Port: Why don't violent pipeline protests receive the same scrutiny as violent Trump protests?
The news media's uneven approach to covering political extremism is a big part of what's dividing this country.
MINOT, N.D. — In the middle of last month a group of extremists traveled to Washington, D.C., to engage in unlawful protests that resulted in vandalism and physical harm to security personnel.
With the nation's media spotlight on the congressional committee investigating the Trump-inspired Jan. 6t riot at the U.S. Capitol, you'd think a similar example of violent political extremism would draw headlines.
It didn't, and if you want to understand why so many Americans have lost faith in the news media, the fact that it didn't goes a long way toward explaining it.
In mid-October, a group of left-wing activists, incensed over the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota, gathered in Washington where they, among other acts of what they euphemistically describe as "civil disobedience," vandalized a statue of former President Andrew Jackson and violently "occupied" the Department of the Interior harming several people.
"Multiple injuries were sustained by security personnel, and one officer has been transported to a nearby hospital," Melissa Schwartz, an Interior Department spokesperson, said of the incident.
"Multiple injuries were sustained by security personnel, and one officer has been transported to a nearby hospital. Medics representing both the Department and the protesters were present. Secretary Haaland is traveling and not in Washington, D.C.— Melissa Schwartz (@MSchwartz3) October 14, 2021
"Where was coverage of Line 3 protesters storming the Interior Department?" asks a recent letter to the editor .
It's a fair question.
When the Minneapolis Star-Tribune got around to reporting this incident, days after the fact, Schwartz's statement about injuries was in the last paragraph. The lead of the story was that the left-wing, anti-pipeline protesters engaged in a "show of strength to demonstrate continued opposition to the pipeline."
Weren't the Trump cultists who stormed Congress in a desperate attempt to overturn the national election also making a "show of strength?"
As a practical matter, what's the difference between these two groups?
Is it the stakes? One movement deals with pipelines, the other with the most powerful office in the land, though given how important oil and gas supplies are to the wellbeing of Americans, one could argue that the former is as important as the latter.
Is it the scope? The Trump riot was definitely larger, though this violent movement of extremists opposed to pipelines has been radicalized for longer. The protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline here in North Dakota may not have ever reached the size of the Trump riot on any given day, but they also lasted for months, as did the often violent demonstrations against the Line 3 pipeline.
The most meaningful difference is that the anti-pipeline protesters are left-wing, and operate with the blessing of left-wing politicians and celebrities.
Trump supporters are right-wingers.
The Washington Post recently published an expansive, thoroughly reported story about the Jan. 6 riot, from its roots to its aftermath. It's a harrowing read that undermines the efforts by Trump's many apologists to minimize it. At the same time, journalists working for publications such as Rolling Stone have been busy outing local politicos and elected officials who belong to the Oath Keepers , an extreme right-wing group that contributed in no small part to the Jan. 6 riot.
My colleagues found one in South Dakota .
Again, that's good journalism.
That's the sort of scrutiny right-wing extremism deserves, yet left-wing extremism doesn't merit the same coverage, and we need to know why.
There's an equivalently important story in exposing the roots and networks around the consistently violent left-wing protests against pipelines. There is a host of political groups and shady internet forums, of professional activists and big-money donors, who are deserving of the same sort of scrutiny the Trump rioters have received.
Why aren't they getting it?
I have argued consistently about conservatives ghettoizing themselves by turning away from the oft-lamented "mainstream media." The movement is destroying itself by retreating into a hothouse of pundits and right-wing "reporters" looking to make a buck by preaching what the choir wants to hear , whatever the veracity of the sermon.
That trend is fueled in no small part by legitimate gripes conservatives can make about the ideological balance from legacy news media.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org .