The president’s assertion that ‘all sides’ are to blame for the terrorist attack in Charlottesville is another stain on his dismal reign
Donald Trump’s review of the terrorist attack carried out by neo-Nazi James Fields in Charlottesville has, as ever, been chaotic, incompetent and revealing. At first, silence. Then, a speech (that he was clearly forced into a corner to make) condemning the KKK, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Then, on August 15 during a press conference on infrastructure, Trump was grilled about the attack. Cue, the real him.
“Define alt-right for me,” he challenged a journalist. “Come on, let’s go.” He then went on to wonder aloud about the ‘alt-left’ (which doesn’t exist) and if they had any semblance of guilt.
“You had a group on one side who was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent, and nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now,” he said. “You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent”. Former KKK leader David Duke was ecstatic after the conference.
Trump is a man whose persona and presidency is defined by near constant bigotry. He’s been happy to describe Mexicans as rapists, banned Muslims from America and ran a birther campaign against Barack Obama claiming he wasn’t born in America. But he’s always struggled to condemn one particular demographic – white supremacists – perhaps because it’s highly likely that they all voted for him, perhaps because there’s a part of him that shares their outlook.
Having Steve Bannon in the White House, former editor of Breitbart, a site he once described as “the platform for the alt-right”, is sure to have an impact on his thinking and a conversation around ‘sides’ is very worrying. The idea of sides in this instance, weirdly legitimises neo-Nazis. This is not a football match or a debate – white supremacists and the KKK must be seen as the enemy rather than opponents.
Anti-fascist activists turned out to challenge hatred marching through Charlottesville and the blame can only lie squarely with the angry aggressors that believe in a master race, one of whom – who’d previously exhibited Nazi beliefs – drove his car through a crowd of protestors, killing Heather Heyer.
The night previous to the attack, white nationalists with torches surrounded anti-fascist protestors. The previous month the KKK marched through Charlottesville and was met with resistance. If violence erupts at protests like these, then it is the fault of the people with violent beliefs. Previously at white supremacist rallies, neo-Nazis have been punched. The reason they’ve been punched is because they’re neo-Nazis. The reason anti-fascists exist? Because of fucking fascists. That Trump cannot see it, or say it, is yet another insight into the world didn’t need into his weakness, incompetence and illegitmacy.