Coverage of the disturbing events of Jan. 6 has given us a glimpse of just how differently the left and the right are treated in the media. Americans on both the left and the right watched in disbelief and horror as a mob overran Capitol Police and invaded the Capitol building. One protestor was shot and a police officer died amidst the fighting. This is tragic. Every conservative I know agrees.
And for many of us conservatives, the horror was multiplied when we realized that the rioters—including the horned hat-wearing cartoon character who is now refusing to eat anything but organic prison food—purported to represent us. Nothing could be further from the truth; we cherish our core principle of law and order.
But just like that, the left now found the words to describe this event more accurately than they could describe any of the rioting and mayhem we saw all summer. Lives were lost on Jan. 6; that’s true. It’s also true that the legitimacy of the legacy media was also a casualty.
Of course, those with legitimate concerns over police reform on the left suffered a similar fate last summer, with a similar outcome. There were genuine peaceful protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, who died during his arrest. But the truly peaceful protests were overshadowed by the destruction and violence perpetrated by actors uninterested in peace. Many of us on the right allowed those on the left to be characterized by their worst actors and those who screamed “defund the police” the loudest. In reality, “defunding the police” was not popular even among the groups that claimed support for it.
For their part, the media did their best to protect the left from scrutiny by downplaying the destruction and violence. Who can forget CNN’s “fiery, but mostly peaceful” designation of events? The media was unable to find the words “violence” or “destruction” for months, and politicians on the left ignored, or even encouraged the ongoing unrest. There was no appetite in the media or among politicians to calm or even condemn the violence, further infuriating those on the right.
The result—entirely predictable—was a pendulum swing toward support for our police officers. “Back the Blue” became the mantra of the right, while the left over-played its hand and intensified calls for defunding police even as violent crime soared in major cities. Vanished was any desire to work together on policing.
Following Jan. 6 came the left’s justification for the double standard. The media said that Jan 6. was different because it was the Capitol, and that the summer’s rioting was merely “smashing the window of a Jamba Juice.” It wasn’t different; both were horrible—yet only one side seems able to clearly see that. A federal police officer died in protests over the summer as well. Federal courthouses were attacked in the Pacific Northwest, and police precincts were overrun. It wasn’t different, it was exactly the same, but only one side saw violence and the other side allowed violence to continue without criticism for months.
Until there is some symmetry in how real instances of right and wrong are covered, there can be no bipartisanship or unity as President Biden has called for. Not every policy disagreement is a “good versus evil” proposition; in fact very few really are. But until we can recognize right and wrong together, there isn’t much else we can agree on.
In policing, that begins with finding policies that result in better training, better integration and better communication with communities. Defunding, certainly won’t get us there, and neither will continuing to try our police officers in the court of public opinion.