Rittenhouse Case Turns into an Opportunity for Performative Activists to Distort Reality


People on social media often twist the truth to believe what they want to hear.

Joseph Murica/via Creative Commons

People on social media often twist the truth to believe what they want to hear.

Sal Pendleton, Staff Writer

During a series of Black Lives Matter protests that erupted after the shooting and paralyzation of Jacob Blake, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse showed up to Kenosha Wisconsin with a firearm under the notion of “protecting property” and ended up fatally shooting two protesters and injuring one. 

This case recently blew up on all forms of social media and easily fell into the hands of those who wanted to use it as nothing more than a chance to be preformative activists or get into battles in comment sections.

When it caught the attention of the media, including news outlets and social media, it quickly turned into a battle between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives began seeing Rittenhouse’s proclaimed self-defense against those attacking him as powerful while liberals saw him as another chance for the justice system to fail those who wished for justice.

People also began comparing the actions of Rittenhouse to those of police officers who abuse their power and have taken the lives of many harmless black people, which in this case, is not the same.

For example, an account with the username Silentspeaks reposted an art piece by Denny_Ow on Instagram depicting two police officers shooting a black man and Kyle Rittenhouse walking past them. Qasim Rashid tweeted, and later deleted, a list of innocent black people killed by police officers that were then found not guilty for murder and added Kyle Rittenhouse at the end of the list who was also found not guilty during his trial. 

After a string of Black Lives Matter protests turned into riots, a Facebook post made by the Kenosha Guard stated, “Any patriots willing to take up arms and defend out [our] City tonight from the evil thugs?…” And Rittenhouse was one of the many to take up on this offer. 

Throughout the night of the protests, interactions between the protesters and the armed militia were limited until nightfall and the curfew hit. The police attempted to stand against the protesters and force them to go home but pushed the crowd toward the armed militia instead,  which quickly turned heated as the two parties began to clash.

Despite the heated groups, things had not gotten physical until Jason Rosenbaum caught sight of Kyle Rittenhouse walking towards a group of cars being vandalized. Rosenbaum then begins to chase Rittenhouse and lunges at him and Rittenhouse fires four times, killing Rosenbaum.

The crowd immediately burst into a frenzy upon hearing the gunshots and quickly registered Rittenhouse as the shooter. Rittenhouse starts running and the crowd follows, Rittenhouse trips and falls, which causes Anthony Huber to take a chance to disarm Rittenhouse by hitting him with his skateboard, but then he is fatally shot in the chest.

Immediately afterward, Gaige Grosskreutz, another protester who had been to hundreds of BLM protests throughout the year, pulls his handgun to Rittenhouse’s head, but Rittenhouse shoots him in the arm. 

At this point, most of the crowd had dispersed away from Rittenhouse to help those injured. Rittenhouse stands up and begins walking toward the police with his arms up but is ignored and not arrested until the next day.

This story of what happened in Kenosha was twisted in many ways since reaching the hands of the media, as many new outlets take their sides on the story and followers blindly accompany them.

When I noticed that this case was grabbing the attention of the media, the first thing I noticed was that it quickly turned into a debate between conservatives and liberals. The two main reasons for the spark of this discourse were Rittenhouse presenting as a white supremacist and one of his victims already being a felon.

On January 5th, Rittenhouse hung out with a group known as the Proud Boys, a far-right group, as arranged by his ex-attorney and was seen holding up a hand symbol for white supremacy in their photos, which turned this case into a debate of, “Do I support a white supremacist or the child molester that he killed?”

The media also turned this case into a matter of race. In my eyes, it should be very clear that it isn’t. This investigation is about whether or not Kyle Rittenhouse, a man who presents as white, was defending himself, against white men, or not, and the setting of this predicament happened to be at a Black Lives Matter protest. 

The media seemed to be pretty blind to the actuality of the incident and continued to twist and turn it in the ways that they wanted, and the way they chose to do it, was by comparing Rittenhouse to racist police officers.

Honestly, I was shocked to see my Instagram mutuals reposting news outlets that were comparing this white-passing boy who’s claiming self-defense against white men attacking him to fully grown police officers abusing their ranks to kill black people, and the only parallels between the two are…. essentially nothing.

Usually, I pay no mind to ignorant people on social media who want to make useless and silly comparisons, but to sit back and say nothing about my community’s struggles being devalued is something I could never do, especially not over a case like this one.

I’ve always tried to see both sides of any story, but I just can’t see where this response to this case could’ve been devised. The only similarity between these two issues is that American citizens have too much freedom when it comes to gun use, but even this… still does not have to do with race.

Racist police shooting innocent black people has been an issue Americans have been dealing with for decades if not centuries, and is the whole reason the recent streak of Black Lives Matter protests began in 2020. Black citizens have been fighting with their blood, sweat, and tears to reach the justice we deserve against recurring brutality, and it was belittled down to the same level as three white men being shot by a boy who acted upon impulse when chased around and hit with a skateboard.

The media even fought for the justice of Anthony Huber and Jason Rosenbaum as if they were black men, using the same words and phrases the black community has used to express their discomfort and disgust with the US justice system and the people it allows into their forces who are meant to protect its people. 

On November 19th, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a US representative tweeted, “What we are witnessing is a system functioning as designed and protecting those it was designed for. My heart still breaks for the communities and families whose grief now compounds, and the countless others who will be denied and deprived in similar scenes across the country.”

This was probably the worst thing anyone could’ve said about this occurrence, and I find it funny it came from a US representative. I almost don’t even know where to begin talking about this tweet, it was one ignorant thing said after another.

I guess we can start with her statement that Rittenhouse was found not guilty as, “A system functioning as designed and protecting those who it was designed for.” I’m assuming she didn’t do any deep research on this case to find the constant debate about his race as he’s written as “White” on one court document and written as “Hispanic” on another. 

Then she says her heart breaks for all the communities experiencing grief. Could anyone tell me what communities? Communities full of white people maybe, this is pretty much a prime example of people using phrases commonly used against the justice system when acts of police brutality occur against the black community, but that is an actual community. The only community affected by this event is the people of Kenosha, and the families of the victims as she stated.

Of course, she’s not done, then she says her heart breaks for those who will be denied and deprived in similar scenes across the country. Once again commenting on this case as if it’s something like police brutality that occurs more often than it should, this case is extremely unique and I don’t think that for a very long time we will see another case that deals with whether a man was defending himself or not. 

I can’t think of any cases of self-defense that had grown as big as this one and faced this amount of nonsense, and that says a lot. 

Overall, I think it was unfortunate seeing the media mangle such an interesting case into everything that it wasn’t, and pretty much was used as another way for white saviors to let their savior complex show through. 

Maybe Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was right when she said that communities were being deprived and denied, because the black community definitely was.