Anyone who pays the slightest attention to the daily passage of events in the news was aware that white-supremacist alt-right groups were planning a rally in Washington, D.C., this past weekend. The anticipatory media coverage of the event didn’t quite reach Super-Bowl hype levels, but it was close. And the number of white supremacists who showed up for the Sunday rally?
Not 200. Not 100. About 20.
This whimper of an alt-right rally raises some interesting political questions about what has transpired in the year since the tragic confrontation in Charlottesville, Va., between alt-right groups and left-wing groups like antifa left one woman dead.
In the last 12 months, the left — abetted by some in the media — has transformed Charlottesville into “Charlottesville” — a one-word symbol of civic and racial strife presumably at large in Donald Trump’s America.
To be sure, Trump ham-handedly gave the left this opening by issuing an equivocal statement about the Char- lottesville violence. He deserved criticism, and he got it. The left, nonetheless, has kept alive the notion that the Trump presidency is an enabler of larger, latent white supremacist sentiment that is supposedly surging in the U.S. The truth is closer to the pathetic reality of Sunday’s mini-rally in Washington.
Until recently, the various aggregations of alt-right sentiment were called fringe groups because they were exactly that — extremists operating on the loony edge of American politics. And the white-supremacist movement seen in Charlottesville last August has largely collapsed the past year because of infighting and disorganization.
But with the help of social media, the lunatic fringe has forced its way into the mainstream media and been made to look larger and more important than it is. The left recognized that the newly visible alt-right could be turned into a political weapon by drawing a straight line between Trump voters and white supremacists, thereby hoping to scare off more mainstream supporters of the current government.
We wish Trump were more adept at navigating through this minefield. We also wish we didn’t have to read in the second paragraph of the New York Times coverage of Sunday’s microscopic rally that “even with the low turnout, almost no one walked away with the sense that the nation’s divisions were any closer to healing.” Even no news is bad news these days.
One person who deserves commendation is D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Before the rally she said, “While we are opposed adamantly to what we are going to hear, we know what our responsibility is — to protect First Amendment events.” In the current climate, Mayor Bowser’s admirable defense of free speech will need all the support it can get.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL