Leah Donnella, NPR, August 17, 2017
Jared Taylor was not in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday. But Taylor, one of the leading voices for white rights in the country, says it was clear what really happened at that rally.
“Anyone who wishes to speak in the name of whites is subject to the heckler’s veto,” said Taylor, founder of the white advocacy website American Renaissance. “There would have been no violence, no problems of any kind if people had not shown up as counterdemonstrators, many of them wearing helmets, wielding batons, wearing shields, shouting for the death of the demonstrators. … This is not something that was provoked by the presence of racially conscious whites. It was something that was provoked by people who hate any white person who has a racial consciousness.”
Two days later, President Trump, in one of his most controversial press conferences to date, described the events — at which hundreds of white protesters gathered for the so-called “Unite the Right” rally and after which a white nationalist sympathizer drove his car into a crowd, killing a counterdemonstrator — in a similar way.
“Let me ask you this,” Trump told reporters Tuesday. “What about the fact that [counterdemonstrators] came charging, with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. … You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on another side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that. But I’ll say it right now.”
Taylor is among a group of educated, white-identity advocates who, critics say, normalize the ideas of white supremacy by couching them in language that doesn’t sound overtly racist. In doing so, those critics say, people like Taylor, authors Kevin MacDonald and Peter Brimelow, and “Unite the Right” organizers Jason Kessler and Richard Spencer sanitize racist tropes to make them palatable to a broad audience, including the upper reaches of the political mainstream.
“I think that it’s true that ultimately a lot of these ideas travel all the way from the farthest fringe of the political world, ultimately to the very top in some kind of form,” said Mark Potok, former editor of Intelligence Report, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s journal monitoring extremism.
The white protesters in Charlottesville came, among other things, to contest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. They were there, Taylor said, “to pursue their destiny free of the unwanted influence of others. This is not a hateful thing.”
Potok and others say that Brimelow offers such an ideological foundation with his book, Alien Nation: Common Sense About America’s Immigration Disaster, and his website, VDARE, where he says he’ll publish “anyone who has anything critical to say about immigration, environmentalists, progressives, etc.”
On Saturday, Brimelow published his own take on the events in Charlottesville, calling it a “remarkable torchlight procession.” He has published articles by fellow white-rights advocates Spencer, Kessler and MacDonald.
It’s hard to put numbers on how many people Taylor, Brimelow, MacDonald and others like them reach. The Internet provides a degree of anonymity to those who visit their websites. Membership in hate groups, Potok estimates, numbers around half a million people. But include those who believe that “the United States, as well as a lot of European countries, were created ‘by and for whites and ought to return to being that,’ ” he adds, and “you’re looking at a group of several million people, if not more.”
“We’re seeing the continuing normalization of these ideas,” Potok said. “I think there is a real kind of conveyor belt we have seen develop over the last few years, and even the last few decades.”
Ideas start in a tiny radical fringe group somewhere, he explains. And then they travel to larger and more moderate groups — but still outside the political mainstream.
“And then they are picked up by the Drudges of the world, by the Breitbarts of the world, by those kinds of websites and ‘news organizations.’ And within, it seems, minutes, they will then be picked up and exploited by certain politicians … It is terribly important not only to have people like Jared Taylor and Peter Brimelow providing a kind of ideological foundation, but also critically important, I think, to have people like Donald Trump, who are essentially helping to mainstream and normalize these ideas.”
Accusations that Trump has been flirting with far right ideology have dogged him since before he was elected. During the campaign, Trump repeatedly distanced himself from people espousing white nationalism. He said multiple times that he disavowed the support of Duke and other white supremacists who endorsed his presidency.
But the president has been widely criticized since Saturday — by both detractors and supporters — for his responses to the events in Charlottesville. He first condemned the violence “on many sides,” then gave a more direct rejection of racists, “including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups.”