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Fear of a Black Protest


Black Lives Matter protests are quite nonviolent, even if they have no good moral reason to be. That’s in stark contrast to the way in which they are covered, especially by FOX and the rest of the fascist side of the media, which is as scary marauders threatening good white people.

Since it emerged in 2014, the Black Lives Matter movement has been compared to the civil rights movement. BLM advocates have argued that it continues past efforts toward racial justice; critics have argued instead that the BLM movement has not lived up to the civil rights movement’s nonviolent standards. In particular, conservative media outlets have charged that, after George Floyd’s murder last summer, BLM-inspired protests were “tearing apart our cities” and argued that it is “not a civil rights movement.

Research has found that the 2020 protests were overwhelmingly peaceful. Here at the Monkey Cage, political scientists Erica Chenoweth and Jeremy Pressman reported that their Crowd Counting Consortium (CCC) found that less than 4 percent of the summer’s protests involved property damage while 1 percent involved police injuries. Other data collections similarly found that 95 percent were peaceful.

How does this compare to civil rights era protests? Our research finds that on every measure available, last year’s BLM protests were more peaceful and less confrontational.

However, media coverage of the two eras of protest was quite different. During the 1960s civil rights movement, broadcasters united in showing clear and moving images, like that of the 1963 Children’s Crusade, when Birmingham, Ala., schoolchildren skipped classes to march — and police used water cannons and German shepherds to attack them.

But during last year’s BLM protests, when many Americans were at home under pandemic lockdown orders, people sought information from a far more diverse set of broadcast and social media. Some conservative media outlets or social media feeds overemphasized images of burning buildings and violent confrontations between protesters and police, making those aberrations appear to be the norm. President Donald Trump and some conservative pundits then insisted that the protests were dominated by “thugs” and “anarchists.”

These tactics seemed to have worked. According to the Pew Research Center, American support for the Black Lives Matter movement dropped from 67 percent in June 2020 to 55 percent in September 2020. Fully 60 percent of Whites said they supported Black Lives Matter in June 2020, but declined to 45 percent by September; among Republicans, support dropped from 37 percent to 16 percent from June to September 2020. Survey results from Civiqs show that Republican support declined and opposition increased just after Trump spoke about the protests to the nation on June 1.

Now, like most social science research that has not consulted historians properly, they get the context wrong. There was still a great deal of very bad media coverage of the civil rights protests–especially once they came north. It was one thing for whites in Boston to tut-tut at that bad Bull Connor and a whole other thing when Blacks demanded equal education in their city. Moreover, there was tons of local media then that was heavily biased in favor of whites. So these researchers are fundamentally incorrect in discussing the 60s, even if they are superficially correct based on their research terms (again, typical social scientists). But the point about FOX and all the online garbage is very very true. These are quite peaceful protests and they are covered by racists as if the world was ending.

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