As we await the verdict in the Sines v. Kessler trial, I will go ahead and share my regrets and what I have learned from attending the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.
1. Trusting the System
As everyone here knows, I was a League of the South activist for years. I enjoyed activism. It was fun to go to these events. Some of my fondest memories are attending various rallies. It feels good to exercise your rights and get out on the road and meet other people who share your views.
By the time the League of the South arrived in Charlottesville, we had held dozens of rallies all over the South. We had attended previous rallies in Pikeville, KY, New Orleans, LA and Gainesville, FL in 2017. We weren’t deterred by Charlottesville and went on to hold another rally later that year in Shelbyville, TN. This history of attending rallies is what ultimately led us to Charlottesville. The same is true of other groups like the NSM which over the course of decades held more rallies than the League of the South.
The League’s approach to Charlottesville was no different than any of these other previous events. We fully cooperated with law enforcement. We obeyed the orders of law enforcement. We trusted law enforcement with our security. The federal court in Charlottesville ruled that we had the right to be in Lee Park. The only reason that we were there that morning is because we had worked within the system.
In the wake of Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, we were slow to appreciate just how radically everything had changed even though the signs of it were evident at previous events in Auburn, Pikeville and New Orleans. We had never found ourselves before in a volatile situation where law enforcement refused to do their jobs and attacked us and pushed us into Antifa to deliberately provoke a violent confrontation. We had never been a situation before where Antifa was allowed to beat people in front of a police station while police officers just stood by and watched and did not intervene.
In Auburn, Pikeville, New Orleans, Gainesville and later Shelbyville, the police separated the two sides. What happened in Charlottesville at the Unite the Right rally was something new that had only previously been seen in a few West Coast cities like Portland and Berkeley. There had also been two rallies in Charlottesville including a public rally by a Klan group which was mostly peaceful and in which the two sides had been separated. There was no reason to believe with months of time to prepare that the Charlottesville Police and Virginia State Police would respond the way that they did at the Unite the Right rally.
Sadly, the trap we walked into in Charlottesville is now typical. In these leftwing hothouses, Antifa and BLM have a free hand to engage in violence. Progressive DAs look the other way at their violence and prosecute only people who are on the Right. The police stand aside and watch the mobs go wild because there is nothing that they can do. Democratic mayors and Democratic governors refuse to uphold the law. The DOJ and FBI ignore Antifa and BLM violence and persecute people on the Right.
The moral of the story: the system is no better than the people who are in charge and outcomes vary wildly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. We might have the First Amendment right to hold a rally in a place like Charlottesville, but it is meaningless due to the political climate inside that city and the way it impacts law enforcement. Only a fool would trust the system in these cities at this point. This is why virtually no one took Jason Kessler up on his offer to attend the Unite the Right II rally in 2018.
The single biggest mistake we made in Charlottesville was trusting the federal court, the police and the judicial system. We saw how that worked out. Fortunately, we learned our lesson on that front.
2. Thinking Nationally, Not Locally
I’m not from Charlottesville.
I live 10 hours away in rural Alabama.
In hindsight, one of our worst mistakes was our failure to realize that short of moving there that there was virtually nothing any of us could do to affect the situation in Charlottesville. It is a state and local matter. We would have been far better off staying in our own states and our own communities and quietly organizing here than wasting our resources on these road trips and pointless stand offs.
In retrospect, we used to spend most of our time going to where the enemy lived, which is to say, places like Portland, Berkeley, Charlottesville which were roiled by these local issues like mobs who vandalize and topple historic monuments. It would have made far more sense to force them to come to us. If the Unite the Right rally had been held virtually anywhere else in the South, it would have been uneventful. Leftwing college towns like Berkeley and Charlottesville have been the most prone to disorder.
3. Volatile Public Events
I don’t attend these anymore.
You can never know who is going to show up at a volatile public event. There are people who seek attention who show up who have their own agenda. Those people have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to step over any message or point that is trying to be made by organizers. It is true that these events generate publicity like January 6th, but that publicity turns out to be harmful for organizations. Usually, it is a convenient excuse to invite more attention and subversion by the “intelligence community.”
Charlottesville was a public event in the most progressive college town in the South. Hundreds of people came who did not know each other. The groups who attended barely knew each other. Few people knew Jason Kessler and some of those who did in Virginia steered clear of the event. The reasons that we all went to support the Confederate monuments and Kessler’s civil liberties were just, but most people went to meet other people and go to a big event and to have fun afterwards. It was completely unnecessary to attach this to a volatile public event hosted by an inexperienced organizer in a progressive college town. In retrospect, it is not surprising that it spiraled out of control like Berkeley.
4. The Sheer Pointlessness Of It All
Why did we even have the Unite the Right rally?
The Alt-Right held a flash rally there in support of the Confederate monuments in May 2017 which was fairly successful. There was no reason to return. The first rally was a success because the organizers did not announce the rally ahead of time and cooperate with the police.
I was reminded of the sheer pointlessness of the Unite the Right rally by the most recent state election in Virginia. In spite of everything that has happened since Charlottesville with activists on both sides, public opinion on Confederate monuments hasn’t really changed in Virginia.
The most striking thing that has come out in court to me is the mutual hatred of Jason Kessler and Richard Spencer. Ultimately, I think this has a lot to do with why we all got sucked into Charlottesville. I think Kessler’s ego was bruised that Spencer and IE had held that flash rally in his hometown and he wanted to upstage Spencer by hosting a larger event. It is obvious that Spencer and Eli disliked and distrusted Kessler. This jockeying of egos over who would get credit over the event turned into a disaster.
5. Bad Optics
There was a grain of truth in the Optics War.
It is true that our side is brimming with people who are too extreme for public consumption. We have countless people who are poor communicators. They don’t communicate our message in a palatable way to the public. They express their own emotions and viewpoints which alienate people.
Are we gaining anything when we take these people and parade them in public in front of a sea of “journalists” to an audience of people who by definition hold significantly more moderate views on a range of subjects? Are we better off being seen in the public spotlight or staying out of it?
I would say the last few years have shown that we are better off when we ARE NOT in the public spotlight. When it is just Antifa and BLM out there rioting and engaging violence and we are not in the same frame with them, they repulse and alienate people and become less popular. It seems that our ideas advance and gain traction more and permeate the national conversation when we have fewer messengers.
Loud and annoying and highly visible groups who are associated with violence and extreme ideas alienate the public. The national conversation has shifted and is now about how this is happening with Wokeism. Charlottesville demonstrated that becoming more visible and annoying isn’t necessarily in our interest.
6. Media Spectacles
I don’t have a high opinion of media spectacles.
Charlottesville was a huge media spectacle. It was a mistake. The whole Alt-Lite model of ecelebs trolling and owning the libs with free speech rallies which turn into huge media spectacles is over.
When I went to several of these Alt-Right events, I was struck by how eager some of the leading figures were to talk to the “journalists.” In particular, Matt Heimbach paraded around the country with Vegas Tenold who later went on to write a nasty book about him. Several of the “journalists” who covered the Alt-Right back then openly work with Antifa now and went on to land jobs at the ADL and SPLC. Tenold himself is now an “Investigative Researcher at the ADL’s Center on Extremism.”
7. Engaging With Antifa
We don’t do it anymore.
It is not in our interest to be in the same frame with these people. We are better off when they are attacking ICE or police officers or burning down buildings or fighting with anti-vaxxers. They are now universally hated by the Right, deeply unpopular in the Center and controversial even among Democrats which is a major change from how they were perceived in 2017. The best way to deal with Antifa is to give them the national spotlight to show everyone how toxic they are and the space to self destruct.
8. Killing Our Brand
Charlottesville was a terrible idea on this basis alone.
Who was supposed to be impressed by joining forces with all these different groups? It is true that we have some shared beliefs, common interests and common enemies. It certainly didn’t help us though to get mixed up with these other leaders and groups who have different social visions. It must have been difficult for anyone outside of these circles to discern what message we were trying to communicate.
9. Why Charlottesville?
You couldn’t throw a dart at a map and hit a place in the entire South including NOVA where fewer people who share our views live. The people who share our views and who are sympathetic to secession are White working class people in rural areas and small towns. That’s where we should have focused on organizing instead of wasting our time on media spectacles with “journalists” in college towns.
10. Get Togethers
If our people want to meet up and socialize, there are far more effective and enjoyable ways to do so than being attacked by bricks, bear mace, acid, sticks and bombs of shit and urine in a place like Charlottesville. Sure, it is bold to go into a place like that, but it is not worth the cost.
None of this is news.
I’ve been saying all of this for years.
If we ever decide to reboot our activism, it needs to be done on this basis.