Charlottesville featured the largest hate group gathering in the U.S. in decades according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Instead of viewing this as an isolated incident, keep in mind that hate groups have become much more active in recent years. There were nearly 1100 “bias incidents” in the 5 weeks following Donald Trump’s election. The emboldened alt-right has sympathetic figures in the White House including Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. The values they espouse will not be quelled without a powerful surge in activity from those of us in all regions.
Thousands of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and members of the KKK gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday. Their stated impetus for gathering was the pending removal of a statue of Civil War Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The gathering turned violent as the white supremacists clashed with counter-protesters.
One counter-protester, Heather Heyer, and two Virginia state troopers, Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, were killed.
The gathering elicited immediate outcries from every corner of industry and every side of politics – except for Donald Trump. He issued a statement that condemned the violence but ad-libbed that “many sides” were to blame. He followed that up by awkwardly avoiding questions about his reticence to be more forceful in his denunciation.
This drew cheers from the white nationalists and scorn from politicians and the press for his refusal to condemn white supremacists.
On Monday, Donald Trump made a second attempt at condemning white supremacists.
The media has yet to coalesce around a selected narrative as the fallout from Saturday continues. However, all mainstream media sources are devoting enormous attention to the event. All mainstream media sources are condemning the terrorist attack and hateful demonstration.
Here are the main narratives best encapsulated and reinforced by The New York Times and CNN on Monday afternoon.
Note that the primary story is on Trump’s statement today. Also note the key addendum – that the statement is late and due to pressure. Why is this important? Because critics of Trump’s response find it insincere and flaccid. He said the right words but they did not come from his own volition and they were clearly read from a script – an odd labor for Trump who prefers to avoid reading. Why else is it important? Because white supremacists view his delay as a sly wink that the condemnation is insincere and that they are not really in trouble. Placing Attorney General Jeff Sessions in charge of an investigation into racism does not instill fear in the hate groups because of Jeff Sessions’s own racist past.
Other emerging threads include:
Profiling the victims of the protests
Merck CEO Ken Frazier quitting Trump’s American Manufacturing Council – This elicited a rapid response from Trump on Twitter
How many other politicians responded – A further way to highlight the contrast between Trump and everybody else
The media diverges slightly in coverage today compared to most weeks. The mainstream media, including Fox News, all view the event with great negativity. This unity is rarely seen in the age of a fracturing media. It is usually reserved for momentous tragedies.
However, most outlets are featuring Trump’s delayed response at the forefront of the emerging fallout. Fox News differs by focusing on the removal of Confederate monuments and an exchange with Trump calling CNN fake news.
1. Where is this coming from?
Most of us do not interact with Neo-Nazis in our day-to-day lives. Yet their popularity is growing. To begin understanding the root of this problem, we need to understand where it comes from. The Southern Poverty Law Center has been active in producing data on the growing alt-right movement.
I would also recommend reading a brief NPR interview with reformed Neo-Nazi, Christian Picciolini. Picciolini was a white nationalist early in his life but has long since left the movement. He has dedicated his adulthood to countering hate movements. Reading the interview provides sharp insight into the causes and motivations.
2. What can be done?
Call your representatives. Call your representatives. Call your representatives. Tell them you will not stand for the hate movement. If the Representative of Charlottesville, Tom Garrett had taken action, lives could have been saved. But he did not. Stopping this movement depends on people countering the alt-right even before the assemblies take place.
There were also vigils across the country. The media has yet to pick up on how widespread they were, but they send a clear message to your community that your values oppose the alt-right.
Throughout this week we will be unveiling more ways to take action. But be clear that action must be taken.