USA TODAY, August 12, 2018
Hopefully Orwell’s ‘Two Minutes Hate’ is not yet institutionalized in our lives. There is still time to get along and ‘stop making it horrible.’
Media hype had it that Unite the Right protesters would storm into Washington on Sunday and march down Pennsylvania Avenue like the giant Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters, smashing federal icons left and right. Instead, there was a pathetic rabble of two dozen racists who likely would have been hard-pressed to capture a chicken coop.
Historian Henry Adams observed a century ago that politics is “the systematic organization of hatreds.” The hubbub around yesterday’s protests illustrates how Adams’ axiom is more true than ever.
“I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!” President Donald Trump tweeted the day before the protest. Despite some kvetching over his comment, it was much closer to the American mainstream than the views of most of the protesters in D.C. parks and on the streets.
The scattering of Unite the Right 2 protesters could have been delivered straight from Liberal Central Casting. Even though the white nationalists, especially after Charlottesville, are a political nonentity, they can still serve as a profitable bogeyman.
Who were the few Unite the Right faithful?
One of the big mysteries is why anyone would trust or follow protest organizer Jason Kessler. A year ago, after a neo-Nazi crashed his car into counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing Heather Heyer, Kessler tweeted out that she was a “fat, disgusting communist.” That sparked an uproar, so Kessler blamed Ambien and Xanax for the noxious tweet. After Kessler sued the Charlottesville government, the names of his allies and cohorts were disclosed in court filings, even including encrypted messages sent via Signal. Kessler admitted that he is relying on “donations sporadically from my grandmother.”
Were Sunday’s attendees distinguished by their inability to do a Google search on Kessler’s background? Or perhaps the story is more complicated, considering the role of double agents in recent protests.
Last August’s Charlottesville protest was preceded by a Klan rally spearheaded by a long-term violent FBI informant. Christopher Cantwell, a top organizer of the Unite the Right rally a year ago, recently admitted that he is now an FBI informant. That’s a common trait among supposedly anti-government types: the FBI had nine confidential informants inside the 2016 standoff with ranchers and protesters at Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. In 2006, an FBI informant organized and led a neo-Nazi march in Florida. It would not be surprising if the feds had additional informants among white nationalists (especially among people seeking plea bargains) beyond those who have been publicly exposed.
Regardless of why people turned out in Washington, the D.C. police handled the protest well, taking all necessary precautions to separate the opposing demonstrations. Charlottesville turned into a tragedy in part because the police chief (who subsequently resigned) responded to escalating violence by telling his officers to “let them fight.” Police intentionally drove the white nationalists into the angry counterprotesters — even though both groups had plenty of weapons, including guns and at least one makeshift flamethrower. Charlottesville police bizarrely withdrew the sole officer blocking the intersection through which a driver later plowed into counterprotesters and killed Heyer.
Some of the media coverage leading up to Sunday’s close to non-event tarred as many people as possible as unindicted co-conspirators. A New York Magazine headline proclaimed: “A Year After Charlottesville, Racists to Gather in Trump’s Neighborhood.” Vox, one of the most respected left-leaning websites, announced Friday that 24 million white Americans share the views of the Alt-Right protesters. A few hours later, the publication said a “data error” had more than doubled the number of Alt-Right leaning Americans, and that it was actually only 11 million. Pick a million, any million. Yet, on the same day, another Vox piece conceded: “Under public pressure, the alt-right has largely disintegrated.”
Hatred on the left masked as anti-hatred
Conservatives will do their damnedest to showcase the extremism of some counterprotesters. In Charlottesville on Saturday and Sunday, Antifa activists attacked police and the media and denounced police as Klan members. And in Washington, counterprotesters chanted that “America was never great” and held signs demanding the disarming the police — not a comforting idea to most Americans who have more fear of vicious criminals than of law enforcement officers.
The vast rage and clenched fists of many of leftist protesters at times appeared to be hatred masquerading as anti-hatred. Nor would most Americans agree with signs proclaiming “White Silence is Violence.”
Is the “Two Minutes Hate” of George Orwell’s 1984 now institutionalized in American politics? Hopefully not. It is a good sign that there were no miscreants performing Nazi salutes or sporting Nazi paraphernalia in Lafayette Park, but that will do little to curb the rage of political zealots. There is still time to follow the counsel of a black man who endured a police beating that helped spark the 1992 Los Angeles riots that left 63 people dead. As Rodney King wisely asked, “Can we all get along? Can we stop making it horrible?”