As the last days of the longest summer in history mercifully wind down, we enter the teeth of the “silly season”–that time every 4 years when the thoughts of many are consumed by campaigns, debates, and elections.
And with the stakes being higher than ever before, the silliness has never been more ridiculous.
Case in point: Pundits from across the political spectrum are calling for Joe Biden to “condemn the violence” by peaceful protesters in cities like Portland…
What's taking so long for Biden to condemn last night's murder at the Portland #BidenRiots? Waiting too long means you support violence. (I learned that from CNN, so it must be true.)
— Scott Adams (@ScottAdamsSays) August 30, 2020
…thereby sending the message that both Trump and Biden are equally responsible for the unrest being seen in American cities this summer in response to the brutal shootings of several unarmed Black citizens.
Some commenters are even suggesting that the violence–most of which is being instigated and perpetuated by far right wing activists and militia groups–will wind up helping…Trump.
There is ZERO LEGITIMACY for arson, looting, and violence directed at police brutality. Protest and anger should be directed at law enforcement and political leadership. Use economic action. Go to the media. Go to the Feds. Trump will use these riots.
— Barry R McCaffrey (@mccaffreyr3) August 27, 2020
The truth is that this kind of observation is nothing more than lazy thinking. These protests are the total complete responsibility of Donald Trump, who has encouraged his followers to incite violence and escalate tensions–and yet reasonable persons might not be aware of this based on the narrative of “false equivalency” being constructed by news reports and social media posts from political operatives.
1. Even though there’s a trope floating around online that “Biden has been hiding” this summer (see #WheresJoe and #HidenBiden), Joe Biden has repeatedly and visibly condemned all violence that has occurred at the protests–here, in Portland:
JUST IN: Biden condemns violence on all sides after deadly Portland shooting, calls on Trump to do the same.
"We must not become a country at war with ourselves. A country that accepts the killing of fellow Americans who do not agree with you." https://t.co/p7XrXFHnZS
— Axios (@axios) August 30, 2020
The deadly violence we saw overnight in Portland is unacceptable. Shooting in the streets of a great American city is unacceptable.
I condemn violence of every kind by anyone, whether on the left or the right. And I challenge Donald Trump to do the same. https://t.co/JRuI7ya2Wv
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 30, 2020
…and here, in Kenosha in the aftermath of the Jacob Blake shooting:
— Jennifer Granholm (@JenGranholm) August 27, 2020
2. At the same time, Trump has encouraged his supporters to swarm the protests in a show of bluster and aggression, calling them “Great Patriots”:
Trump, in true fashion, is praising his supremacist cultists in the street calling them “Great Patriots” as they attack and shoot to death protestors, Pouring gas on the fire, that’s what we need. Targeting Dem run cities, so he can Blame it on Biden and the Dems.
— tim russ (@timruss2) August 30, 2020
…as they descended on Portland in an endless stream of pickup trucks festooned with all manner of Trump banners and Confederate flags…
Portland started in the mall of a suburb, where armed Trump militia gathered and terrorized locals. They then rolled as a caravan to PDX, shot paintballs and pepper spray at passerby’s from their pick up trucks. Now someone is dead. pic.twitter.com/e4CF40omZN
— Amy Siskind 🏳️🌈 (@Amy_Siskind) August 30, 2020
…later driving those trucks into crowds of protesters, and attacking bystanders with paint balls and pepper spray:
— Anoncat Ⓐ☂️🏴 ➐ (@anoncatanoncat) August 30, 2020
…all this as Trump has yet to acknowledge the reasons for these protests–the shootings of unarmed Black persons in Portland, Louisville, Kenosha, and many other American cities on a seemingly daily basis. Instead, he has doubled down on his support for the police and law enforcement…
Trump doubles down on support for police, calls Black Lives Matter mural in NYC a 'symbol of hate' that would denigrate Fifth Avenue https://t.co/GGWnMNPeCH
— Lois Levine Fishman (@FishmanLevine) July 1, 2020
— Dan Sinisi (@Dan_Sinisi) May 16, 2019
3. While Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris immediately reached out to Jacob Blake’s family after the shooting…
BREAKING: Jacob Blake’s father just said that “It’s too late for Trump to call. He should have called four days ago like Joe Biden.”
— Mrs. Krassenstein (@HKrassenstein) August 29, 2020
The father of Jacob Blake says that his hour-long conversation earlier this week with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris was akin to "speaking to my uncle and one of my sisters." https://t.co/iI1AeYj1bI
— CNN (@CNN) August 28, 2020
…and has mentioned Blake by name numerous times…
Once again, a Black man — Jacob Blake — was shot by the police. In front of his children. It makes me sick.
Is this the country we want to be?
Needless violence won’t heal us. We need to end the violence — and peacefully come together to demand justice. pic.twitter.com/WdNqrxA3PK
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 26, 2020
We can't let George Floyd and Jacob Blake become just another pair of hashtags.
This is a moment of action.
It's long past time we reform policing, reverse systemic racism, and make our communities safer.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 28, 2020
4. …Donald Trump rambled on for 70+ minutes on Thursday night, and still couldn’t find time to mention Blake’s name a single time…
So @realDonaldTrump doesn’t mention the murders of George Floyd and Jacob Blake by Police but talks about the rioting in Minneapolis and Kenosha as bad….
This shows how little respect he has for Black people. pic.twitter.com/sAXFfbsEOu
— Eldridge Recasner (@erecasner) August 28, 2020
Trump condemns rioting, doesn't mention Jacob Blake in convention address
— Mike Walker (@New_Narrative) August 28, 2020
If there’s a silver lining here, it may be that more people are becoming aware of this “false equivalency” strategy, and are calling it out when they see it…
The false equivalence between Trump and Biden is astounding to me. You can disagree with Biden's policies but I find it interesting that the left complains he will compromise everything away while simultaneously complaining he wont compromise enough on their issues.
— Cam Fraser (@CamFraser17) August 30, 2020
Google is STILL FREE!
The policies aren’t hidden even though to be realistic, it’s a false equivalence of pitting Trump v Biden in a bid to save America’s democracy
It’s deeply disingenuous & downright ignorant to ignore what this administration has done in 3.5 yrs but go off
— Le Gateau Chocolat (@LeGateauChoc) August 30, 2020
Fascism is what we’ll get in perpetuity if we don’t vote for the neoliberalism. It sucks, the choice sucks, but these things are not equal. Saying that Trump and Biden are just as bad as each other is a false equivalence. At least with one we’ll continue to have democracy.
— Brad Haney (@Brad_H) August 28, 2020
- Suggesting that “violent protests” are more dangerous and a bigger problem than police violence against unarmed Black persons…
- Attempting to silence those protests by suggesting that “Trump will use these riots”–as though Trump concerns himself with facts as he constructs his attacks…
- Expecting Biden to condemn that violence while giving Trump a pass, even though Trump’s own words and actions have contributed to that violence…
All of these are signs of a false equivalence strategy being deployed, and each of us has the responsibility to recognize it, and call it out for the silliness it represents.