The Right Outcome for Rittenhouse, But… 

I do not have much to add to the cataract of commentary about Friday’s Kyle Rittenhouse verdict. Like all sane people, I applaud the young man’s acquittal on all charges. 

There seem to be essentially three sorts of responses to the decision. One is “Hallelujah, justice was done, let us chalk up the victory, and move on. The System™ works.” 

A second response, about which I’ll say a bit more below, is the standard-issue, angry woke identity politics response. According to this narrative, Rittenhouse is a “white supremacist” who acted as a vigilante when Kenosha, Wisconsin exploded in violence in August 2020, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man. According to this script, Rittenhouse wantonly murdered two people in cold blood—Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26—and grievously injured a third, Gaige Grosskreutz, 27. This charge was the specialité de la maison of the so-called mainstream media and the Democratic establishment up to and including Joe Biden

In the aftermath of the verdict, the meme was supercharged by all the usual suspects. Rep. Jerry “the Waddler” Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was among the first to suggest the U.S. Justice Department bring federal charges against Rittenhouse since the state charges didn’t stick. I’m sure the ghoulish Merrick “the Moderate” Garland is considering it if only he can peel off enough agents from harassing parents attending school board meetings for the task. 

For his part, Biden, though acknowledging his disappointment that the 18-year old wasn’t going to be thrown in prison for the rest of his life, did at first say that the trial vindicated the judicial process and that “the jury system works.” Aides soon began walking that back, however, perhaps in preparation for the Nadler gambit of trying the boy twice. 

Neither response, I think, is right. The second response is simply surreal, if offered earnestly, and contemptibly cynical if offered as a Machiavellian ploy in the game of power politics. Overwhelming evidence, including abundant video and first-hand testimony, shows that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense. Had he not shot the three men who were attacking him, first Rosenbaum, a seriously deranged chap, and then Huber and Grosskreutz, he would almost certainly have been killed. 

But the first response, the “hallelujah chorus,” is not quite right either. Yes, it’s a good thing that the jury found as it did because any other verdict would have been a horrible miscarriage of justice. The trouble is, by the time that Rittenhouse was put on trial, a horrible miscarriage of justice had already been perpetrated. 

Rittenhouse had already been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion. One swamp entity, GoFundMe, canceled a campaign to raise funds to pay for Rittenhouse’s bail and legal fees because, according to CEO Tim Cadogan, the company doesn’t support people charged with violent crimes. What about the presumption of innocence? GoFundMe said nothing about that. 

Remember, “the process is the punishment.” Rittenhouse was charged in order to enact a bit of political theater. He was a convenient white boy, perfect for the role of fall guy. In this sense, as Julie Kelly put it, the entire episode is the opposite of a win for American justice. On the contrary, although a guilty verdict would have been obscene, his very trial was “a horrific example of government prosecutors bringing bogus charges for political reasons.”

Who knows what will happen now. There is talk of Rittenhouse suing various people and entities for defamation. I hope he does. And I hope that he is at least as successful as Nick Sandmann, the “Covington Kid,” who has reportedly won millions (the actual terms of the settlements are private) from CNN, the Washington Post, and other lying media outlets that defamed him when he stood smiling in his MAGA hat on the mall in Washington, D.C., while an Indian activist harassed him. The Babylon Bee, with its customary slyness, suggested that Rittenhouse and Sandmann would now share joint custody of CNN: “‘We would like to announce that our clients have come to an agreement to share custody of CNN,’ said Sandman and Rittenhouse’s legal teams. ‘Sandmann will have custody on weekdays, with custody transferring over to Rittenhouse on holidays and weekends.’” Ha, ha, ha. Would that it were so.

It’s possible that the fates will smile kindly on Kyle Rittenhouse. I hope he mounts and wins a spate of defamation suits. I hope that some enterprising businessmen reach out and offer him a job. More likely, however, he will be rendered radioactive, a pariah. I think John Zmirak, writing at stream.org, got it about right. He offered Rittenhouse congratulations on the verdict and then suggested he flee to Brazil. 

“Right now, Kyle Rittenhouse is a free man,” Zmirak writes. “He should fly to Brazil and ask the Bolsonaro government for political asylum. Our extradition treaty with that country doesn’t cover ‘political crimes’ or the nonsensical ‘denial of civil rights’ charges that Biden’s team would bring. He should file his defamation lawsuits against all our major media from a comfortable apartment in beautiful Rio de Janeiro, which has lots of wonderful Art Deco buildings from the ’40s.” Probably good advice. 

In the meantime, we can expect to see the blizzard of misrepresentations and outright lies regarding Rittenhouse continue. Typical was a story in the London Independent, a major newspaper, which claimed that the “Teenager who shot three black men with rifle found not guilty on all charges.” Oops! Rosenbaum was not black. Nor was Huber. Nor is Grosskreutz. Oh, well. You win some, you lose some. The paper half-corrected the error: the bullet point was changed, but not the SEO descriptor. Nor was there an explicit editorial acknowledgement of the mistake. 

The media is and will continue to be rife with such howlers. So will the woke academic chorus abetting the insanity. Among my favorites was this gem from the highest reaches of the academic firmament, Princeton University. Amaney A. Jamal, dean of Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs and the Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Politics and International Affairs, excreted this memo to the “SPIA community”:

Last August, Kyle Rittenhouse shot and killed two protestors and wounded a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin. During his trial, he emotionally broke down on the stand, saying he was acting in self-defense. Today, he was acquitted of all six charges against him, including three of which were homicide related.

Is it pedantic to point out that Rittenhouse was acquitted of all five charges against him: a sixth charge was tossed out by Bruce Schroeder, the judge in the case? Keep going: 

My heart feels heavy as I write this. As dean of a School of Public and International Affairs, I believe people have a right to assembly. [non sequitur alert!] I also believe that, during events like the protests [“mostly peaceful,” Dean Jamal?] following the shooting of Jacob Blake, it is the job of formal law enforcement bodies—not individual citizens—to ensure public safety. I fail to comprehend the idea of a minor vigilante carrying a semi-automatic rifle across state lines, killing two people, and being declared innocent by the U.S. justice system. Yesterday’s ruling sets a dangerous precedent.

Here’s something that is not pedantic. Kyle Rittenhouse did not carry a semi-automatic rifle across state lines. The gun was stored at a friend’s house. The people he shot were trying to kill him: he acted in self-defense. What planet does this Princeton dean live on? The great Miranda Devine brings her usual crisp clarity to this point. Rittenhouse, she notes, 

lived 20 miles from Kenosha in Antioch, Ill., with his mother and sisters. But his father, grandmother, aunt, uncle, cousins and best friend live in Kenosha. He had a job as a lifeguard in Kenosha and worked a shift on Aug. 25 before helping clean graffiti left by rioters at a local school. There, he and his friend were invited to join other adults who had been asked by the owners of a used car lot in Kenosha to guard the property after 100 cars had been torched the previous night, when police abandoned the town to rioters. Kyle took his gun to protect himself, since the rioters were violent and armed, including, for instance, Antifa medic Gaige Grosskreutz, who lunged at him with a loaded Glock pointed at his head before he was shot in the arm. 

Ouch, The Narrative hurts!

But the Ivy League dean is not done yet:

Rittenhouse is not a racial minority [so what?], and some would say [yes, some would] this is another example of biases and leniencies embedded within the justice system. That may be true. What we do know without a doubt is there are racial inequities in nearly every strand of the American fabric . . .

Do we? Do we know this? Or is it only deans at super-rich sinkholes like Princeton who “know” this? 

Today’s verdict employs me [what can this possibly mean?] to ask you—our current and future public servants—to investigate our policies and practices within the justice system and beyond. How can we use evidence-based research in pursuit of the public good? What role do we play, and what obligation do we have to serve?

Does your head hurt yet? There’s more where that came from, but I do have feelings for my readers’ patience. 

But wait, maybe you need counseling. All those folks waiting with Play-Doh, puppies, and “cry rooms” after Donald Trump’s election are still standing by. Dean Jamal is on the case (Dramamine alert for those allergic to raw virtue signaling):

It feels like an immeasurable, daunting task. I’m sure there are days in which you feel like giving up. In those moments, remember: Democracy is not a guarantee. [Meaning what?] We must always act with our feet, evoke change [Huh?] with action. . . . People. Policy. Progress. This is the basic order of our work. In between is passion, grit, tenacity. It is our moral duty [Our “moral duty,” forsooth!] to support and advance public policy that makes the world better.

Resources are available for our students. . . . our TigerWell outreach counselor [Oh, dear] is available for virtual drop-in visits [wear a mask anyway, just in case]. Dr. David Campbell from Counseling and Psychological Services will host a virtual space for SPIA students to process the Rittenhouse Trial. . . .

“To process the Rittenhouse Trial.” Why do we feed these people?

This year, Princeton’s endowment reached $37.7 billion. Think about that as you try to find the money to fill your tank with gas or buy the steak that Bill Gates says you should not eat or pay for the oil or natural gas that Joe Biden wants to outlaw to heat your home.

About Roger Kimball

Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and the president and publisher of Encounter Books. He is the author and editor of many books, including The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine's Press), The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art's Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee).

Photo: Sean Krajacic - Pool/Getty Images

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