Andrew Sullivan rails against 'media narratives' on Kyle Rittenhouse, Russiagate: They always 'favor' the left

Media top headlines November 12

In media news today, the media pounces on the Rittenhouse trial judge over his ringtone and supply chain joke, Barstool’s Dave Portnoy rips into Insider’s ‘hit piece’ against him, and Kyle Rittenhouse’s mother slams Joe Biden for ‘defaming’ her son

Substack writer Andrew Sullivan blasted “media narratives” that have dominated both the current and previous news cycles. 

“The news is a perilous business. It’s perilous because the first draft of history is almost always somewhat wrong, and needs a second draft, and a third, and so on, over time, until the historian can investigate with more perspective and calm. The job of journalists is to do as best they can, day by day, and respond swiftly when they screw up, correct the record, and move forward,” Sullivan began his piece on Friday. “But when the sources of news keep getting things wrong, and all the errors lie in the exact same direction, and they are reluctant to acknowledge error, we have a problem. If you look back at the last few years, the record of errors, small and large, about major stories, is hard to deny. It’s as if the more Donald Trump accused the MSM of being ‘fake news’ the more assiduously they tried to prove him right.” 

Sullivan highlighted the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial and how the media portrayed the teen as a “far-right vigilante, in the middle of race riots, had gone looking for trouble far from home,” resulting in a “shooting spree” that left two dead and one injured. 

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 04: Andrew Sullivan, editor of The Dish, leads a discussion with Michael Lewis, a financial journalist and author, in the Newsmaker Series of talks at George Washington University on April 4, 2014 in Washington, DC. Lewis’s latest book, "Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt," tells the story of the Canadian banker who uncovered the underhanded and illegal practices carried out by some high-frequency traders on Wall Street. (Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)
(Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)

He quoted the New York Times’ reporting from August 2020 that read, “The authorities were investigating whether the [W]hite teenager who was arrested … was part of a vigilante group. His social media accounts appeared to show an intense affinity for guns, law enforcement and President Trump,” highlighting “Rittenhouse’s race is specified” while the race of the men he shot, who were all White, were not. 

“But notice how the narrative — embedded in a deeper one that the [Jacob] Blake shooting was just as clear-cut as the Floyd murder, that thousands of [B]lack men were being gunned down by cops every year, and that “white supremacy” was rampant in every cranny of America — effectively excluded the possibility that Rittenhouse was a naive, dangerous fool in the midst of indefensible mayhem, who, in the end, shot assailants in self-defense,” Sullivan wrote. 

After recapping Gaige Grosskreutz’s stunning admission that he was shot only after he pointed his gun at Rittenhouse, Sullivan continued citing the Times’ reporting last year that read, “Video footage from the scene of the shooting appears to show Mr. Rittenhouse running and then firing his gun, striking a man in the head. He then flees and is chased by bystanders before tripping, falling to the ground and shooting another man.”

“I haven’t watched the whole trial. But if you watch for any length of time, you realize you’ve been led to believe a media narrative that was way off,” Sullivan told readers. “Because of that narrative whiplash, we may have more rioting and violence if he’s acquitted. The judge is already being targeted. I’m not defending Rittenhouse. And I understand news gathering is fallible. But there’s a media pattern here. And it reaches far wider than Rittenhouse.”

KENOSHA, WISCONSIN – NOVEMBER 11: Kyle Rittenhouse, right, and his attorney Corey Chirafisi listen during the trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse  on November 11, 2021 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse is accused of shooting three demonstrators, killing two of them, during a night of unrest that erupted in Kenosha after a police officer shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back while being arrested in August 2020. Rittenhouse, from Antioch, Illinois, was 17 at the time of the shooting and armed with an assault rifle. He faces counts of felony homicide and felony attempted homicide. (Photo by Sean Krajacic-Pool/Getty Images)

The “Weekly Dish” columnist then pointed to the recent Durham probe indictment of Igor Danchenko, the Russian national who was the primary sub-source of ex-British spy Christopher Steele, undercutting the already-discredited Steele dossier that much of the media peddled during the Trump era. He knocked The Washington Post’s “bizarre way of correcting the record” on previous reports on the dossier. 

“This doesn’t mean that Trump wasn’t eager for Russian help. But Trump was right, in the end, about the dodgy dossier; he was right about the duped FBI’s original overreach; and the mass media — Rachel Maddow chief among them — were wrong,” Sullivan wrote. “And yet the dossier dominated the headlines for three years, and the “corrections” have a fraction of the audience of the errors. Maddow gets promoted. And the man who first published it, Ben Smith, was made the media columnist for the NYT.”

Sullivan went on to list several other media-driven narratives that ended up being false like the Covington students, Russia’s alleged bounties on U.S. servicemen in Afghanistan, the declaration that the  COVID lab-leak theory was a “conspiracy theory,” to the Jussie Smollett saga and the Hunter Biden laptop was “Russian disinformation among others.

He also pointed to ongoing narratives being pushed that “inflation is a phantasm,” “vaccines would end the Covid pandemic,” “the migrant surge at the border was just seasonal” and that critical race theory isn’t being taught in schools. 

(ABC News)

“We all get things wrong. What makes this more worrying is simply that all these false narratives just happen to favor the interests of the left and the Democratic party. And corrections, when they occur, take up a fraction of the space of the original falsehoods. These are not randos tweeting false rumors. They are the established press,” Sullivan wrote. “And at some point, you wonder: what narrative are they pushing now that is also bulls—? One comes to mind: the assurance that the insane amount of debt we have incurred this century is absolutely nothing to be concerned about because interest rates are super-low and borrowing more and more now is a no-brainer. But when inflation spikes and sets off a potential spiral in wages to catch up, will interest rates stay so quiescent? And if interest rates go up, how will we service the debt so easily?”

Sullivan acknowledged that he still relies on the media for “so much” and that he reads the Times “first thing in the morning” but stressed he doesn’t want to feel “as if everything I read is basically tilted through wish-fulfillment, narrative-proving, and ideology. But with this kind of record, how can I not?”

“We need facts and objectivity more than ever. Trump showed that. What we got in the MSM was an over-reaction, a reflexive overreach to make the news fit the broader political fight. This is humanly understandable. It is professionally unacceptable. And someone has got to stop it,” Sullivan added.”

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