Our intellectual elite would break us by demanding our assent to the absurd.
America on the Verge
The aftermath of the Rittenhouse trial exposes a bitter divide across the nation.
I never intended to get so invested in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged for fatally shooting two assailants, and critically wounding a third, at a riot in Kenosha, Wisconsin last summer, but, like many others, I became engrossed in the prosecution of the latest Great White Defendant. The young man’s testimony under relentless, and often unscrupulous, cross-examination was the most gripping courtroom drama since the Juice was set loose. As the bailiff read the unanimous verdict—Not Guilty on all counts—the boy fell down weeping, as his mother and sister wept behind him, and I admit that I may have gotten a little misty myself.
I’m not the only one. What was it about this case that torpedoed the daytime productivity of millions of Americans these last two weeks? Was it the culmination of something, or maybe a beginning? We awaited the reading of the verdict as a make-or-break moment, and to celebrate the exoneration of Rittenhouse by twelve courageous Wisconsin jurors as both a collective, and deeply personal, victory.
One day, when sufficient distance has been gained from the Current Year to permit sober reflection on our own era, the recent past will no doubt be seen as a watershed in American political history. The election of Barack Obama in 2008 gave politics a religious sheen for Millennials just coming of age, and for Boomers hoping to avoid confronting the wreckage left in the wake of their rule. The election of Donald Trump in 2016 gave the new religion its devil. From Russia collusion to #MeToo, from Covington Catholic to Judge Kavanaugh, American culture and politics in the years since has been an unbroken series of witch crazes, lynch mobs, and human sacrifices (some successfully carried out, others not). The Democratic Party, the corporate press, and progressive activists openly embraced political violence as a means to achieve policy goals, block political appointments, and now, to attempt to affect court decisions.
Conservatives have compromised, cowered, negotiated, and denied in the face of the Left’s radicalization, but 2020 was the year when the Right finally began to realize it was backed up against a wall.
Protests and political violence have always been a part of the American political environment, but it was always understood that mass action was an extreme measure reserved for when you were not being permitted to redress your grievances procedurally. In the 1960s, black people were chased away from voting places so that they couldn’t elect state officials who would adhere to federal desegregation laws, so they embraced civil disobedience as a means of redress outside the system. The Nation of Islam began as a prison movement; most of the leaders of the Black Panthers ended up dead or in jail. But Black Lives Matter is a creature of the universities. Its leaders get invited to the Met Gala and to the White House. They receive six-figure sinecures at universities or NGOs. Antifa activists are typically whites from what’s left of the American middle class. These are not people who have no other way to make their point. People who agree with them control every institution and power center in the country, and no individual or institution, including law enforcement, opposes their resistance with much vigor.
Political violence was worse in the 1960s and 1970s, but yesterday’s extremists lacked institutional backing. Today’s left-wing racial radicalism is different from the outbursts of the Vietnam and civil rights era. The inner-city explosions of the 1960s were ugly and destructive, but also unplanned and unapproved by those in power. Riots in Watts, Detroit, Newark, Washington DC, and a hundred other cities were the result of two overlapping factors: the desperate rage of African Americans when the Great Migration failed to lead to the Promised Land, and criminal elements using the chaos as a cover. They were bottom-up outbursts of violence from the underclass, and they and their leaders were tracked, harassed, and destroyed by the state security apparatus.
Compare then and now, when the most widespread and destructive urban violence in 50 years was cheered on by the mainstream media, the Democratic Party, and activist groups funded by corporate America. In 2020 alone, Black Lives Matter got $12 million from Google, and $10 million each from Amazon and Facebook. The organization received millions from video game companies, retail companies, manufacturers, hotels, sports leagues, celebrities, and wealthy individuals. The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, which is just one of many non-profits operating under the name, collected over $90 million in 2020. Billions were donated to racial justice causes in 2020 by the most powerful people and institutions in the country. U.S. embassies and federal agency headquarters unfurled Black Lives Matter flags as cities burned and Democratic politicos schemed to use the violence to help Joe Biden win the presidential election.
We learned from a February 2021 Time Magazine article that a shadowy cabal of powerful interests—their words, not mine—worked behind the scenes to “fortify” the election; that the organizers of the George Floyd protests were on weekly conference calls with media figures, Democratic party operatives, and state and local officials to make sure that all their efforts were in sync.
“The organizers who helped lead the racial justice uprising sparked by George Floyd’s killing in May wanted to harness the movement for the 2020 election,” we were told. These are the same groups that planned protests—riots—in 400 cities, with troops in place “ready to be activated via text message as soon as November 4… To stop the coup they feared, the left was ready to flood the streets.” The most powerful institutions in the country were planning nationwide mass political violence in every town of 50,000 people or more if the election didn’t go their way.
After Jacob Blake, the knife-wielding domestic abuser shot by police in Kenosha while trying to steal a vehicle filled with children, was hailed as the Second Coming of George Floyd by the corporate media, these same propagandists and protest organizers sprang into action. Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris paid Blake—who was still charged with sexual assault for breaking into a woman’s home and forcibly penetrating her with his fingers—a visit to tell him that she was “so proud of him.” Then-candidate Joe Biden put out an official statement: “These shots pierce the soul of our nation.” After a summer of deadly riots, Biden told Americans that the police shooting of an armed kidnapper had brought the country to “an inflection point,” and that, “We must fight…” The people who craft such statements think very carefully about the words they choose. They knew what the words they chose would lead to. They wanted violence, and they got it.
Rioters swarmed from all over the region, even crossing state lines, to contribute to the chaos. A group called Riot Kitchen came in buses and minivans all the way from Seattle to provide food, drinks, helmets, fireworks, gasoline, and other supplies to the rioters. The group was founded for this purpose during the summer 2020 riots, raising almost $60,000 on GoFundMe. GoFundMe later banned fundraising for Rittenhouse’s legal defense, though they permitted fundraisers by the rioters descending on Kenosha. GoFundMe itself actually contributed $500 to Riot Kitchen through its “Gives Back” program.
Kenosha police reported that over half of all the people arrested in the first two nights of violence had come from out of town. This was not an uprising of the Kenosha underclass against the system that was oppressing them. This was an organized attack on an American city. The refrain of centrists-at-all-costs and weak-kneed Republicans has been that, innocent or not, Kyle Rittenhouse “should not have been there.” Indeed, 17-year-old boys should not have to take up arms to defend their communities from attacks incited by Democratic Party politicians and the corporate media and facilitated and carried out by organizations funded by multinational corporations.
America still stands on the precipice of a dark abyss. The fact is, we live in a society where mass political violence has been normalized, and because it’s being used as a political and ideological bludgeon to threaten and intimidate the people of this country, the authorities have abdicated their responsibility to protect life and property. The people who have created these conditions are the same baying for the blood of Kyle Rittenhouse for defending himself from three of their own. But this is still America, and it is the people—not the media, not the politicians, not the celebrities or bureaucrats or activists, but only a jury of Kyle Rittenhouse’s peers—who render final judgment on the righteousness of his actions.
Sometimes the good guys win. We celebrate the just exoneration of Kyle Rittenhouse. But we must remain aware that the Left has a longer memory than we do, and typically exacts steep costs for their occasional defeats.