Two consequential trials are currently underway in America. Both in some way relate to the events of last year surrounding police and the public debate about racism.
One trial is driving most of the media coverage online. One has been all but ignored.
So why is the national media almost singularly focused on what appears to be fabricating racial components in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot three rioters in Wisconsin, killing two, and not at all in the trial of Travis McMichael and his two accomplices, who stand accused of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was gunned down while jogging last February?
We are being fed the fantasy that Rittenhouse was a dangerous, mass-shooting, pro-Trump militia member, out for blood on the night of the Kenosha riots in Wisconsin. We are also being told that he is a white supremacist. This claim has been pushed by MSNBC, and even by members of Congress, such as Ayanna Pressley who tweeted, ‘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.’ Pressley neglected to mention the race of the activists shot by Rittenhouse: they’re all white.
The prosecution in the Rittenhouse trial has been extraordinarily inept. One witness described how one of Rittenhouse’s victims was reaching for his rifle before Rittenhouse fired on him. Star prosecution witness Gaige Grosskreutz admitted on the stand that Rittenhouse did not fire his weapon at him until Grosskreutz pointed his own firearm at Rittenhouse, bolstering the defence’s claim that Rittenhouse was not the aggressor in either shooting.
Most of the media, however, has taken a different tone, in what at this point sure seems like a deliberate attempt to sway the national mood back towards the passion that ultimately sparked last year’s race riots, particularly the police shooting of Jacob Blake which touched off the violence in Kenosha. (No charges have been filed against the officers in the Blake shooting. They have been cleared by both Kenosha officials and the Department of Justice.)
CBS News framed Grosskreutz as a ‘lone survivor’. A Washington Post headline described how Grosskreutz ‘feared for his life’ before he was shot by Rittenhouse, omitting the crucial elements that had been established in court. The Daily Beast wrote that Grosskreutz was trying to surrender to Rittenhouse, a claim directly contradicted by his own statements in court. There are almost too many instances of this sort of media malfeasance to count. What’s more, there is video evidence that disputes many of the media’s characterisations of what happened that night.
Do these commentators simply not care? This should be a public travesty.
On top of the trial’s revelations, the judge has already dismissed a count of curfew violation against Rittenhouse. It’s a jury trial and anything can happen, but the likeliest outcome appears to be a Rittenhouse acquittal.
That’s especially the case after Wednesday’s proceedings, which seemed a disaster for the prosecution, as the judge angrily scolded the prosecuting lawyer from the bench and the defence motioned for a mistrial.
An acquittal cannot stand in the eyes of the national media, who have already all but passed their own verdict on Rittenhouse.
Across the country in Glynn County, Georgia, however, three white men are standing trial for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery was chased while jogging and gunned down in the middle of the street. The three men accused claim they thought he was a burglar fleeing the scene of a crime. Once again, based on video at the scene, and one of the defendant’s own racially charged statements, there appears to be more evidence that Arbery’s targeting and subsequent killing was racially motivated. Yet the coverage in the media has been mostly muted, save for trial updates and recaps.
So why is the national press attempting to draw race into a trial where race played no part in the fates of Rittenhouse or his victims, yet all but ignoring the implications out of Georgia that very well might see justice for a young African American shot dead in the street? Why is racism a factor when the victim and killer are white, yet not when the victim is black?
It’s easy to understand the answer if you understand that the American media pretends to take racial issues seriously, but really regard everything through the lens of politics. Is the framing of the Rittenhouse trial part of an attempt to provoke commentators on the right to defend Rittenhouse and in doing so reveal the ‘structural racism’ of the country?
In the end, to a large part of the American media, justice for Arbery does not matter, because his death is not a blunt instrument with which they can bludgeon their political adversaries. Welcome to America in 2021.