“Behind every bullied woman is a man yelling about free speech,” read the Jezebel headline and tweet on March 9, 2014. The story involved nude pictures of celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence. Jezebel insisted that the website Reddit had an obligation to scrub its website of links to the nudes because the pictures invaded the privacy of various mostly famous people.
“Absolutely bully Krysten Sinema outside of her bathroom stall,” read the Jezebel headline and tweet from yesterday. The story subtitle read that Sinema is “holding all of us back” for her refusal to go along for the progressive ride.
What happened on January 6, 2021, was bad. In fact, I would say the incursion into the United States Capitol was in the top ten bad acts of political violence this country has seen. Thankfully, only one person died as a direct result of it, though several police officers died indirectly.
The media constantly circles back to January 6. Every Republican must take ownership of it, apologize for it, etc.
June 14, 2017, was also one of the top ten days of political violence in this country. That is the day the Bernie Sanders supporter, James Hodgkinson, attempted the mass assassination of Republican members of Congress. The media never spent much time focusing on why Hodgkinson did that. The moment it turned out he was a leftwing Sanders supporter who really believed Republicans were going to kill people through their policies the subject changed really fast.
The Hodgkinson situation came after February 6, 2013, when Floyd Lee Corkins walked into the Family Research Council with a bag full of Chick-fil-a and a gun. Corkins, a gay rights activist, was inspired by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website, which listed FRC as a hate group, to go kill its employees and stuff their mouths full of Chick-fil-a. The media bent over backward to denounce FRC and its Christian agenda while also trying to denounce/explain Corkins’ motives. It was so awkward they moved on in 24 hours.
Those were a far cry from January 8, 2011, when a deranged gunman with no real political leanings killed a judge in Arizona and attempted to assassinate then Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. I was on CNN at the time and for more than a week the news media wrung their hands about political rhetoric. The New York Times tried to blame Sarah Palin because she used the word “target” to describe Gifford’s district and put out a mailpiece with what the media interpreted as rifle scope sights over several districts.
Network anchors and the printed page lamented the heated rhetoric and military language that had invaded politics — ignoring that politics had been using words like “target” for over a hundred years. Being in the media and on television for both the Giffords and Hodgkinson incidents was head spinning.
In Giffords, the shooter really was insane and had no political agenda. The media fanned the flames of the story for over a week and fixated on Republican rhetoric and the tea party. In Hodgkinson, the man was insane and had an anti-Republican political agenda and the media moved on after three to four days. The Corkins coverage was over after a day. Both Hodgkinson and Corkins were fans of the Souther Poverty Law Center, which still gets treated by the media as an independent honest broker, not a site where insane progressives go to start kill lists.
Of course, we have seen this as well in the past year. Small business owners who protested to reopen their businesses were condemned by the press. Rioters burning down America after the George Floyd situation were considered righteous in their anger. The incursion into the Capitol was genuinely a dark day for the republic. But so too were the rioters across American cities who smashed windows, firebombed small businesses, and destroyed private property. The media glossed over those “fiery, but mostly peaceful protests,” just as they did the activist dying after trying to firebomb an ICE facility. He had been inspired by AOC’s claims about concentration camps. Oh, and did you know someone threw a Molotov cocktail at the Texas Governor’s Mansion on June 8, 2008, and burned it down? The media mostly skipped that claiming there’s no way of knowing the motive.
Now, with the Sinema situation, a reporter asked Joe Biden about the harassment the senator faced in a bathroom at Arizona State University. “I don’t think they’re appropriate tactics,” Biden said. When conservatives blasted him for his response, reporters focused on Biden saying that. They ignored he concluded that sentence with a “But.” “But it happens to everybody,” he concluded dismissing it.
When conservatives pointed that out, the media pounced claiming Republicans were pouncing. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post was one of the first out of the gate and he tried to go with the “both sides do it” bit.
In fact, both sides do this. The difference is that with the right it had not been a regular tactic and only recently a thing. With the left, they’ve been rioting in the streets since the 1960’s and now engage in disproportionate harassment of opponents at their homes and in public confrontations. Protest is now a standard part of the progressive playbook as is in-your-face harassment of opponents. Instead of engaging in “both sides do it,” we should probably ask why the right rarely did it until the left started their nonstop harassment of Bush Administration officials after John Kerry’s loss, escalating to chasing Republicans from restaurants in the Trump era.
I say this as someone who has had Trump supporters on my front porch threatening my family. To the extent the post-Christian right has started behaving like the left, they are, in fact, doing something the left has been doing since the sixties.
The difference is that the media downplays the left doing it and overplays the right doing it. It is also worth noting the jackasses who stormed the Capitol have played right into the media’s hands, allowing constant deflection when this stuff happens. “Well yeah, it is inappropriate, but it is no January 6th,” they say. And they’re right.
But that does not make it right either.