It was weird the way I had to process the recent “fake news” statement Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. required of their affiliate station anchors. Never in a million years would I have guessed that a local news station in Portlandia, Oregon, might be targeted for the conservative-leaning politics of its owners.
But that is just what is happening. Our case in point, ABC affiliate KATU and its compliance with the Sinclair requirement.
To be clear, keeping things weird is a venerable Portland tradition, although lately the weirdness often descends into realms sci-fi and fantasy master Ray Bradbury could have written short stories about. President Trump’s election hasn’t helped. Trump Derangement Syndrome is as ubiquitous as April sniffles in the Rose City, and often as virulent as walking pneumonia.
KATU happens to be the local station whose news program I watch least, but that doesn’t mean anything. As a conservative-minded viewer, I know that all three network affiliates lean progressive in decisions about what they cover and how they cover it. For as long as anyone can remember, any local station that betrayed even a hint of top-down conservatism would find their viewership plummeting. Related: two anchors at ABC affiliate KVAL in equally progressive Eugene refused to read Sinclair’s scripted statement.
I’ve simply gotten used to the team at NBC affiliate KGW. After all, one needs to know the weather, where the latest Eastside mall shooting has occurred, and how the Trail Blazers did in the game I missed. Beyond that, sometimes KGW seems to attempt balance and give President Trump and a seriously outgunned state Republican party a break; for all I know, however, the other stations do too.
Given the progressive bias at Portland’s local news stations, I was not surprised when, a few weeks before the Sinclair statement kerfuffle, I stumbled upon an ostensibly troubling report on KATU. If I remember correctly, I was watching that station because KGW’s eleven p.m. broadcast had been delayed by coverage of the Winter Olympics in Seoul. Anchor Steve Dunn—the very man who along with co-anchor Debora Knapp would later read the Sinclair statement on air—was reporting a story about some purportedly racist stickers stuck on light poles in the town of Oregon City.
It turns out that the racist message on the stickers was the phrase “It’s OK to be white.”
It’s a dumb thing to post on a pole. Most graffiti-like messaging is dumb, much of it hateful, and all of it contributive to visual pollution.
The issue is whether the message posted on the pole can be considered racist. If you flip the coin on Steve Dunn’s lede (and we don’t know if he wrote it, probably not), it lends credibility to the idea that it has become unacceptable in progressive circles to be unapologetically Caucasian. Being comfortable in white skin is something never to be simply stated, like on the poster, let alone, God forbid, celebrated.
It’s hard to imagine a more progressive and questionably spun trope, which brands the simple observation that it’s OK to be white as racist.
In a weird turnabout, weeks later Mr. Dunn was reading Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s “fake news” statement on air. Now, a local boycott of KATU advertisers is gaining steam. It has become a high-profile meme in Portland’s preponderantly progressive (sorry for the alliteration) community and has filtered down to otherwise benign neighborhood sites like Nextdoor, where you go to recommend a good housepainter, sell a used aquarium, or warn about lawn furniture theft.
The thing is, the KATU boycotters probably don’ t have anything substantive to worry about. Despite Sinclair’s ownership, concerned liberals can rest assured that the braintrust at the station probably comes in the same mostly progressive ideological colors as they do. How could they not? Should all the station’s employees who have a problem with this required statement quit en masse? Like many boycotts, boycotting KATU over Sinclair only hurts the local management and creative personnel, most of whom are probably like-minded liberals.
It should also be pointed out that the pole posters didn’t arise out of a vacuum. Oregon City has been and continues to be an occasional locus of more demonstrably racist epithets and graffiti.
That fact leads us to a bigger issue: who are the perpetrators and what is their prime motivation? When the pathetic Oregon City posters/stickers were shown on screen, the imagery suggested not some “mature” committed KKK adherent or intractable Stormtrooper. The sense of this sad messaging spoke instead to the possibility of some wayward kid or group of kids who have been steeped from kindergarten in the public schools teaching them that white people have something to be guilty about and apologetic for.
That it is not OK to be white.
Like Nancy Pelosi’s grandson, they’re learning that there is something fundamentally wrong with them, over which they have no control.
In a world with unlimited potential for things ending badly, count this high on the list.