Donald Trump’s Statements on Charlottesville (with Commentary)

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THE VIDEO ABOVE covers President Trump’s third round of statements regarding the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA — a right-wing protest formed on August 11 – 12, 2017, in opposition to the removal of Virginia’s Robert E. Lee statue. Held in Trump Tower, the presser was initially intended to cover infrastructure, but it sharply rerouted to Charlottesville when the press pressed the president on why he waited so long to blame Charlottesville violence on white nationalists, etc. His response:

  • “I didn’t wait long. I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct. Not make a quick statement. The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement. But you don’t make statements that direct unless you know the facts. It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don’t know the facts. And it’s a very, very important process to me. And it’s a very important statement. So, I don’t want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement.”

Evidently prepared for another interrogative event of Charlottesville-related questions, Trump carried a printout of his Saturday statement (see below statements from August 12, 2017), which he reiterated word-for-word to the press.

President Trump recursively emphasized his needing the facts before making official statements (unlike “many politicians” and “fake news”). He also pointed out that Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, thanked him“Thank you, President Trump, for those words of comfort and for denouncing those who promote violence and hatred. My condolences, also, to the grieving families of the two state troopers and quick recovery to those injured.” — Susan Bro for his statements.

President Trump responded further to the outrage over his not specifying white nationalists, etc. as the singular source of “hatred, bigotry, and violence” in his first statement by emphasizing further that there were many sides to the Charlottesville event’s violence:

  • “What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? Let me ask you this: What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs — do they have any problem? I think they do.”

Many sides were then simplified to both sides by Trump:

  • “You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that also was very violent. And nobody wants to say that.”

After granting there were also “very fine people on both sides,” Trump questioned the future implications of removing the Robert E. Lee statue:

  • “George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So, will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down statues of George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? Do you like him? Okay, good. Are we going to take down his statue — because he was a major slave owner — are we going to take down his statue?”

And then, according to CNN et al, Trump sprouted demon wings, farted, and torpedoed to the center of the Earth, or something.

Key Trump statements from August 12, 2017 on Charlottesville:

  • “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides. On many sides.”
  • “I want to salute the great work of the state and local police in Virginia. Incredible people, law enforcement. Incredible people. And also the National Guard.”
  • “Above all else, we must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion, or political party, we are all Americans first. We love our country. We love our God. We love our flag. We’re proud of our country. We’re proud of who we are. So, we want to get this situation straightened out in Charlottesville, and we want to study it. And we want to see what we’re doing wrong as a country, where things like this can happen.”

Key Trump statements from August 14, 2017 on Charlottesville:

  • “I just met with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into the deadly car attack that killed one innocent American and wounded 20 others. To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence: you will be held fully accountable. Justice will be delivered.”
  • “Racism is evil — and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
  • “Two days ago a young American woman Heather Heyer was tragically killed. Her death fills us with grief and we send her family our thoughts, our prayers, and our love. We also mourn the two Virginia state troopers who died in service to their community, their commonwealth, and their country. Troopers Jay Cullen and Berke Bates exemplify the very best of America, and our hearts go out to their families, their friends, and every member of American law enforcement. These three fallen Americans embody the goodness and decency of our nation.”

★ ★ ★

Brief Commentary on Charlottesville

If there’s any confusion left on what exactly is the alt-right, it no longer matters: no self-preserving group or persons — conservative, liberal, or vegan — want to be involved with the quote-unquote  “alternative right.”WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE RIGHT? At this point, we have enough an idea of what the alt-right is that fumbling over it feels affectatious. So, let’s unpack it a little: The alt-right is a loosely organized far-right movement, and the current goals of alt-rightism are essentially to legitimize and mainstream an alternative, aberrant form of conservatism — one that substitutes traditional conservatism (i.e., the conservation of political and cultural institutions, with an emphasis on social stability) with white nationalism (i.e., the conservation of white race and culture). Part of the alt-right shtick is the movement’s appeal to (s)kinship-based tribalism, citing Black Lives Matter, Nation of Islam, etc. as justification for the need of a white national identity — as well as the argument that because Japan has Japanese culture, India has Indian culture, Mexico has Mexican culture, etc., America deserves a distinctly American monoculture, which the alt-right narrowly defines as just white culture. Perhaps there’s a legitimate argument for the conservation of white culture in Europe, but I won’t get into that here. It’s basically right-wing identity politics. And to what exact percentage that the American alt-right is simply a reflexive reaction to left-wing identity politics remains questionable — although, for the sake of continuing this article, I’m willing to grant that the alt-right seems to embody both a predictable pushback to anti-white Leftism (see: Medusa Magazine‘s article “Beyond Pro-Choice: The Solution to White Supremacy is White Abortion”) and a deranged, self-perpetuated growth of pro-white nationalism. Either way, alt-rightism is, like all weaponized branches of identity politics, neither good for true liberalism nor true conservatism in America. Having said that, no amount of distance from American white nationalism will reverse the events of the Unite the Right rally.

As of now, there are at least three immediately identifiable no-turning-back shifts that occurred over the weekend that are worth mentioning:

  1. The mainstream “unmasking” of the alt-right.
  2. The death of ironic PewDiePie-esque Heil Hitler memes.
  3. The losses of Heather Heyer, Jay Cullen, and Berke Bates.

The second point I’ll address.

Back in February, the Wall Street Journal accused PewDiePie of anti-semitismNot “PewDiePie incited violence against Jews” or “PewDiePie attacked a Jewish person,” but quite literally “PewDiePie did anti-semitism.” If that sounds a little brain-dead, don’t blame me. Simply attaching “-ism” to an identity constitutes a well-rounded accusation these days. based on the YouTuber’s occasional use of Nazi imagery and salutes. What the younger online community identified as an ironic meme the WSJ conflated with the purported rise of Trumpian Neo-Nazis and white supremacists. As a result, edgy Hitlerian memery became sign and symbol to the Left of a surging far-Right underbelly of America’s conservative base.

However, the conflation of online shitposters with alt-right white supremacists wasn’t a phenomenon entirely of the Left. Pro-Trump provocateurs, such as Milo Yiannopoulos, helped stoke the movement by claiming the alt-right (see: Milo’s article “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide To The Alt-Right”) not as “anti-Semites, white supremacists, and other members of the Stormfront set” but as a mischievous, boundary-pushing clan of Pepe memers. And until the Unite the Right rally, this seemed partially true — although, when you get down to it, KekistanA parody of identity politics. and the alt-rightIdentity politics. are essentially philosophical opposites.

But at Charlottesville the alt-right exposed itself as exactly what Milo claimed it not to be: anti-Semites, white supremacists, etc. And now here we are, frantically parsing the differences between authentic alt-rightism, satiric shitposting, and legitimate anti-SJW criticism — of which the latter two seem to share much more in common than they do with the former. And by “we” I mean the shitposters, anti-SJW skeptics, and the few remaining journalists (liberals and conservatives) concerned with the (how did CNN put it?) “cutesy little ethics that used to get talked about in journalism school”.

Following the events of Charlottesville, the only groups still invested in lumping the entire right-wing under the alt-right banner are the alt-right and the increasingly anti-liberal Left, as doing so not only inflates support of an otherwise tiny percentage of bigoted Macklemore look-a-likes but frustrates legitimate discussion on behalf of conserving monumentsYou’ll remember that the Unite the Right rally was initially formed to protest the removal of Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee statue. in the name of eliminating offense and, consequently, American history.

Trump was right to question the potential future targets of monument removal.

Trump was also correct in identifying the two sides to Charlottesville’s violence.

Do I believe Trump waited on the facts to condemn the “KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups”? Based on past behavior and Tweets …no, not really at all. Nor do I buy the “very fine people on both sides” statement — insomuch that I don’t believe “very fine people” shout “Jews will not replace us” nor wear black masks with hammers & sickles.

On his Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris criticized Trump for grandstanding his ego on Heather Heyer’s mother’s gratitude.Gratitude which Susan Bro rescinded following Trump’ August 15th round of statements: “And I’m not talking to the president now. I’m sorry. After what he said about my child. It’s not that I saw somebody else’s tweets about him. I saw an actual clip of him at a press conference equating the protesters, like Ms. Heyer, with the KKK and the white supremacists.” Fair enough. I’ll expand that criticism to everyone who has been using Heather Heyer’s death as political leverage, a martyr to your personal gain and violent ideology. My only major critical addition being: This is incredibly counter-productive, sad, and shameless.

Beneath the outrage and the he-said, she-said, he-didn’t-say-soon-enough commentaries sits the fact that three people died during this event. And while I won’t pretend that I’m intimately, grievously involved in their losses (I did not personally know them), I think it’s reasonable to lament the context of their deaths, that they died between monumental idiots triggered by statues.

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