The Charlottesville, Virginia violence that resulted in three dead has placed increased public focus on historical monuments around the country. While the Charlottesville protest and counter-protest involved Confederate statues, the Left is now setting its sights on all monuments that can be construed as enshrining “racism.”
In a highly circulated op-ed, VICE writer Wilbert L. Cooper says he would be supportive of Mt. Rushmore being “blown up” because of the alleged racist legacy of the famous presidents it depicts. Since its initial publishing, VICE has issued an edited version of Cooper’s piece, removing the “blown up” language, and stating the publication does not condone violence.
Wilbert Cooper, the author of this piece, began with the question: “Donald Trump says removing Confederate statues is a slippery slope that could get out of control. Maybe he’s right—would that be such a bad thing?” Cooper asserts that it would be a positive, not a negative, to begin taking down ALL historical monuments–not just Confederate ones.
Cooper argues that state-sponsored monuments are not just representations of history. For him, they are “manifestations of power.” As such, they are inherently propagandist and intimidating. And they automatically “flatten out nuances and turn flawed individuals into tools of propaganda that bolster a kind of religious patriotism.”
As a result, the writer affirms he is against all state-created monuments–and declares he would be in support of destroying Mt. Rushmore if the opportunity ever presented itself, although he believes that moment is unlikely to arrive with a president who “justifies neo-Nazism.”
“With the president of the United States basically justifying neo-Nazism, it seems unthinkable that we will ever see a day when there is a serious push to blow up Rushmore and other monuments like it. But if that moment ever arrives, I suspect I’d be onboard.”
The editorial board at VICE issued a retraction of the violent language, a re-write of the article and an apology in an editor’s note: “The headline and URL of this story have been updated. We do not condone violence in any shape or form, and the use of ‘blow up’ in the original headline as a rhetorical device was misguided and insensitive. We apologize for the error.”
Although the writer’s edited article continues to call for the destruction of Mt. Rushmore, the four presidents whose faces are on it are not racist icons. Although Washington and Jefferson owned slaves, they did so to their discomfort, believing it to be the necessary economic evil of the day. Washington even freed his slaves upon his death.
Abraham Lincoln was the Great Emancipator. And Teddy Roosevelt took incremental steps to improve the conditions of African-Americans. Of all the monuments that can be singled out for racism, Mt. Rushmore is at the bottom of the contender’s list.
The op-ed’s stance that President Trump is “justifying neo-Nazism” has been prevalent in the mainstream media for the last several days. On Twitter, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote that Trump “defended neo-Nazis and blamed those who condemn their racism and hate.” However, Trump’s actual words at the Charlottesville press conference, as transcribed by The New York Times, are inconsistent with that interpretation of his remarks.
During his back and forth with reporters, Trump stated on several occasions that he had “condemned neo-Nazis,” and that they should be “condemned totally.” His assertion about “both sides” is that there were violent, armed Antifa members among the counter-protesters, a fact reported by The Los Angeles Times.
During that press conference, President Trump claimed that the removal of Confederate statues would lead to a slippery slope in which the Left would want to eliminate tributes to ALL historical figures.
While Trump said it as a way of painting the far Left’s cultural war as absurd, they appear to have taken his words as an order–as seen in the VICE article. With tensions so high in the country, the push to take down monuments of historical relevance seems likely to continue. And this threatens the accurate recording of US history.