By John Ruberry
The headline is a reference to the Sly and the Family Stone album from 1971, There’s a Riot Goin’ On. He’s largely forgotten now–although some his songs remain recognizable to the masses–but Sly Stone was the Prince of his day, a crossover artist, that is, he was very popular among blacks and whites. His band, unusual for the time, was multi-racial. Just like Prince and the Revolution.
The album title was a sarcastic reference to the riot that broke out when the band couldn’t, or Sly Stone wouldn’t, show up for a performance at Grant Park in downtown Chicago the prior year. Stone had a reputation for blowing off gigs, which added to the excitement, as well as the tension, of a Sly concert. Will the superstar show up?
Well on July 27, 1970 tension prevailed when Sly and the band were a no-show. Store windows were smashed, police cars were set on fire, rocks and bottles were thrown at cops, and three people were shot in what the contemporary media called a riot. Because it was one. The Chicago Sun-Times front page headline from the next day read “Rock fans in riot, 90 injured, 148 held.” Looking back to my own youth in the Chicago area I can now understand why my parents were horrified when I expressed my interest in going to rock concerts later that decade. The subhead of that Sun-Times article read, “Battle starts in Grant Park, spills over into Loop.” A look at the media images available on Google of the riot confirms the diverse spectrum of Sly Stone’s fan base.
Fifty years and a month later there was a riot goin’ on sixty miles north of Grant Park in a small Wisconsin city that has been devoured by Chicago and Milwaukee suburban sprawl, Kenosha.
Except Wisconsin’s largest newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, didn’t call it a riot, instead is chose such tame words as “unrest” and “disturbance.” Readers of the Journal Sentinel complained which led the paper to publish an article that explained the apologist tone (my words) of last month’s coverage of the Kenosha riots that broke out after Jacob Blake, a black man with an open warrant for his arrest, was shot seven times by a police officer in what is clearly a tragedy.
From that paper:
As we’ve seen in cities around the country this summer, protest participants and the activities surrounding them often change throughout the day and night. Peaceful protests can happen all day long and then fires can be set or violence occurs late at night by people not associated with the protesters. Would it be fair or accurate to label all that happened that day a “riot” — especially in a headline summing things up? We don’t think so.
And there are historical racial overtones in the use of that word in America.
As Dorothy Tucker, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, said on the PBS NewsHour in June, “There is concern that it is automatically labeled as a riot if it is African-Americans who are protesting, but it’s not labeled as a riot when you see the same kind of destruction after a concert or after a sporting event. So there are words that have that association.”
Of course the Journal Sentinel sent reporters down Interstate 41-94 to see Kenosha for themselves. There was vandalism, arson, and looting. In short, a riot. I visited Kenosha–after the riots were over–twice last week. My blog reports are here and here. Downtown every business was boarded up. So were the churches. Most horribly, an automobile dealership with about 100 cars in its inventory saw nearly every one of its cars set ablaze. Near that dealership Kyle Rittenhouse, an Illinois teen, allegedly shot two people and wounded a third during the, ahem, disturbance.
What occurred in Kenosha met the commonly accepted, unless you are woke, definition of a riot.
Yes there are peaceful protests and peaceful activists protesting the death of George Floyd and other outrages. But Antifa and the like, as I’ve remarked before, are using these protests as a Trojan horse to raise hell. See Portland. Even Chicago’s liberal mayor, Lori Lightfoot, admitted so, albeit in slightly more moderate language last month as I noted in this space before. “What we’ve seen is people who have embedded themselves in these seemingly peaceful protests,” she told Face the Nation, “and have come for a fight.”
With such reporting on “facts” it’s easy to comprehend why readership of daily newspapers such as the Journal Sentinel continues to plummet as these publications are more concerned about appearing woke and satisfying the left-wing echo chamber they choose to inhabit.
Last week the Wall Street Journal’s Best of the Web James Freeman said of such contorted reporting and the questions of why the Journal Sentinel purses such a strategy, “No doubt citizens nationwide have the same question for many politicians and members of the press corps who have lately been extremely creative in conjuring euphemisms for destruction and lawlessness.”
Thankfully one such mainstream media euphemism for riots, which dates back to the Occupy movement, “mostly peaceful,” has been for the most part placed into forced retirement, but only because of repeated ridicule on Twitter and other social media platforms. As Mark Levin quipped on his show a few months ago, “Mostly peaceful means mostly violent!” But as you’ll see “mostly peaceful” has not been completely eradicated.
As for Kenosha, as I mentioned before, every downtown business was hit by looters. Even on the edge of the city malls were struck by vandals and thieves. Those businesses of course employ people. Families are supported by them.
There was a riot in Kenosha last month. A three-day long one.
Even if Milwaukee Journal Sentinel refuses to say so.
It could be worse. A chyron graphic on CNN with the backdrop of the cars on fire in the dealership pictured on top read “Fiery but mostly peaceful protest after police shooting.” That image was so wrong even Brian Stelter of the network criticized it.
John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.