Over the past few months, it’s been glaringly obvious how the mainstream media uses sensationalism and selective coverage to help Trump and the right-wing push their agenda of demonizing the Black Lives Matter protesters as violent anarchists while ignoring the threat that white supremacist militia groups pose to the public and their role in provoking violence at otherwise peaceful marches.
On Thursday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MIN) took to Twitter and shone a spotlight on a deeply disturbing video in which right-wing would-be terrorists in Salem, Oregon applaud a speaker who proclaims that Democratic leaders should be “shot dead in the streets” and trashed LGBTQIA rights as the “pedophilia agenda.”
When the President said ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts’ this is the kind of rhetoric he’s normalizing.
And while Trump and his party own these threats, and the violence that comes with them, the worst part is they *know* they do.
And they don't care.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) September 8, 2020
The mainstream media’s obsessive coverage of the riots and their “oBjeCtiVe” “both sides” coverage of Trump’s relentless efforts to link the protests with the Joe Biden campaign is part of a deliberate campaign to delegitimize the demands of the Black Lives Matter protestors and push the Biden campaign further to the right when it comes to racial relations and dealing with the police. In recent days, they have provoked Biden into denouncing the protesters who broke a few windows in the same breath as he condemned the right-wing militiaman who murdered two people with an assault rifle, two crimes which are drastically different in severity but are presented by Biden as equally heinous acts.
The sight of a burning CVS makes for great footage but ultimately is nothing compared to the value of someone’s life, and by obsessing over the violence and feeding the right-wing narrative that “outside agitators” and faceless, ethereal “anarchists” are responsible for the unrest, they are pulling the focus away from the Black activists who organize the protests and who are dedicated to making substantial changes in America’s murderous police forces.
At the same time, they have little desire to cover the heavily armed and proudly racist right-wingers that deliberately provoke conflict with BLM protesters at the President’s urging, which shifts the public perception of blame to the protests (over which 90% are peaceful) and away from real instigators of violence.
Nor do they have much desire to cover the thousands of peaceful protests that kept on happening for months after the George Floyd murder — as soon as the violence ended, so did the coverage:
“As long as there were riots and looting, television news helicopters descended upon their respective cities, with organizers lamenting online that the media wasn’t interested in stories beyond those of broken windows, pepper spray, and vandalized storefronts…Early news reports of the protests focused heavily on images of fires, overturned vehicles, and elevated scenes that distorted what was really taking place on the ground, with some pointing out that coverage seemed to exploit Black pain and violence.” writes Fabiola Cineas at VOX.
By focusing only on the Black Lives Matter riots and not the right-wing terrorists who seek to provoke violence, the media is actively reinforcing Donald Trump’s racist messaging which explicitly links violence to the Joe Biden campaign and absurdly promises that violence will come to the white suburbs if Biden wins — and whitewashing the dire threat that right-wing terrorism poses to the American public.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.