Daily Bread for 10.26.21: Wisconsin as a Testbed for Politically-Motivated Violence

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of 54.  Sunrise is 7:22 AM and sunset 5:54 PM for 10h 31m 29s of daytime.  The moon is a waning gibbous with 71.9% of its visible disk illuminated.

 Whitewater’s Common Council meets at 6:30 PM.

 On this day in 1944, the Battle of Leyte Gulf ends with an overwhelming American victory.

Wisconsin is beautiful, yet she has also been a testbed for ugliness: gerrymandering, false claims about the 2020 election, and populists’ efforts to dominate schools districts with PAC money and outside consultants.

There is, however, something worse than all these: Wisconsin as a testbed for politically-motivated violence.

 Charles Homans reports Kyle Rittenhouse and the New Era of Political Violence (‘What brought the teenager and so many others to the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin equipped for war?’):

They called themselves citizens or patriots, and the demonstrators and media often called them militias, but it would have been most accurate to call them paramilitaries: young-to-middle-aged white men, mostly, armed with assault-style rifles and often clad in tactical gear, who appeared in town that evening arrayed purposefully around gas stations and used-car lots. Their numbers, based on video footage and firsthand accounts, may have run anywhere from the high dozens to the low hundreds, but no official estimates were made. Law-enforcement officers seemed to have broadly tolerated, and occasionally openly expressed support for, their activities, despite the fact that many of them were violating the same emergency curfew order under which dozens of demonstrators were arrested.

One of the most extensive records of their appearance was made by Kristan T. Harris, the Milwaukee-based host of a streamed talk show called “The Rundown Live” (“covering news and conspiracy that your local news won’t”), a sort of junior cousin of Alex Jones’s conspiracist Infowars media empire. Harris was also a prolific livestreamer, a frequent presence at protests and other happenings in the Upper Midwest. An advocate for armed citizens’ groups (though not actually a gun owner himself), Harris had been at plenty of assemblies where military-style hardware was ostentatiously carried. “It’s a penis-measuring contest — let’s call it what it is,” he told me. But it was immediately clear to him, in Kenosha, that something had shifted: “When people say, ‘Hey, take your positions, they’re coming our way’ — that, to me, sounds like war.”

A handful of figures, rifles in hand, were visible in silhouette on the roof of a car dealership. “We’ve got militia on the roof here, and it’s pretty neat,” Harris told his viewers. “They’re here to protect the local neighborhood and buildings, they said.” Out front, two young men stood sentry with rifles in front of a silver sedan. “Get my good angle,” one of them said, leaning nonchalantly against the driver’s side door. He smiled. “I’m Kyle, by the way.”

Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, who lived just across the state line in Illinois, arrived in Kenosha the night before. The next day, he joined several other young men in the defense of the dealership where Harris encountered him. Less than two hours later, he would shoot three men, killing two and wounding the third, and transforming himself, in an instant, into a Rorschach test.


Donald Trump had labored for several years to make a national boogeyman out of antifa, the left-wing anti-authoritarian movement, directing law-enforcement resources toward it that had been dedicated to investigating right-wing extremism and threatening to designate it a terrorist group, despite his F.B.I. director’s belief that it was really “more of an ideology than an organization.” In the antifa heartland of Portland, Ore., the upheavals following George Floyd’s death brought members of the movement together with Black Lives Matter activists in clashes with the police that would continue for months. In other cities, the streets were filled with white demonstrators who at least lookedlike antifa. These developments offered an end run around the messy racial optics of a law-and-order campaign that directly targeted Black protesters.

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