Considering the Evidence…

It was Satchel Paige who said “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” Whatever it was has caught up and is scaring people into not looking closely in any direction at all.

We are deep into an age where progressive politicians, editors, media personalities and a vast majority of academics have teamed up with street hooligans in a rhetorical and violent war against careful examination of reality. Questioning assertions without foundation has become risky business. The coverage of recent developments in criminal courts provides clear examples.

If you still believe there is a lofty bar keeping nitwits from breaking into higher academia listen to this from a professor of history at DePaul University:

“Anyone who thinks racism is worse in the South should note that the Georgia jury delivered a guilty verdict while the Wisconsin one voted to acquit.” (Tom Mockaitis, The Hill)

This guy poses at protecting the public from the very geographic stereotypes he holds dear.  Why “racism” figures into the justness or lack of it, in the Rittenhouse verdict the prof finds self-explanatory. Not one other word in the piece goes to qualifying this pronouncement. His short essay, “The aftermath of racially charged trials brings lessons and warnings,” doesn’t devote a single sentence to any critical fact in either case. The whole thing is a pile of arbitrarily contrived conclusions: “In truth, there is nothing to celebrate in any of the verdicts since the alleged crimes they adjudicated could so easily have been prevented.” How they could be, is left to reader imaginations.

We hear: “Beyond the lessons each provides, the trials collectively reveal disturbing trends and indicate the need for legal reforms. Vigilante activity has increased in recent years.” If this is true, as so often claimed, why does he rely on the same four cases covering an 8-year span [Trayvon Martin, Unite the Right, Kyle Rittenhouse, Ahmaud Arbery] — that have had tidal waves of ink spilled on them already — making his point? Is the media covering up the rafts of other examples so well even college professors can’t get the skinny? If public attention to this supposed vigilante epidemic is in order Mockaitis doesn’t come across even in the anecdotal evidence department.

“[T]rials collectively” don’t reveal anything “collective.” They are, theoretically, tried on their merits – one by one. That’s a feature of the justice process our prof can’t quite fathom. His ideological mob camps on grounds where political emotion is so opaquely dense that sensory perception is not to be trusted.

Making a case for a dubious finding in the Rittenhouse, or any other jury’s conclusion, depends on citing of facts that evince guilt or innocence. If the claim of a supposed “racial” element is all that’s material the man is hostile to trial altogether. Mockaitis delivers his apocalyptic warning without a scrap of description covering the matters in legal contest. Is this how he teaches history? Do the kids’ dare to challenge whatever raving conclusions he plucks from a made-up mind?

It’s unfair to single Mockaitis out, his aversion to accepted standards of proof, once required in junior high essays, is now endemic in the professional scribing class. We have heard over and over again that Kyle’s mother drove him to Kenosha with the lethal weapon. Neither contention is true. The weapon was never in Illinois and he drove himself. Few disagree that an armed 17-year-old boy didn’t belong on the streets of downtown Kenosha, especially in those circumstances. But how many mothers’ out there really exert sufficient control of a 17-year-olds whereabouts and behavior? Hardly a generation ago kids were in the woods unsupervised before, as Faulkner put it, their years reached “two ciphers.” Returning from forays at 9 or ten my Mom’s inquiries probably never got an answer that wasn’t more fiction than fact. She knew that but didn’t have a rack, iron pincers or prosecutorial bargaining chips on hand. Still, near deadly consequences were far from unknown to myself and a tribe of other neighborhood boys on frequent occasions. Parents remained uniformed until an ambulance became necessary – fortunately a rarity. Whelps have survival instincts…that Rosenbaum wagered against, including prior to the Kenosha incident.

Being at the wrong place at the wrong time is not a criminal offense – but commonly germane to circumstances with violent or fatal ends. Rittenhouse was among numerous other armed individuals that night in Kenosha. Across social media we hear – “but he was the only one who shot anybody.” Well, yeah, and, as far as we know the only one chased by Rosenbaum. I’d bet plenty Rosenbaum wouldn’t have chased, or dared to confront, me that day — unarmed or not — and I had over twenty years on him. Six feet and 200 pounds are hardly intimidating in today’s US. Predators are known to seek the easiest, least confident looking prey.  Rosenbaum’s lack of fear attacking an armed juvenile conforms with his conception of marks: people he could deal with easily. Bets are bets because the outcome is unknown – whatever the odds.

What’s worse than getting peripheral facts wrong describing events is omitting crucial ones altogether. The number of published articles and opinion pieces that don’t bother with any reference to the numerous details available from the trial minutes and other definitive sources may constitute a majority of print media on the subject. Video compiled from several cell phones filming as the incident unfolded was available on Youtube and linked on hundreds of websites only days later. Three facts were indisputably established. Rosenbaum was chasing Rittenhouse in the seconds before he was shot. Anthony Huber struck Kyle with a skateboard on the head as sat on the ground. Gaige Grosskreutz was pointing a gun at Rittenhouse when hit by the boy’s fire. How could any of the three be deemed immaterial to a writer covering the case?

Bringing up societal injustice was once the fast track to exile from the presence of the glitterati. Now, faking an obsession with it is de rigueur before getting invites to the ultra-cool backroom. This Glamour article by Candace McDuffie, “What the Rittenhouse Verdict Really Shows US,” only includes the third video established fact – that Grosskreutz was armed — listed above. At the very bottom, below author bio information, it is says: “An earlier version of this post did not include that Grosskreutz was reportedly [emphasis added] armed. It has been updated.” The piece appeared well over one year after the video became practically ubiquitous. That means Conde Nast is paying writers to cover subjects they’ve failed to devote a single keystroke of effort looking into. We see the same kind of ignorance and/or selectivity in the content of every type of media on the subject in The Huffington Post, Salon, Slate, Vox, CNN, MSNBC and numerous op-eds in print dailies. Any coverage of this case without acknowledgement of the video established details immediately casts it to the realm of fake news. Meanwhile, putting McDuffie’s conclusion, “being Black in America means you can be killed at any moment for any reason,” under any kind of detached scrutiny is likely to catapult an out loud observer into the “far-right” or a “hate” camp instantly.

It is hardly debatable that a plurality of professional media agents covering high-profile trials today are disappointed if juries rule on the facts in evidence rather than the whims of the latest in mob fashion. The news feed from Bing on my laptop includes at least one raging diatribe against the Rittenhouse verdict every day. None of them includes the most critical points established by video or eye-witness testimony in the court proceeding. Many, like the one by professor Mocktaitis, don’t bother with facts at all.

Still others, like Barbara McQuade writing for MSNBC, find the defensive fact contributing evidence of guilt.

 “Generally, someone who provokes an attack is unable to use self-defense, but Wisconsin law is a little more generous, even contradictory. It provides that a “person who engages in unlawful conduct of a type likely to provoke others to attack, and who does provoke an attack, is not allowed to use or threaten force in self-defense against that attack.” That prohibition would seem to apply to Rittenhouse, whose alleged illegal possession of a semi-automatic rifle provoked others to attack him.”

“[A]lleged illegal possession of a semi-automatic rifle,” is sufficient legal provocation to attack a person engaging in no aggressive act? Or, provocation at all, for that matter? Whatever the law says no sane individual rushes an otherwise harmless one openly in possession of a lethal weapon – especially in an environment teeming with them. What law would McQuade cite granting Rosenbaum the right to confiscate the piece? This precedes any consideration of the man’s own status before the law. The irony of this kind of legal reasoning is revealed where it stops – before we get to Grosskeutz. Nobody was rushing him – his considerably less vulnerable appearance and age of 26 at the time — might have held some weight. Does strapping up gather legitimacy through ideological affiliation?

It takes a brain detached from a spine to twist out rationale that equates Travis McMichael with Kyle Rittenhouse.

“Meanwhile, a very similar defense strategy was deployed in the trial in Georgia over the death of Ahmaud Arbery, another fatal shooting caught on tape. In that case, Travis McMichael was convicted of murder, as was his father and neighbor.”

This is from “A Bulletproof Defense” by ex-prosecutor Tali Farhadian Weinstein which ran in the Sunday, December 5, Review section of the NYT. People in his old profession are notorious for hiding exculpatory information. Rittenhouse was being chased while armed. McMichael was doing the chasing while armed. Is that difference beneath any legal distinction? Weinstein claims Rittenhouse’s lawyers argued:

“Instead of distancing their client from or minimizing the effect of his weapon, Mr. Rittenhouse’s lawyers built their case upon it: Because he had a gun he found himself in a situation where he had to use it. In other words, the gun he carried was not a deterrent but the very reason for the escalation to violence.”

Tali got one thing right; those are certainly “other words.” The defense argued nothing of the kind – and you’ll note no passage is cited from them verbatim in the op-ed. The only quotation marks surround the words of Travis McMichael. A half page article goes without mention of the fact that both witness testimony and video evidence prove that Rittenhouse was in high speed retreat from an attacker before using his gun. Is that at all different from chasing and cornering a victim with a pickup truck before shooting him?  This is typical of the way vindictive lawyers for the “people” are prone to spin reality by likening situations that don’t remotely compare.

Four pages away the NYT’s own anonymous editorial is titled “The Prosecution-Protection Racket.” It tacitly, or possibly unwittingly, makes the case that DA’s can be so treacherous and untrustworthy they should be put on the stand themselves for cross during trials they prosecute. The first question for Weinstein: Do you carry a gun? What would you do if a lunatic was chasing you?

The comment sections of social media are deluged with posters who have every fragment of dope on this case wrong. Why? They are reading articles that spew rhetoric, abstraction and derangement without one literally relevant description of what is provable. Literalism is not only being abandoned by the editorial class; it is frequently cited as evidence of hate motives. “Empiricism” itself, according to a growing professoriate – that is on the fringes for now – is a devious ruse deployed shunting the disenfranchised into disadvantageous positions. Once you buy that line nothing can be a lie and truth is more furtive than ever.

A book can, and probably will, be written covering the pummeling truth took in widespread coverage of the Rittenhouse case. The malady goes far beyond this one case and this one fate. However skewed, racist, emotional or white-centric literary standards may have ever been – we go backwards – by leaps and bounds – not making standards more exacting than ever. Settling vague scores kneecapping the quality of language and news copy squares up with the literary requirements of Julius Streicher, who edited Der Sturmer. We’ve reached the point where pointing that out can get you labeled a “neo-Nazi.”

There is no substitute for literal description. Words make people think and people think in them. Trials are supposed to be about what is provable. Whatever political trends, historical perspective, emotional zeitgeist or tribal resentments were packed into the Jussie Smollett case the jury ruled on what was believable. That needs to be the outcome in every case – no matter how fraught with antagonism spectators become from media characterizations. Meanwhile, beyond the jump, and deep into lengthy stories, major news dailies make clear that Jacob Blake was contributing plenty to the circumstances that led to getting shot. The same ones sympathize with the town torchers all over op-ed, and even some news, space – often in the first paragraph. Jibing such details is too much for editors to ask for.

In the 1966 film “A Man for All Seasons” Leo McKern plays Thomas Cromwell prosecuting Thomas More on a trumped up charge of high treason. When the judge charges the jury for deliberation Cromwell interrupts the procedure. “Considering the evidence it shouldn’t be necessary for the jury to retire,” he warns, clearly acting as an agent of King Henry VIII. They get the message and comply with an immediate finding of guilt. This isn’t far from what has been seen demanded in the Rittenhouse, and other cases, across the internet for months. Mob mentality is a threat that lurks in an education system that fails to teach that More’s book “Utopia” is a satire.