WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2021
But also, did Rittenhouse do that?: We're opposed to capital punishment. In fact, we always have been.
That said, we're also opposed to mindless Storyline / Narrative / Script. We're opposed to Perfect Stories, especially when such treasured stories aren't especially accurate.
Bret Stephens starts his column today with a long-standing Perfect Story. The return of this story reminds us of a basic fact about our journalism—memorized script never dies:
STEPHENS (11/24/21): It’s been nearly 30 years since then-Gov. Bill Clinton took a break from the campaign trail to oversee the execution of death-row inmate Ricky Ray Rector. Morally, it may have been repugnant to kill a man so mentally handicapped by a failed suicide attempt that he set aside the pecan pie of his last meal because he was “saving it for later.”
Politically, it was essential.
By the early 1990s the American left had spent a generation earning a soft-on-crime image in an era of growing lawlessness. In 1988, Mike Dukakis secured the Democrats’ third landslide loss thanks in no small part to his stalwart opposition to the death penalty. Four years later, it was difficult to imagine any Democrat reaching the White House without a literal blood sacrifice to the gods of law and order.
On the one hand, it's true! The late Ricky Ray Rector was executed in Arkansas in January 1992. He was executed for having committed a particularly heinous murder, following which he had shot himself in the head, creating a diminished mental capacity.
Also, Candidate Clinton did leave the campaign trail to be present in the state, serving as governor, when the execution occurred. That said, did Rector really "set aside the pecan pie of his last meal because he was 'saving it for later?' "
Anyone familiar with the human cultural practice will recognize that as a classic Perfect Story. That doesn't mean that the story is false. It does mean that intelligent people should wonder whether it's true.
We're fairly sure that we researched and wrote about that Perfect Story maybe ten years ago. It seems to us that we emerged from that exercise doubting the accuracy of the iconic, widely loved story, which emerges again today.
Did the late Ricky Ray Rector really say that? We have no idea.
None of this bears on the morality of capital punishment, a practice we've always opposed. It does speak to a different moral question:
It speaks to the way our mainstream press corps tends to favor these Perfect Stories—the stupidified stories which vastly simplify the events and issues which constitute the real world. It speaks to the way they tend to favor such simplistic tales, even when the stories in question aren't especially true.
It also speaks to a basic point we've long urged you to recognize:
Much as "rust never sleeps," Narrative / Storyline / Memorized Script never dies. Perfect Stories will always return, as this one does today.
According to anthropologists, our brains are wired for Perfect Stories, for the vastly stupidified tale. This brings us to a second question:
Did Kyle Rittenhouse really do that?
We refer to the ugly, stupidified stories we posted yesterday afternoon. In this case, these remarkably ugly, stupid stories came from one particular wing of the "mainstream press."
They came from the people we're now asked to listen to, respect and believe here in our own liberal / progressive / Democratic / blue world.
We refer to a series of accounts, from six different people, of what Kyle Rittenhouse supposedly did in Kenosha last summer. Below, we'll repost two of those accounts, one by Professor Johnson, one by Malcom Nance.
If you were watching The ReidOut last Friday, you saw these people offer these highly tendentious implied accounts. Today, though, we ask a simple question:
Is this anything like what Kyle Rittenhouse actually did? Did Rittenhouse really do this?
JOHNSON (11/19/21): The first thing that occurred to me after this ruling is, "Oh, well, okay, now it's just open season." Like if I'm walking around and I'm a white nationalist, you know, coward little kid with an AR-15, and I see someone drive by with a Black Lives Matter bumper sticker and I feel threatened, I can open fire.
If I go by a youth group standing outside a local Target and they're chanting, "Black lives matter," and I feel threatened, I can open fire.
NANCE: What he did, by his very action of going out, going to a protest across state lines, being within a group of armed men, performing what they call the Korean on the rooftop, right, defending a position, whether it's a business or other, where they were not invited, and then getting into this fight where he killed two men and wounded a third, that is now the template on how to protest against Antifa or Black Lives Matter or any other person that they consider, in the white supremacy-world, race traitors.
Is that what Rittenhouse actually did? More specifically, is that anything like what Rittenhouse actually did?
Did he see someone with a bumper sticker and feel he could open fire? Did he see a youth group chanting "Black lives matter" and decide to open fire?
Did he kill two men because he considered them to be race traitors? Is any of this anything like what actually happened that night?
We aren't telling you what to think about what Rittenhouse did. We're asking you what you think about the various things six people said on last Friday evening's "news program."
We regard their conduct as all-too-human but extremely bad. That said, conduct like that suffuses our liberal "news orgs."
This morning, in the rest of his column, Stephens is essentially saying that the liberal / progressive / Democratic / blue world is probably in a world of hurt because of the various dumb and dishonest prescriptions coming from tribunes like these.
Stephens plays a few other familiar cards as he offers this assessment. One concerns a Perfect Story the mainstream press corps concocted in 1988 about Candidate Dukakis.
Having said that, Standard Group Script is very powerful—and it's often bogus. Over the course of the past year, a wide array of scripts emerged about what happened in Kenosha.
Sadly, it seems to us that The Others were actually more fully informed about the wide range of those events than our blue tribe has been. In this case, we think their silo released more information than ours.
We'll explore that claim next week. In the meantime, we ask you this:
What do you think about people who go on TV and say the things those progressive tribunes said? All six angrily said that Rittenhouse had crossed state lines, an utterly meaningless bit of fully stupidified script.
We think their conduct is dumb-beyond-dumb, though also thoroughly human. Beyond that, we think that Stephens' overall assessment is quite likely accurate.
According to experts, recitation of script is pleasing and fun, but stupidification kills.