The political and militia showdown that's been unfolding around Oregon's state Capitol is a stunning news event by any modern standard. After fleeing the state in order to prevent a quorum that's needed for a vote on climate change legislation, Republicans are being aided by right-wing militia members who are promising to lay down their lives for the on-the-lam legislators. It was the threat of militia violence over the weekend that forced the Oregon State Police to close down the Legislature, while one Republican official went on the record warning about looming bloodshed. Yet the disturbing story about Republicans and armed, radical right-wing extremists disrupting government functions remains wildly underplayed in the press.
Partnering with armed militias in order to wage war against lawfully elected public officials and to attack a democratic government is a clear case of insurrection, and that's what's happening in Oregon. But the coverage remains scarce and perfunctory.
The New York Times ran an article on June 20 about the “tumult” surrounding Oregon Republicans who fled to Idaho, but only posted a one-paragraph update to the piece when fringe militia groups, according to the Oregon State Police and its superintendent, threatened “the safety of legislators, staff and citizen visitors” to the statehouse. “The Superintendent strongly recommends that no one come to the Capitol,” the department announced on Saturday. This is stunning. White right-wing radicals in the Pacific Northwest unleashed threats of violence against Democrats for trying to pass climate change legislation, and the Times couldn't be bothered to publish a stand-alone article about the disturbing drama?
In an online CNN report, the fact that militia threats against Democrats closed down the statehouse wasn't mentioned until the ninth paragraph. Cable news coverage badly underplayed the Oregon story, given the radical events that unfolded and what they said about the dangerous actions of the Republican Party in the age of Donald Trump.
Between June 17 and June 24, there were fewer than 60 mentions of the story on cable news, according to the monitoring site TVeyes.com. As for Oregon stories that included a mention of “militia,” there were fewer than 10 cable news reports.
The story may have been underplayed, but news-consumer interest remains high.