Disinformation about the case of Kyle Rittenhouse floods social networks and television networks

Kyle Rittenhouse shot three black men. Kyle Rittenhouse traveled across state lines with a gun. Kyle Rittenhouse had an AK-47.

Here are three examples of false information being spread about Rittenhouse, whose trial ended last week. with his acquittal.

Prominent personalities, such as legislators and journalists, are the sources of some of the misinformation, which worries experts.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, reporter Mark Strassman falsely claimed that Rittenhouse “came from Illinois armed for battle.” On CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” Friday, Harvard Cornell University professor William Brooks falsely claimed that Rittenhouse was carrying an AK-47. The Independent falsely reported late last week that Rittenhouse had shot three black men.

Rittenhouse, 17 at the time, shot three men, two of them fatally, with an AR-15 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on August 25, 2020. All were white, as was Rittenhouse. The gun was purchased by a friend and collected by the Illinois resident from a Kenosha home.

Rittenhouse claimed self-defense and the jury agreed with him, acquitting him of all charges after videos and witness testimony during the trial showed that he was attacked by all the men he shot.

“As soon as the Rittenhouse situation in Kenosha occurred, the mainstream media immediately created a narrative that would work with their particular and preferred narrative. As we now know, that led to quite a number of mischaracterizations and errors at the time, ”Jeffrey McCall, a communication professor at DePauw University, told The Epoch Times in an email.

“By now, those outlets are so committed to that narrative that they cannot endeavor to correct past mistakes or provide accurate details today. This not only reflects that some media outlets work with predetermined and ideological narratives, but also that they are too lazy to report the facts as they have been provided in the actual trial, ”he added.

Ryan Chittum, a former journalist and media critic for the Columbia Journalism Review, said some of the mainstream media have done excellent reporting on the Rittenhouse case, including the New Yorker, “but it’s been like a few drops in a fire station of biased, false and often malicious press coverage designed to fit an ideological narrative. “

“In general, the press has been a destructive force in this story, from its inception in covering the Jacob Blake shooting that sparked the whole thing and which we know was justified, to the downplaying of the $ 50 million destruction done. by the rioters in Kenosha, through the defamatory portrayal of Rittenhouse and the details of what happened, “he told The Epoch Times in a Twitter message. “There have been countless journalistic disasters in the Trump era, but this is the most blatantly reckless of all.”

Rittenhouse shot the men during riots that followed a police officer shot Jacob Blake in the same city.

Blake was armed with a knife. Video footage showed that he resisted arrest after visiting the home of an ex-girlfriend who had previously accused him of sexual assault. Prosecutors decided not to press charges against the police officer in january because he appeared to have acted in self-defense and the Justice Department ad last month he closed the investigation and did not press charges. The sexual assault charge was dropped last year.

Blake survived the shooting, although he is partially paralyzed. Some people falsely said last week that he had died, including ESPN’s Jalen Rose.

In this social media video posted by his attorney Ben Crump, Jacob Blake delivers a message from a hospital bed in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on September 5, 2020. (Attorney Crump / AFP’s Twitter account via Getty Images)

Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (DN.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, claimed that Blake was dead and unarmed.

The committee later sent an updated statement. “Apologies,” Chris Hayden, its communications director, wrote on Twitter.

Maloney’s statement caught the attention of Jeffrey Blevins, a professor in the Department of Journalism at the University of Cincinnati who is working on a book on how disinformation spreads.

“I think that many times the political left tends to think that false information, false news, disinformation, is something that is only attributable to the political right. And that’s not the case, ”Blevins told The Epoch Times.

While people with few followers can spread misinformation, the damage is far greater when they do so when high-profile influencers such as legislators do.

“When we think of influential people – and politicians fall into this category, certainly the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee – their official account would be seen as a credible source,” he said. “When they post something like that, it tends to stick in people’s minds.”

The false claims have had the potential to reach millions of people on Twitter, where they were widely disseminated. ESPN, CBS, and CNN shows combined have millions of viewers.

Among those who fell prey to misinformation or dubious claims were two professors who have been cited by the media as experts in identifying them.

Lisa Fazio, a Vanderbilt psychology professor, shared a video of Amber Ruffin, who has her own show on NBC, in which she made multiple false or unsubstantiated claims, including the claim that Rittenhouse carried a rifle across state lines. . That video has been viewed more than 7.7 million times since Nov. 19, powered by the likes of MP Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).

Shannon McGregor, a professor at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, shared a tweet calling Rittenhouse an “openly white supremacist,” a claim that has no proof that she is support.

Blevins said the situation reminds him of what happened in 2019, when a short, tight video from Washington was released widely by the media and others.

Nick Sandmann, a high school student from Kentucky, was in the nation’s capital with his classmates. The video was used to falsely claim that Sandmann had faced off against a Native American, Nathan Phillips, but the video footage that subsequently appeared showed the exact opposite.

The person who initially posted the video had few followers, but it was widely publicized, Blevins noted.

“People seem to be so eager to get their hot tape on social media, which is probably what happened in this case, and then important pieces of contacts get lost and it can really do some damage,” he said.

Blevins encouraged people to be more cautious, remembering what he did when the video first appeared. He waited, rather than share or post it, knowing that unconfirmed material was widely disseminated in the past and later proven to be incorrect.

CBS could not be reached. ESPN declined to comment. Twitter, CNN, Brooks, The Independent, Fazio, McGregor and Omar did not respond to requests for comment.

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Disinformation about the case of Kyle Rittenhouse floods social networks and television networks