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The Loss of Civility

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Society has a problem with politically-motivated violence. At a protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, a man with Nazi sympathies drove his car into a crowd of protestors, killing one and injuring many others.

Likewise, the so-called anti-fascists, Antifa (they are, of course, nothing of the sort) has resorted to using violent and intimidatory tactics at numerous protests and rallies.

Needless to say, such occurrences raise serious questions about the consequences of political polarisation and the lack of community sentiment and incivility that it brings.

One of the features of the 2010s has been the increase in political polarisation. As people become more willing to identify themselves by their political ideology, the tendency to view one’s political opponents as extremists have, likewise, increased. Consequentially, it has become easier and easier for people to demonise others because they don’t hold the same political views that they do.

Such polarisation, of course, has been fuelled by a biased and segregated news media system. The online video and podcast revolution, combined with a mainstream media that heavily slants towards the left, has meant that people are often only exposed to those views that match their own. As such, the right has been manipulated into believing that all on the left are social justice warriors, protestors, and radical feminists, whilst those on the left have been manipulated into seeing all on the right as Nazis, race baiters, white supremacists, and alt-righters.

To a large degree, political polarisation has come as a consequence of the loss of a sense of community. People no longer associate with their neighbours, and, as a result, they have come to see each other as potential enemies rather than potential friends. And, under such conditions, it becomes very easy to see another person as evil when their political views do not compliment your own.

The loss of community has occurred for three major reasons. First, the advent of social media, online shopping, video subscription services, and smartphones has meant that people are no longer required to venture out into society and interact with others. It is no longer necessary for a consumer to interact with shop staff, for instance, because they can shop in the solitude of their own living room. Modern technology, for all its benefits, has provided us with a faux sense of sociability. A kind of sociability that allows us to communicate with others but does not require genuine human interaction.

Second, past-times that were once considered neutral have been co-opted to spread politically-charged messages. People can no longer go to a football game, watch a movie, or listen to music without having political ideology preached to them. As a consequence, society lacks the entities that once allowed people to bond with one another despite differences in their political beliefs.

Third, engagement with the community has declined. People are no longer engaged with the community in the same way that their grandparents were. In the past, social clubs, community groups, sports clubs, and religious institutions provided a space where people of diverse beliefs, values, and opinions could come together. As a consequence, such entities promoted a degree of social unity and social cohesion. Today, however, people are becoming more and more willing to self-segregate. They isolate themselves, choosing only to socialise with friends and family.

What all this has amounted to is a loss of civility. It is very easy to justify all manner of bad behaviour when one sees their opponent as a threat to their very existence. Our modern society shuns manners and dismisses common courtesy and is surprised to find self-centredness and vulgarity in its wake.

TERRORIST ATTACK IN BARCELONA

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A terrorist attack in Barcelona has left at least thirteen people dead and more than fifty others injured.

The attack occurred when a white van careered onto the historic Las Ramblas Street street and drove five-hundred metres down the busy walkway. One witness told the BBC that the van was “weaving left and right, trying to hit people as fast as possible.” People ran from the area in fear of their lives.  The driver fled the scene leaving victims covered in blood and writhing in pain from broken limbs.

Marc Espearcia, a twenty-year-old student living in Barcelona, told the BBC:

“There was a loud noise and everybody ran for cover. There were a lot people, lots of families [at the site], this is one of the most visited sites in Barcelona. I think several people were hit. It was horrible, there was panic. Terrible.”

Another witness, Aamer Answer, said:

“I turned around and people were screaming — I could see a woman screaming with her kids —  people started running and jumping into shops. I ran for about 50 or 100 metres and stopped to see what was happening. The police were very quickly on the scene and getting people to move back. I could see chaos right at the top area and I spoke to a shopkeeper who had run down and was screaming. He was Bengali so I spoke to him in Urdu and he said a van had driven  into a crowd and he thought there were five to six people very seriously injured.”

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. According to Catalonia’s Regional President, Carles Puigdemont, two suspects have been arrested in connection to the attack.  Josep Lluís Trapero,  chief of Catalonia’s regional police, confirmed Puigdemont’s statement, but was quick to point out that the two men arrested were not the perpetrators of the attack:

“Two people have been arrested in relationship with this crime. That doesn’t necessarily  mean they carried out the attack in Barcelona but, yes, they are linked to the incident.”

Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has condemned the terrorist attack.  President Trump, tweeted: “The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough and strong, we love you.” Similarly, King Felipe of Spain tweeted: “They are murderers, simply criminals who are not going to terrorise us.

FALLOUT OVER PRESIDENT TRUMP’S PRESS CONFERENCE

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President Trump has been heavily criticised for appearing to defend the alt-right in the wake of the devastating Charlottesville car attack in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Throughout the conference, Trump appeared agitated and defensive. When asked why it had taken him so long to condemn the Unite the Right protesters, Trump answered:

 “I didn’t wait long. I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct. Not make a quick statement. The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement was correct a fine statement, but you don’t make statements that direct unless you know the facts.  It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don’t know the facts. It’s a very, very important process to me. And it’s a very important statement. So I don’t want to go quickly and make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts.  If you go back to my original statement … I brought it.”

Trump went on to defend his statement on Saturday, saying:

“Excuse me, excuse me, take it nice and easy. Here’s the thing. When I make a statement, I  like to be correct. I want the facts. This event just happened. In fact, a lot of the event didn’t even happen yet as we were speaking. This event just happened. Before I make a statement, I need the facts. So I don’t want to rush into a statement. So making the statement when I made it was excellent. In fact, the young woman who I hear was a fantastic young woman, and it was on  NBC, her mother wrote me and said though I guess Twitter, social media, the nicest things. And  I very much appreciated that. I hear she was a fine, really actually an incredible young woman.  But her mother on Twitter thanked me for what I said. And honestly, if the press were not fake,  and it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice. But unlike you and  unlike the media, before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.”

Then Trump switched his focus to attacking the “alt-left”:

I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned very different groups. But not all those people were”I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned very different groups. But not all those people were neo-Nazis, believe me, not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E.  Lee. And you take a look at some of the groups and you see, and you’d know it if you were honest reporters which in many cases you’re not, but many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down.  I wonder, is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You really do have to ask yourself where does it stop. But they were there to protest, excuse me,  take a look at the night before, they were there to protest the taking down of the statue of  Robert E. Lee.”

Republican Senator for Florida, Marco Rubio defended President Trump’s statement on twitter:

“Mr. President, you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame. This is  simple: we must condemn and marginalize white supremacist groups, not encourage and embolden  them.”

However, the reaction from both Republicans and Democrats has been overwhelmingly negative. Democrat Congresswoman from New York, Kathleen Rice, tweeted: “President Trump is a racist. Period. He’s gone out of his way to make that clear, so let’s not tip-toe around it. He’s a racist.” Similarly,  Democrat Senator from Hawaii, Brian Schaltz tweeted: “As a Jew, as an American, as a human, words cannot express my disgust and disappointment. This is not my president.”  Meanwhile, former House Majority Leader and Republican Congressman from Virginia, Eric Cantor criticised Trump for equating the counter-protesters with the alt-right.

Trump’s plight certainly hasn’t been helped by the support he has been receiving from white supremacists. Richard Spencer told the Washington Examiner that he was grateful to Trump for “defending the truth.”  Likewise, Ku Klux Klan leader, David Duke, tweeted:

“Thank you President Trump, for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville and condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa.”

There can be little doubt that President Trump deserves wide-spread criticism for his refusal to directly name and shame neo-nazis, white supremacists, and the alt-right for their role in the events in Charlottesville on Saturday. He rightly deserves criticism for refusing to condemn the alt-right during his Presidential campaign.

And the people who should be criticising him should be the American people, not the hypocritical mainstream media and political left who only seem to find their moral indignation when evil can be attributed to the right.

This, after all, is the same media that overhypes every threat of right wing violence and turns every crime committed by a right winger into a condemnation of all conservatives, but conveniently turns a blind eye to the violence committed by antifa in Seattle, Sacramento, and Berkeley.  The same media that has presented right wing violence as a bigger threat to people’s safety than Islamic terrorism, which has routinely downplayed its threat, and vilified anyone who wishes to talk about the issue as being an “Islamaphobe.”

Then there’s the left wing media’s remarkable lack of criticism towards Barack Obama. They did not condemn Obama’s speech in Dallas, Texas, where he blamed the murder of five police officers on the legacy of Jim Crow and slavery, and claimed the police were unfairly and systematically targeting African Americans.

Does President Trump deserve criticism for his refusal to name and shame those responsible for the violence on Saturday? Undoubtedly yes. But the mainstream media and political left have no moral authority to do so.

MORE INFORMATION ON THE CHARLOTTESVILLE TRAGEDY

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Americans are recoiling from the tragic events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday. The tragic succession of events, which saw violence between the Unite the Right protesters and counter-protesters and culminated in a vicious car attack,  left nineteen people injured and thirty-two-year-old Heather Heyer dead.

On Monday, President Trump bowed to pressure to name and shame those whose ideology inspired yesterday’s hate crime.  Trump stated:

“Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK,  neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as  Americans. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.”

Political reactions have been swift and damning. Michael McCaul, Republican Congressman from Texas and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, tweeted:

“We must condemn the hate fueling the violence in #Charlottesville. It does not define us as Americans. Those affected are in my prayers.”

Republican Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, meanwhile, has called for the Department of Justice to investigate the events of Charlottesville as an act of domestic terrorism. Cruz stated:

“It’s tragic and heartbreaking to see hatred and racism once again mar our great Nation with bloodshed.  Heidi’s and my prayers are with the loved ones of those killed and injured in the ongoing violence in  Charlottesville. The First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans to speak their minds peaceably,  but violence, brutality, and murder have no place in a civilized society. The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies,  bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate. Having watched the horrifying video of the car  deliberately crashing into a crowd of protesters, I urge the Department of Justice to immediately  investigate and prosecute this grotesque act of domestic terrorism.”

At a press conference on Monday, Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas claims police had planned to move the Unite the Right protesters to the rear of Emancipation park. The protesters had originally agreed to cooperate with police. However, police were forced to alter their plans when protesters began entering the park at different locations.

The perpetrator of the attack, James Alex Fields, Jr., a self-confessed admirer of Adolf Hitler, has been charged with second-degree murder, malicious wounding, and failure to stop at the scene of an accident resulting in death. He has been denied bail.

VIOLENT PROTEST IN VIRGINIA LEAVES ONE DEAD, NINETEEN INJURED

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A thirty-two-year-old woman has been killed, and nineteen others have been left with minor to life threatening injuries in Charlottesville, Virginia, after a day of protests between white nationalists, calling themselves “unite the right”, and counter-protesters culminated in violence.

The counter-protesters were reportedly celebrating driving the white supremacists from Emancipation Park when the attack occurred. Video footage shows a Dodge Charger accelerating into a crowd of counter-protesters. One witness claims the car was travelling at forty-miles-per-hour (sixty-four-kilometres-per-hour). Another witness, Brennan Gilmore, told NBC news:

 “It was very clearly intentional. From the far end of the street, it accelerated, slowed down right before the crowd and then slammed on the gas through the crowd sending bodies flying. And then it reversed back into the street dragging bodies and clothes.”

After the incident, the driver reversed the car at high speed and fled the scene.

President Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence, and First Lady Melania Trump have all condemned the violence.  Speaking at his private golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump stated:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. There’s no place in America (for this). What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.”

Trump also stated on twitter:

“We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let’s come together as one!”

Vice-President Mike Pence tweeted:

“I stand with @POTUS against hate & violence. U.S is greatest when we join together & oppose those seeking to divide us.”

First Lady Melania Trump also tweeted:

“Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes  from violence.”

Governor of Virginia, Terry McAullife, declared a state of emergency around Charlottesville which began at noon. Police, meanwhile, are treating the incident as a criminal homicide investigation. They have arrested the driver of the car, James Alex Fields, Jr., and are holding him on a variety of charges, including second-degree murder and malicious wounding.

McAullife directed a statement to the white supremacists, saying:

“You came here today to hurt people. And you did hurt people. My message is clear: we are stronger than you.”

He went on to say:

“I have a message to all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today:  My message is go home. You are not wanted in this Commonwealth. Shame on you … You are anything but a  patriot.”

Police Chief, Al Thomas, has backed this up, stating that “premeditated violence that our community experienced today was completely unacceptable.”