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Media and Law Enforcement Response to White Vigilante Shooter Proves There Are Two Americas

Kyle Rittenhouse helps clean the exterior of Reuther Central High School in Kenosha, Wis., on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. Rittenhouse, 17, was arrested Wednesday, Aug. 26, after two people were shot to death during protests in Kenosha over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Kyle Rittenhouse helps clean the exterior of Reuther Central High School in Kenosha, Wis., on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. Rittenhouse, 17, was arrested Wednesday, Aug. 26, after two people were shot to death during protests in Kenosha over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Photo: Pat Nabong/Chicago Sun-Times (AP)

You know why conservative white America hates the Black Lives Matter movement so much? It’s because the movement undermines business-as-usual America. And by “business,” I mean this nation’s most profitable enterprise: racism and white supremacy. Why else would anyone—especially law enforcement or any media outlet—go out of their way to humanize and low-key throw on a cape for a 17-year-old white guy charged with first-degree murder in connection with two homicides?

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Man...where do I even start?

On Wednesday, the world was introduced to Kyle Rittenhouse, a white teenager from Antioch, Illinois, who was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of two people and the injury of a third during a chaotic protest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha on Tuesday night.

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What we’ve learned about Rittenhouse since he was identified and arrested in his home town of Antioch on Wednesday is that he has all the makings of a traditional-America sweetheart. We know, for example, that the teen is a huge blue-lives enthusiast.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Rittenhouse’s Facebook page, which is currently deactivated, featured two photos of him posing with rifles. One of those photos was his profile picture which included a banner that read, “Duty. Honor. Courage. Blue Lives Matter.”

From the Sun-Times:

That countermovement emerged as Black Lives Matter protesters sought to hold accountable officers accused of brutality following high-profile police killings. Rittenhouse’s Facebook also included memorials to Samuel Jimenez, a Chicago cop killed during a mass shooting at Mercy Hospital in 2018, and McHenry County Deputy Sheriff Jacob Keltner, who was shot to death serving a warrant in Rockford last year.

A photo of the baby-faced alleged killer posted to another Facebook page belonging to his mother shows Rittenhouse clad in a blue cadet uniform adorned with a badge. WBEZ reported Wednesday that he participated in a “public safety cadet program” in the far northern suburbs.

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The Sun-Times also mentioned that Rittenhouse is a high school dropout, but we know conservatives only care about that when it’s a Black delinquent and they can cite it as proof that the Black community has a cultural problem, not a racism problem.

Then there’s the fact that Rittenhouse attended a Des Moines, Iowa, Trump rally on Jan. 30, and posted a TikTok video from the event, BuzzFeed reports. (Unfortunately for Rittenhouse, it’s too late for him to be selected as an RNC speaker.)

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Maybe all of Rittenhouse’s big “Back the Blue” energy is why during a Wednesday press conference Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis opted not to blame the teen for the violence he allegedly took part in but instead blamed the shooting victims for being out past the curfew that was put in place shortly after the unrest over Blake began.

“Last night, in a situation that began peaceful and turned somewhat unruly...persons who were out after the curfew became engaged in some type of disturbance and persons were shot,” Miskinis said, Insider reports. “Had persons not been out involved in violation of that, perhaps the situation that unfolded would not have happened.”

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Right. The people out after curfew were unruly, not the guy who treated the streets of Kenosha like his own personal live-action Call of Duty experience. Also, while we’re playing the “what if” game, had police not shot an unarmed Black man in the back seven times, perhaps there would have been no civil unrest. Had former officer Derek Chauvin not used his knee to bear down on George Floyd’s neck, perhaps the Black Lives Matter movement wouldn’t have exploded the way it has in the first place. We can play this game of hypotheticals all day—only my side of the game won’t involve victim-blaming.

Then there’s the media.

Listen: It’s no surprise that Fox News host and Trump colostomy bag Tucker Carlson wasted no time jumping to Rittenhouse’s defense by using his platform to ask, “How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else would?”

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This is to be expected coming from a white supremacist jerk-off machine like Fox News, but it isn’t just Fox.

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Let’s talk about a little thing I like to call “The Tale of Two Headlines.”

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The New York Post published two stories within two hours of each other Wednesday night. The first featured the headline, “Suspected teen gunman Kyle Rittenhouse spotted cleaning Kenosha graffiti before shooting.” Because what better way to report on a teen illegally carrying an AK-47, which he allegedly used to kill two people, than to publish a piece about what a Boy Scout he was before the shooting started? In contrast, the Post published a story on Blake—the victim of a shooting—featuring the headline, “Jacob Blake had a knife in his car when he was shot by police, DOJ says.” The differences between the two approaches to news reporting are very telling, especially considering all of the misinformation circulating on social media regarding Blake’s criminal record.

Maybe this is why Rittenhouse appeared to be able to walk right past police officers while armed and out after the imposed curfew, even though bystanders were shouting to officers that he just shot someone, as CBS Chicago reports.

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Whiteness always seems to come with a built-in presumption of innocence, no matter the circumstances. In what world is any illegal AK-47-wielding Black person charged with murder getting anyone’s benefit of the doubt?


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Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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DISCUSSION

Congratulations America!

Allowing a failed con man elected by a minority of deluded, hateful racists to become president has produced fascist, paramilitary death squads with child soldiers.

The stupid racist fucks of America have made us more like the failed states of the Congo than the stable, flourishing European republics they deride as socialist.

Trump for the traitor’s gallows, 2020.