The recent events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia were truly horrifying.
As a Psychology major, I subscribe to a lot of different political opinions. To be open and honest, I lean right politically, but as a Psychology major I have always been interested in hearing all the sides of stories, and thus I subscribe to a lot of different political viewpoints. I think it’s vitally important to listen to people you not only agree with, but those you do not. I get my conservative news and commentary from The Daily Wire, where I listen to the podcasts of Ben Shapiro and Andrew Klavan. I get liberal news and commentary from the likes of CNN and online articles on websites such as the Huffington Post and The New York Times. I even try and occasionally find opinions of the very fringe groups that found themselves wreaking havoc in Charlottesville last week as I am deeply curious to how people think and why, no matter how disgusting what they believe is.
I think it is really important to understand how we got to this moment, and in order to do this we must explore the ideas involved and how and why they have manifested in the ways that they have.
Firstly, I think both the Alt-Right and ANTIFA are deeply immoral groups, and also very fringe groups, that in no shape or form are representative of the movements, the political right and left, respectively, in which they espouse to associate with. In order to better understand these two groups, we need to understand what might influence people to have joined their groups.
The Alt-Right is somewhat driven by a recent culture in America, on the left, that has promoted identity politics in a fashion that has demonized “western culture”. Some on the right move more towards the Alt-Right as they are told to “check their white privilege” and that it is responsible for their success in life, but are shown no real evidence to prove this.
Some move toward the Alt-Right as they watch conservatives get their ideas and speech shut down on platforms such as Youtube and college campuses. Also, as they watch mainstream media outlets time after time skew stories and cover news in an un-journalistic and nonpartisan manner, while claiming to have no bias. As some on the right watch this take place, they grow animosity, and they too then delve into the inevitable rhetoric brought when you feel attacked for your identity, in this case, being white, bringing them to the conclusion that they must protect their white identity, and a white supremacist is born.
As a conservative, I agree with these grievances, however, the difference between myself and a white supremacist is that I believe these grievances are connected to my political ideologies and beliefs and need to be addressed in that way, whereas a supremacist believes they are connected to their skin color and should be battled on that basis. The main difference is that where a conservative sees an attack on “western culture” someone on the Alt-Right misconstrues “western culture” to be synonymous with being white. They believe western culture is a product of white people and the only way to preserve it, is through the bolstering of white identity; white supremacy.
ANTIFA is driven by their hate of the “establishment” and the “patriarchy.” They are opposed to this concept of “western culture.” They believe an oppressive system is in place, one that has roots in western culture, which was established and is now perpetuated by white people, that hurts and oppresses those of minority populations.
Some on the left are driven to this group because they perceive certain speech to be violent in nature, and thus should be met with violence. They observe individuals and groups partake in such speech, and to no consequence, and see it their duty to bring justice through violence. They see movements like the Alt-Right and are justified in their pursuit, but all the while, unfortunately, attack those that fall outside this bigoted and hateful ideology.
The main difference between a liberal and ANTIFA is ANTIFA wants to see everything come crumbling down, the whole system, they want anarchy, as the only means to truly destroy the “western culture” system that stands in place now, while those on the left share some of these grievances with ANTIFA, they do not come close to believing in the kind of actions ANTIFA believes in taking to reach their goals.
It is vital we understand how it can be so easy to associate both the Alt-Right with conservatives, and ANTIFA with liberals, and understand that there is a true disconnect in both cases.
Some on the right feel some form of a connection to the grievances of the Alt-Right listed above, and I think fairly so in many respects. Purely on the basis of ideas, conservatives have recently been fighting hard against identity politics and bias of the MSM among other things, ideas the Alt-Right gets behind and gains support through.
Where the split occurs is when someone who is not white says they agree with these grievances, the Alt-Right rejects them based on identity, whereas a conservative would welcome them on the basis they agree with them ideologically. Identity is the main difference even though some of the ideas indeed overlap.
Similarly, the left and ANTIFA have some similar grievances. Such as the idea that speech deemed as hate should not be free speech, and beliefs in the good of identity politics due to an unfair patriarchy.
Where the split occurs is where ANTIFA wants no part in any conversation, even about more moderate things, apart from the racism that was being promoted in Charlottesville. This is where I think some on the left get confused and feel connected to ANTIFA in some way. They see ANTIFA combatting white supremacists and think they are good, because anyone who believes in this is evil, and they are. However, ANTIFA also combats just about anything they disagree with. One of their organizers told CNN, “The idea in ANTIFA is that we go where they [right-wingers] go. That hate speech is not free speech. That if you are endangering people with what you say and the actions that are behind them, then you do not have the right to do that.”
The question is then, who defines hate? What took place in Charlottesville was clearly hateful, but many other times ANTIFA has wreaked havoc where the “hate” wasn’t very evident, like when Milo Yiannopoulos came to Berkeley to speak. Also, when Republicans in Portland tried to host a parade, and ANTIFA told them if they did 200 of them would come and push and grab anyone in the parade, effectively ruining it, and endangering people, and thus the parade was canceled. Your average liberal doesn’t actually advocate for violence in a lot of the cases where ANTIFA has used or threatened violence, even though they sympathize with some of their grievances and motives.
Where it is so important that we distinguish between these fringe groups and the movements they latch onto, is that the two groups are currently feeding off one another, and partially because people on the left and right are being deceived, and they are feeding off us too. Those on the right share some ideological grievances with the Alt-Right, but in no way the same way of fixing the problem, but the Alt-Right did a good job of disguising that until now. However, all the while, one of the biggest things the Alt-Right has been emphasizing, that those on the right stand with, is the notion that free speech is being shut down. Charlottesville couldn’t have helped them prove their point more.
ANTIFA coming in and Charlottesville spiraling into utter chaos I’m sure illustrated to many that the Alt-Right’s grievance of shut-down speech was real as they did have the proper permit to host the public gathering. All the while, ANTIFA can seize this moment to become the good guys, by fighting against a truly hateful group, rather than prior, where hate wasn't evident. Those looking on without prior knowledge of ANTIFA see them as heroes, and thus they are promoted.
The Alt-Right and ANTIFA need each other to thrive. They stand at the far ends of opposite sides of the political divide in America, even though they ironically both support identity politics in principle, however opposite in practice. They prove to many on both sides, grievances that have been building up in the current toxic political climate, all the while actually standing for ideas most Americans do not come remotely close to agreeing with.
The question now is, how do we stop something like Charlottesville from happening again?
While a part of me wants to see people like the white supremacists who marched through Charlottesville violently protested as they were, I believe that only will create more violence and hostility. I figure this not to be a very popular opinion, but I really think that if no one became violent with the Nazis marching through Charlottesville no violence would have occurred. I think we should have let them march like clowns, and just pointed and laughed and called them bigoted racist keyboard smashing losers, because that is what most all of them are.
My biggest interest is in no one getting hurt. Now, this doesn’t mean these people wouldn’t be met with justice for their disgusting bolstering of white supremacy. Rather being in favor of violence which tends to perpetuate itself, I say let them feel the wrath of justice socially. Find out who they are, spread the word, and the good people who may interact with them now will hopefully choose to no longer do business with them perhaps if they have a business. I say let them cheer all they want about their stupid beliefs, I think it’s easier that way to show how terrible they are, without justifying the grievances they speak of, like how they were confronted violently and shut down in Charlottesville.
I know to some, at this point it probably sounds like I am sympathizing with them and my solution is providing them a platform, but a lot of the time, when you have a terrible group of people like these Nazi white supremacists, confronting them with violence and craziness only fuels the fire. While this isn’t the best of comparisons as this video is a prank video, I think there are some correlations to what happened in Charlottesville, and this prank I got a laugh out of on YouTube a couple years ago, in which a teacher said, “Leave them alone...The more you ignore them the more they’ll hopefully go away.”