This weekend, Kyle Rittenhouse will be speaking at a Turning Point USA conference in Phoenix, sharing billing with Ted Cruz, Tucker Carlson, and Donald Trump Jr. This is the wrong move for Rittenhouse. He did a round of media interviews after the verdict, but going on the speaking circuit is a further step toward celebrification. He was properly acquitted in November for exercising his right to self-defense, and one can even argue that his motives in being in Kenosha were noble. But he shouldn’t have been there, and the glare of a national spotlight and being turned into a folk hero, a villain, or an emblem of the times is bad for an 18-year-old who really needs to go do what 18-year-olds do: grow up and get on with his life. As I wrote when Democrats and left-wingers tried to make political spokespeople of the teenage survivors of the Parkland shooting:
If you have ever been, or known, a teenager, you know that even comparatively well-informed teens are almost always just advancing arguments they’ve heard from adults, and typically without much consideration of the opposing arguments. . . . I’m never in favor of the whole spectacle of using kids as political props, which both sides do, but it’s one thing when it’s relatively benign stuff — a politician campaigning with his family, a Trump or an Obama bringing out a young fan or honoring a kid who did something good. Those aren’t efforts to use kids as human shields against hard questions being asked in a serious public-policy debate. Turning “listen to the kids” into a mantra and marching a few steps behind them is. That’s particularly the case because divisive issue debates inevitably mean the people carrying the point of the spear are going to come in for a lot of pushback from people who feel viscerally about the other side of the issue. Pushing distraught teenagers to the forefront means they will be the ones absorbing that. As adults, we are supposed to know better than that.
Naturally, they went ahead anyway, and now David Hogg is a propaganda-addled zealot with a million Twitter followers who seems incapable of communicating like a normal college student. Rittenhouse, for his part, has an uphill battle getting a job or into a college right now, but it does a disservice to this young man for adults who should know better to try to turn him into our side’s answer to Hogg or Greta Thunberg instead of letting him go quietly back to the business of growing up.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly suggested Rittenhouse is being paid for his appearance. He is not.
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