By James Bouffard
The Charlottesville fiasco brought national attention to the issue of political violence. President Trump resolutely condemned violence on both sides, as he very well should have. However, this criticism of both groups did not sit well with the media.
The problem, according to CNN, came directly from the evil white supremacists. They initiated the violence, committed murder, threatened anyone and everyone who didn’t fit into their utopian vision of a white ethno-state. The strong, brave counter-protesters were merely defending themselves against these Nazis, as they very well should have. White supremacy is on the march in America and it is the duty of every good, tolerant person to “smash the fasc.”
Certainly some of the violence can be blamed on white nationalists, most notably the murder of Heather Meyer. But to construe the events in Charlottesville as being solely the fault of one side is just empirically wrong. Cursory knowledge of Antifa and Black Lives Matters reveals their willingness to riot and attack those who disagree with them. Footage of the event shows both sides wantonly participating in violence. Unlike the right though, these flagrant acts of force and coercion from the left are nothing new.
For the past year or so, there have been numerous examples of radical leftists committing acts of political terrorism, including the attempted assassination of Steve Scalise, the Inauguration Day, Berkeley and Black Lives Matter riots. Numerous free speech events were shut down by Antifas.
The media wasn’t absent throughout all of these events, but they portrayed them in a much less forceful way. You certainly didn’t hear anyone blaming the Steve Scalise shooting on Bernie Sanders’ fiery rhetoric. After Richard Spencer was sucker punched on Inauguration Day, the New York Times published an article in which the issue of punching Nazis was presented as a serious matter of debate. Even some members of the Republican establishment have taken the media’s lead and now defend Antifas.
Marco Rubio stated in a series of six tweets that, “When [an] entire movement [is] built on anger & hatred towards people different than you, it justifies and ultimately leads to violence against them.” It would be cumbersome to continue listing off examples, but half an hour on the Internet should reveal a plethora of instances.
This normalization from the media does nothing to help our current political climate. Presenting acts of terrorism as understandable, if not justifiable, will only contribute to the perception that normal methods of discourse are no longer adequate to resolve political differences. It’s ironic that an entity like the media, which relies on freedom of speech, would present a view of American society where freedom of speech must be curtailed in order to combat the threat of white nationalism.
It’s very dubious whether the situation will change. The media and Trump have a long standing vendetta, and the former certainly wouldn’t sacrifice any ratings or clicks by presenting a more nuanced, less sensationalist version of events. The only real glimmer of hope is the American people’s intense distrust of the media and general aversion to extremist ideologies. But as long as Trump is in office, no one should realistically expect there to be any improvement in how the media dishonestly contributes to rising political violence.