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Tue Nov 24, 2020, 09:19 AM

Trump's on his way out, but leaves a lasting legacy: The right's open embrace of terrorism

Trump's on his way out, but leaves a lasting legacy: The right's open embrace of terrorism
How did the Kenosha shooter post $2 million in bail? Because conservatives are normalizing right-wing terrorism

NOVEMBER 23, 2020 6:01PM

(Salon) In any sensible society, Kyle Rittenhouse would be shunned across the political spectrum.

The 17-year-old Illinois resident stands accused of shooting three people, killing two of them, during an August Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Whatever the specific facts of that incident, the larger truth is that Rittenhouse is lying in the bed he made for himself. If he had done the right thing, by simply staying at home and leaving the protesters alone, two men would be alive and he would not face homicide charges. But because he got enraptured by violent fantasies of armed confrontation with anti-racists, Rittenhouse picked up a gun, drove across state lines and got exactly what he was looking for. The results were tragic.

In the past, Rittenhouse would have been largely abandoned, even by right-wingers who might otherwise be generally sympathetic to insecure white men playing dress-up with camo and guns. We've seen this pattern from Timothy McVeigh in the 1990s right through the Trump years. Conservatives certainly didn't embrace Patrick Crusius, the 21-year-old white nationalist accused of murdering 23 people in an El Paso, Texas, Walmart store last year. The mainstream conservative movement often flirts with right-wing extremists, but when the bullets fly or the bombs go off, conservative leaders prefer to pretend that they had nothing to do with the violence.


Rittenhouse has Trump to thank for the hero's treatment he's getting on the right. Along with undermining the social prohibitions against blatant racism, overt misogyny and openly trying to steal elections, Trump spent the past five years dismantling the taboo against shamelessly encouraging domestic terrorism. Trump's incitement of violence started shortly after he announced his first presidential campaign, when he fantasized out loud about physical violence against Black Lives Matter protesters in August 2015. He has continued at a steady and intensifying clip over the last five years. By the time Rittenhouse rolled into Kenosha with a gun, Trump had made it safe for conservatives to openly support political violence.

That's exactly what happened in the case of Rittenhouse. In the days after the shooting, Tucker Carlson of Fox News painted Rittenhouse as a hero, rather than a kid who was looking for trouble and found it. Soon, much of the conservative media followed. Then Trump himself got involved, insisting that Rittenhouse was justified in shooting protesters. Trump's administration even pressured the Department of Homeland Security to depict Rittenhouse as a hero, even though there was no reason whatsoever for him to bring a gun to the Kenosha protest in the first place. ..........(more)


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