While Baltimore police were busying themselves cracking skulls and issuing shrill warnings of gang retaliation against cops, right-wing commentators were taking the time to gloat about how much the devastating rioting across the city confirmed their worst stereotypes about black people. Worse, many of them just could not give up on the notion that what was happening in Baltimore was the first stages of a nationwide race war.
Here’s a sample of coverage from the cesspool over at Breitbart:
What are those myths? Crackpot Ben Shapiro writes that leftists are ignoring the growing threat of “valueless” people in crime-ravaged inner cities. “Modern race riots do not occur because of the supposed white superstructure or a legacy of governmental underservice. They occur because valueless rioters act in valueless ways. Baltimore is evidence that glossing over lack of values with leftist pabulum about social justice doesn’t stop cities from burning.”
This headline from Breitbart News referring to “1,000 BLACK RIOTERS” was actually written on the 25th, before the situation really devolved on Sunday night and Monday. Every reputable primary source reported that of over 2,000 peaceful protesters that marched on the 25th, only about 100 destroyed property or got into fights. The intent was clear: to paint all black people in Baltimore who turned out as lawless barbarians.
One of their contributors explicitly called for the retaliatory murder of rioters.
This article by Matthew Boyle refers to “racial protests” and calls the city a “war zone.” Again, this was published before major incidents occurred in following days.
Conspiracist hell-hole InfoWarssuggested shadow government billionaire George Soros was ” deliberately [pouring] gas on the flames of civil unrest in order to ‘advance systemic change,’ hoping to bring about their version of order out of chaos.”
His other site, Prison Planet,warned that thugs in every city were waiting in the wings to sweep in and rape, kill and murder upstanding respectable citizens – using exclusively photos of black people (“young thugs”) as illustration.
Matt Drudge actually suggested the American government could collapse as a result of the unrest.
Drudge Report itself cherry-picked instances of white people supposedly being attacked by blacks (the City Paper reported that many of the white folks involved were drunk bar patrons deliberately challenging the demonstrators):
The Washington Times warned of national chaos.
Bill Kristol says civilization itself is at stake!
Twitchy was full of thinly-veiled racist taunts, but called Drudge’s tweet an “ominous warning” and warned of “social justice mobs.” Rush Limbaugh warned of perpetual racial chaos until blacks stopped voting for Democrats. World Net Daily screamed of “all-out war.” (No one should bother to see what Chuck C. Johnson was saying.)
It goes on, and on, and on.
Let’s call this kind of coverage out for what it is: not just racist, but straight-up Helter Skelter.
Helter Skelter was the term that the notorious cult leader Charles Manson used to name what he saw as the inevitable, apocalyptic race war brewing in the United States. The crimes for which Manson was eventually locked up forever, such as the 1969 massacre of five people at actress Sharon Tate’s L.A. residence were intended as a form of incitement to usher in Helter Skelter, which of course Manson considered himself prepared for. He had his militia compound and plenty of heavily-armed followers to defend it with.
Manson’s ideology wasn’t coherent, but neither is the race-war rhetoric emanating from right-wing sites greeting chaos in Baltimore with self-indulgent glee. Just like Helter Skelter was an insane fantasy, the notion that minorities, communists, gays, or any other boogeymen of the day are going to rise up in open revolt is really just an exercise in satiating white paranoia. No wonder gun sales skyrocket every time groups of black people turn to violence; conservative media feeds whites the message that the Second Amendment is all that is standing between them and anarchy, even though they already have phalanxes of riot cops between them and the poor.
If anything, this completely unsubstantiated psychotic delusion was at least more plausible to the gullible and racist in the late 1960s, when the aftermath of black nationalism, civil rights marches and desegregation was still burning a hole in conservatives’ brains. Nowadays, with every branch of the government from local police to federal paramilitary teams armed with machine guns, “less-lethal” weaponry, armored vehicles and air support, the threat of such a mass rebellion is outright nonsensical. Baltimore was a police state before this happened, and it’s even more of one now, with curfews and National Guardsmen on the streets. Even the much-reviled gang members of the city understand this, which is why they agreed to a truce and spoke to the media about the importance of ending the violence.
White Baltimore is safe. The worst damage from the riots was limited to mainly black and poor communities. The vast majority of Baltimore did not participate in the destruction.
No, there is not a race war happening in Baltimore. In fact, order was quickly restored given how bad the situation was in some neighborhoods. This is not Los Angeles in 1992. Peaceful protesters triumphed. The kids are off the streets. The catharsis, for now, is over. There’s little mention of the role police played in escalating the violence with militaristic tactics and liberal use of force.
No one died, except for Freddie Gray.
Certainly the damage done was grave, and no one should excuse senseless rioting that mainly made things worse for everyone. But the media’s relentless focus on property damage and civil unrest paints an overwhelmingly negative portrait of the Baltimore community, despite the fact that ordinary citizens did everything from place themselves between rioters and cops to volunteer to clean up the damage. In doing so, sensationalist media did the heavy lifting of portraying communities destroyed by decades of white flight, economic abandonment and racist policing as instead victimized by their own stereotypical indolence and lack of respect for the law.
That was bad enough. Conservatives have spent the last few days doing its damnedest to sell an even worse narrative: that the entire black population of the United States’ inner cities are waiting to flood out and destroy white America.
It’s not true, but it’ll sell a lot of guns.