How the media messed up on Rittenhouse from Day One -- and why that messes up America

When media foist false narratives to sow social discord, or when they assist tyranny with falsehoods, they indeed are the enemy of the people — even if unintentionally. Opinion.

Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer ,

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Way back when, President Trump stirred a maelstrom when he called the mainstream media the “enemy of the people.” Although “anything Trump” immediately generates intense feelings on all sides, essentially ending much reasoned discussion and informed debate, it is worthwhile considering that we need accurate media for a more wholesome society.

Mass media can be a profoundly important bolster to a better world. The media have the power to root out and expose corruption by the powerful, to inform the public about real dangers, and to protect from tyranny.

However, when mass media promote falsehoods, they not only misinform but — if the matter is important enough — they can endanger society. They even can murder people. In the 1920s and 1930s, the New York Times bureau chief in Russia and the Ukraine filed stories about how successfully Stalin was leading his nation. In fact, he was starving millions of Ukrainians to death, particularly from 1932-1933, in a genocide that now is known as the Holodomor, literally the mass starvation. Some Western intellectuals, like George Bernard Shaw, refused to believe a communist government could be cruel.


The media's lie of “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” takes its place in American history lore alongside Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” and Nathan Hale’s “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”
Therefore, it fell upon the media to report the genocide. Walter Duranty, the Times reporter on the scene, instead filed lies. Those lies won him a Pulitzer Prize that has not been revoked to this day, not even in an era where monuments of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln are toppled. Duranty pointedly denied the scope and extent of the famine, Stalin’s underlying intent, and he later further defended Stalin’s 1938 show trials. It is believed that Duranty’s false reporting persuaded America to grant recognition to Stalin’s government.

The Times published Duranty’s lies daily as “news” and made him their Moscow bureau chief for fourteen years. As a result, the West was lulled, cheated of the truth, made unaware of the evil. So, yes, Walter Duranty and his publisher indeed were the enemy of the people.

Likewise, the New York Times— and the other mainstream media who took their lead from them — by and large refused to report on the unfolding Nazi Holocaust of six million Jews. Between 1939 and 1945, the New York Times published more than 23,000 front-page stories. Of those, 11,500 were about World War II. Only twenty-six — in six years — were about the Holocaust. The Times was passively complicit.

A robust newsmedia can save lives by exposing and revealing, while an inaccurate campaign can assist in the despoiling of a people. When media foist false narratives to sow social discord, or when they assist tyranny with falsehoods, they indeed are the enemy of the people — even if unintentionally.

Leaving all polemics aside, we experienced the impact of misreporting during the Ferguson episode when media widely reported that Michael Brown had been shot to death while begging and demonstratively signaling “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” That was seven years ago, August 2014, and that meme resonates in America to this day.

Yet it was not true. Brown had wrestled police officer Darren Wilson in his police car for his gun, and two shots were discharged amid the fracas. Wilson knew that it was he who was fighting at that moment for his life. Not only did the Missouri grand jury refuse to indict the police officer after they were presented with truth and supporting evidence, but even the Obama-Holder Justice Department (DOJ), after investigating intensely, declined to intervene.

Nevertheless, a false narrative had entered the American imagination. The lie directly gave rise to “Black Lives Matter,” an organization that does not advocate for Black lives that are lost every night, especially over weekends, in cities like Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, and Minneapolis. Instead, the lie gave rise to a despicable hate organization, the Black Lives Matter racial hate group, built on mendacity, deep hate against Jews, and racist hatred for Caucasians but that now has graduate school websites and whole academic faculties devoted to it, such as at this once-prominent Catholic Jesuit-sponsored law school, now third tier and ranked at #72.

BLM even are invited into public schools to influence our young. Thus, because of misinformed reporting about Michael Brown, a thug in Ferguson who held up a convenience store and almost murdered a police officer on duty, there evolved a level of racial division and rancor that extended far beyond Greater St. Louis and has contributed horribly to severe rifts in our societal fabric.

Likewise, so much false and biased reporting in Israel — even prejudiced decisions as to when and what to cover — has caused so much harm and driven deep divides in the social fabric. The comparative non-coverage of responsible mass demonstrations against the disastrous Gush Katif evacuation that gave rise to a Hamas country in Gaza as compared to the ridiculously unjustified excess coverage given to demonstrations outside Prime Minister Netanyahu’s home on Balfour.

The biased hostile coverage of the 1982 war in Galilee — because that marked Israel’s first war fought by a Likud government — as compared to the much more sympathetic coverage of prior wars. Portrayals of Menachem Begin for decades as a dictator who would end Israeli democracy if ever elected prime minister. Lies about what happened in Deir Yassin. Depictions of religious communities in Judea and Samaria as being extreme by interviewing and quoting the outlier residents who seemingly validate the narrative while portraying those on the Left as contemplative and professorial.

It is against this backdrop that the media’s reportage of the Kyle Rittenhouse matter not only has left so much to be desired professionally but has caused so much more damage now to American society.

First, a personal word. Much as I care about the world around me, much as I concede second place to no person in terms of the amount of time, energy, and money I devote to make my world and the people living in it a better place, I would not have gone to Kenosha that night. It was a mess, and that is what police are there for. Storeowners absolutely have an unequivocal right — even an imperative — to guard their property with firearms ready. Volunteers who stand at the side of those entrepreneurs, whose entire lives and life savings are invested in those properties, are heroic. But that night loomed as a form of trouble that augured nothing good.

Still, Rittenhouse was not an “outsider” who “crossed state lines with a rifle” from Illinois to seek mayhem in Wisconsin. Rather, his AR-15 was housed properly in a safe in Kenosha. It was so legal for him to possess that gun in Wisconsin that the court dismissed prosecution charges on that matter. Kenosha, Wisconsin is only five minutes from the Illinois border. Like [the adjoining states of] New York and New Jersey, lots of people who work in Wisconsin live in Illinois and vice versa. Kyle Rittenhouse was one of those people. His divorced parents lived within 30 minutes of one another — his mom in Antioch, Illinois, his dad in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Kyle worked in Kenosha. He had friends and much of his family in Kenosha. He was part of that community and did not want it burned down.

Kyle Rittenhouse came to that scene to help and protect. He is an older teenager and, to my mind, a bit of a fool. Yet, truth be told: sometimes fools must enter when “wiser men” won’t. To the degree that he foresaw that local Kenosha police would lose control of the night, he is a hero. He had a right to his weapon. He had done everything that his local government required of him to own it and to deploy it under proper circumstances.

When circumstances completely spun out of control, he found himself in a position that few reporters ever have faced, not even those who have reported in war zones. He had a mad man charging at him, intent on grabbing his weapon and murdering him with it. We now know that is fact. He had a mad man with a firearm who pointed the weapon at his face and was as likely as not to shoot him to death. Perhaps — probably — few reading this now ever have experienced that. It is the stuff of television and movies, and it invariably ends with the death of the person facing the weapon unless the scriptwriter instead has inserted a surprise development in which a third party, from out of nowhere, starts shooting from other points unexpected and saves the day.


There are no second chances in real life for the victim, no do-overs, when one is shot to death.
There are no second chances in real life for the victim, no do-overs, when one is shot to death. No “I shoulda pulled the trigger when I still had the chance.” People with firearms have the right and duty to protect their own lives, even at the expense of the attacker. That is why most languages have two separate words to distinguish the permitted “killing” (in Hebrew, harigah) from the forbidden “murder” (in Hebrew, r’tzichah). Some languages even have a word like “manslaughter” to distinguish nuances.

From the outset of the Rittenhouse coverage, the media narrative portrayed him as a White Supremacist, a formally enrolled member of an organized vigilante group, intent on killing Black people in Kenosha. If you remember Nick Sandmann of Covington High School in northeast Kentucky, it was another feeding frenzy where media had a story to tell, and they simply were not going to allow facts to get in the way.

Maybe that is what Kellyanne Conway was trying to say when she spoke of “alternative facts.” Of course facts have no alternatives and, as Ben Shapiro famously has said, “facts don’t care about your feelings.” But in the rush to report false information as if verified and authenticated “facts,” media actually generate alternative “facts” that, when ultimately proven false, nevertheless retain a place in the collective conscience of a society that cannot delete them later from memory. So the lie of “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” takes its place in American history lore alongside Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” and Nathan Hale’s “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”

-Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Squad member of Massachusetts, said: “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.” But that is not what happened.

-Rep. Ilhan Omar, Squad member of Minnesota: “A domestic terrorist executed two people.” Outright lie.

-Ocasio: “Does anyone believe Rittenhouse would be released [on bail, as he was] if he were Muslim & did the same thing in a diff context? For people who say 'systemic racism doesn’t exist,' this is what it looks like: protection of white supremacy baked deep into our carceral systems. Law and disorder.” Not true.

In the end, America’s system still demanded a court of law at which a trial beyond the verdict of the mass media and The Squad was conducted under classic rules of evidence. Under those rules, testimony must be sworn. It must be offered inside a courtroom in front of a factfinder — be it a single judge or an empaneled jury of peers. Testimony cannot come in second-hand from outside the courtroom; rather, it must be spoken while directly confronting and in the presence of the accused. It must be clear and first-hand certain testimony, not suppositions, inferences, speculations, or assumptions. It may be subjected to withering cross-examination. Friendly witnesses may not be led. Adverse witnesses may not be harassed or badgered. Vagueness and ambiguity do not suffice.

The courtroom ultimately is where justice has its best chance to prevail, though — as with any human institution — it, too, can fail and sometimes does, as it did for Nicole Simpson Brown.

Here, with Rittenhouse — remembering Walter Duranty in Stalinist Ukraine, six million under Hitler and Goebbels and Eichmann, Michael Brown of Ferguson, Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman of Florida, Nick Sandmann of Covington, and so many other situations in which a mix of innocently misinformed reporting, deliberate falsification to present alternative facts, and intentional propagation of a false narrative to achieve a socially incendiary purpose all synergized to destroy lives and infect a society with a terrible illness rooted in racial division and race hate — let us look back on the alternative facts that the mass media propagated regarding Kyle Rittenhouse:

1. It was reported that he came deliberately to kill. We now know he was, at worst, a youthfully foolish and naïve teenage player in a grown-ups’ game.

2. We now know that Rittenhouse shot Joseph “Jojo” Rosenbaum in self defense as Rosenbaum rushed to murder him with his own weapon. Prosecution witnesses describe Rosenbaum as having been “belligerent” and “hyperaggresive” and as actually having said he intended to murder Rittenhouse. Richard McGinniss, a reporter with The Daily Caller, testified under oath: “Well, [Rosenbaum] said (expletive) you, and then he reached for the weapon.”

3. We now know that Rosenbaum was driven, at least in pertinent part, by a significant case of bipolar disorder.

4. We now know that Rosenbaum was a convicted child rapist — many times over — who went to the Kenosha riot upon being released from a mental hospital the day of the shooting. Read more about Rosenbaum here.

5. We now know, from the sworn testimony of Dr. Doug Kelly, the prosecution’s medical expert, that the soot injuries found afterwards on Rosenbaum’s hands were consistent with Rosenbaum trying to grab the barrel of Rittenhouse’s rifle out of his hands.

6. We now know that Anthony Huber, the other person whom Rittenhouse killed in self-defense, was a physically violent repeat domestic abuser and a felon who pleaded guilty in a strangulation case. Barred from possessing a firearm because of his prior convictions, he rushed at Rittenhouse, swinging a skateboard at his head, aiming to kill him.

Rosenbaum and Huber were not Abbott and Costello nor Laurel and Hardy. They were bad players, with murder in their hearts that night. Read more about Huber here.

7. We now know, by the sworn testimony of Gaige Grosskreutz in open court, that Rittenhouse did not shoot at him even when he was only 3-5 feet away from him but still had his hands up in the air. Rather, as he himself testified, Grosskreutz was shot only after he “pointed his own 9mm handgun at Rittenhouse’s head” and advanced on him, now with hands down, pointing at him.

8. We now know that Rittenhouse is not and was not part of any White vigilante group or any other vigilante group.

9. We now know that all three people whom Rittenhouse shot were White.


It would be elegant if media were to rush forward and apologize. America is not permeated with n iota of “Systemic Racism.”
It would be elegant if media were to rush forward and apologize. America is not permeated with n iota of “Systemic Racism.” Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on all charges and sentenced to 22.5 years for the murder of George Floyd. Nothing more manifestly disproves — crushes — the lie of “systemic racism.” But Rittenhouse’s acquittal has reignited the debate because half the country were spoonfed months of lies by the Left-wing mainstream media.

If media reportage were accurate and fair from Day One, the facts — the only universe of real facts — would speak for themselves. This happened when a prominent Black judge threw out all charges against six Baltimore police officers wrongly charged in Freddie Gray’s death. Likewise, a jury acquitted George Zimmerman of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the death of Trayvon Martin. The Obama DOJ then investigated Zimmerman for three years on civil rights charges, finally concluding in 2015 that there was insufficient evidence that Zimmerman intentionally violated Martin’s civil rights. It happened with that Ferguson grand jury, Officer Darren Wilson, and Michael Brown.

The truth came out in time for Nick Sandmann. It now is emerging, with new revelations from the Durham investigation into the Steele Dossier and the roles played by Hillary Clinton, her campaign, the Perkins Coie law firm, and Fusion GPS.

But when TV anchors and guests, even after undisputed facts emerge in a courtroom under oath, continue propagating lies and incendiary myths about “systemic racism” — even calling the trial a “sham” and urging jury nullification (where a jury hands down a verdict that they know is contrary to the law explained by the judge) — they not only manifest their own deep personal character failures rooted in pathological lying. They do something much worse because they are vested by a TV station with the semblance of legitimacy: they unnecessarily promote their biases to tear a country apart at the seams. Such news sources indeed are the enemies of the people.

Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer is Contributing Editor at The American Spectator, adjunct professor of law at two prominent Southern California law schools, Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, rabbi of Young Israel of Orange County, California, and has held prominent leadership roles in several national rabbinic and other Jewish organizations. He was Chief Articles Editor of UCLA Law Review, clerked for the Hon. Danny J. Boggs in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and served six years on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. His writings have appeared in The Weekly Standard, National Review, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Jerusalem Post, Israel Hayom, and The Jewish Press. Other writings are collected at www.rabbidov.com .

Adapted by the writer for Arutz Sheva from a version of this article that first appeared here in The American Spectator.



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