by James Billot
Wednesday, 22
December 2021
Idea
17:34

Kyle Rittenhouse: the latest Right-wing celebrity

The acquitted shooter joins a long line of accidental political pin-ups
by James Billot

“Do you like [girls] curvy or thick?”

This is not a question typically asked of someone who recently shot and killed two people with an AR-15. Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on all charges, but his life after Kenosha has taken a rather bizarre, if depressingly predictable, turn (his answer, by the way, was ‘thick’). 

Instead, of “laying low” as Rittenhouse suggested he would do, the 18-year-old has been working the Right-wing podcast circuit hard, answering questions about his virginity (or lack thereof) and telling Lebron James to “fuck off”. This week, he entered the Wrestle-mania phase of his celebrity as he arrived at a young conservatives conference to personalised theme music and hundreds cheering his name. Welcome to America in 2021.

To his credit, Rittenhouse has answered questions about his trial with care; when one meat-headed podcast host crowed that it “was kind of impressive that of all the people you shot at, you killed probably two of the worst on the planet”, Rittenhouse responded that it was “nothing to be congratulated about.” Nor did Rittenhouse try and play up to his audience, even telling Tucker Carlson that he “supports” the BLM movement.

But Rittenhouse has been subsumed into a culture war over which he has little control. Ever since Joe the Plumber harangued then-presidential candidate Barack Obama about his tax policy, there has been a conveyor belt of ordinary Americans being elevated into cult-like status on the Right. Before Rittenhouse, it was Nascar driver Brandon Brown of the now-notorious ‘Let’s go Brandon’ chant, followed by the McCloskey couple who brandished weapons at BLM protesters forcibly entering their property. And before them, Nick Sandmann, the Covington schoolboy who this week reached a settlement with NBC for defamation after media reports claimed that he and other students harassed a Native American man, Nathan Phillips.

What these new Right wing celebrities have in common is that they have all fallen prey to Left-wing overreach or malice in some way or another. They are the pin-up victims of a culture war with no antecedent status or position. 

The Democrats are not afraid to make martyrs out of victims too, but their heroes aren’t Nascar drivers and teenage vigilantes. Rather, it is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Fauci and Frances Haugen who became liberal icons for their unswerving commitment to the “Truth”, nobly treading a path dealing exclusively in facts and reality. This is, after all, the party of the professional-managerial class; their tone is grave, serious and humourless.

The new wave of icons on the Right are more likely to be accidental, half-ironic and occasionally cringe. Rittenhouse will not be the last.

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Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
11 months ago

“Rather, it is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Fauci and Frances Haugen who became liberal icons for their unswerving commitment to the Truth, nobly treading a path dealing exclusively in facts and reality. This is, after all, the party of the professional-managerial class; their tone is grave, serious and humourless.”
Good one James! Wait, you’re serious!? No James, the reason Rittenhouse is gaining the traction he has is specifically because of liberal icons lack of truth and his lack of status. When liberal readers of the Washington Post and CNN viewers are shocked to discover everyone involved in the incident was white or that everyone shot by Rittenhouse had either grabbed a hold of his rifle or pointed a gun at him, there is a serious problem. His lack of previous status is part of the point. If the liberal media establishment will try to destroy someone unimportant like him, they will try to destroy anyone. His defamation lawsuits are probably going to be more brutal than Sandmann’s.
Getting away from Rittenhouse, almost no one trusts Fauci anymore after all the lies. Haugen was the fakest whistleblower I have ever seen. Usually those who challenge the powerful and connected face threats and harassment, not fame and acclaim. I agree with you on Ginsburg, but she is gone now. So tell me who are the liberal icons with an unswerving commitment to the truth? I am having a hard time thinking of any.

Last edited 11 months ago by Matt Hindman
Louis Van Steene
Louis Van Steene
11 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

I agree entirely other than that it seems to me that some irony has been lost – “Truth” is in scare quotes after all. May well be wishful thinking on my part, though.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
11 months ago

I see, he was using the capital “Truth,” as in parody, instead of “truth.” Looks like I fell for Poe’s Law. Part of the problem is I have heard people say almost the exact same things recently and they were absolutely serious.

Last edited 11 months ago by Matt Hindman
David McDowell
David McDowell
11 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Well said. Tainting a giant like Bader Ginsberg – for all her faults – by association with these two is disgraceful.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
11 months ago
Reply to  James Billot

I thought so, but wasn’t certain. I think you overstated it just enough so that I didn’t write an angry reposte.
It was probably a little too subtle for the hyper-politicised times we live.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
11 months ago
Reply to  James Billot

And you James, more power to the Unherd elbow in 2022.

Matt B
Matt B
11 months ago
Reply to  James Billot

It was clear – to anyone not on a trigger hair. From abroad, US politics is seen as either exemplary in its range or in a death spiral since 1989. So what ideas may break the spell as serious issues deepen while everyone stares into Andromeda nebula-sized navels? Unfortunately, there are several Deus Ex Machina leaning on the partly-unhinged gates.

Last edited 11 months ago by Matt B
Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
11 months ago

It’s Christmas-time James, I’m not rising to it. Stay healthy and enjoy the break.

David Slade
David Slade
11 months ago
Reply to  Dustin Needle

Yeah, I’ll second that sentiment – Anthony Fauci; commitment to the truth? Come on!

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
11 months ago
Reply to  David Slade

The fact the writer capitalised the T in truth implied to me that he was using it in an ironic fashion, in that it’s the truth the left want it to be rather than the the truth in any meaningful sense of the word. I could be wrong though

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
11 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Well you are actually as bemused as the rest of us.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
11 months ago

I got the impression he was using it in the same way as lockdown supporters talk about “The Science” as if there’s never contrasting views in scientific research. Perhaps the writer could reply to piece to clear it up

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
11 months ago
Reply to  James Billot

Next time call it The Truth 🙂

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
11 months ago
Reply to  Dustin Needle

Christmas? I thought it was April 1 when I saw mention of Fauci and Truth, nobly treading the path.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
11 months ago

“Rather, it is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Fauci and Frances Haugen who became liberal icons for their unswerving commitment to the Truth, nobly treading a path dealing exclusively in facts and reality. This is, after all, the party of the professional-managerial class; their tone is grave, serious and humourless. ”

Is this the finest piece of irony I’ve ever read?

Last edited 11 months ago by Andrew Dalton
Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

No. If by ‘irony’ you mean what in the UK is called ‘sarcasm’ (they never used to be the same thing) then a particular example of e.g. Fauci’s schtick would have been better. And the last sentence deflates itself by using the word ‘humourless’ (already covered by the word ‘grave’).

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
11 months ago

It’s good to see Kyle has recovered somewhat from his traumatic experiences at the hands of criminals and the police.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
11 months ago

Either the author is a soy-eating member of the Democratic Party, or he’s taking a specimen.

Matt B
Matt B
11 months ago

Ask him – maybe he’s not?

Chris Eaton
Chris Eaton
11 months ago

I imagine that few people in the UK even have a limited grasp of the implications brought to bear in the fact that a significant number of Americans are not only heavily armed but actually know how to use their weapons.

Matt B
Matt B
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris Eaton

I really do think we do. The news is full of it each year as News from Nowhere ‘plus gun’ distracts from real crises elsewhere that do matter – to other people also with guns, but also wars, poverty and disease … and perhaps a better grasp of reality beyond a pistol grip. Recent American self-indulgence as a world ‘thought-leader’ is staggering, and talk of US civil war so ridiculous it’s laughable. And yet …

Last edited 11 months ago by Matt B
Chris Eaton
Chris Eaton
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt B

Not much has changed in British thinking in the last 250 years…which is why we are the United States of America and not still a colony. So, no, you don’t get it.

Hersch Schneider
Hersch Schneider
11 months ago

Clickbait cr*p. Unherd should be better than this, trolling your own readership is not a great move
‘for their unswerving commitment to the Truth’
Mm hmm.

Bob Taylor
Bob Taylor
11 months ago

With one remarkable exception, our pinups have been ordinary people who were demonized by a Woke media for being normal or doing normal things: questioning a politician; showing willingness to defend their property; being a young, white, bemused male who is a little taller than the Native American old man who was in his face. The remarkable exception has the admiration of people who haven’t had a little krait gene spliced into them.

I hope Kyle Rittenhouse sidesteps inelegances. It’s amazing that he’s done as well as he has. But then, at 17, he showed himself the equal of an extremely well trained, valiant professional soldier.

I don’t want him to become A Celebrity: lucrative public speaking gigs, $100.00 for an autographed photo. But he needs loot, a lot of it, and he needs to be protected from genuine murderers.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
11 months ago

Are there people in the Democrat Party who embody the pioneer spirit which founded the USA?

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
11 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Good question – it would be good to know the full gamut of democrat supporters – I know my brother in SanFran is pretty well balanced…

Chris Eaton
Chris Eaton
10 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

I think that the continued successful resistance to gun control in the United States is proof that there are liberals who have that kind of spirit.

D Glover
D Glover
11 months ago

I realise that Unherd is trying to attract more US subscribers, but this really is desperate stuff.