Liars, Damned Liars, and the Media

kenosha

Friday evening Danish time, Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted by a jury of his peers in Wisconsin.

I was braced for the worst from the Danish media over the weekend, and TV2 didn’t let me down.

Teenager shot and killed two and went free—why the case divides America
Laura Byager Rabøl, TV2 News, Nov 20

If you take away the words “and went free,” that headline would have been perfectly appropriate prior to Friday’s verdict. Rittenhouse had indeed shot three people and killed two, and America was indeed divided on the case.

(The case divided America into three groups: those who believed Rittenhouse had acted in self defense, those who believed he had been acting as a provocateur, and those who believed they should shout even louder about whatever they were already shouting about and OH MY GOD THE HUMANITY!)

After Friday’s verdict, however, the headline’s ambiguity is at best disingenuous: the justice system delivered its verdict, and its verdict was that Kyle Rittenhouse did nothing illegal. A headline writer who finds it surprising that someone who broke no laws should go free, or who thinks it’s the “going free” part rather than the “not guilty” part that deserves emphasis, is either a very half-assed editor or a very skilled propagandist. Or both.

What the jury found was that Kyle Rittenhouse had in fact been been acting in self defense. That means he acted under duress: it means he perceived a mortal threat and a jury found that threat credible enough to justify his use of lethal force in self-defense. “Teenager attacked by vicious, violent mob defends himself with lethal force” isn’t as sexy as “teenager shot and killed two,” but it paints a much clearer picture of the circumstances at issue.

In TV2 News’s defense, however, at least they didn’t report that the people Rittenhouse shot had been black, as the UK’s Independent did. So it appears they were at least partly paying attention. How much?

The lede appears in bold type beneath Rabøl’s byline: “The teenager who shot three people and killed two of them is the symbol of a divided United States.”

The story-telling then begins in earnest:

The acquittal of 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse has rekindled a heated debate over race and the rule of law in the United States.

No, it hasn’t.

First of all, the debates about race and rule of law were never “unkindled.”

Second, there’s no debate about race to be had with respect to the Rittenhouse acquittal: he’s a white guy. The three guys he shot were also white. The only racial aspect of this case is in the eyes of the beholders who see race everywhere they look, and they’re not debating anything: they’re just shouting about race because they’re one trick ponies and that’s their trick.

But let’s see if we can get beyond the first sentence.

Kyle Rittenhouse shot and killed two people and wounded a third during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in August 2020 and was acquitted of all charges on Friday.

According to TV 2’s USA correspondent Jesper Steinmetz, the young man has become the symbol of a divided USA. The case of Kyle Rittenhouse symbolizes two different things for the right and the left, respectively, in the United States.

That seems reasonable enough, although anyone who’s seen footage of what happened in Kenosha and calls it a “demonstration” has a very elastic notion of “demonstrations.” (You can read about and see images and video of the August 2020 events and their consequences all over the internet, for example here.)

“Kyle Rittenhouse has become an icon for particularly white Republicans, who just see him as a young man who has simply done what they think every American has a right to do, namely defend himself,” said Jesper Steinmetz.

But the other side sees it differently.

“Among black and Democratic voters, the case is a symbol of everything that is wrong with society. What is a 17-year-old boy doing at all in the middle of a demonstration with a semi-automatic weapon? And how can he go free?”

With all due respect to Steinmetz, who is sometimes almost tolerable in his coverage of America, this is a massive pile of horseshit buried under a load of bullshit and gilded with a three-foot layer of stupidity.

Forget the weird bit about “white Republicans”—and its implicit toxic race-baiting—and look at the rest of the first sentence: Steinmetz is suggesting that the right to self-defense not only isn’t a natural right, much less one enshrined in American jurisprudence, but that it’s a right those “white Republicans” only think every American has.

Americans of every color and party damn well ought to think they have the right to self-defense: they do.

Who in hell finds themselves surrounded by people threatening (and trying) to kill them and thinks, “Welp, I guess that’s that: these people seem to want me dead, and what the heck can I do about it? I suppose I could try and defend myself with this handy weapon, but that would be violent, so I guess I’d better just get used to the idea of being dead in five, four, three…”

To say “the other side sees it differently” is one of the great understatements of all time.

But Steinmetz can’t even get out of the gate without stumbling over some of his own racism: “Among the black and Democratic voters,” he begins—and boom, we’re done. That’s straight up racism right there. Jesper Steinmetz is reporting that all black voters think alike. You could say, “Well, he obviously only meant all black Democrats.” You could say that, but that can’t be what he meant because he iterated blacks and Democrats as two distinct groups, and blacks didn’t come with a modifier.

It’s not that hard to find black Americans who had no problem with the verdict.

It took me about eight seconds, and those were just the first three I found because I follow their channels.

But Jesper Steinmetz is reporting that all American blacks and Democrats took exception to this verdict because Jesper Steinmetz is apparently a bigoted white supremacist who, like the current president of the United States, believes American blacks are all cut from the same cloth. Monolithic. They all think alike because, you know, they’re black.

Fact check: false. Four pinocchios. Pants on fire.

And here’s his paraphrase of what all those blacks and Democrats are allegedly wondering: “What is a 17-year-old boy doing at all in the middle of a demonstration with a semi-automatic weapon? And how can he go free?

Well, had Steinmetz followed the trial closely he might be able to explain it: Rittenhouse was there because he had a family connection to Kenosha. He was there in the middle of a “demonstration” because (as previously noted) it wasn’t even mostly peaceful: it was a raging riot full of mayhem, looting, arson, and violence. The reason he had a semi-automatic weapon is answered by the facts of the case: he needed it to defend himself. The gun was lawful, his use of it was lawful, and it’s not unreasonable to suggest that he’s only alive today because he had and used that weapon.

As for how he could go free: that’s what the American justice system does with people who’ve committed no crimes: it releases them.

Brace yourself, because the next section is entitled “Self-defense or vigilantism?”

Kyle Rittenhouse’s defense attorney argued in court that the then 17-year-old boy only fired his weapon in self-defense when he feared for his life.

And the jury concurred with this view.

Throughout the trial, the defense tried to paint a picture of Kyle Rittenhouse as a young man who only walked armed on the streets of Kenosha to defend private property and support law and order.

Which, it turns out, he was doing right up until he was attacked.

The prosecution, on the other hand, believed that Kyle Rittenhouse himself had provoked reactions from protesters, and therefore could not use the explanation of self-defense.

Which belief they could not prove and was therefore discarded by the jury.

“You cannot claim that it is a matter of self-defense when it’s against a danger you have created yourself,” claimed prosecutor Thomas Binger according to CNN.

CNN had to get cited eventually, so why not have them citing the idiot prosecutor’s losing argument?

The jury acquitted the 18-year-old man of all charges. He was also not convicted of being a minor in possession of a semi-automatic rifle when the charge was dropped.

Apparently it’s now journalism to report that people weren’t convicted of things they weren’t charged with. When did that hot new trend begin? (Asking for a friend who says that Laura Rabøl wasn’t convicted of animal cruelty for drowning puppies because she was never charged with drowning puppies. See how that game can be played? So fun!)

The next heading is very exciting: “Why’d he get acquitted?”

We’ll overlook the obvious editorial framing there and give a direct answer: because a jury of his peers found him not guilty on any of the charges filed against him.

Done.

But let’s see how Rabøl handles it:

“A number of legal experts told CNN…”

Okay, never mind. Rabøl handles it the way every other half-assed Danish journalist covers an American story: she turns her television on to CNN and let’s those hack propagandists do her thinking for her.

And her last paragraph in this section?

Experts point out to the New York Times that the case is an example of how difficult it is in the United States to disprove a claim of self-defense.

Not as difficult as you’d think, actually, when there’s extant video—and lots of it—shot by different people from different angles showing exactly what the defendant claims to have happened.

But we all know what kind of experts the Times invites to point things out to their resident propagandists:

The same kind invited by CNN.

Which is to say: partisan hacks, grievance-mongers, and race-baiters.

The next section is entitled “Biden is angry, others are crying.”

Talk about a dog bites man story!

But notice this: Rabøl now tells us that President Joe Biden is angry (but says we should respect the verdict), that the president of the NAACP said something on Twitter about white privilege, that late night host Amber Ruffin started crying while talking about the case on her program, that “on the debate pages of several major newspapers, many prominent opinion leaders also distance themselves from the acquittal,” and, finally, that a columnist for the Guardian wrote that “White people now apparently have the right to travel heavily armed around the country and use violence to protect the country from whatever and whoever they think is a threat to it.”

That last bit’s a little ironic when one recalls that the Kenosha rioters who got themselves shot by Kyle Rittenhouse were white people using violence (and arson and looting) to accomplish whatever the hell they thought they were accomplishing.

Now Rabøl pulls an interesting maneuver: in quoting Biden, the NAACP president, Amber Ruffin, the “major newspapers,” and the Guardian, no mention was made of political orientation. But as she prepares to embark on coverage of how “the other side” has been responding to the verdict, she writes:

However, several prominent political figures on the right wing in the United States see Kyle Rittenhouse’s actions in a different light.

Several senior conservative politicians have, among other things, offered Kyle Rittenhouse an internship with them.

Prominent figures on the right wing. Senior conservative politicians.

What the fuck is that?

Is Joe Biden not a senior progressive politician? Is the president of the NAACP not a prominent figure on the left wing? Anyone want to guess the politics of Amber Ruffin, the Guardian, or the “major newspapers” whose opinions Rabøl just offered without a single political adjective? You’ve got to guess, because Rabøl isn’t saying.

Is she not identifying their political orientation because she thinks they’re all beacons of neutrality, or because she doesn’t want her readers to know they’re partisans?

She then quotes the Dread Tyrant Trump with a disgusting rehtorical flourish (my emphasis):

“If that wasn’t self-defense, nothing is,” wrote the country’s former president Donald Trump in a written statement after the verdict. He had earlier refused to condemn the behavior of Kyle Rittenhouse.

Indeed: a former president refused to condemn the behavior of an innocent man.

Do these people ever read their own copy? Do their editors?

She’s saying this like it’s a bad thing. Like everyone who wasn’t out there noisily and insistently condemning the behavior of a guy who was just acquitted of a crime should have been condemning him—for a crime of which he turned out not to be guilty.

Would it not make more sense, in light of the verdict, to note that Joe Biden falsely implied that Kyle Rittenhouse was a white supremacist during the 2020 campaign?

Ah, but look at me: asking whether something in this article would make sense. My bad.

Rabøl wraps up by citing Steinmetz a few more times as he explains that a lot of white Americans (there he goes again with the racism) “worry” when they see BLM demonstrations: “They see their nice towns threatened by violent demonstrations. They see Kyle Rittenhouse as a kind of hero.”

Hm. You know why they feel threatened by violent demonstrations?

Because they’re fucking violent, you idiot!

These journalists apparently have no researching skills, but type “Kenosha aftermath 2020” into the search engine of your choice, click on the “images” tab, and behold a whole shit-ton of reasons to feel threatened by violent demonstrations like the one in Kenosha. (Which was particularly hard on minority-owned businesses, because the “anti-racist” demonstrators are actually required to destroy businesses owned by minorities to prove just how anti-racist they are. If they have to kill a black retired cop along the way, so be it. You can’t be anti-racist without breaking a few eggs.)

If you couldn’t be troubled to do such a search, just scroll back up and follow the link up top to see what Kenosha looked like after those “demonstrations,” and ask yourself whether you’d like your own “nice town” to look like that.

There may indeed be plenty of people who think of Kyle Rittenhouse as a hero. Some of them for the wrong reasons, I suppose, but many of them for the right one: for his having made it through the ordeal that our disgusting and disgraceful media put him through.

Not our justice system: our media.

TV2 News inclusive.

And now for something completely different: posted right beside the article I just led you through, there’s this:

Why it was logical for Kyle Rittenhouse to be acquitted
Mirco Reimer-Elster, TV2 News, Nov 20

As I’ve noted before, Reimer-Elster is probably the least bad of all the many “USA experts” polluting Danish media. With this piece he moves up a notch, from “probably the least bad” to “almost certainly the best of.” (It’s still a pretty low bar, but he clears it cleanly.)

I won’t even bother taking citations from his own explainer, except to say he gets it right.

And he does so by committing something that resembles actual journalism: here were the charges, here was the evidence, here’s how the trial went, and that’s why he was acquitted. Done.

So three cheers for Mirco Reimer-Elster, and three jeers for Laura Rabøl.

A combo cheer-and-jeer to TV2 News for publishing both.

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Søren Rasmussen
Editor
Søren Rasmussen (@soren-rasmussen)
7 days ago

Just for the record. David Trads immediately jumped into the fray with this tweet, because he is David Trads, so of course he did.

It was quickly deleted and replaced with another after a certain item was pointed out to him. We will leave identifying what that was as an exercise to the reader.
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/FElQpcCWQAMzd1H?format=jpg&name=large

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