We Need to Change How We Do Media
Our Job as Readers and Spectators Is to Question the “Truth”
I have been writing in recent years about the media dishonesty around specific historical events—WMD, Russiagate, Hunter Biden’s computer, and the media whitewashing of the Kyle Rittenhouse case. I left off this mini-list the biggest issue that mainstream media gets wrong every single drum beat: gender identity, the biggest crock of shit that makes the actual “jumping the shark” episode of Happy Days seems tame by comparison. A man with a six-year decathlon career culminating in his winning the men's decathlon event at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal is now referred to as “she” and “woman” in almost every online publication. This is the same media reports “child brides” in various countries, never girls victims of rape and forced marriage.
Let’s briefly step back to this past summer when mainstream media lied about the WiSpa incident despite the presence of not only one video, but two, of the same incident demonstrating the facts of what happened to be precisely that which @CubanaAngel documented. Despite the presence of video corroboration and testimony of the other women present, Slate writer Evan Urquhart claimed the video was a “hoax” and Guardian journalists Lois Beckett and Sam Levin stated that the incident was “distorted by anti-transgender groups” and that the claims made were “unsubstantiated.” Weeks of protests ensued and both Slate and The Guardian melted into the fake news backdrop of the giant turd they laid. And these two outlets weren’t alone as the Los Angeles Times misrepresented this as a battle between the innocent “trans community” and “an international network of right-wing activists, pundits and media outlets” with no mention of the many lesbians and feminists who were critical of the dangers of allowing men in women’s and girls’ intimate spaces. The Independent and The Daily Beast also got in on the action with not a shred of factual reporting, as they simply offered up one generous helping of fiction after another.
The result of this media firestorm resulted in dozens of arrests, a huge bill for the city of Los Angeles to foot over the necessary policing, two people were stabbed, another beaten with a pipe, bones were broken. It could be easily argued that these events were spurred on—if not entirely created—by the media that got everything wrong and chose to lie. I am also waiting for the other shoe to drop where cities are forced to carry out policing for protests almost entirely manufactured by corporate media.
Now, let’s jump back even further. Because of the lies spun by then New York Times journalist, Judith Miller, who in September 2002 wrote about an intercepted shipment of aluminium tubes which she claimed were to be used to develop nuclear material, the US and other countries invaded Iraq. It was all uncovered in the early weeks that this was an operation based on a lie and that these tubes were not intended or at all suited for that purpose. Instead, they were to be used in the construction of artillery rockets. Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice all point to Miller’s story as the primary basis for undertaking military action against Iraq. But who cares about facts, right?
Now, the latest scandal in mainstream media in the buildup to and the aftermath of the Kyle Rittenhouse case is upon us and the sirens are sounding. Over the past 14 months, corporate media has not only openly lied to the public, but they choreographed a graceless theatre of outrage to boost their own lies, promote a divisive ideology based on these lies while also boosting their own brand of fake news. I wrote about this last year in a piece where I vituperate the media’s abdication of reporting, instead placing itself as a political actor, no longer an observer:
We cannot dismiss individual responsibility for actions any more than we can ignore the fact of media abdication of its responsibility towards reporting—and not becoming—the news. And this includes and extends far beyond the recent condonation and misrepresentation of violence as “peaceful” in recent weeks. In the absence of media honesty, we most certainly must ask ourselves, “Are we really surprised that looting and arson accelerated to murder?” When arson is called “peaceful” little does it matter how Tucker Carlson asks the question or on what side of the political aisle he is seated.
It’s time that all of us sit up and take notice as to what is going on here and why you, dear reader, need to dump CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, and many more media outlets that traffic in lies, deception, and the theatrical stagings of journalism that seems to be motivated by and uniquely effected through public outrage. There are many points of misrepresentation around the case of Rittenhouse, but the fabrication of his being a racist of the far-right was a useful faggot to throw on the fire of public misinformation.
On 26 August 2020, The New York Times published this about Rittenhouse:
The authorities were investigating whether the white teenager who was arrested on Wednesday, identified as Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, was part of a vigilante group. His social media accounts appeared to show an intense affinity for guns, law enforcement and President Trump. (The Trump campaign said Mr. Rittenhouse “had nothing to do” with the president’s re-election effort.)
Note that Rittenhouse is referred to as “white” while those whom he shot are not referenced. They also happen to be white but the omission of this detail is not coincidental. It’s part of a larger staging of media that is now commonplace. Important as well here is the fact that some right-wing media began to embrace Rittenhouse as a hero, a defender of his community.
Turn to left-of-centre media and we are given the impression that Rittenhouse was a far-right vigilante who sought to effect violence in the middle of race riots—that Rittenhouse was the aggressor who went to Kenosha looking for a fight far from his home, resulting in his having injured one man and having killed two.
This past week my Facebook wall has been an ongoing dumpster fire, demonstrating that people are more than willing to negate the law while advancing a trial by public opinion where Rittenhouse must be guilty because of any number of incidents that either have nothing to do with his having been found innocent of all five charges, one of which is murder in the first degree.
His alleged “racism” and being cosy with Proud Boys have been used as a cudgel in this public debate of misinformation. Here are some of the things people have posted on my Facebook wall:
What is Rittenhouse doing with Proud Boys, flashing the white supremacist sign and drinking beers with them?
The video, which is available online, shows Rittenhouse witnessing alleged shoplifters at a CVS drug store and saying if he had his gun he would "start shooting rounds" at them.
The problem is the (no longer) astonishing level of racism in the US court system that his case reveals.
In a place where he had no business being. None of them did of course, so that means neither did he. He willingly carried a deadly weapon with the hope to use it. I call that trigger happy. Everyone there with a gun that night is trigger happy in my opinion. Didn't have a gun? Violence happy. I see no reason to pick sides. This is all bullshit.
He took a rifle to a protest. What was he doing there? What was his intention?
If you can't see how a minor has no business being at a riot, I have nothing to say to you. Shame on his parents, and shame on everyone who thinks the way they do. Shame on the rioters, the violent, all of them. Like I said, this entire situation is bullshit.
Killing him with what? a plastic bag? You think they would have even bothered him if he wasn't walking around with an AR15?
And Anthony Huber? and the others?" They just saw this kid acting like every crazy high school "active Shooter" they have ever been warned about and were trying to disarm him to keep him from killing more people - they were the actual heroes trying to disarm someone who killed an unarmed man. But Poor little Kyle - gtfoh He was looking to shoot people from even before this happened.
So you want to blame the victims who were killed because of their past but this kid's past actions are of no consequence? Hypocrisy much?
For anyone who followed the court case, most of these comments are based on a lack of understanding of the facts of the case while being almost seamlessly wrapped up in the assumption that Rittenhouse is a racist and that he is guilty of breaking gun laws. The reality of the case, however, demonstrated in the first days in the trial show that Rittenhouse had broken no gun laws. This is a sad reality for those of us who oppose the Second Amendment, but this is nonetheless the reality of the law. And it was uniquely the law upon which this case rested.
Instead, corporate media lowered itself to become a loudspeaker for its partisan readership and viewership. We were handed first-hand impressions of Rittenhouse that were distinctly different from the facts that we had access to. Media reports misrepresented the facts, they often spun narratives of racism, of Rittenhouse as being privileged, a vigilante. The court case demonstrated quite shockingly a reality that even The New York Times had covered up.
Here is another New York Times piece which painted Rittenhouse as a white supremacist while also stating that there was no proof of this:
Video footage from the night provided many images of Mr. Rittenhouse, in an olive green T-shirt and a baseball cap with an American flag, sometimes marching alongside members of various armed groups, including the Kenosha Guard, a local militia. Through the evening, he portrayed himself as having shifting roles—helper to injured people, cleaner of graffiti that had been left on walls, armed defender of property. There are no overt links on Mr. Rittenhouse’s social media accounts to militias or white supremacist groups who have dispatched armed men to protest events across the country.
Even the video The New York Times embedded in its coverage of the shooting was cut off so as to remove the evidence of Rittenhouse having actually defended himself. Here is the full video that the New York Times chose to redact replete with the seconds after The New York Times cut their clip which secured Rittenhouse’s acquittal. Together with the white supremacist narrative, this paper ran a video that excluded the evidence of self-defence. It’s no wonder that readers of major media were bamboozled into a fake story designed specifically to stoke their outrage and anger.
What the public reaction to the Rittenhouse verdict demonstrates is how the media has a pattern of misrepresenting facts in reporting the news. It also demonstrates how the readership of these publications is more than willing to believe the stories, even in the face of facts that contradict the lies of major media.
There are myriad takeaways from the Rittenhouse case beginning with the insanity of US gun laws and ending in the willingness of readers to along with the very lies spun by media they know have lied to them constantly in recent years. Certainly, gun laws are the underbelly to this case, as many other cases. Gun laws in the US have become more permissive and open carry is legal, to varying degrees, in many states. This is a truism. However, we cannot dismiss facts because they are inconvenient to our partisan wishes that 17-year-olds should not have access to weapons when the law sadly guarantees their access to these weapons.
The real culprit of the public anger to the verdict last week lies fundamentally and unambiguously with corporate media. We need to hold these entities accountable for the lies, the fabrication of backstories, the derailing of facts to a narrative of “white supremacy,” and the overall orchestration of mass outrage despite the facts that, had they been honestly reported, would have left nobody surprised by last week’s verdict. Facts matter and they should matter to all consumers of media despite the tragedy of a country that, on the one hand, has a serious issue with guns and, on the other, is so willing to cheerlead the lies they unwittingly help to create.