What do you do if your child has a tantrum in the middle of the store because you won’t buy some candy for him? You could just scream back at him, make some empty threats, plead with him, bargain with him, all in the hope that he’ll finally stop. I doubt that, long-term, this course of action is best. After all, the child obviously doesn’t care that he’s making a scene. He’s quite happy to make a scene if it gets him what he wants, and if he realizes that tantrums get results, then it’ll never stop.
Here’s a better idea:
don’t negotiate with terrorists I mean, ignore him. Or better yet, just leave the store. The quicker he realizes that tantrums are counter-productive and he’s trained to engage in rational discussion, the better for him and you.
So what does this have to do with racists? Well, at least as regards to the types of racists that attempted to hold a rally in Charlottesville, VA this past weekend, the point is to not give more attention than is absolutely necessary. What is the national interest in hearing about a couple hundred people showing up in a small town park to argue against getting rid of a statue? No interest. None whatsoever. This was a story that locals should have read in the local paper the next morning, nothing more.
Instead, this national coverage elevated their position. All of a sudden, these people are national news! They’re important! They have attention! And best of all, the national media couldn’t resist telling lies about them and not telling the whole story about what transpired, which means that when people try to get the actual facts about what happened, they may sympathize with the racists. Not with their racial views, necessarily, but sympathize with them due to their maltreatment at the hands of those with more power.
And make no mistake: these racists have no power. If it wasn’t for all the attention they receive, they wouldn’t even be a footnote in history. Their main viewpoint in anathema to the population in general and has no influence, as long as influence isn’t given to them.
Going back to my original analogy, the child was acting like a child. Not necessarily evil or bad, just ignorant and not trained in proper conduct. The parent telling and pleading and bargaining, though, has no excuse. They should be a rational adult at this point if they have taken upon themselves the responsibility of raising a child, but instead they have chosen to act like a child themselves. Actually, even worse: they’re acting like a child who’s been given some measure of authority.
The media are the children with authority, and unless they start acting like adults that have a proper sense of proportion, report facts, and avoid sensationalism, there will be more Charlottesvilles in the future.
Addendum: I should make clear that I believe that counter-protests that come into direct contact with the main protest creates the conditions that let the violent people on both sides release their aggression. While I don’t think a counter-really held at the same time does any good, if it is held, it should be held separately so as to keep the bad actors in both sides apart. This is an essential part to ignoring the racists and keeping violent people on both sides from acting on their worst impulses.