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Douglas Andrews / Jun. 3, 2020

Riots and the Media

Between excusing the riots and over-covering them, the media gets it wrong.

On March 19, 2019, President Donald Trump ramped up his war on the mainstream media when he tweeted, “The Fake News Media has NEVER been more Dishonest or Corrupt than it is right now. … Fake News is the absolute Enemy of the People and our Country itself!”

This wasn’t the first time Trump had vilified certain elements of the Fourth Estate, and it won’t be the last. But we think he’s onto something. And given the reporting we’ve seen during the past week’s riots, it’s clear that the media never got the message.

From the onset of the protests that followed the awful death in police custody of George Floyd, the mainstream media failed us. The lies are legion, large and small, and they began at ground zero with this whopper, tweeted by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and retold in various forms on various networks and in print: “We are now confronting white supremacists, members of organized crime, out of state instigators, and possibly even foreign actors to destroy and destabilize our city and our region.” (The multifaceted lie that U.S. Park Police used “tear gas” on a group of “peaceful” protesters at Lafayette Park had to wait its turn.)

But while the media dutifully lapped up the “white supremacists” canard, they offered no evidence of it. Anywhere. And Mayor Frey, for his part, has mostly gone cold mic since then, having issued just a single tweet after firing off dozens of them during the first few days of the riots.

The Federalist’s John Daniel Davidson provides numerous examples of the media’s duplicity, though, from white supremacy to “peaceful protests” to the ominous warning of CNN’s Don Lemon that we’re “teetering on a dictatorship.”

Regarding Lemon, Davidson quips, “Every once in a while, you get a pundit who’s so bad at lying, so unconvincing in his role as a serious newsman, the mask slips.”

As for these riots, however, there’s a qualitative difference between lies that merely mislead and lies that actually enable and foment further violence. And there’s certainly some evidence that the media have also engaged in the latter. Here, Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey asks two important questions: “Has the national media’s focus on violence crowded out attention on legitimate protests? Is cable news fueling a cycle of violence by essentially glorifying it in prime time?”

Put another way, has the media’s 24-hour sensationalism hurt the cause of justice for George Floyd? And has it also provoked would-be peaceful protesters to escalate their actions?

It’s hard to say, but as the Associated Press reports, “civil rights” activist Al Sharpton is worried that the coverage of the violence — as opposed to the violence itself — may result in a backlash. “If you only display … this whole ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ media obsession, then in many ways you are hurting George Floyd all over again,” he says. “Because he becomes a side story to the tragedy of what happened and to the pursuit of justice.”

Sharpton’s failure to roundly and repeatedly condemn the rioting is inexcusable, but he has a point about the coverage. “Justice” for George Floyd has never been about loading flatscreen TVs onto a flatcart, or torching minority-owned businesses, or defacing national monuments, and the media would do well to make that point again and again rather than trying to excuse or ignore it.

We’re not exaggerating. Here’s an MSNBC reporter almost literally saying, “There’s nothing to see here…”

(The editors at the Washington Free Beacon provide more detail on the media’s role as Praetorian Guard for the rioters.)

As for the president’s incendiary claim that the “Fake News Media has NEVER been more Dishonest or Corrupt than it is right now,” well, we can just picture the folks at CNN and MSNBC chortling, “Hold our beers!”

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