I’ve long believed that one of the best ways to confirm or at least support a claim made by someone else isn’t to present evidence from a source that’s sympathetic to that point of view. It’s to present evidence from a source that’s not the slightest bit sympathetic.
That’s why I’m focusing today on a CNN post from yesterday and what it says about the charge that the presence of various federal law enforcement units (some allegedly not identified) is mainly responsible for the upsurge in violent protests in Portland, Oregon – not the activities of at least some of the protesters themselves. In two noteworthy ways, it compellingly reinforces that case that the protesters and not the federal units dispatched by President Trump actually are the ones at fault.
The post is from Chris Cillizza, an Editor-at-Large with a clear Never Trump worldview at a news organization that’s unmistakably hostile to the President. (Just take a look at CNN‘s home page at any given moment if you doubt me.) Moreover, the reporter-on-the-ground who Cillizza interviewed to find out “What the heck is going on in Portland?” – Josh Campbell – seems to have made up his mind on the subject, too. How else can you explain his contention that
“Portland is now witnessing a standoff between protesters and an administration that continues to ratchet up its heated rhetoric to (falsely) describe the city as being in a state of total chaos and anarchy. While there have been incidents of rioting at night, including people launching fireworks at the federal building, setting fires outside, and allegedly attacking federal agents, the focal point of that activity largely centers on the city block housing the federal building. Despite the President’s descriptions, Portland is not a city under siege.”
In other words, “Nothing unusual to see here – except maybe on one city block.” And of course not a chance that this violence would spread if not actively resisted.
That’s why I found so noteworthy these two statements by Campbell – based, it’s important to remember, on his eyewitness observations. First:
“As I was interviewing the mayor Wednesday night among a crowd of hundreds of peaceful protesters, a group of rioters gathered near the fencing outside the federal building and began lobbing projectiles at the building and setting fires. In a pattern we have seen over and over, when federal agents in the building are provoked, or a fire set by rioters risks destroying the building, tactical officers will come out in full force and launch tear gas to disperse the crowd.”
“[Y]ou have a mixture of federal agents from different agencies serving as guards and riot control officers at the downtown courthouse. At night, when a portion of the crowd turns violent, agents will often line up and push protesters back blocks away from the building using tear gas, rubber bullets and batons.”
On the one hand, I’m grateful that bias hasn’t distorted Campbell’s senses enough to prevent him from recounting events in a way that plainly undercut this bias. On the other, I can’t help but wonder: If someone evidently inclined to blame President Trump for most of Portland’s latest troubles is (however unwittingly) making clear that the violence has (at least often) been started by the federal police, isn’t it possible that the protesters’ activities have been even more provocative – and less excusable – than Campbell and CNN are reporting?