“When I talk to anyone or read the writings of anyone who has any axe to grind, I feel that intellectual honesty and balanced judgement have simply disappeared from the face of the earth. Everyone’s thought is forensic, everyone is simply putting a “case” with deliberate suppression of his opponent’s point of view, and, what is more, with complete insensitiveness to any sufferings except those of himself and his friends.”
~ George Orwell ~
I have an axe to grind… That much I’ll admit to, but first:
The events of this last weekend in Charlottesville were terrible, an example of the worst mankind can offer: it was on both sides, and it needs to be addressed on both sides by all of us.
- A rally to protest the proposed tearing down of a statue of Robert E. Lee and renaming of Lee Park in Charlottesville was scheduled; permits were obtained and all community obligations were met for holding said rally by the planners – who were ostensibly a hodge-podge of groups that included neo-Nazis, KKK, alt-right extremists, etc.);
- The planners of the rally and Charlottesville Police, knowing something like what happened would happen purportedly met/communicated well in advance and put together a contingency plan to prevent violence from taking place;
- Counter-protests were planned by community members, BLM, Antifa, and more;
- Friday night a heinous rally and march took place with people showing just how despicable their ideology and driving forces were in a display reminiscent of old Klan rallies replete with (tiki) torches and anti-Semitic slurs;
- The day of the rally the safety promised to the rally holders was nowhere to be found as a situation was allowed to escalate quickly with few (inadequate) to no safeguards in place;
- The planned rally (with proper permits, etc.) took place, and was met by counter-protesters (no proper permits, etc.);
- Violence ensued, perpetrated by both sides but culminating in an evil individual allegedly (for legal reasons) associated with the white nationalist movement driving their car into the crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring many others;
- President condemns evil and blames both sides for violence;
- Media blows up because President refuses to blame just one side and call them out;
- President issues more robust statement two days later, says what needed to be said… should have left it at that; and then…
- President holds a completely unnecessary press conference where he issues some factual statements, doesn’t go far enough for the second time in three go-rounds in condemning the alt-Right, and lambasts the media for “fake news” (correctly imnsho);
- And in the latest update – Steve Bannon was fired. Whether in relation to this incident or not, I can’t say – but it’s good riddance; he shouldn’t have been allowed to grace the West Wing’s doorstep as any kind of advisor.
My take (in order, mostly chronological):
- Maybe this should have been #1… But there’s a lot of people to be hitting our knees for: that hearts and minds are/can be changed, that a community can heal, and that we remember the more we have in common as Americans than the differences we have as politically motivated beings;
- Evil was on full display last weekend. It should not be excused, it should not be tip-toed around – it should be named for what it was. The hateful ideologies and identity politics espoused by white supremacists, the KKK, neo-Nazis/Nazis, Antifa, and BLM are terrible and have no place in civilized society; I condemn all of them for what they are – evil. Anyone who approaches things with vile hatred in their hearts and minds, and seeks to do harm is evil – I draw no distinction between groups that believe, behave, and act in that manner (nor should anyone). And now my more extensive thoughts;
- As a community we need to reject tribalism like that on display this last week and the last couple of years. Any group that claims ultimate superiority over another based solely on differences in race (white supremacists/KKK, BLM), political ideology (Antifa, Alt-Right); any group that asserts special and superior status because of some cultural sub-set/group/race; any group that feeds into identity politics; etc.: these types of groups miss the mark by more than is acceptable. Groupthink of this kind is the grossest distortion of political and social reasoning; it is a betrayal of our status as the reasoning, responsible, self-governing individuals we were Created to be. The rise and promulgation of these ideologies is a throwback to darker days, and it saddens me that we haven’t learned from the past;
- I don’t feel like statues should be taken down or parks renamed (I agree with Sec. Rice), but if that is what the elected officials – or citizens through referendum/initiative – in a locality or State decide to do: that’s up to them. I agree with the assessment that once you start doing that, where it ends no one knows; and that we’re better off leaving monuments alone so that history is not forgotten. Also, I have little regard for people who claim to be “oppressed” or “discriminated against” because of statues/monuments/art/street and park names – these things do not oppress or discriminate, and feelings are poor reasons for policy.
- A side note: I have no fondness for rallies or protests (loathe may be a better word). They are at times a public good (think MLK Jr.), but are more often public nuisances (think idiotic protests by people that don’t like the outcome of an election, any of the ‘Occupy’ crap, think marches where violence against law-keepers is propagated, heck – I attended a Tea Party rally once and thought it was a giant waste of time afterwards, rallies for statues, etc.) that serve little to no purpose other than to get a group of people worked up over something – which feeds into our basest, most tribalistic impulses (and apparently recently leads to property damage and harm to our fellow man)… the only place I can think of that being a good thing is at a sporting event… Today no one’s rights are being trampled on, nobody’s life is in danger – it is just now popular and acceptable to claim that opinions of your opponents are harmful, despite whatever facts and figures declare otherwise.
- Know thy history. National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie was a landmark case in US First Amendment Law, and it was a good decision. We may not like groups, we may find them and their values odious and repugnant – as I said above the very worst mankind has to offer; but that does not mean we have the right to prevent them from gathering or being heard. The planned rally was legal, and as much as we may not like it – they should have been allowed to carry about their business unhindered.
- Counter-protests/rallies are completely within peoples’ Rights as well, as long as they too went through the proper channels – I feel that given the situation their requests would have been expedited/approved, but I don’t believe they went through the process to get them. Also, these counter-protests/rallies have a history of turning things violent – especially in the last election cycle where there were numerous incidents with counter-protestors attacking people gathered legally to express their civic rights. That being said, when something like this is going on – is it really best to insert yourself into the situation knowing your presence will most likely only make it worse? A better example was set when the NSPA set about its plans for a march through the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Skokie, the community there did something constructive and created a Holocaust memorial museum instead of showing up to exacerbate matters.
- This may be controversial and upsetting to some, but I feel that certain elected officials in the region had political points to gain by enabling a certain narrative, and that by not allowing law enforcement to implement strategies that should have better protected people – they got what they wanted. I’m not sure why, after being aware of the plan for quite some time, law enforcement was not better able to implement the plan they said was in place to keep people safe/why they were given the order to stand down as long as they were – but it is my opinion that it was partially politically motivated; and putting politics above safety in this situation was deadly and beyond the pale if it is the case.
- In the end one group (BLM, Antifa, etc.) showed up to start trouble with another group (neo-Nazis, white nationalists, etc.) they knew would be there, and the group that was there was all too willing to accommodate them – I think Ben Shapiro accurately likens it to the old red vs. brownshirt fights in the past (his podcasts the last few days do a good job discussing this situation if you’re interested). Anyone that suggests any ONE side was to blame for the whole affair is being intellectually dishonest and I don’t really respect/care about their opinion at that point. I’ve seen posts from friends saying – literally – ‘isn’t it nice to punch Nazis’… and the only acceptable answer is, ‘no’. We live in a nation where we are free to be as dumb as we want to be in our opinions, where we are given the ability to voice whatever stupid idea pops into our head free from the threat of violence, where stupid is as stupid does – and that’s all I have to say about that.
- Regarding the President’s first statement: he didn’t go far enough. Apparently he had something similar to the statement he gave later in front of him but chose not to give it, and that is terrible. He should have named names, he should have called out the organizers, the neo-Nazis, and the white nationalists…. He should have also named BLM and Antifa. These groups are everything that’s wrong with identity politics, and they promote and breed the kind of behavior that took place at Charlottesville. We need strength and moral clarity from the President of the United States, and while I agree that there were many sides at fault – they needed to be addressed by name up front; the delay was unnecessary and disappointing – President Trump needed to do better then, he has to do better from now on.
- Regarding President Trump’s second statement and press conference – he said what needed to be said. And the media refusing to cover both sides of the problem is a continuance of the disturbing trend by news agencies to promote only one viewpoint; there is a reason I, and many many others, do not trust them. They too need to do better. (when even NYT reporters are Tweeting it, you should take note)
- And finally, the people who were involved in the violence ought to be sought out by the authorities (not over-zealous individuals) and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law as Attorney General Sessions has indicated will be done; the individual who drove their car into the crowd and murdered a woman ought to be tried as the perpetrator of domestic terrorism if possible (me being by no means a legal expert…).
Now, as to intellectual honesty and integrity.
First, the difference: for the purposes of this Honesty is the adherence to facts, Integrity includes being honest, but also having strong moral principles, and having an internal consistency.
We are now engaged in a vicious cycle where both sides have engaged in an escalation of rhetoric that increasingly paints vast swaths of opposing ideology in the vilest of terms, and as that continues – more and more of the public are drawn into a war they didn’t want any part of, or even knew was going on. While the left insists that everyone that disagrees with pretty much any of their policies is a racist or Nazi or any other number of ist’s and –phobe’s; the right responds by lumping the entirety of everyone not them into the regressive left/libtard/unpatriotic buckets… And the rest of us are just over here asking what happened to everybody until we get bucketed with one of the groups – either by choice or by default. It’s not a good system; it doesn’t work for anybody but those on the fringes who are looking for ways to reaffirm and advance their own views.
And almost nobody is being intellectually honest or discussing this with integrity.
There is evil on all sides, it will always be with us. But we need to have the wherewithal and courage to discuss this and other issues with moral clarity, integrity, and intellectual honesty.
We need to be willing to address and call out the wrongs not only in the groups that we oppose or are in disagreement with, but to do the same with those groups that appear to be in alignment with us and/or our policy objectives; we must also not adhere to the notion that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. – “the enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy, no more, no less”. But we have come to accept that the means justify the ends; that in order to advance our opinions it is okay for us to shout down, demonize, and physically harm those that disagree with us or express a conflicting point of view. So much so that we drive a wedge in our supposedly civil society to the point we are no longer able to talk about things in a civil manner because everyone is a libtard or a Nazi or a racist or a fascist, etc. – bottom line is they’re not good people, heck , they’re not even people a reasonable person would talk to. And once you get to that point, you can’t have a conversation with someone so evil – now can you?
Too often, each side will discuss the evil in the world when an opposing party is responsible: when BLM marched with violent slogans and targeted law enforcement officers with slurs that encouraged violence upon them that incited attacks and assassinations against our police, when people who were angry over election results rioted and destroyed property and hurt people, when you burn campuses because you might hear an opinion you disagree with, when violent factions show up to places where they know they will cause mayhem – the Right was correct in their anger at President Obama for refusing to call out those who should have been held responsible in the first two instances and instead offering platitudes about coming together and condemning all violence (he even blamed guns and cops for these – an embarrassing display of political posturing) and they are correct in their anger with the media and the left for refusing to call out the violence of their own protestors at events; and when white nationalists/the KKK/the alt-Right etc. choose to put all their ugliness on display – the Left (and a large portion of the Right) are righteous in their anger when President Trump refuses to name groups and offers the same platitudes the former President did.
But righteous indignation from either side is disingenuous when we refuse to acknowledge the plank in our own eye; I have a hard time taking the media and the left seriously with their complaints over President Trumps original statement about the events in Charlottesville when they were perfectly fine and praised the milquetoast statements from the previous administration, or tried to find any way to pan the responsibility to other parties. I have an equally difficult time with members on the right that called out President Obama over the aforementioned statements while being perfectly fine (and even defending at times) the original statement from President Trump. Both were wrong, both were morally reprehensible, both needed to do better, and both did not. And we all need to acknowledge that. We don’t get to cherry-pick when violence is okay and when it’s not. We don’t get to cull those instances that only favour our chosen side and ignore the balance. We don’t get to espouse those kinds of opinions, give sanction to the idea that squelching unpopular and even evil opinions and speech through violence is acceptable, and claim to be freedom loving members of a civil society. It just doesn’t work that way, and – again – if you think it does you are lacking in the honesty and integrity departments.
Surprisingly – or not surprisingly once you look into him – George Washington had a lot to say about this… I’ll probably cover that more specifically once I finish a couple of books I’m reading. All that to say though…
In closing: moving forward we (it would be helpful if the media would as well, but I’m not going to hold my breath) should strive to reject these ways of thinking: as a people we must, we must, we must be intellectually honest – first with ourselves, then with the groups we belong to, then with the remainder; we need to embrace and confront the world with moral clarity; and we must act with integrity, striving for consistency in the application of our ideals.
“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”
~ Proverbs 11:3 ~
It’s the only way things are going to change for the better; my prayer is that we all do better.
2 thoughts on “On Charlotsville, Intellectual Honesty, and Integrity”
I hope that if I were to learn that a Neo Nazi group was going to have a open meeting near me, wearing pistols, that I would have the courage to go protest them carrying a baseball bat.
While you would call that courage, I would call it foolishness; but if you obtained the proper permits it is within your Rights.
But would you show up if you learned a large group of people advocating for violence against law enforcement officials were to take place? If there were rioters intent on doing damage because they didn’t like the outcome of an election? If mobs threatened and committed acts of violence and vandalism to prevent an opinion they didn’t like from being heard on a college campus?
And even if you would show up to protest those – I still contend what good does it serve? None.
And you were to show up with your baseball bat and incite violence would you be culpable? Or is that just courage as well?
In my opinion giving credence and weight to mob mentality and sanctioning the Heckler’s Veto is in bad form everywhere. I don’t feel it helps any situation, and shows we haven’t learned anything from history (e.g. reds (communists) vs brownshirts (socialists – Nazis) clashes in Germany that gave rise to Adolf Hitler. It also gives power to the original party – it validates them and gives them the publicity they want. They’re generally fringe groups that want that kind of validation: why give it to them? And if you’re part of the problem, can you really be a part of the solution? I would posit no.
All that to say that while you may find it courageous and I find it foolish, it is within your Rights as long as you go through the proper channels, it is also your duty to take responsibility for your and your group’s actions.