Music | January 12, 2021 10:46 am

Neil Young Says He Has “Empathy” for Capitol Rioters

"We don't need this hate," he said. "We need discussion and solutions."

Neil Young
Neil Young attends a press conference for Farm Aid 34 at Alpine Valley Music Theatre on September 21, 2019 in East Troy, Wisconsin.
Getty Images for Shock Ink

It’s been almost a week since rioters stormed the Capitol and attempted to stop the certification of a free and fair election, and we’re all still reeling. That includes none other than Neil Young, who recently posted a somewhat controversial message about the attack on his website calling for empathy for the insurrectionists who were manipulated and misled by Trump.

“Sadness and compassion hit me last night as I watched fellow Americans telling their stories,” he wrote. “A young lady in tears spoke of being maced in the Capital [sic]. She was crying because she had been attacked and all she was doing was trying to have her voice heard in this Revolution. She was one of thousands who have been carrying the feeling of being persecuted for their beliefs, their feeling that American power just didn’t care. This, to me, is beyond my own feelings that our president has betrayed people, exaggerated and amplified the truth to foment hatred. Resentment of the Democratic party among the insurrectionists at the Capitol was rampant. We don’t need this hate. We need discussion and solutions. Respect for one another’s beliefs. Not hatred.”

Young also pointed out the hypocrisy in how the rioters were treated by police compared to how Black Lives Matter protestors were treated by them this past summer. “I was devastated to see the double standard,” he said. “The way people were treated in the BLM demonstrations recently, compared to the other day. There is no place here for White Supremacy. People need each other to be truly free. Hatred will never find Freedom.”

“I learned that some of the people storming the Capitol were police themselves, and gained peaceful entry by showing their badges,” he continued. “I was shocked to see the Confederate flag being waved inside the chamber; the destruction and disrespect. But mostly I felt bad for the people. With social media, issues are turned into psychological weapons and used to gather hatred in support of one side or another. That is what Donald J. Trump has as his legacy.”

“I still have my strong beliefs,” he clarified. “That has not changed. But now I feel empathy for the people who have been so manipulated and had their beliefs used as political weapons. I may be among them. I wish internet news was two-sided. Both sides represented on the same programs. Social media, at the hands of powerful people — influencers, amplifying lies and untruths, is crippling our belief system, turning us against one another. We are not enemies. We must find a way home.”

Young’s message echoes many similar calls for unity and healing in the wake of the attack, and while it certainly is sad that some people were brainwashed into believing conspiracy theories, it raises questions about whether or not this situation really warrants reaching across the aisle. White supremacists and neo-Nazis are our enemies, and they were painfully present during the attack. Someone who waves a Confederate flag inside the Capitol after violently forcing their way inside is not simply a person who got bamboozled by Trump; he is a racist, waving a racist symbol that countless people died to prevent from ever making its way to that historic building, and there is absolutely no middle ground to be found with him. And those who were there because they had been sucked in by Trump’s lies still knew who they were aligning themselves with, and they still violently tried to stage a coup that killed five people. They saw the Proud Boys and the guys in “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirts and they stood and fought alongside them. It’s true that, as Young says, this is Donald Trump’s legacy, but maybe this isn’t the best example of a situation where both sides need to come together.

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