After the truly shocking vehicle attack in Charlottesville on Saturday which killed one and injured at least 19 others, senior politicians, media figures and, eventually, the President of the United States, came out to denounce white supremacist organisations. However the nature of some of their condemnations seemed phoney and hypocritical, devoid from the realities of the often toxic spheres which they themselves inhabit. Throughout modern times, elements of both the political class and the mainstream media have been embroiled with scandals and controversies. When the levels of moral corruption at the top levels of society are high, then violence caused by emboldened groups in lower socioeconomic classes becomes inevitable.
Examples of inflammatory and hateful rhetoric among US politicians are not difficult to find. Despite condemning the Charlottesville rally, Republican Senator Lindsay Graham has previously publically stated that he believes 'Iranians are liars.' Current White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon has been accused of homophobic, misogynistic and Islamophobic speech on numerous occasions, and Ted Cruz, second to Trump in the Republican leadership race in 2016, called for police to 'patrol and secure' ordinary Muslim neighbourhoods during his campaign, and yet after Charlottesville accused those responsible for being 'bigots who want to tear our country apart.' Bill O'Reilly, former host of The O'Reilly Factor - the most watched cable news programme in the US for over 14 consecutive years - repeatedly made disparaging comments against minorities, including claiming that many African-Americans were 'ill-educated and have tattoos on their foreheads.'
Of course, this is just scratching the surface, and doesn't even mention the brash and divisive language of the President himself, including his recent astonishing remarks in which he levelled blame at the 'alt-left and apparently called some of the white supremacists at Charlottesville 'fine people.' The fact is that when the highest profile individuals within a nation are responsible for essentially urging their citizens to view entire societal groups and minorities through the lens of suspicion and mistrust, then like a spreading cancer, this attitude seeps down to the ordinary folk in society. Given the backdrop of slanderous, sweepingly stereotypical verbal attacks that the political and media elite have levelled against minorities over recent years, there is a strange irony to these same individuals condemning the Charlottesville attacks as though they had nothing to do with them.
The moral corruption of the elites extends beyond simply their words, however. Fox News has recently faced a sexual harassment scandal dating back decades, which has caused the resignation of senior figures including CEO Roger Ailes, and Bill O'Reilly himself. Sex scandals have embroiled several governmental figures in recent years, spanning all sides of the political spectrum.
The highest echelons of society are no strangers to financial controversies either. Whether it be the former Mayor of New Orleans using the Hurricane Katrina disaster funds to pocket bribes, or the revelation that Bill and Hillary Clinton together earned over $153 million in paid speeches over 15 years, or Trump considering himself 'smart' for not paying his fair share of income tax, it clear that trust between citizen and politician is weaker than it should be.
Even though there are great numbers of caring and decent politicians and media figures who serve their country with dignity and honour, still we live in a culture in which it has become acceptable for many to cheat and lie. Those whom we expect to uphold the law, often consider themselves to be above it. In this context, though the abhorrent behaviour of neo-Nazis and white supremacists is on a different level of evil, it could be argued that they are the inevitable worst products of a morally corrupt system, which at its very core, sees the fulfilment of personal desires at its highest ambition.
After Charlottesville, for the political elites to condemn white supremacists and move on is not enough. Simply denouncing terrorism will not prevent future incidents of it. What can prevent it is to completely remove the climate in which such heinous far-right groups are able to thrive. Therefore as well as the hearings and policy reviews into tackling domestic terrorism that are required, also necessary is a greater sense of accountability on the part of those in the highest rungs of society. Furthermore, removing the climate for the alt-right to gain traction involves those with political influence working together to demonstrate more compassion towards minority groups, currently dehumanised by the sweepingly toxic rhetoric which is heard on an almost daily basis.
If we fail to truly realise the commonality that we all possess, and the hopes and dreams that each of us shares, regardless of our faith or ethnicity or gender, then acts of mass violence and terrorism may haunt us for years to come. The election of President Trump signalled an appetite within the nation for a kind of political revolution, and a weariness towards typical establishment politics. However to truly reform our world for the better, it is a moral revolution that we first need.