[Rushtalk] What Trump got right about Charlottesville
cwsiv at juno.com
Fri Aug 18 06:05:30 MDT 2017
Published: Aug 17, 2017
Author: SCOTT MCCONNELL
Was the apoplectic media watching the same press conference?
The allegation that the mainstream media disseminates “fake news” about
the Trump administration often can seem overwrought, even a kind of
caricature. Yet the nearly universal media response to President Trump’s
news conference at which he addressed the Charlottesville violence can
only reinforce it. One day this response make make a rich subject for
future historians analyzing it as earlier historians probed
witch-burnings, pogroms, and other outbreaks of mass hysteria. They
likely will focus on the spectacle of sophisticated, experienced, well
credentialed people—Chuck Todd, Jake Tapper, Joe Scarborough, to name
three of dozens—responding to Trump’s comments on the tragic weekend as
if they were, say, undergraduate social justice warriors at Middlebury
First, the transmission of facts, which might be the essential point of
journalism. Trump approached the Trump Tower podium Tuesday afternoon
hoping to talk about infrastructure. The media wanted to talk about
Charlottesville (ignoring, not surprisingly, Chicago, where nine people
were murdered over the weekend).
The meat of Trump’s answer can be broken down into parts. First, he
praised the young woman who was murdered, called the driver who ran her
over a disgrace to his country, wasn’t certain of the semantics whether
he should be accused of terrorism or murder.
Second, he asked a reporter for a definition of the alt-right, a term
probably as imprecise as “socialist”—and perhaps a reasonable way of
expressing uncertainty about the actual center of gravity of a seemingly
elastic group that includes such disparate ideological figures as
Trump’s own American nationalist aide Steve Bannon, the white
nationalist Richard Spencer, and the neo-Nazis Spencer has invited into
his tent. Third, he reaffirmed the statement he made on Saturday,
condemning in the strongest possible terms bigotry and violence.
Then he fatefully threw out the red meat, denouncing 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. He reiterated his previous statement that there
was “blame on both sides.” He repeated his disdain for “neo-Nazis and
white nationalists,” saying they should be “condemned totally.” Then he
noted that some people had come simply to protest the taking down of the
Robert E. Lee statue, erected over a hundred years ago.
So how did the media report this message, in which he singled out for
condemnation white nationalists and neo-Nazis, lamented the violence on
both sides, and posited that many people involved were “fine people”
demonstrating for relatively normal things—that is, for the maintenance
of a statue, or protesting against the alt-right’s bigotry?
It was hard to miss. Headline after headline streaming on the news
chyrons on CNN and MSNBC asserted that Trump had defended Nazis, while
the transcript (and a video) shows plainly and unambiguously he had done
nothing of the sort. Commentators on the two major cable channels were
hysterical, some guests labeling Trump a white supremacist, wondering
why Jared and Ivanka or the minority members of his administration had
not abandoned him. A New York Times story records the “chills”
experienced by Chuck Todd upon hearing Trump, the shock of Jake Tapper.
Joe Scarborough said on his TV show that congressional Republicans
should essentially go on strike, telling the president they will not
pass any legislation whatever until Trump convincingly assures them that
he regrets his remarks. New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush on Morning
Joe accused the president of being an anti-Semite who “besmirches and
insults” the faith of Jews. The Times blatantly misrepresented Trump’s
remarks with a frontpage headline: “Trump Gives White Supremacists an
Trump had committed the unpardonable sin, in their eyes, of denouncing
left wing extremism. Those who watched video of the event could see,
quite plainly, that the antifa were intent on instigating violence, far
more than the LARPing Nazis or pathetic Klansmen.
In his sometimes clumsy way, Trump was making the same point as New York
Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg, who was on the ground in
Charlottesville covering the event. She noticed that the far left
counter-protesters were intent on instigating violence and tweeted that
“the hard left seemed as hate-filled as the alt-right. I saw
club-wielding ‘antifa’ beating white nationalists being led out of the
park.” Later, perhaps sensing she was in danger of transgressing some
sort of unofficial party line, she amended her thought. She added that
the leftists were “violent, not hate-filled. They were standing up to
hate.” Of course, “standing up to hate” (of whites) is exactly what the
alt right would say they are doing as well.
Stolberg’s original tweet, and her need to amend it, are telling. There
has been a huge upsurge in left wing violence during the past year. At
one extreme, a Bernie Sanders volunteer recently tried to murder the GOP
congressional leadership, severely wounding Congressman Steve Salise.
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.
Pro-Trump rallies have been cancelled under threat of leftist violence
in “tolerant” Portland. Those attending a pro-Trump inaugural ball, “the
Deploraball,” were pelted by batteries and bottles and chants of “Nazi
Scum” by the same antifa who were protesting in Charlotte. (My wife and
I were among those targeted). 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. But for the antifa, and the vast swarm of left
wing social justice warriors, any kind of Trump supporter is “Nazi Scum”
by definition, people whose First Amendment rights to speak and gather
should be denied.
It was probably Trump’s awareness of this—an extremely important social
fact sedulously ignored by vast legions of mainstream media—that
prompted Trump to speak out against the violence of both sides. In doing
so, he displayed a far more sophisticated understanding of the overall
context of political violence in this country than the media mavens who
ritually disdain him.
Scott McConnell is a founding editor of The American Conservative.
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