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Today’s Hearing on White Nationalism and Hate Crimes Was Even More of a Mess Than You’d Expect

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - AUGUST 12: Hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the 'alt-right' are confronted by protesters as they march down East Market Street toward Emancipation Park during the 'Unite the Right' rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. After clashes with anti-fascist protesters and police the rally was declared an unlawful gathering and people were forced out of Emancipation Park, where a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is slated to be removed.

Today, the United States House Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on hate crimes and the rise of white nationalism, and it was even more of a mess than you might have guessed just based on the subject matter—or not, if you’re all caught up on how this conversation has been going outside of Congress lately.

At this point, the problem of people’s ignorance—feigned or real—of the rise of right-wing extremism and white supremacist/white nationalist ideology has become its own well-known problem, with The New York Times famously catching backlash for writing that “we” missed the problem when many people have been trying to get everyone else to take it seriously. That’s all played out alongside proponents of such ideology and hate pretending that it’s all just a big joke, and that anyone taking it seriously is imagining things.

That, of course, continued at today’s hearing in the House, and YouTube had to turn off the chat on its livestream because it predictably became flooded with hatewhile a representative from Google told the Committee, “Hate speech and violent speech have no place on YouTube.” (Anyone who’s ever been on YouTube knows that both of those things have found a home there, regardless.)

The ridiculousness continued when Republicans had Candace Owens—of InfoWars fame, as well as claiming the left organized attempted bombings to pin on the right and weaponizing people’s personal tragedy against their own beliefs—testify, and Rep. Ted Lieu sat back and played audio of Owens saying she likes “nationalism,” but that “it’s globalism that I try to avoid,” going on to talk about Hitler:

“If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well — OK, fine. The problem is … he had dreams outside of Germany. He wanted to globalize. He wanted everybody to be German.”

Owens, of course, says the words were deliberately taken out of context, just an answer to a question about nationalism vs. globalism, and that Hitler “was a homicidal, psychopathic maniac that killed his own people. A nationalist would not kill their own people.” However, she seems to think the point is whether or not she’s on the side of Nazis, rather than that her understanding of the topic at hand is woefully misinformed at best.

Lieu wasn’t the only one with a rebuke for Owens. Ava DuVernay herself took to Twitter to correct her understanding of history on a subject she’s very familiar with:

Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter if you’re actively for the most extreme of white nationalist beliefs. Confusing the issue by trying to justify any and all of the ideology as long as it doesn’t include literal genocide is helping advance the very worst it has to offer. That’s exactly what happens time and time again, with a smokescreen put up by those who benefit from this kind of hate.

As long as this bad faith conversation continues, it’s unlikely anything will improve.

[featured image: Hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the ‘alt-right’ are confronted by protesters as they march down East Market Street toward Emancipation Park during the ‘Unite the Right’ rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. After clashes with anti-fascist protesters and police the rally was declared an unlawful gathering and people were forced out of Emancipation Park, where a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is slated to be removed (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)]

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Dan is a video game modding hobbyist and secret ninja who lives in North Carolina with his wife, Lisa Brown, and his dog, Liz Lemon, both of whom are the best.

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