For someone who has participated in protests or community organizing, few news headlines are as frustrating as the Orwellian refrain, “Protests turn violent.” Looking at the bruises on your face, you ask yourself, Is that what really happened? Did my face turn violent?
Violence does not simply happen, as if it were some type of exotic inclement weather. A protest is not a vampire or a zombie; it does not “turn.”
So-called “neutral” media who reproduce the “protests turn violent” narrative have indeed taken sides. Their insipid refrain siphons away all culpability and action, at best turning the police and protestors alike into passive objects acted upon by a violence that springs forth unbidden from the void. At worst, they actually regurgitate the same propaganda released by the people beating the protestors, in an attempt to undermine the resistance. Thus news media transform repressive regimes into blameless saints.
In recent weeks, the forces behind the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) have deployed a spectacular regime of brutality in response to the prayerful folk gathered in protest at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. CNN, on the other hand, wants to transform this particular manifestation of state and corporate violence into a kind of spontaneous, Gregor Samsa-style metamorphosis. In these postmodern times, they don’t want to come out and say that they support DAPL, but their deliberate manipulation of the narrative makes their position perfectly clear:
In the coming weeks, we will very likely witness a dramatic shift in the situation on the ground at Standing Rock, given the recent eviction order issued by the Army Corps of Engineers and the announcement by hundreds of military veterans that they will “self-deploy” in defense of the encampment. Undoubtedly CNN’s monotonous and misleading reporting style will continue to disappoint.