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Myers: How to invent a riot

A death threat requires some variant of “I WILL kill you.”

Some version of “You SHOULD die” is merely bad manners.

Fortunately, in the United States of America we have no legal speech codes requiring politeness.

So, at least in the messages thus far released, there were no death threats against the Nevada’s Democratic chair.

Nor has anyone, try as they might, come up with any evidence of chair throwing at the Nevada Democratic Convention. In fact, they have come up with one piece of video of a chair NOT being thrown, offered as evidence of chair throwing – quite a burden of proof unsatisfied.

As I write this, the bogus nature of the Democratic riot is being accepted in wider and wider ripples that crisscross the nation. It began initially in alternative news sites, then spread. National Public Radio internal critic Elizabeth Jensen investigated and concluded that NPR’s use of the term “violence” to describe the convention “seems too strong a term to me based on the evidence I have seen so far.” She noted that it is a term “which NPR more often uses to describe events in war zones.”

NPR certainly wasn’t the only one. The day after Jensen’s report, CBS News reported on an interview with U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and the report used the term repeatedly: “the violent incidents in Nevada… When asked if Sanders was right in saying party leaders unfairly accused him of promoting violence, McCaskill said in an interview on CBS This Morning, ‘I kind of agree with Bernie on this one…I think that Nevada was an aberration,’ she said. ‘I think the millions of Bernie Sanders supporters are not people who want to resort to harassment and threats and throwing chairs.’ … Party leaders who expressed concern over his supporters in Nevada were just ‘upset’ by the violence, says McCaskill, a Clinton supporter.”

Thus the CBS reporter, Reena Flores, kept using the term “violence” in a narrative to enclose quotes from a senator who was saying the Sanders campaign is nonviolent. The headline was even more peculiar: “Claire McCaskill: Bernie Sanders not pushing for violence.”

Snopes, the online urban legends site, examined the claims of chair throwing and initially ranked them “UNPROVEN.” Further inquiry prompted Snopes to change that ranking to “FALSE.”

A week later, after all this unfolded, Nevada Democratic Party director Zach Zaragoza put out a statement saying he and his staff saw chairs being thrown.

The establishment press presses onward into mythological territory, as do some Democratic Party officials. Media fact-checking sites focused not on the claims that invented the riot but on parliamentary issues. Sen. Barbara Boxer said because of the hostile reception she received, “I feared for my safety” – sounding like the first George Bush who said he deserved “combat pay” for undergoing an interview with Dan Rather. It doesn’t take much to freak out timid politicians. Recent headlines:

“Bernie Sanders needs to start controlling his supporters.”

“Security Concerns Raised for Democratic National Convention.”

“Nevada unrest sparks Democratic concerns about [national] convention.”

“Ugly Scenes at Nevada Convention Spark Concern”

“Bernie Sanders can’t afford to stay silent any longer.”

“Bernie Sanders needs to start controlling his supporters”

“After Nevada, Democratic Officials Risk a ‘Fractured [national] Convention’.”

“Bernie Sanders needs to start controlling his supporters.”

In other words, some of the country’s most important people are being freaked out by something that never happened. When I wrote about this topic last week, a Nevada convention delegate posted a comment on my story about how the Sanders supporters chanted “Robert’s Rules of Order” like good anarchists. If that’s all it takes to scare people like Barbara Boxer and state Democratic officials, there is little wonder why the Democratic Party has trouble standing up to its real opposition.

Dennis Myers is an award-winning journalist who has reported on Nevada’s capital, government and politics for several decades. He has also served as Nevada’s chief deputy secretary of state.

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