It’s crystal clear that our major media centers (defined as the six conglomerates who own 90% of our media) and their religion of both-sidesism are wholly unprepared for the rise of fascism in America. This morning provided two depressing examples. First, before we get into the New York Times’ characterization of Proud Boys founder, Gavin McInnes, let’s listen to him describe his “gang” in his own words.
Here's how the New York Times described McInnes, screenshotted for posterity because as I write this, their tweet is getting ratio'd into oblivion, and I'm not quite sure why it hasn't been deleted yet.
McInnes — a man who calls trans people “gender n*****s” — orders his most ardent acolytes to get in a “serious violent fight for the cause” and the Times describes him as “willing to get physical at times.” From a video taken last weekend in New York City (at a Republican-sponsored event where McInnes reenacted a political assassination of a socialist), this is what “getting physical at times” looks like.
You can quote Gavin McInnes directly while describing events that happened and get a harsher description of McInnes than the NYT wrote. The rest of the piece doesn't get much better. I'm linking to the Internet Archive version of this article, because again, if the Times doesn't have someone editing this garbage to make McInnes sound at least as bad as McInnes makes himself sound, I don't know how you can call the beginning of this article anything other than white nationalist propaganda:
Though he has repudiated racism and anti-Semitism in some of his writings and speeches, he has also made statements that have openly denigrated nonwhite cultures. Last year, he wrote of white men: “We brought roads and infrastructure to India and they are still using them as toilets. Our criminals built nice roads in Australia but Aboriginals keep using them as a bed.”
His critics say rhetoric like this echoes strands of white-nationalist philosophy, and that some of his followers have crossed the line at times.
That second paragraph is where the absurdity of the religion of “both-sidesism” in all major media—not just the Times—shines through like a beacon of how not to do journalism. They quoted McInnes essentially saying that “white people built civilization and darker-skinned people are still savages” and then they wrote that “some critics say rhetoric like this echoes strands of white-nationalist philosophy.”
IS WHITE NATIONALIST PHILOSOPHY!
This inability to call a spade a spade out of some amorphous belief that respectability politics underlies everyone's motivation is nothing more than a fairy tale, and it's the operating principle throughout all of major media (my theory as to why: this is capitalism. These are companies trying to sell a product, and they need to market it to as many consumers as possible). This bankrupt “both-sides” ideology is how John McCain lived an entire life being revered as the most serious, sober, responsible individual in congress despite this video existing of him singing about invading Iran.
I'm not equating McCain with McInnes, but bringing up a separate example where the media soft-peddled McCain's actual words because they believed in an equilibrium that didn't exist, and how that is the same kind of disease that informs this milquetoast profile of a white nationalist. Journalism doesn't mean navigating towards whatever is the acceptable middle of the worldview of present power structures—it's about uncovering the truth—and through McInnes' own freaking words, it is easier to find the truth than how the Times characterized him. I'm not the only one outraged right now. Here's a sampling from the dogpile in the NYT's mentions.
It's not like the Times didn't include evidence of McInnes' violent and dangerous nature. They published this line fifteen paragraphs down:
“We don't start fights,” he wrote in an article last year, “but we will finish them.”
So why the hell does that appear nine paragraphs below the Times' assertion that McInnes is “willing to get physical at times”? What is going on? What is this piece about?
Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote an article critiquing the NYT for a soft-profile of a Nazi, and frankly, not much has changed. Both last year and this year's profiles bring up its subjects' tangible destructiveness, but the framing by the Times softens the reality they acknowledge. Both-sidesism is functionally a brain disease.
I wish I could say that this is the end of today's journey into the mainstream media's effort to normalize fascism, but there's one more failure to cover. NBC's Today put out this five-minute semi-puff piece where they let the head of a white nationalist group repeat racist talking points in between upbeat music and on-the-march glamour shots of “clean-cut” white nationalists to their daily audience of over four million people.
The lesson the media still hasn't learned from the successful Bannon-ization of politics is that when they think they're cornering people with “gotcha” questions, what's really happening is that they're just allowing people to spew their hatred on their platform. I assume that they take these kinds of angles because the media operates under the principle that the viewer sympathizes with their side over the white nationalist, but polls sadly prove otherwise. The executive director of Identity Evropa even said that in the wake of Today's profile of him and his white nationalist group, “applications and interview requests are pouring in.”
Ace tech/internet/culture reporter Kelly Weill—who is far more well-versed on modern white supremacy than the out-of-touch folks at NBC who commissioned that video—explained how ridiculous this “rare look” truly was.
This is beyond depressing. Our political system is currently defined by apathy and corruption, and the corruption is becoming more fascist in nature. The more that our major media centers characterize this rise of white nationalism as some sort of normal politics, the more people that the Gavin McInnes’ of the world can recruit to their bankrupt causes. There are lives at stake here, and the potential for political violence is getting worse. This story largely slipped under the mainstream media’s radar — it shouldn’t have — but it’s telling that it did. Per The Oregonian:
Members of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer stationed themselves on a downtown Portland rooftop with a cache of guns prior to a summer protest, city officials announced for the first time Monday — the same day Mayor Ted Wheeler learned about it, his aides said.
Major media has two choices when it comes to profiling these far-right reactionaries: do journalism, or perpetuate their own bankrupt “both-sides” religion, and become de facto fascist sympathizers.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.