Kyle Rittenhouse, Duck-Rabbit

A Duck-Rabbit is the familiar optical illusion where, given the exact same picture, some people see a duck and others see a rabbit. The tragedy in Kenosha is a Duck-Rabbit.

Credit: Wikipedia Commons.

By now everyone and their mother knows most of the gory details of the tragedy in Kenosha. After the police shooting of yet another Black man captured on camera on Sunday, protests engulfed the small Chicago exurb of a hundred thousand residents. The protests immediately escalated into a riot of unprecedented violence. Dozens of buildings were burnt down, along with scores of cars parked in car dealerships. Images and videos surfaced on social media showing an astonishing scale of destruction. Local news media reported that 30 businesses had been ransacked or burned.

Kenosha Fire Chief Charles Leipzig said there were 34 active fires associated with the unrest, with 30 businesses destroyed or damaged along with an unknown number of residences.

Residents wake to destruction in Uptown; 30 businesses destroyed or damaged.” Kenosha News, August 25, 2020.
Credit: Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/USA TODAY NETWORK

The following day, pro-law enforcement armed vigilantes began organizing on Facebook. The Facebook page Kenosha Guard created an event called “Armed Citizens to Protect Life and Property.” The fake news site InfoWars picked up on the event and propagated it. Zuckerberg later admitted that the Facebook platform’s censors, known in industry parlance as ‘content moderators’, had made an operational error in allowing the group and event pages to stay up despite being flagged.

That fateful night, a small cadre of these vigilantes showed up armed with assault rifles and determined to protect property and businesses from the rioters. Many took up sniper positions on rooftops. Others stood guard around a gas station. Videos shows that the shooter-kid, Kyle Rittenhouse, was on site with these vigilantes, armed with what looks like an AR-15 and a first-aid kit.

It is not clear whether the shooter-kid, now in custody and facing charges on six counts, including first-degree intentional homicide, was responding to the Kenosha Guard’s call. It is probable that he was. If he is convicted of first-degree intentional homicide, he will be facing a mandatory life sentence.

As the night unfolded, a verbal confrontation ensued between the rioter-protestors and the armed vigilantes. In videos circulating on social media, one of the victims, Joseph Rosenbaum, a white man, is recorded screaming “shoot me n*****” multiple times at the posse of armed vigilantes — a surprising turn of phrase from a BLM protestor. (Wisconsin circuit court records show that Rosenbaum had recently been charged with battery and domestic abuse.) Minutes later, another video shows an unarmed Rosenbaum chasing Rittenhouse, still armed with an AR-15, in a parking lot. As Rosenbaum catches up with the Rittenhouse, the latter discharges four rounds, including a fatal bullet in the head. Then he runs around the car and inspects his handiwork. When other rioter-protestors arrive at the scene, he takes off.

Yet another video of the immediate aftermath shows him running down a broad boulevard, chased by a bunch of rioter-protestors. Now, why would you chase an armed man who has just shot and killed someone? Perhaps adrenaline got the better of the self-preservation instinct otherwise known as fear? In the event, Rittenhouse trips and falls while running. The rioter-protestor who reaches him first tries to disarm him, at which point Rittenhouse fires off multiple rounds, including one that hits the assailant in the chest. The fellow falls down fatally injured. Another guy, this one armed with a pistol, again tries to disarm the shooter — why doesn’t he use the pistol? He is shot in the arm. A graphic video, complete with a trigger warning, show much of the flesh on his arm blown off. Having shot three men, two of them fatally, Rittenhouse walks with his hands up in the air to police cars parked a block away. The cops seem to not realize that he is the shooter. At first he seems to want to surrender, but then appears to change his mind and walks away. He would be arrested at his home in Illinois the next day.

As the shooting videos went globally viral, Kyle Rittenhouse became famous world wide. Opinions on his actions were, however, divided — to put it mildly.

The American Conservative ran an article headlined “Kyle Rittenhouse, Populist Hero,” that quotes a reader describing the event as “cleancut kid following rules of engagement absolutely wastes a bunch of criminal thugs trying to attack him.” Nor was defense of the shooter-kid confined to the right-wing fringe. A Christian fundraising website raised a hundred thousand dollars for the legal defense of the shooter-kid. College Republicans at Arizona State announced that they would contribute funds for his legal defense as well.

In his prime time show, the most watched in America, Tucker Carlson blamed the authorities for the mayhem in Kenosha. He repeated the claim on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Nikole Hannah-Jones, the principal author of the 1619 Project and the one who led the call to cancel Bennet as the NYTimes Op-Ed editor in the aftermath of Senator Cotton’s Op-Ed, immediately called Tucker out.

The economic dove of the Clinton administration, Robert Reich, chimed in to demand that Tucker’s show be canceled.

The shooter-kid immediately brought to mind images from school shootings involving white teenage males armed with military-grade weaponry. Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley called him a “white supremacist domestic terrorist” — a suspicion no doubt shared by other liberal elites.

But Rittenhouse was no white supremacist. Instead, he seems to have been a wannabe cop.

A photo on Mr. Rittenhouse’s now-deleted Facebook page showed him holding a rifle. The words “Blue Lives Matter” framed the photo. He attended Lakes Community High School for one semester in the 2017-18 school year, according to Jim McKay, superintendent of Community High School District 117, and was a former public-safety cadet.

“Who Is Kyle Rittenhouse and What Happened in the Kenosha Shootings?” Wall Street Journal, Aug 28, 2020.

Graeme Wood gets it right when he characterizes Rittenhouse as exhibiting “sheepdog mentality.” That the teenage gun enthusiast and Trump supporter felt the call of duty strongly is clear from his record. Rittenhouse joined the Public Safety Cadet Program, jointly run by a number of police departments in the region, that includes firearms training and serves as a recruitment pipeline for the police forces. Earlier, he had participated in Antioch Fire Department’s cadet program. It seems probable that he saw himself and was seen by others as a buttoned-up boy scout.

Branco Marcetic dismisses Rittenhouse as one of “many thousands of misguided, wide-eyed kids out there who idolize police and genuinely think a career in law enforcement will let them do some good in the world.” It is worth our while to pause and examine the class bias inherent in the claim. With the neoliberal decline, following the Clinton betrayal, of industrial work that formed the backbone of the American working-class, becoming a soldier, a police officer, or a fire-fighter are some of the few avenues still open to working-class boys for a life of responsibility, dignity and honor. Dismissing the motivations of these ‘wide-eyed kids’ is doing unnecessary class work.

As for the prospects for his legal defense, it seems to depend on precisely why the rioter-protestor-victims were trying to disarm him. Ie, the self defense claim might hold water in court if he had reasonable grounds to believe that he would have been gravely harmed once disarmed.

Quite typically for a U.S. state, Wisconsin allows civilian use of deadly force when one “reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.” One major issue, then, will be whether Rittenhouse reasonably thought that the folks engaging with him meant to inflict serious injury, not just disarm him.

Robert Verbruggen. “Does Kyle Rittenhouse have a self-defense claim?” National Review, Aug 28, 2020.

In the court of public opinion, however, Kyle Rittenhouse has become an instant folk-devil for professional-class liberals and a hero for working-class law-and-order populists. A similar divergence occurred on the McCloskeys, the armed white couple confronting BLM protesters with weapons on their lawn, who became instant folk-devils for Democrats but were enthusiastically embraced by Republicans. There too, we have two nations watching the exact same footage and coming to completely opposite conclusions.

The Kyle Rittenhouse Duck-Rabbit is a window into the confrontation over American culture. As recently as mid-May, it seemed that the election would be a referendum on Trump — a contest that he was nearly guaranteed to lose, particularly because his handling of the corona panic. That was indeed where things were headed before May 25, 2020. Since then, BLM has taken center-stage.

No one has any doubt that BLM activists are Dems or that Dems are dramatically more sympathetic to BLM than independents or Republicans. If there was any doubt, it vanished after mayor after mayor, governor after governor, came out in support for BLM. They were thinking it was excellent politics since BLM was enjoying a surge in support in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd’s killing. So, for better or for worse, the equation BLM=DEM is now pretty much backed into everyday perceptions.

Two developments since May 25 have changed the political context of the presidential election. First, it emerged, slowly but surely, that BLM sensu lato (not as an organization but as a sociopolitical force) was not simply a movement for Black emancipation, much less the specific question of police-minority relations. Rather, it came with the full Social Justice package. While sympathy for victims of police violence was unprecedented, support for the radical SJW package was lukewarm to nonexistent. But this aspect of the winners’ curse was secondary to the strategic mistake of going all-in on ‘defund the police’. The demand enjoyed little support even when support for BLM was at the high water mark in June. Since then it has collapsed even further. So Democratic political operators, having thrown their full weight behind BLM, were now stuck with either espousing deeply unpopular policy positions, or shamefully walking back commitments already on record.

The second development was even more important than the first. It was a development that could have been foreseen since it happens to every revolutionary movement. Namely, the balance rapidly shifted to violent extremists within the movement, with the result that, before we could say Mississippi, American cities descended into looting, violence and arson. However much Dems tried to distance themselves from the escalating violence on the streets, there was no way to sever the thread that linked Dems and liberal elites to the extremists burning down downtown Portland, Seattle and Kenosha.

The 2020 presidential election is no longer a referendum on Trump. Rather it has becomes closer to a referendum on the woke counterrevolution. This is not good news for Democrats. The shifting political context has, in fact, brought Trump’s reelection prospects back from the dead. Indeed, I am becoming more and more convinced that Trump will win again.

But this culture war is not going away after the election — no matter who wins. In fact, it will likely escalate. If Trump wins again, wokedum is going to go batshit crazy. If Biden wins, expect Tucker to begin his campaign for 2024. The Kyle Rittenhouse Duck-Rabbit is the axis on which this culture war will be fought.

8 thoughts on “Kyle Rittenhouse, Duck-Rabbit

  1. PolicyTensor , what evidence can you provide to support your claim that Rosenbaum and the other “rioter” were merely trying to “disarm” Rittenhouse? Have you seen any video that has not been seen or released on Social Media that the rest of us has not seen? Were you yourself there, and have first hand account of what happened (at both events)?. I am not trying to be pedantic, but your claims of “trying to disarm…” seem more like wish casting to me. Perhaps you are mistaken in who the real Duck / Rabbit is? Maybe you are seeing “heroic rioters trying to disarm…” while others see “roving mob trying to kill young kid trying to run away”? Do you think that Aryanna Pressely has any shred of evidence (let alone concrete proof) that Rittenhouse was/is a “White Supremacist”? I bet not.

    One thing on which we agree with though is on the increasing likelihood of Trump being reelected, and the reasons for it. Trump, I believe is going to win because our “Elite” class (as you put it) has grown to detest and despise the very Country that has allowed them to “attain” their level wealth and prosperity, they detest and despise the very people that every two and four years they make impassioned professions of love and devotion to and to whom they wish to “govern”. In short, our current “elite” political class is the worst, most execrable “elite” class in American History. This became glaringly evident during the Bush 43 terms, remember “fly over” country and “jesusland”……? Remember all the talk of people with “low sloping foreheads” (because only people with low sloping foreheads could vote for McChimpybushHitler)? This condescension and hatred has been growing for a very long time. I am sure that you are very familiar with it from all your time spent in Faculty Lounges and Seminar Rooms. I am glad to see you finally catching on though.

  2. Crazy turn of events. Will see about the electoral effect, I believe it could well keep Biden from recapturing some midwest states, not necessarily decisive without PA/FL.

    The self defense story doesn’t fly, in my opinion.

    It’s one thing if Rittenhouse is minding his own business where he lives, gets attacked by someone who came to him, and shoots back. But he made an excursion to a place with 2 pugnacious protest mobs facing off. With regular street fights, mostly unarmed if not for people like himself, and clearly full of provocateurs.

    I have no reason to think he set out intending to shoot anyone. I get that he thought he was ‘protecting’ his fellow Americans. But what his vigilante show-of-force plan amounts to, is that he went with the purpose of intimidating the opposing side with his rifle. Maybe he had a noble end-goal, but that is not self defense. It is an action short of actually picking a fight, but is in that qualitative category.

    Moreover, it didn’t work, which is a possibility he should have expected. He should have known that if you bring a gun to a crowded fistfight situation, there’s a good chance you’ll end shooting someone.

    At least he didn’t shoot anyone in the back. Worth pointing out that the cops who started this mess by repeatedly shot the black guy in the back, were even more unprofessional than this kid, and they should be in jail for even longer.

    1. Hi Peter:

      The self-defense claim may hold water because he was literally being chased down by the rioter-protestors. It’s not like he was standing between rioters and a building they were trying to burn down. For in that case, one could certainly argue that he is at least co-responsible for the shooting. Instead, we see him run away from all three of his victims and he only shoots when they have closed up. One can argue that his vigilantism was misguided; that he shouldn’t have been there in the first place. But the specific context of the shootings show that he went very far to avoid using his weapon — as he has been trained to do as a police-cadet.

      The electoral effect is already clear. Biden’s lead has narrowed from circa 10 percent to 6 percent in recent polls. Recall that, because of the electoral college map, a 5 percent gap is highly competitive. Plus, enthusiasm for Trump in the working class is “off the charts”, as Michael Moore has warned. The NYT and CNN and so on can pretend that the protests are largely peaceful. But in the eyes of the white working class, who put Trump in the WH, American streets have been taken over by rioters and Dems are doing nothing about it, indeed, if not encouraging it outright.

      1. Yes I agree with you, the self defense claim should (will) hold in court. Each of the shootings is documented on video. Rittenhouse is clearly being chased by a mob of people in each case. In the first instance he only fires AFTER someone else has already fired in his general area and he sees someone rapidly coming at him from that same general area. Is it “reasonable” for him to think that that this guy (Rosenbaum) was the one shooting at him or at least means harm to him? And when Rittenhouse “circles back” he is seen clearly making a phone call, who is he calling? 911 maybe? Right now we do not know, but the phone records will come out. It seems pretty callous to claim that he was “admiring his handiwork”. In the second instance, he is still being chased and he trips and falls down, Immediately he is set upon by Huber who is seen assaulting him with his skateboard, (btw does anyone know how many people have been killed or seriously injured by being hit by a skateboard? Be interesting to find out) . That shot is clearly justified. Then, immediately after that, Grosskreutz is right on top of him with handgun drawn, this is clearly the most justifiable of the three justifiable shootings. By the way, Grosskreutz is guilty of several felonies: felon in possession of a firearm, attempted murder and rioting, but no one wants to talk about those do they?

        None of this means that I am trying to make Rittenhouse into some type of Hero. I don’t think that at 17 he should have been there, especially with a firearm. He is too young, to inexperienced. I have no problem with people (adults, with training and/or experience) using firearms (exercising their 2A rights) to protect their lives, the lives of their family and friends and neighbors and their property and businesses. But a 17 year old (without constant adult supervision and oversight) should not be there. But Kenosha is a prime example of why we have and need a 2A. The local and state governments in Wisconsin have abdicated their responsibility to “to keep the peace” in their cities. When that happens, is anyone really surprised when The People come to the realization that The State will not protect them but instead encourages and protects the very people attacking them, that The People will decide to protect themselves, their families and neighbors?

        The Democratic Party owns these riots. They encouraged them and gave them political cover by first denying that they were ever occurring in the first place. See video of the “Mayor” of my town Portland Oregon, standing in front of Federal Justice Building claiming that he sees no reason for the Federal Police to use force on “Peaceful Protesters” while the people all around him are throwing rocks and bottles and shooting fireworks and throwing molotov cocktails at the Federal Police. It really is surreal. And then the District Attorneys of these cities and states state loudly, that they will not prosecute certain crimes that are normally associated with rioting i.e. arson, vandalism, destruction of property. Even certain violent acts are downgraded, assaulting a Police Officer is downgraded to a misdemeanor (you might ask why the city of Portland has had such a hard time getting the surrounding jurisdictions to send their officers to help Portland with their “not a Riot” problems. On top of this they provide political and moral cover by saying some pabulum like “people are angry….” and their intellectual class writes books justifying riots and looting. So yea. The Donkeys own it.
        End rant/

    2. @Anusar, @Sharkfin

      Showing a weapon in an argument (even one short of physical confrontation) raises the stakes. Doing so in a crowd of hotheads acting irrationally etc, and its only a matter of time before some fool calls his bluff. Then he finds himself up-close and the logic is use it or lose it.

      Rittenhouse deliberately put himself in that situation. To me, that’s an essential point.

      It may well be legal under Oregon’s laws, I will concede that. But at a minimum it is fatally irresponsible, or fatally stupid. We have (1) people dying (2) through a generally predictable sequence of events (3) made possible by a specific action he took (showing up armed into an already escalating showdown with 2 sides pushing each others’ buttons), and (4) which nobody forced him to do.

      I would go further and say that the act of showing up to a protest is in general is a provocation. Usually a mild provocation, and on balance a beneficial one. (And our society celebrates that, 1st amendment is the most treasured part of US law). Showing up armed, however, isn’t mild any more. Yes 2nd amendment, you have the right to bear arms, defend yourself, no problem, but for goodness sake, don’t bring your gear to an out-of-control situation where you’ll just become the center of attention and massively escalate the situation by your armed presence.

      I will go even further, and say that if not this specific kid, but certainly a lot of the gun-club crowd in general knows and understands the above, and are showing up anyway on purpose, to incite further chaos. In that context, self defense at the micro level is a fig leaf.

      Anyway, don’t want to turn this into too heated an argument, this is the best I can explain the way I see the overall situation.

      1. PTB, thank you for your polite and reasoned response. I pretty much disagree with your argument, but I appreciate that you are arguing out of reason and using good faith. I try to do the same thing, whether or not I am successful at that, is for other people to decide. So there is no heated argument here, only a difference of opinion. Cheers!

  3. I agree. I had been watching the Kenosha events on a live stream since the first day of protests & riots. On the stream that night, stuff was super crazy. I was shocked to see someone literally lose their life, though I didn’t imagine I would wake up to them calling the kid a murderer the next day.

    I have been to numerous BLM protest. I’ve been pepper balled, & tear gassed by cops, WHILE BEING PEACEFUL, and watched on live and the news as police did nothing to the rioters, who make the movement look bad.

    Everyone involved with this incident is an idiot and got what they deserved. They all had a bad history, & karma sucks. I will not feel sorry for rioting white dudes making the BLM movement look like crap (one saying n**** & on video getting mad someone put out the dumpster fire he set) . Again, I know they were rioting because I was watching everything in Kenosha live & I have screen recordings.

    If Kyle was Black, they would have arrested him the same night, & called the victims “Undercover Right-wing provocateurs”.

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