Sunday, Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources show closed with a segment about Fox News highlighting 50 straight nights of rioting in Portland. Stelter made that the main theme of his Monday newsletter:
When I saw Sean Hannity leading his show with “MORE VIOLENCE GRIPS PORTLAND” and scary video from the streets, I knew something was up.
Right-wing media ramped up its coverage of scattered unrest in Portland, Oregon at the same time that federal officers descended on the downtown area. Evidently a small group of self-described anarchists suddenly deserved national news coverage.
Clearly Stelter believes 50 straight nights of skirmishes with police and vandalism do not deserve national news coverage. Stelter went on to cite a piece in the Oregonian which similarly downplayed the significance of the nightly skirmishes. This map, which Stelter higlighted on his TV show is intended to show the small area where the clashes with police have taken place.
This strikes me as a fairly stupid argument for the Oregonian to make and for Stelter to embrace for several reasons. First, while the action may be happening in a small area downtown, the hundreds of people who are out there every night and the police who are battling them probably live in areas all over this map. So the idea that other communities are disconnected from these riots is a stretch.
But the main issue is that the size of the affected area doesn’t really have anything to do with whether or not this is a serious problem. After all, if you pinpointed the areas where murders or rapes happened on a map of the city, you could narrow down to one street or one house. That doesn’t mean the rest of the city should feel unconcerned because it didn’t happen on their street or in their house. Simply put, a roving mob could decide to go anywhere, indeed some of them have gone into the suburbs to protest in front of private homes in the past.
When pressed on Twitter, Stelter denied that he was suggesting the violent protests being covered by Fox News weren’t happening or that they weren’t a problem, but he maintained that right wing coverage was a “gross exaggeration.”
False. As I said on CNN, there are "real problems in Portland." I criticized the anarchists. But the right wing coverage is a "gross exaggeration." https://t.co/ZVMBWPxARv
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) July 20, 2020
Here are two reasons why Brian Stelter is wrong and why he should stop downplaying what is happening in Portland. First, because what’s happening in Portland isn’t just happening in Portland, it’s actually one part of a larger violent movement which has popped up in many cities.
Last Wednesday, four NYPD officers including the Chief of the entire Department were injured when a man fought with police and another man beat two officers over the head with a stick.
Friday night, there was another violent riot in Chicago. Protesters wanted to tear down a statue of Christopher Columbus and when police officers got in their way they began pelting them with objects including fireworks. 18 officers were injured.
Sunday, a group of a few hundred rampaged through Seattle leaving a trail of broken glass. There was some looting and an attempt to set one police precinct on fire. Twelve officers were injured including one who had to be taken to a hospital after a firework thrown by a rioter exploded and burned his neck.
Also Sunday, a group of BLM counter-protesters in Denver disrupted a pro-police rally. The group’s explicit goal was to shut down the other rally, violating their rights to assemble and speak. The mob succeeded in cutting the pro-police rally short and at least two people on the pro-police side were injured after being hit/beaten by members of the anti-police side. One person was arrested.
All of this has happened in the past five days but all Brian Stelter wants to do is downplay the Portland riots as something happening in a few square blocks. That’s just not accurate. What’s happening in Portland is happening across the country.
The second point is that all of this vandalism and violence, much of it aimed at the police, is ideologically connected. I’m not suggesting there is some Antifa master plan at work (though honestly who knows). But at a minimum all of this is coming from groups of people with the same anti-police mindset. In other words, there is a running thread that ties these incidents together.
And yet, Brian Stelter wants us to think Fox News is the problem for reporting on this. Actually it’s a significant story that police are being attacked with sticks, rocks and explosives every few days around the U.S. This has been going on since May.
Stelter should take his head out of the sand and admit there is more going on here then a few hundred violent extremists in one far-left city. This is not just a local news story. There are people like this all over the place and they clearly feel they have been given a green light to go on the attack because of the Black Lives Matter protests. There numbers may be small but they are doing a disproportionate amount of damage and eating up a lot of police resources. Does anyone think Stelter would be taking this tone if right-wing protesters were rampaging like this in major cities? I suspect he would suddenly see the problem if that were the case.