Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
I tend to agree with this editorial, suggesting that the Forces of Good should stop counter-protesting when the neo-Nazis and white supremacists come to your town. The writer and I see the odds of confrontation going way up when there are two highly amped groups facing off, and since it’s usually the militia-lovin’ Nazis who are armed (and bearing medieval shields and SWAT-quality helmets) you can bet there will be blood.
The urge to get out there and be counted is powerful. I understand completely. But there’s an unfortunate association in the eyes of the less-involved public between the two sides. Both appear keyed-up and angry. Both are waving sticks around or flipping the bird, faces distorted with rage. And when the cops fail to keep the two groups apart, it’s hard to tell who’s responsible for the violence. You might have seen the image of a counter-protester shooting a column of fire at the Nazis (he lit the contents of an aerosol can; it wasn’t a flame thrower), and though that might have been done in self-defense it sure doesn’t look good on TV.
As the editorial points out, the number of Nazi protesters in Charlottesville was puny, considering the hype. Most estimates land in the neighborhood of 500. If there hadn’t been a counter-protest, the thing would have fizzled like a dud and we’d have earned mocking rights. Instead, the intensity of the media coverage gave the white power crowd a voice they wouldn’t have otherwise had.
In the aftermath, I girded myself and listened to about ten minutes of Rush Limbaugh one afternoon, and all he could talk about was the violent “antifa” agitators. He kept using the term “alt-left” and acted as if the media had conspired to keep images of their bad acts off the air. Even though the cop-baiting antifascists were few, blowhards on the right are going to amplify their antics and make it seem like the violence is indeed coming “from both sides.”
Better to hold our own protests, independent of whatever the Nazi twerps do. Social ostracism is more effective as a way to minimize these knuckleheads. They get relegated to their basement meetings, draping themselves in the confederate flag, and nobody gets hurt.
Yesterday we happened to be driving past our GOP congressman’s local office, and there was a well-attended protest out front, with maybe a hundred concerned citizens waving signs and airing their criticisms of the rep’s pro-Trump record. We were delighted to see it, and a lot of people driving past (in this very red district) were honking and showing their support.
That’s the way to do it. No head-to-head confrontations. No violence. No martyrs. There’s too much work to do for us to be drawn into bar brawls with skinheads.
I don’t have a problem with peaceful counter protests. But they have to be peaceful — as in, sitting or standing and bearing witness and not yelling back. I saw a video earlier today of a guy who stood in front of a confederate statue with his confederate flag and an assault rifle slung over his shoulder. People started crowding around him. They yelled obscenities at him. They gave him the finger. It went on for 30 minutes and the whole time he just stood there, silently, not even flinching. And they were right in his face. As far as I’m concerned, he won that exchange. What he did is what we should be doing in the face of white supremacy, neo-Nazi crap. Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening and until we can master our emotions, you’re right, we should just leave them alone. 500 stupid people who had to be brought in from far and wide really don’t scare me.
Absolutely. If we lose the message of Gandhi, we lose the battles and the war.
Better yet, let the counter rally be a soup kitchen or canned food drive to feed street people, or a clothing drive to clothe the poor, or a peaceful love-in, with lots of music and all of the above. People need to see boots on the ground progressive work being done. Yet I also understand the outrage of folks who have to live in the shadow of monuments made to men who oppressed their ancestors and waged a war against the union in an effort to maintain that status quo. And let’s not forget to mention that their tax dollars pay for the upkeep of monuments that represent something reprehensible to them. But yeah, the ugliness of the counter protest was just what the Right needed to affirm their confirmation bias, again.
You’re so right. Every step of the way, we have to demonstrate that we’re can get good things done. Can’t get baited into dumb acts that set us back.