Anatomy of a Catastrophe

How Rampant Stupidity Killed Two People in Kenosha

NOTE: Information about this incident is still emerging. This article will be updated as the facts evolve in this case. There is a lot of information hitting the web about what happened, and not all of it is good information or relevant to the thesis of this article. Bear with us while we try to keep up, okay?

Bullshido, at its heart, is a place of conflict. Founded on the principal that the best way to defeat stupidity is to confront and face it head on, our mission remains one of unceasing, unyielding confrontation. The universe, and far too often for comfort, the United States, seems hell-bent to provide us with opportunities for this sort of antagonistic introspection. And that is what brings us all to Kyle Rittenhouse.

There are a lot of opinions floating around about Kyle Rittenhouse and his actions. Normally when we have an emotionally charged series of events like those surrounding young Mister Rittenhouse, the first and most immediate of these opinions can be quickly parsed into a few easy-to-comprehend categories. You have shrieking partisans, useful idiots, and raging assholes. Reasoned views addressing the complexity of the underlying issues tend not to come until much later because reasoning requires facts and objectivity. Both of which tend to be in short supply for the first forty-eight hours or so.

What makes the Rittenhouse incident so interesting is that virtually every expletive-laden opinion surrounding his actions and the actions of the involved parties has an objective truth at its hate-filled heart. That is a rare thing, and it baked my noodle pretty good when I noticed this ridiculous coincidence. Whatever your opinion of what happened in Kenosha, there is probably a solid factual foundation justifying it. I stewed on that for a while before a potential reason for this formed in my head. Are you ready?

Everyone involved in and around this tragedy is a fucking moron.

Whatever it is that pisses you off about the whole sad circus is supposed to piss you off. YOU ARE NOT WRONG, and I don’t even know what it is specifically that has you smashing the keys on your social media abattoir of choice. I’m not kidding. Pick your poison. I get it and I agree with you. Now to the part you won’t like…

Any discussion of this incident that does not acknowledge the dozens of poor decisions it took to make this catastrophe possible is disingenuous at best and deliberately misleading at worst. That we cannot abide. You can be angry about virtually any aspect of the events, but if you think that gives you permission to ignore this horrific Rube-Goldberg machine of incompetence, delusion, and felonious stupidity, then you have clicked on the wrong goddamn article.

I’ve been trying to piece together the sequence of events for two days, and putting it all together is the mental equivalent of sucking down an extra-large milkshake as fast as you can. It hurt my brain in ways I’m not comfortable talking about. No matter how much bourbon I throw at my higher-order thinking centers, I keep returning to the same conclusion. To be blunt, it should not have been possible for this intricate chain of stupidity to have as many links as it does. Multiple systems failed in a very specific order to produce this outcome, and several people demonstrated astonishingly low levels of forethought in their actions.

Don’t believe me? Let’s break it all out, shall we?

Failure 1: Mother does not know best.

Kyle Rittenhouse is a fairly prototypical 17-year-old American male. That is to say he is an undercooked and emotionally underdeveloped man-child. He loves Donald Trump and dreams of being a police officer someday. He had nothing nice to say about Black Lives Matter and he always gives officers the benefit of the doubt. That’s just from his social media profile, by the way. These are his own, self-avowed positions. Now, I don’t expect his mother to point out the horrible cognitive dissonance of her son committing what is an egregious felony in most states, in the name of “protecting businesses,” but did she really not comprehend the potential consequences?

Obvious red flags notwithstanding, this shining star was given ILLEGAL(1) access to dangerous weapons and then insinuated himself into a HIGHLY TENSE SITUATION WITH THOSE WEAPONS(2), all with his mother’s approval. This served no purpose other than to reinforce his post-adolescent super-hero fantasies and place him in a situation he had virtually none of the physical and emotional tools to navigate. The coming catastrophe is now set into motion…

If his mother had simply told him his idea was moronic on every known level as well as several previously unknown tiers of quantum stupidity, we would have no incident to talk about.

Failure 1A: I keep getting older, they stay the same age…

Given tacit approval by his mother and the local PD, Kyle’s confidence within the paradigm of his delusions was allowed to grow despite his obvious incompetence. Had the local PD simply said, “You are not a cop. Put that gun away and go to your room, kid,” we have no incident.

Failure 1B: You need to be this tall to go on the riot ride.

He was not old enough to carry a gun in public (1). I can’t say this enough. His possession of that rifle was a goddamn felony in many states, and a misdemeanor in Wisconsin(1). It wasn’t even a well-thought-out ruse, either. Rittenhouse is reportedly 5’3” tall and 135 pounds. He cannot even grow a beard. Had any of the NUMEROUS police officers he interacted with that night looked at the baby-faced, undersized youth and said, “hey waitaminnit… are you over 18?” we would have no incident to discuss.

ADDENDUM: It gets worse. 19-year-old Dominick Black has been charged with purchasing the rifle on Kyle’s behalf. Kyle is not old enough to purchase a gun in any state, and it appears that he got his friend to make the buy for him. This is referred to as a “straw purchase” and is an egregious felony. Because that is exactly what this situation needed: one more moron rowing this douche-canoe up shit creek as fast as their little arms can propel them.

Failure 2: I don’t think it means what you think it means.

This was supposed to be a peaceful protest over legitimate civil rights issues with regard to the behavior of Kenosha’s civil servants. However, there is no objective description of what was occurring on the streets that does not at least allow for the fact some of the “protesting” was much more akin to “rioting.”

Furthermore, as is so often the case, a small cohort of participating protesters were actively and deliberately belligerent. They showed up to pick a fight, or at least seemed highly predisposed toward one. If you hate how the alt-right paints protesters as looters, rioters, and thugs, then you can blame these few guys for giving them the ammunition to do it. If the protests had not included people more interested in agitating than protesting, we would have no incident to discuss.

Failure 2A: It takes two to tango, but some people tango harder than others.

For reasons not yet entirely clear, some of these disingenuous people singled out the youngest, smallest, and least competent-looking member of the gun-toting idiots patrolling the streets and began harassing him. It is not clear exactly what started this, though it appears that Kyle was trying to put out a dumpster fire (The irony! It burns!) set by these “protestors”. It is entirely feasible that Kyle somehow instigated the deterioration of this interaction. It is equally possible that the convicted felon (Sexual assault of a minor) that he is seen arguing with on camera picked the fight. This one is a wash, because both parties participated in this waste of oxygen with equal enthusiasm at first. Had they not been committing arson, it might never have escalated. Had the grown adult men simply rolled their eyes at the immature wannabe and laughed at his stupid LARPing, we would have no incident to discuss.

Failure 2B: Bullies bullying bullies is the new bullying.

At some point, the convicted sex offender throws something at Kyle. It looks like Kyle’s counterfeit confidence in his mastery of the situation is shot, because he immediately attempts to retreat. This emboldens several of the more belligerent protesters, including the thrower. They elect to pursue Kyle.

I still, for the life of me cannot understand the ‘why’ of this. They had won. The silly man-child was defeated and running off with his tail between his legs. Had they let Kyle run away, we have no incident to discuss. But they just could not help themselves. It wasn’t enough to win, they had to rub it in. These are not protesters anymore. They’re now bullies and none too bright.

Failure 2C: Knowing when to quit is for quitters!

The bullies pursue the retreating Kyle. In the videos, Kyle is obviously in full retreat. I don’t know what is going through his head, but I suspect he had begun to realize that oper8r life is not the video game fantasy he thought it was. The delusions his parents should have trained out of him are crumbling.  It could have been over then. Some hilarious YouTube videos of Kyle being chased off by a group of brave protesters would have been a crushing victory for the pursuers. Imagine the memes!

Of course, that is exactly when something truly, magnificently stupid happens. This will not be the stupidest thing to happen over the course of what follows. However, it will push the consequences for everybody’s foolishness across the point of no return.

Failure 3: Oh, dear God this isn’t funny anymore.

Some intellectual amoeba in the pursuing mob shoots a pistol in the air. It is on camera. It happened. That is the first shot fired, and the moron was not even aiming at anyone. He just lets one fly for the hell of it. That is the guy I hate the most in all this. There is no version of events that justified that shot. It served no other purpose than to escalate a highly precarious situation into a bloody nightmare. If he had kept his dick in his pants and his booger hook off the bang switch, it is probable that Kyle would have finished his undignified retreat, learned something about the world, and that could have been the end of it all. But wait! We still have not achieved maximum stupid yet.

Failure 3A: Nothing like the simulations.

Kyle turns at the sound of the shot, and one can only assume he is full-on panicking now. He does not have the emotional maturity or the training for this. A gun has been fired and he sees the same man who has already attacked him once rushing him and trying to grab his weapon. He fires multiple times, with little control of his weapon and no real plan of action. 7-8 shots can be heard, four strike his attacker. Witnesses report the others bounced off the ground. Some people think this is good marksmanship(4), I think missing half your shots at a distance of less than ten feet with a rifle is pretty damn mediocre. But Kyle is scared and it’s dark, so you can decide for yourself.

When the man drops Kyle either turns and continues to run away, or circles behind a car for cover, depending on which version you read.

Failure 3B: I need an adult!

Either way, the crowd begins to descend on Kyle once more. He flees the scene of the first shooting with several dozen people in hot pursuit. Seconds later, Kyle trips and falls on his stupid face because he is not properly trained, or even trained at all(4).  He’s a seventeen-year-old out of shape LARPer now into the shit so deep he cannot even see his way out anymore. If he could walk and chew gum at the same time, the incident could have ended with only one fatality. Unfortunately, the universe isn’t done humiliating us yet.

Failure 3C: Into the breach.

Several protesters take advantage of Kyle’s fall to physically assault him. I want to pause for a moment to acknowledge that some of these people probably felt they were helping to apprehend a rampaging killer. That is noble. It is also stupid on at least two levels. First, Kyle was not a rampaging killer, nor did any of his behavior up to this point resemble one. Second, Kyle was well-armed and terrified. Nevertheless, unencumbered by comprehension or objective reasoning, several brave souls attacked.

The first to reach Kyle was a man who did several years in prison for strangling and restraining his girlfriend. Why is this relevant? If Kyle’s past as cop-worshiping Trump supporter is relevant, then the criminal history of a man engaged in felonious assault with a dangerous weapon is, too. That’s how objectivity works. The violent felon proceeds to kick at the downed man-child and follows that up by bashing Kyle with a skateboard. Surprising absolutely no one, this man is fatally shot mid-bludgeon. A second man rushes Kyle with a drawn pistol and no concept of how it works because he’s just sort of waving it at his side while charging A PANICKING MORON WITH AN AR-15. He too, is shot. He takes a round to the arm and retreats. (ADDENDUM and EDIT: It turns out that this third assailant was convicted of carrying a firearm while intoxicated in 2016, though it does not appear that he was legally prohibited from carrying a firearm at the time of the incident, as previously reported. In many states, this conviction would have resulted in loss or suspension of firearms license, hence the confusion.) These are all failures of both situational awareness and tactical judgement.

Again, had the attackers let the stupid idiot run away we have no incident. Had they not assaulted an armed person on the ground, we have no incident. Had everybody shown even a modicum of firearms skill or discipline, we have no incident. Had the law prevented ANYONE carrying a gun illegally from participating in this maelstrom of dumbassery, we have no incident.

Failure 4: Quality police work.

With no one else attacking, Kyle continues to flee. He flags down several cops as they approach the scene and tries to surrender. The responding police are not interested in what he has to say. They do not let him speak and instead order him to go home. Had the police performed any sort of police work that night (making sure that there were no 17-year-olds toting ARs on the streets, for instance), we have no incident. Had they stopped to gather any intel about the scene, we would have much less of a clusterfuck.

Okay. I’m exhausted just parsing all that out.

Putting together the events and participants, I can only marvel at how far we have fallen. This incident is the clearest, most starkly damning example of how poorly our civil systems are functioning. So much had to go wrong for this to happen, and so many people had to fail their basic intelligence rolls to make it come together the way it did. This is a story with absolutely no “good guys.”

So, go ahead and be mad, folks. You have the right. No matter how or why your hackles are up, you have a leg to stand on thanks to a real team effort from various idiots. Fire up the old social media hate machine and get to typing ‘cuz this one has it all, folks! Let’s go to the checklist!

White privilege: White kid illegally carrying an AR-15 shoots three people and can’t even get arrested when he surrenders? Hell yeah. That’s gotta be the white privilege gold medal right there. If you don’t think that the same interaction would not have gone MUCH differently for a black man, I encourage you to look up the event that sparked this whole mess in the first place.

Police incompetence: Where do I start? Every cop who interacted with Rittenhouse and failed to card him needs to be suspended and retrained. Full stop. Look at any picture of Kyle Rittenhouse and ask yourself, “Would a convenience store clerk card him for a carton of cigarettes?” Don’t bother answering. We already know. That’s just bad police work coming and going. There is no other valid interpretation of that screw up.

Failure of Law and Order™: Two convicted felons(3) picked a fight with kid during some riots. It is absolutely unfair to hold protesters responsible for the actions of a few bad apples. Conversely, you cannot pretend there are no bad apples. That’s also how objectivity works. If you believe that a few bad cops warrants defunding the whole of law enforcement, or if you’ve ever argued that a few bad gun owners is justification for banning guns, then you might want to take a good look at some of the peaceful protests we have been enjoying in 2020. If you are mad, save some of that righteous fury for those who give a peaceful movement a bad name. There is plenty of stupid to go around, please apply your scorn appropriately.

Gun control: Everybody who has any opinion on guns in the US should be mad about this one. The anti-gun crowd should be livid that Kyle was able to walk around with an illegal weapon without any consequences. The third victim was not expressly forbidden to have a gun, yet one could argue that he should have been. Most of the pro-gun crowd is definitely mad about this stuff, too. See? You already agree on something!

Anyone who fancies themselves a shooter should be apoplectic over the incredibly poor weapon-handling by every single person with a gun. The asshole who fired the first shot for no damn reason should be arrested and punished to the fullest extent of the law. Kyle needs a prison term for even having a gun at all (his abysmal skills notwithstanding)(1). The third victim running around with zero muzzle control got his bicep blown off so I suppose he has been punished enough, except for the fact that in m ost states he would have been a prohibited person. The point is that nobody looks good, here.

In conclusion…

This incident is a warning. It is a gasping canary in the coal mine of endemic, systemic, pervasive stupidity infecting numerous levels of what we like to think of as our society. It’s not (insert your pet issue here) that makes it worse, it’s our inability to address any of the stupidity without collapsing in to militant thought-camps that refuse to acknowledge any position that is not their own. WE screwed this up. Not THEM.


Kyle Rittenhouse is a call to action. Nobody was in the right, everybody made it worse. You want blame? Fine. Blame the leaders we elected, blame our influencers, blame our media, blame our prejudices, blame guns, blame pop culture. But do me one favor first. Look in the mirror and accept your share of the blame for the petty vendettas and the bitterness we can’t let go of even when it hurts us. We’re all so focused on winning the arguments that we have forgotten to solve the goddamn problems.

We don’t have to argue about Kyle Rittenhouse if we don’t want to. He’s not the real problem, anyway.  What happened in Kenosha was the result of a very preventable series of failures across the board. If we can accept that, then it gets much easier to take a deep a breath and say as one united people:

“Oh, shit. That’s not a good sign, is it?”

Footnote (1): Kyle’s lawyer has cited an obscure rule in Wisconsin law that allows minors to carry rifles if they are under the supervision of an adult who can legally do so. This rule exists so minors can get to the shooting range or their hunting spots with their rifles legally if there is an adult present. It’s a good rule. Does it apply in this case? Maybe, if you kind of squint your eyes and ignore all the surrounding context. Where was the responsible adult supervising Kyle? I posit that the intervention of at least ONE GODDAMN RESPONSIBLE ADULT might have changed the outcome by quite a bit. But there appear to be none present at any point. There is some conflict in how the law is written which is creating some contentious debate about what the law requires, though at least two lawyers have advised me that there is little chance Rittenhouse was in compliance with Wisconsin law even with this loophole. The matter will be settled by the courts in any case. Until the courts rule otherwise, it is my position that Kyle was not in compliance with Wisconsin law. It now appears that the rifle was secured via “straw purchase,” making his possession of the weapon in any capacity illegal, and virtually guaranteeing Kyle will not escape this without charges.

Footnote (2): Kyle’s lawyer has claimed that he was in the area that day prior to the riots working as a community lifeguard. He was then asked to help clean graffiti at a local school. After that, a local business owner asked for help protecting his car dealership from rioters whereupon a friend loaned Kyle the AR-15 in question. Is any of this true? It looks like at least some of it is likely, except that the rifle appears to have been acquired via illegal straw purchase. It is still held as fact that his mother transported him to and from the riots, and there is some indication that she was participating as a civilian guard in the same manner her son was. At the very least, most accounts agree that Kyle had his mother’s approval and blessing to be in Kenosha with that rifle.

Footnote (3): Here is a link to an article that lists the criminal records of Kyle’s victims with supporting documentation. The article has it’s own thesis that you may or may not find compelling. I don’t care, because they did a good job getting all the information on the victims into one place with references. That’s all I wanted.

Footnote (4): I have heard from many people that Kyle showed good muzzle control and trigger discipline. They feel that my characterization of his skills is unfair. I think these people are setting the bar way too low for teenagers carrying rifles on public streets during riots. Trigger discipline and muzzle control are the BARE MINIMUM skills for firearms handling of any kind. My ten-year-old has both. Not blowing your own foot off does not an operator make, and pretending that his barely adequate performance is anything other is not a good look for the pro-2A community. Rittenhouse displayed extremely poor physical readiness, tactical awareness, forethought, shot placement, and general communications skills throughout the whole mess. He was a minimally trained amateur and it showed. If Rittenhouse is a competent shooter then the average range-day hobbyist who actually puts effort in is a goddamn Navy SeAL by comparison.