Jason Kessler On His 'Unite The Right' Rally Move To D.C.
NOEL KING, HOST:
All week, we've been remembering the tragic events of Charlottesville's "Unite the Right" rally. It's been a year since young white men openly marched through the city, chanting, Jews will not replace us. A white supremacist drove a car through a crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer. A police helicopter monitoring the rally crashed, killing two officers. Now, given all of that, it's hard to understand why organizer Jason Kessler would want a follow-up, but he does. He's organized another "Unite the Right" rally this weekend in Washington, D.C., on the one-year anniversary of the violent Charlottesville rally. We spoke with Kessler earlier this week. And full disclosure - some of what you're about to hear is racist and offensive. I started by asking Kessler what he believes.
JASON KESSLER: I'm not a white supremacist. I'm not even a white nationalist. I consider myself a civil and human rights advocate focusing on the under-represented Caucasian demographic.
KING: The under-represented Caucasian demographic. In what ways are white people in America under-represented?
KESSLER: Well, because they're the only group that is not allowed to organize into political organizations and lobbies and talk explicitly about what interests are important to them as a people. You have blacks, who are able to organize with Black Lives Matter or the NAACP. You have Jews, who have the ADL. Muslims have CAIR.
KING: You say that white people are not allowed to organize around issues that are important to them. I don't really understand what you mean. Are you saying the government blocks people - blocks white people from organizing into groups?
KESSLER: It's not that there are laws specifically prohibiting white people from organizing as a lobby. But there is such a stigma around it where white people can do the exact same thing that another group of people do, and it's called supremacy, but if the other group does it, it's called civil rights.
KING: You are going to march on Washington this weekend, legally, with the permission of the National Park Service. What do you hope to accomplish?
KESSLER: Well, my No. 1 goal is to make sure that it's peaceful. No. 2, I think that we have to stand up for the First Amendment because the First Amendment is under attack, you know, if not legally, in practice. When people are too afraid to...
KING: Once again, Mr. Kessler, you are about to march on Washington. How is the First Amendment under attack in your case?
KESSLER: Well, I'm trying to explain it to you, but you're not listening. What...
KING: OK. Please tell me. Tell me. Tell me.
KESSLER: ...The problem is is that, legally, I have the right. It's not that the police are trying to oppress me or that the government is trying to oppress me. Who is trying to oppress the rights of white folks who are standing up for themselves are antifa, who come there to use violence to shut down speech, and this has been documented. I mean, there are riots happening in Portland, in Berkeley, all over. You just think that there's one side to that?
KING: Mr. Kessler, one of the people you've invited to the rally this weekend has left messages on the answering machines of Jewish-Americans, saying that the Holocaust didn't happen. You've also invited a former grand wizard of the KKK, David Duke. You've invited a public neo-Nazi supporter. Why are these people invited to your rally?
KESSLER: I don't think you know anything about my rally. I haven't announced who the speakers are yet to anybody. You're going based on left-wing rumor mills.
KING: I'm citing the National Park Service, sir.
KESSLER: OK. And I've publicly stated numerous times that I do not want neo-Nazis at my rally, and they're not welcome.
KING: So you're telling NPR you don't want any neo-Nazis. We can broadcast that.
KESSLER: Yes. Absolutely. I've been putting that out on Twitter, and these people are attacking me. I'm getting attacked by the far-left and the far-right because I believe that extremism is not where we need to go right now.
KING: But then why hold a rally?
KESSLER: After this rally is over, I'm hoping that it will be peaceful, and I can have a conversation or a debate with people from Black Lives Matter or antifa because I think we've got to get back to dialogue.
KING: At this point in our conversation, I wanted to get a better sense of Kessler's beliefs about the differences in races. He references the work of political scientist Charles Murray, most famously known for the book "The Bell Curve," which questioned the IQ and genetics of other races compared to whites. Murray's work has been debunked by scientists and sociologists and is deemed racist by many.
You say that you're not a white supremacist, but you do think there are differences between races. What are the differences?
KESSLER: I'm not a human biologist. You can go and look into that. There's people like Charles Murray who study that. There are differences in mental life just like there are in physical life. I mean, it's ridiculous to say that, you know, there are no differences in height, let's say, between a Pygmy and a Scandinavian. So if we acknowledge that there are physical differences, obviously, there are differences in behavior, in levels of aggression, in intelligence, in, you know, bone density, et cetera, et cetera. But that's...
KING: Do you think that white people are smarter than black people?
KESSLER: There is enormous variation between individuals, but the IQ testing is pretty clear that it seems like Ashkenazi Jews rate the highest in intelligence, then Asians, then white people, then Hispanic people and black people. And that's - there's enormous variance. But just as a matter of science, that IQ testing is pretty clear.
KING: You don't sound like someone who wants to unite people when you say something like that. You sound like somebody who wants to tick people off.
KESSLER: (Laughter) Well, you sound like somebody who doesn't respect science. If science doesn't comport to your...
KING: Oh, come on.
KESSLER: ...Social justice religion...
KING: Charles Murray?
KESSLER: ...I would challenge you...
KING: Charles Murray? Really?
KESSLER: Bring up some scientific studies that conflict with what I'm saying. If you don't have them...
KING: Basically, any scientist that is not Charles Murray...
KESSLER: ...Then we should just move on because I'm not telling you what I want to believe is true. If I was telling you what I want to believe is true and I'm a white supremacist, why don't I say white people are smarter than everybody else and we're better at everything?
KING: I do wonder - you talk about peace. You talk about telling your people to just stay on their side of the fence. Given what happened last year, is a rally really the right way to go about having this dialogue that you want so badly?
KESSLER: People don't want to have a conversation right now. You...
KING: You do, though.
KESSLER: ...Have to force the conversation.
KING: Come on. You do. You've said you do. You're the leader of the group.
KESSLER: I do. I do want to have a conversation.
KING: You organized this. So do it on a couch. Don't do it in the street.
KESSLER: I think the public square is the last place that we have a right to. People say, well, it's OK to censor Jason Kessler or Alex Jones or whoever from YouTube and Facebook because those are private companies, yet when I'm trying to go into a public park and exercise my rights, then you say I shouldn't do that either. Why not go back to YouTube? So there's really no place that it's OK for me to speak.
KING: All right. That was Jason Kessler. He organized last year's Charlottesville rally and this weekend's "Unite the Right" rally in Washington, D.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.