Political Animal


May 21, 2012 3:17 PM Roving Bands of Youths Roam Riot-Torn Streets—For Obama!

By Ed Kilgore

Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins usefully summarizes a phenomenon that I’ve barely mentioned here, partly because I’ve had a hard time taking it seriously: the constant buzz in right-wing media that African-Americans are unleashing a large wave of politically motivated violence on white folks.

Coppins’ headline tells most of the tale: “In Conservative Media, A ‘Race War’ Rages.” Interestingly enough, it has ranged from breathless moment-by-moment coverage of the Trayvon Martin case from the point of view of establishing George Zimmerman’s total innocence (assumed from the beginning), to complaints of too much media coverage of the Martin case (at the expense of what they ought to be covering, which is black-on-white or black-on-black violence), to assertions that the Martin case has inspired black people all over the country to beat up on white folks. You will notice the common thread, which is even less subtle than the ancient MSM convention of invoking stereotypes of black menace by referring to “roving bands of youths” or “riot-turn streets.”

Coppins attributes a lot of this crap to conservative anger about liberal allegations of racism. Whatever. He’s absolutely right, though, that the Martin case has been conflated with random events like the beating of a white man in Mobile by a group of black folks among whom one supposedly shouted someting about seeking “justice for Trayvon,” and more recently an incident in Norfolk where two white newspaper reporters got stomped after a verbal confrontation with black teenagers. As Coppins observes, it took some massaging to make that a major battle in a “race war:”

Local authorities wrote it off as an all-too-routine assault in a city whose violent crime rate is well above the state average. Even the Norfolk newspaper where the victims worked, the Virginian-Pilot, skipped the story, which the editor deemed un-newsworthy. That was before Bill O’Reilly found out about it.

The Fox News host turned the incident into national news by adding one detail: The attackers were black, and the victims were white.
If you’ve spent much time consuming conservative media lately, you’ve probably learned about a slow-burning “race war” going on in America today. Sewing together disparate data points and compelling anecdotes like the attack in Norfolk, conservative bloggers and opinion-makers are driving the narrative with increasing frequency. Their message: Black-on-white violence is spiking — and the mainstream media is trying to cover it up.

But this sort of “race war” rumbling was going on before the fateful encounter between Martin and Zimmerman, notes Coppins:

In one particularly memorable Drudge front page last year, the site culled the newswires for articles about “urban” crime that took place over Memorial Day weekend, and then grouped them together. Among the headlines: “Miami ‘war zone’ during urban weekend;” “Rib fest at Rochester beach turns rowdy;” and “Unruly urban crowd shuts down Nashville water park.”
And on September 15, 2009, Drudge led with the headline, “WHITE STUDENT BEATEN ON BUS; CROWD CHEERS.” The story — which showed video of a black teenager in Illinois beating up a white classmate — went viral in the right-wing blogosphere, prompting Rush Limbaugh to weigh in.
“In Obama’s America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering,” Limbaugh declared.

Ah yes, the Obama Nexus. Not only has Obama sought to impose socialism on America in order to loot virtuous white people and give their hard-earned wealth to shiftless minorities; he’s inspiring redistribution by more direct means than the tax code or “welfare.”

But it would be “racist” to attribute racial motives to O’Reilly or Drudge or Limbaugh any of the other Paul Reveres of the “race war.” They’re the victims. And they’re getting really tired of the distractions the racist Obama-ites are creating to divert attention from the president’s poor stewardship of the economy.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Mitt's Magic Underpants on May 21, 2012 3:26 PM:

    This is absolutely right -- I get crap like this forwarded to me. As long as anyone white is ever hurt, it is MONSTROUS that the media dare cover a black kid being hunted down and shot (and the killer walking).

  • Bort on May 21, 2012 3:27 PM:

    And this is surprising? Get used to "stories" about young bucks, drunk off their welfare-bought malt liquor out to get whitey.

    If there is one thing conservatives have down, it's victim-hood. How long will white people live under the yoke of their oppression?

  • JMG on May 21, 2012 3:42 PM:

    If it weren't for white racism, the Republican Party would be in a nip and tuck struggle with the Libertarians in every election. This stuff isn't new.

  • LAC on May 21, 2012 3:50 PM:

    Gee, I would love to talk about this some more, but I just got my assignment from the Obama administration. White folk beatdown outside a Target is scheduled for 5pm, followed by light refreshments at the food court. Bring your own bat.

    (eye roll)

  • SYSPROG on May 21, 2012 4:13 PM:

    Yeah and the President is the most 'divisive in the history of the country'...channeling my inner Rubio. I really hate these guys who hold themselves up as 'patriots' while destroying the country with 'fear'...maybe I should channel my inner FDR...

  • c u n d gulag on May 21, 2012 4:16 PM:

    Race warfare's been effective for the right since even before the Civil Rights Acts - hell, even before the Civil War.

    Now, what they really fear, is CLASS warfare - which the stupid people fall for time after time.

    I've mentioned it before, and in short, it's the white father telling his white son why when asked how he could rationalize how poor the are, by saying, 'Well, son, look at them N*ggers down the road. Sure, WE ain't got much, but we got more 'n them N*ggers, so we're ok.'
    And the Civil Rights Acts put a dent in that, and that's most of the battle for the last 50 years. And add in anti-war demonstrations, women's lib, and gay and immigrant rights.

    We 99%ers are part of the same class.
    The NOT wealthy!
    "Wait! Look over there! Some black woman's driving a Caddy, and black kids are using food stamps to buy T-bones and malt liquor! And, over THERE - the NEW BLACK PANTHERS!!!"

  • ET on May 21, 2012 4:17 PM:

    Well I live in Chocolate City and I haven't noticed roving Bands of Youths Roaming and I sure haven't see Riot-Torn Streets and I walk to work every day.

    I am telling ya, conservatives live in an alternate reality.

  • Doug on May 21, 2012 4:18 PM:

    While I won't say that ONLY dedicated Faux viewers will believe this malarkey, I will say that I don't think it will get much traction elsewhere. There are just too many "non-Blacks" out there, just like me, who know people cheating on welfare, getting into fights and generally being a DIScredit to their race.
    You won't hear O'Reilly mentioning it though, because they're WHITE...

  • Area Man on May 21, 2012 4:21 PM:

    I guess it would be asking too much for conservatives to note the irony of responding to charges of racism by going on and on about how evil black people are.

  • Hattie McDaniel on May 21, 2012 4:23 PM:

  • T2 on May 21, 2012 4:23 PM:

    "Not only has Obama sought to impose socialism on America in order to loot virtuous white people and give their hard-earned wealth to shiftless minorities"

    Ed, you were being sarcastic, I guess. But the sentence above is EXACTLY what the grand majority of Conservative/Republican/TeaParty people really believe. That one sentence has it all....the reason for the rage against Obama. It's not "Big Govt" - hell, Bush created a huge one. It's not the Debt Ceilng - hell, Republican presidents have routinely raised it. It's not the "Deficit" - Dick Cheney said that didn't matter. What it is, is " Obama sought to to loot virtuous white people and give their hard-earned wealth to shiftless minorities".
    Pure and simple.

  • bluestatedon on May 21, 2012 4:57 PM:

    Unfortunately, Democrats all the way up to Obama can't afford to simply dismiss this issue as crazy talk and conduct the campaign as though it won't have any real effect. Richard Nixon was elected in 1968 in large part due to his campaign's appeal to whites frightened about law & order. While one part of the law & order appeal was certainly directed at dirty, dope-smoking hippies rioting in the streets over Vietnam, the other message was more subtly articulated but much more important to Americans living in urban areas who were enraged about black-on-white crime.

  • thebewilderness on May 21, 2012 5:57 PM:

    The white supremacists in the media promised repeatedly that there would be a race war if Obama were elected. They are very tired of waiting for it to erupt so they will do as they always do and report it as though it were happening and refuse to report what is actually happening.

  • Leon Reilly on May 21, 2012 6:30 PM:

    I am a liberal who has questions, and I question your post and the story you cite. I think what you’ve written is as much a part of the problem as the right-wingnuts you call out.
    What's happening has nothing to do with Obama's presidency or race. It has everything to do with black kids being pissed off and riled up.
    I am waiting for the mainstream media to give some explanation for the black-on-white flash mobs of the past year or so all over the country, such as (and only a few of many examples) at the Wisconsin state fair, Chicago's North Beach, center-city Philadelphia (they're now losing convention business because of it), Denver, St. Louis.
    Local news coverage got granular on most of those, but they’re just pieces. Put those stories together and it’s obvious something is going on.
    And on and on and on.
    These (mostly) black kids are pissed and they're banging heads.
    Please check the Baltimore Sun’s story of a few days ago based on police dispatcher tapes showing coordination of cops on the streets recently when different groups of 100 or more black youngsters roamed the downtown area and Inner Harbor making some terror.
    BTW, the Virginian-Pilot reporter in Norfolk is an idiot. He’s stopped late on a Saturday night at an intersection in a tough area. Someone in a crowd threw a rock at his car and the reporter got out to confront him. The reporter is a lucky idiot – he’s alive.
    Trayvon Martin is as much an excuse as a reason for these kids. And of course politics is involved, if only the politics their coming of age realization that they've been screwed from birth by their color. (And it’s also a convenient excuse/out for those who would be where they are no matter their situation.) They might not have gotten the best educations, but they're educated all the time on that history. The thug culture probably is providing some guidance when it comes to acting out on that.
    Your post on this was just too easy, as was the piece that sparked it.

  • Tom Dibble on May 21, 2012 7:01 PM:

    I am waiting for the mainstream media to give some explanation for the black-on-white flash mobs of the past year or so all over the country, such as (and only a few of many examples) at the Wisconsin state fair, Chicago's North Beach, center-city Philadelphia (they're now losing convention business because of it), Denver, St. Louis.
    Local news coverage got granular on most of those, but they’re just pieces. Put those stories together and it’s obvious something is going on.
    And on and on and on.

    A few explanations for you:

    1. The economy is bad. When the economy is bad / has been bad for some period of time, more violence tends to occur, and more group violence tends to occur.

    2. You are suffering from an observational effect. You are seeing patterns where, statistically, they are not there. I believe this is the most likely reason.

    3. Even if you are not viewing Fox directly, you are hearing about these anomalies via the side-splash of their disinformation campaign. This goes hand in hand with (2).

    We are living in a period of growing information availability. You have to actively seek out statistical evidence rather than relying on your "gut", because you will naturally see a lot more of this type of story today than you would have from the newspaper or TV station of your youth. Statistically, though, comparing youth crime rates between now and other periods of economic turmoil - 1992-94, for instance - shows that today is nothing out of the ordinary, and is actually quite tame by comparison.

  • Shakes on May 21, 2012 7:23 PM:

    Being a white male opinionated conservative you tend to get called racist a lot. Maybe I am racist, but at some point I don't even care any more.

    Don't like Obamacare? Racist. Like the Tea Party? Racist. Socialist? You know that is a racist code word. At some point the danger for the left is that if everything is racist, nothing is racist.

    Just like the boy who cried wolf, people are coming around to the notion that they don't care about the names that you call them anyway.

    I have an inside joke with friends these days where we just call each other racist for the heck of it. So call me racist if you please, I won't mind. I would rather be correct than politically correct.

    As for the flash mobs of violent black youth, has that always happened? Why are they in the news in the last few years? Has it always been that way? Do white mobs do the same thing and just go unreported?

    I think that liberals are afraid to take the subject head on to be honest. I could be wrong, and RACIST! :)

  • Leon Reilly on May 21, 2012 7:35 PM:

    @Tom Dibble

    Your analysis leaves out the game changer at work now: social media. These kids might be disenfranchised, but they're wired.

    And there's an opposite of the observational effect you mention: not observing what's there.

    Rising crime rates in the early 90s is quite different from the flash-mob activities today.


  • Area Man on May 22, 2012 12:35 AM:

    "I am waiting for the mainstream media to give some explanation for the black-on-white flash mobs of the past year or so all over the country, such as..."

    In case you didn't bother reading the linked article, not only is there no evidence for a spike on black-on-white crime, it's been on the wane for several years now. And hate crimes against whites are out-numbered about 4-1 by hate crimes against blacks.

    Keep in mind, the right-wing's response to the totally unfair accusations that they're racist is to hype rare and singular cases of some black-on-white crime, none of which appear to have resulted in anyone getting killed and the shooter going free, and create the false impression that such things are going on all over the place. Clearly, the Right just wants racial harmony.

  • jrosen on May 22, 2012 9:11 AM:


    I'll take you at your word that you are not a racist. But if you don't see that there is a racist component to some of the rabid anti-Obama noise coming from the Right, then you are denying the obvious. It's hard to sort out how much of the stuff (like the Birther BS) is fomented by people who understand well what they are doing and how many are reacting (half or less consciously) to their own racial stereotypes, but the result is the same. Isn't it clear that those who simultaneously call Obama a socialist, a Communist, a Muslim, a Fascist, etc. are not being rational, since you can't really be any of these things at the same time (do they even understand the difference between a Communist and a Socialist? Highly doubtful).

    For me the truly sad thing is that the appeal to racism, subtle or blatant, induces so many to act and vote against their own vital interests, only to the benefit of some very rich and twisted people who don't have to laugh all the way to the bank....they are the bank. it is the classic divide and rule; it worked then and it works now. As long as those in the lower layers of white society can look down on blacks, they will not do anything to change the system that condemns them to that status. or they can assume that when they go to Jesus, they will get the reward denied them here on Earth (as in "pie in the sky bye and bye"). Either way, the happy few will keep their bucks, earned, inherited, or stolen.

    BTW I personally am in a decent comfort zone, not rich, not poor, and quite content with my present lot. So don't take the usual dodge of calling me envious. I don't even know why I care at all about the way our society is circling the drain. Maybe it's because my grand-daughter turns 5 today.

  • Shakes on May 22, 2012 10:41 AM:


    I didn't say that I am not a racist, so you don't have to take my word for anything.

    My point was that "racist" has very little meaning for me anymore. If everything is racist, then nothing is racist.

    Do I try to keep the black man down? No. And do you want to hear something racist? I think the black man does a pretty good job at that himself. Even if I wanted to keep the black man down, I don't think that I could do the job better than he is already doing it.

    I think that some of the anti-racists are indeed racists in that they are anti-white. I am still a little miffed that George Zimmerman was declared white when the media decided to slant against him. He is as white as Obama, and he looks more like Obama than Trayvon.

    White people have done plenty of bad things past and present, the Indians, Slavery & Jim Crow, internment camps, we don't need to pile on and start fabricating white people. For the record, I didn't do any of those things, I was at the movies.

    Do I benefit from slavery and Jim Crow? Do I have white privilege? I don't think so. I benefited from loving parents who nurtured me. If I am supposed to feel guilty about the historical crimes of white people that happened before I was born, then black people should feel guilty of the present day violent crimes of black people that happen disproportionately every day. Fair is fair, as they say.

    My fear that depresses me is that I don't see an end to any of this. People are tribal and they fight. Equality is a goal we have had since the civil rights movement, and we are no closer today if we are looking at economic equality among races. 3 out of 4 black kids today are born to unwed mothers. They are mostly born poor and into bad school districts. The outcomes for these kids spanning generations are poor. My kids are growing up in a two parent household. We work hard to send them to private school (I am not rich), and we read to them almost every day. When my kids are adults, they will be different than the poor black children and they will lead different lives. And people will be raising the same issues that they raise today, probably long after I am gone.

    The black community is broken, and nobody knows how to fix it. The saddest part is the destruction of the black family. For all the talk about progress, it appears to me that the black community is worse off today than they have been in recent history. Elite blacks do very well for sure, but a large portion of the black community is broken, and I don't know how we are going to be humpty dumpty back together again.

    Now are there white people that are racist? Sure. Do they matter? I am not sure about that. Do they keep black people down? How? The picture of Obama with a bone though his nose? I would say that is racist. Does that make black kids drop out of school and have children out of wedlock? I doubt it.

    I just don't see where any of it ever ends. The only thing that I am confident about is that Whitey will get the blame. It is easy to tire of that.

  • Peter C on May 22, 2012 1:08 PM:

    I think the Conservative's fear (especially of Obama and Holder) stems from the fact that deep down, they KNOW they've been unjust to blacks and NOW there are blacks in powerful positions who *could* (but wouldn't) retalliate. Their fear and their hate feed upon each other.

    My hope is that no-drama Obama can break the cycle. If he did, that would be a great good for the world. It is also wildly optimistic. Young people give me hope, though.

  • Crissa on May 22, 2012 10:54 PM:

    Funny, Zimmerman and his parents identify as white, so why would you think that was misplaced? Why would you?