Roving Bands of Youths Roam Riot-Torn Streets–For Obama!

Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins usefully summarizes a phenomenon that I’ve barely mentioned here, partly because I’ve had a hard time taking it seriously: the constant buzz in right-wing media that African-Americans are unleashing a large wave of politically motivated violence on white folks.

Coppins’ headline tells most of the tale: “In Conservative Media, A ‘Race War’ Rages.” Interestingly enough, it has ranged from breathless moment-by-moment coverage of the Trayvon Martin case from the point of view of establishing George Zimmerman’s total innocence (assumed from the beginning), to complaints of too much media coverage of the Martin case (at the expense of what they ought to be covering, which is black-on-white or black-on-black violence), to assertions that the Martin case has inspired black people all over the country to beat up on white folks. You will notice the common thread, which is even less subtle than the ancient MSM convention of invoking stereotypes of black menace by referring to “roving bands of youths” or “riot-turn streets.”

Coppins attributes a lot of this crap to conservative anger about liberal allegations of racism. Whatever. He’s absolutely right, though, that the Martin case has been conflated with random events like the beating of a white man in Mobile by a group of black folks among whom one supposedly shouted someting about seeking “justice for Trayvon,” and more recently an incident in Norfolk where two white newspaper reporters got stomped after a verbal confrontation with black teenagers. As Coppins observes, it took some massaging to make that a major battle in a “race war:”

Local authorities wrote it off as an all-too-routine assault in a city whose violent crime rate is well above the state average. Even the Norfolk newspaper where the victims worked, the Virginian-Pilot, skipped the story, which the editor deemed un-newsworthy. That was before Bill O’Reilly found out about it.

The Fox News host turned the incident into national news by adding one detail: The attackers were black, and the victims were white.

If you’ve spent much time consuming conservative media lately, you’ve probably learned about a slow-burning “race war” going on in America today. Sewing together disparate data points and compelling anecdotes like the attack in Norfolk, conservative bloggers and opinion-makers are driving the narrative with increasing frequency. Their message: Black-on-white violence is spiking — and the mainstream media is trying to cover it up.

But this sort of “race war” rumbling was going on before the fateful encounter between Martin and Zimmerman, notes Coppins:

In one particularly memorable Drudge front page last year, the site culled the newswires for articles about “urban” crime that took place over Memorial Day weekend, and then grouped them together. Among the headlines: “Miami ‘war zone’ during urban weekend;” “Rib fest at Rochester beach turns rowdy;” and “Unruly urban crowd shuts down Nashville water park.”

And on September 15, 2009, Drudge led with the headline, “WHITE STUDENT BEATEN ON BUS; CROWD CHEERS.” The story — which showed video of a black teenager in Illinois beating up a white classmate — went viral in the right-wing blogosphere, prompting Rush Limbaugh to weigh in.

“In Obama’s America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering,” Limbaugh declared.

Ah yes, the Obama Nexus. Not only has Obama sought to impose socialism on America in order to loot virtuous white people and give their hard-earned wealth to shiftless minorities; he’s inspiring redistribution by more direct means than the tax code or “welfare.”

But it would be “racist” to attribute racial motives to O’Reilly or Drudge or Limbaugh any of the other Paul Reveres of the “race war.” They’re the victims. And they’re getting really tired of the distractions the racist Obama-ites are creating to divert attention from the president’s poor stewardship of the economy.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.