Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Kyle Rittenhouse Is No Hero

In a society fractured into warring tribes, “innocence” or “guilt” simply means, “Are you one of us or one of them?”

By David French, The Atlantic

If a jury acquits him, it will not be a miscarriage of justice—but an acquittal does not make a foolish man a hero.

As the Kyle Rittenhouse trial comes to a close, two things are becoming clear at once. First, absolutely no one should be surprised if Rittenhouse is acquitted on the most serious charges against him. And second, regardless of the outcome of the trial, the Trumpist right is wrongly creating a folk hero out of Rittenhouse. For millions he’s become a positive symbol, a young man of action who stepped up when the police (allegedly) stepped aside.

The trial itself has not gone well for the prosecution, for reasons that relate to the nature of self-defense claims. Such claims are not assessed by means of sweeping inquiries into the wisdom of the actions that put the shooter into a dangerous place in a dangerous time. Instead, they produce a narrow inquiry into the events immediately preceding the shooting. The law allows even a foolish man to defend himself, even if his own foolishness put him in harm’s way.


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