Riots: Ruinous or Revealing?

Man fist bumps law enforcement personnel during Baltimore protests. Courtesy of

Man fist bumps law enforcement personnel during Baltimore protests. Courtesy of

Jace Jenican, Opinions Editor

Nearly everyone can agree that using violence to protest violence is hypocritical, and these types of demonstrations should be condemned. However, is the way that the media is portraying the Baltimore protests essentially promoting the effectiveness of violence as a means for change?


When asked what he knows about the Freddie Gray protests, Joey Angel (11) responded, “From what I’ve seen on the news, it looks as if there is only violent protests going on in Baltimore. I’m sure that there is a legitimate cause, but that is no way to promote a cause.” This is the way many people–outside of the Baltimore area–view these demonstrations; however, there were several days of nonviolent protests prior to the media’s coverage of the violence. These events were hardly covered, but once the protesters got violent the media was licking its lips for the high ratings from the 24 hour breaking news coverage.


If American cable news channels are only willing to send cameras once these rallies become rowdy, doesn’t this seem to encourage the brutality of change? In the media there is a saying that “If it bleeds, it leads” but this type of thinking really only leads to dishonest journalism. Instead of reporting the fact-based news, the media has been displaying emotionally based coverage. This is because pathos gets ratings. Trying to spark an impassioned response from the viewers/readers causes these news companies to avoid reporting on stories that may be important, but aren’t so interesting. Because of this integral flaw, the media initially mildly brushed over the Freddie Gray protests while they remained peaceful and only began to intensely cover the demonstrations once confrontation began. Therefore, it seems the selective coverage of the media encourages riots because without the riots, the message of the protesters would’ve never been brought forth by the media.


However, does the act of rioting spoil this message that is brought forth by the rioting? It is hard to sympathize with violence, so when the protesters are looting stores and burning down Baltimore the public is lost on the cause trying to be propelled. The ideals of the movement become hidden in the violence. Essentially, these riots are a catch-22. Without the discord, nobody would listen to them, but with the discord nobody will understand them.


Riots are bad. Obviously. Thus, it is irresponsible for media coverage of the protests to be constricted to riots. It signals to some protesters that peace isn’t sexy and won’t get good ratings–but looting a CVS will. If this trend continues, the future of nonviolent protests seems bleak.