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Mostly Peaceful Mayhem

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Mostly Peaceful Mayhem

Turning a blind eye to violence in Miami Beach, the New York Times previews its post-Floyd-trial coverage. March 31, 2021
Public safety
The Social Order

As the trial of officer Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd begins, downtown Minneapolis has already boarded itself up, though the verdict is months away. Unlike the fencing that arose around Washington following the January 6 Capitol riot, the Minneapolis precautions are fully justified. Indeed, the bollards and barricades will grow denser as the verdict nears but will still prove inadequate if Chauvin is not convicted of murder. A firestorm would engulf the city and the nation that will dwarf the riotous destruction of 2020. No trial of a police officer to date has been preceded by the anti-police sentiment and admonitory violence seen over the last year. It is improbable, therefore, that the Chauvin jury will vote to acquit, whatever evidence the defense presents.

In the unlikely event that Chauvin is acquitted, however, the New York Times recently provided a preview of how it and the rest of the mainstream media will cover the ensuing riots. Earlier this month, Miami Beach endured anarchic behavior from an influx of spring break tourists. Shootings and street brawls triggered stampedes. People hit one another with bar glasses and chairs. More than 100 guns have been confiscated. Officers trying to disperse large, illegally gathering crowds were assaulted with rocks and bottles. Commercial property was destroyed. Restaurant customers walked away from their meals without paying. At least one hotel shut down its food service, unable to protect its employees and patrons. Police made over 350 felony arrests and twice as many misdemeanor arrests. And in the most serious crime, two spring breakers from North Carolina drugged a 24-year-old woman from Pennsylvania and raped her while she was passed out, according to the confession of one. The two assailants left her semi-nude and unconscious in her hotel room, stealing her phone and wallet for good measure. Apparently confident in their immunity from the law, they used her credit cards throughout Miami Beach for subsequent purchases. A few hours after the two rapists walked out of her hotel room, hotel staff found her dead there.

It is a virtually inviolate rule that if police crack down on disorder involving black people, the New York Times will accuse the police of racism. This rule held regarding the Miami Beach festivities. The Times covered the chaos only to criticize city officials’ anti-black bias. Faced with rising mob mayhem, Miami Beach’s mayor declared an 8:00 p.m. curfew for Saturday, March 19. It was universally ignored. The streets were impassable; thousands of people stuck around. The city declared a state of emergency. Police officers in riot gear tried to disperse the crowd with pepper balls, to minimal effect.

To the Times and its sources, the only possible reason for the city’s response to the “by and large, nonviolent” partying was that the participants were black. (“By and large, nonviolent” recalls the media’s response to the arson and looting of 2020—“mostly peaceful,” a phrase that may be reliably translated to “violent.”) The chair of the Miami-Dade Black Affairs Advisory Board, Stephen Hunter Johnson, told the Times: “I think people see these large crowds of young Black people, and there is anger and the sense that something must be done.” In fact, the city had allowed the chaos to grow for days. The “sense that something must be done” was the result of the crowds turning the city into what one tourist from Baltimore called a “war zone.”

Johnson also complained that “similar partying by white tourists” on South Padre Island in Texas had not brought a similar police crackdown. But the South Padre Island spring break festivities involved no gunplay, rampages, theft, or assault. As a local outlet reported: “People were drinking, dancing, playing volleyball, and just having a good time on the beach.”

The president of the Miami-Dade NAACP, Daniella Pierre, told the Times that Miami Beach needed to project a “more welcoming attitude toward Black visitors. . . . it felt like you looked at the group and treated them like they were here to do you harm.” But it was the actual harm being done that brought out the quasi-military response, not vice versa. To the mainstream media, police crackdowns on riots are always the cause of riots, even if the temporal sequence belies that logic.

Miami Beach’s Democratic mayor, Dan Gelber, rejected the claim of racial bias: “We did not target race; we targeted conduct,” he told the Times. “What we have experienced the last month has been frightening.”

The most striking aspect of the Times’s coverage, however, was its treatment of the drug-induced hotel rape and subsequent death. This is the same paper that put nearly every allegation of unwanted sexual innuendo on the part of New York governor Andrew Cuomo on the front page; that pioneered the media #MeToo beat; that staffs a gender desk to cover misogyny, sexism, and violence against females; and that treats the drunken college hook-ups that women later regret as rape. Yet when confronted by an actual rape of someone too mentally incapacitated to consent, and who actually dies afterward, the Times buries the incident as a minor detail in what it characterizes as a largely peaceful gathering.

In the fourth paragraph of the story, the Times acknowledges that “there has been some violence; in perhaps the most serious case, two male visitors are accused of drugging and raping a woman who later died.” But we hear no more about the incident until much later in the story: “In the case of the woman who died, the police have arrested two North Carolina men on charges of drugging and raping her and stealing her credit cards. The woman, a 24-year-old from Pennsylvania, was later found dead in her Miami Beach hotel room.”

And that is all. No outrage. No calls for protests and legislation against male violence. If the perpetrators had been white, this incident would be a front-page story about the lethal misogyny of spring break partyers. If the perpetrators had been white and the victim black, the incident would be a front-page story about lethal white supremacist misogyny, followed by widespread protests. But since the alleged perpetrators are black and the victim was white, the incident can by definition contain no racial element and is barely worth mentioning.

These double standards now predominate. Elite “antiracists” absolve blacks from responsibility for their actions. All crime is the result of racism, if it is even acknowledged. This patronizing attitude is today’s real racism, and it guarantees that the bourgeois behavior gap—the cause of lingering socioeconomic disparities—will continue. No one in a position of elite authority is sending the message that society expects blacks to live by the same standards as other groups. Instead, we are unwinding every objective standard of conduct and achievement—whether it’s the criminal code or academic proficiency requirements for school and employment—if enforcing that standard has a disparate impact on blacks.

The barricades erected now in Minneapolis (and later nationwide as the trial concludes) telegraph the expectation that riots are the inevitable and understandable response to a verdict that the mob does not like. Manhattan Institute fellow Fred Siegel has called this implicit threat and its accommodation the “riot ideology.” It guarantees the continuation of urban violence and of squandered lives.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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