The Kyle Rittenhouse trial is underway in Kenosha County Circuit Court this week. Rittenhouse is on trial for criminal homicide after killing two people and wounding another during social unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last summer.
Rittenhouse took the stand in his own defense on Wednesday, Nov. 10, and seemingly broke down in tears as he gave his account of the night in question.
Video of Rittenhouse breaking down on the stand began to make its way across Twitter and social media, with many people offering up their opinions.
NBA superstar LeBron James jumped into the fray, and he was not buying Rittenhouse’s emotional display.
What tears????? I didn’t see one. Man knock it off! That boy ate some lemon heads before walking into court. 🤣🤣🤣 https://t.co/LKwYssIUmD
— LeBron James (@KingJames) November 11, 2021
LeBron points out he didn’t see any tears, and proceeds to joke that Rittenhouse ate the sour candy lemonhead before arriving at court.
If you’ve ever had a lemonhead you know they pack a sour punch. Upon consumption it might cause your face to convulse in a manner similar to what we saw from Rittenhouse.
Look, it’s 2021 and internet memes and trolling on social media is sport. People engage in this behavior with regularity, and a “jokes are greater than facts” mentality. You might even find what LeBron tweeted funny.
But what does it mean to pile on and make fun of Rittenhouse? This is a criminal homicide trial and two men are dead. How is it that we can look on at a real-world situation like this trial through the lens of social media as though it’s macabre theater?
While attempting to be funny, LeBron highlights a portion of the trial that is possibly garnering more attention than it merits. The validity or even existence of Rittenhouse’s tears are a sideshow.
On Aug. 25, 2020, during the third night of racial justice demonstrations in Kenosha, Rittenhouse fired an AR-15-style rifle that he was too young to have legally purchased; killing two men, and grievously injuring another.
The social unrest came in the aftermath of the August police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Rittenhouse and his defense team claim self-defense in the killing of Joseph Rosenbaum, who allegedly chased Rittenhouse and lunged for his gun. As well as Anthony Huber, a demonstrator who allegedly struck Rittenhouse in the neck. Rittenhouse also shot Gaige Grosskreutz, a protester who allegedly approached him with a handgun. Grosskreutz’s wound was not fatal.
The circuit court judge for the Rittenhouse trial, Bruce Schroeder, has forbidden the prosecution from calling the dead people “victims.” But he’s allowed the defense to refer to them as “rioters” and “looters” if they can prove the people shot were committing those offenses that night.
Judge Schroeder’s “pro-defense” leanings, his handcuffing of the prosecution all seem like more worthy topics of public interest and discourse. Maybe LeBron isn’t following the trial that closely? Perhaps he’s unaware of these details.
This isn’t about LeBron being allowed to tell jokes or not. Have it.
It’s about us as a larger society and nation. A fair and just judicial system is a cornerstone of a functioning society. Of course, we have hundreds of years of evidence that suggests the current system is anything but.
Participating in the mocking of Rittenhouse’s crocodile tears is funny, depending on your point of view. But how does it help? How does the energy exhausted on social media arguing the merits of Rittenhouse’s tears help change the situation happening in that courtroom?
Kyle Rittenhouse drove from his home in Illinois to Wisconsin when unrest in Kenosha broke out. On Aug. 25, 2020, he took to the streets in Kenosha wielding an AR-15 assault rifle, to “protect businesses” from unrest. He fatally shot two men, and another was wounded.
Those facts deserve all the attention. The how and the why Rittenhouse ended up in Kenosha. The how and the why he ended up killing two men and wounding another. In a scene of unrest, where there was a large heavily armed militia group, how and why was Rittenhouse the only person involved in a homicide?
These are the questions we should all be asking. This is the discourse that should be dominating social media surrounding this trial.
LeBron’s tweet encapsulates where we have moved to as a society. We sit back and watch real life as though it were a movie. Something to be queued up, mocked, and distorted for amusement.
If history is to serve as an indicator, the outcome of this trial is likely to be anything but funny. What will we do then?