Rittenhouse as a Litmus for Adult Disagreement
Wherein we analyze a meme, a lie, a reaction, a riot, and a couple dead people, and discern the true enemy.
Today we are going to analyze a meme. Or, rather, analyze a popular analysis of a meme. And then we are going to apply our analysis of that analysis to the entire Kenosha Fuckery going on right now. There are plenty of articles unravelling the abjectly horrible, misleading, and in some cases abject lying way in which the media has covered Kenosha from beginning to end. This is not that. This is an article about not blaming our fellow Americans for falling for their lies, and identifying the appropriate people to blame. But first, the meme.
Being An Adult
Someone I do not know named Oliver Blanchard posted a meme on Facebook in 2018, accompanied by his analysis of why the meme is wrong. It was shared 21,000 times, and his analysis was basically an elaborate justification for why it’s okay to hate someone based on for whom they voted.
How internet memes are used to manipulate your behaviors: An example.
Chances are that you have seen this meme floating around, especially around elections. It isn't what you think it is. It is not a friendly digital handshake. It isn't meant to help neighbors mend fences. It is a deliberate instrument of psychological manipulation.
I worked in Marketing for nearly two decades. I know this kind of device when I see it. Let me explain.
1. The image
Note the childlike simplicity of the image, the super basic smiling face. The finger pointing up at it. The open posture. The baby-like head. What part of the brain is this image stimulating? It looks like the kind of flip card used in psychological tests, right? Or something from a children's book. Why do you think that is? What emotions is this image designed to instantly trigger?
2. The message
Now note the subtlety of the message, layered over the image: I'm the adult. You're the child. Also note the cleverly toned-down passive-aggressive scolding, the peer pressure at the root of it. (You want to be an adult too, right? Don't you want to be a grown-up?)
Note how it flips the script: "No matter what I do, I'll still be your friend" is flipped to "no matter what you do, I'll still be your friend." It's easy to miss. Take a second to appreciate the insidious cleverness of that technique.
4. Accountability avoidance
It makes you (the "child") feel guilty and "bad" for holding someone (the "adult") accountable for their harmful actions.
It also changes the subject from an objective harmful action (voting for a divisive, hate-filled, or antidemocratic agenda, for instance) to the subjective realm of "being friends" and the emotional safety that comes from preserving social bonds.
5. Tapping into the human operating system
If it wasn't already clear, beyond the deflection, it's also an authority play. It exploits hardwired adult-child archetypes AND people's need to belong and feel accepted by their peers.
Psychological manipulation: That's all this meme is about. (Or did you think it was designed by some random soccer mom somewhere?) This meme is deliberate. It was designed by people who know exactly what they are doing and how to achieve the response they want.
The purpose of this meme and others like it is to normalize malicious political views and suppress pushback, using guilt, confusion, and social pressure as subconscious levers of control. It is not designed to bring people together regardless of their political views. That is not its purpose.
Learn to spot when you're being manipulated by online memes.
PS: Whatever "side" you may be on, and whatever your politics may be, if you're sharing this meme, either you've been had, or your penchant for gaslighting is showing.
Despite how unsophisticated it looks, this is one of the best ones I've seen.
This statement is doing basically all the work in Mr. Blanchard’s meme analysis post:
"(voting for a divisive, hate-filled, or antidemocratic agenda, for instance)"
That statement presumes that one side of a vote is obviously [that] while another side of a vote is obviously [not that]. In our media system, each side views the other side as [that], so given the parameters in which we actually make sense of the world, his analysis advocates segregation and tightening of echo chambers around political myths.
Now let’s add Rittenhouse to the analysis.
One rather extreme red myth going right now, which I heard as recently as yesterday, is that the blues hate Rittenhouse because he shot a pedophile, because the Blues are pedophile sympathizers. If we take this red myth as true, and then apply the meme analysis to that myth, the analysis justifies the reds severing ties with their blue friends over their presumed pedophilia sympathy.
I do not believe that particular red myth is true. I just think most of the blues have been fed a very extreme set of lies and omissions about the entire Kenosha outburst from beginning to end, that the riots themselves were a product of “mostly good people” trying to make sense of this extreme set of lies, and that a second layer of lies was piled on the first about what happened during the Rittenhouse encounter to cover up the first layer. And that people are so invested in these lies that they can't recalibrate their opinions. I don't hate them for buying into these lies, because it's not their fault. I can remain their friend no matter who they vote for. I can act the meme, because acting the meme is far more adult than severing a friend relationship over their misunderstanding about an issue or situation.
In short, Mr. Blanchard’s meme analysis presumes a truth-seeking function exists that is objective and works, but this truth seeking function is completely missing from our modern discourse. And I can already tell you without knowing Mr. Blanchard at all what his opinions are of Kyle Rittenhouse, because of whose Facebook wall I lifted the link to his global post.
Let’s do Rittenhouse
I typed the following summary up from memory a few days ago in a Facebook argument. Since then I have fact checked the entire thing, and only found three factual errors in it. Read it and see if you can find the errors. It is a reply to a blue tribe friend I’ve known for decades who enjoys sparring with me on my wall, and whom I consider a good friend, who asked me “you aren’t siding with this shitbag, are you?” My response:
You were sold a completely warped picture of what happened in Kenosha by a biased media feeding an echo chamber to make money off of clicks. The full story of what happened could not, possibly, in any way, convince anyone to side against Rittenhouse. This is what actually happened.
First off, the Jacob Blake shot by the cops was totally legitimate. Blake was an accused rapist and wife beater waiting to go to trial for raping his baby mama, and there was a restraining order on him and a warrant for his arrest. He broke the restraining order and was attempting to kidnap their kids in the baby mama’s car. Baby mama called the cops. Cops showed up. They did everything they could to use nonlethal force to stop him from kidnapping the kids and it didn't work, and he beat up a cop while trying to drive away after shrugging off several taser hits, stealing the car. They couldn't just let him go because if they did, the kids would be in danger of a high-speed chase. The cops had no choice but to shoot Blake to protect the children after Blake had every repeat opportunity to avoid the situation. Then the media grabbed a couple videos of it, edited out everything except for the gunshot, and told a lie about what happened to get people to riot. The entire protest was dumb from the beginning and if you supported that protest you're either tremendously misinformed or secretly evil. Almost assuredly the former, because very few people are secretly evil. Pedophiles, wife beaters, and armed robbers excepted.
Next, out of town Antifa kids, including another rapist, another wife beater, and an armed robber, showed up in Kenosha and burned buildings for three days while the cops tried not to stop them because they were worried about escalating things. For two straight days they roamed the streets and burned peoples homes and workplaces, and they didn't even live there. The black folks from Kenosha weren't burning buildings, the white west coast out of towners were.
On the third day of protests, the boog folks showed up to try and stop the rioters from burning buildings because the cops refused to do it. There was a big protest at city hall, the cops formed a line to prevent them from burning the local government building to the ground, and forced the protesters into the streets. The boogs tried to defend the businesses. The aforementioned rapist, wife beater, and armed robber tried to set fire to a gas station. Rittenhouse put the fire out, which is why they attacked him.
While being attacked, Rittenhouse did the exactly correct thing to do when being armed and attacked with nonlethal weapons, which is withdraw. He was fleeing being attacked when an Antifa member fired an illegal gun into the air to try and make him think they were shooting at him. He returned fire and killed the rapist. This is absolutely legal and proper defensive gun use. Then he continued to retreat to try and eliminate the situation, when the wife beater tried to tackle him and take his gun away, so he shot him. Then he continued to retreat when the armed robber drew a gun on him and pointed it at him so he shot him. Then he continued to retreat and they finally let him.
When this trial is over the Rittenhouse case is going to be taught in DGU classes because he did everything right. What he did was above and beyond correct, both legally, and technically, except for potentially one violation of firearm possession minutiae that's a dumb inconsequential law, and I expect him to be found guilty of some level of firearm possession minutiae.
Further, if you're going to pick a side culturally, you have to choose between a boy scout medic who came to a town to prevent it from being burned, and a roaming band of rapists, wife beaters, and robbers trying to burn a town down.
What facts in this from-memory rant were wrong? Did you catch them?
Rosenbaum was an out of towner, Huber was a local, Grosskreutz was from out of town but nearby.
Rosenbaum was indeed a multiple repeat pedophile sexual predator and used to date single mothers as an attack vector to get to their children. Huber was indeed a repeat domestic abuser, although not explicitly a wife beater. Grosskerutz was never convicted of armed robbery, he was just indicted and pled out in return for his state testimony against Rittenhouse, a fact Snopes (for instance) omitted.
While we’re at it, here are some other notable Snopes omissions: It’s not only the defense’s position that Kyle heard a gunshot prior to turning on Rosenbaum, but also the position of the New York Times after extensive video review. Grosskreutz did not have his hands up when Rittenhouse shot him, but in fact was pointing a handgun directly at Rittenhouse and later bragged on social media that his goal was to empty his magazine into Rittenhouse. Snopes completely left out the context of three consecutive days of anarchist arson, of no fire protection due to the anarchy, and of no police presence because they were being fully utilized to prevent the arson of City Hall, over a completely legitimate police action.
Compare my account above, with the small errors fixed, with any single article on the instance by NPR, CNN, Vox, or any blue tribe media source. They are missing almost all of the important information. The co-host of The Young Turks, a deeply progressive/liberal podcast, quipped that she did not even know until this week that the men shot by Rittenhouse weren’t black. Half of the country literally has no idea what actually happened, but holds views on the instance so deeply that they may burn buildings again after Kyle is acquitted due to self-defense. They’re going to claim the acquittal is because of a biased judge, and demand political action against Kyle. Biden will have to appease these people somehow.
The important thing to realize here is that if most of the Blue Tribe knew the facts, they’d run like hell from any opinion whatsoever in this trial. Rioting because a wife beating kidnapping rapist got shot does not fit #METOO, nor does defending a serial pedophile and another wife beater. They have no idea who they’re supporting, because if they did then the story would get no clicks.
The evil actor in this situation is certainly not Kyle Rittenhouse. But it also isn’t, by my read, the people who hate him. The evil actor is the media that made them hate him for clickbait profit, to cover up their prior act of inciting an arsonist riot for clickbait profit. Or, alternately, the evil actor is the business model abstraction itself which drives the media entities to behave this way, because if they didn’t do it someone else would.
In short, the Nash Equilibrium of Handwaving Freakoutery strikes again.