(Editor’s note: The following essay was written by Victor Davis Hanson for the website American Greatness and is reprinted here with permission, upon request of reader Dave Goecks of Kiel.)
Both Wisconsin towns, Kenosha and Waukesha, about 50 miles apart by car, were the recent sites of multiple deaths.
The violence in both made national news. Yet in contradictory ways both reflected the common themes of America’s current legal, media and societal corruption.
The relevant public prosecutors in both were in the news for alleged ideological bias. Specifically, they habitually calibrated the charging, indicting and trying (or not) of defendants through ideological lenses and community pressure rather than on the basis of the facts and the law.
Kyle Rittenhouse was a 17-year-old armed youth who volunteered to protect business properties at the height of the August 2020 arson, riots and looting in Kenosha. He was pursued and attacked by three members from a larger group who chased the armed youth, presumably either to disarm, injure, or kill him—or perhaps all three.
Rittenhouse variously was assaulted, kicked and had a firearm pointed at him. In reaction, he fatally shot two of his pursuing attackers and wounded a third. Kenosha prosecutors reviewed videos of the altercations. They saw clearly that Rittenhouse was running away from his assailants. He was variously rushed by one assailant, kicked by another, and struck with a skateboard by still another. Again, a final pursuer pointed a gun at him at close range.
No matter. The Kenosha district attorney’s office charged Rittenhouse with several felonies including two first-degree homicide charges. All four whom Rittenhouse fired at—whether he missed, wounded, or fatally shot—had lengthy arrest records. Three were convicted felons; the fourth had a long arrest record.
Given the lengthy and quite horrific rap sheet of Rittenhouse’s first attacker Joseph Rosenbaum, it is difficult to understand why the latter was not in jail (he had been released earlier that day from a mental facility). The common denominator to the various prior convictions of his other three assailants was that they should have led to consequences far worse, given that many of their arrest charges were dropped, or bail was sometimes waived, or plea bargaining turned serious charges into merely bothersome ones. The release of violent offenders on little or no bail seems now thematic in Wisconsin.
Shortly after the August 2020 shootings, the media, Joe Biden, and most of the left-wing commentariat had claimed Rittenhouse was a “white supremacist,” even though there was no evidence of such a libel, then or now. Remember, the Kenosha shootings took place just nine weeks before the November presidential elections, at a time when the Left was framing the incumbent Trump as a “white supremacist” and Joe Biden a “healer.”
The shootings were immediately declared to be “racial.” Yet both the shooter Rittenhouse and all of his attackers who were wounded or killed were white (a fourth assailant, an African-American who kicked Rittenhouse while he was on the ground escaped without injury).
What followed in the media was the most egregious example of concocted fictions since the Russian collusion hoax. Rittenhouse was falsely accused of crossing “state lines” (plural), while unlawfully armed with an “illegal automatic weapon.”
In truth, he did not buy the Smith & Wesson semi-automatic rifle, much less bring it into nearby Kenosha from nearby Antioch, Illinois. It was legal for Rittenhouse to possess and use the firearm. The gun itself was not unlawful. He did not purchase it but had been given it by a friend. And Kenosha was his alternate home in that it was where his father and other relatives lived. Rittenhouse, then, was constructed as the proverbial white supremacist of the sort warned about by the likes of Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley.
At various times during the trial, the prosecuting attorneys called Rittenhouse a coward. They claimed he should have faced the pursuing mob of at least a dozen and willingly taken a beating from them face-to-face, in at least one case at gunpoint. The jury inter alia was told that the ongoing arson and other violent acts were not serious crimes, and that the three who attacked Rittenhouse were near-heroic victims.
Protestors outside the courthouse tried to intimidate the defense and jurors. A journalist sought to follow the jury bus, ostensibly to divulge their identities or to intimidate them (MSNBC was subsequently banned from the courtroom).
The piece de resistance was the lead DA’s pointing an empty semi-automatic weapon at the jury, with his finger on the trigger—all in the aftermath of Alec Baldwin’s accidental shooting with an “empty” loaded gun of two bystanders on a film set.
The DA apparently wished to scare the jury into a guilty verdict through the sensation of having a rifle pointed at them. Given the jury appears post facto to have been made up of reasonable people, that puerile gambit probably backfired. All that the imbecilic DA confirmed by his actions was the same recklessness as those in state and city government who had permitted parts of Kenosha to burn in the first place.
There were lots of suicidal prosecutorial stunts such as these in what turned out to be a circus of sorts. The DAs also sought to deprecate the constitutionally protected Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. They bizarrely saw their key witness admitting under cross examination that he had first pointed a handgun at Kyle Rittenhouse who then understandably fired at him. And they deliberately released an inferior version of the video record of the shooting to the defense while keeping the superior one to their perceived advantage.
So, the state’s madness raised strange questions. Were the incompetent DAs simply a window into a dysfunctional Kenosha County district attorney’s office where bumbling was an institutionalized force-multiplier to bias? Were the state prosecutors deliberately inept in order to prompt a mistrial and thus a retrial/second chance of their botched case? Or were they lazily going through the motions to satisfy the mob, but did not really believe Rittenhouse was guilty? Or were they just mediocre camera-hungry wannabe celebrities, who wished to win cheap media attention for as long as the bewildered judge would put up with their bizarre antics?
A jury unanimously cleared Rittenhouse of all charges. It apparently concluded correctly that if law enforcement and the state either could not or would not protect lives and property in Kenosha, and if because of that dereliction of duty some citizens stepped up to take up the role that the police had utterly abandoned, then as citizens they had a right to defend themselves if attacked by those committing violence.
For some time, media demand has exceeded the available supply of clear-cut cases of white oppressors and black victims, at least if the Jussie Smollett hoax, the “hands up don’t shoot” lie, and the photoshopped pictures and edited tapes of George Zimmerman are any indication.
Yet the real reason the Left strained to gin up the theme of white-on-white violence as an example of racism was their larger agenda of sending a message to middle America: no American, in times of riot, arson, and looting, should have the right to use firearms to protect property. And under no circumstances could a citizen use a gun to ward off those intending to maim or kill him. Had Rittenhouse been found guilty, there no longer would be recourse for citizens living in cities where criminals were freely given the streets.
In other words, had such a clear-cut case of self-defense morphed into a successful murder conviction, then the most powerful figure in the nation would become the local district attorney. De facto, a DA could empower a mob to loot, burn, steal and injure by refusing to indict those arrested—even if an increasingly politicized mayor and police chief chose to allow their officers to keep the public safe. We would then assume that in this state of nature anyone protecting property during a riot would be fair game for the mob, given the target would know he could become a convicted felon by defending himself from attack.
So, the Left understood well the messaging of attacking the open city and undefended town of Kenosha and the conviction of a “murderer” Rittenhouse: accept our political agendas and premises or otherwise your culpable community will be torn apart with impunity, and any who chose to combat the violence with violence will be charged with capital crimes.
Those criminal SUVs
Not long after one Rittenhouse was acquitted, one Darrell Brooks Jr., an African-American with a 20-year record of serious felonies, allegedly drove his car deliberately into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, killing 6 innocents and injuring over 60.
Unlike the dishonest media reaction lying about Rittenhouse, who had no criminal record, there was initial careful restraint not to identify the career criminal Brooks as the murderous driver who weaponized his vehicle against parade-goers. Despite firsthand accounts from bystanders that the lethal driver was an African-American with dreadlocks, the media, feigning unaccustomed professionalism in this instance, withheld rush-to-judgment identification and culpability. Joe Biden—for a moment—was commendably quiet in editorializing about the racial motivations or ideology of a suspect.
For a while the media ran with its own concocted rumor that Brooks merely was fleeing from an “altercation” and apparently had mistakenly turned the wrong way into a crowd—despite videos showing the driver deliberately ramming through street barriers repeatedly to seek out targets. Intent likely explains why he killed and injured so many innocents.
Finally, the news settled into the present narrative of a “car crash”—as if a driverless vehicle on autopilot had simply bumped into various people in the street—before burying the murders altogether on their back pages and dropping the crime from the evening news. Or as the Washington Post put it, “Here’s what we know so far on the sequence of events that led to the Waukesha tragedy caused by a SUV.”
That media-generated ruse continued even when details of Brooks’ lengthy felony record were finally released. At the time he was mowing down strangers, he had five open arrest charges, including two felonies. Brooks had been released on $1,000 bail just two days earlier, in another eerie “coincidence” after being arrested for attempting to run over a woman and her child—the same modus operandi revisited at the Waukesha Christmas slaughter.
An alien from Mars who examined Brooks’s life of crime, his recent violence and the ease with which he was serially let loose upon the public might have concluded some sort of “privilege” as the cause of exemption.
Brooks posed on social media as an incompetent but narcissistic rapper. He left a video trail not just of his mediocre recordings, but of clear evidence of virulent anti-Semitism and anti-white racism.
As pundits strained to deny any connection between the climate of BLM anger over the Rittenhouse verdict and Brooks’ murders, Brooks’ own testimonies point to a connection, at least in the sense of hating people on the basis of their race. Indeed, regional Milwaukee BLM activist Vaun Mayes quickly alleged that the Rittenhouse acquittal had earned the homicidal payback.
Connected case Karma?
A low-level Democratic functionary tweeted that the dead children of Waukesha were proper karma for Rittenhouse walking free: “I’m sad anytime anyone dies. I just believe in Karma and this came around quick on the citizens of Wisconsin.” Or as Mayes further elaborated: Brooks was an insurrectionist whose violence had jump-started a supposed “revolution,” his apparent euphemism for mass murder. “But it sounds possible that the revolution has started in Wisconsin. It started with this Christmas parade.”
Brooks is, for a while, in jail. Yet for some crazy reason he can be freed on a $5 million bond. He awaits charges of mass homicide—although one never quite knows. The Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisolm is a controversial “reformer” DA, whose campaigns have been funded in part by the George Soros conglomerate.
Creepier still, in the past a prescient Chisolm had boasted about his own future to the Milwaukee Sentinel, namely that his prosecutorial and bail policies would eventually release career criminals onto the street who would “inevitably” kill some innocents. Yet he riffed that such carnage was acceptable collateral damage from his decriminalization agendas: “Is there going to be an individual I divert, or I put into (a) treatment program, who’s going to go out and kill somebody? You bet. Guaranteed. It’s guaranteed to happen. It does not invalidate the overall approach.”
One wonders whether Chisolm will take that argument to the families of the Waukesha deceased—that the loss of their loved ones was a reasonable sacrifice to ensure that misunderstood 20-year criminals like Darrell Brooks Jr. were not kept behind bars.
So, what are we left with from these horrors of two cities?
In Kenosha the media and the Left ginned up race when there was no such component in the trial. But in Waukesha they perpetuated racial arson and smothered the truth. That is, they kept largely silent when there clearly was racial hatred—given Brooks’ own record of anti-white and anti-Semitic venom. Again, the media can turn from creation to suppression on a dime, given the common theme of ginning up racial strife and hatred.
An amoral media and Left, so far, have kept an inconvenient Waukesha “car crash” out of the mainstream news—reversing their wild sensational obsessions with Kenosha. After all, in their unhinged racialized worldview, the demonization of a 17-year-old white male, who shot three other white males, still could be squeezed for racial juice, given the larger contextual landscape of a riot over a police wounding of an African-American male.
The shooting of Jacob Blake that set off the Kenosha riots was later determined to be justified, given the armed suspect was heading toward his car, after fighting with police, who were called to the residence to protect a woman who had a restraining order against the career violent felon.
In sum, Rittenhouse had no criminal record; all four of his assailants had lengthy arrest records. Three of them were ex-felons. He had no record of the racial hatred of which he was accused.
In contrast, Brooks was an abject violent racist whom the media sought to shield. And he was a career felon, who both long ago and quite recently should have been kept behind bars so that he would not murder innocents.
How a Wisconsin ex-felon received a $1,000 bail bond and freedom to mow down innocents, after trying to run down two with his car, while another juvenile without an arrest record, with good grounds to claim self-defense, was required to post a $2 million bond (and so stayed incarcerated pending charges without running water in his cell) is a commentary on the abject implosion of the American justice system.
Rittenhouse should have never been charged; Brooks should not have been out of jail. The effort to make the former a beneficiary of white supremacy and the latter a victim of it required a level of amoral media deceit that finally was unsustainable even in this bankrupt age.