American Nazis at Jefferson’s Statue: That Image from Charlottesville I Can’t Get Out of My Mind

Image result for nazis gather in torchlight parade around thomas jefferson statue


The hate that dares not speak its name. If this doesn’t look like Nazi Germany in the 1930s, then what is it? And at the University of Virginia. And around a statue of the greatest humanist of the Enlightenment, our third president, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson would have despised these coarse and loathsome barbarians–but our current president, the 45th president, clearly signals sympathy and solidarity with them. From Trump to this moment, the Republican Party, its billionaire donors, and Fox News have unleashed a tiger of populist fascism into America’s public square. This is the fruition of an appalling year-and-a-half. Our country, founded as an Enlightenment republic of laws and rational deliberation, and of democratic solidarity with all of humanity, has been hacked. Many hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives in battle to defeat the Confederacy and Nazism, and many millions more made other sacrifices to overcome them, yet here we are in the 21st century with a president clearly in visceral sympathy with Confederates and Nazis. Did 45% of Americans really vote for this? If this image does not animate the apparently bare majority of sane Americans still remaining in this country to resistance and counter-action, what possibly could? Have we all finally had enough yet? 

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
This entry was posted in atheism, Bernie Sanders, brexit, climate change, donald trump, edward feser, feminism, hillary clinton, science, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to American Nazis at Jefferson’s Statue: That Image from Charlottesville I Can’t Get Out of My Mind

    • andrewclunn says:

      It almost immediately occurred to me that this was meant ironically might not be self-evident. Rest assured, I am not in solidarity with the literal Nazis.

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        Oh, just the neo-Nazis?

      • andrewclunn says:

        Well they have a right to assembly and such.

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        As a monthly financial contributor to the ACLU (and I hope you will consider becoming one as well), I support the right of Nazis to engage in speech and publication. Nothing I wrote in this post in any manner advocated the denial of the right to assembly, which is guaranteed in the First Amendment.

        That’s not the issue. The issue is which side we are on in the saving of our democratic republic from an emerging, populist fascism. I’m on the side of those hundreds of thousands of American soldiers who died fighting the Confederacy and the Nazis. Trump, grotesquely, is showing himself to be on the side of the Confederacy and the Nazis, and you in turn just glibly used the phrase “Sieg Heil!”, translated by you into English as “Hail victory!”, as your first response to this post. I cannot believe you could possibly mean such a gesture of serious solidarity with Nazis, or why you might think that’s the right response to Nazis conducting a torchlight parade and gathering around a statue of Thomas Jefferson. You can support free speech without sharing gestures of solidarity with Nazis. You can walk and chew gum at the same time, Andrew.

      • andrewclunn says:

        The us and them attitude is odd. I mean you’re basically saying that the right to assembly is not the central point here, but rather “Whose side are you on?” Well in the face of that attitude, I’m on the side of the Nazis. In ANY OTHER situation I am not on their side. The only way, in fact, to get me on their side is to make the opposition to them more regressive and authoritarian than they are. When people see media outlets all over the place blaming the Nazis for the violence, and saying that Trump is on their side for calling out both sides, and then they’re just an internet search away from raw footage showing that the violence is in fact not one sided at all, then the only conclusion to draw is that the media is on the side of violence, merely selectively applied. Trump isn’t taking a side, and I’d prefer not to either. I don’t want to be in solidarity with literal Nazis. But more and more I’m being forced to “choose a side” and if that happens, the Nazis will likely not be the minority that we both would prefer they are. They’re not your biggest enemy here, you are your own worst enemy because you create them and empower them bu surrendering the moral high ground to literal Nazis. Don’t fall for that trap!

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        Andrew, you’re a sharp guy, but you’re also being incoherent when you write, “Trump isn’t taking a side, and I’d prefer not to either.” Trump is taking a side. And so are you. In other words, both of you are drawing a false moral equivalence between Nazis and those who resist Nazism. Once you’ve drawn that false moral equivalence, then you’ve made judgment of Nazism, and therefore its moral rejection, impossible. If one cannot even get on the same page, in a multicultural society, that white supremacy is to be rejected, then you cannot build a multicultural society. It breaks the social contract. Trust and goodwill ends between the races. The society must, of necessity, segregate and come apart. Moral equivalence in this context is the logic of Civil War, forced emmigration, and genocide.

        If both sides (multiculturalists and white supremacists) are fascist in some fundamental sense, and are “equally to blame” for violence, barbarism, and the tearing of the social fabric, then joining in solidarity with Nazis becomes a choice of (what perhaps you take to be) merely the lesser of two evils. But if you really believe that, then obviously you would have never served in WWII so long as someone like Roosevelt (a New Deal Democrat leading a multiracial democracy) was leading the anti-fascist forces, nor would you have joined Lincoln in ending slavery in the South. It would always be a choice between two devils (Lincoln and Roosevelt being morally equivalent to the Confederacy and Hitler).

        And notice that such a “neutral” position necessarily drains support away from the fight against the Confederacy and Nazism. A better, alternative interpretation that is in keeping with Occam’s razor is the following: the cat keeps coming around because Trump has been feeding the cat for over a year-and-a-half. To switch the metaphor, Trump’s chickens are coming home to roost. To switch the metaphor again: Trump wants his cake (racism), but doesn’t want the logical consequences of eating it: a fractured polity. The logic of Trump’s brand of politics is civil war. People gather in ever more brazen displays of open Nazism (torchlight parades, carrying assault rifles at marches, etc.) because Trump winks at every step of escalation, inviting one more step. Saying this doesn’t surrender the moral high ground (as you claim), trivializing Nazism. It describes the historical moment; how this moment is being fed. So what you’re arguing amounts to the following: “Don’t name what you see. The majority of Americans will just side with the Nazis if you do.” If this is the case, it will be informing. I want to know who people are. This is no time for silence or for refusing a side.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Better late than never. Trump just stood in front of cameras and explicitly condemned white supremacy. He didn’t use the word terrorism to describe the car assault, but it was at least not a neutral statement. He had to read it from a teleprompter (I doubt he could have said it extemporaneously because he probably doesn’t believe it). But at least give him his due. He at least said it. How about you, Andrew? Still neutral on (or perhaps even on the side of) the Nazis? Has Trump gone soft under polling pressure?

      • andrewclunn says:

        I have no issue with Trump’s statements at any point on this. Speaking out against white supremacy, calling out violence on both sides, none of it has bothered me. I am opposed to your views on this, and think you are an enemy to free speech pretending otherwise.

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        Great way to straw man, Andrew, assigning to me a position I do not even remotely hold. I’m a secret “enemy to free speech”? Sounds a bit Stalinist of you to say so, akin to Trump calling the New York Times an “enemy of the People.”

        War is peace, freedom is slavery, eh?

        And since I’m a monthly financial supporter of the ACLU, do you then regard the ACLU as an enemy of free speech? The ACLU has long backed, not just with words, but with direct legal assistance, the right of Nazis and white supremacists to peaceably march and assemble.

        Perhaps you have an alternative free speech organization that you support financially (because you love free speech and want to protect it). But might you consider contributing to the ACLU along with me? If Trump gets any worse, we might all need its services. I remember that there used to be a poster around Los Angeles, accompanied by an image of right-wing colonel Oliver North, who the ACLU once filed a brief in court for, that said, “Sooner or later, everyone needs the ACLU.”

      • andrewclunn says:

        The ACLU has become shit under Anthony Romero and is far from the true free speech organization it once was. Now it’s little more than a partisan advocacy group. And when you demand loyalty pledges as a precursor to defending ideas you don’t like, then yes you’re far from open to true open discourse. The youth are moving on, and they have little need for virtue signalling here. Freedom is uncompromising and clearly not what you really value.

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        Andrew, I really feel you’re whistling in the dark when you claim that “The youth are moving on, and they have little need for virtue signalling here,” as if human nature has taken a magical turn in the last couple of years, and multicultural, progressive, Enlightenment, and environmental politics are now on their last legs. The future does not belong to autocratic, recidivist white nationalists. Aside from the immediate danger posed by Trump (hopefully for no more than three more years), it’s exactly the opposite. Trump is the last no before a string of yeses in the 2020s (yes to renewable energy, yes to strengthening Constitutional checks and balances on presidential power, etc.).

        The world is learning from Donald Trump. The lesson is: the broken wheel squeaks loudest (and most irrationally and dangerously). It is evident that young people are in fact looking at all these old Saturns (geezers like Putin in Russia and Trump in the United States) eating their children, and the international hope of human peace and environmental sanity dwindling away, and they are saying, “Enough already.” They want a turn at power, and are saying of Trump, ala King Lear, “No, no, this way lies madness.” In the 2020s, it will be people like Marco Rubio, Kamala Harris, and Mark Zuckerberg who are playing central roles in American politics. It’s not going to be skinhead nationalists putting up “Hail Trump!” and “Hail Victory!” gestures, aping 1930s Brown Shirts. It’s Trump and Bannon that are showing themselves, with each passing day, to be inadequate to the times.

        This is how old Trump’s shtick is.

      • andrewclunn says:

        Nope, enlightenment values are doing better than ever. You’re just oblivious as to what that term really means.

      • Santi Tafarella says:

        Well, you’re sounding a bit like the evangelical who pities the spiritually blinded unbeliever here, suggesting that you’ve got a special, privileged angle on the 18th century Enlightenment that only the Chosen have access to. (Are the Chosen those who have thoroughly absorbed Ayn Rand’s philosophy? Those with a subscription to Reason magazine? Those in the thrall of “Hail Victory!” salutes at torchlight Nazi rallies at the University of Virginia?)

        Is the white supremacist rally at the University of Virginia and the mowing down of a woman by a Nazi this weekend, accompanied by reluctant and delayed condemnation from an American president, a sign that “enlightenment values are doing better than ever”?

  1. Vincent says:

    I’ve watched CNN, Fox News, several of the political news programs, read this blog with the comments and I can say without any hesitation, and with all respect to the 1st amendment, that I cannot side, in any degree, with the white supremists, the KKK, or any religious or racial hate group. I can take a side and make this clear. This is what any leader, person, or society should make clear.

  2. Greetings,
    I would like to inject another perspective to the argument we are experiencing in this thread for reflection and discussion- a quote by Karl R Popper- 1945

    Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”

    ― Karl R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      I would basically agree with Popper here. If one breaks the social contract, rejecting multicultural, Constitutional America for a white nationalist, autocratic America, the logic is segregation, or even genocide, not dialogue or shared goals. The Germans after the Holocaust decided it was not within the bounds of its recent history to permit the formation of fascist, antisemitic parties as part of its new polity, and I think that was the right decision.

  3. Vincent says:

    Tolerance has its limits. The 1st amendment has its limits. Even the 2nd amendment has it limits. But, there is no limit in drawing a line in the sand on bigotry, racial and religious hatred, and violence. Taking a stand and taking a side against this is being a true American and our President should without hisitation lead the way in taking this stand with no ambiguity. America was not founded by the likes of White Supremacists and the KKK. Let’s say it like it is….no tolerance for this kind.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Yes, I agree. They can march and communicate their message, but we have to hold politicians like Trump accountable for how they respond to hate groups, making it politically expensive for them to wink at, feed, or court white supremacist constituencies. The reality, though, is that a white, populist plurality voted for Trump, giving him an electoral win, and that’s why we’re at this point. In some sense, a lot of people want this sort of racial division, or greet it with indifference. If this wasn’t the case, Trump would never have reached the presidency.

  4. keithnoback says:

    Hmmm, I see some people confuse a right to air one’s opinions with a right to have those opinions respected.

    • andrewclunn says:

      No. A right not to be violently attacked more like it. Go look up raw footage of the violence at these events. The media dismisses, ignores, or justifies violence by Antifa and other left wing organizations. Santi here is a useful idiot who thinks he’s standing up against hate, but is really defending a practice of selectively allowing violence to further neo-Marxism.

  5. keithnoback says:

    Oh holy shit. The ideology of the far right holds domination and repression as primary values.
    When they turn out to espouse those values, they take the lion’s share of the responsibility for subsequent events.
    PIB’s (people in black) showing up for that party is not the same as PIB’s showing up for the G-20.

    • andrewclunn says:

      Those “people in black” have been showing up for events all over the place for a few years now. The media refuses to call them out on it. Those “people in black” have left and the establishment that supports them (while pretending to be non-partisan) have labelled everyone a violent Nazi. Let’s see how they handle actual violent Nazis. Better dead than red.

  6. Santi Tafarella says:

    Andrew (or whoever wants to take this question):

    If a Nazi group gets a permit to march through a Jewish neighborhood, and Jews line the sidewalks and–with fierce hatred in their hearts–throw tomatoes at the marchers, is that understandable? I’m not saying that the marchers don’t have the right to march unmolested, and that the police shouldn’t carry out their duty to protect the marchers, but is the violent rage of the Jews on the sidewalk understandable (even if illegal)? Who is ultimately responsible for the anger, hatred, and violence that is being triggered in the Jews? Isn’t it the provocation of people, with the express political platform of genocide, marching on a street that a community of Jews calls part of its home?

    Likewise, isn’t it understandable that, in a standoff between multicultural, Constitutional America vs. white nationalist, autocratic-advocating America, the marching of the one elicits the violent rage of the other? Communities work hard to keep an uneasy peace among the different races and religions that constitute America, doing their best to make everyone feel at home. That’s the American social contract. If you’re a citizen, you’re part of the American family. This is your home. You are equal under the law. So how does one reasonably expect to adopt a political platform that includes antisemitism, segregation, emigration, genocide, or a return to slavery, and not trigger a break in the social contract? Violence is a symptom of a break in the social contract. It’s not “violence on both sides,” it’s violence elicited by an explicit break in the social contract.

    Antisemites and white supremacists are seeking to access the protection of the laws even as they march to break the social contract that makes those protections workable. Again, I’m not saying, “They can’t march.” They can. And the police must protect them. And the ACLU will rightfully represent them. But to cast the blame for violence on the antifascists is to blow blue pipe smoke across the intellectual chess table, concealing from clarity the reason for violence: the marchers who are calling for the destruction of the multicultural social contract.

    • keithnoback says:

      While I agree with your analysis, I don’t think it goes far enough.
      These guys think public confrontations further their narrative.
      They see themselves in an existential struggle and under relentless attack by the jealous masses.
      When there’s a fight, the alties are quick to say, “Look, look we’re under attack, just like we said!”
      They court conflict. Plus, some of them are purely in it because they like to fight; I knew a few back in the day. Needless to say, we were not close; can’t trust those mutherfukers.

      • Santi Tafarella says:


        I agree with you that we’re dealing with youthful aggression that gets its kicks from street brawling. Zizek believes that metal concerts function as a contemporary outlet for male aggression that might otherwise play out in political street violence. He sees the metal concert as an innovation of democracy.

        The difference this time, with Charlottesville, is that the fringe is going mainstream. In the past, responsibility for the violence has always rested squarely with the Nazis. But we now have a president (!) who is saying, in essence, I understand what drives this sort of politics, and I’m sympathetic.

        Such cover for the alt-right, accompanied by Fox News’s promotion of Trump and white nationalism, suggests to me that we’re heading for increasingly violent street clashes across the country. I think Trump’s election has unleashed devils. (I hope I’m incorrect and overreacting.)

  7. Well the individual in this youtube clip loves to huff and puff ( with well doctored edits ) and use a thinly veiled rationale of “fairness” to justify the alt right’s freedom to protest but the ensuing violence that materialised was a direct result of the irrational justification of an ideology that promotes segregation, racism, homophobia and cultural monopoly – all of the ingredients that promote a combatant reaction. The alt-rights are setting up a condition of intolerance under the guise of freedom of speech. Donald Trump is accommodating this vision but for different reasons. He couldn’t care less about the violence he is spawning only insomuch that it keeps the general populace at each others’ throats whilst he sneakily engages in his prime pursuit – the making of more and more money. There’s only one thing that Trump loves more than himself- and that my dear friends is money. In fact the greatest and the saddest irony in all of this is the idea that this multi- billionaire really gives a shit about the people he advocates.

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