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Kyle Rittenhouse's Offense: Insufficiently Respecting Rioters

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool

Why the hatred of Kyle Rittenhouse? Why was there such widespread dishonest news coverage of the case against him that his acquittal by the Kenosha, Wisconsin, jury came as an unwelcome surprise to so many? For example, so-called comedian Stephen Colbert's recent comment ("If he didn't break the law, we should change the law") shows he's ready to jettison the ancient right of self-defense.

Maybe it's because so many in the media have been portraying those violent rioters in multiple cities in the summer of 2020 as virtuous peaceful protesters and those who tried to prevent violent destruction of property as vicious white supremacists.

That was apparent in the live shot of a CNN reporter in Kenosha that August, standing in front of a burning building. The chyron read, "Fiery but mostly peaceful protests after police shooting." As reporter Omar Jimenez explained, things began to "get a little more contentious" after nightfall as "an expression of anger and frustration over what people feel like has become an all-too-familiar story."

An all-too-familiar story often told inaccurately. Jacob Blake, the Black man shot by police in Kenosha, was not killed, despite what many recent stories have said, but grievously wounded and paralyzed. He was also not unarmed but armed with a knife, which, up close, is definitely a deadly weapon.

Nor was Blake an innocent accosted at random by trigger-happy cops. There was an outstanding warrant for his arrest for an alleged sexual assault. Nonetheless, President Joe Biden took time to talk to him on the phone and visit his relatives as he was campaigning for president in Wisconsin.

There were even more lapses, inaccuracies and lies in the coverage of Rittenhouse's trial for shooting three protesters, two fatally, during a night of rioting in Kenosha.

Writers complained multiple times that Rittenhouse, then 17, was not part of the Kenosha community and that he crossed state lines with a gun to get there. Yes, he did. Antioch, Illinois, where he lived, is right on the Illinois-Wisconsin border. But he didn't take a gun across the line. It was stored in Kenosha, just 20 miles from Antioch, where his father and other relatives live.

Anyway, it's odd to hear complaints about strangers crossing state lines, for those of us old enough to remember when Southern segregationists complained about "outside agitators" coming in to campaign for equal rights for Black people.

It was odd as well to hear the lamentations and cries of dismay when the Kenosha jury voted unanimously to acquit Rittenhouse of murder and the other charges against him.

Anyone paying attention to the evidence at the videotaped trial could see the footage showing the three men Rittenhouse shot attacking him with deadly weapons. One could see the person who survived admit on the stand that he had aimed his gun at Rittenhouse before he was shot.

One could also easily learn things about the three assailants he shot. For one thing they were all white, contrary to news reports and implications that they were Black. One had been imprisoned for sexual conduct with preteen boys. A second had been jailed for violating probation after strangling his brother. A third, who survived, was unemployed and a member of a group called the Peoples Revolution.

"That crowd was full of heroes," said prosecutor Thomas Binger in his summation to the jury in Rittenhouse's trial. One senses that many on the left yearned, with religious fervor, for anti-police demonstrators to be regarded as heroes and, by the grace of something like divine intervention, to be rendered immune from COVID-19, though gathered in dense and boisterous crowds.

Thus, the assurances by the U.S. Crisis Monitor that 95% of demonstrations from May to August were nonviolent -- even though that meant that some 570 were violent riots, with multiple deaths and about $2 billion in damage. The leftist Substack writer Freddie deBoer had no difficulty finding seven explicitly pro-riot leftists.

From that perspective, Rittenhouse's offense was interfering in a quasi-religious ritual. I suspect history will regard the massive demonstrations starting in summer 2020, despite a lack of evidence of a sudden increase in unjustified police violence against Black people, as a religious frenzy akin to the Anabaptist madness in Munster, amid unprecedented restrictions imposed in response to an incompletely understood epidemic.

As usual, the American public understands this better than the chattering (twittering?) class: Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that 43% of Americans say Rittenhouse did stupid things and only 22% say he committed murder.

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