Whenever there’s a story that could make Democratic lawmakers and their supporters look insane or unworthy of voters’ trust, some major newsroom rushes to make the real story about how conservatives are exploiting the moment.
It’s the “Republicans pounce” or the “Republicans seize” trope, and it has become more predictable over time.
Left-wing agitators have recently chased Republican lawmakers and White House officials from restaurants. Left-wing demonstrators also came out in force last week during the fight to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. They have disrupted hearings and floor proceedings and intimidated lawmakers. Two protesters notably cornered Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., in an elevator, berating him for roughly 10 minutes over his decision to support Kavanaugh. Other lawmakers, including Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, were also followed and scolded by teams of angry demonstrators. On Saturday, as the U.S. Senate prepared to vote to confirm Kavanaugh, police in the nation’s capital arrested more than 100 protesters, many of whom had broken past barricades set up around the Capitol building.
Republicans, including President Trump himself, have referred to these bands of irate, screaming individuals as a “mob.”
"You don't hand matches to an arsonist, and you don't give power to an angry left-wing mob. Democrats have become too EXTREME and TOO DANGEROUS to govern," the president tweeted Saturday. "Republicans believe in the rule of law - not the rule of the mob. VOTE REPUBLICAN!"
In a normal world, referring to the demonstrators as a “mob” wouldn’t be that controversial. Indeed, as anyone who remembers as far back as 2009 can attest, using the word “mob” to refer to a group of angry political protesters is not exactly breaking new ground. But we’re not in normal times, and certain newsrooms need to find ways to make the story of Republicans being targeted by angry demonstrators about ... how Republicans are exploiting the story.
Enter NPR, which ran a story this week titled, “Republicans Seize On 'Angry Mob' Mantra To Keep Their Midterm Base Fired Up.” They even used the very phrase "Republicans Seize"!
The problem here isn't that NPR did a right-wing reaction piece. Reaction pieces are standard. The problem here is that the NPR story conveniently omits pertinent details as to why Republicans are even "seizing" in the first place. This is the standard problem of the "Republicans pounce" cliche.
The story makes no mention whatsoever of incidents like the one where Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and his wife were chased from a restaurant in the nation’s capital. The closest the story comes to alluding to the anti-Kavanaugh demonstrators is to mention Kelley Paul, the wife of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who claims her family was "doxed" during the judge's confirmation debate.
The report does mention recent incendiary comments from Obama-era officials, including Eric Holder and Hillary Clinton. The NPR story is also careful to quote Lawrence Jacobs, the director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota, who maintains the Capitol demonstrators last week “weren't really unruly mobs.”
"There were protesters in the Capitol who were making their voices heard, which is protected by the U.S. Constitution and something Republicans do all the time. That's hardly something I would describe as a mob. I would describe that as noisy democracy," he said.
Remember: The story is never the thing that could make Democratic lawmakers and their allies look insane. The real story is always that Republicans are “pouncing” or “seizing.”