Charlottesville is Feeding Our Rage for Rage

By Joshua Charles Published on August 15, 2017

I have feared for quite a while that social media is causing us to lose our sense of balance and reason. The last few days have offered plenty of fuel for that fear. During the riots in Charlottesville on Saturday, news feeds on Twitter and Facebook on Saturday were rolling ticker tapes of mass hysteria.

Of course, the media and the left wing commentariat used the violence in Charlottesville as a cudgel against President Trump and anyone who voted for him. That’s what they do.

But too many conservatives also jumped on the bandwagon — seeking to outdo each other on social media with rage and condemnations. They didn’t just denounce the rancid white supremacists. (Really, what could be less controversial?) They claimed that the President’s statement on Saturday was too vague. And they attributed this, not to the timing, but to malice.

When he issued another statement on Monday, in which he named “KKK, Neo-Nazis,” and “White Supremacists,” they dismissed it as too little, too late.

What We Did Not Know

This isn’t fair, and it doesn’t fit the facts. When the President made his statement on Saturday, there was no confirmation of deaths. The police had neither caught nor identified the driver who allegedly murdered one woman and injured many more.

Thus, not only was the dust still settling on the crime itself, but we didn’t know who did it, what his motives were, or anything else. Could we make educated guesses? Sure. But that’s it.

We also did not know the details about the other deaths. The reports continued back and forth for several hours. The media first reported that 3 deaths were a result of the car attack. Governor McAuliffe even confirmed this. Later we learned that 2 of the deaths were cops who died in a helicopter crash. We still don’t know what caused the crash.

What We Did Know

What we did know when the President spoke was that there had been a white nationalist protest in Charlottesville. We also knew, as reported by outlets as diverse as the New York Times, USA Today, and Fox News, that there were far left “counter protestors.” According to some reports, they started the violence. This included the group “Antifa,” which has been causing mayhem for months, and Black Lives Matter (BLM).

BLM may not be inherently violent. But some of their protests have led to violence, vandalism, and deaths, and some have featured violent and bigoted slogans. Remember the murders of five cops in Dallas last summer?

And yet, the media described these violent groups merely as “counter protestors.”

In truth, the white supremacists on one side and the Antifa vandals on the other are both hostile forces. Both are nasty extremes that represent few real Americans. Both were looking for a fight, and both got it.

Thus, especially given what we knew at the time, the President’s statement about violence “on all sides” was correct. I’m not always happy with this President’s actions or words, but that’s a fact.

President Trump also named “bigotry” and “hatred,” which he condemned “in the strongest possible terms.” These terms are spot on for both white nationalists and leftist totalitarians. The very same day, the Justice Department announced the opening of a civil rights case.

So why the hysteria over his first statement? Why could he, and we, not wait for the facts?

Social Media as a Rage Machine

Social media has become a rage machine, in which the madness of mobs quickly overtakes common sense and decency. It encourages us to pre-judge facts (as in “prejudice”). It beckons us to pounce rather than ponder, to tweet rather than think.

The President’s harshest critics would have attacked him no matter what he said. But I think there’s some else going on that we all need to face.

Social media has become a rage machine, in which the madness of mobs quickly overtakes common sense and decency. It encourages us to pre-judge facts (as in “prejudice”). It beckons us to pounce rather than ponder, to tweet rather than think. 

It also strokes our sense of virtue and self-worth. We long to get likes, retweets, and shares. This thrill to rant, vent, and rage without knowledge, context, history, or prudence is one of the great banes of our time. Such things don’t matter for Social Media Warriors, but they should to citizens, no matter what “side” they’re on. We must confront this social acid with the old-fashioned virtue of self-control, especially when it involves matters as weighty as life and death.

It’s a sort of parallel to the actual violence we saw in the streets of Charlottesville, for those who sit at computers rather than march with banners. We need to resist this temptation, not feed it. We need to wait for facts, not surrender to passions. We need to love truth more than tweets.

“Facts are better than dreams,” said Winston Churchill. We ought to be willing to wait for them before we further feed the rage consuming our society.

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  • Thank you, Joshua, for your fine words of encouragement, admonition, and truth. Thank you as well for defending our President, and for calling out the media for what have been, nearly unswervingly, lies about our President. I’m not saying he’s perfect, but I am saying that he is not malicious.

    • john appleseed

      President Trump has been extremely malicious to many individuals.
      Everybody knows that.
      He can be very bitter & childish.
      He has done some good things as president, but that doesn’t excuse his personal behavior.

      • john appleseed

        There’s an example of such bitterness every week. Here’s the latest (that I know of):
        Trump named the CEO of Merck to some official panel of advisors.
        The CEO didn’t like Trump’s hesitance to criticize the Charlottesville racists, so he quit Trump’s panel.
        Trump fired off successive tweets, blasting the CEO for singlehandedly causing all pharma prices to go up.
        Trump, you loved the guy when you chose him for your panel!

        • Hmmm…

          His pettiness is an embarrassment to all who appreciate his finer points. We knew we had a flawed candidate who would still be flawed after taking office. Hope he will learn or be confronted; he’ll reap what he sows with that. It costs us all, but even with that, he occupies higher ground on principle and policy. The point many choose to overlook, is that he does have appreciable strengths and insights and a true heart for this nation and caring for people overlooked and left behind.

        • Jim Walker

          I keep my friends close, but my enemies closer.
          Sometimes you don’t know whether the person is friend or foe so you have them close to you as well.
          You can tell who they really are from their actions.

      • He has responded harshly to people who have personally attacked him. Even the Apostle Paul did that. Are you expecting our President (a diaper Christian, if my information is correct) to be better than the great Apostle to the Gentiles? Really?

      • Chip Crawford

        Only your own personal behavior lies within your purview. Oops …

  • SophieA

    And some call these new forms of communication “progress.”

    • One of the most unfortunate things about the internet, and social media specifically, is that people often end up saying things online that they would NEVER say to someone’s face. This is especially true if they are hiding behind the anonymity of a made-up screen name.

      • Mensa Member

        >> This is especially true if they are hiding behind the anonymity of a made-up screen name.

        If my real name was “Anziulewicz” I’d consider a nickname as a kindness to bad spellers. 😉

        Just kidding. You make a very good point.

        I like that people feel free to give their honest opinions on the Internet. I’d rather a racist or homophobe just admit it, rather than use coded language.

        But even those people can act decently when they are looking into the eyes of real people. Unfortunately, the lack of that unleashes the darkest sides of people.

  • The country is devolving into one neverending game of “I know you are but what am I?”

    “You’re a fascist.”
    “No, YOU’RE a fascist!”

    “You’re a racist.”
    “No, YOU’RE a racist!”

    “Your organization is a hate group.”
    “No, YOUR organization is a hate group!”

    Any suggestions as to how we might get out of this vicious cycle?

    • Mensa Member

      Dropping the right wing meme of moral equivalency would help.

      • Kevin Quillen

        quitting pushing socialism would help too.

      • Chip Crawford

        Your side could stop the hate; that would be most significant.

  • Hmmm…

    The problem with the media and Democratic party is that they have been interrupted in a forward going agenda, in which Obama was to steer HRC from the wings. There is a rage of frustration about that, because not only have they lost some strong gains, more are under siege. That’s why they have taken the gloves off, taken an obstructionist stand and even gone to paid fomenting of unrest. They are desperate to get back to majority and to get on with their intended reforming of the country and its identity and focus.

    When that is going on, and it is, it would be best to consider that scenario, rather than try to answer the charges and accusations as if they were real. The accused should stand up to their place, the duly elected, rest in that, get about their assigned business and not allow themselves to be moved from it. Americans in the main do not want to lose their founding and historic identity. Prayers should go forth for the strengthening and settled inner resolve of the elected that they become able to shut out the noise and not be moved by it. All things are possible with God; all things are possible with those who believe.

  • kellyintx

    All of these groups provide a service for the average American. We can point to them and say, “I’m not as bad as they are! THERE is pure evil, right there!” and feel better about ourselves in our righteous indignation. The problem is twofold. First, it gives us an excuse not to examine the sin we harbor in our own hearts. Second, too often many other groups and individuals get wrapped up in the assignment of evilness. Because a few hundred white supremacists are evil does not mean all white conservatives are evil. Because a few hundred violent Antifa activists are evil does not mean all liberals are evil. These events cause many people to lose perspective and see the world as more divided as it actually is.

    • Chip Crawford

      “more divided as it actually is.” You have stated with that that the world is actually divided. It seems to contradict the point you were making. ?

    • Mensa Member

      You seem like a very reasonable person, trying to strike the correct balance. I totally affirm you in that.

      But, but sometimes being in the middle is not the correct balance. For example:

      >> Because a few hundred white supremacists are evil does not mean all
      white conservatives are evil. Because a few hundred violent Antifa
      activists are evil does not mean all liberals are evil

      Despite your admirably symmetric styntax, the two sides are not even close to being morally equal.

      The “antifa” are a blip. Most of us had never even heard the term until this very event.

      In stark contrast, the “alt-right” movement draws on a large and persistent part of American history: slave owners; the KKK; torch carrying lynch mobs; armed racist militias; anti-Semite neo-Nazis; pro-segregationist Confederate flag wavers; and more than I can name.

      This thread of intolerance and racism goes back to our very founding. They got their racist understanding of a black person literally codified in our constitution. These same people nearly destroyed America to defend their right to own black people. These same people terrorized black Americans for a hundred years with their lynch mobs. They weren’t much better to the Asians and Jews.

      So, no, it’s not the correct balance to morally equate them with the “antifa.”

      • Chip Crawford

        No sale, MM. White supremacists have lost much influence over the years, by law and prosecution. They are dangerous because they believe what they perpetrate, for sure, but their day is long past, and it appears to me that you are inflaming their historic activity to current relevance. The Antifa should be nobody’s buddies merely because they have not as yet developed a history by that moniker. I could not defend them or rush to distinguish them as morally superior or any such as that.

      • Jim Walker

        “In stark contrast, the “alt-right” movement draws on a large and persistent part of American history: slave owners; the KKK; torch carrying lynch mobs; armed racist militias; anti-Semite neo-Nazis; pro-segregationist Confederate flag wavers; and more than I can name.”
        You have a poor understanding of history. Everything you listed down came from your Democratic Party.

      • Kevin Quillen

        and where do you place the several thousand blacks that owned slaves?
        Do you know that the founders put into place the machinery to end slavery at the founding of our country? History is not taught today, schools are more about indoctrination.

      • Hmmm…

        The world knows about white supremacists. But the Antifa are still a new entity, exactly, yet in their short history, they have shown themselves to be wolves in sheep’s clothing, but barely clothed as sheep. Their biggest advantage is the leftist media and political leaders who, by turns, cover their deeds and actually promote them. They’re the violent thugs on campuses shutting down conservative speech, who picked fights at Trump campaign rallies to make themselves look like victims of “Trump’s bullies” and still demonstrate to create political chaos.

        Their favorite thing is to be considered what you are pushing here: not “morally equivalent” to those other uglies. Good grief. They are a new brand of rebel thug on the rise, and cloaking their sins because they are on your side of the aisle is not lost on anybody. We also know who pays them and that they are an arm of a part of the Democratic Party. Oops, an unfortunate video came out during the Presidential campaign linking them and their violent disruptions directly to HRC and the Dem Party.

  • tether

    Until people hold the media accountable this will continue because their is an definite incentive to report what will get attention in the form of followers and clicks. Until people quit following and supporting the garbage, it will only get worse. Eventually there will be nothing left of what was once the greatest nation on earth.
    People are individuals with a right to their views and ideas. Your ideas will differ from mine and mine will differ with many others as well. That is what makes us individuals. This should be celebrated not belittled.

    • Mensa Member

      This is what drove me crazy about the last presidential election. Hilllary would be having a serious policy speech and Donald Trump would be getting off his private jet. The media couldn’t be found at the policy speech but would mob Trump on the tarmac.

      If anything, Trump understands popular media and leveraged their hunger for sensationalism into his own free billion-dollar publicity machine.

      • Chip Crawford

        If HRC gave a serious policy speech, that rare gem should be preserved in a museum for all time. The policy deficit in that campaign was patently missing, as it remains missing in today’s Democratic Party. Instead, her hard line negativity and tear down brought things to a new low. Mr. Trump answered that, good, but too much at times, since her low should not have been allowed to be established. Time does not permit the known criminality and ethical travesty of the Clintons in general, and HRC in particular. Mr. Trump delivered policy after policy, all of which was slashed by the corrupted media. But since you have by your own admission been driven crazy, perhaps that explains your departure from reality in your assertions.

      • Hmmm…

        I’m sorry; she was soooo boring on those rare occasions of speaking about issues. Her consistently small attendance mirrored that. The media followed the crowds.

  • Linda

    So, the sight of hundreds of torch-bearers was not shocking/upsetting enough for Trump to have denounced white supremacists by name before the details of the murder were confirmed?

  • Trilemma

    For some people, I think it’s not so much about the ideology but just the desire to get in a fight.

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