TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2021
We describe the ongoing problem: In her new column for the New York Times, Michelle Goldberg describes a legitimate fear.
As a general matter, we share that legitimate fear—a giant fear concerning the nation's future. Goldberg's column begins and ends as shown, with a nod, midway through, to "my friend, Chris Hayes:"
GOLDBERG (11/23/21): On Friday morning, after a night of insomnia fueled by worries about raising children in a collapsing society, I opened my eyes, started reading about efforts by Wisconsin Republicans to seize control of the state’s elections, then paused to let my tachycardiac heartbeat subside. Marinating in the news is part of my job, but doing so lately is a source of full-body horror...
Given the bleak trajectory of American politics, I worry about progressives retreating into private life to preserve their sanity, a retreat that will only hasten democracy’s decay. In order to get people to throw themselves into the fight to save this broken country, we need leaders who can convince them that they haven’t already lost.
We can't fault Goldberg for her insomnia as she "worries about raising [her] children in a collapsing society." We can't fault her for her fear concerning "democracy's decay."
We disagree with her on one point:
She seems to think that there is some way to save the nation's broken political culture. Based on what we're told by experts, we're inclined to suspect that the die has been cast.
According to those despondent scholars, why is there so little hope that we can emerge from our mess? Unanimously, they point to yesterday's column by Charles Blow, a column which, headline included, started off like this:
BLOW (11/22/21): Rittenhouse and the Right’s White Vigilante Heroes
Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old who shot and killed two men and wounded a third last year during protests of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, was found not guilty Friday of all charges by a Wisconsin jury.
One can argue about the particulars of the case, about the strength of the defense and the ham-handedness of the prosecution, about the outrageously unorthodox manner of the judge and the infantilizing of the defendant. But perhaps the most problematic aspect of this case was that it represented yet another data point in the long history of some parts of the right valorizing white vigilantes who use violence against people of color and their white allies.
Question: Is Kyle Rittenhouse reasonably described as a "vigilante?" We'd be inclined to say no.
At present, though, our flailing tribe is in love with that word, and with that thrilling assessment.
The term "vigilante" appears in the text of Blow's column thirteen separate times, scattered through twelve different paragraphs. The term "vigilantism" appears two additional times.
The always vigilant "all-caps" columnist is plainly in love with the word. According to Blow, Rittenhouse is a vigilante, along with many others:
BLOW: This list is long, and doesn’t only include individuals, but also organizations and entire periods of American history. I am sure that many in the white Citizens’ Councils and the Ku Klux Klan also saw themselves as vigilantes.
Perhaps the most prolonged period of violent white vigilantism occurred in the decades following the Civil War, as lynchings surged.
Rittenhouse is a vigilante. But so was the Ku Klux Klan, and so were the mobs who conducted lynchings in the decades which followed the Civil War.
As he keeps tossing his V-bomb around, Blow also directly refers to Rittenhouse as "a murderer," even though a jury has unanimously decided that he isn't. Increasingly, our brave liberal team has played it this way over the past dozen years.
Columns like Blow's have effects. This morning, the Times has published the letter shown below. It was written by "a retired lawyer"—a retired lawyer whose distinguished career has included a stint on the board of trustees of Stillman College, from which she graduated in 1971.
To the Editor:
Re “Rittenhouse and the Right’s White Vigilante Heroes,” by Charles M. Blow (column, Nov. 22):
The verdict makes me more fearful and more concerned about the state of the country. I grew up in Mississippi under Jim Crow laws. Never have I been so afraid of white people.
My fear is based partly on the degree to which those with positions of authority, such as Judge Bruce Schroeder, coddle vigilantes. The judge went to extraordinary lengths to protect Kyle Rittenhouse. The verdict will embolden other white vigilantes, especially when they learn of the benefits inuring to Mr. Rittenhouse: job offers and potential speaking engagements.
God help us if an unintended consequence of the coddling of vigilantes is that those with reasonable fear begin arming themselves and shooting at the first sign of perceived danger.
D-- C-- / Washington
The writer is a retired lawyer.
While Goldberg suffers insomnia, this 70-something retired lawyer has "never been so afraid of white people" as she is today. In fairness, she blames the Rittenhouse verdict itself, not Blow's use of The Word.
Should Rittenhouse be regarded as "a white vigilante?" Based upon the events of that night in Kenosha, we'd be inclined to say no.
That said, the major news orgs we liberals peruse have tended to disappear many of the basic events involved in that unfortunate night. Instead, we get bombarded with Storyline, and with brain-damaged items of script.
By rule of law, we must be told that Rittenhouse "crossed state lines" to reach Kenosha that night. By now, description of Rittenhouse as a "vigilante" is our favorite tribal conduct.
Increasingly, the nation's warring tribes receive their competing versions of "news" and news events from competing silos. In our view, people who got their news from the Fox News silo have received much more information about Kenosha than we have Over Here.
Our tribe's silo is still full of the information which has been withheld from view. Others have been exposed to such information—and they loathe us as a result.
In our tribe, we haven't been told about the background underlying Rittenhouse's presence in Kenosha that night. We haven't been told about the person who chased him through the streets that night, precipitating the first of the unfortunate shootings our tribunes pretend to discuss.
Instead, we're offered mindless talking-points; they're repeated again and again. The Others know more about these events, and they loathe us as a result.
Goldberg seems to think our only hope involves the continued effort of progressives. We would be inclined to make this countervailing claim:
The worst right-wing forces pray that we will continue ahead on our current path.
Every time Charles Blow emotes, a Trump voter gets his wings. And sure enough, there Goldberg sits, joining the mandated tribal parade:
GOLDBERG: Already, the Republican Party winks at the violent intimidation of its political enemies. During the presidential campaign, a right-wing caravan tried to run a Biden campaign bus off the road, and Senator Marco Rubio cheered them on. School board members and public health offices have sought help from the Justice Department to deal with a barrage of threats and harassment. Three congressional Republicans have said they want to give an internship to the teenage vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse. One of those Republicans, Representative Paul Gosar, earlier tweeted an animated video of himself killing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the overwhelming majority of his caucus stood by him.
Goldberg makes some excellent points in that passage, but she too must recite. Every time these people do that, more Trump voters gain their wings.
We'll admit to a certain bias! During Campaign 2016, the New York Times joined with a right-wing crackpot to publish an astonishingly long, utterly bogus "news report" about Hillary Clinton's troubling conduct concerning Uranium One.
This was Uraniumgate! Career players all knew to clam up.
The fraudulence of the Times report was instantly obvious, but Goldberg went on TV that night with "my friend, Chris Hayes" to describe the report as "a bombshell" (full and complete total stop).
On the brighter side, she ended up winning the prize—she got the columnist job at the New York Times! But when we think about conduct like that, we're back with Wilfred Owen, trudging behind the dying and dead from one of these hustlers' wars.
Goldberg ended up with the really good job. Today, she suffers insomnia, but remembers to drop the bomb.
With a famous holiday approaching, we're going to wait till next week to detail the types of information about that "teen vigilante" which remain within our own tribe's bursting silo.
Regarding Kenosha and the trial, people who watch CNN or MSNBC have been given much less information than people who watch Fox News. The New York Times has also been strikingly uninformative about this complex affair. It's all about sticking together!
We assume Charles Blow is a good, decent person. It's also true that every time he opens his mouth, more Trump voters get their wings.
There's a great deal to learn from that fact. Our brutal history is deeply tragic. Eventually, we expect to go there.
This afternoon: Excerpts from last Friday's ReidOut