Kyle Rittenhouse hugs his attorney following his acquittal. C-SPAN

I was disappointed to see an item in The Mirror on November 22, entitled “The bias that found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty sends other young people to jail,” written by The Mirror’s new Community Editorial Board director/columnist, that denounced the Rittenhouse jury verdict as biased. I was primarily disappointed because there was zero evidence presented to reach such a conclusion.

Alan Calandro

The author uses the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict as an excuse to get a lot of other things off her chest: namely racism. She starts with a general denunciation of America by broadly stating that the verdict is an “illustration of our nation’s deeply lodged beliefs about the kinds of kids who belong in prison and the kinds who don’t.” Implication: he’s guilty, but overtly/systemically racist whites won’t send him to jail. A tour then commences of selected crime topics that have little or nothing to do with the verdict and ironically have everything to do with her own biases.

As an example of her national denunciation she cites a news story on state Republican crime proposals that she says are designed to scare people into believing that “Black and brown kids have launched a concerted and organized campaign to steal (unlocked) cars and wreak havoc in neighborhoods.”  No one anywhere thinks that kids across the state have formed a car theft cartel, but why let hyperbole get in the way.

If you dig a little deeper into the scariness beyond the news story you can find the actual state House Republican plan as well as the state Senate Republican plan. Side note: most people outside the Capitol don’t realize Republicans and Democrats in each house act as individual caucuses with their own agendas – which just adds to the inefficiency and redundancy of too many seats in the State House.

Case in point: a notable difference in content between the Republican plans. The Senate Republican plan is mild and reads more like a Democrat proposal. Of the 13 policies, there is a heavy emphasis on community programs – a longstanding hallmark of the Democrat approach to crime in Connecticut. It does include three proposals about law enforcement, but only one might raise a liberal’s skepticism: “targeted modifications to laws to enable police to do their jobs.” The House Republican proposal overall is “tougher” and contain nine that are mostly technical such as requiring studies or collecting information, three that could be considered social programming such as requiring family support interventions earlier in the process, and the remaining six generally increase penalties and toughen other criminal processes. These remaining six could increase the number of people of any race going to prison.

The Democrats are right, that the initial political reaction to crime is always to raise penalties, which is understandable as a reaction to public demand for action, but questionable as a deterrent. The prison system is broken there is no doubt about that. But while extolling the virtue of Democrats, the article neglects to note that in the past whenever there was some type of crime in the news, almost every year the Democrat majority Judiciary Committee approved bills to increase or create a criminal penalty.

Are Republicans more likely to rely on law enforcement for fighting crime? Yes, but both Republicans and Democrats are responsible for creating the large prison population of the 1990s.

State Republicans present accurate – but selected — statistics that are not “untrue, of course” as the author claims. A September 28 article in the Hartford Courant reports that overall crime is down but homicides and car thefts are up by more than 40% from 2019 to 2020, which is a large increase in anybody’s book. She cites a colleague’s article of August 15 entitled: “On car thefts, Republicans focus on the anecdotal. Democrats emphasize data” which followed July 7/August 10 press events on the steps of the Capitol by House Republicans made up of “mostly white crowd[s].” (Read: unfit to make crime policy). Democrats held their own press event and explained that its only when crime infiltrates the borders of suburbia do whites act while ignoring the on-going crime in the cities. One New Haven Democrat even described how he “slept with a knife under [his] mattress every night because [he] was a victim of crime constantly.” Could it be that these ignorant mostly white people are trying to stop where they live from becoming places where people sleep with weapons under their pillows?

This article also includes a laughably biased observation that “while Republicans focused on tragic stories and impassioned demands for accountability, Democrats honed in on facts and figures.” Laughable because Democrats are notorious for basing policy on emotion and feelings while the long-standing criticism of Republicans is that they are uncompassionate to others’ pain. It brushes aside Republicans’ focus on juvenile theft even though juveniles made up 36% of arrests for car theft which was a sizable increase of 29% from the 2010 to 2019 time period. Yet this statistic is significantly flawed because police only make arrests in 11.6% of car thefts (2020 data). Bad news for the 7,295 non-anecdotal people who had their cars stolen in 2020. That data gap helps and hurts both sides – the real answer is no one knows the true breakdown of who is committing these crimes.

What is really striking is the left’s newfound preference to facts over anecdotes. Was George Floyd an anecdote? Judging by the national disgust, outrage, allowed looting/destruction of parts of cities across America along with blatantly biased reporting – he was not. Yet “data- wise “he was — just one of over 1,100 police involved deaths per year (over 230 are Black deaths). And this number is likely higher due to underreporting by police. From a human perspective, he was not an “anecdote” and neither were the 108 people that were killed in Connecticut last year. Both parties use selected facts, figures, anecdotes, emotions, feelings, etc. to win political fights which are all about gaining power.

The column also references a Stanford University student rapist who received a dumbfoundingly light sentence (followed by huge public outrage). No one, except apparently the judge, thinks that it was an appropriate sentence. But all the people involved in both the Rittenhouse case and the rape case were white. So, what exactly is the point here? That white people can murder and rape other white people and go free or get a lenient sentence? Somehow a white man raping a white woman is about bias against Black people? Seems designed to elicit an emotional, not a fact-based, response. But fear not, the left-industry professionals such as the director of the CT Justice Alliance explains why white people can’t understand: “It’s a really hard fight because we’re up against racist ideas.” Unfortunately, in America today, as told by the majority media and their allies – it’s always about race.

Many have complained that the judge in the Rittenhouse case was biased since he would not allow those shot to be referred to as “victims.” This was done to make sure that the jury did not draw inferences from its usage since Rittenhouse was claiming self-defense and by definition then, they would be perpetrators rather than victims. That’s the point of the trial. It was also raised that the jury composition was biased since they were all white except for one Hispanic.  But Kenosha county is 87% white and all the people involved were white.

Meanwhile the defense was not allowed to introduce the significant criminal records of those who were shot. Just a sampling of their criminal history: 1) convicted of child rape, on lifetime probation, domestic abuser; 2) convicted of domestic abuse strangulation and suffocation, felony false imprisonment with a dangerous weapon, domestic abuse; and 3) convicted felon, drunk driving, prowling, and illegally carrying a handgun that night. This data is not relevant in the trial because Rittenhouse didn’t know their history so it could not have been a factor in his decision-making and was therefore excluded. Both rulings were unbiased.

But forget the media talking heads and what has been “reported” and think for yourself. Just watch the video clips of the initial contact with the first person who was shot and later when the second and third persons are shot. What is apparent in the videos is mayhem in the streets. The chaos in Kenosha involved unchecked and wanton looting, burning, and general destruction. Rittenhouse, even armed with an assault type rifle, was chased by a large number of people after he shot one person, was knocked to the ground, kicked in the face, hit in the head with a skateboard and had a pistol pointed straight at his face from about three feet away. This can all be seen in the video.

I think what most reasonable people can conclude is that mob rule was in control of Kenosha that night. Anyone not “with” the protesters would have felt threatened for their safety. It’s not unreasonable or biased to conclude that he acted in self-defense. Not that Rittenhouse is totally guilt free. He chose to go to a destructive mob scene carrying a heavy rifle to “help patrol the streets [and] protect businesses.” He knew he was heading into a dangerous area and was presumably ready to use his firearm. He was motivated either by a desire to shoot Black-sympathetic people or he cared about keeping destruction down where his family lived. Either way his attitude was not like the onlookers in Oxford on November 13 who took videos of thieves methodically loading their vehicles with piles of stolen goods but never called 911, alerted the store owners, or took action themselves.

So why all the racial demagoguery? Could it be related to the media coverage that excluded facts and created self-righteous narratives rather than conducting ethical journalism? Most of the media didn’t cover the full destruction and chaos in America’s cities that occurred after the death of George Floyd or glossed over it with purposely inaccurate descriptions like “fiery but mostly peaceful” as was the case with CNN in Kenosha or Minneapolis. It’s like the opposite of The Emperor’s New Clothes story. You can literally see the burning and destruction in the background as the reporters claim it’s not there.

This clearly was present in the Rittenhouse case. We were grimly told he drove across state lines to get to Kenosha, that he lived hundreds of miles away and crossed more than one state line and had no connection to the city, when in fact he lived about 20 miles away in Illinois and his father and other family members lived in Kenosha. We were told that he was a white supremacist (including such an implication from presidential candidate Joe Biden) without evidence unless you count avid interest in the police (The Police Explorer Program) as white supremacy – as many people now do. But I could not find any evidence of white supremacy except an unlikely hand sign and a posed picture with some Proud Boys. Does this make him a white supremacist? Seems flimsy but possible. Nonetheless, what does it have to do with a trial involving shooting white people?

But let’s be real. The reason there was so much hysteria surrounding this case is because he shot people that were part of Black Lives Matter/Antifa. That made it a political offense against the left because he shot some of their own. There were plenty of other people who just showed up for the mayhem in addition to those who unjustly let their anger out on the innocent people and property of Kenosha. The media flooded the zone with commentary like that of a Rutgers professor on MSNBC whose “depths of … rage … are almost uncontainable” to NBC interviews of “sad, angry, and frustrated” normal Black moms who felt there was a double standard if it had been their son. But sending a non-guilty white man to jail makes that better? Remember the admonition that “two wrongs don’t make a right?” Unfortunately, that moral has died a twisted, polarized death.

Perhaps the best thing that came of Trump entering politics was to expose the liberal bias in the media for all to see. The media no longer decided to hide it – the risk to Democracy was too great! But at the same time, he caused the media to brazenly toss aside any journalistic neutrality and ramped up the existing latent Defcon 3 bias into a self-righteous crusading Defcon 1 hysteria.

It is clear now that media outlets can no longer be trusted… or can they? Which ones? How do you tell? How does one know if anything is true, or if stories are purposely being left out, or if parts of stories are downplayed or ignored and other parts emphasized, or facts are made up or changed? The Washington Post’s tagline is “Democracy Dies in Darkness” but like too much of the media engages daily in skewing the “news” their way. That’s real darkness. Without objective journalism, Democracy is truly in peril.

Alan Calandro of Burlington is a lifelong independent and former director of the state’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis.