For the past 36 hours I’ve tried to gather my thoughts about the Charlottesville riots and killing of 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
Here goes, in no particular order.
Free Speech. The sight of neo-Nazis marching with torches was nauseating. But even Nazis are protected by the First Amendment. That’s why a federal judge declined to issue an injunction against their march. It’s why the U.S. Supreme Court stayed an injunction issued in 1977 seeking to prevent Nazis from marching in the mostly Jewish Chicago suburb of Skokie.
The concept that the Bill of Rights is not just for nice people seems to be beyond much of the social media and political reaction. Nazis and the Klan had a right to protest, just as Antifa had a right to counter protest. Neither side had a right to hit the other over the head with clubs, spray mace in each others’ faces, or drive cars into people. Those are crimes that should be prosecuted.
Hideous people and odious ideas are a threat to our Republic, but not nearly so much a threat as discarding the First Amendment. Preserving the right to peaceful protest is paramount. Numerous credible on-the-ground reports demonstrate that Antifa was as violent, if not more violent, than the Nazi/Klan protesters. Who “started it” may never be known, or may not be clear, but we’ve seen the Antifa breach of peace many times before. That is why President Trump absolutely was correct to condemn the violence “from many sides.”
Never Enough. Trump’s statements after the riots are being criticized for not explicitly condemning white nationalism and the racism of the Nazi/Klan protesters. I think he should have been more explicit, and named names ON BOTH SIDES. Antifa has a long history of violence not just against Nazi/Klan protesters, but against the police and mainstream Republicans. They all deserve to be called out for what they are.
But let’s not kid ourselves, nothing Trump could have said would have prevented withering criticism. It would have been a game of “how high” Trump should jump. Which leads to the next point.
It’s About #TheResistance. What a foul weekend on Twitter. I imagine Facebook was the same, though I’m not as much into Facebook as Twitter. There was overwhelming political exploitation, and not just by Democrats, liberals and leftists. #NeverTrump Republicans were out in full force and settling “I told you so” scores, as well.
For the left, the goal was to smear all conservatives and Republicans with the alt-right or Nazi taint. Not surprisingly, Marcos Moulistas from Daily Kos and Vox Media led the way, asserting that “NRA and American conservatives/Nazis are one and the same.” Moulitsas, you may recall, was also one of the instigators of the false claim that Sarah Palin’s electoral map was related to the shooting of Gabby Giffords in 2011. It never changes, the ghouls were out once again.
Taking down Trump is the overarching goal of so many of those attacking Trump over Charlottesville. Yes, I question their motives and the honesty of their reactions.
Honestly. The above notwithstanding, there were good faith and honest criticisms of Trump from some conservatives.
The Criminal Law Can Handle This. The killing of Heather Heyer is horrible, and deserves condemnation. But the criminal law can handle it.
The call for a Justice Department civil rights investigation, including by many conservative Republicans, is pandering at this point. If the driver of the vehicle who has been arrested, James Alex Fields, can be proven to have intentionally driven into the crowd, he probably is facing life in prison. If, as some early reports indicated, he panicked when surrounded by a hostile Antifa crowd, then his criminal culpability will be harder to judge, but there may be lesser offenses that would land him in prison for years. If there was no violation of the criminal law, then he will go free, which is the way our system is supposed to work.
A political investigation adds little to this other than a legally-sanctioned double jeopardy. It’s why I opposed such investigations in other cases where there had been no criminal liability, such as the shootings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.
Where the Hell were the Cops? This all was predictable. We’ve seen this movie before. It’s a miracle no one was killed before Charlottesville. There does need to be an investigation as to why there were insufficient law enforcement forces on hand to keep the two sides apart, as beat-downs took place in many places with no police in sight.
Campus Speech At Risk. The semester is about to start, and long before Charlottesville there were concerns about free speech on campus for anyone right-of-center. Those concerns will grow as there will be intense pressure to bar “Nazis” from campus, with the definition of “Nazi” to include all Trump supporters, conservatives, practicing Christians, and anyone else who does not toe the liberal party line. The illusory concept of “hate speech” will be used to shut down debate, kick speakers off campus, and justify shout-downs with even more intensity. It will take brave university administrations to ensure this doesn’t happen, and “bravery” is not what university administrators are known for.
That’s it for now.
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