To Many in the Media, A “Peaceful” Protester Must Support Big Government

A lot of blood has been spilled in protests against Greece’s rollback of its incredibly generous welfare state, yet the media routinely refer to those protesters as “largely peaceful,” notes A. Barton Hinkle of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The media’s indulgent treatment of these big-government supporters, which occasionally hints that violence by the protesters is understandable in light of Greek austerity measures, contrasts sharply with its unrelentingly negative depiction of Tea Party protesters, who have yet to kill anyone or burn down any buildings, but who aroused media ire by opposing the 2010 health care law, which they perceived as a government takeover of the health care system.

Rioting protesters in Greece killed three bank employees in their rage over possible budget cuts.  “The protesting civil servant workers trapped the bank employees in a burning building.”

But as Hinkle notes,

According to one story in The Wall Street Journal, the demonstrations “began peacefully.” According to another, last week Constitution Square in Athens “seethed with indignant, but peaceful, demonstrators.”

“The day began noisily but peacefully,” intoned The New York Times on Wednesday. The Washington Post likewise observed that “a peaceful protest . . . quickly degenerated into violence.” Reuters reported that, regardless of “clashes between stone-throwing masked youths and riot police . . . thousands of peaceful protesters demonstrated against the austerity plan.”

Sure, blood was spilled. But don’t blame the protesters. As the Journal reported, it was Greece’s parliament that approved a “widely hated austerity package” despite “the best efforts of peaceful grass-roots activists, megaphone-touting [sic] labor unionists, and stone-throwing anarchists.”

This is a sharp contrast from how, say, Tea Party protests against the passage of ObamaCare were treated.

The D.C. protests in March of last year were nonviolent affairs, without a single arrest despite one disputed episode in which someone allegedly hurled a racial slur at Rep. John Lewis and spat on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. (No independent report could verify the allegations.) But that didn’t stop ABC’s David Muir from reporting that “shouted words turned very ugly,” and reporting on “late word from Washington tonight about just how ugly the crowds gathered outside the Longworth office building have become.”

Last April, a New York Times news story tsk-tsked “the pitched attacks by some Republicans and conservatives during the health care fight,” which “have drawn criticism as incendiary.” (“Tea Party Supporters Doing Fine, But Angry Nonetheless,” the paper noted in yet another fair and balanced look at the movement.) “Protesters at some town hall meetings have drowned out congresspeople and caused unrest and even violence,” reported CBS. Were the town halls “mostly peaceful”? Didn’t they “begin peacefully”? Sure—but CBS didn’t say so. Wonder how come.

Allegations of violent tendencies continue to dog the tea party despite the fact that it is, like its liberal analogs, “mostly peaceful.” “Tea Party Getting Violent?” asked CBS News last March. To the Christian Science Monitor, a Boston tea party event (no arrests there either) was made up of “an angry white mob.” At a Tea Party event in Nevada, Time magazine lamented the presence of (brace yourself) “ugly signs.”

Hey, what happened to “indignant but peaceful”?

It’s obvious what happened: big-government bias. To much of the establishment media, a preference for limited government is a dangerous idea. Ergo, its supporters must be dangerous, too. But liberals don’t find a preference for big government threatening, so they view its supporters as non-threatening as well.

Nanoseconds after Jared Loughner went on his shooting rampage in Arizona in January, huge numbers of opinionators in the media knew just whom to blame: Sarah Palin, leaders of the Tea Party movement, and, by implication, anyone who thinks the government spends too much. As it turned out, Loughner—a schizophrenic declared incompetent to stand trial—was motivated by none of the above. Oops!

To many left-leaning newspapers and TV anchors, “incivility” and “violence” are things only a believer in shrinking the government could be guilty of — not supporters of big government. After the Tucson shootings, the liberal media enlisted intemperate left-wingers to lecture conservatives on the need for them to be more “civil” — even if those these intemperate left-wingers themselves had a history of advocating or inspiring violence. Al Sharpton preached about the “dangers of inflammatory rhetoric” in The Washington Post, despite his own past history of helping incite a deadly race riot, and a court judgment against him for defamation in the Tawana Brawley hate-crime hoax. Meanwhile, former Congressman Paul Kanjorski (D) lectured about the need for “civility” in the Times, despite his earlier statement that Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) should be shot. No one at these liberal newspapers regarded these men as morally unfit to deliver such a message. To them, only a limited-government type can truly be “uncivil.”

Right after the Tucson shootings, left-wingers such as Paul Krugman and The New York Times Editorial Board lectured America, and particularly conservatives, on the need for more “civility,” claiming that the shootings were the outgrowth of a conservative “climate of hate” aimed at groups like “welfare recipients, or bureaucrats.” (Even though there was no evidence that the shooter was influenced by any uncivil political rhetoric; and the shooter was not a conservative.)