And it’s time for media to put the same spotlight on all forms of hate.
HBO’s Vice News program will begin airing a documentary tonight (8/16) that promises to take an unflinching look at the white supremacist terror movement. The program will include interviews with white supremacists and footage recorded during the explosive and fateful events of the previous several days in Charlottesville, Va.
HBO has put an extended preview of tonight’s episode on YouTube. I urge you to watch it, but be warned that it is shocking material that could be considered NSFW and unsuitable for younger children.
This is important and timely journalism from HBO. It’s very likely that a large number of Americans are unaware that the views espoused by the subject of this piece are anything more than throwaway dialogue for historical fiction. Those who say that the best way to banish these idea is to apply the Voldemort defense — “don’t speak their name because it gives them more power” — are wrong. More light. More shame. More perspective on how small they are compared to the largeness of those who disagree with them.
Vice should also assign a team to compile a similar unvarnished, unfiltered perspective of groups that the left is now holding up as heroes who are in fact not heroes at all.
A primary role of the press in a free society is to raise an alarm when threat to the greater society surface. The mainstream national media is doing an excellent job running the siren about the boldness of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. They are, so far, doing a fairly awful job when it comes to sounding the alarm about any hate rising in the left.
In fact, the same righteous charge leveled by nearly every mouth talking on CNN Tuesday at Pres. Donald Trump, that his remarks to the press on that day drew inaccurate and immoral equivalencies between white supremacists and antifa thugs that were warring on the ground in Charlottesville, could also apply to their chorus of outrage. The president’s equivalency wasn’t just immoral, they cried, it was invalid and false to its core because white supremacists are stand for hate, and antifa is about standing up to hate. Compounding their flawed logic was a wave of social media posts welcoming antifa into the club of heroes that includes U.S. soldiers who fought and died to defeat fascism in World War II.
(Local coverage in cities like Seattle, Portland, and even Berkeley, where the have been face-to-face with left-wing anarchists and antifa thugs tends to be much less afraid to call a spade a spade, or a nail-studded two-by-four a weapon, as is often the case. Direct experience is a potent ingredient in producing honest journalism.)
The problem is that if we’re going to be a society that really does seek to guard itself against hate, it won’t work for the media to be so exclusionary about what it will allow to be labeled hateful.
Whether hatred coalesces like an oily choking smoke cloud around race-based hate or class-based hate, white supremacy or Marxism, really matters less than the hard truth that each of these hate groups targets for demolition the same common set of core values: freedom, equality and tolerance of different opinions. These hate groups descend from lines of virulent thought that have stacked up staggering body counts. The fact that they and other opposing groups on the extreme wings are at war with each other shouldn’t trick us, and especially the wise sages in the media, into being stuck with only one white hat and one black hat to use in talking about them.
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