The mainstream media – and the social media – are so good at generating instant outrages that I now have an informal rule: try not to comment on any new development or news story for 24 hours, because the chances are that what was originally reported will turn out to be at least partly and sometimes completely garbage. This is not a good rule for blogs like mine, which rely on speed to be there among the first to offer our 5 cents, but it increasingly seems the only sensible way to avoid constant embarrassment, corrections and revisions.
The latest case in point: the lynch mob baying for blood of the Covington Catholic High School.
Covington, being a Catholic school and Catholics being against abortion, sent a contingent of students to the March for Life in Washington DC. At that event, the students were filmed being confronted by a Native American activist, Nathan Phillips, banging his drum and chanting inches from the face of one of the boys, Nicholas Sandmann (the filming was done by a supporter of Phillips’). The story subsequently erupted all over the media universe about the schoolboys, many of them seen in the video wearing MAGA hats, being disrespectful and generally racist and bigoted towards the counter(March for Life)-protesters, Phillips chief among them (no pun intended).
Online celebrities and respected journalist and commentators (like CNN’s Reza Aslan) lined up to express the desire that Nick Sandmann be punched in the face for his silent but smirking reaction to Phillips (which apparently signified all the evils of the world from white privilege through toxic masculinity to racism). A female Saturday Night Live writer even offered oral sex to any man who punches Sandmann in the face. In the process of the hunt, a wrong boy was first identified as Sandmann, his contact details published online, his family receiving death threats. Other online fantasies included feeding the Covington students through a woodchipper or mass shooting at the school. The school is now actually closed because of security concerns.
The outpouring of hatred and bile from the progressive side of politics was quite something to behold (and be terrified of). Even many conservatives have initially joined in condemnations of the boys (albeit less heated and violent) based on the original reporting.
Within the 24 hours the whole story unraveled. A second, longer video recording of the events came to light, which clearly shows that no racist chants were made by the students and that they behaved themselves quite properly and maturely when confronted by adult counter-protesters. The ultimate irony is that the second video was shot by members of the Black Israelites, a bizarre and racist cult, who were at the scene also counter-protesting, and who are recorded actually abusing the Covington students in the vile and threatening way that the Covington students were originally falsely accused of doing.
Since then, there have been mass deletions of social media posts by celebrities advocating violence against minors. Phillips himself, a far-left activist who falsely claimed to have been a Vietnam veteran, doubled down however, demanding that Covington boys be expelled from school (for what exactly no one knows). He refuses to meet with them in a more peaceful atmosphere to try to reconcile, because “He (Sandmann) stole my narrative. From the time I hit that first beat of the drum until I hit the last beat, I was in prayer. Now all of a sudden, he’s the prayer guy and the passive one.” [emphasis mine, because oh my God!]
Phillips is not the only one who continues to spew hate against the Covington students. Now that no actual wrong-doing of any kind can be shown against them, they are essentially convicted for merely being pro-life Trump supporters. As the has-been actress and now a full time left-wing activist Alyssa Milano (and many others) commented, a MAGA hat is the new KKK white hood, a symbol of racist hatred. Presumably everyone wearing it, from teenage boys to the elderly, deserve to be punched in the face for being bigots. First you declare that “It’s OK to punch a Nazi”, then you wildly redefine who Nazis are, and so you end up in a situation where you are a wealthy and prominent adult advocating assaulting 15-year olds.
As an aside, I can understand why Sandmann’s smirk has driven so many people absolutely bonkers. Most journalists, commentators and activists have been nerds, freaks and misfits at school. Sandmann stands in their minds for every jock and popular boy they hated for being lionised by everyone, getting all the girls, and giving the unpopular kids wedgies. The outpouring of hatred against Sandmann is today’s revenge of the nerds; they couldn’t punch jocks at school so now they want to punch them as adults. For myself, I think that Sandmann’s smirk is more an expression of nervousness, bewilderment and discomfort when confronted by a strange man doing strange things right in front of his face rather than arrogance or racism.
Be that as it may, days later the original smear is in tatters, but young lives continue to be in danger, reputations ruined and hatred persisting. It’s been a disgusting example of a progressive lynch mob in action, and sadly it’s not even the first major piece of “fake news” this year. But you can be sure that they will continue to beat the drum for outrage,