Another day, another example of journalists being attacked for simply doing their job. This time the attack isn’t by a politician looking to tamp down on opposition or news he/she doesn’t like but by journalists upset at one of their own for contrary reporting.
We’re talking about Andy Ngo, the sub-editor and photojournalist for Quillette, who spent the evening in the hospital with a brain bleed after being attacked by the thought pol- excuse me – antifa during a protest in Oregon. Ngo’s ‘crime’ is having a skeptical eye towards every single claim of hate crime despite the fact he’s the gay son of Vietnamese immigrants. Ngo also received plenty of objection for a 2018 column in The Wall Street Journal on his visit to what he called “Islamic England.”
The criticism of his “Islamic England” piece may be justified, however, physical violence towards Ngo is definitely not. There are those within the journalistic community who are either trying to claim Ngo is not a journalist or hedging their disproval of antifa’s actions by saying Ngo has “done worse.” This is a horrible folly because it implies limits on the First Amendment, much like those who suggest every negative story about the White House is #fakenews. The limits are not necessarily in law, mind you, but the public perception of who is reporting what.
“If the Proud Boys decked a journo the left would be melting down, ” a friend of mine quipped. “But a bunch of ski-masked commies do it and it’s the journo’s fault.”
My friend has a point, bitter sarcasm notwithstanding. There would be a meltdown of Chernobyl-like proportion if this was a journalist from Slate, Mother Jones, or The New York Times who suffered a brain bleed from some alt-right group. The outrage would be justifiable because no journalist should be physically attacked or threatened for doing their job. Yet, the only mainstream media people showing a hint of outage on the Ngo attack are Jake Tapper and Brian Stelter who either pointed out antifa’s propensity for violence or gave a public tongue lashing to those journalists who sought to distance themselves from Ngo’s reporting. If only more journalists were willing to show this kind of public bravery when all else are silent.
The responses are far from surprising given the nature of journalism. Media, as a whole, can be and is used to promote factionalism. Those with agendas will use whatever outlets they can to air their dirty laundry. There are also journalists out there who report on misdeeds by governments, businesses, or individuals because they seek to educate the public on what’s going on in the community. There’s nothing wrong with either because transparency is important. It can help a discerning public decide whether to vote for candidates, buy products, or support someone. It can also be used to obfuscate and protect candidates, businesses, or individuals from criticism. The so-called theater of ideas and debate can be wonderful, even if it means searching high and low for opposing viewpoints.
A key factor people forget – although it depends on the person whether it’s on purpose or accidental – is actual discernment. It is up to the consumer to decide whether they will support the outlet or journalist reporting a story. There is nothing wrong with looking at multiple stories to get a fuller picture of an issue or to find out about something which is not getting attention.
What is wrong is not defending a fellow journalist who ended up hospitalized for reporting on a protest. Those who are refusing to condemn the people who attacked Ngo are wrong and deserve criticism.