5 Things About Vice’s Charlottesville Documentary That Shocked Me (But Shouldn’t Have) by the Forward

5 Things About Vice’s Charlottesville Documentary That Shocked Me (But Shouldn’t Have)

Rarely have I seen or heard the Daily Stormers, the Jew conspiracists in the flesh. They were only usernames commenting on low-tech websites which contained images of white guys with aesthetically tragic facial hair alongside cartoons of monkeys and hooked noses. “Jews will not replace us!” said Shitler69 in the comment board. “Blood And Soil!” went SuckMyFeminazi’s tagline.

“Anti-semitism” growing up entailed Jewish boys teasing fellow Jewish boys for picking up a coin. Threats on a screen were so distant they felt only questionably real.

But while watching Vice’s Charlottesville documentary, those slogans suddenly came to life.

In Vice’s Charlottesville documentary, correspondent Elle Reeve takes you on an immersive journey through Fascistville, USA. It is one that goes moment-by-moment through the manifestations of all the concepts you learned on campus but rarely saw in practice. This gathering was not emblematic of most Americans, but it made clear these elements exist and are out there. Here are five things from the Vice documentary that shocked me out of my sheltered existence.

1. The experience of watching the first scene as a millennial, progressive Jew and realizing this is real

A moment-by-moment commentary is in order:

Friday, 10:00 PM, University of Virginia

The white guys in polos take their tiki torches down the campus quad. “You will not replace us!” they shout in impressively disunited chants. Ah, yes, because white people are on the verge of brutal ethnic cleansing (increased melanin is a dominant gene, sorry). “Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!”

‘Oh, me?
’ says my shocked, white Jewish privilege.

Blood and soil! Blood and soil!” the torchbearers cry out.

Scenes like this were reserved in my mind for a skinhead Edward Norton. UVA’s campus, with its roman column buildings in the background, made it feel only more like a mere set, separate from reality.

The disbelief continues when the neo-Nazis chant, “Whose streets? Our streets!” — those rallying cries any pink hat owner knows. This is followed by counter-demonstrators chanting “No fascists, no KKK, no fascist USA!” These chants suddenly aren’t some group therapy like at all those protests I attended before. Because fascist USA is here.

2. How clear it is that white privilege is a thing EVEN FOR NAZIS

In that first scene, the cops fail to show up when the white supremacists attack the counterprotestors. And none of them appeared to break up the clashes which ensued that Saturday. But on Sunday, Jason Kessler, an organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally, has a a freaking podium outside city hall to address the media and crowd. While pinning blame on the police force for the violence during Saturday’s rally, Kessler endures jeers and middle fingers from the crowd until they go after the alt-right organizer. Moments after Kessler blamed them for the violence the previous day, the police finally protect someone — him! And it’s not just one or two officers, but an entire human barricade surrounding him for his protection. 

There’s also the phone exchange an alt-right guy has with authorities after police stopped allowing white supremacists to pick up their friends at the Robert E. Lee statue. The man threatens, “I’m about to send at least 200 people with guns if you do not get our people out. [Listens to response] Thank you. Tell them to call me they have my number.”

Is anyone honestly going to believe a black man can say that to authorities and 1. not be killed, 2. not be arrested, and 3. have his request granted?

3. The appropriation by the white supremacists of progressive slogans and tactics.

The alt-right figure and villainous star Christopher Cantwell remarks, “We don’t have the camaraderie, the trust level that our rivals do. That camaraderie and trust is built up on activism, and that is one of our tactics.” This attempt to replicate the left is seen through the bizarre usage of progressive chants throughout the weekend for fascist purposes. “Whose streets? Our streets!” is an inherently power-to-the-people slogan. It is a rebuke of systemic persecution and oppression. But when white supremacists say it, their grievances stem from attempts to end their status as the master class. It’s white fragility barely concealed through violence and hypermasculinity. In their eyes, anything but white power is an injustice. 

4. Elle Reeve’s absurd collectedness — and how shaken she is at the scene of the murder

Elle Reeve deserves either a Pulitzer or an Oscar for her journalism/ performance. When she’s interviewing Cantwell — with his alt-right compadres surrounding them — and he claims that whites don’t commit violence like the “savages” of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and 12-year-old Tamir Rice, she doesn’t even blink. “Oklahoma City,” she responds. “You have to go back to Oklahoma City,” he says. “Elliot Rodger, Dylan Roof,” she shot back in the most nonchalant manner any person has shut down a white supremacist ever.

Or, there’s her chit chat with Robert “Azzmador” Ray, the Daily Stormer’s “crypto” writer and “man on the ground.” When she asks him what the rally means to him, he responds:

Elle’s reframing: “So you’re saying that showing up in physical space lets people know… that there are more people like them.”

Incredible translation for the sane, Elle.

There is one moment, however — immediately after the car plows through the counter demonstrators — in which Elle describes the carnage and “the horrific sound” of metal smashing into flesh. For a split second, her face reveals what madness has befallen the scene before her:

5. These exchanges that actually happened

Exchange #1

Alt-right dude: “Well, in Canada, hurting people’s feelings is basically illegal.”

Cantwell: “Unless they’re white males!”

{Note: These white people are more fragile than a Donald Trump-constructed jenga tower.}

{Second note: If this protest was actually meant as a form of protecting Southern pride and heritage, why did Canadians show up??}

Exchange #2

Cantwell: “Of course we’re capable of violence. I’m carrying a pistol, I go to the gym all the time. I’m trying to make myself more capable of violence. I’m here to spread ideas, talk in the hopes that someone more capable will do that. Someone like Donald Trump who will not give his daughter to a Jew.”

Elle Reeve: “So Donald Trump, but more racist.”

Cantwell: “A lot more racist than Donald Trump. I don’t think you can feel about race the way I do and watch that Kushner bastard with that beautiful girl.”

{Note: When I temporarily gain some fellow Jewish stud camaraderie with Jared Kushner, something has clearly gone very, very wrong.}

Exchange #3

Cantwell: “We’re here obeying the law, we’re doing everything we’re supposed to do…and the criminals are over there getting their way. That is a foundational problem in our society.” 
 Azzmador: “And that is because this city is run by Jewish communists and criminal ni**ers!”

Exchange #4

Cantwell: “The fact that nobody died on our side, I consider that points for us. The fact that nobody on our side killed any of them unjustly, that’s a plus for us.”

Elle: “But the car that struck and killed the protestor, that was unprovoked.”

Cantwell: “That’s untrue and you know it.”

Exchange #5

Cantwell: “I’d say it’d be really tough to top [this weekend], but we’ll do our best.”

Elle: “Someone died.”

Cantwell: “A lot more people are gonna die before we’re done here, frankly.” 

Welcome to 2017.

Steven Davidson is an editorial fellow at the Forward.

5 Things About Vice’s Charlottesville Video

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