People are not simple: Notes and analysis of a recording of the Charlottesville vehicle attack

As I try to make sense of the horror that has unfolded in Charlottesville, there’s an eyewitness video that fascinates me. Recorded by a Trump supporter who joined a crowd of Black Lives Matter protestors, it includes live footage of the vehicle attack.

The facts of the recording

Faith Goldy’s Periscope video where she is narrowly missed by the vehicle attack. Click with caution —there is a scene of violence, and scenes of medical care after the violence. Notes below.

Start: Ms Goldy is very clearly unhappy that the counter-protest (to the alt-right protest) is ‘being allowed to happen’. At this time, she interprets the absence of police as tacit support for the protest. The comments at this time are pretty typical partisanship. Some of it is pretty horrible, eg “We need a civil war to sort out this shit.”

2:00 “Are you with the alt-right? Get away from here!” Despite openly talking about her disagreement with the surrounding protest, the worst thing that ever happens is a woman shouting “Get away from here!” There’s no reasonable doubt that she’s reporting on a peaceful protest.

2:30 “HOLY SHIT!” The attack happens. She takes cover in a concrete alcove. Comments are shocked. Some particularly disgusting commenters point and laugh.

3:10 Tone has changed completely. Now, she’s trying to document the attack that she didn’t intend to film, and the aftermath. We also see the first Nazi/Germanic icon in the comments (@Venedith666), saying ‘Please get out of there’.

4:30 “Literally, there are no police for the first time today.”

5:45 She complies with a request to move away from the casualties to allow medics to get through the crowd.

8:38 @Venedith666 in comments, desperate to get her to leave the area. She shows the human cost of the attack.

11:20 Reporter collects an eyewitness statement. Starts thinking about talking to the police.

12:24 “Well, we learned at least one important lesson today. When the cops don’t show up to these things, it’s not good news for anyone.”

13:00 Starts actively trying to gather information & provide information to police

13:55 @Venedith666: “I’m telling Blair Cottrell that your putting yourself in dangerous situations like this”

14:15 @Venedith666: “If you won’t listen to me, hopefully you’ll listen to him”

End: A number of commenters have said that they want her to stop the video so that they can rewind and get the license plate of the car. Others have provided a license plate number. Ms Goldy says that she’s going to stop recording for now, and be back soon. However, this is the most recent recording on her Periscope account.

Who are Venedith666 and Blair Cottrell?

The @Venedith666 periscope account links to a Twitter account of the same name. That account follows @blaircotterell89, who is probably the “Blair Cotterell” named in comments. The Venedit666 account doesn’t say much, it just follows people.

@blaircottrell89’s user info on Twitter states “Carpenter from Melbourne. Banned by Facebook. Hated by the media. Charged by the State Gov for ‘inciting ridicule of Muslims.’ Hearing begins in September.”

Police statement accusing Blair Cottrell of incitement to racial hatred. (Courtesy of Blair Cottrell’s Twitter feed. Permission to reproduce assumed by the author of this essay.)

Who is Faith Goldy?

Faith Goldy reports for fringe media site The Rebel, and does interviews with Infowars from time to time, as well as pieces for more mainstream media outlets. As an eyewitness to the Charlottesville attack, she has been in demand lately. She has answered this question in her own words. (The still images that you’ll see at those links could probably be the subject of 2000-word case studies using the Facial Action Coding System, but I digress.)

She says that she wants a respectful debate. In her Twitter account, she features an Iron Cross and a Canadian flag in her username, in her user picture, she poses with an assault rifle. She seems to maintain connections with some people whose idea of ‘respectful debate’ is not the same as my idea of ‘respectful debate’. There are some pretty seriously mixed messages there.

Some say that when you see someone under extreme stress, you see the truth of who they really are. Under extreme stress, Faith Goldy was shocked, she retreated for a moment, then she focused her efforts on understanding what was happening around her, and sharing that understanding. When it became clear that she had witnessed an attack, she made efforts to bring the perpetrator to justice.

I disagree with her politics. I disagree that Trump is not to blame. I disagree with her belief that multiculturalism is bad. I found her news story on ‘Immigrants sneaking into our country across the Southern border’ hilarious; mainly because she’s Canadian. (One wonders if Trudeau should build a wall.)

If there is ever going to be peace, I think we need to acknowledge her humanity. We need to get past the urge to call her a racist and start building a bridge. That’s the only way we’re ever going to get over it.

Human beings are complicated and messy. They defy simple characterizations. And they have brains that are built to generate and apply simple characterizations. Therein lies the glory and the tragedy.

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