The Depraved Deification of Kyle Rittenhouse is Yet Another Symbol of America’s Decline

by Keaton Weiss

Since his acquittal, Kyle Rittenhouse has been on a high profile right wing media tour. Days after his trial ended, he appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show for an exclusive interview. He then dropped by Steven Crowder’s podcast to discuss, among other things, his taste in women. His latest stop was an appearance at Turning Point USA’s four-day conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

As he took the stage, the packed audience chanted his name as his own custom-written theme song blared in the background – a rockstar entrance if ever there was one.

Complete with pyrotechnics, a thumping soundtrack, adoring hordes of fans, and an American Flag graphic with the name ‘Kyle’ superimposed over it, this was a truly grotesque display of callousness, even by MAGA standards. And I say this as someone who still believes Rittenhouse’s jury was correct in their decision to exonerate him.

Based on the evidence of the case, it was simply impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Rittenhouse had murderous intent on the night of August 25, 2020, when he shot three men, killing two. Despite liberals’ online laments over the verdict, the much anticipated wave of protests and riots in response to it never materialized – a sign that embedded somewhere in their psyches was the understanding that the prosecution failed to make a compelling case.

Whether or not Rittenhouse deserves to be jailed, however, is a separate question from whether he ought to be lauded as a hero. A sober, clear-eyed evaluation of Rittenhouse reveals him to be neither a bloodthirsty killer nor a valiant defender of law and order. Rather, he’s the tragic output of a failed system that allowed for his story to be possible in the first place; one in which a white teenager is allowed to patrol the streets with an AR-15 during a moment of civil unrest that’s itself the product of an increasingly dystopian status quo.

Unfortunately, such an assessment is woefully unsatisfying for a population entangled in such a hostile culture war. The Left is as committed to vilifying Rittenhouse as the Right is to deifying him. In fact, each of these factions only adds to the other’s conviction: the more indignation the Left expresses at the verdict, the more the Right doubles down on their efforts to elevate Rittenhouse as their champion. The more obscene the Right’s spectacle of his coronation, the more the Left roils in anger.

And so the war rages on with no end in sight.

For the Right, the euphoric rush that comes with “owning the libs” seems to be an end worth fighting for in and of itself. The gratuitousness of their Rittenhouse worship is almost certainly a conscious aesthetic choice intended to twist the knives in the backs of their political enemies.

For the Left, Rittenhouse’s victory lap is the cherry on top of a series of recent defeats. “Defund the Police,” the initial rallying cry that arose organically out of the George Floyd protests, has been successfully and predictably delegitimized by establishment gatekeepers in political and media spheres. Even the most modest attempts to reform our economic structures away from their current barbarism have gone up in smoke as the Build Back Better negotiations have collapsed.

And so in a system so broken that it can no longer be reformed by democratic means, the only political battles worth fighting are in the psychic realm, where the catharsis of witnessing your opponent’s emotional pain is the only winnable goal.

To conservatives, this is nothing new. Spite, malice, and resentment have long undergirded right wing ideology, culminating in the Trump movement which seems motivated exclusively by such spiritual pathologies. And as the Left is forced to reckon with the futility of their material aims, their own political project has become similarly defined.

America’s death spiral has become too furious to escape, and so political discourse is now nothing more than a whirlwind of negative emotions volleyed back and forth as we all circle the drain in smaller and faster rotations.

Because the Right is inherently nihilistic, this dynamic isn’t so bothersome to them. After all, theirs is a political movement whose most recognizable trait these past two years has been its open contempt for any and all public health measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, even as the virus has disproportionately ravaged their own communities. The Trump Right is nothing if not the political manifestation of a collective Freudian death drive which seeks to destroy and be destroyed. And so to them, trolling liberal snowflakes as the country goes to hell in a handbasket is itself a worthwhile cause.

For the Left, who, conversely, have actually spent the past years trying to transform this place for the better, being made to grapple with the reality of our inevitable societal demise is a much more difficult adjustment. In progressives’ minds there exists a friction between the hopelessness they see with their own eyes and their subconscious premise that for all its flaws, America is and must be salvageable.

As those two ideas have become less reconcilable, the Left has become more and more directionless in its mission. As their broader political endeavor crumbles, they become increasingly invested in the same cultural wedge issues that have embodied conservative politics for decades.

As ‘Defund the Police’ evaporates and capital continues to trounce labor, Leftists turn their ire towards individuals like Kyle Rittenhouse, who, for all of the social ills he represents, isn’t and cannot possibly be as guilty as the system that produced him.

But once that system proved too powerful to be toppled, the Left saw accountability for Rittenhouse as the next best thing, and clung to the idea that he was guilty of cold-blooded murder long after the facts showed that he wasn’t. In the wake of his acquittal, the Right is seizing upon the opportunity to pour salt in their wounds, which, once again, has been their animating principle all along.

Meanwhile, our shared decline steadily accelerates as neither political camp is empowered to turn the tide. As has been demonstrated time and again, our government’s unholy alliance with capital has rendered it unresponsive to democratic input. Because of this, all we can do is emotionally torture each other by digging in on opposite sides of cases like Kyle Rittenhouse’s.

It’s an unwinnable war, but for too many of us, it’s the only one worth fighting.

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The Devolution Will Be Televised: Rittenhouse’s Trial is a Symptom of Our Social Collapse

by Keaton Weiss

Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial is the latest in a continuing series of high profile court proceedings to be televised for all to see. Yesterday, Rittenhouse burst into tears when recounting the events leading up to the moment he shot three men, killing two.

His outburst quickly went viral online. Those on the Right rushed to his defense:

And of course, the Left’s response was far less charitable. Many accused Rittenhouse of faking his tears altogether, and expressed their feelings for him in rather uncompromising language:

Meidas Touch, a popular online #resistance liberal opinion outlet, called Rittenhouse’s meltdown an “Oscar-worthy performance” in their YouTube video retweeted over 3,000 times at this writing:

Perhaps nothing symbolizes how this case has enflamed the already raging culture wars more than how both political camps drew parallels between the Rittenhouse trial and the infamous Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings of 2018:

The Right and Left’s predictably disparate reactions to this incident are among the latest and most palpable examples of our deteriorating social fabric. When the whole country can watch the same tape and respond this differently, it certainly creates the impression that the gulf between us is irreconcilable.

To make matters worse, both sides seem oblivious to this broader dynamic, as both are too staunchly committed to their respective positions to realize the hopelessness of the larger situation. They’re too close to the particulars to realize the tragic arc of the overall timeline; too convinced of their own righteousness to reckon with the fact that the war they’re fighting is unwinnable, because the society they’re fighting for is unsalvageable.

Televising the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse only exacerbates this problem. It draws everyone’s attention to one person, which serves to exonerate the real culprit in this story: the system as a whole.

To even express an opinion on Kyle Rittenhouse himself is to miss the forest for the trees. Whatever Rittenhouse may or may not be – to the Left, a murderous white supremacist vigilante, or, to the Right, a noble defender of law and order – we know for sure that he was just a 17-year-old kid at the time of the killing in question.

At such an age, no one is anything but a product of their environment. Kyle Rittenhouse is an output of the same system that murdered George Floyd; the same system that sparked the Black Lives Matter uprisings against it; the same system that allowed him to get his hands on that Smith & Wesson M&P 15 and flaunt it through the streets of Kenosha that fateful August night.

As emotionally satisfying as it may be for some to liken Kyle Rittenhouse to Brett Kavanaugh, this is of course a ludicrous comparison. Kavanaugh is arguably one of the 100 most powerful people on earth, an architect of the status quo that produces thousands of angry young boys like Kyle Rittenhouse, who are simply byproducts of a decaying social infrastructure. It’s no surprise that such a distinction would be lost on a movement of critical race theory proponents who see Kavanaugh and Rittenhouse as indistinguishable because they share a particular skin color. In a world where all whites are oppressors and non-whites victims, Brett Kavanaugh and Kyle Rittenhouse are the same. This is a world in which all other power imbalances are glossed over, such as the glaringly obvious one between a Supreme Court Justice and a brainwashed adolescent.

Here in reality, Kyle Rittenhouse is nothing more than a pawn in the game. He’s a moving part, a cog in the machine built by the likes of Kavanaugh and other elite actors. He’s today’s fall guy for the same rotten system that produced Derek Chauvin, whose guilty verdict was a source of much rejoice on the Left just a few months back.

Both the Chauvin trial, and now the Rittenhouse trial, give people the mistaken impression that to bring these men “to justice” is itself significant progress in the struggle to ameliorate the social ills that created them in the first place. If anything, the obsession with Chauvin and Rittenhouse as individuals only provides cover for the malevolent social circumstances out of which they arose. To celebrate their comeuppance is to revel in the same spirit of vengeance and retribution that undergirds our entire system of “criminal justice,” one that has victimized generations of black men using the exact same pretexts.

Instead, this justified anger is better directed at the structures and institutions that allowed for the killing of George Floyd. Of course, such systemic critiques are outside the bounds of what the establishment considers acceptable. This is why the corporate media was happy to serve up Derek Chauvin on a platter, but balks at any suggestion of defunding the police.

They’ll allow you your Two Minutes Hate against the villains du jour, but direct that same indignation at the machinery that spat them out, and you’ll quickly find yourself on the wrong side of the same media apparatus that riled you up about Chauvin, Rittenhouse, and whoever the next hapless stooge happens to be.

And so, the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse is just another symptom of a nation in decline and a society coming apart at the seams. Its warring factions are both too enraged to notice that the society over which they’re fighting has already been lost, and its architects will never legitimize any serious attempt to course correct.

All we’re left with are back-and-forth deliberations over individual people with little to no power, and heated debates about their “privilege” and how to hold them “accountable.”

However accountable Kyle Rittenhouse is for his actions, it’s apparent to any clear-eyed observer that our system of brutal capitalism enforced by militarized policing is the guiltiest party in all of this. As long as this societal arrangement is unchangeable through democratic means, none of these judgments for or against individual actors like Chauvin and Rittenhouse will make much difference. Instead, what appears as two opposing sides in a struggle for the future of the country is really just the collective and cacophonous dying scream of a doomed American experiment.

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Photo: Kyle Rittenhouse Trial