Julio Rosas, senior writer for Townhall and the author of “Fiery but Mostly Peaceful: The 2020 Riots and the Gaslighting of America,” joined me at the Turning Point Action Conference in Palm Beach, Florida, to delve into the rise of citizen journalism and the necessity of wading into the most dangerous situations to expose the worst behavior—even if that means filming the riots from inside the raging crowds.
When CNN, MSNBC, and other left-leaning outlets cherry-picked their coverage of the 2020 riots, Rosas stepped in to broadcast them open and unedited—even if that meant stepping in harm’s way:
The political and media ecosphere said [the riots] weren’t an issue, that ‘you’re just exaggerating, it’s a mostly peaceful protest, we aren’t grooming kids.’ Now we can respond, ‘What are you talking about? I know this is happening because I’m seeing it firsthand.’
Rosas thinks that seeing footage of riots and school board meetings encouraged more Americans to become politically active.
“It’s going to motivate people to get more involved—I think we’ve seen more of a reaction to everything, and [riots and public schools] are just two issues,” he said.
In this episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast,” Rosas outlines what changed in American society after people were shown footage of progressive activism that legacy media had previously ignored.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Tony Kinnett: Good afternoon and welcome back to The Daily Signal. I’m Tony Kinnett here with a guy that really doesn’t need introduction, especially after the chaos of the last couple of years, Julio Rosas. Did you like that? That was really—
Julio Rosas: Yeah. Yeah. No, I would say thank you for really, for honoring—instead of a land acknowledgement, we decided to do a heritage acknowledgement.
Kinnett: You have to say the individual’s name in just the thickest accent—
Rosas: Accent you can do.
Kinnett: … that you can dive into.
Rosas: Not to do it to the point of parody, but yes. Yeah, absolutely.
Kinnett: We’ll talk afterward. I feel like, look, walking around this conference, that there are a lot of people who didn’t really start following politics, who didn’t start following the conservative movement until they started seeing the kind of things that we were covering. Have you found a lot of people through a lot of your diving into the riots from Antifa, from [Black Lives Matter], that said, “I really didn’t care about this until I saw you in the thick of it”?
Rosas: Well, and it’s not even just that, but it’s also kind of hard—see, for certain issues, it’s easy to not see the effects of it. When you look at Russian collusion, OK, it’s like this, not abstract, but to the average American, it’s like, OK, obviously, that’s an issue, but it doesn’t affect me day to day. But when you have your neighborhood being looted and set on fire, that’s in your face.
That’s why we’ve seen with the parents being more involved at school boards and everything, it’s because that’s their kids that are being subjected to it.
When you have that, and then on top of that, you see the rest of the political and media ecosphere saying, “Well, that’s not an issue,” or, “You’re exaggerating that,” like, “It’s a mostly peaceful protest.” They’re like, “No, we’re not grooming kids.” People are going to say, “Well, no, what are you talking about? I know this because I’m seeing it firsthand.”
You’re right, it’s going to motivate people to get more involved, and that’s why I think we’ve seen more of a reaction to everything. That’s just two issues.
Kinnett: Right. Well, it’s also harder to ignore. So when you see a Washington Post headline and they’re like, “The world is collapsing, everything’s terrible,” it’s easy to go, “OK, well, that’s super duper.” But when you see video of chairs being thrown through windows and things on fire—again, think of the CNN reporter meme, “Fiery, but—”
Rosas: “Fiery, but mostly peaceful.” Yeah.
Kinnett: … mostly peaceful protest,” it really does put some of that stuff into perspective. When you see school board candidates or school board members being read excerpts from these pornographic books and they’re uncomfortable, but that’s the content, it’s so hard to ignore.
I feel like that’s the kind of reporting that we need more of, which is, you can’t ignore this. Here’s the evidence, here’s where it’s happening. This isn’t just from some pundit’s chair. Right?
Kinnett: It’s dudes and ladies getting in the thick of it so that the rest of America, the Coastals and the Middle Americans can actually see what’s going on in the real world.
Rosas: That’s why it’s so, I would say it’s very invigorating for this, because you’re right, when we have—then not even just that, but also things like inflation. We have things like with the housing market being the way it is, and no one can afford to buy a home. These are things that really are affecting people day to day.
For me, my focus has been—you’re right, this isn’t punditry. That’s why I strive for—not to say I don’t do analysis, but I strive for on-the-ground reporting because I’m not trying to base my whole thing, again, like with Russian collusion, … like, “Oh yeah, anonymous sources from the intel community say this.” It’s like, “Here’s a video of just absolute chaos.”
Kinnett: “I’m here downtown, everything is on fire. Draw your own conclusions.”
Rosas: Right, exactly. Today, when I focus a lot of my reporting, it’s the long-term effects of a high-intensity breakdown of law and order. Right now, we’re facing a low-intensity breakdown because now it’s no longer necessarily people looting. You go to Philadelphia and there’s entire streets just filled with drugged-out zombies. That’s not to denigrate them.
Kinnett: That’s what people on the streets of Philadelphia are dealing with. I was just there. It’s walking through those streets.
Kinnett: It’s horrible.
Rosas: Exactly. And—
Kinnett: The citizens of Philadelphia don’t want to be dealing with that.
Rosas: No. I know there’s a conservative stance to just be like, “Well, they voted for it, so they have to suffer the consequences,” and I agree with that up to a point.
I say that because there’s a lot of people that get caught in the crossfire of those bad policies because, for example, in Washington, D.C., more juveniles have been shot so far this year than were shot in total for last year in 2022. So we’re only six months into this, or six, seven months into this year—
Rosas: … and they’re already past that point. Obviously, the kids didn’t vote for that. Unfortunately, there’s probably some kids who were involved in some of that. But there’s so many innocent people that get caught in the crossfire.
So that’s why when I’m bringing attention to this, it’s to say, “Hey, no, things are as bad as you think it is.” Because again, you’re seeing it. When you get carjacked by a 14-year-old, you have to pause and think, “Wait, hold on. This isn’t how things used to be.”
Kinnett: Yeah. It’s something different entirely.
Also, I considered, going back to the George Floyd protest, when there was that fireman-owned restaurant who the dude just, all he wanted to do was save up enough money to build this restaurant, took him 20 years to save up the money to do so. It’s just like a neighborhood restaurant. It was a local favorite. They, they being the BLM rioters, absolutely destroyed that restaurant.
It’s not something that you’re going to hear because it’s not exactly newsworthy to talk about, oh, just some local guy’s restaurant. But when you’re an individual out there in Middle America who’s like, “I have places that I go to like that,” this is what that kind of chaos does to those places, changes things for you.
Because it’s not just some congressman lecturing from the campaign trail. All right? You’re not going to see some congressman going out and doing the fake Lincoln Day Dinner. “I’m here at the state fair and I’ve got a corn dog supreme.” No, you don’t have that. Actually, it’s real people.
Rosas: Yeah, dude.
Kinnett: Yeah. The fake bite, right?
Kinnett: Yeah. But you actually have real on-the-ground reporting that shows people things that they’re actually concerned about, not some preening and posturing. Because, I mean, when you’re out there and you’re in the middle of a riot and a mob, are you preening and posturing for everybody?
Rosas: No. No. That’s why I never did so many standups where the camera’s on me. I did it a few times, but 90% of my video, it’s just—
Kinnett: The camera’s facing out.
Rosas: Yeah. It’s facing outward because people aren’t tuning in to see me necessarily.
Rosas: They’re tuning in to see what I’m showing. I took that very, very seriously.
It’s the same thing with what’s happening at the border or what has been happening at the border since this administration. Again, it’s just showing people just crossing in the middle of the day without any fear, looking for Border Patrol because they know they’re going to be released later on, because that’s how things are. It really puts things into perspective when, again, you see the—
Because we all have this nostalgia. Everyone has this nostalgia, but things weren’t like this just in terms of nationwide, just back in 2019.
Kinnett: Which is amazing to think about.
Rosas: We’re not even talking about 20 years ago.
Kinnett: Yeah, exactly. You don’t have to go back to 20, 30 years ago to reach points where—I bring this up all the time. Imagine telling someone five years ago that we would be talking about transgender children and those kind of surgeries with children. People would laugh at you were you to bring those kinds of things up. It would be considered the most absurd form of comedy. And yet, it’s become the norm now.
So as we move forward and we take a look at this kind of reporting, it’s necessary to showcase how bad it is on the ground so people see such a stark contrast from what was, like you said, just back in 2019.
Rosas: It was funny because during that time, I never, I was thinking about the long-term implications, and I was thinking about, OK, well, crime, obviously, but there’s so many secondary and third effects.
We don’t even have to look at the recent riots. We look at Newark and Detroit from what happened after their riots in the ’60s. I’m not saying that that’s the only reason why they are in the state that they’re in today, but it’s certainly—
Kinnett: No, but those actions have serious consequences.
Rosas: Yeah, it certainly didn’t help their future economic prosperity.
Kinnett: Wait, wait. Wait a minute. You’re saying that riots don’t help the city they happen in? What a surprise.
Rosas: Right, exactly. It’s a warning. I always hate to sound like the black pill, doom and gloom type of guy. It just feels like we’re on this trajectory.
That is why it’s so concerning seeing what’s happening with the next election, with 2024, and how that plays out. It’s not really “sky is falling” prediction to say that we could face another wave of just this high-intensity breakdown depending on how the results go. Because, again, people need to have faith in the elections. People need to have faith in the process. For a lot of Americans, they don’t, and there’s multiple reasons for that.
I always say, I don’t know exactly where we’re headed because [I] don’t claim to know the future, but I don’t have a good feeling about where we’re headed. That’s not to say it’s a foregone conclusion.
Kinnett: No, but there is that kind of palpable anxiety that people get by watching things go in that direction.
Rosas: Yeah. Yeah, they might feel powerless to stop it. Again, because the surefire way that historically is, like, “Well, we always give our vote. At least we can hopefully change things through votes.” But obviously, it’s not just the outcome of elections. But then we see what happens when Republicans get in power, and how do they do that?
Kinnett: What happens when we pass the baton? Do you govern?
Rosas: Do you actually use the power of the mandate that the voters gave you? I’d say this House, at least with the House majority, I’d say it’s been a mixed bag. I think it’s been better than what was predicted, but obviously, there’s always room for improvement.
But again, I just think that for me, in looking toward the future, I’m preparing myself to be as busy again because it’s better to be prepared for it. Because I wasn’t prepared in 2020 and I learned as I went. But for now, I’m preparing to see if I have to cross the country again.
Kinnett: Right. That’s the thing that I wanted to finish out on, is that I’m hoping that because we do the kind of on-the-ground reporting, me getting thrown out of school board meetings, you getting shoved around in riots, I know which one I prefer, that people will prepare so they also don’t have to be in the middle of a riot or thrown out of their own school board meetings.
Rosas: Yeah. Yeah. No, for sure, because we’ve gone through cycles, right? Because the most recent, I would say, large-scale riots were back in the ’90s, in ’92 with Los Angeles. Yeah, we had Ferguson, but it was really—
Kinnett: God bless those Rooftop Koreans.
Rosas: Oh, yes. Yeah. They made a comeback back then. But that wasn’t nationwide, and that’s why it was so concerning. Because at first after Minneapolis, I thought, “OK, I covered that. I’m done with that. Let’s go back to doing what we were before.” Then it turned into, “Well, will these things ever stop?” It had to take literally the Derek Chauvin trial to finally let the rage dissipate. But it’s still kind of there. It’s simmering right now.
Kinnett: Right under the surface kind of a thing.
Rosas: Yeah, right under the surface. So again, it’s like the triangle fire or the fire triangle that’s needed to—I’m really messing that up.
Kinnett: It’s a little bit botched, but not as bad as you think. Yeah, I know what you mean though. …
Rosas: It needs all three components in order for it to actually be started. I’d say we have two of those three right now. If we just have that third one, and that’s what I’m saying, the outcome of the 2024 election, that could be that third side, maybe something happens. I’m not trying to wishcast it, but it’s just from what I’ve seen and what has happened since 2020, it’s definitely not out of the realm of possibility.
Kinnett: Absolutely. Julio, thanks for coming on and thanks for having the cojones to dive into the fray and get what needs to be out there to everybody who’s not in the middle of the riot.
Rosas: Yeah. No. Thanks for having me.
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