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22 Nov, 2021 17:46

Mainstream media's approach to Rittenhouse will cause more chaos & pain for racially divided America

Mainstream media's approach to Rittenhouse will cause more chaos & pain for racially divided America

The verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial has split the US. Whatever your opinion on its merit, what can’t be denied is that agenda-driven, inaccurate reporting has heightened racial tension, and America will pay the price.

On Friday, the entire world watched as the jury returned its verdict in the trial of Rittenhouse: not guilty on all counts.

For some, the verdict was an affirmation of the right to self-defense and the right to bear arms. For others, it was an example of white supremacy and far-right extremism once again allowed to buck the rule of law in a corrupt system. The country’s fault lines are being laid bare again.

And although polarization is nothing new in 2021 America, when it comes to the Rittenhouse case, it seems that it’s the misrepresentation of facts, rather than differences in political views, that have been to blame for the divisive reactions to the acquittal. 

Specifically, as the case unfolded, it became clear that the corporate press had consistently spread misinformation about it, which has contributed to many Americans feeling indignant over the idea that justice has not been served, and that a murderer is now walking free.

“White supremacist”

One of the most prevalent falsehoods surrounding the Rittenhouse case was the idea that the defendant was in some way a white nationalist or white supremacist. This talking point is actually so popular that even President Biden referred to Rittenhouse as a “white supremacist” during his campaign in 2020. And since then, Representatives Ayanna Presley and Cori Bush have also echoed the sentiment.

As proof of alleged racism, critics of Rittenhouse offered supposed affiliation with the Proud Boys group (who, while right-wing, denounce racism and have a non-white leader), as well as a photo of Kyle doing the “OK” hand symbol, which some believe to be a symbol of white supremacy after a 4chan hoax.

While neither of these things is proof of actual bigotry, not only did the press do nothing to give audiences context as to who the Proud Boys are or the fact that the “OK” symbol was merely an online troll, they also obfuscated the truth with selective reporting.

By almost exclusively labelling those Rittenhouse shot as “Black Lives Matter” or “anti-racist” protestors, who were simply objecting to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man, by a white police officer, many in the public have wrongly come under the impression that those shot by Rittenhouse were black, and that the shootings were racially motivated. This irresponsible reporting, curiously, ended up creating a racial, black-versus-white narrative in a case where all involved are white. 

In fact, as the breaking news of Rittenhouse’s acquittal was announced, even self-styled racial justice activist Colin Kaepernick took it upon himself to condemn Rittenhouse, and indeed the entire legal system, as white supremacist. It’s no secret that race-baiting is one of the mainstream media’s favorite pastimes, but the injection of race into the Kyle Rittenhouse narrative at best showed a disregard for the truth, and at worst a desire to heighten increasing racial tensions.

“Illegal gun”

Another common talking point in the media that had little bearing on the actual case was the idea that Kyle Rittenhouse was in possession of an illegal gun the night of the shootings. The fact that Rittenhouse had an AR-15 was the topic of much discussion, presumably because that particular model of gun resembles military-style weapons, and has often been included under the vague definition of “assault weapon.”

Despite the media obsession with AR-15s and “assault weapons,” however, the exact model of rifle Rittenhouse had was never the subject of any charges. But while it’s true that there was some legal uncertainty over whether he could possess the AR-15 because of his age (he was 17 at the time of the shootings), many experts from the beginning believed that Rittenhouse would be cleared of any gun-related charges, as he eventually was.

The media, however, for the most part ignored those familiar with Wisconsin law. Even Politifact, a supposed fact-checking site, labeled a post declaring Rittenhouse’s possession of the gun legal as completely “false.” And to make matters worse, this is a declaration that has yet to be changed, even after the judge confirmed that Rittenhouse’s possession of the weapon was allowed under Wisconsin law.

Furthermore, the lies surrounding Rittenhouse’s firearm continued with the idea that the gun also travelled across state lines from Illinois to Wisconsin. Although traditionally no fans of borders, for some reason leftist pundits have zeroed in on the fact that Rittenhouse lived in Antioch, Illinois, not Kenosha, Wisconsin as evidence of his wrongdoing. To be clear, however, despite not being touched upon by the media, not only does Rittenhouse have family in that area, he was also employed in Kenosha at the time, which is just 25 minutes from Antioch.

It was also never under discussion whether the firearm itself had crossed state lines, as it was known from the beginning that it was being kept at a friend’s house in Kenosha. But still, that did not stop pundits like Hannah Jones and Amber Ruffin from perpetuating the myth to their audiences.

Many have erupted out of fury over Rittenhouse’s acquittal. And although there is no excuse for those committing violence, it’s important to remember that in the minds of many, a literal white supremacist murderer and illegal gun owner has just been set free. As the ones responsible for crafting this false narrative, does the media not bear any responsibility for the destruction that has resulted from it?

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.