Are the riots in major cities around the country really happening?
It’s a question that should only require a simple “yes” or “no” answer, but in an age when relativism prevails and even gender is a state a mind, there are no simple questions. There are, however, a lot of dumb answers.
A preponderance of the evidence, including video, tells me the violence is real. In Portland, for example, the Department of Homeland security has chronicled 50 consecutive nights of lawlessness.
Still, when cornered by a TV producer a few days ago, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) called the rioting “a myth.” If he’s right, he’s uncovered the greatest conspiracy since Neil Armstrong jumped off a couch in front of a green screen in his basement and snookered the entire world into thinking he had actually landed on the moon.
It appears that Nadler himself is more than one small step removed from reality. There he was again Tuesday, this time presiding over a Capitol Hill hearing featuring Attorney General William Barr and Nadler still feigning denial that violence is actually occurring in Portland and elsewhere.
The hearing itself, assuming it really happened, was mostly a waste of time. The Democrats had been clamoring for weeks for Barr to appear. When he showed up, they accused, insulted, interrupted and made an embarrassing hash of the whole thing. For his part, Barr held up fine. The Democrats on the committee, Nadler especially, looked silly. They should have just put Barr in a dunk tank. At least that would have had some entertainment value. Although the way the Dems were pitching, they wouldn’t have hit the target once.
Nadler and his ilk continue to trot out the mantra that the protests around the country have been “mostly peaceful.” I suppose if you break it down to strictly a mathematical equation, that might be true. If a protest lasts for five hours and only one of those hours includes violence then, yes, the protest is mostly peaceful.
If you follow such logic, the Allies’ month or so in the Ardennes forest in 1944 was mostly peaceful, expect when they were being pummeled by German artillery. I’ve never heard a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge say, “Yeah, you know, it was mostly peaceful except for the shooting.”
We seem to have crossed some weird threshold in this country to place where things are only as real or fake as we want them to be. And our elected representatives and the media have helped get us there. Narratives are set in stone. Any event that supports the narrative will be covered and overcovered. If there is no event, we’ll invent one. On the other hand, any story that detracts from the narrative is downplayed or ignored. Compare what Fox News and CNN are covering and how they’re covering it on any given day.
I’m old enough to remember a time when if you watched all three evening network news broadcasts – when there were only three – you’d see mainly the same stories. Now, not only don’t you see the same stories, each outlet seems as if it’s operating in its own parallel universe.
This is not a partisan argument. At least it shouldn’t be. I think most Americans – at least those who write to me, Republicans and Democrats alike – just want to know what’s really going on. They want honesty. They want objectivity. That’s probably too much to expect from politicians. The media, however, have no excuse.
When journalists decide they are either part of “the resistance” or advocates for an individual or cause, truth is the primary casualty.
In a recent article in National Review, Michael Brendan Dougherty points out that “nearly half the days of June featured a New York Times news story employing that phrase “largely peaceful” to describe the protests that sprung up in response to George Floyd’s death, even as cities across the country saw rioting unlike almost anything since the late 1960s.”
Why? Why would the Times go out of its way to characterize the protests as mostly peaceful, even though they were overshadowed by violence? As Dougherty writes, “another critical democratic institution decided it would be more fun and emotionally satisfying to fail than to perform the function with which the public entrusts it.”
If only he were wrong.
I happen to believe in objective truth and, above everything else, journalism is supposed to be a pursuit of truth. “Quid est veritas?” as Pontius Pilate asked Jesus of Nazareth. “What is truth?”
Scholars and theologians have pondered and parsed this question for centuries. The answer, 2,000 years ago, was really very simple. It still is.
Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.