re afraid of being special. But because they’re afraid of being responsible. It means that they’re suddenly culpable when they create dirty TV shows that sully the spiritual atmosphere of the world. It means that things can’t just be created for the sake of amusement or fun or even “art.”
Suddenly, we can’t screw up the world. . . . Our larger battle, the harder battle, is elevating the world spiritually. . . . [W]e’ll have to hold one other, and ourselves, to a higher standard.
Friedman prefers a racist interpretation: he seems to think it’s a racial advantage. I’d say it’s a cultural advantage; I think the Jews know a thing or two about raising kids. Either way, the point seems to be that power must be used benevolently — and benevolence implies, among other things, a commitment to defending universal human rights and, as the Hebrew scriptures say, not bearing false witness.
As indicated above, the media’s coverage of Trump’s news conference was an exercise in bearing false witness. By staying with its established path, the media got an ideological win-win: harp, once again, on Trump’s apparent mental illness and unsuitability for the presidency, and use that to keep us perpetually reminded of the old Nazi threat to Jews. Meanwhile, regrettably, the public was left largely uninformed and unprepared for the potentially more dangerous threat posed by Antifa, including especially its extrajudicial subversion of free speech. Shutting down a person’s life because s/he does not share your views is not OK, not even if his/her views seem racist or genocidal. Our laws do not allow even the government to do that. There is no basis for bestowing power of that nature upon private individuals with their own personal ax to grind.
If the public ever begins to believe that we need to reduce free speech, freedom of assembly, prosecution of assault, and other legal principles implicated in Charlottesville, then let’s have that debate, reach our conclusions, and write the necessary laws. Until then, we need truthful media coverage, even when it does not support the party line. If our powerful media organizations cannot deliver that kind of truthfulness, then their power should be given to others who can.
Again, I am not insisting that Jewish interests have been particularly involved in the skewed media coverage of Charlottesville, or in the attempts to destroy neo-Nazi lives. To argue that, I would have to explore the question of who is in control, in places like CNN. I am simply pointing out that people might become aware of the possibility, due to the widespread impression of Jewish control of the media and also, perhaps, of the Internet; the involvement of Nazis in Charlottesville; the noticeable similarity of the tactics used in Antifa and Hollywood; and the use of such tactics, in both places, to wreck the lives of people who say things that Jews dislike.
Adee (above) suggested that throwing The Daily Stormer into the dark web could perversely enhance its credentials as an outcast from the dominant system. The larger concern is that throwing The Daily Stormer into the dark web, and comparable decisions by other Internet companies fixated on neo-Nazi individuals and groups, could raise questions of whether Jewish interests are interfering with the freedom of America’s Internet, for the sake of an extralegal private agenda.
Again, based on my reading about Germany before the rise of Hitler, it seems that a person concerned about threats to the Jewish people would want to make serious efforts to avoid the mistakes Jews made in the 1920s — mistakes that handed a golden opportunity to the Nazis. For that purpose, simplistic morality tales about Nazis are not the best answer. So, here, I am recommending a different path, starting now. Don’t wait for some future Hitler to choose the time and place; don’t give him the kind of ammunition identified in this discussion. Much to the contrary, give the public scrupulously transparent coverage of anything having to do with Jews, Nazis, Israel, and the like. Doing so may require an acceptance that Americans really don’t have much reason or desire to tolerate Naziism or to persecute Jews, and that it does not make sense to give them any such reason.
My concern was not that all of these questions and possibilities, regarding Jews in America, would turn out to be true or deeply troubling. My concern was that at least one of them might prove troubling enough to jeopardize the substantial trust, on the part of Gentile Americans, that (in the view of Manny Friedman, among others) made it possible for Jews to come here and take over powerful sectors like media and the Internet. At present, I would say to these powerful individuals, our trust is yours to lose.
(In subsequent days, after writing those words, I read something from which I decided that, at least in Portland, the answer to my question about Jewish involvement in Antifa efforts to get rightists fired and/or evicted was probably no. No, this apparently wasn’t a Jewish effort. The article I saw, wherever it was, offered a brief description of the seemingly home-grown effort by which Antifas were just walking around neighborhoods, showing photographs or otherwise identifying rightists, and trying to find out where they lived or worked. Not that I had done an investigation of Antifa activists, to see whether perhaps there was a high Jewish representation. None of that was really the key point, anyway. The key point was that patently biased news preoccupation with Nazis, and a light touch on equally or more violent Antifa, did seem likely to raise disturbing questions, at least among those who believe or, perhaps, can prove that Jews predominate in certain news organizations. It would presumably be counterproductive to give neo-Nazis a plausible claim that their opponents — including prominent news media — are sympathetic to the views and methods of Russia’s violent communists.)
The Media Starts to Come Around (?)
There was no excuse for an informed reporter to soft-pedal the damage done by Antifa. Politico (Michel, June 30) had reminded readers of the Greensboro Massacre of 1979, involving a left-vs.-right shootout in North Carolina. Michel said,
Unsurprisingly, antifa’s assault-related tactics, despite their continued usage, have proven less than effective . . . . “It just makes [antifa] feel good—they think they made a point,” the ADL’s Pitcavage said. “But their tactics are counterproductive. They haven’t made any dent over the years with those tactics. … And it gives the white supremacists an unbelievable amount of publicity.” . . . [T]here’s little reason to think that depriving neo-Nazis of their First Amendment rights will prove any more successful than the myriad pre-WWII street brawls that failed to slow the rise of fascism in Europe.
A day or two after writing the preceding section, I was relieved to see signs that mainstream media outlets were waking up to the seriousness of Antifa behavior. I think I saw another Atlantic article, in addition to those by Beinart (above), as well as another in the New York Times. At this moment, all I had on hand were two CNN pieces, but perhaps those are enough. In brief summary:
- CNN (Ganim & Welch, August 19) published an article titled “Unmasking the leftist Antifa movement: Activists seek peace through violence.” A few excerpts from that article:
[Antifa warrior Scott Crow says,] “People put on the masks so that we can all become anonymous, right? And then, therefore, we are able to move more freely and do what we need to do, whether it is illegal or not.” . . . “Even though it only takes one person to break a window, it doesn’t matter because the bloc moves together,” said a 26-year-old named Maura . . . . Antifa activists often don’t hesitate to destroy property . . . . Antifa members also sometimes launch attacks against people who aren’t physically attacking them. The movement, Crow said, sees alt-right hate speech as violent . . . .
[Professor Brian Levin of Cal State San Bernadino] said he put his own body between an Antifa member and a Klan member when Antifa protesters attacked with knives at a February 2016 a rally in Anaheim, California. . . . “No, it’s not OK to punch a Nazi. If white nationalists are sophisticated at anything, it’s the ability to try to grasp some kind of moral high ground when they have no other opportunity, and that’s provided when they appear to be violently victimized.”
[On June 4, Portland police spokesman Pete Simpson described the weapons found on arrested Antifa demonstrators:] “We did seize a large number of weapons or things that could be used as weapons,” Simpson said. “Everything from knives to brass knuckles to poles and sticks and bricks and bottles and road flares and chains. One hundred percent, they came geared up to fight if it would be allowed.” . . .
[Portland residents] have gotten fed up with the escalating violence, Simpson said. . . . “It’s not good for the city. People are just frustrated by it. It’s affecting their livability. It’s affecting their business. It’s affecting their commute. . . . The running through the street, breaking windows and everything in sight, we haven’t seen it as consistently as we’ve seen it in the last eight months.” . . .
And in jurisdictions across the country, police told CNN they’ve started enforcing with new vigor laws that bar people from wearing masks during gatherings. . . . Simpson said, “But one thing is very clear is that free speech and protected speech can be very offensive and very hateful, but it’s still not a crime.”
But then, bizarrely, as noted by Townhall (Vespa, August 20), CNN modified the original article‘s title (“Unmasking the leftist Antifa movement: Activists seek peace through violence”) so that it would no longer associate Antifa with violence: at this writing, the title is simply, “Unmasking the leftist Antifa movement.” The revised article explains in a footnote:
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that counterprotesters say they are not to blame for violence at the Charlottesville protest. The story’s headline has also been updated.
In other words, Antifa informed CNN that Antifa was not to blame for the Charlottesville violence, and CNN’s editors replied, “Oh, OK, then, we will tell our reporters that they had it wrong.”
- Townhall (Benson, August 17) highlighted several items that CNN’s Jake Tapper had mentioned, but that CNN itself had apparently not yet publicized. The theme uniting these items was violence against journalists — which, Benson said, were “developments that you’d think the entire press would be all over.” Benson started with a mention of a separate piece in which he described how — believe it or not — Antifa thugs beat a conservative student who was participating in a demonstration against neo-Nazis. Benson then quoted tweets in which Tapper said, “At least two journalists in Charlottesville were assaulted by people protesting the Klan/Nazi/alt-right rally,” and cited another assault that put a CBS photojournalist in the hospital with a concussion — precisely because these journalists were attempting to cover Antifa activities. Benson offered video clips supporting these accounts.
I started writing this section with some hope that CNN would eventually be truthful about events at Charlottesville. As I revised this section in light of articles emerging in subsequent days, I found myself losing that hope. Fortunately, there were signs that other major media outlets (e.g., USAToday, August 23) sought to present a more balanced picture.
Boston, August 19
A week after the end of the Charlottesville episode, we had an event in Boston. I won’t rehash it as in the case of C’ville; I’ll just recreate what I wrote on Facebook, minus the Huff Post article. (Other souces I could have referenced include ABC News, the Washington Post, and Newsweek.) Here, live from my FB wall:
By this point, I’m wondering if the Left is sane.
The organizers of the Boston free speech rally made clear it was not a racist event and had nothing to do with the Charlottesville protest. Its organizer said the purpose of the event was to “maintain that every individual is entitled to their freedom of speech and defend that basic human right.”
How is that controversial? It is a fundamental principle of human rights worldwide. And yet, yesterday in Boston, it brought out 40,000 counterprotesters, many with signs signaling hostility toward whites.
Somehow it has become politically incorrect to defend free speech.
The organizers and attendees were ridiculed for attracting such a small crowd. In today’s America, it seems that, if you want to stand up for free speech and get a good showing, you will have to invite the KKK and the Nazis.
To me, as noted earlier, it seems very shortsighted to use your own free speech to attack the free speech of others. What prevents the general public from getting sick of the whole thing? A constitutional amendment would not be inconceivable but, short of that, the public can (and does) disfavor media sources and enforce unspoken rules that effectively impair freedom of speech and assembly. Today, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught us, they come for the neo-Nazi; but tomorrow, they might come for you.
Another brief observation. In the course of presenting these posts and other materials on Facebook, and interacting with people active there, I have recurrently had the experience captured in the FB screenshot displayed above, in which Alan Perry and Erin Zebrowski insulted and ridiculed me, but did not actually seem to have anything of substance to contribute, nor any evident motivation to engage in sincere dialogue.
The recurrent experience has been that conservatives seem to feel that I have captured some aspects of their worldview, whereas liberals aren’t all that interested in talking about it. My impression has been, in other words, that for many on the Left, this is more of a religious matter than an intellectual matter, in the sense that it involves being Moral and Superior — not in a way that stands up to logic, but simply in one’s own self-congratulation, and in the affirmation of likeminded others.
It is enormously ironic that the conservatives who have so long subjected the world to their patently false claims of access to superior truth are now at risk of being victimized by others, not sharing their beliefs, who appear to crave some of that moral reassurance for themselves — and that the liberals who have so long ridiculed the conservatives for their illogic are now basking in it. On that level, it appears the blame for perpetuating the long-term poison of religious irrationality belongs especially to the Right. We would have been better off if our society had more conscientiously insisted that people try to make sense and be reasonable.
Slate, August 14
Another item that turned up later: an incoherent essay in Slate (Lithwick & Stern, August 14). I was not familiar with Stern, but I have appreciated a number of Dahlia Lithwick’s articles on current legal issues. This essay did not rank among her finest. In lieu of a thorough discussion, I offer a few quotes and responses:
- “Complaints abound that law enforcement officers looked on from the sidelines as the brutality quickly escalated into a crisis. The tragedy culminated in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer when a white supremacist rammed his car into a group of peaceful protesters.” There is no reason to think that police intervention to separate lines of right- and left-wing protesters would have prevented a driver from running over pedestrians.
- “When demonstrators plan to carry guns and cause fights, does the government have a compelling interest in regulating their expressive conduct more carefully than it’d be able to otherwise?” Lithwick does not provide any evidence that right-wing demonstrators intended to cause fights. As far as I have seen, they intended to stage a peaceful protest. Their sin, in her eyes, was that they used shields and clubs to force their way to the scheduled protest site, against violent leftists who wished to deny their constitutional rights. This is pathetic, for a lawyer who is surely quite clear on the constitutional implications of the leftist effort.
- “[Judge] Conrad may have ultimately suppressed speech by ensuring an armed confrontation between the neo-Nazis and the counter-protesters would break out and that police would be powerless to stop it until blood was spilled.” But, as just noted, there was no armed confrontation involving the guns that are Lithwick’s key concern. In addition, as suggested in the first bullet point (above), Lithwick herself complains that the police actually were not powerless — that they could and should have intervened, but didn’t.
- “[T]he presence of large quantities of lethal guns had in fact effectively silenced the many people who’d assembled to peacefully express their opposition to racism.” First of all, those people were not consistently anti-racist; anti-white statements by some of them, and their supporters, make that clear. Secondly, those people were not silenced; violent leftists plainly did make aggressive moves toward rightists. Thirdly, Lithwick absurdly contends that the presence of armed right-wing protesters at their scheduled protest site somehow prevented leftists from expressing their opposition everywhere else. In short, the leftists who chose physical violence against the rightist protesters were obviously not there for peaceful purposes; those who were there for peaceful purposes were fully capable of removing themselves from scenes of violence.
There’s more, but that’s enough. The takeaway: it is one thing to encounter such nonsense from people who have no reputation and no training. Encountering it from Dahlia Lithwick conveyed, to me, the degree of indoctrination that has grown, apparently, from too many years of treating Nazis and the KKK as boogeymen. Yes, obviously, their beliefs and some of their behaviors are awful. I got that already. I got it 40 years ago. But they are only a few among a world full of equally awful others, some of whom are not so stupidly obvious and simple about their hatred. I get this too. Why doesn’t Lithwick?
ACLU, August 12
Very belatedly, I realized that these liberal media outlets were not saying much about the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) statement (August 12). The key lines from that statement were as follows:
We condemn the voices of white supremacy heard in Charlottesville today, and all violence. Our hearts are with those killed and injured. . . .
The First Amendment is a critical part of our democracy, and it protects vile, hateful, and ignorant speech. For this reason, the ACLU of Virginia defended the white supremacists’ right to march.
Which was exactly right. We have a Constitution for a reason. Among other things, it allows people to hold and express beliefs that others despise. Europe didn’t have that, so Europe had centuries of religious war. The United States chose a different route. People who want to suspend the Constitution in this particular case essentially want us to repeat fundamental historical mistakes.
FAIR, August 18
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) posted an interview with FAIR’s own Adam Johnson (Jackson, August 18). Along with remarks that seemed plausible, I found it dismaying to read this:
The alt-left is something that was originally used by Sean Hannity . . . [to include] three categories: It was the Sanders constituents who were, you know, kind of mean online. It was also used for people who opposed intervention, in the narrative in Syria . . . . And then the third thing was, it’s used for Antifa and a lot of the anarchists and leftists . . . .
“Alt” effectively became a fascist or a Nazi qualifier, but to use “alt-left,” you were basically saying that they were morally equivalent. . . . Because they needed a shorthand to replace “Bernie bro.” . . . You were drawing moral equivalence between people who wanted free healthcare and people who wanted to eliminate the Jewish race. . . .
[For] the media in general . . . their first instinct is to strip ideology from the conversation. Whereas one ideology is genocidal, one ideology is anti-genocide, well, let’s split the difference. And you see this a lot with the use of the word “fascist.” They’ll say, well, you know, some people say there’s fascists on the left. Well, fascist doesn’t mean people that are mean. Fascist doesn’t even mean people that are violent. Fascist is a specific ideology which traffics in eugenics and racial superiority.
And people who don’t really have a hard ideology, which a lot of people in media don’t—I mean, they do in the sense that they don’t think they do, but they don’t have one they can sort of pinpoint and locate—they view all kinds of aggression and all kinds of violence as the same, as morally the same.
In those extraordinarily disingenuous remarks, Johnson started by saying that “alt-left” included not only Bernie Sanders supporters but also violent leftists; and then he turned right around and said it just means “Bernie bro.” He knew that alt-left did not consist merely of “people who wanted free healthcare.” Moreover, as someone who was paid to know the facts, he knew or should have known that (as indicated above) the “people who wanted to eliminate the Jewish race” were not the only rightists appearing at Charlottesville; they may not even have been the most important rightists involved there. Unless Johnson has not heard of communism, or is ignorant of its history, he can further be assumed to know that it is not a matter of genocide versus “anti-genocide”: leftists in the Soviet Union and China murdered tens of millions. At that rate, eugenics and racial superiority were not the only dangerous doctrines in play. It may be convenient — it may attract attention — to claim that your side is all good and the other side is all bad; but that is fantasy. Finally, assuming Johnson lives in a country that has laws, presumably he is aware that violence — stabbing someone, for instance — is “morally the same” regardless of whether it is committed for a left- or right-wing political reason.
Fox News & Breitbart, August 30
By month’s end, a few more things had happened. One was that Antifa violence in Berkeley was growing so indefensible and extreme that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from San Francisco, finally issued a statement (August 29) indicating that Antifa attacks “deserve unequivocal condemnation, and the perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted,” and the equivocating Los Angeles Times reportedly called Antifa’s behavior “thuggery, not activism.” Another development was that I learned of those events, not from the New York Times or CNN, but rather from Fox News and Breitbart. I rarely consulted either of those sources; it’s just that both were among the top results in a Google search that I conducted after seeing a mention of Pelosi’s statement. Breitbart (Shaw, August 30) provided a seemingly accurate summary of the situation:
[S]ince President Trump highlighted the largely unreported left-wing violence aurrounding the events of Charlottesville, Virginia, such acts have slowly been receiving more coverage.
Pelosi had previously called for the House to censure Trump over his response to Charlottesville, but with the increasing rise of left-wing violence, on Tuesday she released a statement condemning the left-wing rioters. . . .
Trump had provoked the fury of both Democrats and mainstream media reporters when, despite his condemnations of white nationalists and neo-Nazis, he also condemned the violence on the part of what he described as the “alt-left.”
“Do they have any semblance of guilt? What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem?” he asked. “I think they do.”
Trump was widely criticized for his remarks, with even top Republicans — such as House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney — blasting Trump for his remarks.
So this all worked out just about as badly as it could, for purposes of advancing the Democratic Party. Centrist leaders in both parties engaged in spineless pandering, on the assumption that it would always and forever be safe to simply choose any viewpoint that opposed Nazis. It seemed the Democrats, in particular, had learned nothing from the November 2016 demonstration that the voting public actually did not consider Hillary Clinton entitled to the presidency. The voting public tends to live more hand-to-mouth: last year’s gig is over; what counts is now. On that timeframe, instead of jumping on the facts and reporting quickly and factually on leftist violence, the globally respected New York Times allowed Fox News and Breitbart to position themselves as sources offering faster and more truthful news coverage. Trump, widely considered the antithesis of veracity, suddenly looked like a man of courage, appropriately insisting on fair treatment of both sides.
While researching this post, I encountered occasional indications that today’s Antifa represents a proud continuation of anti-fascist movements starting in the 1920s, in the struggle against Hitler and Mussolini. But I could not help recalling these Billy Joel lyrics:
There’s always a place for the angry young man
With his fist in the air and his head in the sand
He’s never been able to learn from mistakes . . .
And he’s proud of his scars and the battles he’s lost
So, one might ask, You were among those Germans, Italians, and Spaniards who fought the fascists before World War II? Excellent. And how did that turn out? We know the answer. Of Mussolini, Goldberg (2007, p. 49) says, “He celebrated the violence committed by Socialists because it gave him the opportunity to commit more violence in retribution.” By the time of WWII in Germany, for historical reasons that I have partly covered in another post, the public was so disgusted with the Left that the Nazi propagandists remained permanently able to blame communists and Jews for things that went wrong. Kallis (2005, p. 145) asks whether anti-fascist activity in Germany during the war did anything more than deliver psychological gratification for its practitioners: “[I]t conspicuously failed to induce either the soldiers or the civilians to act against their own increasingly unpopular government.”
In other words, violence can and often does make a difference, when you’ve got the public behind you. But violence without public support is apt to push the other way, making you an outlaw and part of the problem. In Charlottesville, at this writing, it appears that the extreme Right understood that better than the extreme Left. That seems to have been true of protesters in the street; it also appears true of the media. From what I saw, media on the Right took the stance of rejecting violence and arguing for constitutionally protected freedoms, while media on the Left were implicitly and sometimes explicitly endorsing violence and taking positions against those freedoms.
The outcome was clear, and it was not what I would have preferred. My conclusion: if you wanted to understand how ignorant Nazis could come to seem more stable and respectable than college-educated leftists, the events and media coverage of Charlottesville in August 2017 would be a great place to start.
It appears other items of interest may continue to come to my attention, dated after August 2017 and/or after my time window for further analysis. Here are a few:
- StackExchange Politics attempts a dispassionate answer to the question, “Is President Trump right that there was violence on “both sides” in Charlottesville?”
- Politico (Meyer, Sept. 1) reports documents indicating that, prior to Charlottesville, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had “formally classified” the activities of Antifa as “domestic terrorist violence.” Meyer reports previous episodes supporting this characterization.
- The Los Angeles Times (Queally et al., Sept. 4) reported an ongoing debate, extending into the state legislature, on whether violent left- and/or right-wing political groups qualify as street gangs. A formal legal conclusion to that effect could reportedly add significant amounts of time to prison sentences upon conviction for acts of criminal violence.