The ironic spectacle of Kyle Rittenhouse’s interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News

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Since Kyle Rittenhouse shot dead two men and injured a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during racial justice protests last year, legions of conservatives and far-right extremists celebrated an 18-year-old both as a hero and a victim. Shortly after receiving a “not guilty” verdict last Friday, Rittenhouse attempted to participate in his own beatification.

Adopting a posture that is both confrontational towards its detractors and satisfying for its most ardent supporters, Rittenhouse appeared in her first nationwide television interview on Fox News Tucker Carlson tonight after a Wisconsin jury acquitted him of all charges in the August 2020 shooting deaths of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and the injuries of Gaige Grosskreutz. Even though Carlson’s interview was broadcast in prime time, protests against the verdict which started over the weekend continued in the big cities.

The interview came as Rittenhouse’s trial and the verdict that followed sparked a heated debate over some of the country’s most controversial issues, including gun rights and the right to protest without threat of violence. However, court proceedings were often very casual, starting with Judge Bruce Schroeder stating that lawyers in the case were not allowed to refer to The victims of Rittenhouse as “victims”. The accused himself actually helped select the jury at random, using a unusual, old-fashioned lottery-style draw. And let’s not forget, there was a day of questionable sobs on the witness stand.

Contrary to this tearful testimony in court, Rittenhouse mainly spoke in a calm voice as he swayed towards Carlson’s softballs. The host did his best to center Rittenhouse’s trauma and pain, prompting him to lash out at President Joe Biden and invoke intangible forces like a ‘crowd mentality’ he blamed for his predicament. legal.

His guest also said he supported Black Lives Matter and that those who perpetrated violence during the protests following the shooting of Jacob Blake by the Kenosha police were “opportunists, taking advantage of the BLM movement”.

It was strange to hear Rittenhouse say this, especially in the middle of an interview with Fox News. Affirming good faith in matters of social justice serves, for white liberals, to signify an alliance. But for conservatives or people playing with the sympathies of this audience, it often comes down to seeking cover against accusations of racism. The resurgence of extremist, white supremacist violence and intimidation in recent years has been, they say, an act of self-defense.

How, then, in this context, are we to understand when we see Rittenhouse arguing before Carlson: “It wasn’t Kyle Rittenhouse on trial in Wisconsin; it was the right of self-defense on probation ”? When the same people who support Rittenhouse think the country needs to be defended against people who are not white and don’t believe in defending black lives, he can say he supports Black Lives Matter everything. that he wants.

What is evident, whatever Rittenhouse’s intention, is that he came on the right show on the right network.

True to the formula of his program, Carlson’s hour was spent stoking misguided cultural grievances on behalf of Rittenhouse. Known for his reckless demagoguery and fabulism, Tucker Carlson tonight regularly focuses on convincing his strongly white audience that they are right to fear a society supposed to have them (and only them). Throughout the show, the host has been promoting an upcoming documentary about Rittenhouse’s trial, despite the ongoing controversy about his revisionist special of January 6.

The acquittal, in the Fox News arena, became absolution. “What a nice boy,” Carlson remarked of the 18-year-old before a commercial break.

It was the seventh anniversary of the day a real boy, Tamir Rice, 12, was mistaken for a man by Cleveland Police before an officer shot him down. But on Tucker Carlson tonightRittenhouse was said to have been the victim on November 22, and the host gave him every chance to deny his critics’ most damaging claim. No, not that he’s a murderer – that he’s a fanatic.

“I am not a racist person,” Rittenhouse said, adding that he felt his case was not a question of race. (The victims in the case were all white, but prosecutors noted earlier this year that Rittenhouse had been photographed with Proud Boys and flash a hand sign known as the “white power” symbol. ) Whether it be is on race is not Rittenhouse’s decision, however, and whether he is in fact racist seems irrelevant. He will likely not deter his critics in the press and elsewhere who called him a white supremacist, nor the self-identified neo-Nazis celebrating his acquittal. More interesting, however, was how Rittenhouse described being affected by his time in American jurisprudence.

Rittenhouse had already twice affirmed his support for the Black Lives Matter movement (which berated him in a tweet about the interview) when he took note of the inequalities and degradation he suffered in prison.

“I think there has to be a change,” Rittenhouse said, “I think there’s a lot of Crown misconduct – not just in my case, but in other cases. just amazing how much a prosecutor can take advantage of someone. If they had done this to me, imagine what they could have done to a person of color who might not have the resources I have. ‘ve or that is not widely publicized, like my case.

Rittenhouse spoke of a jail cell he compared to “a one-star hotel,” where he had a cell phone and tablet, but apparently no running water. He didn’t take a shower for almost a month, he told Carlson. Despite complaining about being pepper sprayed in Kenosha, Rittenhouse spoke enthusiastically about law enforcement – even thanking the guards at his first prison and praising their professionalism. But he also detailed how he spent more than 80 days in jail due to a problem that too many defendants have: an incompetent lawyer. His allies at the time included conspiracy theorist QAnon Lin Wood; Rittenhouse Wood presumed to be exploited his case after Wood sought to recover the money collected for Rittenhouse’s bail. But some defendants are much less fortunate and some end up on death row.

Carlson reacted to these details as if shocked to hear that such things could happen in America, as if a man named Julius Jones professing his innocence in Oklahoma had little escaped a lethal injection. the day before the Rittenhouse verdict. Carlson’s only reference to the man whose shooting sparked the Kenosha protests where Rittenhouse shot the three men was an unsubstantiated claim that “the media is lying about the Jacob Blake shooting”.

Yet, almost by accident, Carlson’s program reinforced that there were a lot of problems with the American project. They could have spent an hour Monday night re-examining Rice’s death and the family’s campaign to have her murder reconsidered for prosecution by the Justice Department. Such a show could have done the same or similar points, but it is foolish to expect that Carlson, known for his overtly racist appeals to white people’s grievances, to recognize what is wrong with America without looking through the prism of victimization.

If only Carlson and Rittenhouse could discuss the terrible state of American jurisprudence without putting themselves in the spotlight. Despite all of Rittenhouse’s acknowledgment of the flawed American criminal punishment system, the two still failed to recognize that it was the AR-15 style rifle he wielded that was the source of the intimidation and the bullying. If they had, the ridiculous Fox News show might have been about to be worth it.

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