The culture war against Kyle Rittenhouse

Officially, it’s Kyle Rittenhouse who’s on trial in Kenosha County Courthouse. But to some of us it looks like the mainstream media are in the dock, too. We await the jury’s decision on whether Rittenhouse is guilty or not guilty of homicide. But we already have a pretty good sense of the culpability of the media in fashioning an almost entirely skewed narrative around the Rittenhouse shootings. The more the trial has dug into the events of that fateful day of 25 August 2020, when a 17-year-old Rittenhouse fatally shot two men and injured another, the more we have seen just how cynical, partisan and outright deceptive so much of the media coverage of this tragic affair has been. There’s no doubting it: the media are guilty of pursuing a culture war against Mr Rittenhouse and against what he is seen to represent – problematic white men.

Growing numbers of people, even some people on what passes for the left today, are watching the Rittenhouse trial and saying to themselves: ‘I didn’t know these facts…’ A writer for the Chicago Sun-Times sums up this startled mood. Despite being someone who has ‘made no secret of his predisposition against Rittenhouse and those of his ilk who would hold him up as some sort of hero’, the writer now thinks, having watched the trial, having witnessed the marshalling of information that much of the media studiously ignored or downplayed over the past 15 months, that it would be ‘shocking if [Rittenhouse] is convicted of anything more than a weapons charge’. Or as one tweeter more pithily summed it up, after learning via the trial that Rittenhouse has many relatives in Kenosha and did not just travel there for fun or to kill people, ‘Was this reported ANYWHERE before the trial?’. …

Into this mayhem came a young man from Antioch in Illinois, around 20 miles from Kenosha. Rittenhouse offered to help protect a used-car business. He was armed with a rifle. But something went terribly wrong and before long this 17-year-old – now 18 – had fired his rifle at three people, killing two and injuring the third. The media elites’ characterisation of this bloody incident was swift and ferocious. Rittenhouse was a white-supremacist type, they suggested, who had ‘crossed state lines’ – possibly the most widely used phrase in relation to the Rittenhouse affair – in order to rain hell upon people who were merely protesting in defence of black people. This almost cartoonish view of a youth’s embroilment in a messy, violent incident was most clearly expressed by Democratic representative and ‘Squad’ member Ayanna Pressley, who tweeted on 27 August 2020: ‘A 17-year-old white supremacist domestic terrorist drove across state lines, armed with an AR-15. He shot and killed 2 people who had assembled to affirm the value, dignity, and worth of Black lives.’ That was retweeted close to 100,000 times.


Virtually all of this narrative has now unravelled. The Rittenhouse monster created by media and political elites desperate for Bad White Men they might rage against has proven to be a myth. The ‘white supremacist’ storyline was ridiculous from the very start, given the three men shot by Rittenhouse were all white. No evidence has emerged suggesting Rittenhouse harbours white-supremacist views. As to his being a ‘domestic terrorist’ – Ms Pressley might need to lawyer up as much as Mr Rittenhouse had to. And of course the depiction of the gatherings in Kenosha as mere assemblies designed to express sympathy and concern for ‘black lives’ is a grotesque fantasy. These were riotous, looting mobs, whose baseball bats, petrol cans and guns caused as much harm to black businesses and black lives as they did to other folk in Kenosha. The idea that white boy Rittenhouse violently invaded a modern version of the 1963 march for jobs and freedom was always a delusion of the most wretched kind.