CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va./WASHINGTON, D.C. — This weekend, during the one year anniversary of the violent and tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia, there was more violence there, and on the streets of Washington, D.C.
On Saturday in Charlottesville, protests turned violent after a mostly peaceful start. On Sunday in Washington, D.C., the same right-wing group behind last year's demonstrations in Charlottesville that turned violent and deadly held another rally. By the end of the day, there was violence there too.
The national news media used words like "anti-hate groups" and "counterprotesters" to innocuously describe those who opposed the white nationalist group behind the "Unite The Right" rally.
One word you probably did not hear much on the networks or see much in many of the big national newspapers: Antifa.
While the news networks downplayed the violence and remained mostly silent on Antifa, reporters posting on Twitter had already revealed that it was Antifa who was behind the violence. They also reported that Antifa's members had targeted them, attempting to destroy any recording devices that would reveal what they really are.
By Sunday night, it appeared that the major national news organizations would do Antifa's bidding and not reveal who they really are. In doing so, the credibility of these large news organizations was severely diminished in the eyes of many.
Antifa is a conglomerate of left-wing anarchists, communists, etc, who are militant and are known for targeting people and groups with whom they disagree through online and in-person harassment. Members of Antifa target those they decide are fascist or right-wing.
It wants to eliminate borders, police, military, etc. Its members are mostly unknown, and it uses violence and intimidation in order to push its agenda. It has been a small group, but since President Trump's campaign in 2016, it has grown and become more violent.
This past weekend, Antifa managed to take over peaceful protests in both cities and turn them into riots.
However, nearly all of those reporters posted their accounts and videos as events transpired, mostly via Twitter.
Sunday's "Unite The Right" rally was planned by the same far-right group behind last year's large rally in Charlottesville, which ended in violence and the death of one woman. This year, "Unite The Right" was a dud. A very small group estimated at about 30 people arrived in Washington, D.C., and the rally was over as quickly as it began.
Peaceful counterprotesters were overtaken by Antifa, who eventually turned its aggression on police and news media crews who were there for the original demonstration.
The previous day in Charlottesville, same story. Relatively peaceful protests led by student groups and members of Black Lives Matter were taken over by members of Antifa, who quickly turned violent.
Both days, Antifa confronted police and the media. Reporters on the scene said (and video shows) that members of Antifa attempted to destroy or successfully destroyed recording equipment to keep them from reporting on the violence.
By Sunday night, media analysts and commentators who have been highly critical of the major news networks coverage during the Trump era were appalled by the lack of coverage of Antifa's role in these riots.
The Associated Press report on the protests made a single brief mention of Antifa, with a headline calling the weekend's events, "Peaceful Protests". The AP article made no mention of Antifa members repeatedly attacking journalists and attempting to destroy recording equipment. The only violence it discussed in detail was from last year's demonstrations.
A lot of criticism went to CNN and the network's Senior Media Correspondent Brian Stelter. While Antifa rioted and attacked members of the media, CNN ran graphics describing them as "anti-hate" groups who had "dramatically outnumbered white supremacists." Stelter promoted the banner on Twitter at approximately the same time Antifa clashed with the U.S. Secret Service near the White House.
Critics who have become more and more critical of the national news media in the last few years were fast to question the lack of coverage of Antifa violence this weekend, especially after many of those same networks recently accused President Trump of putting them in danger with his anti-media rhetoric.
Several pointed out the hypocrisy of claiming that Trump bashing the media as a form of violence putting them in danger while ignoring and remaining mostly silent about actual physical attacks and threats against media by the left-wing group.
While CNN Anchor Jake Tapper and Stelter did briefly criticize Saturday's violence in Charlottesville on Twitter, the network (and Stelter) continued Sunday to focus its coverage on the group that was very small in number and were not violent.
On Stelter's Sunday morning show, he instead conducted what many characterized as a "softball" interview with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio that focused on Trump's anti-media rhetoric and claims that FOX News is solely responsible for division in the U.S.
It was also noted that just hours after Stelter's interview with Mayor de Blasio, a credentialed reporter with the New York Post was forcibly removed from a de Blasio event for attempting to ask a question.
Stelter was repeatedly called out for his silence on the reporter's removal. He finally retweeted the Conservative author's original post more than 16 hours later, despite tweeting himself several dozens of times, including a tweet helping to promote that more than 135 newspapers planned a coordinated effort on Thursday to publish editorials against "President Trump's anti-press rhetoric".
With CNN and the leading television news networks leaving a void in coverage of Antifa's violence, Conservative websites stepped in to fill that void. This has become a growing problem in reporting what is happening, because millions of Americans still do not trust reporting from these smaller, more politically active organizations.
However, when it becomes clear that the major and established news media are showing larger amounts of real or perceived bias towards on side of the political debate, even more Americans find themselves with nowhere to turn for truthful reporting. This rapidly growing distrust may have been recently spurred by President Trump, but the seed was planted and grown mostly by the major networks and newspapers for many years before Trump's rise to the White House.
In an effort to preserve and insulate certain narratives, it appears that the national media seems willing to give certain groups a "pass" if they are left of center politically, even if the group expresses hatred and physically assaults reporters.
For example, instead of reporting that Antifa broke up the peaceful protests and simply brought violence and extreme anti-establishment rhetoric, the Washington Post published an opinion piece that it is local law enforcement who is to blame for the violence.
The WaPo piece, written by Terrence McCoy, tried to rationalize to readers that violence in Charlottesville from members of Antifa (which is only mentioned by name twice, and whose presence McCoy downplays during those two mentions) was simply a reaction to "the overpolicing of America".
McCoy writes that there was "confusion over an extraordinary police presence". He then writes several paragraphs later that during last year's protests, "the police in Charlottesville were outnumbered and ill-prepared" for the rally, in which a woman was killed when a man drove into a crowd of protesters. He is awaiting a November trial for 10 charges, including 1st Degree Murder.
The Associated Press article's only mention of police was that they, "faced blistering criticism...for what was perceived as a passive response to the violence."
As McCoy's own Twitter feed clearly shows, he was not only in Charlottesville on Saturday to witness the violence, he tweeted out a photo and made a post that "protesters" were antagonistic towards the media.
Sunday afternoon, however, he tweeted that, "the protesters, many of them antifa" were, "furious over the display of state power."
NBC News Reporter Cal Perry, who was also there during Saturday's protests and ensuing violence, not only confirmed that the violence was "almost exclusively Antifa", he also tweeted that the "police deserve a lot of credit for keeping it under relative control."
He also mentioned that Antifa's protest the night before in Charlottesville was "rough and tumble" "by design."
There is clear video evidence and first-hand accounts from reporters with network affiliations confirming that Antifa was behind the vast majority of violence, and that its members repeatedly tried to destroy any recording devices that would expose their actions. Despite that, the national news media either neglected or decided not to inform their viewers and readers of those facts.
Major news organizations did not even attempt to differentiate between the peaceful protesters and Antifa, mostly choosing to remain silent about the group's actions.
The chorus of media critics who have been calling out much of the mainstream media's bias say that the growing wave of anti-media rhetoric and the overall distrust of the media is a result of its own words and actions.
With most Americans having access to the Internet and social media sites like Twitter, they can see the images and videos showing what transpired this weekend in Washington, D.C. and Charlottesville. Those same Americans can then see that most news reports either do not match up with reality, or are simply attempts to change their own perception of what they are witnessing.
By the end of the weekend, the national news media had blown its opportunity to differentiate between the peaceful actions of protesters and the violent mob that is Antifa. In the process, it lost a very large chunk of credibility, and it didn't have much credibility left to lose.