It’s not just Kyle Rittenhouse on trial
Since most of the media isn’t all that good at multi-tasking, I’m sure you’ve heard about Kyle Rittenhouse’s case quite a bit this week. If you’ve only heard about it in passing, or news coverage has been more confusing than clarifying, here is a brief rundown of the facts of the case.
Rittenhouse went to Kenosha, Wisconsin during the protests that evolved into a violent riot that burned part of the city to the ground last in August of 2020. He drove to Kenosha to help clean up graffiti on a school during the day and was on medical standby at night. When a convicted pedophile threatened to kill Rittenhouse and then pursued him and tried to steal his gun, Rittenhouse fired and killed him. Immediately, Rittenhouse ran to find the police and turn himself in as a mob formed and called for his murder. In the course of those events, Rittenhouse shot and killed another man who physically attacked him with a skateboard, then shot and injured a third man who pointed a loaded pistol at Rittenhouse’s face.
While there are some important and obvious differences between the two, Rittenhouse’s case reminds me of Nick Sandman’s run-in with a Native American drummer and the media. You may recall that Sandman was with his high school classmates from Covington Catholic School wearing a red MAGA hat in Washington, DC, after a pro-life rally on January 18, 2019. A Native American man named Nathan Phillips approached the group, presumably because of their pro-Trump attire, and got in Sandman’s face while Phillips beat on a drum.
The media’s response was sickening, to say the least. It was so bad that Sandman filed defamation suits against CNN and The Washington Post and settled both of them for $275 million and $250 million, respectively. This is quite impressive seeing how defamation cases against media outlets are rarely successful.
So, what do these two cases have in common, and why should we care?
1. Most of the media does more than report the facts.
I know, that’s quite an understatement. It’s becoming more common for reporters, journalists, and hosts of news shows (not opinion shows) to preach instead of report and opine instead of investigate. And it’s typical for some facts of a breaking story to be shoved into a pre-fab narrative even if that narrative isn’t a great fit.
The coverage of Sandman and Rittenhouse demonstrates this. One popular media narrative is that white men are the aggressors, so that’s why we were told that Sandman and Rittenhouse initiated the incidents that grabbed headlines even though neither of them did. Another common trope is that white men are inherently racist and willing to demean other groups to protect their power. Never mind that Sandman and his classmates were innocent bystanders when people of color in their vicinity shouted racial slurs. And the first of three white men (yes, they were all white) whom Rittenhouse shot in self-defense explicitly threated to kill Rittenhouse and then tried to take Rittenhouse’s gun was yelling the n word shortly before he died… at a BLM protest!
If reporters took the time to verify their stories instead of wasting their time cropping photos and editing recordings to misrepresent the facts, maybe the rest of us would be better informed and trust the media more. Most of us didn’t see why the Native American man got into Sandman’s face until that iconic photo of Sandman smirking at the older gentleman made its rounds. And how many of us thought that Rittenhouse was on tape chasing the first man he killed, when the opposite is true? Furthermore, how many Americans know that Rittenhouse shot white men?
It’s hard not to conclude that most members of the media are either incompetent or willingly deceitful. If it’s the latter, the media better at least buy me a drink before they expect me to listen to their litany of lies. And I’ll take a grande peppermint mocha with whip and chocolate shavings, thank you very much.
2. Young men trying to do good things are having their lives destroyed so others can score political points.
Since nothing goes without saying these days, anyone who breaks the law regardless of their gender, color, or creed, should be granted all due process rights and punished according to the severity and nature of their crime if convicted. If Sandman and Rittenhouse were guilty of what they were accused of doing, they should be punished, although neither one of them deserved the verbal abuse of vapid politicians and pundits. Sandman’s successful lawsuit proves his innocence, and any honest person keeping up with Rittenhouse’s trial would reach the same conclusion about him.
Let’s just recap the ridiculous antics of the prosecution in Rittenhouse’s trial because there’s no way prosecutors have proven Rittenhouse’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. First, the prosecution’s star witness, the third man Rittenhouse shot, admitted under oath that he was holding a loaded gun at Rittenhouse’s head when the defendant shot him in the arm. Secondly, the gun charges were dropped against Rittenhouse because the prosecution can’t measure the barrel of a gun (Rittenhouse could lawfully carry a long rifle, which he did that night). Thirdly, the prosecution received a few tongue lashings from the judge that will probably end up in law books under the “What NOT to do” section. And finally, during closing arguments, a prosecutor pointed an AR-15 at some of the jurors and other members of the court WITH HIS FINGER ON THE TRIGGER! If you know anything about gun safety, you know that he broke the four universal rules (never point a gun at something you aren’t willing to shoot, be aware of what’s behind your target, don’t put your finger on the trigger until you’re ready to fire, and always treat a gun like it’s loaded).
But it seems that the court of public opinion is less concerned about justice these days, as it has become a way for some to score political points with their base. To do so, they call young men like Sandman and Rittenhouse every name in the book. Some media pundits talked about how Sandman was racially motivated in standing his ground when a stranger got in his face, that Sandman has a “punchable face,” and he had it coming for supporting Trump.
Apparently, Rittenhouse is a white supremacist and domestic terrorist… even though he only shot white men who attacked him, so I don’t think those words mean what some in an out of touch ruling class think they mean. In fact, the term “domestic terrorist” has been misused quite a bit lately, so I wrote this:
Based on these and other remarks, some in politics seem to believe that white men like Sandman and Rittenhouse are acting out because they are privileged, and that privilege is being challenged, which threatens them. What?! Maybe old men shouldn’t get in stranger’s faces while defiantly beating their drums. And maybe grown men shouldn’t make explicit death threats and then attack a young man with an AR-15. And let’s be honest, how privileged are Sandman and Rittenhouse if they could be treated like this?
3. Where are the men… the ones that actually grew up?
The Sandman and Rittenhouse cases beg the question, where are the men who are protecting high schoolers from being harassed for their political views in public places? Where are the men elected to office denouncing violence as a form of protest and defending their communities from those who seek to destroy it? Where are the men who are committed to doing what’s right even when it’s politically or personally inconvenient?
We need more than a few good men in their forties, fifties, and sixties to stand up to this madness and protect the integrity of our society. For too long our society has been telling men how toxic their masculinity is. Yes, masculine men can go too far, as can feminine women. If you think toxic femininity isn’t real, check this out, and then watch Mean Girls… or just talk to any kid in junior high or high school.
We need to start addressing the problem of toxic anti-masculinity because we desperately need more guys who can man up, take responsibility for their community, and help raise the next generation of resilient, respectful young men and women.
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