If you’ve got room in your brain and your heart for a return to Charlottesville, I highly recommend the “Vice News Tonight” feature on the weekend’s events. The 22-minute piece (available at news.vice.com or on YouTube), “Charlottesville: Race and Terror,” is a stomach-turning look at hatred — actually, at the scariest kind, organized hatred.
Embedded with the white supremacists who set up the “Unite the Right” rally, the Vice crew, led by reporter Elle Reeve, gives us a haunting close-up of the torch-bearing men who came out to prove, as Reeve puts it, that they’re “more than a meme, a real presence that can organize in a physical space.” The last time I recall seeing white supremacists so openly sharing on camera outside their own media is an essential 1991 movie called “Blood in the Face,” which is set at a “pro-white” convention.
In the Vice piece, Reeve spends time with, among other noted white supremacists, David Duke, Matthew Heimbach, and “Unite the Right” speaker and radio host Christopher Cantwell, who is a particularly voluble fount of animus. The muscular buzz-cut man describes how he got into white supremacist activity: “When the Trayvon Martin case happened, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice, and all these different things happened — every single case, it’s some little black [expletive] behaving like a savage and he gets himself in trouble shockingly enough.”
Whites aren’t “inclined to such behavior,” Cantwell says. “You gotta take that into consideration when you’re thinking about how to organize your society.”
Yes, he is one of the “fine people” President Trump defended. But if you think Trump serves as a kind of muse for the likes of Cantwell, you’d be wrong. Cantwell tells Reeve he’s hoping for a capable leader “who does not give his daughter to a Jew,” referring to Ivanka Trump’s marriage to Jared Kushner. He adds, “I don’t think that you could feel about race the way I do and watch that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl.”
Reeve challenges these men, to some extent, with questions. The rhetoric pours out of them, but Vice doesn’t lose track of what really happened over the weekend — the domestic terrorism, the chants of “Jews will not replace us,” the police in full gear. The piece does not skimp on the horrors, including footage of the car plowing into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. We see a black woman bowing in despair and disbelief after the crash, letting out a grief-stricken scream. “Oh my God we got hit by a car,” she yells.
Cantwell also says that he spends time at the gym and carries a pistol — like many of his comrades — “to make myself more capable of violence.” Ultimately, he promises, “A lot more people are gonna die before we’re done here, frankly.” Likewise, Reeve talks to a neo-Nazi writer named Robert “Azzmador” Ray who says, “We’re starting to slowly unveil a little bit of our power level.
“You ain’t seen nothing yet.”Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.