Opposition to stay-at-home orders has continued to build from coast to coast, with protests taking place in at least five states on Sunday. https://t.co/iu78lwPrYZ
— ABC News (@ABC) April 20, 2020
When the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette yesterday bannered at the top of page one a story about a handful of small protests around the country, I thought, “Here we go again.”
Remember the Tea Party, a Koch-funded protest against universal health care? Republican outrage is both a staple and creation of Fox News and other right-wing media agitprop. It was monumentally useful in teabagger days. And now they’re at it again. Yesterday’s War on Christmas is today’s War on Liberty.
Will history repeat? Will a much smaller band of demonstrators who believe their liberty has been infringed by lack of access to haircuts (though many seem to eschew them as a matter of course, not to mention sporting weird facial hair) again dominate news coverage in a way disproportionate to their numbers.
ABC’s Tweet yesterday isn’t a good sign.
But … So far, polls show that a good two-thirds of the people in the country think 1) Donald Trump is not to be trusted in what he says about coronavirus (or anything else) and 2) a slow return to normalcy is a safer course than a speedy one.
Press critic Eric Boehlert is on the “fawning press coverage” today.
my latest—let’s not do this agsin; https://t.co/5rZlMFm9yM
— Eric Boehlert (@EricBoehlert) April 20, 2020
“More than a dozen protesters gathered near the governor’s mansion in Baton Rouge Friday calling for Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) to suspend measures designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus so people can go back to work,” the Washington Post reported over the weekend. [Emphasis added.] Meanwhile, the New York Times made sure to shine a bright spotlight on a Texas protest that attracted “more than 100 people.” The newspaper’s print headline claimed the event was indication that protests were “sweep[ing] nation.”
Most people understand that in a nation of nearly 330 million people, pro-Trump events that boast dozens of activists don’t qualify as major news. Yet news outlets seem to think small bands of angry conservatives must be treated as a big deal. The Times article completely misread the protests, suggesting they were representative of a widespread movement. (They’re not.)
The New York Times even wrote that the demonstrations suggested a broad, bipartisan movement in the protests. Said Boehlert:
In Michigan, a couple thousand people participated in a drive-by protest, where most people stayed in their cars. In a state of 10 million people, how does that suggest there’s a widespread “appetite”? The Times article also provided zero evidence that the rallies featured anything but far right activists. In fact, virtually every person quoted was a hardcore Trump supporter. Why try to paint the rallies as bipartisan?
There’s more, but you get the drift. Reporting has demonstrated that gun nuts, white supremacists and deep-pocket conservatives are moving forces behind various demonstrations. You need only click on the ubiquitous social media clips of the protesters to measure their critical thinking skills. “I ain’t afraid of no virus … It’s no worse than the flu … etc.”
So, sure. Give them liberty to cram up together and scream. Darwin can sort it out. But reporters need not take copious notes and media outlets can tamp down the headline-size and video time.