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Not My Party: The Media Divide Over Kyle Rittenhouse

Is he a hero? A terrorist? An idiot?
November 19, 2021
Kyle Rittenhouse: Hero? Terrorist? Or Idiot?

[Watch “Not My Party” every week on Snapchat.]

Tim Miller: Hero? Terrorist? Or just a stupid kid in a shit situation?

This is “Not My Party.” Brought to you by The Bulwark.

Certain news stories make me—

Miller and Mugatu (over Mozart’s Requiem): Feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

Miller: —and the Kyle Rittenhouse debacle is one of those stories.

Off-screen reporter: Did Kyle Rittenhouse act in fear of his own life and was that action reasonable?

Miller: It seems like the media lives in two different universes and both are detached from the reality of what happened in Kenosha.

Frankie the Frog: Stop laughing.

Miller: The right wants to make Rittenhouse a hero, a freedom fighter. Ann Coulter says she wants Rittenhouse for president. He’s been called a—

Random dude: Patriot.

Miller: —and also a—

Miller (with air quotes) and Dinesh D’Souza (very earnestly): Good Samaritan.

Miller: —and even a—

Jonna Spilbor: Little bit of an icon.

Miller: In their delusion, he’s being wrongly persecuted by the woke state.

Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger: When the defendant provokes the incident, he loses the right to self-defense.

Flute Cop (with a MAGA hat photoshopped on): That’s not what happened.

Miller: In this narrative, Kyle is a righteous vigilante battling against the real enemy, Antifa, and the BLM looters who are roaming free.

Frank O’Sullivan: The radical, anti-cop, Antifa anarchists.

Miller: Both Fox and GOP politicians had a common refrain: Rittenhouse was just doing what the government should’ve done.

Greg Gutfeld: He did the right thing. He did what the government should have done.

J.D. Vance: If we don’t fight back against the lawlessness, if we don’t defend this young boy, it may very well be your baby boy that they come for.

Miller: Let’s just take a moment to entertain this as a serious position rather than a performative tough-guy act. Is this really the society that these soft-handed soy boys want? One where a 17-year-old can self-deputize, marching through town with his gun drawn, making citizen’s arrests if he doesn’t feel like the government is doing a good enough job? That’s a path to chaos, not justice.

Principal Seymour Skinner: There’s no justice like angry mob justice.

Miller: Now, we know the Fox hosts and Ivy League Republican politicians don’t want this type of society because (1) you can’t even imagine these rich assholes sending their own teenagers into a riot armed with a weapon—

Ronald “Mac” McDonald: Guys, guys, guys, no guns. No guns.

Miller: —and (2) there’s no way we would’ve seen this same hero narrative on Fox if the righteous teen had been black and he’d self-deputized to the Mall on January 6th, killing two insurrectionists.

Dwight Schrute: Same story, different ending.

Miller: While the right’s fan-fiction paints Rittenhouse as some kind of icon, let’s check in on the wacky world of the left.

Jason Johnson: Kyle Rittenhouse is the enemy.

Dr. Thaddeus “Rusty” Venture: Oh, of course.

Miller: Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley called him a white supremacist domestic terrorist. Wonkette pegged him as a homicidal maniac. There’s a mad rush to lock him up, due process be damned.

Chief Clancy Wiggum: Lock him up.

Gus from The Ref (Denis Leary): Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down.

Miller: That’s just not what the facts of this case bear out. The moral of this story is different from what all of these political actors want it to be. For starters, there’s no evidence this kid is a white supremacist. If you actually care about stopping white supremacy, flippantly throwing that label around is kinda diluting your argument. Maybe focus on another trial happening right now, that of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers—

Dionne Davenport in Clueless (Stacey Dash): Do you see the distinction?

Miller: —which is an actual example of a homicide tied to racial animus.

Protester: Why is this allowed out here? Why?

Miller: But when it comes to Rittenhouse, here’s the bottom line: He’s not a martyr. Or a hero. Or an evil enemy.

He’s an 18-year-old with underdeveloped frontal lobes who got in way over his head. He failed himself getting into that situation and our society failed him myriad ways before he landed there.

Failed by his parents, who shouldn’t have been tacitly supportive of his vigilantism. (Pssst, 17-year-olds shouldn’t have semiautomatic weapons at all, by the way.)

Failed by the assholes in Kenosha who created this ruckus, burning the black business district in the name of some kind of perverted justice.

Failed by the governor who should’ve done a more timely job responding to the riots.

And failed by the cops, who encouraged this random teen marching around with a deadly weapon instead of sending him home.

Kenosha police officer: We appreciate you guys. We really do.

Miller: And after all those failures, what actually happened? A scared and stupid kid who thought he was defending the city where his dad lived killed a couple of equally stupid white rioters. We would’ve been better off if all of them had been at home playing Grand Theft Auto instead.

See you next week for more “Not My Party.” And let me know if you think this new haircut is a failure. I kinda like it.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.