December 24, 2021

In under nine minutes, MSNBC host Chris Hayes on Tuesday night summarized the American right wing's transformation in recent years into a political movement that openly celebrates violence, zeroing in on America Fest 2021—a conservative gathering taking place in Phoenix this week where Kyle Rittenhouse was celebrated by influential Fox News hosts and received a standing ovation.

Eighteen-year-old Rittenhouse, who was found not guilty last month of homicide charges after he shot and killed two people and wounded a third at racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year, "received the rock star treatment" at the summit, where organizers lit up a pyrotechnic display and the audience of 6,700 chanted Rittenhouse's name as he walked on stage.

The spectacle was indicative of "one of the most ominous, despicable developments in our politics in recent memory," said Hayes on his MSNBC show, "All In With Chris Hayes." He called the emergence of violence, particularly gun violence, as a "core identity aspect" of conservatives in the United States.

America Fest 2021, said Hayes, "is the kind of place where we are seeing a certain grim aspect of right-wing politics getting increasingly more pronounced. It is a sort of celebration and modeling of fundamentally aberrant anti-social violent behavior, like being a jerk. That's the Donald Trump MAGA model, of course."

"The celebration of violence is one of the most ominous developments in American politics and [something that has] been happening for a long time. But they are putting it now in full display."

But while Turning Point USA, the right-wing group that hosts America Fest, helped catapult to fame Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia)—who have targeted progressives including Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Marie Newman (D-Ill.) with racist and anti-LGBTQ invective—Hayes emphasized that the key to being treated as a hero by the right is "not just rhetorical."

"As you saw with the welcome for Kyle Rittenhouse," Hayes said, "they are literally celebrating killing people."

Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whose show is one of the highest-rated on the network, was filmed backstage at America Fest excitedly greeting Rittenhouse, telling the teen—who has also received internship offers from multiple Republican lawmakers—"We're fans of yours, as you know."

Hayes said, "What does that mean? There's literally nothing to be a fan of."

"Kyle Rittenhouse is a child who shot and killed two people and wounded a third," he added. "That's his body of work. That's it. You're a fan of that."

Beyond the star treatment bestowed on Rittenhouse at America Fest, Hayes highlighted a statement "laced with violent rhetoric" by Fox News personality Jesse Watters, who urged journalists to "ambush" White House medical advisor Anthony Fauci with interviews about the origins of the coronavirus.

"Now you go in for the kill shot. This is when you say, 'Dr. Fauci, you funded risky research at a sloppy Chinese lab, the same lab that sprung this pandemic on the world,'" Watters told the crowd. "Boom, he is dead. He is dead. He's done."

Fauci has faced death threats since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, during which he has urged people to take life-saving precautions like social distancing, mask-wearing, and getting vaccinated against the disease.

Watters' "words come in the broader context of everything being said and done on the right and they were spoken at this America Fest event where they are celebrating Kyle Rittenhouse's literal kill shot against two people," Hayes said.

At one point during the gathering, host and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk was forced to quickly tamp down a question from an audience member who wanted right-wing leaders to let the public know when they "get to use the guns."

"That's not a joke... I mean, literally, where's the line? How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?" the man said, repeating the lie pushed by former President Donald Trump about the 2020 election before Kirk hastily denounced his violent rhetoric.

Hayes urged his audience to take the man's question seriously, noting that America Fest 2021 took place just weeks after the Public Religion Research Institute found that nearly 30% of Republicans believe "true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country."

The rhetoric at the gathering combined with "the fetishization of guns," the U.S. population's status as the most heavily armed country in the world, and "the celebration of violence is one of the most ominous developments in American politics and [something that has] been happening for a long time," said Hayes.

"But they are putting it now in full display," he added.

Republished from Common Dreams (Julia Conley, staff writer) under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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