Remember the video of Antifa in Portland smashing the windows of the Democratic Party office? Well, it definitely happened, but you shouldn’t believe it happened because it was captured by video taken by the right wing #Riot Squad. It wasn’t fake video. It was absolutely real video. But it was bad video and the Intercept can prove it.
On the air, Ingraham attributed the destruction to “antifa thugs,” using the right-wing shorthand that lumps everyone with left-of-center politics into one undifferentiated mass. Rosas, who was standing in front of a Circle-A — a symbol for anarchism, not anti-fascism — that had been spray-painted beside the ruined front door of the Democratic Party office, made no effort to correct her.
“The antifa groups here, they do not like Biden just as much they don’t like Trump,” he said. “They just hate America in general.” (In fact, Rose City Antifa, the Portland group that helped revive the Nazi-era concept of anti-fascism in the United States, released a statement making clear that this attack on the Democratic office was not the work of anti-fascists but rather of anarchists and anti-capitalists. “While many of the people involved may consider themselves antifascists in ideology,” the activists said, “we narrowly define antifascism as actions taken to oppose the insurgent right-wing.”)
Got it? It wasn’t Antifa at all. It was Anarchists and anti-capitalists, which is entirely different as far as they’re concerned, making everything you know about it a lie.
The impact of their work is hard to overstate. Even as they remain relatively unknown, this tight-knit group has produced many of the most viral videos of Black Lives Matter protests over the past year. And those images have helped create the false impression, relentlessly driven home by Fox News and Republican politicians, that the nationwide wave of protests that erupted after George Floyd was killed was nothing but an excuse for mindless rioting.
So the reason these videos were reported by these right wing reporters was to create the false impression that there were riots to undermine BLM protests, and therefore what these right wing reporters present should be rejected and denied?
That’s not to say that rioting never happens; it clearly does. And even if you believe that “a riot is the language of the unheard,” it is undeniable that looting and arson did scar some communities where anger over racist policing spiraled out of control.
But the broader picture is that Black Lives Matter protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful.
This is the delusion of moral clarity, that riots factually happened but to report them would be to detract from the “broader picture.” It raises numerous problems, starting with the fact that if guys like Julio Rosas and Jorge Ventura didn’t capture these images on video, no one would. Neither left wing nor mainstream media had the will or guts to report the facts if they could serve to impugn the “language of the unheard.” Was there a riot in Portland last night? Maybe or maybe not, but it’s not as if the Intercept would tell you. That wouldn’t serve the “broader picture.”
So Rosas and Ventura have an agenda? So does the Intercept. So does the New York Times. But that doesn’t change what the video shows, and it shows what it shows. If the two reporters from the Intercept, Robert Mackey and Travis Mannon, don’t care for the message it sends, blame the people who did the dirty in the video, not the messengers who put it on social media whereas they would have buried it for the sake of “moral clarity.”
But the persistent retort is that the protests were “mostly peaceful,” so the viral nature of these outlier videos creates a distorted vision of what was happening.
Conservatives like to mock anyone who says that, usually by pointing to isolated images of chaos, like those recorded by the Riot Squad, or by cherry-picking misleading data. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, recently cited data showing that more than 500 racial justice protests turned violent in the United States last year. But Johnson failed to let readers of his Wall Street Journal opinion piece know that the same researchers — from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project — counted nearly 10,000 more Black Lives Matter protests that were entirely peaceful. According to the researchers, there was no looting, arson, or violence of any kind at 94 percent of the protests associated with Black Lives Matter.
There are many questions about the nature of these actions, some involving a few protesters holding signs on the sidewalk and others with hundreds shutting down interstates. But just as “dog bites man” is different than “man bites dog,” what part of burning buildings in Kenosha shouldn’t be told?
That protests were peaceful is how it should be, even if the definition of peaceful might include seizing city streets so that the other peaceful citizens can’t travel on them without having their cars destroyed and being beaten, harassing people eating at restaurants minding their own business or painting slogans on public buildings which will surely change everything. After all, Charles Manson was largely peaceful except for when he ordered his minions to murder folks. Isn’t that how it works?
“By using riot porn to incite fear in white people,” Donovan added, “the right-wing media ecosystem converts the real pain experienced by Black Americans into fodder for deranged, paranoid fantasies that white vigilantes must take up the functions of the police.”
Are real videos of real riots, real looting, real buildings burning, merely “riot porn” for the deranged? Or is the message here “don’t believe their lies when you can believe our lies for justice”? Except the “riot porn” isn’t lies. It’s just the truth the left doesn’t want seen because it reflects poorly on their cause. By ad hominem attacks on the people reporting what they won’t, combined with rationalizing why it only incites “paranoid fantasies” of “white vigilantes” rather than informs the majority of Americans that “mostly peaceful” isn’t peaceful.
It may be true that the viral videos create an exaggerated impression of destruction, just as the viral videos of police engaged in needless violence ignore the millions of engagements where no one is harmed. But just as the videos of cops matter to show that it happens when it shouldn’t, so too does it matter that the mainstream media, and advocacy media like the Intercept, would conceal the facts if they could. Guys like Julio Rosas may have an agenda as well, but without him, we would never know the facts.