In the wake of the deadly Charlottesville riot, the narrative of the left emerged loud and clear. The rioters were all Trump troops, a pack of right-wing racists on the march everywhere.
“White supremacists say they are just warming up,” wrote Tony Pugh of McClatchy News, in a piece headlined “America’s neo-Nazis are raising money, planning more rallies.” The violence at Charlottesville was only the “latest data point on a dramatically escalating trendline of hate-group activity.” As Pugh saw it:
“White supremacists picked up the pace in 2008, after the election of the first African American president, and again this year as white-power groups saw Donald Trump’s win as an opportunity to move from the fringes toward the near mainstream of political discourse.”
And so on. As Joseph Klein showed, that sort of boilerplate showed up all over the establishment media, including the Washington Post and New York Times. But things weren’t quite so simple.
Breitbart senior editor-at-large Joel Pollack was one of the first to point out that Jason Kessler, organizer of last Sunday’s rally in Charlottesville, “is rumored to be a former Occupy Wall Street activist and supporter of Barack Obama.” Pollock was not depending on some anonymous tipster. Indeed, his source was the Southern Poverty Law Center.
According to the SLPC, Kessler was busted for shoplifting and obstructing justice and other offences in 2005 but remained unknown to the media. Near the end of 2015, he started a blog about his books Midnight Road and Badland Blues. As SPLC sleuths noted, “Rumors abound on white nationalist forums that Kessler’s ideological pedigree before 2016 was less than pure and seem to point to involvement in the Occupy movement and past support for President Obama.”
At a “recent speech in favor of Charlottesville’s status as a sanctuary city, Kessler live-streamed himself as an attendee questioned him and apologized for an undisclosed spat during Kessler’s apparent involvement with Occupy. Kessler appeared visibly perturbed by the woman’s presence and reminders of their past association.”
The “rightward shift in his views,” according to the SPLC, was first put on display in November, 2016 when Kessler launched a “tirade” against Wes Bellamy, a high-school teacher and Charlottesville vice mayor, who called for the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. Despite a 2013 spat over an AIDS joke, Kessler’s right-wing status was decidedly weaker than his history with Occupy Wall Street.
That organization, Pollock explained, was a “radical left-wing movement” that was “committed to the destruction of the capitalist system” and included “violent and extremist elements,” who battled police. President Barack Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Media Matters for America, and other Democrats “nevertheless embraced the Occupy movement.”
For many journalists, the SPLC always speaks the gospel truth, but the old-line media establishment took a pass on the Kessler revelation, which cast the “unite the right” campaign in a new light. In similar style, the establishment media like to cast all conservatives as white supremacists, but one would never guess that Ku Klux Klan connections are common among Democrats.
For example, Sen. Robert Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, was a Klan recruiter who proclaimed he would never fight in the armed forces with a negro by his side. Democrat Hillary Clinton praised Byrd as her “friend and mentor.”
Candidate Donald Trump took heat for pointing that out. President Donald Trump left no doubt where he stood on the Charlottesville violence.
“Racism is evil,” the president said on Monday. “And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
The president’s critics quickly confirmed that nothing he said would make any difference. Vanita Gupta of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights told reporters, “Supporters of white supremacists, violent extremism, racial bigotry, and neo-Nazis should not serve in the White House or at any level of government. The president should fire Stephen Bannon and Sebastian Gorka or any staffers who stoke hate and division.”
Trump critics were also reluctant to compare other presidential responses to racist violence.
Last year, during a Black Lives Matter protest, Micah Johnson gunned down five Dallas police officers. Johnson was a supporter of the New Black Panther Party, which as the New York Times noted, advocates violence against whites and Jews in particular. In his statement on the killings, president Obama invoked scripture and Dr. Martin Luther King, but he never named Johnson and did not condemn his actions as racist.
Those now criticizing Trump did not urge president Obama to purge his administration of Black Lives Matter supporters, which included the president himself. Like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, the 44th president was also a supporter of Occupy Wall Street, a violent, extremist group committed to the destruction of capitalism.
Charlottesville organizer Jason Kessler was reportedly an Occupy activist and Obama supporter – according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Judging by the tepid response, the SPLC may have lost some clout with the establishment media.