Wednesday, June 3, 2020

PolitiFact: A peaceful protest is a peaceful protest is a peaceful protest

When President Trump said he supports peaceful protestors, the protectors of democracy at PolitiFact jumped into their batmobile and sprang into action, ready and willing to confront Trump's rhetoric with conflations of constitutional right to assembly with other forms of peaceful protest.
Trump has said before that peaceful protests are the hallmark of democracy.


But Trump has also pushed back against protests, especially the Black Lives Matter movement. We reviewed his record.
Did Trump push back against the right to protest or was it against the content of the protest? Do we even care?

To illustrate Trump's pushback against protests, especially Black Lives Matter protests, PolitiFact led with a lengthy subsection on former NFL player Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick, while doing his job for an NFL football team, knelt during the National Anthem in support of the Black Lives Matter cause. The performance of the National Anthem precedes the start of NFL games.

It's not a freedom of assembly issue. But if Kaepernick assembled with others peacefully in public to take a knee during a performance of the anthem and Trump opposed the assembly and not the point of the protest, then PolitiFact would have Trump dead to rights.

That's a big "if."

Strike one.

Next up, PolitiFact presented the example of Rep. Maxine Waters, who called for U.S. society to shun and harass the members of Mr. Trump's cabinet. Presumably refusing service and generally harrassing Trump's cabinet on ideological grounds passes as some sort of peaceful pubic protest. PolitiFact made no particular effort to associate Waters' recommended protest with the Black Lives Matter movement, instead attaching it to border policy.

It doesn't seem certain that trying to totally exclude Trump's cabinet from conducting any type of business in public, including dining and grocery shopping, properly counts as a peaceful protest. If everyone followed Waters' prescription the Cabinet would need to grow its own food or else starve unless it met the demands of the peaceful protestors.

Needless to say, PolitiFact doesn't delve into that.

Strike two.

Apparently PolitiiFact finished with Trump's focus in opposition to Black Lives Matter, moving on to Mr. Trump's intolerance of heckling at his campaign rallies.

PolitiFact does not point out that heckling at a private rally open to the public is not a good example of the exercise of the right to free assembly.
Leading up the 2016 election, then-candidate Trump reserved harsh words for protesters who popped up at his rallies, including those whose actions were peaceful.
For PolitiFact, there is no important distinction between showing up to heckle at a campaign rally held in a private venue and the right to public assembly. Peaceful protest is peaceful protest is peaceful protest. I wonder how long I could peacefully protest in Jon Greenberg's office before seeing the issuance of a trespass order?

Greenberg opposes peaceful protest.

See how that works?

Strike three.

But PolitiFact lacks the good grace to return to the dugout after merely three strikes:

When opponents of placing Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court marched and rallied, Trump referred to them as "a mob" and tagged all Democrats in the midterm elections as "too extreme and too dangerous to govern." 

"Republicans believe in the rule of law — not the rule of the mob," Trump tweeted Oct. 11, 2018.

We're not sure how PolitiFact deduced that Trump was talking about peaceful protests in his tweet. He wasn't responding to anybody else's tweet. We suppose that PolitiFact's sole evidence was the date of the tweet plus Trump's use of the word "mob." Because fact-checking?

Here's the tweet:
Are we playing "Pin the Context on the Tweet" or what?

And how would opposing giving in to protestors' demands oppose their right to protest? Is it appropriate to conflate opposition to protestors' demands with opposition to their right to peacefully protest?

Isn't that exactly what PolitiFact is doing?

It appears to us that PolitiFact argues that one cannot support peaceful protest without supporting the specific demands of the peaceful protestors.

But that's insane isn't it?

A fair examination of the topic must draw the distinction between supporting the right to protest and supporting the specific cause of the protestors.

Strike four. Go sit down, PolitiFact.

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