Where is the mainstream coverage of the political violence in Providence over the weekend? If they don’t read alternative state-level blogs, Rhode Islanders probably don’t even know about it. This question may seem like a cliché, but only because it’s telling: How would the Rhode Island media be behaving if a right-wing group had explicitly set out to shut down a peaceful left-wing protest at the state house, ending with an arrest for violent assault?
To ask the question is to answer it. In 2015, the statewide media voluminously covered the discovery of a handful of white supremacy fliers found in Providence (which speech the mayor’s administration pledged to prosecute).
As for this weekend’s incident, a small blurb in the Providence Journal reported on a different arrest, and Rhode Island Public Radio’s report might as well have been written by the progressives, without a single point of view other than theirs and with this are-you-kidding-me statement from one of them:
The rally was organized by a group known as Resist Marxism, a loose group of right-wing activists. Counter-protesters say the group has ties to White Supremacy.
“I’m concerned they’re going to gain traction and followers because it’s a barely hidden guise to white supremacy and be a Nazi,” said Santino Tartaglia of Smithfield. “I just want people to be able to live in peace without living in fear of someone hurting them.”
This is reportage on public radio. What the progressives say is reported as fact without verification and Tartaglia is permitted to worry about people living in fear even as he participates in an effort to prevent free expression through physical violence and the destruction of property.
We’re in dangerous territory, here. When a faction’s bad behavior is not put up for public scrutiny, its members will be encouraged to push the envelope, and the society at large will make political and cultural decisions based on an inaccurate view of the world.
A column by Andy Ngo in the weekend Wall Street Journal provides another example of this:
A mob surrounded ICE’s office in Southwest Portland June 19. They barricaded the exits and blocked the driveway. They sent “guards” to patrol the doors, trapping workers inside. At night they laid on the street, stopping traffic at a critical junction near a hospital. Police stayed away. “At this time I am denying your request for additional resources,” the Portland Police Bureau’s deputy chief, Robert Day, wrote to federal officers pleading for help. Hours later, the remaining ICE workers were finally evacuated by a small federal police team. The facility shut down for more than a week. …
Where were the police? Ordered away by Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler, who doubles as police commissioner. “I do not want the @PortlandPolice to be engaged or sucked into a conflict, particularly from a federal agency that I believe is on the wrong track,” he tweeted. “If [ICE is] looking for a bailout from this mayor, they are looking in the wrong place.”
Predictably, it wasn’t just Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees who were affected when the mob was permitted to run the neighborhood. People who live and work in the area were targeted, as well.
Do members of the establishment — both politicians and journalists — think that whistling past these (ahem) indiscretions from people with whom they agree will quietly suppress those with whom they disagree? They should think again. Over the past week, journalists in my Twitter stream have lamented the state of a world in which Trump supporters heckle a CNN reporter, who cried that “it felt like we weren’t in America anymore.”
Broadly speaking, those people doing the heckling know that their side of the cultural divide will never be covered fairly, and when the opposition to them goes much farther than shouts and middle fingers, the mainstream news media will ho-hum the story into oblivion. This won’t end well.