Nellie Bowles's Newsletter Off to a Predictable Start

Kyle Rittenhouse is what happens when you defund the police, apparently

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Nellie Bowles speaks onstage during the Dropbox Work In Pr...
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Ex-New York Times reporter Nellie Bowles announced last Friday that she will be writing a weekly missive in her wife’s newsletter (in addition to Chosen by Choice, her periodic Substack about converting to Judaism). Her wife, of course, is fellow Times alum, cancel culture victim, and university founder Bari Weiss. Weiss’s Substack, Common Sense with Bari Weiss, is where people go to write florid, grandiose treatises about people being mean to them online. Bowles’s contribution, a regular Friday offering, is called “TGIF.”

In her inaugural post, Bowles reflected on her time at the Times, starting out as a “very happy, lauded bulldog liberal of a writer,” until her “curiosity started getting [her] in trouble” with her coworkers. Bowles’ renegade spirit can be seen in her reporting on subjects like why defunding police is bad, or how tech moguls can address the crime problem caused by defunding the police (which is bad).

Sadly, her Times colleagues did not universally share this view. Bowles — the descendant of Henry “Cattle Baron of Los Banos” Miller, whose death in 1916 left behind an estate then-valued at $46 million (plus “extensive oil and water rights”), which has evolved into an extensive farming operation still run by his offspring six generations later — found that “America’s power center” had “shifted leftward.” Even worse, the intrepid reporter claimed she was pressured to “cheer it on or otherwise carefully ignore it.”

With her newfound editorial freedom, Bowles took to Weiss’s newsletter this week to break some radical new ground: several news items that illustrate why defunding the police is bad. In this case, it was the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, apparently the poster child for the pitfalls of police abolition, and the recall effort against San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, a progressive who, as Bowles phrased it, “swept into office on a campaign of utopian reforms, supported with funding from George Soros.” Those reforms — all criminal justice-related — have, in her view, contributed to San Francisco's “recent unraveling,” whatever that means.

Rittenhouse is the Illinois teenager who drove to Kenosha, Wisconsin with a semiautomatic rifle, during the protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. He later shot three men, two of whom died. The 17-year-old came ostensibly to help a local car dealership defend its business during the unrest (the owner later denied asking for assistance). At the trial, which is expected to close on Monday, Rittenhouse’s attorneys have argued that he was acting in self-defense; prosecutors have countered that Rittenhouse unnecessarily intervened in the protests, while carrying an illegally-obtained firearm.

In Bowles’s commentary on the trial, she comes down fairly explicitly on Rittenhouse’s side, linking to a clip of the shooting’s sole survivor, Gaige Grosskreutz, admitting he had raised his gun before he was shot, and to another, in which — as she puts it — “the judge dressed down the prosecutor.” She does not mention that Grosskruetz pulled his gun after Rittenhouse had already killed the other two victims: the first within his earshot, the second as Grosskreutz approached. Neither does she note that the judge in question is Judge Bruce Schroeder, whose controversial track record might be best summarized by this 2006 headline: “Defendants ask for any judge but Schroeder.” During the trial, for example, Shroeder advised the parties to avoid the word “victim” in reference to the three men Rittenhouse shot. But maybe that context is boring.

Instead, Bowles was struck by the “yawning chasm between the press narrative about what happened that night in Wisconsin...and what actually seems to have happened.” The woke scolds had pigeonholed Rittenhouse as “a MAGA-loving vigilante who went to Kenosha to kill BLM supporters,” she said. This was in “stark” contrast with “the reality.” The reality here being that “Rittenhouse appears to have a solid self-defense case.” For further reading, Bowles’ points to Jesse Singal’s Substack and a Twitter thread from hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, in which he calls Rittenhouse a “civic-minded patriot.”

But somehow more annoying than Bowles, a person who does not have a law degree, calling Rittenhouse’s defense in an as-yet-undecided case the “reality,” is her subsequent analysis:

The events of that night show the abolish-police vision in action. When the defund advocates talk about what replaces policing, they talk about community-led safety. They talk about neighbors and friends stopping crimes, relying on themselves. But what does abolishing the police look like in practice? What happens when the police really do stand down and let fires burn as they did last summer?
It looks a lot like Kyle Rittenhouse.

If Bowles could find a legitimate grassroots group organizing around Defund the Police whose vision of a post-cop future includes, as she later claims, “heavily armed, untrained local dads defending shops and homes because no one else will,” I’d be interested in reading about it. But instead she has overlooked a crucial cornerstone in nearly all good faith conversations about Defund — specifically the idea that law enforcement budgets should be repurposed to invest in non-violent alternatives, like crisis-management systems, social workers, and an expanded network of public services. Beyond that, the implication that Rittenhouse’s victims literally got what they were asking for is, frankly, nauseating.

But there’s only so much you can include in a newsletter. You have to save room to interview a San Francisco prosecutor who recently quit Chesa Boudin’s office to join the bid to recall him — a movement that started after a man killed two women in a stolen car, leading critics to discover that Boudin had once filled in for his lawyer in a separate case three years prior. Boudin, like progressive D.A.s Larry Krasner of Philadelphia or George Gascón in L.A., has made efforts to reform the criminal justice system from the prosecutorial side, like eliminating cash bail or ending the use of gang affiliation as grounds for longer sentences. Or as Bowles put it: he “prevented [prosecutors] from doing their jobs.”

Kudos to Bowles for finding her niche. Thank God It’s Find a lazy and disingenuous argument day.