Propaganda comes for the Post: At this very late stage in the nation's dissection, can you believe the various things you read in the Washington Post?
We're sorry to say that you're asking a very good question! Consider something we read in this morning's Post.
The item comes from a front-page report about the scene in Portland. The city's mayor has seen enough, or so three scribes report:
GUARINO, SHEPHERD AND WITTE (8/11/20): The welcome absence of federal police has refocused a core group of protesters on long-standing tensions with local police that pit them against the Democratic city leaders who previously stood with them in opposing the federal interference, including Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves as police commissioner.We'll admit that we ourselves are concerned about the last part of Wheeler's statement. Yesterday afternoon, for the very first time, we began to think there's a very good chance that Trump will get re-elected, assuming we have anything like an actual election this fall.
Wheeler was outspoken in demanding that the Trump administration withdraw federal agents from his city but has grown increasingly exasperated by violent protester tactics.
“When you commit arson with an accelerant in an attempt to burn down a building that is occupied by people who you have intentionally trapped inside, you are not demonstrating, you are attempting to commit murder,” Wheeler said after the fire at the police union headquarters Saturday night.
Such behavior, he said, creates “the B-roll film that will be used in ads nationally to help Donald Trump during his campaign.”
So we suddenly thought yesterday. We thought it for the first time.
In our view, the chaos in Portland and Chicago could conceivably help deliver that outcome. Rightly or wrongly, that's what the Portland mayor said, as he accused a "core group" of "violent protesters" of "attempting to commit murder" in at least one recent instance.
That's a very serious charge. According to this morning's report, Wheeler made the charge in response to conduct by that one group of protesters on this past Saturday night.
That's when Wheeler made his charge! Unless you read yesterday's Washington Post, in which a news report told you this, hard-copy headline included:
SHEPHERD (8/10/20): Portland protesters set fire to police union headquartersHow strange! Yesterday morning, we read that Wheeler had made that serious charge. But yesterday morning, we were told that he had made his striking remarks on Thursday. The "attempted murder" he alleged had happened on Wednesday night!
As anger has been bubbling back up among demonstrators, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves as the city’s police commissioner, held a news conference on Thursday in which he likened some of the protesters’ actions to attempted murder. He pointed to a Wednesday night incident in which he said protesters barricaded exits to the Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct building using cars and wooden planks and disabled security cameras, starting a fire that “was intended to cause serious injury or death, and it very well could have.”
“When you commit arson with an accelerant in an attempt to burn down a building that is occupied by people who you have intentionally trapped inside, you are not demonstrating, you are attempting to commit murder,” Wheeler said, according to video posted by news station KPTV. “You are creating the B-roll film that will be used in ads nationally to help Donald Trump during his campaign. If you don’t want to be part of that, then don’t show up.”
Yesterday, we were puzzled. It seemed strange to think that Wheeler's striking remarks were only being reported a full four days later. Even stranger, in our view, was the way Katie Shepherd opened this news report, whose banner headline stretched across the top of page A7.
We thought Shepherd's opening passage was strange. We'll show you that passage below. But which report contained a mistake? Did Wheeler make his charge as a Thursday presser? Or is this morning's report correct?
AS it turns out, it seems that yesterday's report was right—that today's report is mistaken. Below, we'll show you what we learned when we checked with the New York Times.
In fairness, everyone makes mistakes. That said, we were especially struck by Monday's report because of a remarkable, sprawling fashion profile which had appeared the day before, in Sunday's Washington Post.
Readers, can we talk? We almost never use the word "stupid" at this site. As a matter of policy, we use the kinder word "dumb."
That said, the sprawling piece in Sunday's Post was just plain flat-out stupid. We'd also call it rank propaganda, though that didn't distinguish it from other work in Sunday's Washington Post.
Rather plainly, our nation is disintegrating under the weight of Trumpism. In the process, have newspapers like the Washington Post surrendered to a trio of jealous press corps gods—Incompetence, Propaganda and Error?
Again, you're asking an excellent question. Consider that Sunday profile from the fashion and protest front in Oregon's own "River City."
The Sunday profile to which we refer may have been the dumbest we've ever seen. In hard copy, it consumed two full pages of the Post—pages A12 and A13.
On balance, we'd call it a study in Portland protest fashions. If you want to know why we'd use the term "stupid," at one point the sprawling profile of Portland's protest scene admiringly tells us this:
LANG (8/9/20): About 30 years ago, when President George H.W. Bush was in office, the administration was greeted with explosive protests every time he or a member of his Cabinet stepped foot in the City of Roses. Vice President Dan Quayle arrived in Portland for a fundraiser amid a demonstration of hundreds who had gathered outside, burning flags and desecrating photos of the vice president. A handful of university students from Reed College, a liberal arts school in town, swallowed colored food dye and vomited red, white and blue on the hotel’s front steps.Yes, you read that correctly. Way back when, hundred of protesters gathered outside Dan Quayle's hotel, "burning flags and desecrating photos of the vice president."
Presidential staffers had soon come up with a nickname for the riverside city: “Little Beirut.”
Residents embraced the nickname, emblazoning it on T-shirts, bumper stickers, music albums and businesses. A local group of peace activists even named their organization B.E.I.R.U.T. or “Boisterous Extremists for Insurrection against Republicans and other Unprincipled Thugs.”
You may wonder, as we did, how a person can "desecrate" such a photo. This enjoyable point goes unexplained in this sprawling, deeply stupid report.
That said, the enjoyable claim added to the sense of fun which drove the Sunday Post's sprawling profile. And yes, that's what it actually said:
At that time, a handful of university students had even "swallowed colored food dye and vomited red, white and blue on the...front steps" of Quayle's hotel! From such amazingly cool behaviors, Portland gained the very cool nickname which may seem a bit unfeeling today, given a recent explosion.
Is that sad stupid anecdote really part of an "admiring" profile of Portland protest culture? You'll have to read Lang's full profile to judge our assessment.
We will say this—the amazingly cool tricolor vomiting really happen, though not, perhaps, on the Quayle hotel's front steps.
You can see videotape of that group of idiot vomiting children as part of this 2018 retrospective by Williamette Week. You can see them vomiting in the street, though perhaps not on the hotel's steps.
(The retrospective was Williamette Week'sway of remembering George H. W. Bush, who had just died. In this way, the game is played within part of Portland protest culture.)
You can see the idiot children vomiting on that videotape. Idiot children of their type have been getting Republican presidents elected and re-elected dating back to Richard M. Nixon. Everybody understands this, including Mayor Ted.
Correction! Almost everyone understands the role these pseudo-progressive idiot children have played in modern political history. It may be that Lang, and the occasional Portland protester, do not understand this part of the way our world has been made:
LANG (continuing directly) In the fourth week of what Portland officials described [this year] as a federal occupation of the city, Ryver Hankins, 30, stood on a grassy knoll just beyond the federal courthouse with a hand-drawn homage to Portland history.So cool! Ryver Hankins, chronological age 30, may be one of the possible Trump-enablers Mayor Wheeler has warned us about.
“Little Beirut lives!” the poster strapped to his back exclaimed.
To assess Lang's homage to the Portland protest scene, you'll have to review it yourself. We regard it as monumentally stupid, but also as tilting rather hard toward a type of propaganda in which there's nothing but good, well-intentioned folk Over Here, with the "extremists" all found Over There.
At one point, Lang even wrote this. Can you trust anything you now read in the Washington Post?
LANG: For weeks, demonstrators directed their anger at the federal courthouse, where they broke windows and tagged the building with bright paint. The vandalism drew the attention of Trump, who sent in federal agents.So cool! According to Lang, Portland's protesters have "broken windows and tagged the [federal courthouse] with bright paint," full stop.
But he didn’t account for the stamina and creativity of Portland protesters. By the time federal agents packed into the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in early July, the crowds were ready with helmets, respirators and goggles to mitigate the worst effects of crowd-control munitions. Many donned the all-black uniform known as “black bloc” meant to anonymize its wearers. An elaborate network of aid stations and volunteers provided free food, water, gear and medical help.
Federal agents and police officers say they have been attacked with rocks, bottles, ball bearings and balloons filled with paint and feces. Small groups set fires at Portland police stations, police union offices and the Justice Center, which houses the Multnomah County jail.
In Portland, it’s not just the usual suspects who take to the streets. Moms in yellow shirts and bike helmets folded sunflowers into the iron fence around the federal courthouse. Teachers made signs likening Trump to tyrants and dictators of the past. Military veterans waved flags hung upside down to signal distress and strapped on gas masks and respirators to stare down the front line of federal troops.
These minor actions angered Trump, but "he didn’t account for the stamina and creativity of Portland protesters." Or so Lang has said.
Two paragraphs later, Lang deigns to report what federal agents and police officers say protesters have done. In passing, she mentions the fact that "small groups" of protesters seem to have been setting fires pretty much all over the place.
Even there, she disappears the use of commercial-grade fireworks and lazers which has been widely reported. She disappears the injuries an AP reporter says he saw when he spent a night inside the federal courthouse.
From her sanitized account, Lang bounces right along to a playful description of "the usual suspects." There's a word for pseudo-journalistic garbage like this this:
This is propaganda.
This is propaganda! Instead of giving readers a full account of the various actions which have occurred from various groups of protesters (and others), Lang substitutes a mindless culture-and-fashion profile of these creative and colorful souls.
We get photos of their protest gear; we hear their self-impressed comments. The sheer stupidity of this treatment echoes the Post's endless use of fashion writer Robin Givhan to comment on alleged wardrobe issues in the political context.
Playfully, Lang gives us the usual suspects along with quite a few slippery remarks from protest-friendly office holders. This is also propaganda, of the type which has long helped get people like Trump elected.
Monday's report in the Washington Post struck us as especially strange in the wake of this sprawling, dimwitted fashion-cum culture profile.
How strange! According to Monday's headline, a group of protesters had "set fire to police union headquarters." This had prompte the mayor to accuse them of attempted murder.
According to Monday's report, the mayor had made this accusation on Thursday. But how strange!
Three days later, the Post was offering a mindless fashion profile, assuring us that Portland's protesters are just a group of grand-dads, sisters and moms. Their creativity had led them to maybe tag the federal courthouse. As you can see in Lang's ridiculous prose, the "extremists" are all Over There.
Lang's fashion profile was rank propaganda; then came Monday's report. On Thursday, the mayor had accused some protesters of attempted murder, but it took the Post four days to say so.
Before that, readers would be entertained by Lang's ridiculous protestwear profile. Also, though, understand this about Monday's news report:
As noted, Monday's report appeared beneath this startling banner headline:
Portland protesters set fire to police union headquartersAllegedly, it was that behavior which triggered the mayor's remarkable charge.
But how strange! Before she reported the mayor's charge; before she described the actual fire; before she got to any of that, Katie Shepherd started Monday's news report with this profile of a Portland resident with a satisfied mind:
SHEPHERD: Robert Dorris leaned against the door frame of his ground-floor apartment in Portland, Ore., on the same block as the police union’s headquarters, and watched silently as a crowd of black-clad protesters set fire to plywood in the street.Intriguing! Four days earlier, the mayor had accused some protesters of attempted murder. But before Shepherd told us that, she primed us with a five-paragraph profile of a local resident who seemed to think the whole thing was A-OK.
His neighbors watched from their balconies as the smoke billowed into the night sky. Some protesters below roasted marshmallows while others added fuel to the flames. More than 100 people were in the street, holding Black Lives Matter signs, dancing to music and singing protest chants. At the police union building on the corner, a small group of people hacked away at the plywood blocking the door.
“You can’t control people’s anger,” Dorris said, as the fire flickered in front of him. “Black voices have been silenced. We’ve been screaming for years and years about police violence.”
The 63-year-old Black man gazed out at the largely White crowd of protesters and smiled, even as the smoke drifted into his home.
“Every other week it seems like they’re here,” he said. “I love it. Our voices were ignored. They’re being heard.”
We'd say that leans strongly towards propaganda. We'll also tell you this:
Just how dangerous was that fire? We have no idea.
Banner headline to the side, it didn't sound very dangerous by the time Shepherd got around to describing it.
Meanwhile, her report had featured a local resident who thought the fire was OK. One day before, the Post had published a sprawling fashion profile of Portland's highly creative protesters, whose forerunners had once vomited in red, white and blue on the front steps of a spiffy hotel!
It was all so very cool! But in the course of her deeply stupid report, Lang didn't ponder this:
Through some strange array of events, Portland's creative protest krewe has now been at it for thirty years. But they somehow have a police force which they say is out of control, and they have a villainous mayor.
Is it possible that vomiting in red, white and blue is just the silly, stupid behavior of a bunch of dopes? Im the larger sense, is it possible that Portland's protesters may not be all that effective? That the heroes profiled in Lang's report may not be all that sharp?
Could it be that this gang of jerk-offs could end up getting Trump re-elected? That's what Mayor Ted has said. Could it be that he's right?
We offer a final point:
When did Wheeler make his charge about the attempted murder? We decided to turn to the New York Times to get the actual facts.
How strange! It seems that Wheeler made his remarks last Thursday. That said, we can find no sign that the New York Times has ever reported what Wheeler said at all.
There is, of course, no perfect way to report these events. But are the Washington Post and the New York Times still functioning as real newspapers? Or as the nation devolves into tiny small tribes, are the mighty gods, Propaganda and Incompetence, perhaps devouring the Post?
Beyond that, is it possible that Portland's self-impressed fashion krewe will turn out to be skilled at only one task—getting Trump re-elected?
That's what Mayor Ted has warned. As merciless gods lay waste to the land, could Portland's mayor be right?
Tomorrow: All together now! Sullivan, Hesse, Linskey and Norris can (finally) see it coming!