It isn’t often that 0.065 percent of something becomes its defining characteristic. But that’s what happened in Paris on Sunday. After a peaceful pro-traditional-marriage march had already ended, 96 protesters – less than 0.065 percent of the 150,000 demonstrators – were arrested for refusing to disperse and skirmishing with police. But from the way the media covered the march, one would think the demonstration itself was made up of violent rioters clashing with police forces.
“French pro-traditional marriage march turns into a riot,” announced The Examiner. Reuters followed suit, starting off their article with a 30 pictures slideshow, of which at least 24 shots were related to the post-march rogue groups of rioters. (Only picture #30 provided a clear view of the streets filled to overflowing with the tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators.) Reuters admitted that “the rally was peaceful throughout much of the day,” but the second half of the article was ominously entitled “WARNINGS OF VIOLENCE IGNORED” and discussed the possibility of the march turning aggressive.
The Daily Mail’s coverage was likewise one-sided, posting more than a dozen pictures of small groups of rioters and individual troublemakers before providing only two shots of the massive peaceful march at the bottom of the page. The article focused on the rioters, announcing: “Far-right demonstrators turn violent,” and claiming that “several hundred protesters clashed with police.”
The Huffington Post’s “Gay Voices” blog ran an AP account, which gave multiple mentions to the scattered “right-wing demonstrators” who tussled with police.
Even more bizarre, however, was The New York Times’ coverage, which apparently conflated the demonstration with a random act of violence – and possibly terrorism – that happened in France earlier in the week. For no clear reason, the Times’ article, which was entitled “Gay Marriage Is Protested in France”, threw in details about the stabbing of a soldier a few days ago – an event which does not appear to have even a remote connection to the protestors or the gay marriage debate.
The first line reported the march was “largely peaceful,” but suddenly the Times piece jumped to the unrelated attack on a French soldier. “The French police said they were continuing to search for the man responsible for stabbing a uniformed soldier in the neck,” the paragraph began. Afterwards, the article resumed coverage of the march, only to finish by giving further details about the stabbing.
Is the good ol’ Times trying to surreptitiously link the conservative French demonstrators to terrorism and random brutal violence? If not, why bring up the poor wounded soldier in the article about the march?
Perhaps it’s not unlikely, since supposed “anti-gay violence” is getting lots of attention from the liberal media in recent weeks. Besides, major news networks don’t have a great record when it comes to reporting on pro-traditional-marriage marches, and the Times in particular has a historyof cheerleading for gay rights.
So we could suspend judgment on whether the credit for the Times’ strange approach goes to incompetent writing or biased reporting; but given the way the media covered the demonstration overall, it’s not too hard to guess which is more likely.