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To Tell the Truth: WAPO Adopts Journalistic Surrealism in Reporting on Law Enforcement Extremists

To Tell the Truth is Human Events News’ press analysis series. These stories will focus on “news” being reported by either The New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC News, NBC News, or CBS News. Despite 24-hour cable broadcasts, and an untold number of internet sources, these established, mainstream platforms continue to influence the majority of American citizens and their political opinions.

The “news” generated by these press is better regarded as “opinion” crafted in a way designed to discourage skepticism and critical thought on the part of the audience. To Tell the Truth will be Human Events News’ periodic effort to help address this bias, and restore the skepticism necessary on the part of all Americans to maintain a free society.

In recent weeks, The Washington Post has repeatedly published news articles attempting to frame the events of Jan. 6 as a symptom of some sort of “extremist” movement within America’s law enforcement community.

The FBI has so far identified over 400 suspects surrounding the Capitol Siege, having formally charged over 150 of them, according to FBI Washington field office assistant director Steven D’Antuono.

While an estimate of attendance of the overall rally is hard to come by, media consensus seems to be that attendance was in the “thousands.” Photos of the event certainly suggest that estimate may be low..

But a recent Washington Post article would have you believe that the incident on Jan. 6 can in large part be attributed to “extremist” off-duty police officers, who enter into law enforcement as hate-group operatives.

The Post invokes images of the death of George Floyd, positioning comments from experts about the general issue of “bad apples” within law enforcement, and presenting them alongside framing that all but equated white supremacists, “far right” individuals, extremists, and cops.

To set the scene, The Post cites two (perhaps purposely) confusing figures, including a group of “more than a dozen” officers and “another 14” officers.

“More than a dozen off-duty law enforcement officers were allegedly part of the Jan. 6 mob and are under investigation, according to a Washington Post analysis using news accounts and police and FBI reports. At least a dozen Capitol Police officers are also under investigation for possibly playing a role in the rioting by assisting or encouraging the mob.

Another 14 off-duty officers, who do not appear to have entered the Capitol, attended the preceding rally held by then-President Donald Trump that was advertised by extremist groups on social media. The event drew tens of thousands to Washington to fight the election results that made Joe Biden the 46th U.S. president. Local and federal law enforcement warned in the run-up that it could lead to violence.”

 Here, to back up it’s “more than a dozen” figure, The Post cites its own previous report, which  leaves very blurry lines between those who breached the Capitol and those who simply protested, using phrases like “participated in the chaos” and “part of the mob.”

Later, the same cited article concedes that “While some officers have said they were merely at the pro-Trump rally, rather than participating in the riot, others were found to have gone further,” and points to a report of two Virginia officers who were arrested for alleged involvement in the riot.

“A Washington Post analysis shows that at least 29 current and former officers attended the Jan. 6 rally, with some proceeding to the Capitol, according to a review of officers’ social media accounts, FBI reports and news reports.

Of those, at least 13 officers are under investigation for possible participation in the rioting, as well more than a dozen Capitol Police officers who may have assisted the mob that seized the Capitol.”

But what about the “another 14?” The Post concedes that they “do not appear to have entered the Capitol,” and in doing so suggests to the reader that all of the first group– the “more than a dozen” under investigation — certainly did so. The Post’s own reporting indicates that it has no evidence of this being the case.

Make no mistake, The Post doesn’t want the reader to come away thinking that the 14 are innocent. They may have only attended the larger event, but even that was “advertised by extremist groups.”

Of course, the event was also promoted by many mainstream conservatives, including members of Congress and milquetoast Republican groups. With this juxtaposition, The Post implies that advertisements from extremists may have driven the attendance of the officers who did not breach the capitol, thus painting them guilty of supposed “extremism” as well. The report, however, does not provide any evidence to support this dubious framing.

Although its presentation of the information is remarkably muddy, the most likely interpretation of the numbers presented by The Post pegs 29 total “current and former” officers at the event, 14 of which did not go inside the Capitol building, 13 of which may have gone inside, and 2 of which have been arrested.

The report goes on to paint a picture of an epidemic of White Supremacists and other bad actors infiltrating police departments in order to do harm.

“The degree to which white supremacist and far-right armed groups have otherwise infiltrated police and sheriff departments is unknown,” The Post reports

The reason for which The Washington Post decided to include the above sentence in its report is unknown– although just as with this sentence, its inclusion certainly makes a strong suggestion. Sentences such as these are an effective and common way for journalists to implant narratives in the mind of readers — without having to provide any sourcing or backup information. For example:

The degree to which the media manipulates the framing of news stories to demonize law enforcement is unknown.

The number of times the media has used the phrase “armed” in order to scare readers is unknown.

It is not clear to what extent The Washington Post mischaracterized the involvement of law enforcement in the Capitol Siege.

To tell the truth: This particular piece by one of America’s most trusted news outlets is just one recent example of the mainstream media’s use of disjointed facts and attempts to push narratives without the presentation of concrete evidence. At best, it does this out of incompetence — at worst, out of intent to manipulate.

Written By

Celine Ryan is an American journalist covering politics, culture, tech, and higher education.

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