One of the common motifs when riots break out across America is that they’re really not “riots” — they’re just protests that take on a certain, erm, enthusiasm due to the fact that they’re the cri de coeur of members of an oppressed underclass who have no other way to express themselves and their vexation at systemic injustice but to resort to drastic measures.
All of this is very impressive verbal gymnastics, but Americans can turn on their televisions, see burned-out buildings and stores being denuded of merchandise and logically conclude to themselves that what they’re watching, which is conspicuously being called anything but a “riot,” is, in fact, a riot.
This odd feat of verbal prestidigitation, which shows up every so often at the most inopportune times, was underlined by NBC News’ Craig Melvin, a co-host of the network’s mainstay “Today” show.
On Thursday, Melvin wanted to ensure transparency in how NBC News was shaping coverage of the unrest that’s followed the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis after being taken into police custody on May 25.
“This will guide our reporting in MN. ‘While the situation on the ground in Minneapolis is fluid, and there has been violence, it is most accurate at this time to describe what is happening there as ‘protests’–not riots,’” he tweeted.
Conservative Twitterer Robby Starbuck probably had the best response to this curious take on what constitutes a “riot.”
“Those ‘protests’ must have magically caused spontaneous combustion that lit buildings on fire, threw flatscreen TV’s into the hands of innocent ‘protestors’ and caused hands to slam hammers into cash registers. What a wild series of events!” he tweeted.