The Atlantic Daily: The Unanswered Questions of the Rittenhouse Verdict

Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial ends in acquittal. The moral questions it raised linger.

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The Atlantic

*Updated at 2:18 p.m. ET on November 20, 2021.


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A jury found Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who shot three people, two fatally, amid the protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, not guilty on all counts. Given the narrow nature of self-defense laws, the legal case against Rittenhouse was difficult to prosecute, writers like David French pointed out. But this trial was always imbued with much deeper moral and political questions.

  • The outcome never could have been what Americans wanted it to be. “Americans cannot rely on the justice system to do what the political system will not,” David A. Graham writes.

  • This is the legal system the conservative gun lobby built. “Right-wing gun culture is not unlike the wellness industry, in that it requires the cultivation of a sustained insecurity in its audience, in order to facilitate the endless purchase of its products,” Adam Serwer argues. “You can never be too skinny, and you can never have too many guns to stop the impending communist takeover.”

  • Rittenhouse is no hero. “The Trumpist right is wrongly creating a folk hero out of Rittenhouse,” David French writes. “When you turn a foolish young man into a hero, you’ll see more foolish young men try to emulate his example.”

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*Due to an editing error, this newsletter said that Jacob Blake was killed. Blake was shot and injured.