Port: Believing lies about political violence isn't just a problem for the right

You should be concerned about the unwillingness of many Republicans to come to grips with the reality of what Jan. 6 was, and what the Trump movement is. I certainly am. But you need to be concerned

A protester pours gasoline on a fire blocking North Dakota Highway 1806 on Oct. 27, 2016, north of Cannon Ball. Protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline were attempting to keep law enforcement officers from pushing them off the road and out of their camp.
Forum file photo
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MINOT — "Less than half of GOP say 1/6 was very violent," reads a somewhat misleading Associated Press headline . Though technically accurate, a more nuanced description of the results is less distressing. The poll, commissioned by the AP, indicates that 71% of Republicans admit that the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol was at least somewhat violent.

That nit-picking aside, there's no question that vast swaths of Republicans have, thanks to the phony punditry of Fox News and other conservative media and the self-serving bluster of disgraced former President Donald Trump and his various sycophants, a completely distorted view of the Jan. 6 riots.

Just as many of them bought into the byzantine maze of zany conspiracies that is Qanon and Trump World's many lies about the 2020 election, they've also come to believe that Jan. 6 wasn't the violent act of political extremism countless photos and videos and social media posts demonstrate that it was.

These people are living in a political bubble.

But this isn't just a problem on the right.


The left lives in a similar bubble.

Remember that CNN reporter who stood in front of a burning building in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 2020, during violent demonstrations following the shooting of Jacob Blake? The chyron read "Fiery Bust Mostly Peaceful Protests After Police Shooting."

No protest that includes acts of arson can fairly be described as "mostly peaceful." Yet this whitewashing of left-wing violence is habitual from the national news media.

Protesters line up behind makeshift barricade of dumpsters during May 30 riot in downtown Fargo.jpg
Protesters line up behind a makeshift barricade of dumpsters during the riot in downtown Fargo on May 30, 2020.
C.S. Hagen / The Forum

We here in North Dakota lived through the terrible violence surrounding the demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The thousands of activists who flocked to the pipeline construction site north of the Standing Rock Sioux tribal lands spent weeks instigating violent conflict with law enforcement both in rural Morton County and in the nearby communities of Bismarck and Mandan.
Yet in a December 2016 piece Elizabeth Jensen, then National Public Radio's public editor, described the demonstrations as a "largely peaceful protest." Jensen wasn't alone in deploying this divorced-from-reality euphemism for the DAPL violence. The national news media chose to focus their attention not on the crimes and provocations committed by the pipeline protesters but instead on law enforcement's response to them.

As if the cops were acting in a vacuum.

Serious questions of policy in our society should be settled through the flawed, frustrating, and often extremely protracted process of democracy and not judicial fiat.

The narrative of the Jan. 6 riot has flipped this script. During the pipeline protests and the various Black Lives Matter demonstrations, it was the right condemning violence and defending law enforcement's response, but once it was Donald Trump's supporters committing the violence, suddenly, for them, it was the cops who were the bad guys, and a violent extremist with a history of erratic behavior like Ashli Babbitt became an unlikely martyr.

And vice versa for the left. Suddenly, after years of left-wing riots around pipelines and police shootings, the cops are heroes, and political violence is indefensible.

My point is not that one side or the other "started it" or that some faction of the American electorate deserves more blame for this mess than another. Nor does one side's gloss over the ugly underbelly of its activism excuse the other.


It's that we need to be true to our standards, even when we're sympathetic to the cause in question.

You should be concerned about the unwillingness of many Republicans to come to grips with the reality of what Jan. 6 was and what the Trump movement is. I certainly am. But you need to be concerned about the left's habit of gloss and excuse-making for left-wing extremism as well.

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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