All He Had Was a Handgun

In medieval days, before there were secular dramas, there were roving bands of semi-professional actors performing morality plays. The plays were often short and sometimes even farcical. Plots were designed to encourage moral choices or illustrate Biblical stories. The audience was a mostly illiterate populace who paid for the entertainment with small change.

Today, we have criminal trials as national entertainment. They usually take days and too often devolve into farce, as did the Kenosha trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, fumbled by the prosecutors (looking so much like Laurel and Hardy) trying the 17-year-old hero for shooting two felons to death and wounding a third man during a days’ long riot, arson, and looting. The rioting predictably followed the mayor’s ordering a standdown of police and rescue teams and the governor’s failure to order in the state National Guard. It’s impossible to choose the worst of the bumbling questions Kyle was asked, but perhaps my favorite was this, respecting the shooting in the arm of a Craig Grosskreutz who held a gun to his head: “All he had was a handgun. why did you think that was a threat?” I take it the prosecutor John Binder never had a gun held to his head. Had I, I certainly would have considered it life-threatening.

I think Rittenhouse has made out a strong self-defense case. The governor may think so, too, because he has deployed the National Guard on to Kenosha in anticipation of a verdict. 

Do you suppose Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers believes that those who think Rittenhouse should be acquitted will riot if he is not? Obviously not. Given the history of the riots, it’s a small group of BLM/Antifa/Communist thugs who in the absence of order ripped the city apart to protest the district attorney’s refusal to charge with murder a cop who shot a knife-wielding Jacob Blake. (This, in turn, followed the nationwide riots that followed the death in custody of George Floyd in Minneapolis).

The old-time morality plays rather spoke for themselves. Now, we have a Greek chorus media, which beforehand, during, and even after the trial distorted facts in a way so obvious to those who pay attention enough to watch the video-streamed trials that it’s fair to conclude that they relish lawlessness and chaos and even race wars.

Jurors have been spied upon and, in this case as well, Judge Bruce Schroeder is receiving threats to his safety and that of his children if the defendant is acquitted. He’s being accused of racism, which I suppose means having a different, fairer view of the issues because the defendant and all three of the men he shot at are White. (Perhaps these people believed some media accounts which led them to think that the men he shot at were Black. Who knows what lurks in these mostly empty heads?)

Online I’m seeing tweets from people who, having believed the media fairy tale that the “victims” (with substantial criminal records) were randomly attacked by an armed 17-year-old (actually a lifeguard with family and friends in Kenosha who scrubbed graffiti off walls, put out fires, and rendered aid to the wounded when the elected officials shirked their sworn duty to uphold the law), are angry that they had been so misled. Why has it taken so long for the lights to go on in these attics? They are routinely misled.

Did they believe the Washington Post articles on Russian Collusion with Donald Trump? This week the Post has admitted errors and amended them, very tardily acknowledging their sloppy work for which the authors, Rosalind Helderman and Tom Hamburger received Pulitzer Prizes. (MSNBC, CNN, and the Atlantic have not done so, and their lies still stand unedited. Pulitzer Prizes seem to be handed out to those who best pen leftist narratives, from Walter Duranty the New York Times’ man in Russia on.) Did they believe the media reports that January 6 was an “insurrection”? Did they not bother to note that, contrary to the media, not a single defendant was charged with that and the FBI concluded there was no evidence of that. Did they believe the Duke Lacrosse team engaged in gang rape? The team recovered damages for that slander and the prosecutor Mike Nifong was disbarred and jailed. Did they believe the Covington kids harassed an “innocent Indian advocate?” The kids recovered monetary settlements for that slander.

But the incessant media lies are what sticks in too many heads, not the eventual outcome -- the unmasking of the factual distortion. It’s no wonder that public faith in the news industry is at an all-time low. It’s a self-inflicted wound.

Glenn Greenwald is absolutely right when he tweets: 

There's an avalanche of punditry, think pieces and cable segments about the Rittenhouse case and only a tiny portion of it relates to the evidence in court about what happened.

It's all just processed through their dreary, pre-scripted narratives about race and ideology.

He’s also right when he says, “Democrats Are Profoundly Committed to Criminal Justice Reform -- For Everyone But Their Enemies.”

And for Democrats, you can add what Glenn Reynolds calls "Democratic operatives with bylines." The press narratives are designed to divide us by demonizing Republicans and Whites (and particularly White males).

In a longer but no less worthwhile analysis, John Hinderaker excoriates the deceptive, manipulative coverage in the press of the  Rittenhouse trial.

The first is just the yawning chasm between the press narrative about what happened that night in Wisconsin -- what the conventional, proper-thinking wisdom was -- and what actually seems to have happened. The smart set insisted that Kyle Rittenhouse was a MAGA-loving vigilante who went to Kenosha to kill BLM supporters. Remember that the President of the United States seemed to imply Rittenhouse was a “white supremacist” in a campaign video

The divide between the coverage and the reality -- Rittenhouse appears to have a solid self-defense case -- is stark. [snip]The second thing I keep thinking about is that the events of that night show the abolish-police vision in action. When the defund advocates talk about what replaces policing, they talk about community-led safety. They talk about neighbors and friends stopping crimes, relying on themselves. But what does abolishing the police look like in practice? What happens when the police really do stand down and let fires burn as they did last summer?

It looks a lot like Kyle Rittenhouse. It looks like a teenager seeing chaos and getting pretty convinced that stopping it falls on his shoulders. It looks like heavily armed, untrained local dads defending shops and homes because no one else will. AOC told us the police-free life looked like “a suburb.” The implication is that street violence is somehow imposed by cops. Take away the police and, like magic, no more problems. Kenosha suggests that is very much not the case.

And despite the readily available videos of the trial, much of the press keeps lying.

One of the deceased, Joseph Rosenbaum, was a clearly violent person who had threatened to kill Rittenhouse, chased him down and went to grab Rittenhouse’s rifle when shot. The other dead man, Anthony Huber, was beating Rittenhouse with a skateboard in a swinging manner when shot.

Gaige Grosskreutz, who was wounded, admitted under cross-examination that he ran after Rittenhouse and closed the gap (but denied he was “chasing” him) -- and that Rittenhouse only fired on him when Grosskreutz lowered his loaded Glock pistol to point directly at Rittenhouse from three feet away.

Most of this evidence came out of the prosecution case. When the defense called him to testify, Rittenhouse stuck to the same story witnesses told.

With trial evidence inconsistent with the news’ narrative, there could have been a major media mea culpa. Instead, headlines and framing continue that pre-trial narrative, even if inconvenient facts appear deep down in the articles. As the editors who run these stories and draft the headlines know, many if not most people don’t get far beyond the headlines and opening paragraphs.

Thus, NBC News breathlessly headlines a news report about the prosecution’s forensic pathologist testifying that Rosenbaum was in a “horizontal” position, “suggesting the victim wasn’t a threat when he was gunned down.” It’s not until the bottom of the article that NBC acknowledges that same expert testified the wound positioning was consistent with Rosenbaum diving towards Rittenhouse. Left out of the story was his testimony that gunpowder residue was consistent with Rosenbaum grabbing the muzzle of the gun when he was shot, just as Rittenhouse and witnesses said.

The headline highlight of Grosskreutz’s testimony according to a Daily Beast report was that he “tried to surrender” to Rittenhouse. Similar misleading narratives frame the case at the New York TimesWashington PostUSA Today and elsewhere. Reading only these publications, it would be reasonable to believe the original story of Rittenhouse as a shooter run amok, despite the trial testimony to the contrary.

I still regard Alexis de Tocqueville, who wrote Democracy in America, as the brightest, shrewdest observer of the American scene, even as it has changed over the years, and he has much to say about our legal system. It’s his view that criminal cases like this one “are entirely founded upon the evidence of facts which common sense can readily appreciate.” I hope the jurors exercise that “common sense,” weigh the evidence, ignore the press and the threats, and acquit a young man whom I consider an exemplary citizen in a city and state where the elected officials failed their constituents.

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