[UPDATE: The Post’s article was updated and rewritten throughout the the day. You can see how it was changed here. The sentence I quoted first was ultimately changed to read: “Now, more than a year into his presidency, a White man is accused of slaughtering 10 people in an openly racist act in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo, raising perhaps the biggest hurdle yet to Biden’s assertion that such violence is foreign to the American character.” A hurdle to an assertion? They removed something perverse in favor of something unintelligible, which I guess is a step up.]
In the most perverse and infuriating misreading of the Buffalo massacre you could possibly imagine, Washington Post reporters Matt Viser and Tyler Pager today use it to attack President Joe Biden for failing to achieve racial justice in America, writing:
Now, more than a year into his presidency, a White man has slaughtered 10 people in an openly racist act in a Black neighborhood, raising perhaps the biggest challenge yet to Biden’s assertion that he can “restore the soul of America.”
The suggestion that the attack is in any way a failure of Biden’s attempt to address racism is wildly misbegotten. Coming on the heels of two other mass murder attacks inspired by an abhorrent conspiracy theory about white Americans being “replaced” by non-whites, the Buffalo massacre is an extremely clear sign that racism and extremism are a grave danger to our society – precisely the message Biden is and has been sending.
This is in dramatic contrast to Donald Trump, who insisted that there were “very fine people, on both sides.”
The Post article has been updated since it was originally published at 5 a.m. ET, with live quotes from Biden’s visit to Buffalo. Its general thrust and headline (“Biden visits Buffalo as racist shooting challenges his calls for unity”) remain the same, at least at this hour.
Viser and Pager focus on the political implications of the attack. But rather than consider how damaging it is and should be to the Republican Party, they write about how a handful of “civil rights leaders” are urging Biden “to go beyond such actions and deliver a sweeping call for racial justice” – as if that would stop white grievance in its tracks.
The reporters have a point that the “political ground around racial justice appeared to be shifting in the summer of 2020, after George Floyd and other Black men were killed at the hands of police” — to no practical effect in Washington.
Yet consider the both-sidesism at play here. One the one hand, Republicans have been able to block police reform, voting rights and gun-control legislation. On the other hand, Republicans are spreading white grievance conspiracy theories:
But even with Democrats in control of the White House and Congress, albeit narrowly, a police overhaul bill and a voting rights bill, both top priorities of Black leaders, have not gained momentum. Gun-control legislation, too, has failed to gain traction.
Republicans, meanwhile, have found electoral success in tapping into fears about how the history of racism is taught in public schools, saying White students should not be made to feel guilty because of their race — something Democrats and most educators say is not happening.
Nevertheless, Biden is somehow to blame.
This is spectacular garbage, born of I don’t know what. An editor’s idea of balance? An attempt to get cred with GOP critics? Reporters who values contrarianism over logic? Epic white male cluelessness?
Let me rewrite that for you.
First, let’s change the headline from “Biden visits Buffalo as racist shooting challenges his calls for unity” to “Biden visits Buffalo as racist shooting highlight right-wing extremism”.
Let’s leave this paragraph just the way it was:
Biden, in his own telling, decided to run for the White House specifically because of the hate and bile he saw surrounding a 2017 “Unite the Right” march of white supremacists in Charlottesville. He wrote an essay about it, spoke about it and used it as the north star of his presidential campaign. “This is not who we are,” he said, over and over again.
As for the “challenge” paragraph quoted at the top of the story, let me suggest the following substitution:
Now, more than a year into his presidency, a white man has slaughtered 10 people in an openly racist act in a Black neighborhood, a gruesome reminder of the importance of Biden’s desire to “restore the soul of America.”
And as for the lack of legislative progress, even after a summer of Black Lives Matter protests that amounted to the largest protest movement in the country’s history, how about:
But narrow Democratic control of Congress allowed Republicans to kill a police overhaul bill and a voting rights bill, both top priorities of Black leaders, while continuing to block gun-control legislation that passed the House but died in the Senate.
Republicans, meanwhile, have found electoral success in tapping into a vein of angry white grievance by spreading conspiracy theories about how the history of racism is taught in public schools. And some top Republican influencers, including Fox’s Tucker Carlson, have actively spread fears of white Americans being “replaced” by nonwhites.
If there was ever a clearer argument in favor of having the editors’ names appear on news articles, I can’t think of one. They, even more than the reporters, should be held publicly accountable for this kind of political coverage. Blaming the guy who’s trying — instead of calling out the party that’s actively fomenting racist violence – isn’t a clever gotcha or some sort of above-the-fray wisdom. It’s seriously messed up.