To say that young Kyle Rittenhouse is at the center of a firestorm is a bit of an understatement. Following his actions in Kenosha, opinions on his actions are varied, to be sure, but typically somewhat indicative of an individuals politics. If you supported the “protestors,” then Rittenhouse is an unhinged maniac who rolled into town looking to shoot someone.
Then there are the rest of us who see what he did as a simple case of self-defense.
However, there’s been a concerted effort to smear this young man, pretty much from the moment he pulled the trigger. Now, the Southern Poverty Law Center has joined in the dogpile.
The problem? Something about their source doesn’t pass the sniff test.
Ryan Balch, the Wisconsin man who Hatewatch reported was immersed in white supremacist propaganda before joining Rittenhouse in Kenosha on Aug. 25, reached out to Hatewatch by phone. He offered additional context about what happened that night, when Rittenhouse allegedly killed two people and injured another. Balch, 31, described the militia contingent that descended on the city in the midst of civil unrest there as being “small groups of friends who went together” in separate groups. He called the groups “ad hoc.” Balch also told Hatewatch that Rittenhouse lied to him that night, claiming that he was 18 years old and an EMT, both of which were untrue.
Now, there are already a couple of problems with this.
First, I find it convenient that someone supposedly “immersed in white supremacist propaganda” suddenly has a conversion just a couple of weeks later and immediately flocks to the SPLC.
Second, even if Rittenhouse told this guy everything he claims he did, so what? A 17-year-old lied about stuff, possibly to make himself look cooler? Well, that has never happened in the history of mankind before, now has it?
Referring to the culture war surrounding the violence that gripped Kenosha in August, Balch told Hatewatch in a phone call:
I think that the propaganda around Rittenhouse is not factually based, which I mean, it’s propaganda, so of course. But … it’s really damning [when looking at] the facts of what happened. And, I think them lionizing him is only going to hurt him down the road. It’s only going to [make] the divide bigger. Myself personally, I don’t lionize him. Rittenhouse was a kid who lied to the people he was with. Anybody who was in proximity to him, he lied to us.
And yet, those same people could have distanced themselves from Kyle at any point, and yet, none did except for the guy who claims he was knee-deep in racist propaganda then immediately after this happened, flipped.
Now, this feels convenient. That alone would be grounds to be skeptical, yet there’s another bit that makes me think there’s more to this.
Namely, this bit:
Balch dismissed the credibility of a potential criminal defense of Rittenhouse using the Second Amendment’s description of a “well-regulated militia,” which is what his lawyer apparently intends to argue on his behalf in court.
“There was not a whole lot of communication [that night], and that was even within the protesters themselves,” Balch told Hatewatch. Asked what he would need to call a militia well-regulated, Balch said, “There would have to be some organization.” Hatewatch reached out to Rittenhouse’s lawyer, John Pierce, for a comment on this story, through his firm Pierce Bainbridge. Pierce did not immediately respond.
Except, that’s not how anyone I’ve ever talked to on this side of the aisle describes the “well-regulated militia.” That sounds like a left-wing interpretation of what we might believe, but it’s not.
See, a militia can be called up in an instant, pulling volunteers from all over the place, people who don’t know each other and have never met one another. Sometimes there can’t be organization, and that’s why I’m skeptical of these claims at all.
Now, as much as I dislike them, I don’t think the SPLC is really guilty of much of anything. I think they got approached with a story they just couldn’t pass up and they ran with it.
What I’m interested in knowing is whether any other member of the armed citizens in Kenosha met Balch and can even confirm his attendance. I’d also love to chat with them about their impressions of the man.
Somehow, I suspect we’ll learn some interesting things before this is over.