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Kyle Rittenhouse, Populist Hero

I’ve been sleeping most of the day, because I did not get a good night’s sleep through Hurricane Laura last night (we came through fine here in Baton Rouge). Lo, I wake up to find that Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old charged with shooting BLM rioters, has become an overnight populist hero — a Bernie Goetz for our time. A reader writes:

The memes have been intense. I have not seen this sort of fan reaction since “Based Stickman” from Berkeley Riots https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_uivlC_UAg

Young white dudes demonized by the media chafe and rage against the bullsh*t characterizations of riots as “peaceful protests” and how the liberal media excuses lawlessness and aggression. Any red-blooded male hates a bully and an aggressor and not only are the Leftwing mobs bullies and aggressors, the media valorizes them as heroes and victims.
So long as the media engages in this ideological propaganda to legitimize aggression, lawlessness, and crime, people are going to react be valorizing those who counter the media’s narrative: cleancut kid following rules of engagement absolutely wastes a bunch of criminal thugs trying to attack him. And he’s so nice he tries to help his victims and offers to turn himself into the police.
You remember the 80s better than me: Charles Bronson? Robocop? Toxic Avenger? People resented the violent thuggery and crime of the big cities in the 80s and the idea of some vigilante laying them to waste was virtually pornographic. I’m a broken record, but you can thank the dishonest media for this today.
Here are some of the memes the reader sent:
And my favorite:
This is no doubt because those guys Rittenhouse is charged with shooting were not Citizens of the Year:

 

On the other hand, at least one of the dead, Anthony Huber, the skateboarder, is becoming a hero on the left wing of social media. There’s a Go Fund Me for his girlfriend, with whom he lived, and it has raised as of this afternoon nearly $100,000.

UPDATE: Here is a good Twitter thread that tracks everything Rittenhouse did, based on publicly available amateur video.

UPDATE.2: Please excuse the profanity, but you need to see this, and ponder Zaid Jilani’s question. Yoom Nguyen’s family restaurant was hit when rioters and looters sacked stores and businesses in Minneapolis last night after a false report that cops had shot and killed a black man:

 

If I were a polling firm, I would run a national poll asking people who have heard of Kyle Rittenhouse whether they think he’s a villain, a hero, or don’t know. That would tell us a lot about the mood of the country.

UPDATE.3: More information about Gaige Grosskreutz, who had his bicep shot off by Rittenhouse as he pulled a gun on him:

If Gaige Grosskreutz really did tell his buddy that he intended to kill Rittenhouse, then Rittenhouse acted in self-defense:

UPDATE.3: People, based on what we know now, I, personally, don’t believe Kyle Rittenhouse is either a villain or a hero. I am reporting that he is fast becoming a hero among a lot of people who are sick of the rioting. This may be a terrible thing, but it is really happening, and there’s a reason for it. It’s a sign, I think, of a building backlash — one that could result in a lot more violence. It doesn’t do us any good to pretend this is not happening because it frightens or offends us.

UPDATE.4: A reader e-mails:

In reply to your posting on “Kyle Rittenhouse, Populist Hero”, you are fond of pointing out the Weimar-like similarities between the U.S. today and Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s. While history doesn’t repeat, it does echo. If we are radicalizing into two or more irreconcilable factions, it stands to reason you will have martyrs to the cause. In Germany, Horst Wessel was shot and killed by the Red Front-Figures of the Communist Party. Charismatic and young, Horst’s short and violent life was turned into that of a martyr by the Nazis, particularly Joseph Goebbels. As many know the “Horst Wessel Song” became the “national battle hymn” of Nazi Germany to quote historian Richard Evans.

In American history, we have seen the making of martyrs with Matthew Shepard and the LGBT movement, and more distantly, John Brown and the abolitionist movement as two notable examples. Songs will be written and past transgressions will be forgotten or whitewashed. Woe to the intrepid soul who criticizes these new secular saints. With fanaticism on the ascent in this country there will be more martyrs and heroes minted for the cause. That’s the echo I hear in contemporary times.

Additionally, the black writer Thomas Chatterton Williams captures an absurd aspect of this event. The “Shoot me, N—” guy was Joseph Rosenbaum:

UPDATE.5: I took down the ones showing the shooting of Huber.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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