The storm of condemnation that greeted President Trump’s comments about the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday – for which he blamed “many sides” –was not all that surprising to us. As we see it, what he said was largely beside the point –rather, the fact that he said it was all that mattered.
After all, ever since he was elected, Mr. Trump has been the target of a leftist “resistance” dedicated variously to removing him from office; rendering him unable to govern; and blunting his efforts to gut the results of decades of leftist policymaking in Washington. So it was preordained, so to speak, that whatever he said about as electrifying an issue as Charlottesville would be seized upon by resistance members and turned into grist for their mill.
Also true to form, the reporting and commentary on the incident by a compliant, resistance-favorable mainstream media quickly cemented the notion that the president had failed – for his own insidious reasons – to specify “white supremacists” as being responsible for the violence. And, as this took hold across the country, even those not resistance-oriented, including Republican leaders, contributed their own negative comments to the anti-Trump chorus.
To be sure, given the fact that the only fatality was a woman who was killed by an alleged white supremacist who drove a car into a crowd of left-wing activists, there was surely good reason for the president to have found a way to include some reference to “white supremacy” in his remarks. But that is properly only the beginning of the inquiry, not the end.
For starters, President Trump’s allusion to “many sides” was not out of place. Everyone was instantly made aware by the media of the organized involvement of white supremacists in the events in Charlottesville, which centered around a rally they called to protest the city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a Charlottesville park.
But what the media virtually ignored was the involvement of the equally organized antifa – as in anti-fascist – movement that has taken to tracking and challenging what they see as efforts to promote a hard right ideology. And violence is part of their modus operandi.
According to an eye-opening article by Peter Beinart in the current issue of The Atlantic, antifa traces is roots to the 1920s and ‘30s when militant leftists battled fascists in the streets of Germany, Italy, and Spain.
According to Mr. Beinart, whom no one would ever mistake for a right-winger, members of the left-wing movement were responsible for some of the violence at Trump events. They have openly urged the use of violence to stem the activities of white supremacists – even including their protests. They pressure venues – often with threats of violence – to deny white supremacists space to meet. They forcibly prevent and disrupt speeches and lectures by right-wing personalities. They pressure employers to fire them and landlords to evict them.
And several news outlets have reported the presence of antifa adherents in Charlottesville on Saturday.
So there would appear to be ample ground for the president to have called out the “many sides” that contributed to the violence. Indeed, he may well have had his well-known aversion to “fake news” in mind when doing so and demurred at going along with the mainstream media’s assignment of ownership for the violence to the white supremacists.
At all events, a president of the United States certainly should not be pilloried for taking into account that it is not just white supremacists who seek to arbitrarily impose their will – sometimes violently – on the rest of us.
Some would argue that Mr. Trump should have named names in his initial condemnatory remarks. Maybe so, but the fact that he mentioned neither white supremacists nor antifa activists does not bespeak an intention to cultivate or excuse the former.