Try to wrap your head around this one from Joan Donovan at the MIT Technology Review:
When Kyle Rittenhouse shot and murdered protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, it wasn’t just the act of a lone vigilante; it was a direct consequence of white militia groups’ organizing on social media.
Since June, right-wing media makers have recorded and circulated videos of violent altercations at protests in cities including New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Portland, Oregon. Fed into a media ecosystem with an established bias toward highlighting violence and rioting, the videos have mobilized white militia and vigilante groups to take up arms against Black Lives Matter and “antifa” protesters. This feedback circuit has created a self-fulfilling cycle where white vigilantes feel justified in menacing and physically attacking racial justice protesters—and inspire others to do the same.
Research on social movements has long focused on the ways that media mobilizes people to take direct action. Audio and video clips from protests can evoke an emotional and visceral reaction in those who see them. Over the last decade, we’ve seen this emerge most often with calls for racial and economic justice.
This past summer, the recorded murder of George Floyd—just one in a seemingly endless line of merciless and vicious events perpetrated by police against Black people, from Selma to Mike Brown, from Rodney King to Sandra Bland and Jacob Blake—motivated millions of people worldwide to protest against police brutality.
I counted four major misstatements of material facts in that first paragraph alone. When you build your argument upon a giant turd, shit happens.
Because right-wing reactionaries do not have the same kind of experience in organizing street protests as the left, they instead rely heavily on social media—particularly Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter—to mobilize crowds. Their efforts to counter the wave of public support for Black Lives Matter protests have made extensive use of this tactic.
As a scholar of social movements and media studies, I see an alarming split between the types of content consumed by right-wing reactionaries and left-wing social justice advocates. Given the way media accounts shape public perceptions about protest and define who has recourse to the “legitimate use of violence,” the kinds of content shared within these hyperpartisan media systems play a powerful yet often invisible role in mobilizing white vigilante groups. If social-media companies do not act swiftly to stop calls for violence against protesters, the situation can only get worse.
Since the George Floyd protests, conservative media outlets including Fox News (particularly Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity), One America News, Glenn Beck’s BlazeTV, and right-wing YouTubers have been covering Black Lives Matter and other left-wing protests daily, specifically highlighting instances of violence, fighting, and property damage. This coverage has come to dominate the right-wing narrative in a new way, flipping the script to suggest that Black protesters—demonstrating because they fear police violence—are themselves a threat to white people.
Mainstream media bias toward covering violence in protests is well studied, best encapsulated by the saying “If it bleeds, it leads.” Most protests are largely peaceful, but “Citizens gather, grieve, and leave” is no story at all. This directs a disproportionate amount of attention across the entire media ecosystem to violent protesters. Now, with social media as a broadcast system, the right-wing media has upped the ante.
According to analysis I conducted using MediaCloud, a research tool from MIT and Harvard, right-wing media outlets wrote five to six times more articles about Seattle’s “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” than did center or left media. What has been a minor storyline among left-wing audiences has been dramatically overemphasized by right-wing media because these protests provided plenty of visceral content for online content creators. In one case, Fox News manipulated photos to make protesters appear more ominous and threatening, while other right-wing outlets falsely reported that the occupying protesters were extorting local businesses.
These narratives have been intensified and supplemented by the work of right-wing adversarial media-makers like Elijah Schaffer and Andy Ngo, who collect videos of conflict at public protests and recirculate them to their online audiences. Both have even gone “undercover” by posing as protesters to capture footage for their channels, seeking to name and shame those marching. Their videos are edited, decontextualized, and shared among audiences hungry for a new fix of “riot porn,” which instantly goes viral across the right-wing media ecosystem with the aid of influential pundits and politicians, including President Donald Trump. The footage has a hypnotic, almost balletic quality, designed to influence and overwhelm the sense-making capacity of watchers consuming it from a safe distance online.
Riot porn is different from videos of abuse and violence carried out by police, and we should not confuse one for the other. In the recording of the George Floyd murder, the video mobilized hundreds of thousands of people outraged that Floyd’s killer had not been arrested. With riot porn, what moves someone from watching to showing up is the potential for participating in a violent altercation. The motivating factor is the hope to live out fantasies of taking justice into their own hands, à la Dirty Harry, the film series about a rogue cop who shirks protocol and murders at will.
I have seen every Dirty Harry movie that was produced, and I can say with assurance that Inspector Callahan doesn’t murder anyone in any of those movies.
Oh, he kills lots of people, and he shoots more people than he kills. But each of those shootings is justified. He never even wounds or kills any innocent bystanders – every person he shoots is a certified bad guy. In fact, in the second movie in the series (Magnum Force) he takes on vigilante cops!
Ms. Donovan objects to people making videos of Democrats Gone Wild at mostly peaceful Antifa/BLM protest riots. She claims that the videos are deceptively edited.
Che3ck out the videos below. If you saw the complete videos in context, you would see that there is no violence contained in them, just expressions of love for all mankind.