Politics is about who, not what. The same action can be good or bad, depending on which side journalists are on.
Consider armed protests. In January, a mostly white crowd protested proposed gun control laws in Virginia. Some blacks were in the crowd too. Conservative Twitter accounts highlighted the blacks so the protesters wouldn’t be called racist. It didn’t work. Verified Twitter users called the protesters “white supremacists who threatened violence,” “domestic terrorists,” and “scary” folks who wanted to “terrify people.”
State legislators weren’t terrified; Virginia passed the gun control bills. Thanks to non-white immigration, Virginia is a solid blue state. Unless Virginia’s white conservatives manage to secede from the Richmond regime, their votes don’t matter any more than their guns.
A few weeks ago, a mostly white crowd protested COVID-19 lockdown policies in Michigan. Some had guns. Once again, verified Twitter users claimed the protesters were scary and intimidating. Many speculated about what would happen if blacks started protesting with guns.
Of course, reporters don’t understand (or pretend not to understand) the defensive, apologetic mindset of most white conservatives. If blacks showed up at armed protests, they’d be recruited as spokesmen. Most whites, even if they’re armed, are morally disarmed. They think they must have non-whites or their cause is illegitimate.
Many critics, including Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, blasted the white protesters for using “swastikas” and suggested the protesters were linked to “racism.” Of course, the protesters were not using swastikas to represent their politics, but to criticize hers. It’s hard to imagine the governor and others didn’t realize this.
A few days later, five blacks and one Hispanic did use similar tactics. They provided an armed escort for Michigan State Representative Sarah Anthony as she walked to the State House. Rep. Anthony had posted a video denouncing the protest and claimed she felt threatened by it. Michael Flynn, a “community activist,” organized the escort because he said “he could hear the fear in her voice.” He claimed he didn’t want to see his representative threatened “because of the white supremacists in the yard.”
Mr. Flynn is suing the Lansing Fire Department for racial discrimination claiming, among other things, that someone put a banana on his firetruck. He was also temporarily suspended from the department for criticizing its diversity policies on Facebook: “White liberals want diversity and inclusion until the black man walks in the room. Then it’s back to the same old shit. White men don’t get to choose what diversity and inclusion looks like.”
Rep. Anthony claims she did not ask for the escort but accepted it. She decried “the lack of support and lack of security that I had, that other legislators had,” and the “racist, anti-Semitic signage” in the initial protest. “I think it just triggered a lot of folks,” she said, “especially African-Americans.”
The escort posed on the steps for pictures. There was no one there but reporters. News reports made it sound as though there had been some kind of threat.
“What they did took courage and it gave us a picture-perfect example of how black people protect our own,” wrote Zack Linly at The Root. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
Rep. Anthony had her own view
Mr. Lynn explained that he wanted people to understand that Second Amendment rights are for everyone.
No Second Amendment activist would deny this. If January’s protest in Virginia was any indication, most white gun owners would be delighted to put Mr. Lynn in front of the cameras to speak for them.
Still, the favorable media coverage for an armed posse is striking. In February 2017, the Daily Mail reported that more than 12,000 tweets had called for President Trump’s assassination since he was inaugurated just a month before. If armed whites had started guarding him and his family, would there be any websites, even conservative ones, calling it a “beautiful” example of the way whites “protect our own?”
A “Now This News” video retweeted by Rep. Anthony said some of the earlier protesters in Michigan had “ties to white nationalist groups.” The video offered no evidence of this.
Many articles about the Michigan protest included an image of a white man yelling. A tweet that received eight thousand likes and almost 7,000 retweets gave his name and said he is a “white supremacist who is being paid to attend protests.”
USA Today found that everything about this tweet, including the man’s name, isn’t true. The man in the picture is not named Rob Contrell. He’s not from Los Angeles. He’s a “longtime marijuana activist,” not a paid GOP operative. He is upset about being called a white supremacist. Nonetheless, Twitter has not removed this misinformation even though it could endanger this man, or, for that matter, anyone named “Rob Contrell.”
Cheri Jacobus, who has a verified account, said the Ahmaud Arbery killing was a “direct result” of such things as the Michigan protest, and went on to denounce “MAGA terrorists.
Calling the Arbery case “terrorism” is idiotic — but walking around with guns in front of someone’s house is intimidating. Tariq Nasheed (verified account) reported that gun-toting blacks were “posted up” in the neighborhood where the men shot Arbery live. Countless replies explicitly threatened violence or insurrection.
On Reddit, about 137,000 people upvoted a picture of blacks carrying guns in the “neighborhood of the two men who lynched black man Ahmaud Arbery.” Imagine what would happen if armed whites patrolled a black neighborhood. (It would certainly not be featured on Reddit. Even a group for Donald Trump supporters was “quarantined.”)
“Panthers Special Operations Command,” which posted video of the protest and its “neighborhood patrol” on Facebook, bragged that its “souljas” fear nothing. Of course not. They have the state and the press on their side.
If a pro-white group set up a “Special Operations Command” to conduct armed patrols, I’d suspect the FBI was running it. There would not be happy social media posts. There would be congressional hearings and demands for arrests. This has already occurred in response to far less.
Politics is mostly perception. For that reason, “optics” — the way activists appear — is always important. However, we should never forget how powerfully the media can shape those perceptions.
President Donald Trump said Ahmaud Arbery looked “beautiful” in a photo wearing a tuxedo, but that didn’t stop Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms from blaming the President’s “rhetoric” for the killing. Armed protesters can be dangerous insurgents or heroic guardians, all depending on the message journalists and Big Tech want to send. Never take that message at face value.