One of the common motifs when riots break out across America is that they’re really not “riots” — they’re just protests that take on a certain, erm, enthusiasm due to the fact that they’re the cri de coeur of members of an oppressed underclass who have no other way to express themselves and their vexation at systemic injustice but to resort to drastic measures.
All of this is very impressive verbal gymnastics, but Americans can turn on their televisions, see burned-out buildings and stores being denuded of merchandise and logically conclude to themselves that what they’re watching, which is conspicuously being called anything but a “riot,” is, in fact, a riot.
This odd feat of verbal prestidigitation, which shows up every so often at the most inopportune times, was underlined by NBC News’ Craig Melvin, a co-host of the network’s mainstay “Today” show.
On Thursday, Melvin wanted to ensure transparency in how NBC News was shaping coverage of the unrest that’s followed the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis after being taken into police custody on May 25.
“This will guide our reporting in MN. ‘While the situation on the ground in Minneapolis is fluid, and there has been violence, it is most accurate at this time to describe what is happening there as ‘protests’–not riots,’” he tweeted.
This will guide our reporting in MN. “While the situation on the ground in Minneapolis is fluid, and there has been violence, it is most accurate at this time to describe what is happening there as “protests”–not riots.”
— Craig Melvin (@craigmelvin) May 28, 2020
Conservative Twitterer Robby Starbuck probably had the best response to this curious take on what constitutes a “riot.”
“Those ‘protests’ must have magically caused spontaneous combustion that lit buildings on fire, threw flatscreen TV’s into the hands of innocent ‘protestors’ and caused hands to slam hammers into cash registers. What a wild series of events!” he tweeted.
NBC says that the riots are not riots. Those “protests” must have magically caused spontaneous combustion that lit buildings on fire, threw flatscreen TV’s into the hands of innocent “protestors” and caused hands to slam hammers into cash registers. What a wild series of events! https://t.co/z4zUPfDBkh
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) May 28, 2020
Who would have thought, just mere days ago, that “protesting” would have involved denuding the shelves of a Target of merchandise? Of an AutoZone? Of liquor stores?
This destruction is a protest against what? Most of these businesses are owned by the selfsame community that purports to be outraged, after all.
In Minneapolis, as The Associated Press reported, there’s talk of outside influencers being involved in this, including elements from the so-called “anti-fascist” groups known as antifa, white supremacist groups, and even drug cartels.
Though this has yet to be confirmed, such involvement would certainly make the destruction seem a lot more like a “riot” than any sort of legitimate protest.
And, indeed, NBC News would call it a “riot” if that were the case. What the networks wants is to be very careful to avoid is the implication that a group of people whose level of caring about the issue being protested is zero has essentially hijacked the demonstrations to make them about property destruction, lawlessness and self-enrichment.
What’s interesting is that the family of George Floyd — remember him? The man whose tragic death is the cause for these rio — erm, protests? — seems to disagree with NBC News’ characterization of this as mere protesting.
“Waking up this morning to see Minneapolis on fire would be something that would devastate Floyd,” said Courtney Ross, George Floyd’s girlfriend for the last three years, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
“He loved the city,” Ross said last week. “He came here [from Houston] and stayed here for the people and the opportunities. … Floyd was a gentle giant. He was about love and about peace.”
Floyd’s relatives, meanwhile, thanked protesters but condemned the lawlessness that has come with them.
In a statement Thursday, the family pressed gratitude to demonstrators “for joining them in standing for justice, [but] we also cannot sink to the level of our oppressors, and we cannot endanger each other as we respond to the necessary urge to raise our voices in unison and outrage.”
One would assume, if he had to die in this manner, Floyd would want his death protested. These aren’t “protests,” though — and they’ve consumed his adopted city to the level that the National Guard needed to be called out.
Yet they”re still not willing to call these “riots” at NBC News.
That’s not “journalism.” If anything, it’s anti-journalism.
And it’s absolutely disgusting.
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