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Kyle Rittenhouse has yet to be convicted by the courts. So far, we don’t know what will happen to him. However, the young man has already suffered his own conviction: the one that comes from the media.
Those who condemned Rittenhouse, without the verdict of a fair trial, were the liberal media. The same ones that, in these cases, should put their beards to soak in order to provide the public with objective (or at least serious) reports and analysis in a complex case that attracted all the national attention. It is curious because these media are the ones who often criticize and stigmatize conservative media coverage.
This media lynching also involved progressive politicians and leftist internet trolls: “17-year-old white supremacist domestic terrorist drove across state lines, armed with a AR 15. He shot and killed 2 people who had assembled to affirm the value, dignity, and worth of Black lives. Fix your damn headlines,” wrote Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley on August 26, 2020.
The boy’s fate in the public eye was sentenced from day one with inflammatory reports where he was targeted as a white supremacist or trigger-happy killer. This provoked a strong reaction from the conservative media, which began to defend Rittenhouse’s actions. Some conservative and pro-gun groups went further, even calling him a hero. In the end, the inevitable happened: the Kyle Rittenhouse case became politicized and, logically, polarizing.
Opinions that do harm
A clear example of this media condemnation is exemplified by Issac Bailey, in NBC News, who argues that the “sobbing Kyle Rittenhouse already won — even before his trial is over.” The message he is trying to send is very clear, for him if “Rittenhouse is convicted, he will likely stop being a right-wing mascot and become a right-wing martyr. If he isn’t convicted, he will set a precedent for others like him to pick up guns they shouldn’t have and thrust themselves into the middle of unrest they should avoid — confident in knowing that prison won’t be in their future.”
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In other words, Bailey doesn’t care at all whether the self-defense argument is valid; whether it is consistent with the evidence provided or constitutional. For columnists like Bailey, heavily influential by having a large platform like NBC, there is no such thing as innocent until proven guilty. Rittenhouse is already guilty, no matter the outcome. He may not be guilty of intentional homicide, but he will be guilty, to Bailey, of being a sort of bad citizen. Guilty of following American values that he, of course, detests.
This media-driven narrative is, to say the least, dangerous and irresponsible. Stigmatizing Kyle Rittenhouse as a cold-blooded killer who went out to kill or harm people who disagreed with him politically generates a sense of injustice in many people. These types of articles propose conflict and even set the stage for possible riots should Rittenhouse be acquitted of all charges. Which is a strong possibility.
Of course, Bailey’s on NBC is an isolated opinion, isn’t it? Surely not all opinions in the mainstream media are like that, right? Well, there are many who agree with Bailey. This is what Ja’han Jones wrote on MSNBC about Kyle Rittenhouse’s panicked, crying fit on the stand: “the man charged with homicide in the deaths of two anti-police brutality demonstrators, seems to have spent much more time at the gun range than in acting classes.”
In that piece Jones accuses the jury of being partially in Rittenhouse’s favor as it is “all white.” He said, further, that “the Rittenhouse murder trial has been theater, with a cast of characters who are seemingly meant to vindicate conservatives’ violent hero worship. Rittenhouse’s waterworks were an essential part of the act, painting him as a reluctant killer instead of a boastful one. His acquittal would set a dangerous precedent, but it could be the finale we’re headed toward.”
Once again, a columnist who cares absolutely nothing about any facts, such as the laughable arguments and cross-examination of the prosecution; or the confession of the main witness in the case, Gaige Grosskreutz, who admitted to the jury that Rittenhouse did not shoot at him until he himself put his hands down and pointed the gun he was carrying at Rittenhouse. Of course, this fact is ignored because to cover it up, or even mention it, would be to give the right to the self-defense argument by Rittenhouse’s lawyers.
Misrepresentation of testimony may clear Kyle Rittenhouse
How did the media cover Grosskreutz’s confession? In the worst possible way.
The Guardian wrote in its headline, for example, “man who survived gunshot thought ‘he was going to die.'” Yes, explaining in the title the thinking of a nervous Grosskreutz was far more important than covering the key testimony that may tip the balance in Rittenhouse’s favor.
NBC News did exactly the same as The Guardian, with a nearly identical headline. National Public Radio (NPR) headlined the Grosskreutz testimony as follows: “The only person who survived being shot by Kyle Rittenhouse takes the stand.”
But the headline is not the worst part. In the second paragraph of the article, NPR wrote: “In three hours of dramatic testimony Monday, Grosskreutz, 27, acknowledged that he was armed with a pistol on the evening of Aug. 25, 2020, but said that his hands were raised when Rittenhouse raised his rifle at him and that he feared for his life.” That directly contradicts the testimony of Grosskreutz, who claimed that Rittenhouse only fired at him when he put his hands down and his gun was pointed at the then-17-year-old.
The Daily Beast made a similar claim, saying Grosskreutz was trying to surrender to Rittenhouse, which also contradicts his own words.
These reports are unethical and biased. They do not help Americans understand a complex case, with many details and edges. Clearly, the politicization of the trial is an extra element that makes coverage difficult, but good journalism comes to the fore on the most sensitive issues.
Media hypocrisy portrayed, once again
In all this nitty-gritty, there is also a bit of hypocrisy. As Stephen L. Miller reports in Spectator World, two trials are currently underway: the Kyle Rittenhouse trial and the Ahmaud Arbery trial. According to Miller, both cases “relate to the events of last year surrounding police and their purportedly racist motives. One is driving most of the media coverage online and one has been all but ignored.”
Miller throws a question in his article that goes like a dart straight to the heart of the mainstream media: “So why is the national media almost singularly focused on fabricating racial components in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, and not at all in the trial of Gregory McMichael and his two accomplices, who stand accused of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was gunned down while jogging last February?”
What Miller says is a fact. Arbery’s case has more racial overtones than Rittenhouse’s, yet the attention and stigmatization around race are only directed at the case of the young man from Illinois. This is no coincidence, if the media is paying more attention to Rittenhouse it is because there is more political morbidity in his case and more mileage can be gained from it (more clicks, more controversy, more outrage, more confrontation).
What the liberal media is doing is dangerous. In the hypothetical event that Rittenhouse is acquitted, many people will genuinely believe that the trial was a scam. The sense of injustice will grow within a section of society and trust in judicial institutions will erode. In the end, they are making this a judicial battle based on ideological perceptions, appealing to emotions and feelings, the facts are being left aside and that is unforgivable for the press.
Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.
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