The mainstream media account of the Unite the Right rally and the alt-narrative ultimately diverge regarding the weekend’s violence: Who started it, what kind occurred, who let it happen. Both tell roughly similar stories, with the perpetrator roles inverted. According to alt-right commentators, the white nationalist protesters were thrust defenseless into crowds of armed thugs, beaten, and forced to defend themselves to the extent that one of their ranks killed in self-defense.
This isn’t surprising. The theme of Unite the Right and the surrounding commentary wasn’t the superiority of whites as much as it was their victimhood. While some Unite the Right attendees certainly came armed to the teeth, many others stood just as vigilantly clutching their smartphones and selfie sticks, as if poised to capture leftist evils rained upon them.
This matters because the alt-right audience isn’t exactly tiny—Breitbart News, the most popular site of its stripe, clocked 11 million unique visitors in May, after peaking at around 45 million in 2016. Nor is it disempowered: after all, the man the alt-right sees at its most prominent ally occupies the Oval Office. But perhaps because the alt-right (a term that encompasses those with anti-establishment views to racist extremists) readership is still small compared to more mainstream outlets—CNN’s monthly traffic exceeds 100 million—writers have fostered a David-versus-Goliath solidarity with readers around a shared conviction that politicians and the mainstream media aim to take power and rights away from whites.
And many Trump supporters passively consume the alt-right narratives, despite not subscribing to the alt-right’s hyper-racialized ideology, through their social networks and other right-wing media where they tend to percolate.
With that in mind, what follows is an exploration of the events and the two broad themes that make up these alt-narratives. In the interest of clarity, we present alt-right views and descriptions in their own words and unchallenged. You can cross-reference these accounts with CNN’s timeline of events, or Buzzfeed’s detailed snapshot.
1. Government officials—and not white nationalists—are responsible for the deadly violence
Local and state officials and the police let violent counter-protesters—including Black Lives Matter and Antifa (extreme left-wingers who sometimes employ militant tactics to protest racism; not to be confused with the similarly militant Black Bloc, who dress in all black) take over Charlottesville.
“If they [counter-protesters] had not been there, there would have been no violence, and the rally would have taken place as planned,” writes Jared Taylor for The Unz Review.
Commenters on numerous alt-right sites believe the counter-protesters were “hired professional anarchists” funded and “bused in” by George Soros.
“[Police] were allowing Antifa, who were armed with bricks—they were recorded throwing bricks at people—and pepper spray, and Molotov cocktails, and tear gas—they were allowing these people essentially to march throughout the city, they gave them full control of the city,” Jazzhands McFeels said on his podcast Fash the Nation, part of the neo-Nazi blog The Right Stuff.
An anonymous Unite the Right attendee echoed this story, telling Breitbart, “We initiated, from what I saw, literally none of the violence. I would say, of the violence initiated 98 percent Antifa, two percent ours, and that’s just out of margin of error.”
As Marcus Halberstram, McFeels’ co-host, explains, “When Richard [Spencer, a rally speaker and prominent white supremacist], when our guys decided we were going to break camp and haul ass after the state of emergency, once it dawned on everybody what exactly was going on—our people were out. And all I saw was a bunch of violent, smelly communists and their brown pets owning the fucking town, which is what led to…whatever happened.”
The police’s fault
Jason Kessler, one of the organizers, told Return of Kings that due to lack of police protection, several Unite the Right speakers were maced in the face.
“You can see police laughing as our crew were pepper-sprayed by the anti-white, anti-America so-called Antifa George Soros scumforce,” says Alex Jones, the conspiracy theory-mongering head of InfoWars.
After allowing demonstrators to gather in a central location surrounded by violent counter-protesters, officials declared a state of emergency and canceled the rally. In so doing, ”the police—or, more likely, the people who were pulling their strings” forced “a large crowd of easily identifiable pro-white activists to disperse straight into the maws of the BLM [Black Lives Matter] and Antifa fanatics who consider it their highest moral calling to bloody and kill any white person who publicly declares it’s OK to be white,” writes Jim Goad in Taki’s Mag. “The rally-goers were thus forbidden from holding smaller events in nearby parks. So as they dispersed, they were sent into the hands of bat-wielding local blacks, who persistently taunted them as they quietly tried walking to their cars.”
Scheduled event speaker Daniel Friberg, via Return of Kings blog, wrote that the police started “pushing the entire audience” at the counter-protesters with the goal of igniting fighting.
This was a deliberate effort by government officials to foment violence
Counter-protesters also think the police could have done a better job. But the Fash the Nation hosts think their neglect was “intentional.”
“This was a trap first and foremost in my mind, but the police failed in every conceivable way,” says Halberstram. “It was just like the crashing of the helicopter was just for good measure after a long great day of solid police work.” McFeels adds that the goal all along “was to set [Unite the Right demonstrators] up and put them directly in harm’s way.”
Governor Terry McAuliffe’s ultimate goal was to then blame the violence on Trump, according to commenters on Gateway Pundit. InfoWars’ Jones argues the state of emergency was declared to bring about the banning of right-wing gatherings in the future.
White nationalists are therefore not responsible for the death of Heather Heyer or those injured during the protests
“None of the violence,” says McFeels, “would have happened if it wasn’t for the actions of the Virginia governor and the Charlottesville police.”
Taki’s Mag put it in more sweeping terms, blaming the police for failing to adequately protect the demonstrators and neglecting to forcibly disperse the counter-protesters. Goad also asks whether this would have happened “if the current cultural diktat wasn’t that the worst person on earth, probably even worse than a murderer or a child molester, is a white person who says there’s nothing wrong with being white?”
The alleged attacker was himself assaulted by counter-protesters
Noting that the “car-plowing incident” will be “milked of every last drop for political purposes,” Taki’s Mag observes, “Plenty of evidence has emerged—and it will be suppressed—that before plowing into the crowd, murder suspect James Alex Fields Jr.’s car had been repeatedly attacked by bat-wielding rioters.”
The argument that Fields was acting in self-defense is common, though the actual nature of the attack is a matter of debate. ”When the facts come out. The guy was chased to his car by leftest [sic] he ask cops for help but received none, he was in fear for his life and did what he had to do to save his life,” said one Gateway Pundit commenter. Another, however, said Fields only accelerated after his Dodge was hit by a brick.
2. A societal double-standard
Fields “could be a madman like the Bernie Sanders supporter who tried to kill Steven Scalise and other Republicans,” the Independent Sentinel argues. “The media and the left are attempting to put the blame at the President’s feet.”
The media is ignoring the violence perpetrated by Antifa
The media’s liberal slant means it applies a double-standard to the violence, reporting on actions perpetrated by “white supremacists” and ignoring the “counter-protesters,” refusing to identify them as communists, argues the Independent Sentinel. In this sense, the media creates controversy where it doesn’t exist.
“The story of the neo-Nazi is the only story being told as people turn to social media or cable news,” S. Noble writes in another Independent Sentinel piece. “The media works in concert with the perpetrators of violence and divides the country further instead of simply reporting the news. The violence was on both sides.”
Not Trump, though
Breitbart was outraged that McAuliffe refused to condemn Antifa, while heaping the blame on the rally-goers. Unlike other politicians, Trump refused to buckle to media pressure when he drew an equivalency between the demonstrators and protesters for the bigotry “on many sides,” urging Americans to “cherish their history.” For that, various alt-right sites celebrated him.
Says McFeels: “[The media is] doing the same thing that they’ve always done to the president and to anyone else who isn’t going to cuck [alt-right slang for anyone who buckles to liberal/media pressure], anyone they can make cuck they’re gonna try to make cuck so of course they want Trump to name ‘white supremists’ [sic] and neo-Nazis and the like as the perpetrators of everything that happened yesterday and he actually refused to—he said ‘all sides.'”
Trump has since changed his tune, saying “racism is evil” and calling out “KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups” as “repugnant.” While some supporters saw this as forced upon him—as the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer put it, “at the point of a Jewish weapon”—commenters on Breitbart, for example, mostly poured scorn on Trump for his cowardice and his refusal to call out Antifa and BLM.
The Democrats—especially Obama—are really to blame
Obama—not Trump—is “one of the catalysts for the division in this country in terms of splitting people apart on racial boundaries, argues Fash the Nation. The Independent Sentinel adds, “The KKK are evil racists and so are the counter protesters. They were dredged up by the past president who hopes to start a race-class-gender war.”
The Gateway Pundit sees even longer historical continuity in the violence. “The KKK has lost its popularity among Democrats the past few years but not its tactics. Democrats still dress in masks and beat and abuse conservatives and Republicans. Today they’re called Antifa.”
“It’s also important to note that the Antifa and Black Lives Matter movements are socialist and communist. Those two ideologies should never become mainstream and yet they are embraced by Democrats,” argues Noble in the Independent Sentinel.
In fact, despite the rally’s name, Nazis by definition can’t be right-wing. “Republicans do not embrace the right-wing crazies. Many of these so-called right-wing extremists are socialists,” writes Noble. “You can’t be a Republican, conservative or libertarian and be a socialist [Nazi is the National Socialist Party].”
But still, the real issue is white rights
Many alt-right commentators see the need to protect “white rights” as the result of decades of marginalization of hardworking white Christians.
“They are not naturally ‘racists’ or even ‘white supremacists,’ but rather they seek to guarantee their own survival, and the survival of their families, their communities, and their culture,” says Boyd D. Cathey in The Unz Review. “They have seen the standards, beliefs, traditions, morality and customs that they inherited and have cherished—they have seen them attacked, ridiculed, and, in many cases, banned, even criminalized.”
More extreme alt-right members openly embrace white tribalism, mocking white counter-protesters for denying this natural allegiance.
“I can see why the Black Lives Matter dudes, however knuckleheaded they are, would have problems with a pro-white rally. That’s simply how phenotypical racial tribalism works,” writes Goad in Taki’s Mag. “What’s curious is the keening, unhinged hatred that the ‘anti-racist’ whites have for their genetic cohorts who refuse to join them in their creepy, ethnomasochistic psychological self-cleansing rituals.”