New York Times story editor Charles Homans unloaded 10,000-words of ideologically charged pot-stirring in the form of an upcoming Sunday Magazine piece “Kyle Rittenhouse and the New Era of Political Violence -- What brought the teenager and so many others to the streets of Kenosha, Wis., equipped for war?”
Rittenhouse was the 17-year-old who shot three people at a riot, two fatally, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during left-wing rioting that transpired after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in August 2020. The Homans lament didn’t avoid the violence on the streets, but was more concerned about armed men defending property than the Black Lives Matter-affiliated rioters destroying it.
….Over the following nights, Kenoshans found themselves inside a compressed version of the national experience since the killing of George Floyd three months earlier. A demonstration at the site of the shooting grew larger and angrier and gave way to smashed police cruisers; an officer was knocked unconscious with a brick….Several streets’ worth of businesses and a parole office went up in flames….
Yet somehow it was the right-wing media’s fault for showing this truth.
The footage ran in fiery loops on Fox News and Newsmax. It fueled rumors and conspiracy theories, outraged monologues on talk radio and conversations within the White House, which themselves spilled back onto Fox News. It ricocheted around the online platforms themselves, among people who, by the third day, Aug. 25, were convinced they had to do something -- who, when reaching for an explanation of what they had done after the fact, would often reach for a video….
Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, who lived just across the state line in Illinois, arrived in Kenosha the night before. The next day, he joined several other young men in the defense of the dealership where Harris encountered him. Less than two hours later, he would shoot three men, killing two and wounding the third, and transforming himself, in an instant, into a Rorschach test.
Homans seemed to realize he didn’t have much of a hit piece on Rittenhouse, so widened his angle to smear all armed citizen groups, even those defending life and property, as dangerous “paramilitaries."
The video of Rittenhouse’s movements on the street that night clearly shows Joseph Rosenbaum, whom Rittenhouse encountered earlier that evening, pursuing him across the lot and eventually throwing a plastic bag at him….A minute later, a crowd chased Rittenhouse up the street, and after Rittenhouse fell, several people lunged for him. Rittenhouse shot one of them, Anthony Huber, who was swinging a skateboard, and another, Gaige Grosskreutz, who appeared to be reaching for his own handgun.
Rosenbaum and Huber died within minutes; Grosskreutz, who was shot in the arm, survived….
Homans didn’t emphasize that the shootings appear justified as self-defense against men with violent criminal records. Check out Joseph Rosenbaum’s less-than-stellar record in prison, in which he served a full 10-year sentence.
Homans built up a head of steam for his paranoid conclusion that got the discussion back around to Donald Trump and January 6.
….In the months after Kenosha, similar armed coalitions showed up at “Stop the Steal” rallies protesting imagined threats to the election at several state Capitols….
All of these episodes looked, in retrospect, like steppingstones on the way to the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, where a coalition of standard-issue Trump voters, QAnon true believers and militiamen united in an attempt to blow up American democracy in order to save the country from their perceived enemies. We had entered a new era in which there would always be an enemy and someone ready to meet them. It was clear, by then, that what happened in Kenosha was about something much bigger than the buildings that burned there. It did not really matter if dozens of buildings were burning or one was. It did not really matter if buildings were burning at all.
Of course, buildings were burning, in Kenosha and across the country in the summer of 2020, fires set by left-wing “protestors.” But Homans can’t stop obsessing about the right, guns, and January 6.