We barely had time to take a breath after the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse before tragedy occurred again in Wisconsin. In the middle of a Christmas parade, a man who was reportedly fleeing the site of a crime barreled his SUV into a crowd of families celebrating the holiday season. As of this writing, there are at least five confirmed deaths and numerous additional injured victims. By any metric or description, this is a profound tragedy.
And almost immediately after the news broke on cable networks, people like anchor Pamela Brown at CNN and commentator Juliette Kayyam, also affiliated with CNN, asked for patience and calm. They did not want us to jump to conclusions about motives. They were worried that we might think this was an act of terrorism — or worse, they seemed to imply — an act of retaliation for the Rittenhouse acquittal.
This became even more relevant when the suspect’s identity was made public, and we learned that he was a Black man with a significant prior rap sheet.
Many others on social media pleaded for people to avoid jumping to conclusions. This tweet from Nicki Clyne is representative of the more sober comments:
“I urge anyone covering Waukesha to get the facts and focus on the tragedy first. There will be plenty of time for politicizing later.”
I completely agree that this is what we should do. Indeed, it would be commonplace if we lived in a world that looks at the humanity of victims and victimizers and doesn’t assign political labels to them.
But as I noted in my response to Clyne, “It would be a lot easier for people to avoid politicizing if there isn’t already a long and storied history of people politicizing, and other people remembering when their side was on the wrong side of that political wrangling. I agree that in a utopia, we’d just be humans.”
That’s not where we are right now. No, we just saw a young man who never should have been put on trial for homicide acquitted by a jury of his peers. Then we saw President Biden say that jury’s verdict will leave many people “angry” and it was denounced as a form of “white supremacy” for hours on end by cable news hosts.
It is extremely difficult to look at how the media reacted before, during, and after the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse and not conclude that there is a double standard as deep and as jagged as the San Andreas Fault. And a hypocrisy that poisons the well of discussion and makes it impossible to take any of the suggestions about “patience” and caution on the part of that media as serious.
CNN, MSNBC, much of the print media and numerous blue check commentators on social media spent months demonizing a young man who was justifiably acquitted of culpability, based upon the applicable law of self-defense. They knew the facts, saw the video, listened to the testimony, understood the context and still spent hours and hours vilifying Kyle Rittenhouse.
They did so because they had a story they’d already written and Kyle was the useful villain, in much the same way that Nick Sandmann was the villain two years ago as the “smirking, toxic male, white supremacist.”
When viewers see respectable news outlets doing this over and over again, twisting the facts to fit their predesigned social justice narratives and completely ignoring the facts and the law, it’s natural for them to become jaded. It’s normal to be suspect when, after weeks of attacks against white supremacy and conservative voters (because that’s what this is, political posturing and the 2024 election), these same media tell you to be patient. Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t assume a man gunning his car like a guided missile through a Christmas crowd is motivated by a desire for vengeance.
What the CNN crowd accepts blindly (or hopefully) as tragic happenstance is not so easily dismissed as an “accident” by those who’ve repeatedly been labeled “racists.”
The media are the problem here. The ginning up of anger against Kyle Rittenhouse, against the presiding judge at his trial, against the defense attorneys, against Kyle’s mother, against Kyle’s witnesses and the intimidation-by-proxy of the jury, created exactly the environment for people to reject patience and engage in politicization.
When the people who spent the last year and a half making everything about politics have the gall to tell you to take a breath and stand down, it’s the most blatant form of gaslighting.
So yes, it is good to wait for all of the facts to come out. But the media that crucified Kyle Rittenhouse and his supporters sure as hell aren’t the ones who get the right to preach patience to the rest of us.