When a conservative punches a reporter in the face, he’s proud of it. When a liberal punches a reporter, he blames the victim.
At most demonstrations these days, protesters and counter-protesters agree on only one thing: The media sucks. So if a reporter gets hit on the head, he can’t always tell if the fist came from the left or the right.
Even worse, when the cops rush in to make mass arrests, they often indiscriminately scoop up those reporters, much like dolphins getting trapped in tuna nets and drowning.
As someone who’s been both threatened and actually assaulted while on assignment, I can admit this: When you get hit by a cop, it’s a badge (sotospeak) of honor. But it hurts much more when you agree with the people punching you.
Most journalists are at least socially liberal. Even if they write their stories as objectively as possible, they personally sympathize with protesters defending the oppressed rather than protesters demanding more oppression.
So when liberals attack them, journalists are more conflicted than when conservatives do it. But they’re also more imperiled. Let me explain why, using the latest example of journo-abuse.
At the University of Texas in the state’s liberal oasis of Austin – an awesome city I’ve visited twice – two dozen students marched around campus on September 1.
They were protesting a proposed Texas law that would, among other things, ban sanctuary cities and allow cops to check immigration status during routine stops. Protesters called the former racist and the latter racial profiling.
Naturally, the school’s newspaper (creatively named The Daily Texan) sent a reporter. His name is Chase Karacostas, and he’s only a sophomore. While interviewing a bystander, Karacostas got clocked on the side of the head.
He was cut near his eyebrow and needed six stitches.
“I actually for a time thought that I had a bloody nose, too, because there was so much blood,” Karacostas told the Student Press Law Center.
Cops arrested his attacker, a graduate student named Eric Nava-Perez, who was also one of the march’s organizers. No one knows why Nava-Perez did it, because he’s not talking. But his pals say he had a good reason – and everyone else is blame.
3 painful explanations…
1. It’s the victim’s fault. The SPLC story says another of the march’s organizers, Ph.D. student Charles Holm, “argued that Karacostas should have more clearly identified himself as a reporter so that he would not be mistaken for a right-wing agitator.” So the violence wasn’t wrong, it was just misdirected.
2. It’s not true. “LIES LIES LIES. Where’s the proof? Eric did not cause anybody stitches,” tweeted one Nava-Perez supporter, whose Twitter profile says, “if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.” She’s obviously not looking at Karacostas’ stitches.
3. It’s other people’s fault. Says a petition from one of the groups that organized the march: “We believe the University of Texas at Austin itself is responsible for the events which took place September 1, resulting in the sanctions imposed on Eric Nava-Perez.”
This last one is hard to explain, but the petition devours more than 1,700 words trying to. Basically, “protest organizers at UT were right to be tense” because…
• they were still upset about “the brutal attack on anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, by a neo-Nazi who drove a vehicle into a crowd, injuring dozens of people and murdering Heather Heyer.”
• one of their own protests in August faced “unorganized yet constant harassment from right-wing bystanders, ‘usually white guys,’ as one activist reports.” (Karacostas is a white guy, which raises the question: Did Nava-Perez racially profile him?)
• “The University of Texas deployed an unnecessary and intimidating police presence at a peaceful protest against a racist law.” What was intimidating? “Officers stated they were there to patrol the demonstration” and “an officer then pointed at Mr. Nava-Perez and asked: ‘Is he the leader?’” Regardless of your opinion about law enforcement, that’s pretty much what they always do.
The petition, which calls Nava-Perez a “peaceful protester,” concludes…
In light of all this, the incident that occurred between Mr. Nava-Perez and the Daily Texas reporter is reasonably understood to have been defensive in intent.
…so it wasn’t an attack, it was self-defense. The sword is mightier than the pen.
The “false false equivalency”…
Liberals love to accuse the media of false equivalency. That’s traditionally defined as “a logical fallacy in which two opposing arguments appear to be logically equivalent when in fact they are not.”
The cleanest, recent example is President Trump blaming “both sides” for the Charlottesville violence. Obviously, white supremacists have a long and sordid history of lynchings and burnings, while antifa has mostly smashed windows at Starbucks and McDonald’s. The former have been evil since the end of the Civil War, while the latter have been assholes since the late ’80s.
But liberals take it further, insisting the media shouldn’t present both sides of any political discourse if one side is Trumpian – because it’s a false equivalency to compare him to anyone normal. While I agree Trump is an idiot, I’ve written before how silly and dangerous that position is.
Sadly, there’s no false equivalency comparing the right and left on the topic of journalistic attacks. “Both sides” hate the media, and “both sides” justify violence against the media by blaming the victim, blaming others, and denying facts.
Neither side apologizes for it, either. But there is one crucial difference between them:
• When a white supremacist punches a Jewish reporter like me, there’s a certain logic to it. Basically, an openly violent racist is committing a violent act and declaring, “I did that!”
• When a “peaceful protester” punches a reporter, he’s a hypocrite – and he knows it. So he excuses it with, “You made me do that.”
The hypocrite is much more dangerous than the racist.
Racists are rarely sympathetic figures even when they’re not punching people. So the average, distracted American will side with the beat-up reporter every time. The First Amendment survives another day.
But “peaceful protesters” who attack reporters try mightily to muddy the blood. They wail, “The journalists provoked me!” – and that undermines America’s already brittle relationship with a free press.
Remember Melissa Click? The University of Missouri professor was filmed yelling for “some muscle over here” to forcibly remove a student reporter from a racism protest on a public campus. She also pushed him and led chants of, ““Hey hey! Ho ho! Reporters have got to go!”
Why did she do it? She wanted to “protect the students.” From journalists. From the oppression of being covered by a free press.
But that’s not the worst of it.
All stripes of conservatives – from RINOs to the alt-right – attack the media for “being biased.” They’re not questioning the right of journalists to exist, just despising the conclusions they come to.
Don’t get me wrong, media-bashing conservatives still tighten my sphincter. I can only imagine the oppressive, Venezuela-like laws they’d pass to strangle my profession if they could only get away with it.
Still, if it’s a choice between being hung by conservatives or shot by liberals, I’ll choose the former. Why? Because Nava-Perez and his supporters attack the media not only for what they write, but how they report.
In the ponderous petition I mentioned earlier, the justifications for violence included…
When Mr. Nava-Perez heard from his partner that she had, in front of their two-year old son, been repeatedly asked questions about Eric’s identity after declining to provide this information and having cell phones placed uncomfortably close to her face, he made a reasonable assumption based on information he had that the person posed a threat to himself, his family, and potentially others.
That describes a reporter doing his job. It’s not “a threat.”
Granted, “repeatedly” asking questions when someone doesn’t want to answer them is uncool and unwarranted – that’s best reserved for elected officials and indicted business leaders. But I doubt it really happened.
Chase Karacostas was the only reporter there, judging by the lack of other media coverage for this small march. There’s simply no greedy motive – journalistic or otherwise – for Karacostas to harass Nava-Perez’s partner.
But let’s say he did.
Let’s say he “repeatedly posed questions” even after the woman said no. Let’s say he indeed put his cell phone “uncomfortably close to her face” to record her reply. Are six stitches a proportional response?
At least when Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte body-slammed a reporter in Montana this summer, he apologized and pledged $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The Nava-Perez petition never apologizes. It concludes…
At no point did he intend to cause bodily harm to anyone, but went for a cell phone he thought might contain information that could put himself, his family, and others at risk.
…which adds censorship to the stitches. Hey, he wasn’t trying to hurt Karacostas, he just wanted to seize his work!
Finally, there’s this…
A website called Socialist Worker covered the protest and Nava-Perez’s arrest. It defended him thusly…
UT police arrested Nava-Perez, who was accused of assaulting a reporter for the campus newspaper The Daily Texan. Afterward, the newspaper ran a mug shot of Nava-Perez, with the article portraying Eric as a criminal – guilty before he could even respond to the charges against him.
…which reveals a profound ignorance of both American justice and journalism. Most arrests are public record, because the last thing this country needs are police officers secretly arresting people. That would seem like something socialist workers would agree with.
Of course, conservatives are often just as clueless about the Constitution. But to end where we began: As a social liberal myself, I expect more from my own kind. Instead, I’m increasingly scared of them.
When someone punches you in the face, it doesn’t hurt less because you agree with them. It hurts more.