By way of preamble this morning, we want to do two things.

First, we want to acknowledge that it is Veteran’s Day, thank all you veterans out there for your service, and link to a piece, written 18 months ago, about our favorite veteran, whom we continue to miss very much.

Second, we want to explain what happened yesterday.  We had written a piece about the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial, which is ongoing in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  By the time we were finished and had proofread it (no laughing, please!), however, we realized that it was wrong, that one of the two predictions we made was already demonstrably incorrect.  So, we shelved it, saving ourselves the embarrassment of being demonstrably wrong and saving you the time of reading junk.

Today, we’re going to try again, although taking a slightly different tack.  Yesterday, our first prediction was that “Kyle Rittenhouse will be found not guilty.”  If you have paid any attention to the trial – especially yesterday – you’ll likely know that this appears to be a no-brainer – with “appears to be” being a phrase worth parsing. The prosecution in this case is shockingly self-destructive.  It is ill-prepared, ignorant of fundamental facts, and just generally pathetic.  The lead prosecutor – ADA Thomas Binger – makes Marcia Clark look downright competent.  Yet juries are funny.  Short of a directed verdict, there’s no guarantee that the case we think we saw will be the same as the case the jurors think they saw.

In any case, as the day wore on, as the prosecution continued to make itself look pathetic to the point of idiocy, and as it became more and more obvious that this case should never have been brought, the diehard dissenters from these truths which we hold to be self-evident broke into two camps.  The usual suspects – this moron, for example – decided that the problem with the case is the judge, who, because he is white, is obviously a white supremacist and therefore biased in Kyle Rittenhouse’s favor.  Others – mainly the conservatives who want to see Rittenhouse convicted to prove some larger point about society – settled on the legally and morally ridiculous notion that the 17-year-old was not entitled to defend himself because he should not have been in Kenosha in the first place. The Washington Examiner’s Quin Hillyer made that case as follows:

Rittenhouse is at clear moral fault for the two deaths. He went into Kenosha that night expecting trouble, and he grievously exacerbated the trouble he found….

Rittenhouse was a vigilante. Vigilantism is benighted. He had no business being in Kenosha that evening; indeed, by law, he should have stayed away. He broke numerous laws leading up to the killings, all of which add up to greater moral (if not legal) culpability for the deaths….

A host of conservatives are rushing to Rittenhouse’s side, arguing he was acting in self-defense. Fear, perhaps, but not really self-defense. He created the dangerous situation with all his earlier actions. He was the one who killed two unarmed men who, even if not moral exemplars themselves, would still be alive had Rittenhouse not gone where he didn’t belong while packing illegal heat.

On the one hand, Hillyer is right.  Rittenhouse should NOT have been in Kenosha.  Period.  He placed himself in a bad position by making bad decisions and, as a result, bad things happened.

On the other hand, Hillyer’s comments on self-defense, causation, and, ironically, morality are all morally grotesque.  “Kyle’s mistake was that he wore a really short skirt and then drank too much.  I’m sorry, but in doing so, he was practically begging to be gang-raped.”  OK, Quin.

Moreover, if we want to go back and look at stupid and reckless behaviors that created the atmosphere in which Rittenhouse had no choice but to shoot to defend himself, why should we stop with Kyle’s stupid and reckless behaviors?  None of the shooting victims had any business being in Kenosha, rioting that evening either.  And certainly, they didn’t have any business chasing down and attempting to bludgeon a 17-year-old to death.  More broadly, no one had any business rioting in Kenosha.  Can we blame the media for stirring up racial animus about a police shooting for the conditions that led to two men dying that night?  And what about the police who shot Jacob Blake?  And what about Blake himself, who pulled a knife?  And what about Derek Chauvin for starting all the rioting?  Or George Floyd and his fentanyl addiction?  In Hillyer’s world, you keep shifting blame until you find the person whose guilt most satisfies your preferences – emotivism, one might call it.  Unfortunately, none of it brings us any closer to what is really important, namely delivering justice and discouraging similar future events.

The bottom line here is that every individual in Kenosha bears responsibility for his actions.  Rittenhouse and all his victims share ultimate moral culpability.

As for delivering justice and discouraging similar future events, we have little hope that ANY verdict will advance those causes.  Indeed, it’s more likely that ANY verdict will undermine both.  As we noted at the time of shootings, both Kyle Rittenhouse and the rioters in Kenosha (and Minneapolis, and Atlanta, and Washington, New York, L.A., etc.) are victims of and participants in our deadly social zeitgeist, one that discourages people – and young people in particular – from finding any meaning whatsoever in their day-to-day lives.  We put it this way:

We’ve spent the last several days (and weeks) pointing out the general dumbassery of the tedious white LARPers who make up the majority of the “Black Lives Matter” protesters in various cities and towns across the country.  (And for those of you who may not know, LARP = Live Action Role Play; and LARPers are people who dress up in costumes to act out scenarios from their favorite movies, genres, or general fantasies).  These “woke” kids and their allies are classic sufferers of White Savior Complex, believing that it’s their absolute obligation, as beneficiaries of white privilege, to dress up and play-act as revolutionaries who are determined to save their black “allies” by aggressively and relentlessly attacking less-enlightened white people.

Unfortunately, the LARPers to the Left of us are no longer the only LARPers in the game.  There are LARPers to the Right of us as well-meaning that here we are, stuck in the middle with you.  Given this, it’s only fair today that we talk a little about Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old from Illinois who has been charged with the shootings of three men and the deaths of two of those men during a protest last week in Kenosha, Wisconsin….

We then proceeded to explain how and why this had likely happened:

The link between young men and violence has long been established and is about as close to proven as anything in the social sciences can be.  Young men are prone to violence.  And in every generation, a certain percentage of those young men are going to deviate from societal norms and become a rather serious threat to society and its stability….

Psychologists who have studied violence in young men and especially young men’s willingness to forsake everything they know, everything they’ve been taught, and everything they might otherwise believe about right and wrong, say that there is a set of shared circumstances and “revelations” that link spree killers and self-radicalized terrorists.  Faced with the emptiness of their own lives, isolated from many of their contemporaries, and desperately in search of something substantive to give their lives meaning and purpose, young men – and especially young men who find refuge on the internet and in social media – tend to create fantasy lives for themselves, alternate realities in which they not only find the meaning and purpose they crave but do so in heroic fashion.

The blogger and journalist Robert Beckhusen has written on this subject often, noting that the ties that bind spree shooters and self-radicalized terrorists are both numerous and consistent.  Young men confronted by the social and spiritual emptiness of their lives and society, default to what is often called “heroic modeling,” or “heroic doubling,” which is to say that they take on a symbolic cause and kill not just to slake their own bloodlust, but to exact revenge for a whole class of people with whom believe they find common cause….

Kyle Rittenhouse’s entire identity, his entire sense of self was wrapped up in the idea that police forces exist exclusively to “protect and serve,” and that as a hopeful future police officer, he had a duty to protect and serve as well – even to protect and serve real-life police officers.  He went to Kenosha to be a hero, to defend property, to defend the police, to stand up for what is right.

As we say, the thing that distinguishes Rittenhouse from those whom he shot is not his propensity for violence, not his feelings of helplessness and disillusion, and certainly not his desire to be a great warrior and noble servant in the battle for what is good and right and true.  No, the only thing that distinguishes him from the protesters/rioters/looters is the way in which he defines what is good and right and true.  He and they are two sides of the same coin – the same sad, nihilistic, hopeless, loveless, despairing coin.

Finally, we concluded with the following:

[T]he key to ending this cycle of violence is something that is beyond politics, ideology, and government of any sort.  The key, as corny as it sounds, is the revival of hope, of purpose, of meaning in the everyday lives of the nation’s young people and especially its young men.  That is a task that cannot be accomplished by schools or programs or funding or policies.  It can only be accomplished in families; in neighborhoods; in churches; and in communities, geographical, digital, and otherwise.  Fathers must be present and must be assertive in their children’s lives.  Belief systems must be rebuilt, retaught, and re-incorporated into the core values passed from parent to child.  Virtues must be identified and PRACTICED.

No matter what the verdict is in the Rittenhouse, one side or the other is going to insist that the whole thing just proves that the justice system is biased, broken, and unfixable and therefore, nothing has any meaning.  Nihilism will triumph, one way or the other.  And THAT’S the problem that needs fixing more than anything else.


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