Whether or not Gavin Newsom’s performance as governor has sunk to a level that justifies a recall campaign is a legitimate topic for debate. But rather than engage in serious analysis, where Newsom’s actions can be considered objectively and various perspectives can be shared, California’s newspaper of record, the Los Angeles Times, has produced a hit piece.
Written by Anita Chabria and Paige St. John, an opening paragraph offers the following premise: “A Times investigation found that recall campaign leaders, seeking to capitalize on the darkening public mood, allied with radical and extreme elements early on to help collect signatures. Those included groups promoting distrust of government, science and medicine; peddlers of QAnon doomsday conspiracies; ‘patriots’ readying for battle and one organization allied with the far-right extremist group, the Proud Boys.”
If the recall effort succeeds in qualifying for the ballot, and it probably will, expect this sort of reporting to characterize the opposition. But it is a one-sided attempt to delegitimize expressions of genuine and broad based opposition to Newsom’s actions as governor. For such distorted material to emanate from Newsom’s political supporters in a campaign to defend him, or in an opinion column, is to be expected. But for it to take the form of a supposedly objective analysis by investigative journalists is a sham.
If the Los Angeles Times wants to function as a messaging operation for the Democratic Party, that’s their prerogative, but the investigative piece they’ve published is profoundly misleading. The article is designed to convince the reader that the recall movement is propelled by radical extremists, but fails to address a fundamental contrary fact: If the movement is so extreme, why is it that the committees have already collected over 1.5 million signed petitions and raised nearly $4 million in donations?
The answer to that contradicts the premise of the article: The overwhelming majority of people supporting the recall of Governor Newsom are normal, level-headed Californians that are fed up with his numerous and profound failures of governance. Newsom and his Democratic Party have made life miserable for ordinary Californians. Across every policy area – housing, homeless, energy, transportation, education, AB 5, unemployment benefits, forest management, the pandemic response, and more – there is a record of failure.
Instead of acknowledging the vast majority of recall activists as normal people having an appropriate reaction to an extreme set of problems, Chabria and St. John devote nearly 2,500 words to establishing a tenuous collective guilt by association to a small minority. Because a few extremists are allegedly involved in the recall, the recall movement is extreme. This is dishonest reasoning.
There is an even bigger fallacy informing the Los Angeles Times investigation into the recall Newsom movement, a double standard that has informed nearly all media reporting over the past several years and more than ever in recent months.
Quoting from the article: “Many supporters of the recall are not extremists and may not be aware of the far-right groups involved with the effort. But with the violent insurgency at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, organizers are grappling with the consequences of their alliances.”
These two sentences, packed with implicit bias, invite several challenges. When has the Los Angeles Times ever characterized the nonstop rampages that terrorized dozens of American cities all summer long as violent insurgencies? Why not? As federal buildings, ICE facilities, courthouses, police stations, churches, businesses and homes were burned, vandalized, and occupied, as dozens of people were killed and billions in property damage was inflicted, where was the Los Angeles Times? Weren’t these rioters extremists? Wasn’t this an insurgency?
Throughout the article this double standard is evident. The authors describe an event held last month in Sutter County as a recall Newsom rally even though the recall is not even listed among the seven topics to be discussed at the conference. They then describe some of the people attending this event: “thick-muscled men in tactical vests protected those attending with an arsenal of pepper ball guns, pepper rifles and Tasers.”
That’s pretty evocative. But the writers of this article, and all of the reporters and editors that we depend on to get reliable news and information are invited to cite how many times they have offered similar evocative descriptions of Antifa and BLM members. These mobs equip themselves with similar gear, they are far more numerous and far more organized, and they have repeatedly used these weapons in pitched battles with police and anyone else who stands up to them.
Why not describe these black clad formations marching down the streets of every city in America? Why not produce alarming reports on their activity? Why not connect their activities with the Democratic party, whose interests they clearly served all through the presidential election season? Why not create a similar guilt by association?
The writers express concern over “strident language” being used by some of the recall supporters, explaining how rhetoric can incite violence. They include a quote from a UC Davis professor of history, who said “If you really believe your political opponents are Satan-worshiping pedophiles, you can be justified in using any weapon against them.”
While extreme rhetoric is indeed a cause for concern, it is yet another example of a shameful double standard. Are the writers familiar with the phrase “punch a Nazi“? Have they watched and reported on the many videos showing Antifa gangs beating the hell out of people on the streets all over America? Are they familiar with the avalanche of demonizing rhetoric that has been directed at anyone who supported President Trump, or has conservative or Christian beliefs, or even merely fails to militantly endorse the pieties of the Left?
At another point in the article, outrage is expressed over comparisons recall proponents have made between Newsom and Hitler. Fair enough. But calling right-of-center conservatives Nazis, an obvious Hitler reference, is commonplace. Funny how that fact is unacknowledged.
Imagine the Los Angeles Times conducting a useful investigative report that targets both sides on the continuum of extremists. Imagine mainstream newspapers conducting an aggressive, incriminating investigation into Antifa and BLM. Imagine them conducting honest investigations into concerns about vaccination, or, amidst the nonsense, the many embarrassing facts being uncovered by the digital army stigmatized merely as “Q conspiracy theorists.” Engaging in suppression and obvious misrepresentation of what often includes reasonable concerns only serves to lend credibility to the more outlandish claims.
The article concludes by quoting Mike Madrid, “a former state Republican Party political director who co-founded The Lincoln Project.” According to Madrid, extremists and conspiracy theorists have “become mainstream Republican politics.” But does Mike Madrid have any credibility at all? This is a man who marketed himself as a Republican who was morally compelled to oppose President Trump, in order to help Joe Biden become president. Apparently Madrid is still making himself useful, helping Gavin Newsom stay in office.
By publishing articles like this, the Los Angeles Times proves it is not a newspaper. It is a propaganda outlet for the California Democratic Party. A far more productive investigation would be to explore the actual reasons for the recall, because it is a nonpartisan, wholly justified, populist rebellion against a governor and a political party that have abandoned the people they were supposed to serve.
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