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Posts published in “Day: November 16, 2021”

Rittenhouse III


NBC News ran an editorial today stating that Kyle Rittenhouse will become a right-wing martyr if he’s convicted. NBC News is wrong: Rittenhouse is already a conservative martyr.

I learned this today when I held a long conversation with a conservative friend who, on the surface, holds views on Kyle Rittenhouse that are the polar opposites of my own. After we talked, it was clear our views on Rittenhouse, himself, were nearly identical but much deeper, long-standing issues — many of them — caused my friend to frame the Rittenhouse affair differently than I did.

This dissonance speaks to systemic issues that cannot be addressed in a single 1,200-word essay. Hence, I will focus on Rittenhouse and the events of August 25, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin alone.

Rittenhouse is already a right-side martyr because, as my friend correctly pointed out, he was irreparably vilified as a vigilante in the world’s media long before all the facts were known. To be sure, the mixed bag of facts that did emerge did not change my position at all — I still believe Rittenhouse was a stupid, over-eager kid who inserted himself into a situation way over his head. Nevertheless, in the post-Trump era, the media is quick to condemn anything with a conservative stain.

My friend also pointed out that Rittenhouse is, by nature, a helper. Thus, keeping someone like Rittenhouse away from the scene of turmoil would’ve been an impossible task. I agree on this point, too — Rittenhouse has a fairly lengthy record of efforts to serve. He is a lifeguard, he has fairly extensive training in first aid and he was enrolled in a cadet program which serves as a feeder to his local firefighting academy. On the night of the riot, Rittenhouse falsely and repeatedly identified himself as an EMT, a boy trying his damnedest to be a man.

I have learned that if I question the appropriateness of Rittenhouse’s armed presence at a race riot, I am immediately accused of attacking the Second Amendment.

I am not attacking the Second Amendment — in fact, I support it. My beef lies elsewhere.

Apparently, in the minds of many 2A supporters, a person’s right to bear the arms of his or her choice into the chaos of civil unrest is a right with no restriction — I’m not talking about legal restriction. But constraints suggested by common sense or morality should never be ignored when human life is at stake. In other words, any person considering “helping” while armed with a high-powered weapon in the chaos of racial unrest should very seriously consider several questions first: Will my presence serve to increase the chance of lethal violence? Do I possess training or experience operating in riot situations? Do I have the maturity to offer my help with careful restraint? If I find myself in an unexpected situation, will my youth or inexperience lend itself to panic?

If a helper cannot answer such questions in ways that ensure his presence will, in fact, help calm a chaotic situation, he should strongly consider not participating. If a helper lacks maturity, training or experience in handling riot or violent protest scenarios, his presence with a high-powered weapon will almost certainly make a bad situation worse.

I am not questioning the Second Amendment — an American’s right to bear arms isn’t the issue. Indeed, a number of the men who responded to the Kenosha Guard’s call to arms did possess training and experience in policing violent crowds. However, the people elevating Rittenhouse to hero status only seem to care about two aspects of Rittenhouse’s service: his willingness to go and his ability to bring a firearm with him. No consideration is given to whether Rittenhouse was qualified or mature enough to mingle in an angry crowd carrying his high-powered weapon.

Rittenhouse’s supporters can argue with me, call me names, insult my credibility but there’s one point no one can question: if Rittenhouse had stayed back in Antioch, two men would be alive, one man would be unwounded and Rittenhouse, himself, would not be facing grave charges.

There are two ways to view the series of actions that resulted in Rittenhouse shooting three people, killing two of them.

Rittenhouse’s first target, by all accounts, was acting in an extremely aggressive manner toward Rittenhouse. A sex offender suffering from bipolar disorder and depression, Rosenbaum had just been released from a Milwaukee hospital after his second suicide attempt in two months. Rosenbaum was unarmed but carried the plastic bag in which the hospital had placed his personal effects. Rosenbaum repeatedly threatened Rittenhouse with harsh words, but his only weapon besides those words was his plastic hospital bag.

As Rosenbaum lunges at Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old panics, shooting Rosenbaum four times, at least once in the head. Rosenbaum drops, dead.

Second Amendment purists see the situation simply: a guy with a gun shoots people he thinks want to kill him.

Others see the situation quite differently.

Onlookers are horrified that this teenager just slaughtered an unarmed man. As Rittenhouse flees the scene of the first killing, several bystanders pursue him, viewing him as a straightforward killer, not some kind of mythical Second Amendment hero. They follow, Rittenhouse, catching up to him as the teen falls. Intending to corral and possibly disarm this guy who just killed an unarmed man, they approach Rittenhouse. One of them draws his sidearm to defend himself. Another rushes at Rittenhouse, wielding his skateboard. Rittenhouse fires at least four shots, dropping 26-year-old Anthony Huber as he hit the teenager’s shoulder with the skateboard. As Huber dies on the pavement, field medic Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, takes a slug in his right arm. He never fires his sidearm at Rittenhouse.

I have great difficulty seeing Rittenhouse as a righteous defender when the lethal fire from his semi-automatic rifle was directed against two unarmed men. And I return to my original premise: Rittenhouse had no business being there in the first place. At 17, he was violating curfew, he was carrying a semi-automatic rifle he was not permitted to own, he was an inexperienced kid in a situation way over his head.

The NBC News editorial went on to suggest if Rittenhouse is acquitted — or convicted with no meaningful sanction — it’ll send a clear message to others like him that risk of a prison sentence is negligible.

The most alarming part of this is the tens of thousands of people who will cheer future Rittenhouses on.

A former food and wine writer, senior editor of two regional food-and-beverage magazines and one of four or five remaining moderate republicans, Matthew Meador switched to writing political commentary because it allows him to be grouchy now that he is no longer paid to eat, drink and be merry. In a previous life, Matt was an award-winning graphic artist who often put his skills to use during election seasons. Matt also was rumored to have lurked around the Oregon state capitol building where he learned the cost of getting bill drafts to the front of the line in Legislative Counsel was no more than a plate of cookies — who says there’s no corruption in state government?

Real news lost


Most of us have little “tics” that infuriate when we see or hear them. I’ve got one. I’ll spell it out. It’s only five words.


If you’re a daily reader of newspapers or viewer of TV in Idaho, Oregon or damned near any other place, those five words are prominently displayed in many stories. Way too many.

“......According to a news release” Just what do those five words mean? Why are they so prominent and used so often? Let’s chat about that.

Those words mean someone emailed - or otherwise informed - the media what they want you to know about this or that. Which may or may not be the whole story. The words pop up most often when used in place of a reporter being assigned to what the story is about.

A glaring example. A few days ago, the Arizona Republic - Arizona’s largest newspaper - had a “story” about a border patrol officer who “died in the line of duty, according to a news release” That was it. The last sentence: “The Border Patrol provided no further information about the officer’s passing.”

WHAT? “Provided no further information?” Where the hell are the reporters? How the guy died is the guts of the story. If he hadn’t died “in the line of duty,” there’d be no story. What killed him? How he died IS the story!

Reporters used to physically check in daily at the local cop shop, meetings at city hall, fire departments, county buildings. They got to know county commissioners, mayors, secretaries (often the most reliable news source) - even janitors. They developed stories. Stories that gave readers/viewers more insight and information about the goings-on. And, sometimes, reporters found out facts that often led to a better story. Or even a “scoop!” I did it for years.

Newspapers, radio and TV seldom do that now. They’ve been victimized, replaced or largely downsized by availability of the Internet and (un)social media. “Stories” that took time to develop now blare out, often without the real `meat` of the “information.” Too often without all the facts. Like the dead Arizona officer.

Newspapers and broadcast operations have “slimmed down.” They’ve even got “reporters” who work from home! Using the phone and the I-net. Too often, they don’t ‘on site’ to get the story. That’s why you see “.....according to a news release.” Sometimes, not even rewritten.

Most radio/tv operations and newspapers aren’t owned by local folks anymore. They’ve become “pawns” in the news business. Too often, they’re owned by large corporations that don’t give a damn about local news and how important it really is. Accountants - read “bean counters” - do spreadsheets on profit and loss. There are, after all, investors who want a good rate of return.

Some guy, sitting on his butt in Florida, doesn’t give a damn that a United Airlines jet may have ‘crashed near Caldwell, Idaho, killing 254.’ A crash causing slimmed down local news outlets to work staff overtime, sending “feeds” to national news bureaus, doing real on-scene reporting. Temporarily “blowing” budgets. The Florida guy’s only interest is “bottom line.” Return on investment. Nothing else.

So, you too often get “.....according to a news release.” Faster, cheaper, easier - and less expensive - than being staffed to go out and get the rest of the story.

The loss of “beat reporters” means, for instance, when city/county budgets are set, your taxes are spent - and maybe raised - and you don’t know the details. That loss also means things happen in courthouses, city halls, ‘cop shops,’ fire halls and businesses along Main Street that you never hear about. Real news.

The irony here is we live at a time in which we’re inundated with information. More than ever before. So much so that we have to search for what we want/need to know. But, with the cutback or elimination of most local news staffs, who find and report real local news, we’re less informed about what’s going on - less informed about what’s happening right around us.

You can thank Ronnie Reagan for much of this. During his presidential term, he appointed a new batch of people to the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC appointees promptly changed previous ownership restrictions on broadcasters and other media. You could subsequently buy as many radio/TV stations as you could afford. One corporate outfit eventually owned 12-hundred radio stations. Corporate. Investors. Absentee ownership.

The requirement that stations operate “in the public interest” was whittled down to meaning dropping a lot of local - or basically any - news. Staff cuts in the thousands hit newsrooms. Many stations now have no news at all.

Awash in information. Too often deprived of real information - local news reporting in our communities. We’re told, in too many instances, only what someone or some agency of government wants us to know.

“.....according to a news release.”