25 March 2019
Lord of The Flies Vs. The Unite The Right March
Many comparisons can be made between William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and the August 2017 Unite the Right march in Charlottesville. Lord of the flies, is a fantasy novel about a group of boys who got stranded on a remote island after their plane crashed. The conflicts within the novel range from the self conflict experienced by Jack, the primary antagonist, to the clash between civilized behavior and the savage ideals which culminate in the killings of two boys. During the Unite the Right march, white supremacist groups gathered to espouse their views, including the idea that non-whites and Jews were “destroying” America and must be stopped. Some of them went so far as to call for ethnic cleansing. During the rally, several conflicts erupted between the Unite the Right marchers and counter-protesters. The most significant act of violence occurred when James Fields, a Unite the Right supporter, drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters striking and killing Heather Heyer.
During his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly made incendiary comments that encouraged violence by his supporters against non-supporters, while complaining about political correctness. For the march in Charlottesville, Trump can be compared to Jack for his role in emboldening hate speech and increasing outward displays of hatred including violence, leading up to the Charlottesville rally. James Fields is like Rodger who acted on his savage impulses killing Piggy, and the internet is like the mask worn by Jack and his followers to conceal their identities and free themselves from fear, self-consciousness and remorse.
In chapter four of Lord of the Flies, Painted Faces and Long Hair, Jack paints his face using red and white clay and a stick of charcoal brought from the fire. He painted one eye socket and cheek white, the other half of his face red, and drew a black bar with charcoal from his right ear to his left jaw. After constructing his face he peered into a coconut for his reflection and was so appalled at his new face that he leapt to his feat spilling the coconut water. “He began to dance and his laughter became a bloodthirsty snarling… and the mask was a thing on its own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness” (Golding 64). This quote exemplifies that the mask gave Jack the freedom to unleash his savage nature. At first the mask and the savagery it stood for was a thing that Jack could hide behind, but it would later become Jack. Eventually, Jack was able to stand by his savage ideals and present them publicly without hiding behind the mask-- so much so that those ideals would become the reason for his existence.
The internet provides a mask for hate group members to hide behind. Through social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, video platforms such as YouTube, online funding vehicles including PayPal and GoFundMe, hate-based websites and activities on the dark web, white supremacists find each other, promote ideas of hatred and violence and secure funding for their activities. Following Charlottesville, action was taken by all of the internet companies listed above to clamp down on hate speech and the promotion of violence as well as the funding of hate groups. This has forced many hate groups to utilize the dark web where their sites can’t be accessed by ordinary search engines and where individuals can remain anonymous. Prior to Charlottesville, anyone who wished to know about the kinds of white supremacist groups that united there, could do so through any number of internet outlets without fear of being discovered. Research by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that hate group organizers, speakers and individuals used the web to raise and distribute money for the march in Charlottesville. Like Jack’s followers, the Unite the Right marchers eventually became bold enough to leave the safety of online anonymity and share their views in public while demonstrating their willingness to perpetuate acts of violence.
While the rise in hate groups cannot be laid completely at Donald Trump’s feet, there is evidence that suggests he contributed to that rise. According to an analysis of data accrued by the Anti-Defamation League, hate crimes rose by 266% in counties where Trump rallies were held. Also, the FBI reported a 17% increase in hate crimes in the first year of the Trump presidency. During or following his rallies, Trump was cited for promoting violence numerous times. For example, at a Cedar Rapids, Iowa rally, Trump said, “Knock the crap out of him, would you? I promise you, I will pay your legal fees.” This was not the first time that Trump promised to cover legal fees if his supporters became violent with non-supporters. Trump also made derogatory comments about Mexicans, Muslims and the countries of Africa, sentiments widely shared by white supremacists while simultaneously encouraging his supporters to free themselves from the burden of political correctness. Finally, well known white supremacists and rally participants, David Duke and Richard Spencer, both publicly supported Trump’s candidacy.
When Jack left the group, many of the other boys joined him and would soon conceal their faces with the clay and charcoal. One night the boys formed a circle around the fire. They began to chant and the chanting went from excitement to a beating pulse. As they saw something emerge from the forest that they thought was the beast, a deadman that they thought was a monster, they ran toward it yelling, “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!” Jack’s authority and words lead the others to act like savages and kill Simon, and, like the march in Charlottesville, passions are inflamed by chanting.
Later in the book, when Ralph, Piggy, Eric, and Sam got to Castle Rock, where the Savages had their fort, to try to retrieve Piggy’s glasses, they’re confronted by the Savages. When piggie speaks, Roger, one of the savages, uses a stick to pry a boulder loose and send it over a cliff. The boulder bounded across the neck of Castle Rock and, “The rock struck Piggy a glancing blow from chin to knee; the conch (which was previously used for speaking) exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist. Piggy, saying nothing, with no time for even a grunt, traveled through the air sideways from the rock, turning over as he went. Piggie fell forty feet and landed opened and stuff came out and turned red” (Golding 181). The conflict between the two groups, the freedom to express savagery that had become a part of their daily existence, and the support of his peers pushed Roger, to go so far as to commit murder.
Like Roger, James Fields was emboldened by the support of his peers. He was not the leader. He was one of the Savages who had removed the mask to make his hatred known publicly. Inflamed by words of hatred and threats of violence he acts on his savage impulse and hurls a deadly object, his car, toward the counter protesters ultimately killing one of them just as Roger killed Piggy.
In the Lord of the Flies, Jack abandons the more egalitarian society favored by Ralph and others and draws his followers into a way of life where they think and act outside of the constraints of good conscience. Likewise, Donald Trump moved millions of people, enough for him to win the election, toward a society where political correctness is set aside and contempt for other points of view is encouraged. The rise in hate crimes, particularly in those counties where Trump held rallies provides some evidence of his impact. The mask provides Jack and his followers a way to hide their identities, to hide themselves from themselves, in order to free themselves from self-consciousness, fear and remorse. Like the mask, the internet provided a way to hide that allowed people to anonymously learn about white supremacy, share their opinions and receive validation from others. Some eventually became so emboldened that they were ready to remove the mask and march in Charlottesville. The march became like the Savage’s circling around the fire, which was made complete with their chanting. The Unite the Right marchers now experienced the freedom to express their hatred for non-whites and Jews along with the power of their numbers. Before it was over, one of the marchers, James Fields, forced the bolder off the cliff, demonstrating the ultimate savagery by killing another human being.
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