I resisted writing about Kyle Rittenhouse’s not-guilty verdicts because I was unable to watch the trial regularly and, like many cases, the facts and the law were complex and not easy to reduce to a 1,000-word analysis.
I’ve changed my mind.
The partisan reaction on both sides has been so outrageous and damaging that I have to vent.
First, I want to unequivocally say that a 17-year-old had no business walking around a U.S. city with a semi-automatic AR-15-style rifle. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Second, the Kenosha protesters had no right to engage in violence and resort to rioting. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Third, and most important for the purposes of this column, who the hell do pundits and politicians think they are to arrogantly and with little justification dismiss a decision by jury of their peers?
I have no problem with intelligent, thoughtful discussion of both sides of a trial by people who closely followed the testimony.
But I have serious issues with the manipulation and politicization of the Rittenhouse trial by partisans on both sides.
The right has embarrassed itself in celebrating the jury decision by turning Rittenhouse into a hero and a cause célèbre, conveniently ignoring that two people are dead because of his actions.
Those on the right also hypocritically ignore the reality that out-of-control vigilantes would undercut the law and order about which they like to pontificate. And please don’t argue, as some have, that Rittenhouse wasn’t a vigilante. He was, by any standard definition.
However, the left’s response has been even more damaging. Liberals have sickeningly ridiculed the verdict and attacked the American justice system as corrupt and racist, while repeatedly mischaracterizing what happened in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 25, 2020.
On the Left
The left's reaction was predictable (more on that soon in Part II) and unfortunate.
The NAACP called the verdict “a travesty.”
President Biden first stood by the jury’s verdict, saying, “The jury system works.” Then, his political handlers got to him and he later added, “The verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included.”
So, what is it, Mr. Biden? You respect the jury or you don't? And should a U.S. president second-guess jurors? Did he or his staff closely watch the trial? I would hope they have more important things to do.
Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., a recent addition to “the Squad,” tweeted that the verdict was “white supremacy in action.”
MSNBC’s political and racial polemicist Joy Reid compared Rittenhouse to “slave catchers” because they both had “the right to inflict violence in the name of protecting property.” She then said, “That's like the foundational creation of the United States."
Hollywood, of course, exceeded the pundits and politicians in its hyperbole.
Variety trumpeted that the verdict “stuns Hollywood.” Tweet after tweet from headliners in the entertainment business slammed the justice system and called Rittenhouse a vigilante and a white supremacist, even though he only shot White men.
Actress and comedian Kristen Schaal called it “a terrifying day in America.”
Star Trek’s George Takei, a liberal activist, responded by tweeting that the judicial system “continues to kill” and “defeated true justice.”
I’d bet my house that most of these people watched only small parts of the two-week trial.
To them, studying the legal proceedings in detail is irrelevant because they want to undercut the essence of the American justice system, facts and the law be damned.
They want to call into question basic principles of due process, trial by a jury of one’s peers, and the need for proof of innocence beyond a reasonable doubt.
Why? Because they believe the whole system helps enshrine “white supremacist” hegemony.
They purposely forget that the Constitution and the judicial system it created laid the foundation for the U.S. to become the most successful and powerful country in history.
As Gerard Baker points out in the Wall Street Journal, the anti-judicial stance of left-wingers borders on calling for “revolutionary justice,” where “The legal system’s verdict will be supplanted by the people’s judgment.”
Does the left really want to follow the example of the revolutionary or “people’s” justice that led to the trampling of individual’s rights in communist regimes? Many leftists called for defunding the police, so, these days, anything is conceivable.
On the Right
Conservatives fell all over themselves hailing the verdict, making it seem that they don’t think having teenagers walking around cities with semi-automatic rifles is a bad thing.
Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., actually thought it made sense to tweet “Glory to God!” after the verdict. I guess the fact that two people were killed was irrelevant to her.
Not wanting to be outdone in his extremist craziness, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., posted a video on Instagram where he says: "Kyle Rittenhouse is not guilty, my friends. You have a right to defend yourselves; be armed, be dangerous and be moral."
What kind of a congressman tells people to “be dangerous”? You can’t make this stuff up.
Boebert and Cawthorn constantly espouse pro-police and law-and-order messages. They obviously aren’t smart enough to understand that urging people to be “dangerous” undercuts everything they say they stand for.
Many pundits on Fox News also tripped over themselves to portray Rittenhouse as the best America has to offer.
Tucker Carlson said the teenager “tries his best to do the right thing at a time when almost no one else in the community is trying to do the right thing.” So, Tucker, is the right thing to have 17-year-olds walking around U.S. cities with Smith & Wesson M&P 15 rifles?
His colleague Greg Gutfeld even praised Rittenhouse for killing two “violent, disgusting dirtbags,” and argued that the teen “filled the void that the government left open.” So, Greg, we don’t let 17-year-olds become police officers but you want untrained and unsupervised teenagers to step in with assault-style weapons?
Of course, if the jury had found Rittenhouse guilty, the tables would have been turned. The right would have demonized the jury and the left would have canonized it.
I don’t know if the jury made the right decision. Given what I read and saw, I’m inclined to think jurors followed the law and the judge’s instructions. I respect them for giving weeks of their lives to administer what they believed to be justice under Wisconsin law.
However, I am deeply concerned that the verdict will encourage racial division and vigilantism.
Finally, I worry that echo chambers on both extremes in the media, hellbent on achieving their own political and commercial objectives, are irresponsibly fanning the flames of the American political divide. That’s coming up in another column later this week.
Cover photo: Kyle Rittenhouse, center, Judge Bruce Schroeder, left, and defense attorney Mark Richards watch a video during proceedings at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Nov. 12, 2021. Seven days later, the jury found Rittenhouse not guilty of five felony charges against him for fatally shooting two people and wounding another during unrest in Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020. (Mark Hertzberg-Pool/Getty Images)
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