I know it is du jour to provide a purifying caveat of, ‘I don’t usually like X but…’ or an equally cleansing ‘I am an X supporter but…’, just to make clear that one needn’t be made leprous through defence of a pantomime villain or rejection of a modern day political saviour. Frankly, I can neither be bothered to do that nor do I have any inclination to give it any credence by doing it.
For one, you can search this blog for ‘Theresa May’ or ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ or ‘Labour’ or ‘Conservative’ or those other ones nobody bothers with any more. If you’re curious, just type those terms into the search box, or go to the ‘about’ page, and draw the appropriate inferences. In conjunction with that, I would counsel against drawing too many political inferences about my position from one post about a particularly narrow point. Lastly, but by no means least, it bears saying there is some equivocation and hypocrisy on all sides such that nobody seems to be covering themselves in glory.
The particular incident to which I refer is the political aftermath of events in Charlottesville. As you no doubt already know, a far-right rally was taking place in Charlottesville at which an anti-fascist counter-demonstration was taking place. A driver purposefully aimed his car into the group of peaceful counter-protesters, leaving one dead and a further 19 injured. Much of the political aftermath has focused upon Donald Trump’s perceived unwillingness to condemn the violence, and White Supremacism, in the clearest possible terms.
First, there is Trump’s mealy-mouthed condemnation of ‘hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides’. Here is the man who had no problem whatsoever demonising all Muslims, and banning all travel from a series of predominantly Muslim countries, until he could ‘figure out what is going on’. I’m unclear as to whether they have yet figured out what is going on, but his condemnation of Islamist terrorism was clear enough and his response to it – albeit knee-jerk, unworkable and a bit dim – gave a pretty clear message on what he thought was going on (such as they had it figured out at all).
What precludes him from denouncing the actions of White Supremacists, particularly those who choose to drive a car into a group of peaceful protesters, is entirely unclear. There is no reason not to condemn, in the clearest possible terms, both White Supremacy and the particular actions of the specific White Supremacist who took it upon himself to kill and injure those who do not share his warped, racist worldview. In fact, as a so-called ‘political outsider’ who ran on a platform of replacing the established, politically correct liberals, his statement on Charlottesville smacked of exactly the same sort of political obfuscation he insisted he would eradicate.
There are only two reasons for Trump to make such a comment. Either, he is sympathetic to White Supremacy (which I highly doubt). Or, he is aware that many White Supremacists are inclined to vote for him and he doesn’t want to lose their support and knows that those crowing for clearer condemnation would never vote for him come what may. At the very least, he is being utterly disingenuous.
Next comes the hypocrisy from those lining up to signal their own virtues by criticising him. Particularly of note is Jeremy Corbyn. The BBC report:
“It’s not enough,” Mr Corbyn said.
“What happened in Charlottesville was the KKK [Ku Klux Klan] and its supporters, white supremacists, arrived in Charlottesville in order to cause trouble.
“Surely every president of every country in the world… should be able to condemn that.”
This would be the same Jeremy Corbyn who refused to condemn the violence of the IRA outright, using the selfsame phrase of condemning ‘violence on all sides’. Then there is his similar failure to denounce the Venezuelan leadership with the familiar condemnation of ‘violence done by all sides’. Calling for President Trump to be less equivocal in his condemnation came across as more than a little hypocritical.
Finally, there is a pointlessness of the whole virtue signalling exercise. Theresa May might happily pat herself on the back for standing up and condemning the violence and specifically naming White Supremacy. She might want to reflect upon the welcome she gave to the Al-Saud’s. But who genuinely believed she was sympathetic toward the aims and means of White Supremacy until she made those comments? Who really thought Jeremy Corbyn might have made common cause with far-right American fascists until he said they were bad people saying and doing nasty things? It seems the rationale for condemning such behaviour is that everybody will presume they are Neo-Nazis unless they stand up and make clear that the ideology and behaviour is terrible following an atrocity, despite most people voting for them evidently believing that already to be true.
It is clear in the case of Corbyn and the IRA/Venezuela many presume (or know) he has made common cause with such people. Clear condemnation in these situations might be helpful. One might feel Donald Trump may be sympathetic to the far-right and thus ought to overtly condemn White Supremacy in particular (despite how cretinous most Brits feel he is, this particular inference is probably unfair). Quite why Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn feel the need to come out and make statements when nobody would presume their sympathies lie in that direction seems valueless to me. It is one thing to respond to a question put to you directly, it is another to make a statement, of your own volition, simply to signal that you condemn what everybody else manifestly condemns (and who presume everybody else condemns too) is a waste of everyone’s time.