The level of avoidance needed for the New York Times to write this critique is a marvel of journalism.
The news cycle is being geared up, the tank filled, and supplies of caffeine being hoarded as journalists are all excited — the trial of the Kenosha, Wisconsin shooter, Kyle Rittenhouse, is about to start up. The press is all excited as this will allow them to once again relive in detail the social upheaval of 2020 and to demonize all of their favored political targets in the process. Left on the shelf to fade past the expiration date during their supply run — facts, and objectivity.
This is not cynical predicting on my part, as the New York Times has presented a precursor to the upcoming coverage, and it is an embarrassing display of stunted journalism. Yesterday New York Times Magazine delivered an epic piece about Kyle Rittenhouse and all of the influences that took place leading to his arrival to the city near his home in Illinois. According to the outlet, Kyle was basically compelled to go over the state line and partake in the melee.
Throughout the article, it details multiple skirmishes and the extensive violence that took place in Kenosha last August. Numerous buildings were vandalized and, at one point, the article details a crowd at a park plaza where statues were felled, windows were broken, and a woman was seen passing out gasoline bombs. These were the type of images, the article vies to explain, which were exploited and ultimately led to Rittenhouse becoming inspired to take up arms and join in with the crowds looking to defend the town.
As the magazine details it, the images of this unrest were pounced upon as “The footage ran in fiery loops on Fox News,” a description that makes it sound like a level of inaccuracy was in play. This touches on a Catch-22 scenario the oft-criticized network gets from its competitors; Fox can be criticized when it does not cover a particular story, and when it covers news events but in the wrong fashion. This is the flip side of the coin where CNN and MSNBC operatives were seen in front of looted and burning buildings while insisting that everything was calm at their location.
The Times goes on to describe a spiral of hysteria playing out on the conservative side of the spectrum. Fox played their loops, this sparked conspiracy theories on social media, those were picked up on talk radio, they then found their way to the White House, which was reported on by Fox leading to a perpetuating cycle. This supposedly pulled in Rittenhouse, leading to the fateful night of the shooting.
It is with a sense of reticence that we read how Kyle had been patrolling a section of the town when he was being tracked by others. At one point, he was confronted and then shot one assailant. As he was fleeing he fell, and others jumped him. In the confrontation Rittenhouse got shots off, hitting two of his attackers. While the press has been eager to paint Rittenhouse as a gun-crazed wild man there is little made of the fact that his attackers were also armed. His first round was in response to another firing a gun, and one of his later victims was reaching for a gun before being hit in the arm.
The framing of this article is that Rittenhouse was a frenzied youth, inspired into some level of bloodlust, brought about by the irresponsible coverage and the ensuing conservative emotions. In order to arrive at this point, though, The New York Times has to bypass a staggering amount of reality. Start with the basics.
Here are just some of the events that rocked Kenosha last Fall. After the shooting of Jacob Blake, a demonstration took place, then police were attacked and vehicles were torched. That night, riot police confronted crowds who were vandalizing parts of town and setting buildings ablaze. The next day more transpired.
The mayor attempted a news conference but was forced to retreat inside the public-safety building ahead of a furious crowd that broke the glass of the building’s front doors. That night, police officers defending the county courthouse used a sound cannon and tear gas on demonstrators. Several streets’ worth of businesses and a parole office went up in flames. A man in his 70s trying to defend the Danish Brotherhood Lodge and a store next door sprayed rioters in their faces with a fire extinguisher until a man hit him with a concrete-filled plastic bottle, breaking his jaw.
Disturbing and troubling, to be sure. Many still recall the aftermath with images of an entire car dealership fleet torched and left as burnt frames in the lot. The city was besieged, yet all of this, while covered in the article, is all kind of set as simply a preamble. The real problem was the way Fox covered and broadcast these events. But there is an unmistakable reality that cannot be ignored.
- All of this played out in the days before Kyle Rittenhouse arrived.
- The violence was experienced first.
- The bad players were already on-site.
- The problems had to be unspooling before Fox could report on them.
This is the needed blindspot for the Times to sell their fable. How is Fox blamed for the days before they reported on the events? How are Kyle’s attackers not seen as culpable in instigating a confrontation? Why are the vigilante-style conservatives demonized more than the rioters and Antifa members who preceded their arrival? And how is Rittenhouse being from Illinois noted as an issue when a majority of those arrested for the riots were also from out of town?
What is evident is that the Times set out to frame this coverage before it was written. This leads to the magazine blaming Fox after the fact. If they had not detailed the riots, then Rittenhouse would not have been there to fire on his attackers. The issue becomes that there is a call for Fox News to have sat on the story and not reported on it in the fashion the network had broadcast.
If only Fox News had refrained from reporting on what took place in Kenosha, then things would have been left alone and they could have continued on staging their noble and peaceful rampage on the city.