Sunday’s rally was not what national outlets made it out to be

CITY AFFAIRS: Sensationalizing violence without context is reckless.

Happy families blowing bubbles, tossing cornhole and playing trumpets drowned out hateful white nationalist groups Sunday in Berkeley. Around the country, however, people read a reductive story about violence and carnage at the nation’s battleground for free speech.

National outlets and prominent public officials chose to respond to the rally by denouncing left-wing group Antifa and its violent tactics, including the Washington Post’s Editorial Board, which wrote that Antifa groups “only help the hateful forces they claim to oppose.”

The problem with devoting page space to the argument that Antifa is to blame for violence in Berkeley effectively — and falsely — equates them to the actions and ideas of white supremacists. It is irresponsible and hypocritical for The Post’s editorial board to use its platform this way.

The Post’s editorial board notes specifically that it “would not for a minute equate (the threat Antifa poses) to the menace of violent, ultra-right white-supremacist groups” and goes on to say President Donald Trump’s “equation of white supremacists in Charlottesville with those who rallied against them was false and repugnant.”

Whether one condones Antifa’s violent tactics is beside the point; it’s not the main issue. Antifa is only a reaction to the real threat: “Violent, ultra-right white-supremacist groups,” with their history of terror and continuing hostility.

Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer wrote that sensationalizing violence without context is reckless, and many outlets failed to mention that violence at Sunday’s rally was less than during protests on April 15.

To find context, look to local papers. Reporters have been on the ground in Berkeley for months — some even years — and understand the dynamics better than a national outlet that swoops in every so often to film someone getting beat up by black bloc protesters. As people glean incorrect narratives from protest coverage, more right-wing reactionaries will turn to this city to use it as the backdrop of their bigoted fight, and Berkeley residents again will be left to pick up the pieces.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.