NBC’s lament: Portland and the carefully cultivated cognitive divide

NBC’s lament: Portland and the carefully cultivated cognitive divide
The federal courthouse in Portland being set on fire by Antifa/black bloc rioters. Via Twitter/Andy Ngo

See *UPDATE* at the bottom.

On Thursday night, an NBC editorial feature, Meet the Press’s First Read, claimed without evidence that “The Republican silence on what’s happening in Portland is jarring.”

This is so laughably untrue it’s – well, jarring.  Republicans, conservatives, and Republican conservatives haven’t done a heck of a lot other than talk about what’s happening in Portland for the last 4-5 days.

Trending: Biden tells potato farmer complaining about overregulation to get job hauling chicken manure

First Read goes on to claim without evidence that “Republicans are more outraged at Liz Cheney than they are federal armed agents that just tear-gassed a city’s mayor.”

It gets weirder.  First Read makes no effort to establish that Republicans, who’ve been tweeting, Facebooking, and posting article after article about Portland, aren’t really talking about what’s happening in Portland.

Instead, the NBC pundits plunge right in to a series of taunts.

What happened to “Don’t tread on me”?

What happened to states’ rights?

What happened to freedom of speech and assembly?

This litany doesn’t seem to establish anything in particular, but First Read is apparently satisfied with it, because the next thing you know, we’re careering through a maze of poll numbers and percentages and section headings like “White Democrats vs. white Republicans on race.”

You can cut the elliptical impressionism with a buzz-saw and it’s still sitting there in rigid, cheeky pieces, identifiable for what it is: a big, opaque baffle-screen.  This First Read screed isn’t about anything intelligible.  It’s just emotion-tugging gibberish stringing accusatory soundbites together.

It appears to me that NBC gets away with this in part because the real allegation about “Republicans” is not that they aren’t talking about what’s happening in Portland.

It’s that they aren’t talking about what’s happening in Portland using the memes and tropes NBC is working overtime to preempt the public debate with.

When Republicans talk about the mayor being tear-gassed in Portland, they point out that the mayor was standing at the front of a mob of black-garbed black bloc rioters who were, at the time of the tear-gassing, engaged in setting the federal courthouse on fire – knowing that federal security police were inside it.

Other black bloc thugs were throwing incendiary devices at the courthouse as the flames sprang up around its outer wall.

Due to this exceptionally bad choice by the arsonist rioters, federal police used tear gas to drive them away from the temporary security fence outside the courthouse, so that they couldn’t continue to build their fires up and heave incendiary devices over the fence.

(The time of posting for the CBS News tweet was several hours after the event.  A tweet further below shows Mayor Wheeler being taken inside a building by his security detail shortly after midnight Pacific time.  He was present at the arson riot and tear-gassed at the same time as the rioters, around midnight.)

Shortly after Mayor Wheeler found himself tear-gassed in this exchange, his own security detail – which had accompanied him to the front of the black bloc riot group massed at the temporary fence – felt that he was endangered by the activities of the riot group, and hustled him away from it.  He was last seen being taken inside a building, while his security detail pushed away rioters who were trying to follow him into it.

This whole drama, from start to finish, has been extensively reported by conservative media, and remarked on by Republican officials on social media.

It just hasn’t been discussed by Republicans in the terms NBC insists it be discussed in.  Republicans aren’t going to discuss attempts to set the federal courthouse on fire as if they are about free speech, assembly, states’ rights, or any grievance for which “Don’t tread on me” is an appropriate slogan of defiance.

NBC’s lament about “Republican silence” is the most selective and absurd of straw men, depending entirely on a false, embedded assumption about what would constitute “chatter” (i.e., the opposite of silence).  In NBC’s thesis, the only way to be speaking audibly about Portland is to adhere to NBC’s – the mainstream media’s – narrative about Portland.

This framing of the discussion deviates wholesale from simple reality.  If we want to play a “who’s being silent” game, a much better case can be made that it’s the Democrats and the Left (including the mainstream media).

They won’t acknowledge that at the time he was tear-gassed, Ted Wheeler was standing in solidarity with arsonists trying to burn a building with people inside it.  Whereas Republicans acknowledge without hesitation that Wheeler was tear-gassed.  They just insist that the whole story be told, and not merely one misleading feature of it.

Nor will Republicans stand still for equating violent, pointless destruction like attacking buildings and their security guards with exercising First Amendment rights or airing legitimate grievances.  Trying to burn a building with people in it is just a felony crime – and it’s a federal crime if it’s a federal building.  That’s how the rule of law works: logically, and applying in the same measure to everyone.

Incidentally, the same night (Wednesday-Thursday, 22-23 July), after the arson mob at the courthouse was driven back by tear gas, the Portland police declared a riot and issued a warning that they were going to tear-gas the mob if it didn’t settle down and comply with safety advisories.  So much for it being a uniquely brutal measure to tear-gas a rioting mob, if it’s the federal police doing it.

Also, FYI:

*UPDATE* as this goes to post about 11:20 PM Pacific on 23 July (2:20 AM Eastern on 24 July).  The nightly cycle of nihilist attacks having nothing to do with George Floyd, black lives mattering, or the exercise of constitutional rights is underway again in Portland.

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.