One of the timeless lessons of this year has been that the future is always going to be full of surprises. To start the year, no one could have predicted the Covid panic and the rise of local tyrants using the panic to push people around. A month ago, no one would have predicted the recent events in Kenosha. It just seemed like these ruling class riots would continue in the same manner until the election. Then suddenly we have video of a young white kid fighting for his life in the streets.
It is way too soon to know how the story of Kyle Rittenhouse ends, but there is no doubt that this event stands out from all others this year. It does not fit the standard narrative the Left likes to jam all events. Public reaction to it has thus far been much different than we have seen with recent events. There is a good chance that this event may be the inflection point in the coming election. Even though we are still early in the story, there are several good lessons to be drawn from this event.
The obvious lesson right away is that appearances matter. Kyle Rittenhouse is a sweet looking kid who looks like a typical white teenager. Even without the closeups, just looking at the video, it is clear he is not a villain on the prowl. If he was an inked-up gym rat, he would not have gained instant sympathy. People would have assumed he was looking for trouble and found it. If he had Nazi neck art, then the initial response would have been entirely negative.
The fact is, looks matter. More precisely, presentation matters. It is the starting people for everyone trying to assess new information. Humans are pattern matching creatures, so we quickly try to match new events to known events. As soon as one is found, then that becomes the starting point. As Oscar Wilde joked, “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.” In this case, the starting point is one that elicits sympathy and compassion from most people.
This is the lesson the alt-right never learned. They not only convinced themselves that appearances don’t matter, they went out of their way to strike a bad pose. The fact is, the facts almost always take a back seat to people’s impressions. The handsome, well dressed salesman will move more product than the slovenly salesman, even when the latter has a superior product to the former. Politics is about persuasion and in the persuasion game, looks count for a lot.
Another lesson of this event is that you have to engage people where they are, not where you wish them to be. Everyone on this side of the great divide understands that these riots are part of the larger demographic issue. People on the other side of the divide, the normal whites, do not understand the demographic angle. In fact, they have been conditioned to avoid the topic altogether. Like dogs trained with a shock collar, they flinch whenever the race issue arises.
This story resonates with normal white people because it is a gun story, a self-defense story and a civic nationalism story. The race angle is still there, but instead of being the face of it, it is background noise. The heart of this story is stuff normal white people can understand and they are comfortable discussing. If this is Nazi-guy shooting black people, no lawyer is taking the case and no prominent people are speaking out in favor of the shooter. Instead, it is trophy for the Left.
Engaging people where they are opens doors. The oldest truth of sales is people buy from people. In politics, people buy from people with whom they can relate and who care about their issues. The people passionate about race, ethnicity and demographics are already on this side of the great divide. The people on the other side are passionate about other things. The path for them over to this side is through those issues, so mocking those issues, as so many do, is counter-productive.
Another useful lesson here is that the enemy is not a collection of super-intelligent super-villains. They often get high off their own supply. The crazies in the Antifa media are running this story as if the shooter is an evil white Hitler guy. They can’t see past their own ideological blinders. Their hatred for white people is so all consuming, they are trying to sell this as a racist attack. A headline like this over a picture of Rittenhouse is so incongruous that is suggests mental illness is at play.
We see another side of this with the Wisconsin prosecutor. A left-wing fanatic, immersed in that subculture, he immediately assumed Rittenhouse is an evil Nazi guy from one of their campfire stories. Charging this kid with capital murder is so outrageous and evil, it makes the kid into a symbol of everything that is wrong. Someone in control of his faculties would have gone for the lowest charge and worked from there. These people win because they have power, not because they are smart.
There will be a lot more to come as this story unfolds, but one final lesson is that winning the optics war counts for a lot. The so-called conservatives have avoided this story entirely thus far. The reason is they were destroyed by the Nick Sandman debacle and they are still hurting from it. They lost that optics battle. Public relations are a big business because optics matter. The winner is often the side that simply makes the best first impression on the public.
That is why those involved in dissident politics have always got to remember to be the friendly face to the skeptical public. If you meet the expectations people have for the good guys, you get treated as the good guys. If you insist on playing the role of the bad guy, then you will lose every fight, even when you are right. The person who seizes the moral high ground is almost always the person people initially trust. It is always better to be fighting from the top than from the bottom.
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