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Providing a platform for the Far Right: How the Grand Rapids Media reported on the small protest at the Lansing State Capitol on Sunday

January 18, 2021

The news media loves conflict, since conflict creates a wonderful climate for advertising and consumption. 

On Sunday, the Grand Rapids-based news media was no doubt disappointed that the protest that was planned by the far right at the Lansing State Capitol had a tiny turnout.

By all accounts, there were between 20 – 25 members of the far right, mostly boogaloo members, who showed up in Lansing, not so much as to protest, but to posture in front of the news media, a news media that was all too eager to provide them with a platform to spout their propaganda.

MLive, WOODTV8, WZZM 13 and WXMI 17, all framed their stories in similar fashion. First, they let news consumers know that the State Police and the Michigan National Guard were prepared for anything, with cops and soldiers all over Lansing and temporary fencing placed around the Capitol building.

The MLive article provided a platform for two boogaloo members, one person who identified as a Trump supporter and another person who wasn’t convinced there was a fair election, although he disagreed with what happened on January 6. With each person who was cited in the Live article, there is no indication that the reporter questioned or challenged them. Timothy Teagan is the first person cited in the Live article, yet there is no questioning of his comments and no contextual information about him. Thankfully, there are anti-fascists who have been monitoring his twitter account.

The WOODTV8 story wasn’t much different, only in terms of who was cited. In the Channel 8 coverage, there also is no evidence that the reporter questioned those they spoke with. 

The channel 13 story took a different approach, talking about how the protest was “peaceful” and that there were no incidents of violence that occurred. WZZM 13’s coverage included a comment from the Lansing Mayor, saying that the protesters were “non-violent.” I’m not sure how anyone who shows up with an assault rifle can be non-violent, but this just reflects how narrowly people understand the issue of violence in our society. 

The WXMI story began with the news readers framing the issue as one of security, talking mostly about how State Capitols across the country were preparing to suppress any unlawful activity. The Fox 17 reporter also interviewed Timothy Teagan, who again made claims that go unchallenged. The channel 17 story did cite a Trump supporter and a former State Representative who was defending Gov. Whitmer.

The problem with this type of coverage, which is very event driven, is that it offers up no substantive investigation into far right groups and the real harm they perpetrate. As we noted in October, after a plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer was foiled, the local news media have failed us miserably when it comes to both informing the public about these far right, White Supremacist and White Nationalists groups. Not only has the local news media failed to inform the public, they continue to provide a neutral platform for those who have done real harm and are likely to commit more acts of violence in the future. 

Lastly, it is worth noting that the level of police and military presence at the Lansing Capitol was astounding. While many people believe that the massive mobilization of state was necessary, we all should consider what this will mean for the suppression of dissent in general in Michigan and across the country.

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