(warning: pretty much any link in this essay is going to awful, graphic footage)
It’s now been a bit over two weeks since Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by agents of the state in Kenosha, WI, and Kyle Rittenhouse killed two people during some of the subsequent protests. Rittenhouse’s actions, in many ways, have overshadowed the inciting incident, and have led to a heated debate online. The left decry him as a racist. Conservatives see him as a hero against fascism. Libertarians, usually mostly in favor of black lives matter protests, have often claimed he acted in self defense.
My biases, I’m sure, color my analysis. A quick read of the other essays on this page will show you them very quickly-I have spent the vast majority of my life disgusted and appalled when the state murders people without cause and without process. I believe black lives matter. I believe the protestors that are protesting the state murdering people are on the right side of history, regardless of where on the Nolan chart they come from. I believe that while many try to do their jobs honorably (it’s a whole other essay I’ve got brewing), police as an institution are entirety too powerful and enjoy entirely too much social sanction, with the result that in too many communities, usually our poorest and brownest, they act an occupying army rather than guarantors of our rights or even guardians of public safety. I believe the natural right of self defense as inscribed in second amendment is for defense against our own government first, foreign invaders second, and defense against private criminals and dangerous and/or delicious animals third. Given all of that, I attempted to be as objective as possible in studying the facts and forming my opinion.
After watching as much footage as I could reasonably find, reading the criminal complaint, watching ABC’s coverage, watching this legal analysis, reading through a few threads in Libertarian groups, reading through reactions from leftie pages and friends that I follow, and reading a long thread involving some very smart friends of mine, I’ve come to some conclusions.
To whit, you all suck.
And you all suck because, in a statement that I’m sure will give one friend of mine reading this life threatening levels of laughter, you all need more nuance in your takes.
First, there’s some stupid stuff that I’ve seen on libertarian threads. Some of us have claimed that Rittenhouse’s carrying a firearm while under 18 being illegal is a deprivation of his natural rights and bad law. Ok, fine, but two or three threads over you’re all calling for the pedochippers (I’m generally with you, but after due process and conviction, not before). Either there’s an age where someone becomes a consenting adult with all the rights thereof and before that they don’t, or there isn’t. or there’s a sliding scale of age vs. rights and responsibilities, which is another arguable position, but make up your mind. And likewise, pointing out that it was illegal for Gaige Grosskreutz, as a convicted felon, to have a firearm as evidence for Rittenhouse is pretty rich coming from libertarians. Trying to have it both ways because you like guns is specious at best and hypocritical at worst.
What’s left then is two separate questions-legality and morality. Was Rittenhouse legally right to shoot the people he did, and was he morally right to be in the situation in the first place.
The legal question, surprisingly, may be the easiest to resolve, or at least to get to the heart of. There is a noticeable gap in footage between the initial confrontation between Rittenhouse and Joseph Rosenbaum (the man in the red shirt) and when he’s running away from Rosenbaum when the first shooting happens. The legal case for self defense hinges on what happened in those missing moments. If Rosenbaum was the initial aggressor and, for lack of a better way of putting it, “started it”, then I tend to defer to Coloin Noir’s more learned legal opinion that by the letter of the law he acted in self defense. And, likewise, when he was running away from the mob that’s a continuation of self defense. However, if Rittenhouse started it, then the case for self defense seems to fall apart quickly, and when running from the mob he was running from people trying to apprehend a murderer. The evidence here is mixed. On one hand you have the initial confrontation footage, which, when combined with Rosenbaum’s history of violence in and out of prison seems like any allegations made that Rosenbaum was the aggressor (I don’t know if anyone has alleged this yet) would have some weight. On the other hand, there’s this post claiming that Rittenhouse and his friends were the first belligerents, so…the legal case needs more evidence. But at least here there’s a clear lynchpin moment.
Far more interesting and more relevant, however, is the moral case. Was Kyle Rittenhouse right to be in Kenosha in the first place, was he defending the right things, was he responsible in wielding a weapon in this situation? The answer to all of these is no.
He absolutely had the right to be out in Kenosha protesting. But I have to ask as an aside how can Boog Bois be at protest after protest after protest and not fire a shot, but he shot three people? Moreover, he was profoundly wrong in the side he supported. Large portions of our country have been out in the streets month after month protesting the brutal murder of suspects by police-and yet more brutal murders of suspects by police keep happening. And like almost all abuses of government power, most of the enforcement (though not all) has fallen on the poor and brown. Federal troops have been sent in to crush protestors. Terrible laws continue being on the books. “Bootlicker” is a term that gets thrown around too frequently in political discussions, but here it seems to fit all too well. Some will point to Rittenhouse cleaning up graffiti before the events as character evidence, but I point to him being a cop worshipper. Many have pointed to the criminal records of the three people shot as proof that Rittenhouse was a hero, but while Rosenbaum’s record might be somewhat relevant for character and state of mind (see above), for the other two victims it doesn’t seem remotely relevant-and how would Rittenhouse had any knowledge of any of their records during the confrontation? And yes, I had some stupid beliefs in my youth that I regret too, but, well, taking the side of the state usually means you’ll be on the wrong side of history. Rittenhouse’s stated goals were to protect property and assist police. He was cheered on by Kenosha police earlier in the evening. He chose to stand with the people that beat down the different, that jail people for not getting a business license, that stand on necks, and that shoot people in the back. He came, it seems, to Start Shit, and he found it.
So…left folks, when Rittenhouse walks free or is only convicted on a weapons charge, you’re gonna have to deal, and unlike a lot of times this sort of thing happens it won’t be because of a broken justice system. Start bracing yourself now. Conservatives, you need to deal with the fact that this kid was not some grand avenger, he was a dumb 17 year old with garbage beliefs that eventually became a scared 17 year old with garbage beliefs. And libertarians? If you want to keep pointing out that he acted in self defense, fine, but this kid is a shitty choice of hero. If we defend him beyond simply saying he has a legitimate case for self defense we’re embracing the very police state and the very state murderers we’re supposed to be against.
In the final judgement he may be legally right. But he was a dumbass, not a hero, and three people are dead behind it. It’s nothing to cheer about.
And really, none of this would have happened if cops would just stop killing people.