The New York Times Is Trying Way Too Hard To Be Fair To Monsters.
The New York Times had a bit of a problem trying to figure out just how to cover the whole Proud Boy situation this weekend. (To recap: Fascist symps "the Proud Boys" went to New York for a Republican event, beat the shit out of people, waved literal swords, and then got a Fox News story about how "Antifa" was doing sword riots.) The Times ran two different versions of the same article -- one being an updated version after said Proud Boys beat the living shit out of some people -- both of which featured headlines that ended up getting rightfully dragged all over the internet.
The first version featured the headline "Republican Club Vandalized Before Visit By Right Wing Provocateur," which prompted many to ask "Is provocateur really the best word to describe Gavin McInnes?"
Now, sure. The New York Times has to be "objective." They really can't call him, or anyone, an asshole. They probably can't even call him a bigot. But "provocateur," these days, has overtones of gentle mischief or naughtiness of some kind. There is a line of lingerie called "Agent Provacateur"; there are Inside Edition articles referring to Britney Spears as a provocateur.
It is no longer a particularly good way of referring to someone who actually incites violence. Surely, they could have come up with something slightly less cheeky-sounding for someone who regularly encourages hatred and curb-stomping among his followers:
And also engages in violence himself:
And goes around saying things like, "We need more violence from the Trump people. Choke a tranny. Get your fingers around the windpipe."
The problem with the "provocateur" descriptor is that McInnes and his cohorts like to present an image that they are merely puckish rascals taking on the politically correct Left, when in all actuality, they are violent sociopaths looking to reenact their favorite scenes from American History X.
When the Times updated the article to reflect the attack, they failed even harder. And continued to refer to McInnes as a "provocateur" in the article.
A fight didn't break out. One can easily go look at the videos and clearly see the Proud Boys chasing people down the street, knocking them down and then standing in a circle gleefully kicking them and screaming "faggot." At no point do those attacked even fight back. Whether the Times realizes it or not, by doing this they play into McInnes's narrative of the events, which was that the Proud Boys -- the ones running down the street to beat the living daylights out of three people -- were blameless because they were "provoked." This was not a "both sides!" scenario, this was not a fight breaking out, this was a group of vicious, violent assholes chasing people down the street in order to beat them up. He also claims that "the guy" they chased down the street was "looking to get beat up for optics."
I'd like to point out, also, that if a left-leaning group had held an event in which they celebrated how "inspiring" an assassin was, there would be at least five concern-trolling "Has The Left Gone TOO FAR?" Times op-eds about it, and how doing things like that could really alienate the moderates.
This isn't fair and balanced, it's grading on a curve. A very, very steep curve.
Continuing with this theme, the Times also sent out a tweet this weekend looking for people of color who have been criticized by others in their community for loving Donald Trump.
No one asked for this. There are millions of stories in the world worth telling, but "People don't want to hang out with me because I am a jackass" is a little on the "man bites dog" side of things. People of color have as much right to tell other people of color who voted for Trump to fuck right off, just as I have the right to say that to women who love him. And men. And, for that matter, anyone else who voted for him, because he is a monster. They might as well write a story about the sad plight of men who are real lonely now that their wives left them after they beat them. It is not wrong to "criticize" someone for being a shitty person and for doing things that hurt you.
I, for one, have yet to find a single Trump supporter who does not go around criticizing the Left on a regular basis. Why is this acceptable behavior for them, but not for us? I see absolutely zero concern-trolling about who the Right criticizes, or worry over how it might make those people feel sad and alienated. It's taken for granted that they are going to say lots of horrible things about people. It's taken for granted that we are supposed to be nice and civil and polite about it and just say, "Oh, well, you have your opinion and I have mine, but I still think you're a real swell person!"
It's getting ridiculous. Are these people not supposed to be the party of "Fuck Your Feelings"? Given that they at least claim to be, it seems a little silly to be treating them so delicately. Clearly, this is a new form of political correctness -- and a particularly insidious form at that. The Times should get Bari Weiss on it, stat.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse