Vice News Tonight correspondent Elle Reeve (@elspethreeve) spent last weekend embedded with the organizers of the "Unite the Right" rally. The 22-minute documentary she aired takes viewers inside the movement, and features the voices of the event's leaders, including white supremacist Christopher Cantwell.
Here & Now's Robin Young speaks with Reeve about the footage she produced on the violence and racial tensions mounting in Charlottesville.
On the new white supremacist strategy
"Well, they have been studying the organizing tactics of the left, and they seek to emulate that. So, instead of burning crosses, they have a media strategy. They wanna look like victims, they wanna look like the police is shutting them down, they wanna look like the city is shutting them down. That makes it seem like their ideas are so powerful and so dangerous that the establishment can't stand to have people say them publicly, because others will start to follow them."
On white supremacists borrowing from the camaraderie of the left
"They only know each other online, they only know each other through screen names. And so, finally coming together and being part of the physical space really is emboldening for them. It makes them feel good to know that there are others who are willing to show their face and say they believe in these things."
On the role of sex in the white supremacist agenda
"I think something people are reluctant to point out is how focused this movement is on sex, particularly white women, who gets to have sex with white women. They think that the media inundates people with messages that women should sleep with minorities instead of white men, that white men are goofy, are doofuses. There's this sitcom dad stereotype of the hapless white male. And so, they're very focused on reproduction and creating more Aryan babies."
"They believe really terrible things, and in order to fight their arguments, we have to know what they are."Elle Reeve
On white supremacists agreeing to be interviewed
"They think the only way to have their white nation is through violent means. These guys have been online for a long time, saying these horrible things in message boards, but it's slowly building up to be more and more public. They also have a huge network of podcasts — some of them have 100,000 listeners a week — that say very, very hateful, violent things about minorities, women, Jews. And so, saying it on camera is just one more step forward."
On whether there was tension while she was embedded
"A term they throw around is 'Lügenpresse,' it's a Nazi term for 'lying press.' Yes, there were moments of tension, but I also felt that as long as they were talking about what they believed in, they wouldn't hurt us."
On how concerned Americans should be
"The reason I've been following this movement for a while is that they are targeting a different demographic than we usually associate with racists. They are going after the college educated, the tech-savvy, the media-savvy. And you could see that in the march. I heard that from all kinds of friends, like, 'They look just like a regular guy, they look like someone I know.' That's an intentional strategy, they want to look like successful, good-looking, fit people, they have told me that explicitly. I think it's really important to show exactly what they believe, that this is not just being anti-[politically correct], or angering the scolding, liberal, feminist teachers. They believe really terrible things, and in order to fight their arguments, we have to know what they are."
This segment aired on August 17, 2017.
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