The Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville was widely regarded as a massive PR failure for the alt-right. The fear that white supremacist organizers attempted to instill through strength of numbers was largely undercut by absurdity of grown men chanting Nazi slogans while carrying tiki torches. And any moral high ground they were seeking through peaceful protest was lost when an alt-right affiliated young man drove his car through a crowd, injuring several protestors and killing Heather Heyer.
Since Charlottesville, the alt-right has mostly licked its wounds, as participants in the rally were identified and fired from their jobs, or put under arrest. If their rally had any meaningful effect, it attracted the attention and condemnation of the media, and ignited massive protests across the United States in resistance to white supremacy.
However, in the past day, alt-right figures and communities looking to absolve themselves of the embarrassment of the rally have placed the blame for Heather’s death elsewhere. Circulating an interview with Heather’s mother with additional videos taken during the march, Hunter Wallace (real name Brad Griffin), the operator of the white nationalist WordPress blog Occidental Dissent, claims that the driver is not responsible for Heather’s death.
Griffin claims that Heather died of a heart attack following the impact of the car hitting the crowd. He claims to have identified her in videos walking the day of the rally and later during video of the car’s impact with the crowd, even though there does not appear to be a significant resemblance between the woman in his video, and the pictures that Heather Heyer had posted to her Facebook page.
Regardless of whether or not Heather did die of a heart attack, it’s not exactly a convincing argument for absolving the driver of the car, James Fields, Jr., of murder. He still drove a vehicle purposefully into a crowd with the apparent intent to injure, and his actions still caused injury and death.
Despite the slipshod nature of his argument and evidence, Other Alt-Right figures ran with Griffin’s story, spreading the rumor and going a step further: ridiculing Heather Heyer for her weight, as if her death was something she deserved. Mormon alt-right figurehead Ayla Stewart (@apurposefulwife) shared Griffin’s tweet, blaming mainstream media for misrepresentation.
It’s unsurprising that Ayla would spread this unverified information: when initial reports were coming out of Charlottesville, she asserted the driver of the vehicle that struck the protesters was not affiliated with the alt-right.
Days later, when it became clear that James Fields was the driver of the car, and that he had attended the rally and was pictured with a white supremacist group, she attempted to cast Heather Heyer as a rioter affiliated with Antifa.
Since then, she has continued to spread conspiracy theories that the violence that occurred at the Unite the Right Rally was staged.
Other users of white supremacist and alt-right oriented social media sites have spread this story far and wide, shamelessly willing themselves to believe that Heather Heyer’s death was entirely her own fault, whether or not she was struck by the car.
Many have gone so far to invent that Heather suffered from an eating disorder. The Gab.ai posts below include a smattering of self-absolution and spite.
Discussion on Voat didn’t significantly differ. The same general potshots were made about Heyer’s weight, and no sympathy was felt for the family that lost a daughter to a young man radicalized into white nationalism.