Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Why It's Time for the Rabble-Rousing Right-Wing Media and Politicians to Pay the Piper

by Nomad

Denying, Thrashing and Flailing

The phrase "to pay the piper" is described as having "to bear the consequences of an action or activity that one has enjoyed." That perfectly describes what's been going on in the right wing media ever since this last weekend.

Those who have sat back and supported Trump- and continue to support him- despite all of the warning signs during his hate-filled rallies- are now attempting in vain to find solid ground again after the events in Virginia.

It's tough going. They are in a bit of an uncertain quandary, searching for some way to distance themselves from the worst images of the "Unite the Right" rally, to clear the president's name (and their own ) while also attempting not to contradict their own past statements. 
It's a wonder to behold.

One of those is Roy Exum, a columnist for The Chattanoogan and on Tuesday, he wrote a column entitled "The Other Supremacist."
In the piece, he disingenuously argues that Trump is being unfairly criticized in the press over the Charlottesville incidents.
I am assured there are those who will blame President Trump whether it rains or shines. To them, everything is Trump’s fault. Please. The President was in New Jersey this weekend and he had zero to do with the decision to tear down Robert E. Lee’s statue at the University of Virginia.
This last part confused me. Was he saying that the problem in Charlottesville was caused by the decision to remove a statue? Please. Or was it because a hate group abused their right to free speech by coming to a rally prepared for war and to intimidate the local population? When torch-carrying marchers come to your town, chanting "Whose streets? Our streets!" is about more than saving a relic from the past.

The true culprit, Exum claimed, was the Charlottesville mayor Michael Signer for creating a combustible atmosphere and for his "idiotic decision" to issue permits to "known and proven rabble-rousers." Go on, say it. They are called the KKK. They are called the Nazis.

For reality-denying conservatives, Signer is the perfect foil. His resume says it all. Exum could not pass up this chance.
Educated at Princeton, Cal-Berkley, and UV, the mayor’s snowflake level is so off the charts that he is unmatched at creating hatred and rancor. Very active in the Democratic Party (he was a member of Barack Obama's State Department Transition Team) Signer found the car ramming into a crowd and killing a woman was his one-time ticket to go after Trump and earn huge party favors, as loathsome as such well may be.
Opportunist Signer was the villain here, not the Nazi-saluting mob who were given permits for a peaceful rally but arrived looking like they were members of a SWAT team.

When comes to issuing permits, Exum is either ill-informed or deceptive.
The week before the event,   Mayor Signer, city council, City Manager Maurice Jones, and Police Chief Al Thomas all said they would approve the permit only if the event were moved to a safer and easier to police area. The organizers of the Unite the Right rally refused to obey and filed a motion in the local courts (supported by the ACLU)

Judge Glen E. Conrad (nominated by George W. Bush)  granted an emergency injunction declaring that the "Unite the Right" rally could go forward without any changes. For Exum, we might also add that Conrad's wife, Mary Ann, is active in the Republican Party.

Before things got out of hand, the mayor issued a statement saying that while he was disappointed with the court's decision, they would follow the ruling."
Was there any other option? 
Had Signer found a way to cancel the rally, Fox News (and perhaps Exum himself) would have squawked about an Obama-loving liberal mayor denying the First Amendment liberties of a conservative organization. 

So, according to Exum, Signer is the real problem here. He should have known better than to trust a right winger to recognize the rules of public assembly. Signer should have disregarded a judge's order. 

Exum makes his point as clear as a whistle. In this case, a dog whistle.
White supremacists and KKK wizards don’t bother me nearly as much as an elected official who would occupy his day, 24 hours after unthinkable chaos, to batter Donald Trump. He credits hate groups and perimeter crowds for electing Trump but the real truth – as has been proven – is that America is jolly well fed up with people like Michael Signer.
Has Exum checked Trump's approval rating? I wonder. It's not Signer that Americans are getting fed up with.

In addition to Signer, Exum blames the left who came to protest the rally, labeling them "liberal snowflakes" who had "worked themselves into a frenzy before Sunday school."

Nowhere, it should be added, was there any mention of the fact that Neo-nazis held a nighttime demonstration that made Charlottesville look like Berlin in 1933.
More importantly, there was no mention (by name) the young "snowflake" protester who died at the hands of a deranged right-wing fanatic.

In any event, it's not hard to see the irony of clearing Trump's name by accusing another politician of opportunism

Exum's Wildest Dreams

A day after the column was printed online, Exum seemed astounded (and more than a little indignant) at the uproar his opinions of the earlier article had sparked.

In the article, "Me? A Racist? Me?" he snorts:
Never, not in my wildest dreams, would I have suspected I would be labeled as a white supremacist or a racist.
He just cannot accept that he- of all people- might harbor racist opinions. It's just not possible. Exum goes on:
Wow. In my years as a writer, I have denounced and strongly opposed every aspect of racism, white supremacy and all other forms of hatred based on race, religion, sexuality, social standing or any other forms of degradation or belittlement. I have written reams of articles and columns and opinions and never, not once, have I ever given a hint of being a white supremacist. Not one person can show me otherwise and, as for the Klu Klux Klan, I have openly loathed such vermin every year of my life.
Good for you, vermin-loathing Mr. Exum.
But, again, he seems to be missing the point.

It's not a question of being or not being a white supremacist or a racist. You do not have to be a robe-wearing, torch-burning KKK member to be- at least, partially- responsible for justifying their ideas.

Words must be chosen with care-  especially syndicated columnists, and especially politicians who stand before hyperventilating crowds or presidents who tweet scary nonsense in the wee hours. 

The idea that indiscreet remarks might create an atmosphere that others would inspire others to certain anti-social actions is impossible for them to grasp.  He has, he later wrote, "no doubt whatsoever that the President of the United States will not be implicated in any possible way."

By the sound of it, Exum seems to think Trump cannot be held responsible simply because he was not leading the march with a torch in hand.

Exum asks us to suddenly forget the many remarks that Trump made during his campaign about punching people in the face and how he would pay the legal fees of anybody who attacked hecklers.
When the president encouraged violence among the mob, he was allying himself to the people who violence as a political tool, namely the KKK and the other groups who came to Charlottesville.

All the times Trump has called for violence at his rallies

The Devil Made Us Do It

Exum says he simply cannot understand where on earth all this hatred came from.  
What’s with this hate? I’m with Franklin Graham, the pastor who rightfully pins it on the devil. It is evil. And to eradicate evil it is going to take all of us to respect one another, not accuse an innocent with blatant lies when they voice an opinion about a Mayor turning his back on a weeping town to bolster his political agenda.
If he had looked a little more closely into the eyes of this boogeyman, he might have realized he was looking at his own reflection. To eradicate evil it is going to take all of us to be a lot more honest with ourselves about culpability and taking responsibility. When we see wrong we must vigorously call it what it is. Other silence is translated in consent. 

Despite his reiteration of his previous column, Exum concludes with this fake mea culpa:
I beg anyone who was offended or hurt by my story, “The Other Supremacist,” to please consider accepting my sincere and honest apology. In no way, seen or unseen, do I condone or in any other way racism or any other inhumane actions.
It's nice to know that Exum has finally- at long last- had his "come-to-Jesus" moment. 

Still, before we pat Mr. Exum on the back, it might be worth asking what exactly the word "condone" means in this case. The dictionary defines it more than just giving one's approval. To condone something also means:
to accept and allow (behavior that is considered morally wrong or offensive) to continue.
The refusal to condone racism and Neo-Nazi fascism was precisely what motivated the people whom he had earlier dismissed as "snowflakes." It is undoubtedly what motivated Heather Heyer, the victim whose name escaped Exum.

Just to fill in the gaps in Exum's article. "Snowflake" Heyer was described by a friend like this:
"She would never back down from what she believed in. And that's what she died doing, she died fighting for what she believed in. Heather was a sweet, sweet soul and she'll never be replaced, she'll never be forgotten."
A quote on her Facebook page could be a direct message to Exum and all the people who think as he apparently does.
“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

Condoning the Rabble-Rousers

As sincere and honest as he claims his apology is, there's something that Exum doesn't really want to address. Back in 2010, Exum was "deeply flattered and quite humbled" to be asked to contribute to an online right-wing newspaper, "The Patriot Post."

It was indeed a great honor to join the pantheon of fellow columnists at the Patriot Post. People like Ann Coulter.

This is the woman who once wished for John Edwards, a liberal politician to be "killed in a terrorist assassination plot."
She advised sending liberals to Guantanamo and making torture "a televised spectator sport."
Liberals are, she claimed, always against America. "They are either traitors or idiots."
This is a woman who said:
"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."
"Liberals hate America, they hate flag-wavers, they hate abortion opponents, they hate all religions except Islam, post 9/11."
This was the woman who claimed that leftists rooted for the Hitler and only changed their opinions "at the last minute."
Think about that for a moment. Now shake your head.

All in all, a short list of her articles reads like a list of talking points for the leaders of the "Unite the Right" rally.

Somehow, Exum still can't figure out where all this hate comes from. It has been there under his nose and he never even noticed it.
And that's exactly the problem.

For too long, the far right has had control of the airwaves, shoveling careless and inflammatory remarks to almost any discussion. It got them the attention, the speaking gigs, the cash they craved.
Those remarks set the tone and were later are picked up by the likes of Alex Jones and countless far-right websites. And they, in turn, added a little bit of their own spin, knowing their audiences were already primed, angry, spiteful and full of venom.  

As Trump himself discovered last summer, there are plenty of opportunities and advantages to stirring up hate. He loved the cheers and adoration by the mobs. He certainly liked that more than he does being president.

And yet, just as there were political advantages of selling hate, there must, in the name of accountability, also be a grievous price to pay when all that hate erupts and innocent people die.
Republicans have for some time enjoyed the tune of encouraging division between angry citizens. But now the time has come to pay the piper.