Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
The only way to describe the media’s reaction to Trump’s press conference and statements about the events in Charlottesville yesterday is irrational. To understand how irrational the reaction was, just imagine if instead of involving white nationalists and antifa counter protestors the events of last weekend had been a conflict between two rival biker gangs.
Do not change a single event from this weekend but imagine the events being the result of violence at a biker rally. One biker club has its national rally and a rival biker club shows up to protest and disrupt it. During the course of the weekend, a lot of shouting and violence take place. Fights break out on Friday. For reasons yet to be known the local police do nothing to separate the rival gangs and violence and conflict spills over into Saturday. Finally, on Saturday afternoon a member of the first gang runs a car into a crowd of its rival gang injuring nineteen and killing one.
Now ask yourself, would anyone in their right mind claim that only the first biker gang was to blame and everyone is obligated to condemn it? Of course, no one would. There would be national outrage about the problem of biker gangs. The local police would be called to the carpet for not maintaining order. Law enforcement would crack down hard on both gangs and biker rallies in general.
The only reason the media and the nation at large are not having the same reaction it would if Charlottesville involved a fight between biker gangs is because it involved white nationalists. And the media and political class are incapable of having a rational conversation about anything involving white nationalism or white supremacy. The reason for this is that to do so would be to call into question the entire concept of white guilt.
White guilt, like all racial collectivist beliefs, is completely irrational. White guilt is doubly irrational because it embraces the very sort of racial collectivism it claims to reject. It is irrational to say that one person is responsible for the actions of another person just because they share the same color of skin. It is irrational to say that anyone living today is in any way accountable or responsible or has any reason to feel guilty about events that occurred before they were born. The entire concept of collective guilt–be it based on race, class, sex or anything else–is utterly irrational. It represents the worst sort of tribalism, which civilization and rationality seek to end.
White guilt, like all irrational belief systems, is completely antithetical to any form of rational discourse about any of the areas it concerns. Once a believer in an irrational ideology is forced to have a rational discussion about one area of the ideology the entire ideology comes into question. This is why the integration of professional sports did so much toward ending the idea of white racial supremacy. When blacks and whites were not allowed to compete on the same field, whites could hold the irrational belief that whites were inherently superior athletes to blacks. Once Jackie Robinson became a star in the major leagues and Jim Brown became the best football player in the world, whites could no longer hold that belief. They were forced to have a rational conversation based on facts about the relative athletic ability of the two races. And once they did that, they could no longer refuse to question or discuss rationally their views on racial superiority in every other area of life. The entire ideology fell like a house of cards. Within a few decades, white supremacy went from a societal given to a fringe belief.
One of the primary tenants of white guilt is that white nationalism is a unique evil. White guilt necessitates that white nationalism not just be wrong but a unique wrong in the world, worse than communism or any of the sins of other races. If white nationalism isn’t worse than other isms, then whites have no more or less to answer for than any other race or creed and the whole edifice of white guilt collapses. This is of course irrational. White nationalism and belief in white supremacy is evil but no more or less evil than any other form of nationalism or religious or racial supremacy. So no believer in white guilt can have a rational discussion about white nationalism without calling the entire concept of white guilt into question.
When Donald Trump spoke yesterday, he attempted to force the nation to have an honest and rational conversation about white nationalism and its involvement in the events last weekend. He said two undeniably truthful and rational things about the events this weekend. First, he said that not everyone at the march in Charlottesville was a white nationalist. This is true. The march was a protest against the tearing down of a Robert E. Lee statue. It was organized by white nationalists but 200 or so people attended. It is perfectly rational and truthful to say that not all of them were white nationalists. Some of them, albeit perhaps a small minority, no doubt were there because they wanted to save the statue.
Second, he said that the counter protesters deserve a significant share of the blame for the resulting violence and death. This is also true. The counter-protesters were active willing participants in the violence that occurred. The proof of that is in the photos and accounts of the weekend given in the Virginia ACLU Twitter feed. And as I explained above, had the events in Charlottesville involved any other group but white nationalists everyone involved would be assessed their share of the blame.
To say those things and to try and have a rational and truthful conversation about last weekend is to admit that it is possible for white nationalists, no matter how bad they are, to have been the victims of a wrong–or at least not totally responsible for the events of this weekend. And to do that is to necessarily admit the reality that white nationalists are not uniquely evil or worse than other violent or supremacist groups. Donald Trump’s statements were a direct challenge to the entire concept of collective white guilt.
One of the interesting things about Charlottesville, that no one seems to have noticed, is that an event that was supposed to be about white nationalism and white supremacy was not a race riot. I have not, in any of the pictures and video I have seen of the weekend, seen a single black person. Charlottesville was a conflict almost entirely or maybe entirely between white people. There is a good reason for this. The debate and conflict over white guilt is almost always a conflict between upper class and middle and lower class whites. Black people are nearly always bystanders or props in that conflict.
To understand why you have to understand how white guilt works. You would think the belief in collective white guilt would be an expression of self-loathing, but it is not. When a white person believes in white guilt they are engaging in one of the purest forms of virtue signaling. Since the belief is irrational and has nothing to do with their actions, they are not accepting any real moral responsibility. What they are doing is asserting their moral superiority over other white people who refuse to accept the belief. When a black person asserts collective white guilt, they are doing it to attack white people. When a white person does it, the white person is saying they understand their burden and the horrible sins of their race. In doing that, the white person is showing their moral superiority over other white people who refuse to accept their guilt and responsibility.
Embracing some level of white guilt is one of the primary ways upper class and gentry whites assert their moral superiority over middle and lower class whites. Middle and lower class whites don’t believe in white guilt. As a result, they often have more rational views about race. Middle and lower class whites can say and think rational things about race that upper-class whites cannot do without losing their class status. Lower and middle-class whites can believe that black people are sometimes just as racist as whites. They can believe that black supremacist groups can be just as bad as the KKK. They can believe that the Civil War was a complex event that wasn’t just about slavery and white supremacy, or that just because South Carolina or Mississippi were slave states and have a bad racial history doesn’t mean there are no good parts of those places or that people from there can’t be proud of their state.
Upper-class whites cannot believe any of that. No upper-class white would ever wave a Confederate flag. No upper-class white would ever say that the Black Panthers are as bad as the KKK. If they are conservative, they might say the KKK is insignificant but they would never say that a black group is qualitatively just as bad. To do any of that would necessarily call into question the idea of white guilt and mean being kicked out of the class.
So when Trump tried to force a rational conversation about white nationalism Washington, D.C., that most white and upper class of cities, lost its collective mind. It was all hands on deck — Left and Right — to save and assert the white guilt moral privilege. The responses to Trump were predictably irrational and counterfactual. For the crime of saying not every incident is entirely one sided, Trump was accused of being a white supremacist. In other words, the president everyone feared he would be. Some of the reaction was so counterfactual it can fairly be called insane. Mitt Romney and John McCain described the counter-protesters as fighters for justice and equality against the forces of prejudice and racism. People who showed up waving Communist flags and carrying pepper spray and bags of feces and urine are now fighters against evil and prejudice. Really? The entire response boiled down to a giant guttural groan of “How Dare You!” by the white upper class. Trump had attacked their most sacred moral privileges and they were not going to take it lying down.
What will be the fall out of all this? Like most things involving Trump, a lot less than people think. First, I don’t think it is going to make a bit of difference politically. The people who voted for Trump are almost to the person people who reject the concept of white guilt. So, they won’t see it the way the media and the Washington Establishment has. They will see it as Trump saying entirely fair and rational things. I don’t see Trump’s support dropping one bit. Trump’s enemies will just have a new reason to feel aggrieved.
Second, I don’t think we are going to see much white nationalist vs. antifa violence. Trump tried to force a conversation the left doesn’t want to have. For the left, white guilt is not just about class it is also how it enforces identity politics. The left needs white guilt. Trump also tried to force the left to talk about its role in this violence. And that is also not a conversation anyone on the left wants to have. The left has condoned and enabled antifa violence for years and gotten away with it. They do not want to have to answer for that.
I think that police departments in Democratic cities are going to start doing their jobs. Instead of standing down at these marches and counter-protests, the police will start keeping the two sides apart, arresting people who show up with weapons and bags of urine, and cracking down hard on any fights that break out, and maintaining order. Deprived of the ability to riot with impunity, antifa will find better things to do. They don’t want to go to jail any more than anyone else and protests get pretty boring if you no longer have free reign to attack people. Deprived of any violence to use to slander the Right, the media will lose interest as well. Over the next few months, these marches are going to return to being the small events of paper-hanging losers they have always been. So, I wouldn’t stock up on ammunition for the coming civil war just yet.
Lastly, I think that the drive to tear down Confederate monuments will likely fizzle as well. They will tear a few more down in Democratic cities but the issue will fade away as well. Trump did another thing yesterday: he laid down the mark that if this stuff didn’t stop they would be calling for tearing down George Washington statues. Of course, all right thinking people are today dismissing this. They, however, know that it is true. There are already calls to tear down the statues of Theodore Roosevelt in museums in New York City. You can tear down Confederate statues and largely avoid a rational conversation. Most people really don’t know who the people were and you can always use the “but it’s racist” charge to keep the average observer from objecting. George Washington or Teddy Roosevelt are different. People do know who they are and can’t be scared off by the racist charge. And the Left doesn’t want a rational conversation about that any more than they want a rational conversation about last weekend.
The statue controversy, like all leftist causes, is entirely manufactured. We had a century-long struggle for black civil rights in this country. During that time not a single person to my knowledge — not Martin Luther King, not W.E.B Dubois, not Booker T. Washington, not Malcolm X — ever cared or said a single word about those monuments. Yet, suddenly, in 2017 they are a threat to all that is right and good. Give me a break. Once the left decides tearing them down is no longer to their advantage, and they will if they haven’t already, no more will be heard about the subject.