The Left – and many in the media, along with the usual sycophants at National Review – purport to be outraged that President Trump had the temerity to call out all the violence perpetrated in Charlottesville instead of calling out only the white-nationalist marchers.
Of course, if Trump had denounced only the white-nationalists, the Left and their ideological appendages would have quickly shifted to criticizing something else about the way he did it. They would complain about the adjectives Trump used, or the shirt he was wearing, or the tilt of his head as he approached the microphones, or the bird that cast a shadow while chirping overhead as he began to speak – they would have found something, anything at all to animate the same, dishonest narrative that Trump is secretly supporting white-nationalism and is secretly a racist.
This disingenuous game that the leftists (and Republican operatives) are playing reveals more about the morals of the players than it could ever reveal about the people they are trying to smear. But in this climate of out-of-control political correctness, the game is not only effective but it raises the stakes for the people being accused. So it is important to recognize the game, recognize the players, understand the tactics they are using, and see what they expect to get – and, increasingly, do get –out of widespread accusations of racism, especially if they are Republican operatives lending their voices to the radical Left.
As is usually the case in leftist lynch mob actions, Trump isn’t the real target: that is ordinary Trump voters. People who voted for Trump have few defenses available to them against false racism accusations, and as such accusations trickle down through society, ordinary people face frightening threats to their jobs and their access to education.
I know people in academia who carefully conceal the fact that they even vote Republican. This gives the lie to all the accommodationists who squeak that there is no problem with false accusations so long as their mar’vlous right-of-center-literary-and-policy magazine stays above the fray. But imagine being a member of the unwashed conservative masses trying to get accepted to a professional degree program where the professors are all radical Marxists who think it is their mission to rid the earth of people who voted for Trump.
Only, you don’t have to imagine it: we are there already.
From the perspective of leftists playing the game of racial accusation, Trump himself could potentially be useful if he were convinced to stray from denouncing “white nationalism” to denouncing his own supporters. Because of this, Trump is being courted and cajoled by dishonest people in the media and even in his own party who are whispering in his ear that his personal image could be “rehabilitated” if only he throws the right types of little people under the bus.
From where they sit, the leftist seduction also looks pretty good to the (craft) beer-goggled sycophants at National Review, who already have extremely advanced degrees in throwing people under buses to please the radical Left. And, no, William F. Buckley wouldn’t spin in his grave if he saw what NR has become today: he personally founded the throwing-conservatives-under-the-bus Olympic competition back in the 1960s when he had no problem crawling into bed with Norman Mailer while attacking heartland conservatives for being – as it turns out – right about communist infiltration of the government. Buckley himself proudly pioneered a kind of political correctness of the Right, arrogating to himself the role of ideological gatekeeper for the conservative movement.
And so you have the spectacle of National Review editors paddling so desperately to please radical leftists that they publish this sort of article that purports to prove that there was no antifa violence in Charlottesville because the writer, William J. Antholis, director and CEO of the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs, claims he didn’t personally see any antifa violence, and after all, he is the right sort of person working for the right sort of think tank and speaks the lingua franca of beltway sycophancy.
Antholis doesn’t even appear to be a conservative. His bio indicates he used to be managing director at the left-of-center Brookings Institution. He was also director of international economic affairs for the National Security Council in the Clinton administration.
This academic’s un-conservative background explains his concern-trolling: “The fact that the vast majority of conservative voices have gone beyond the president’s statement is a sign that he did not get it right the first time.”
Um, not really.
That the “vast majority of conservative voices” have “gone beyond the president’s statement” seems to be a product of his confirmation bias. He’s seeing what he wants to see. Besides, it can’t be true, and even if it were, such a thing wouldn’t be proof that the president “did not get it right the first time.” It would more likely suggest that the conservative movement has been corrupted and cowed by the Left into accepting its poisonous, identity group-obsessed racial politics.
But Antholis was good enough for National Review, which also published an editorial denouncing Trump for not saying what the Left wanted him to say the way the Left wanted him to say it.
I am trying to remember if National Review published a similar editorial when President Obama invited members of Black Lives Matter to the White House to celebrate them in the midst of that movement’s rioting and encouraging of cop assassinations, along with its utterly hate-filled racist rhetoric aimed at whites. Unlike what happened in Charlottesville, that was a clear-cut case of a president siding with violent racists.
It can be hard to go back and search online through a magazine’s output. In fairness, National Review did publish several good statements condemning leftist street violence, but the publication largely gave Obama himself a pass for promoting Black Lives Matter and that movement’s violent crusade against white people and the police. NR certainly didn’t personalize its attacks on Obama the way it is personalizing its accusations against Trump; the magazine didn’t criticize and belittle people who voted for Obama the way it is criticizing and belittling Trump voters, and it didn’t attack Democrats in general for the actions of violent leftist protesters.
And remember, Black Lives Matter is a movement that President Obama, the Democratic Party, and Democratic politicians embraced, which is not the case with the white-nationalists who marched in Charlottesville.
Whether the fringe white-nationalist movement should even be placed on the spectrum with right-wing politics is debatable. Identity politics of any kind, including white identity politics, are anathema to the citizen activists who founded the Tea Party and propelled Trump to the White House.
Unfortunately, this needs to be repeated daily, not least because of the existence of Republican pundits who hope (in vain) to protect their own hides by offering up unimportant citizen activists to the hungry gods of the Left.
At this point, the unwillingness of some beltway Republican pundits to show citizen activists any sort of respect is probably best addressed through Freudian methods. Their eager willingness to surrender to their ideological doppelgangers would almost be darkly funny if the existential stakes were not so high for the types of people who do not work for the right kind of think tanks, as does Antholis, author of the National Review article mentioned above.
Antholis’ article was actually republished in National Review, not written for it originally, but it is typical of the sort of double standards and sotto voce prejudice and insinuation NR espouses.
As he pontificated:
It’s a time to speak candidly. On tolerance for racism, this president has a troubled record. In the past, it has taken him several efforts to (grudgingly) denounce intolerance against racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. Several of the people around him have problematic views on these matters, having given the so-called alt-right a platform … The president missed a major opportunity to demonstrate that he is the president of all Americans. By remaining vague about who was to blame, he is giving the impression that he endorses or approves or even tolerates white supremacists. If that is the case, it is a horrible reality. If it is not the case, he needs to say so in a forceful way, and immediately correct the impression he has created. [bold inserted]
The game is in full play here: selectively deny leftist violence; insinuate that the president’s statement is insincere; demand that the president agree with the accusation of insincerity and hoist himself on the petard of political correctness in shame to prove sincere opposition to prejudice, and then hold out the promise of rehabilitation – for the president alone – if he confesses sin and denounces the people who voted for him, who also need re-educating (none of this is about the white nationalists themselves: it is a symbolic assault on conservatives).
If this sounds like a Maoist show trial to you, you are paying attention.
If you are paying any attention to the antifa violence, however, you are a racist and need to be punished. It is verboten even to acknowledge seeing it:
Those who see what happened in Charlottesville as an example of moral equivalence are committing a moral offense. The alt-right, white supremacists, Nazis, etc., started Saturday’s event. They were both original cause and proximate cause. They were pushing the boundaries most of the day.
The final part of the game is the trickiest to tease out, but Antholis and the editors at National Review are pretty adept at playing it: special people, they are saying, like themselves, are permitted to express nuanced insights about leftist violence. It is only un-special people like Donald Trump and the people he represents who are not permitted to speak about such things, according to Antholis:
[t]hose who want to restore civic peace need to think about the challenge in all its dimensions, and that includes what to do about hard-left provocateurs in moments like this. In Seattle, I saw first-hand how anarchists disturbed otherwise peaceful anti-globalization protests. And I saw the potential for it Saturday.
He saw “the potential for it,” like he saw “the potential” in “otherwise peaceful anti-globalization protests.” The “otherwise peaceful anti-globalization protests” gives it away: is there anyone outside the offices of National Review who actually believes that there is such a thing as anti-globalization protests that start out peaceful before being surprisingly and unexpectedly hijacked by violent antifa thugs? Because, I have all sorts of vitamins and nutritional supplements and New York borough bridges I want to sell to them.
All this distracting babble about facing challenges and seeing dimensions is just anxious backpedaling from reality. Reality is, the battle between white-nationalists and antifa thugs did not begin with the marches of last weekend: the battle over Confederate statues has been brewing for some time now. Reality is, antifa violence was deliberately planned and quietly embraced by all of those allegedly “nonviolent” protesters of the Left who turned out in Charlottesville, and therefore, they were not technically nonviolent: they knew what would happen, planned for it, and participated in the counter-protests anyway in order to be able to assist a supine media in lying that that they were protesting peacefully.
As with all other leftist protests of recent years, the “peaceful,” “innocent” participants were just outsourcing their dirty work to their movement’s muscle. If they wanted a peaceful march, they would have worked with the police to isolate and exclude antifa from their plans, or, failing at that, host a separate protest far from the site of the white-supremacist march. They did not. For Trump to merely observe the consequences of this choice does not make him a Nazi sympathizer any more than it makes Antholis a Nazi sympathizer for arriving at precisely the same insight later in his own self-aggrandizing, contradictory argument.
At the core of this argument is a late-stage identity politics claim that special people may make observations that turn to racism coming from the mouths of non-special people. It would be nice if it were a little more remarkable to see this verbal habit of the openly racist Left spewing from the pages of National Review, but there you have it: it is common.
In condemning all of the violence in Charlottesville instead of bowing to a dishonest leftist narrative, Trump did nothing wrong. In angrily accusing him, National Review and scores of other publications are playing a very ugly game.