In the aftermath of the violence at the “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, footage captured by HBO’s “Vice News Tonight” has routinely been cited as showing what happened with the most accuracy and clarity. While usually there is a delay before episodes hit YouTube, Vice posted this one right away.
Elle Reeve, the Vice reporter who helmed the piece, was a guest on Sunday’s edition of “Face the Nation” on CBS to discuss what she witnessed in Charlottesville and the reaction to the episode as part of a panel. In light of President Donald Trump’s comments that “good people” were protesting quietly on the first night, she was asked what she saw.
“This was an unannounced event, but a very well-organized one,” she began. “When we arrived, there were vans dropping off white nationalists at the field. On the field, there were organizers doing crowd control, security, handing out tiki torches. They picked tiki torches as to be menacing, sometimes they call it a torch-lit vigil, because it’s supposed to be an offensive spin on a candlelight vigil.”
“Once they started marching, they didn’t talk about Robert E. Lee being a brilliant military tactician, they chanted about Jews,” she said. “They wanted to be menacing, it’s not an accident.”
After a commercial break, Reeve also explained what she learned about the white supremacists’ relationships with each other and plans to try to get publicity. “These guys didn’t live together, hang out together, they just swarmed together online,” she said. “They also are focusing on what they call aesthetics. They want to look middle-class, successful, good-looking. They don’t want to look like the old, as they called it, ‘white trash’ racists of the old times.”
Reeve has been back to Charlottesville since the show aired, and the reaction to the reporting has been overwhelmingly positive. “I got stopped in the street by people in tears because they were happy that I showed what really happened,” she said. As for the usual media argument to not give coverage to white supremacist groups so as not to amplify them, she disagrees.
“I think it’s important to let these white nationalists talk and explain their arguments, so that we know what they are, so that we can counter them,” she said. “It’s just critical, I think, to expose what they believe, because they are drawing in very young adherents and we have to be able to fight that.”