An event held on Saturday called “Unite the Right” was the catalyst for unspeakable horror in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was organized by white supremacists as a peaceful protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, but quickly became violent after confrontations with the left-wing group Antifa. Many facts remain unclear surrounding the exact events at the protest itself and the car attack that left a woman dead, but public figures on the Left and the Right have risen in condemnation of the events in Charlottesville. It is both necessary and easy to condemn the violence that occurred and the hate that is espoused on both sides. While violence is never the correct form of discourse in the political arena, the occurrence of the event itself must be vehemently defended, no matter one’s ideological preference. America was intended to be a society freed from the concept of thoughtcrime. While most Americans can agree that hate of any kind has no place in America and that “hate speech” deserves to be called out and challenged, every idea deserves its chance in the marketplace where it can be robustly debated.
Even white supremacists have every right under the First Amendment to assemble and speak out. That guarantee is essential to the maintenance of a free society. No matter how morally repugnant the ideology, curtailing the free speech rights of one is the first step toward curtailing the free speech rights of all. In this case, the organizers of the Unite the Right rally went so far as to obtain a permit to assemble in Emancipation Park, the scene of the statue in question and later the scene of the riots. Despite that, the City of Charlottesville attempted to change the location of the rally, mentioning “safety concerns” as the rationale behind changing the location of the rally less than one week before the date of the event. The city claimed thousands of people would be in attendance at Saturday’s rally, while presenting no evidence to support that claim. Furthermore, events have been held in the park with crowds of up to four thousand people with no safety issues. The organizer of the rally sued the City of Charlottesville and won, with a judge granting his request to hold the rally in Emancipation Park and also ordering a contingent of police to be present as security. In reality, less than one thousand protesters showed up to the rally.
Police forces everywhere have an immensely difficult task, and deserve respect and gratitude for their service to the community. That fact is no different in the city of Charlottesville. However, the police tasked with protecting the rally in Emancipation Park failed. They failed the people attempting to exercise their right to free assembly in the park and they failed the people of Charlottesville after allowing the interactions between protesters and counter-protesters to become violent. The Charlottesville police should have been in a position to stop any violence from its inception. This is not only a question of protecting someone’s right to free assembly, but also of protecting residents of the city of Charlottesville from harm.
The events in Charlottesville also bring to light a disturbing trend of doublethink perpetuated by those on the Left, wherein freedom is oppression and diversity is discrimination. The Left’s claim of freedom from offense necessitates arbitrary oppression of viewpoints they find offensive. Any viewpoint that does not fit theirs is automatically labeled as bigoted, shouted down, and prevented from being heard. Again, while true racism and other hateful ideologies deserve to be confronted, they also deserve to be heard. This is America, not Orwell’s Oceania. Similarly, the left’s twisted notion of diversity necessitates discrimination. They do not desire true ideological diversity, as their claim of freedom from offense supersedes everything. Rather, they desire a twisted, false notion of diversity wherein the only diversity tolerated is diversity among themselves. Groupthink and collectivism have become the new diversity, and it is time for America to return to the individualism that defined her.
All the events that took place this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia were despicable, but a myopic focus on the actions of one side or the other renders one incapable of condemning violence and hate in general. Those who hasten to conflate white supremacy with the Conservative movement as a whole would do well to heed their own advice regarding the conflation of Islamic extremism with the religion of Islam in general. I sincerely hope those who claim, as Wired magazine’s Ashley Feinberg has, that the events in Charlottesville were the direct responsibility of the Alt-Right will be as consistent in the wake of the next terrorist attack perpetrated by an Islamic extremist. I doubt it.
Written By: Matthew Vitale
Executive Editor, The New American Right
External Vice President, College Republicans at UCR