Kyle Rittenhouse and the outrage industry

26 Nov

The Rittenhouse case is about emotion. It is about history, identity and a widening tribal divide … Intensifying tribalism in the US is not accidental but deeply tied to a turbo-charged capitalism that seeks profit from every last seam of our internal and external worlds. Like an oil industry desperate to squeeze tar from sand, oil from rocks, corporate media need to suck our attention into conflict, into hatred, into blaming and shaming.


I don’t suppose I’m alone in feeling unease at the self righteous hate-fest on Kyle Rittenhouse which has seen manufactured loathing poured out on social media by progressive flag-wavers unburdened by anything so tiresome as facts. Or by such trifling pedantries as due process.

You know, as in the presumption of innocence …

You know, as in beyond reasonable doubt …

If such cavalier virtue-signalling troubles you a little, then like me you’ll find the power-savvy lucidity of Jonathan Cook, on this as on so much else, a breath of fresh air. Writing three days ago on MintPress, Jonathan reminds us of the elephant-in context of the manufacture, the monetising, and above all the stupefying but power-serving nature of yah-boo otherism:

In our soundbite-driven, attention-deficit present … our appetite for greater drama, greater sensation, greater pay-offs knows no bounds. We are too busy, too consumed, too wired to pause, to stand back, to doubt, to think …

… [our manufactured hatreds] mean more eyeballing by viewers and more money from advertisers. The drama of the unpredictable provides endless work for pundits as they try to make sense of the madness. The confrontation means heightened emotion and greater personal investment in the news. The pro-Trump media and the anti-Trump media are not on our side. They are both on the side of milking profit from our rage.

But the power-elite does more than make money from our hate. It gains in important, ideological ways. The more we hate, the less able we are to discriminate, to think clearly, to strategise, to see who are our real enemies.

And this is where the Rittenhouses prove useful.

Jonathan begins:

Kyle Rittenhouse Is Not the Enemy. He’s the Latest Product of the Outrage Industry

The Kyle Rittenhouse furore is a fascinating illustration of US politics as mired in self-consuming tribalism. It shows how non-conversations now posture as serious socio-political engagement. And it demonstrates once again the success of a practice beloved of elites the world over: offer bread and circuses to keep the masses from seeing the big picture and rising up …

The descendants of the armed settler colonists who went to the Americas to steal the resources of the native people feel compelled to continue the tradition of bearing arms, long after the surviving natives were locked away in reservations …

So why are so many exercised, for or against, by Rittenhouse’s acquittal of shooting dead two men, and wounding a third, on a night of unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin in August?

Why are so many focused on the fact that he was carrying a semi-automatic rifle during protests and looting? Was Rittenhouse the only one not entitled to be armed that night? 

And why is race the context for judging him when all involved, Rittenhouse and the men shot, were white? He was not involved in the lethal shooting two days earlier of a black man, Jacob Blake, by a white police officer that had triggered the unrest in Kenosha.

Rittenhouse claimed self-defence and the jury found in his favour. The videos they saw, taken from many angles, show that, in a night of American madness, he gave every appearance of defending himself. They show that, had he not had a gun that night, one of the three men he shot might well have ended up in the dock accused of murdering him.

But none of that is apparently relevant in the rage-filled polemicising about Rittenhouse – polemics that already miss the bigger picture of what is going on in the US …

Read in full …


6 Replies to “Kyle Rittenhouse and the outrage industry

    • Thanks for the link John. The Militant piece is good. Had I seen it first I might have run with it instead.

      That said, Jonathan does bring something powerful to the mix. Besides his lucidity and calm manner of writing (and his location in Nazareth) his past as a Guardian columnist makes him exceptionally insightful on the market corruptions of corporate media.

      • And Jonathan’s piece foregrounds capitalism’s colonisation of the soul. This is neatly encapsulated in his insight on :

        … a turbo-charged capitalism that seeks profit from every last seam of our internal and external worlds. Like an oil industry desperate to squeeze tar from sand, oil from rocks, corporate media need to suck our attention into conflict, into hatred, into blaming and shaming.

  1. This is a good one Phillip.

    Although I can recognise the dissociative elements and the engineering of cognitive dissonance evidencing itself in both the US and in the UK, in fact, all around the western nations, it’s difficult to put it in words that demonstrate effectively what is being done.

    I can too easily be swept up by that connived side show without looking deeper, because it is done so mendaciously and incessantly, it’s easy to lose one’s perspective.

    Thankfully, I do not watch the corrupt main stream news and the corporate lackeys among the equally disingenuous press and instead rely on reputable and honest observations regarding the happenings in daily life and can achieve, to some degree, a balanced and better informed understanding of what is really going on beneath the lies.

    I’ve said it before and repeat it now. Don’t stop what you are doing, it’s important and has far reaching impact of the sane and reasoned kind!

    Best wishes,
    🙂 Susan.

    • As ever you’re very kind Susan …

      I can too easily be swept up by that connived side show without looking deeper

      Me too. It doesn’t do to personalise this and feel bad about ourselves. The outrage – this week it’s Rittenhouse, last week some Katie Hopkins sound-alike, and all weeks Assad, Maduro, Putin, Trump, Xi et al – is manufactured, and its objects set up in media punch and judy shows. But it does tap into something real in the human psyche.

      (Or at least, the human psyche as it appears under a capitalist system which makes us all, to greater or lesser degree, insane.)

      Don’t we all yearn for simplicity, in the moral as in other spheres? Ours is a world of bewildering complexity for which our education, entertainment, media and all the other ideological systems leave us woefully ill equipped. Isn’t our desire for crisply defined goodies and baddies the seed from which the love-to-hate impulse is nurtured and, like a climbing rose, trained for the purposes JC articulates so well?

      And that’s before we even get to the massive illusion – that Western democracy is real; and a Biden, Clinton or Obama ‘better’ than a Trump (tell that to Hondurans, Libyans, Yemenis and scores of other peoples on the receiving end of ‘liberal interventionism’) – which is also a big part of this.

      Falling for this stuff, even repeatedly, is a grave error, yes. But a personal and moral failing? I think not.

  2. Glenn Greenwood offers some valid generic points here:

    Focusing on the approach, common to both the liberal and progressive left’s, which denies any need or agency for substantiating evidence or even due process itself. The accusation/allegation being sufficient, within this approach, to warrant any sanction or punishment it’s adherents deem fit based on their feelings.

    It is here where we see the Gell-Mann effect at its most stark. With justified bleatings about the way the LP hierarchy and bureaucracy are using this same evidence and recognisable due process free approach to smear even Jewish members of anti-Semitism; or retrospectively discipline members by demanding they prove their innocence rather than those making the allegations having to prove guilt.

    Only to turn the page and behave in exactly the same manner when it suits them. And you end up with the grotesque spectacle of people, like Esther Giles, de-platformed for defending free speech at an event against de-platforming and defending free speech.

    Or Wing’s Stuart Campbell. Labelled a ‘transphobe’ for taking a rational evidence based approach by purity spiral numpties still stuck at the level of the school playground – like the twelve year old management clones who’ve infested every organisation and institution at every level within the West – who think shouting denunciations and holding smug ‘right-on’ groupthink fantasy opinions makes them progressive and left.

    Useful idiots completely lacking in gorm to the extent of not having the gumption to realise they are wheeshting for a philosophy to right of Ayan Rand.

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