Charlottesville: The Hippie-Blaming Begins

Charlottesville: The Hippie-Blaming Begins

The message in the first half of this Wall Street Journal editorial is: We are condemning the neo-Nazi right, and only the neo-Nazi right, for the violence in Charlottesville on Saturday:

The particular pathology on display in Virginia was the white nationalist movement led today by the likes of Richard Spencer, David Duke and Brad Griffin. They alone are to blame for the violence that occurred when one of their own drove a car into peaceful protesters, killing a young woman and injuring 19 others....

Political conservatives even more than liberals need to renounce these racist impulses....

But the second half of the editorial makes clear that the Journal editorial board doesn't blame only the perpetrators:

The politics of white supremacy was a poison on the right for many decades, but the civil-rights movement rose to overcome it, and it finally did so in the mid-1960s with Martin Luther King Jr. ’s language of equal opportunity and color-blind justice.

That principle has since been abandoned, however, in favor of a new identity politics that again seeks to divide Americans by race, ethnicity, gender and even religion. “Diversity” is now the all-purpose justification for these divisions....

The problem is that the identity obsessives want to boil down everything in American life to these categories.... Down this road lies crude political tribalism....

A politics fixated on indelible differences will inevitably lead to resentments that extremists can exploit in ugly ways on the right and left. The extremists were on the right in Charlottesville, but there have been examples on the left in Berkeley, Oakland and numerous college campuses. When Democratic politicians can’t even say “all lives matter” without being denounced as bigots, American politics has a problem.

So the Journal ed board doesn't really believe that Spencer et al. "alone are to blame for the violence" in Charlottesville.

Rod Dreher's post on Charlottesville at the American Conservative also checks the "blame the perpetrators" box, but doesn't linger very long on their responsibility for the violence, because Dreher is in too much of a rush to blame the left:


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Charlottesville is the kind of America that identity politics is calling into being. It’s time for straight talk about that.

On the Right, the story is fairly straightforward. Neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and their ilk have to be condemned in no uncertain terms, and marginalized....

It is not enough for conservative politicians and thought leaders to condemn these incidents. In their rhetoric, they need to start criticizing the principles of identity politics, across the board.

... we on the Right have to start speaking out without fear against identity politics — and calling out people on the Left, especially those within institutions, for practicing it. The alt-right has correctly identified a hypocritical double standard in American culture. It’s one that allows liberals and their favored minority groups to practice toxic identity politics — on campus, in the media, in corporate America, on the streets — while denying the possibility to whites and males. By speaking out against left-wing identity politics, and by explaining, over and over, why identity politics are wrong and destructive, conservatives strengthen their position in chastising white nationalists on the Right.

So the alt-rightists are awful -- but hey, they have a legitimate grievance, don't they?

Erick Erickson, writing for FoxNews.com, skips the pro forma condemnation of the perpetrators and just blames the left:

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As the left-wing social justice warriors have created mobs across America intent on destroying lives for daring to engage in wrong-think, an equal and opposite white supremacist movement has risen up. Both would silence the other side for wrong-think. Both work at the extremes of American politics....

White supremacists, white nationalists, or alt-right are a group of people who have decided to embrace left-wing tactics and strategies to advance the noxious idea that the white race is superior to others....

The regressive ideas of the white supremacists in Charlottesville have no place in America any more than the censorious totalitarianism on display last week at Google.

I'm sure Heather Heyer's family would be happy if she could trade places with James Damore.

Blaming the hippies for right-wing violence is a venerable conservative tradition. Recently, on the New York Times op-ed page, Bret Stephens cited a 1993 Wall Street Journal editorial titled "No Guardrails," which is widely admired on the right. That editorial (scroll down here to read it unpaywalled) blamed 1960s left-wing culture for the murder of an abortion doctor:

The gunning down of abortion doctor David Gunn in Florida last week shows us how small the barrier has become that separates civilized from uncivilized behavior in American life. In our time, the United States suffers every day of the week because there are now so many marginalized people among us who don't understand the rules, who don't think that rules of personal or civil conduct apply to them, who have no notion of self-control....

We think it is possible to identify the date when the U.S., or more precisely when many people within it, began to tip off the emotional tracks. A lot of people won't like this date, because it makes their political culture culpable for what has happened. The date is August 1968, when the Democratic National Convention found itself sharing Chicago with the street fighters of the anti-Vietnam War movement.

The real blame here does not lie with the mobs who fought bloody battles with the hysterical Chicago police. The larger responsibility falls on the intellectuals--university professors, politicians and journalistic commentators--who said then that the acts committed by the protesters were justified or explainable. That was the beginning. After Chicago, the justifications never really stopped. America had a new culture, for political action and personal living....

Michael Griffin and Dr. David Gunn are merely two names on a long list of confrontations and personal catastrophe going back 25 years.

Yes, 1960s leftists killed Dr. Gunn. Personal responsibility? No thanks -- we're conservatives.

Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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