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Commentary: The reason people died in Kenosha is because of lies — and the liars have still not been held accountable

Op-ed
Joshua Lott for The Washington Post via Getty Images

As the nation struggles to come to grips with the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, many people who have been fed a false narrative about what happened that fateful night in August of 2020 are confused as to why no one will apparently be held accountable for the violence that erupted that night. These people should redirect their ire from Kyle Rittenhouse to the liars who created the powder keg in Kenosha in the first place: activists and the media who sold an entirely false narrative regarding the shooting of Jacob Blake, and who still, for the most part, have refused to admit error in their coverage of those events.

Recall that all of people who were shot on August 25th, 2021, were there because of riots that were sparked by the story that police in Kenosha had unjustifiably shot an unarmed black man named Jacob Blake seven times in the back. This claim was initially made by Blake's family and a number of bystanders who happened to be present at the time of the shooting, who released video of the shooting itself without further context. The claim was amplified repeatedly and uncritically by more media figures than can even possibly be counted.

Police in Kenosha countered this narrative by publishing a number of easily-verifiable facts that should have put reasonable people on notice that all was not as it seemed, but these facts were ignored. Those facts likewise continue to be largely ignored, even by the President of the United States, who less than two weeks ago praised members of the Milwaukee Bucks for refusing to take the court until they got an explanation for Blake's shooting, even though such explanation had already been provided by police.

The police knew, and immediately stated to the public, that they had been called to the scene of the shooting by the same woman who had been the victim in a warrant for sexual assault and domestic abuse that was still outstanding against Blake. Virtually no circumstance on earth is likely to make police respond with their hackles raised more than learning that a woman who has accused a man of sexual assault and domestic abuse is calling 9-1-1 to report that he has returned and is causing a violent altercation, and has stolen her car keys, thus preventing escape.

Criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and it is true that Blake had not been convicted, but to any reasonable police officer, a man who has been accused of sexual assault and domestic abuse against a woman presents an immediate threat to that woman if he goes near her again. This is a principle that any person, conservative, liberal or otherwise should embrace and applaud. If there is a warrant out for a man who is accused of sexually assaulting and abusing a woman, and she calls and reports to the cops that he has returned, cops should not assume that he is there to discuss the weather or chit-chat about the foibles of the local sports teams.

These facts alone — which were knowable by public records immediately after the shooting, should have been enough to generate a pause among those who might be tempted to have uncritically repeated the claim that Kenosha police showed up to just try to murder Jacob Blake for no good reason. But they did not. Neither were the liars deterred by the police's claim that, contrary to Blake's claim, he did have a knife and did violently resist their efforts to arrest him. Nor were the police heeded when they claimed that the woman who called them that the knife-wielding Blake had her child and was attempting to kidnap him. It was assumed that the police were lying and/or planting evidence.

Now, I am not one who believes that police are above lying and/or planting evidence. I know that it does sometimes happen. But, again, any reasonable person's willingness to believe this should have severely diminished when Blake's history with respect to the woman who called 9-1-1 was revealed. Sadly, it was not.

Not surprisingly, the intervening weeks and months have made clear that almost the entirety of the original story was a lie, including the part about Blake being "unarmed." Blake himself has admitted that he fought with officers, putting one in a headlock, and that he indeed was holding the knife that officers found in the car.

Now, if any person out there has a wife, or a mother, or a daughter, or any woman of importance in their life, and that person told them that a man had sexually assaulted and abused them, and that the man in question was back at this woman's house with a knife, what would you want the cops to do? What would you want the cops to do if they attempted to take him in without resorting to lethal force and he fought violently with them? What would you want the cops to do if he ignored being tasered twice and appeared to be getting into a car with a kidnapped child while holding a knife? I submit that if you wouldn't want the cops to shoot in that situation, then you just don't want there to be any cops.

Largely, however, these facts about the Blake case have not pierced the public consciousness because the liars who disseminated them have simply pretended that they do not exist in order to avoid having to admit error. And these lies, told during the height of public anxiety caused by the George Floyd incident and the lockdowns imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, are what brought all those people in Kenosha to that combustible situation that night. So if anyone is looking for someone to be angry at, try being angry at the people who sold these lies, because without them, none of the people involved — including Rittenhouse, Rosenbaum, Huber, and Grosskreutz — would have been on that street that night.

Sadly, many of the same liars have learned nothing from Kenosha, having willfully painted a false depiction of the facts on that night in order to convict Kyle Rittenhouse in the court of public opinion, all for the sake of ratings. And so the nation holds its breath, wondering whether violence awaits us again — violence caused and cheered on by people who have no regard for the truth and will never face a jury of their peers to account for what they have done.

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