It’s an indication of just how messed-up our political world has become, that seemingly the sole voice of reason in the furore over last weekend’s events in Charlottesville, is Donald Trump.
Journalists and politicians are falling all over themselves – and each other – in their attempts to be the one to heap the harshest condemnation on him, for failing to lay the blame for violence and tragedy entirely on the alt-right, neo-Nazi protesters.
To be clear, Trump has condemned those groups – his exact words two days ago were
“Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its names are criminals and thugs – including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans”.
He reiterated those words yesterday in a press conference in which he said,
“You’re changing history, you’re changing culture, and you had people – and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally. But there were people in that group other than the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists… and the press has treated them absolutely unfairly”
He has also, though, made it clear that the violence in Charlottesville was not one-sided and that the “alt-right” were not the only aggressors, or the only ones acting illegally. Antifa, or “the alt-left” as he referred to them, did not have a licence to hold their counter-protest, and they were heavily armed – with chemical sprays, baseball bats, metal pipes and other offensive weapons. In his words,
“You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that”.
A couple of the responses on Twitter:
Saajid Javid claims to have learned as a child that neo-Nazis are bad and anti-Nazis are good. But did he also learn that all violence is wrong? Or that vigilantism is illegal? What about belief in the rule of law? Maybe he’s forgotten that along the way.
Because the problem with Antifa, is that while they may call themselves anti-fascist, or anti-racist, or anti-Nazi, and while many of their members are all of those things, officially, the Department of Homeland Security in New Jersey has listed them as an anarchist extremist organization. And the reason for that is that a significant number of their members are more interested in violence and destruction than in opposing hatred and bigotry. In fact hatred and bigotry are the tools of their trade – the fact that their hatred is directed predominantly at white males and law enforcement, rather than at minorities and people of colour, does not make their viewpoints or their actions any more acceptable.
I came across a wonderful story yesterday, about a brave African-American musician who, over the past 30 years, has befriended hundreds of KKK members, got to know them, talked to them about their beliefs, and gradually brought them round to the realisation that they wish to renounce their membership of the KKK. Sadly, it turns out he’s received a fair amount of criticism from other black people for his actions, being called ‘Oreo’ and ‘Uncle Tom’, viewed by some as a traitor to his race. To these people, it seems, the deep-seated resentment and anger they feel towards those who oppressed their ancestors for so many centuries, and who, given the chance, would seek to oppress them, are too great to allow any prospect of friendship and understanding to form in the future.
The escalation of anger and violence that is taking place across the western world, cannot be ignored or downplayed. The sight of angry white men in Charlottesville holding burning torches and giving Nazi salutes was horrifying and an appalling indictment of our continued failure to simply co-exist. But the press and politicians, by seeking to absolve Antifa of any part in the violence that took place, are simply making matters worse. By sending the message that violent anger is justifiable when directed towards somebody whose views or actions are abhorrent, they are failing to uphold the basic rule of law on which our societies depend.
We do not allow citizens to form lynch mobs to root out paedophiles, murderers and others who do us wrong – our justice systems may be imperfect but we are all expected to leave the job of dispensing justice to the police and the courts. Why, then, are our press and politicians trying to give a pass to Antifa? Don’t they see that this is exactly what Antifa wants?
Antifa are not remotely interested in peace, hope or equality. They are anarchists, determined to overthrow the rule of law. Let’s not allow outrage over the despicable actions of a group of white supremacists, blind us to the danger from those who would take this opportunity to bring anarchy to our streets.