Doubling Down on Victim Blaming

The murder trial of young Kyle Rittenhouse, the only noteworthy prosecution to come out of the 2020 Kenosha riots, has become a surrogate for a war that the American Left has long tried to keep under the radar: the war against the concept of self-defense.

The Left finds itself in a quandary. They cannot say “you have no right to self-defense” in so many words. They must get there in another way, a roundabout way, but one in keeping with their longstanding effort to defang America’s police departments.  Create technicality acquittals, and erect restrictive rules of engagement for police.  Build red-tape barriers to keep private security guards from being armed and trained. Overrule the castle doctrine in the courtroom.  Build in so many restrictions to self-defense that it becomes a toothless defense.

In the case of Kyle Rittenhouse, the self-defense case is so obvious that the prosecution had to resort to a claim of provocation, that the young man’s armed presence was itself a provocation.  The evidence is clear that he was one of many (if not enough) law-abiding citizens who arrived in town in the hope that a show of solidarity in support of the business district would dissuade the protesters from further rioting.  Sitting there with a gun, as one of hundreds of other property owners and supporters with guns, should have -- theoretically at least -- discouraged the demonstrators from escalating into violence.

It's a local version of the oldest rule in international affairs: the path to peace is by maintaining the most imposing military in the region.  Nobody will attack you if your army is the best. “If you want peace, prepare for war.”  The theory motivating Rittenhouse and his comrades that day was the same universally-accepted principle, writ small.

The Left has now redefined this concept as “provocation:” He shouldn’t have gone there in the first place.

If he just hadn’t gone to Kenosha that day – if he just hadn’t shown up in this dangerous neighborhood -- none of this would have happened to him.

Now, it might have happened to others, but not to him.  He wouldn’t have been there to be attacked, so he wouldn’t been there to defend himself, so these three attackers would not have been shot by him. They might have attacked someone else who wasn’t armed; they might have burned down a building, but he wouldn’t have been there to shoot them for doing it, so it’s his fault.  He got himself into this.  That’s their argument, at its root.

In short, in an effort to take the focus off the fact that three violent people were part of this demonstration, looking for trouble, the Left accuses the defender of looking for trouble.

If the claim is “Kyle shouldn’t have been there, and this wouldn’t have happened if Kyle hadn’t gone that night, so it’s Kyle’s fault,” we must fairly ask some other questions:

  • Do we say the same thing when an old man is mugged in a bad neighborhood?
  • Do we say the same thing when an old lady is knocked down in her stairwell in a purse-snatching?
  • Do we say the same thing when a young woman is raped in a bad neighborhood?
  • Do we say the same thing when a convenience store is held up, and the cashier is beaten for the money in the till?

If they hadn’t gone to that neighborhood -- or if they didn’t have the bad judgment to live or work in that bad neighborhood -- then it wouldn’t have happened to them.  It’s called victim-blaming. 

But just as it’s not an old lady’s fault when someone mugs her, just as it’s not a young woman’s fault when someone raped her, it’s not logical, fair, or American to blame the person who has to defend himself from attempted murder either.

Victim blaming is inappropriate in any circumstance. Those three criminals should not have tried to kill Rittenhouse. Period.

Rather than asking why Kyle Rittenhouse went to Kenosha that day, there are other pressing questions to ask:

We should ask why our country tolerated all these riots in 2020, these dozens of violent, arson-filled riots in city after city, all summer long.

We should ask why we haven’t investigated the fomenters of those riots, and prosecuted the groups that funded, equipped and organized them, with Craigslist ads and cross-country buses, with food and hotels and pallets of bricks.

We should ask why city councils, mayors, and even police chiefs told the local police to stand down during so many of these riots.

We should ask why governors failed, or refused, to send in state troopers or National Guardsmen.

The American people need to ask why the American Left, including the mainstream media, sees no problem with multiple violent robbers, brawlers, and sex offenders, such as the three attackers in this case, being out on the streets in the first place, despite multiple convictions.  If we had rational sentencing in America, all three of them would likely still have been behind bars for their past crimes, and would not have been able to participate in the Kenosha riots, that night, causing all this.  They probably should all have been safely in their jail cells at the time.

It is reasonable to assume, from what we know of Kyle Rittenhouse’s three attackers, that they were not atypical as members of these many Antifa/BLM-sponsored teams of rioters.

So many questions.  Why are they out on the streets at all? Why are people organizing such people to terrorize our cities? Why is there a full-court press to stop the law-abiding citizenry from resisting them?

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based writer and trade compliance trainer, a one-time county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party.  He writes a regular column in Illinois Review, and his political satires about current events -- including his latest, Evening Soup with Basement Joe - are available in eBook or paperback on Amazon.

Image: Derek Johnson

To comment, you can find the MeWe post for this article here.

If you experience technical problems, please write to