Tthere is perhaps no better example of American media polarization than the coverage of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old who allegedly shot and killed two protesters and injured another in Kenosha this week.
On one side of the divide, Fox News host Tucker Carlson defended Rittenhouse on Wednesday, amid violence and property damage in Kenosha. “How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with guns decided to maintain order when no one else would? Carlson asked.
Ridiculing Carlson’s statement Thursday, Daily Show host Trevor Noah replied, “No one comes to a city with guns because they love someone else’s business so much.” He continued, “They’re doing it because they’re hoping to shoot someone. That’s the only reason people like him join these gangs in the first place – yes, I said, a gang – because it’s not the Battle of Yorktown, it’s a menacing bunch of guys. people with guns.
Rittenhouse has now been charged with intentional first degree homicide, but that hasn’t stopped some experts calling him to become president. How Rittenhouse is portrayed now will be revealing – not least because Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man who was shot dead by police in Kenosha days before Rittenhouse’s arrest, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down, did has yet to be tried – but has already been labeled a criminal in the media.
In the words of a reporter from Chicago: “[This is] a rare moment in news media where we can watch this dichotomy in real time… To see who the news media gives the most compassion and consideration to telling their stories.
Some would argue that it is too early to use words like “terrorism” to describe the events before the evidence has been examined. Others will point out that the term is not always applied consistently: the media and the FBI are quick to label people of color who commit violent extremism as “terrorists.” Donald Trump even referred to the people protesting police violence as such this year, but decided to label the white armed vigilantes who patrolled the Michigan capital as “very good people.”
Here’s how US media coverage has described Rittenhouse so far.
The New York Post tabloid on Thursday described how Rittenhouse was spotted cleaning up graffiti in Kenosha hours before her arrest. The article shows a photograph of Rittenhouse scouring walls in Wisconsin with other high school students volunteering next to the Kenosha County Courthouse.
How quickly someone should be labeled a terrorist is a matter of huge debate – but one thing Muslim extremists are rarely, if ever, called out in the American media, is a vigilante.
But many media outlets, including the Guardian, have called Rittenhouse a vigilante – a word commonly used to describe an unauthorized person who takes it upon themselves to protect their community in the absence of judicial authorities. Rittenhouse, who was spotted front row at a Trump rally, was described in the Intercept as a “conservative vigilante.” In an article on Anthony Huber, one of the protesters allegedly killed by Rittenhouse, the New York Post calls Rittenhouse an armed vigilante.
A “ staunch supporter of the police ”
Tools used to radicalize terrorists – such as social media, propaganda, and training are frequently examined following an extremist or violent attack.
In Rittenhouse’s case, much of the press, including the Guardian, described him as a “staunch supporter of the police” who was “interested in law enforcement”.
Washington Post article highlights Rittenhouse’s education in a Chicago suburb, observing law enforcement and filling his social media with Blue Lives Matter posts, and how he was once a police cadet who intended to join the Marine Corps.
It’s hard to find an article referring to Rittenhouse’s alleged actions on right-wing Fox News. Coverage of the shooting was covered equally on its website at a protester who torched a police station and an article mocking CNN’s coverage of the unrest in Kenosha.
But one of the few articles on Fox’s homepage about Rittenhouse is incorporated into an interview between Tucker Carlson and a Daily Caller reporter who interviewed Rittenhouse before the alleged shooting.
In the video, the reporter discusses how Rittenhouse was trying to “keep the peace” in the absence of police, protecting a business that had been burned down and how he was allegedly chased and yelled at during the protests.
Domestic terrorism is defined by the FBI as “the unlawful use or the threat of use of violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely in the United States (or its territories) without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in the pursuit of political or social objectives ”.
The publications have tended not to label Rittenhouse as a terrorist (Esquire called his alleged attack “an act of what could only be called terrorist tourism”) but Rep. Ayanna Presley did on Wednesday. She described Rittenhouse as a “domestic terrorist [who] crossed state borders, armed with an AR-15. “