On Charlottesville

I try not to be too political on this site, but with recent events, I feel like I have to say something.

Last weekend, Charlottesville, Virginia was visited by Neo-Nazis and white supremacists as I’m sure you have seen in the news. They came from all over the country protesting the removal of a General Lee statue. Things turned violent when a white supremacist from Ohio drove his car into a group of counter-protestors, killing one and injuring at least 19.

This in itself is absolutely awful and heartbreaking. My thoughts go out to the family of those hurt, and especially the family of Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed by the driver.

Had this been the end of it, it would still be awful, but hopefully the healing could begin.

This however, was not the end of it. Donald Trump on Saturday, the day of the protests refused to condemn the Neo-Nazis, KKK, & the white supremacists. Instead, he tried to equate these hate-filled groups with the counter-protestors and others from the left. How fucked up is that? There’s no equivalence. Nazis, white supremacists, and the KKK are evil, vile people who have no place in today’s society. Everyone hates Nazis. Democrats hate Nazis. Republicans hate Nazis. Libertarians hate Nazis. It’s not a liberal versus conservative battle…at least it’s not supposed to be.

Donald Trump, the “leader” of the free world, the President of the United States, a position that is probably the most powerful and influential in the world, could not condemn Neo-Nazism and white supremacy. In doing so, he pretty much gave them the nod that their ideology is OK.

It’s not fucking OK. Their message is hate-filled and completely, 100% unequivocally the opposite of what America and the rest of the free world stands for. Both of my Grandfathers fought in World War II to end this, to put an end to Hitler, Nazi Germany and its evil ideology. Instead we have a president who just sort of shrugs his shoulders and tries to deflect the blame for the violence elsewhere.

Others in the GOP, including Vice President Mike Pence were far harder against the hate from the white supremacists, but none seemed to really go after Trump for his stance; they just tried to reframe things. To Jeff Sessions’ credit, he even called the action of the driver what it really is, terrorism. This is a word that Trump tried hard to avoid. Anyone want to take bets on how much Trump would have gone after this driver if the driver was Muslim?

Monday Morning, Merck CEO, Kenneth Frazier resigned from Trump’s manufacturing council in protest against Trump’s response to Charlottesville and the violence there. Trump immediately went to Twitter attacking Frazier for this. He won’t attack Nazis, but he’ll sure as hell attack someone for showing a spine and standing up to the hatred in Charlottesville and the administration’s response. Frazier it should be noted is African American which raises even more eyebrows.

On Monday, only after facing pressure from the GOP, did he finally speak out and specifically name the KKK, Neo-Nazis and white supremacists…albeit half-heartedly. Either way, it was too little, too late. His message was sent loud and clear: “Vote for me and I’ll overlook your actions”.

Tuesday though, Trump went right back to his previous messaging and started the “both sides” argument again. I’m sorry, there is no equivalency. Nazism and white supremacy are evil. They want nothing more than to kill and/or marginalize all non-white Christians. The actions of the driver Saturday only emphasize that point. There is no equivalence.

Donald Trump is a coward. He is a horrible human being who will not truly condemn, or go after any group of people who makes up his voting base. We as Americans must not give into the evil that Trump seems more than fine to allow if it gets him votes. We must be vocal and stand up for the values America stands for.

This whole incident did raise some free speech questions.

Unlike many KKK rallies where many of the marchers are in their white robes, many of the Nazis and white supremacists were wearing normal clothing with their faces exposed showing who they are. In return a Twitter account started crowdsourcing identifying those on the Nazi side. The problem that arises however is that too many times you see people getting overzealous with their identification and the wrong person gets identified. We saw it after the Boston Marathon Bombing when the wrong people were placed on the cover of the NY Post. Misidentification has led to innocent people fearing for their lives with all the raw emotion caused by events like these. I’m all for these people being called out for their racism and hatred. I think people should know who they are and whatnot. Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences after all.

The other sticky question deals with the Nazi and white supremacist websites. The US Government obviously cannot block these groups from having a website as they have their first amendment protections. The Internet however, is not regulated by the US Government. Private companies basically run the internet. Private companies are responsible for domain name registrations, website hosting, and DNS traffic. Because these companies are private, they can set whatever rules they want or kick any site off their network that they want. In general, they try to stay neutral as to continue the allowance of free speech. Since Charlottesville however, some have come out and been less than neutral.

One of the biggest white supremacist websites is called The Daily Stormer. Before Charlottesville, it was registered with GoDaddy. After Charlottesville, GoDaddy kicked them out. They went to Google. Google also kicked them out. They then went to Russia. Russia kicked them out. Currently, the only way to view their site is through the dark web and Tor. Cloudflare, a content delivery network also gave them the boot. This was a little bit more noteworthy because their CEO basically said he did it arbitrarily because he was in a bad mood. He was right though, this move is dangerous.

While I’m not about ready to say that we’ve already gone down the slope, I can see where the danger lies. Do we really want these companies being the gatekeepers for what sites we can and cannot visit online? While I don’t think many are going to be sad to see the Daily Stormer go, where does that line get drawn? Their site is obviously awful, but what if all of the big hosting companies (there aren’t that many) decide they don’t like certain content? What recourse do people have if the various hosting platforms refuse to serve them? We don’t want the government determining what is “good” content and what isn’t. Do we really want the companies that run the backbone of the internet making that call?

Also keep in mind that this is different from say Facebook and Twitter giving users the boot. People can always use the other services that exist out there. Losing the ability to even host a website would be much more damaging to freedom of speech and expression.

I’m not sure what the answer to these questions are. I don’t even know if there is a good answer. What I do know is that we need to be careful as a country to protect the freedoms we all enjoy.

To close it out, I just want to say one more thing. America is great because of its diversity and the freedoms we all cherish and love. When those freedoms are challenged, or trodden upon by anyone or anything, we must not stay silent. We must not let hatred, bigotry and evil win. We must be vocal and show the world what America truly stands for.