Published November 23, 2021
The point of the obviously unjust prosecution of Kyle Rittenhouse was to deter Americans from standing against the left’s routine use of mob violence. After all, mobs cannot be checked if citizens are afraid to defend themselves and their communities when Democratic mayors, governors and prosecutors refuse to stop leftist riots.
This is why left-wing politicians and their media supporters hate effective self-defense. For example, Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times used the Rittenhouse trial to argue against “the foundational tenets of gun advocacy,” starting with the claim that “guns are effective and necessary weapons of self-defense.” He claimed that Rittenhouse’s “gun transformed situations that might have ended in black eyes and broken bones into ones that ended with corpses in the street.”
As National Review’s Kevin Williamson replied, “Well, yes. That’s the idea.” The point of effective self-defense is avoid relying on the mercy of aggressors, hoping they will be satisfied with only seriously injuring you.
In addition to disdaining the right to self-defense, Manjoo also wants to remove police protection from citizens. He was ebullient over the violent Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, and elated that “acceptable public discourse about police reform has shifted to include terms like ‘demilitarize,’ ‘defund’ and ‘abolish.’”
This in folly, but at least he is honest enough to admit that he believes that the police (if they are not outright abolished) should stand down during leftist riots, and that citizens who defend themselves should be prosecuted. The only people who should be punished for riots are those who try to stop them.
The left’s leadership, and not just the fringe, is pro-riot, as illustrated by the constant labeling of rioters as protestors. The only reason to conflate the two is to give moral cover to the riots.
As Nellie Bowles, formerly of The New York Times, noted regarding the paper’s suppression of her reporting on Kenosha, “the mainstream liberal argument was that burning down businesses for racial justice was both good and healthy…. If you lived in those neighborhoods on fire, you were not supposed to get an extinguisher. The proper response — the only acceptable response — was to see the brick and mortar torn down, to watch the fires burn and to say: thank you.”
In short, either get with the mob or get out of its way. And don’t forget to cheer as rioters destroy your neighborhood. As Nikole Hannah-Jones, mastermind of The New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project said during the 2020 riots, “Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence.”
This attempt to justify mob destruction by pretending that it only targets replaceable property could only be believed by the ideologically intoxicated and the very privileged. Even if we ignore those killed and injured by the riots, the truth is that property is often irreplaceable, and even when it can be replaced its destruction harms people.
The idea that insurance will fix everything is ridiculous, especially coming from those who otherwise tend to denounce insurance companies. Furthermore, even when insurance companies are not difficult to deal with, there are things that are uninsured, or not insured for the full value. And some things are just irreplaceable, often because they have value beyond their physical function—the furniture that my father built can be functionally replaced by something from a store, but the personal value cannot.
We are embodied beings, and naturally develop emotions regarding objects with special significance. Furthermore, it is still harmful to destroy more mundane objects. Businesses and homes, even if fully insured, cannot be rebuilt in a day, and in the meantime people will be out of work or out of a home.
Rebuilding, even with money, takes time, and to force people into it is stealing parts of their lives from them. The injury is multiplied when entire neighborhoods are destroyed, even if no one is physically hurt.
This is why people will not simply acquiesce to rule by rioters. Citizens taking up arms is inevitable when the authorities are unable or unwilling to defend people and property. It may have been foolhardy for an untrained 17-year-old to take that task on himself, but that does not negate his right to self-defense, let alone excuse the rioters and their media cheerleaders and political enablers.
For those of us not high on ideology, it was obvious that the violence of Black Lives Matter riots would not result in fruitful criminal justice reform. As for defunding the police, it has been a disaster, and left-wing cities that cut police budgets are having to increase funding due to crime surges.
Increases in crime are a natural result of excusing and encouraging riots. Evil attracts evil, and excusing riots if they are for a supposedly good cause ensures that many wicked people will flock to that cause as an excuse for their crimes. It is no coincidence that the men Rittenhouse shot in self-defense were all criminals, beginning with pedophile rapist Joseph Rosenbaum.
The response of left-wing media and politicians to Rittenhouse’s justified acquittal shows that they have learned nothing. They doubled-down on the lies that the rioters were peaceful protestors and that Rittenhouse was a “white supremacist murderer,” and they called everyone who agreed with the verdict racist.
That reveals why they support riots and hate self-defense. They want to punish the nation. They want to inflict pain as part of some bizarre national catharsis that purges the sins of the people and puts the left in permanent power.
This strange hatred for their own country is a large part of why the leadership of the left—politicians, media, academics, and suchlike—is losing support from ordinary, working-class voters, who do not want to see their neighborhoods burned down and the police defunded. Other than criminals, rioting is largely the province of faux-radicals who view destruction as a lark or a tool, and who are safely insulated from the long-term consequences.
Politically, the left’s leaders view riots as tools of punishment and intimidation used by their side, which may be part of why the capitol riot of Jan 6 looms so large for them—it carries the threat that the right might be able to summon mobs of its own. In contrast to the left’s embrace of violence, conservatives must oppose escalating, tit-for-tat, riots. We will win by standing for law and order against mob rule, not by emulating the left.
Rittenhouse should never have been charged. But even more, the left should never have encouraged and enabled the riots that led to him being attacked and having to defend himself.
Nathanael Blake is a senior contributor to The Federalist and a postdoctoral fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.