Face crime, body crime, clothing crime; these are the new offences that can raise the ire of the Left, so be warned. It is no longer enough to police your speech and opinions with the pieties of the day, correct attitudes will also be enforced, it seems. I draw these lessons from the Covington affair, which soared to prominence in major news outlets in mid-January, only to collapse suddenly, amid media embarrassment, as yet another Trumpian scandal that had crumbled to dust. For the same reason, it vanished quickly from Australian headlines.
This saga began on January 18 outside the Lincoln Memorial, where an Indian elder, chanting and drumming, was filmed and shown in a Twitter clip being ‘mocked and mobbed’ by a group of rowdy, gleeful teenagers. The boys, some in Make America Great Again (MAGA) hats, were from Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School, in town for the March for Life, held the same day as an Indigenous People’s March. The video caught fire online and suddenly the ‘racist punks’ were being demonised by an online lynch mob for mocking and vilifying an Indigenous elder, Nathan Phillips, who was a Vietnam vet to boot. Phillips said sadly he’d heard chants of ‘Build the wall’; the usual suspects piled on, wringing their hands over Trump’s brutish America. By Saturday afternoon mainstream media were reporting the story, and by days’ end the boys’ school and diocese had denounced them. Death threats followed and the school shut down briefly.
Alas for those rushing to judgment, fuller videos of these events soon emerged online and exonerated the boys, who went from villains to victims overnight. The boys had themselves been continually taunted and abused by the (non-Jewish) Black Hebrew Israelites gang, whose insults ranged from ‘incest babies’ to ‘faggots’ and worse. The boys, forced to stay on the spot to catch the school bus, had won chaperones’ permission to try to drown out the barrage of insults with school chants and songs.
Phillips had deliberately walked into this charged maelstrom with some followers, making his way through the crowd and coming to a stop in front of one boy, Nick Sandmann. The two locked gazes in a lingering staredown, the Indian banging his drum and chanting, their faces inches apart. Sandmann, 16, occasionally smiled (‘smirked’, the media said) but otherwise stood still. This was the footage that sparked the storm.
At this point respectable media realised their error and pulled back, citing ‘extra nuance’ and ‘complexity’, when of course they should just have said they got it wrong. Apologies of varying sincerity were given, tweets were deleted. Conservative media piled on, crying fake news.
Those still committed to demonising the teenagers – who after all were white! Christian! Pro-Life! Wore MAGA hats! – sought new angles. Sandmann’s smirk was disrespectful. One boy had shouted: ‘Rape is OK if you enjoy it’; the school was accused of dressing in blackface; a gay student said he had been turned down from giving a speech at Covington. TV pundits discussed whether wearing a MAGA hat was itself racist provocation.
Galvanised, conservative media proved the rape remark didn’t come from a Covington boy; school students habitually dressed up in various colours as themes for sports games; the gay student didn’t attend Covington.
Nathan Phillips turned out to be a liar of boundless creativity. He originally said the ‘beastly’ boys were attacking the black protesters, ‘their prey’, and he was defusing the situation.
The video killed that. No one else, media included, could hear a chant of ‘Build the wall’. Nor was Phillips a Vietnam vet; he served at the time but never went to ‘Nam, although he frequently went AWOL. Far from being a ‘recon ranger’, he had been a fridge mechanic. And he had a criminal record.
Moreover, after the Covington incident, Phillips’ group headed to the National Shrine, where they attempted, drums banging, to disrupt evening mass. Guards had had to lock in the congregation. Unaware of how successful the Covington boys’ stunt would prove as street theatre for his cause, and still craving his media flashpoint, Phillips had moved on to his next opportunity.
A cascade of media blunder stories erupted, and Trump bought in with tweets about fake news. In one memorable truth blurt, actress Whoopi Goldberg asked a daytime TV host why, referring to the Covington affair, the media kept getting it so wrong. ‘Because we’re desperate to get Trump out of office,’ host Joy Behar said. ‘It’s wishful thinking.’
An interview with Sandmann capped off the week. Looking terrified, the 16-year-old again stood his ground and told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie he had nothing to apologise for. She posed a ridiculous question: ‘There’s something aggressive about standing there, standing your ground.’ (Wha-a-at? Excuse me???) Sandmann: ‘Mr Phillips had his right to come up to me, I had my right to stand there.’ And what about that smirk? ‘I see it as a smile.’ The hat? Bought that day.
So that is the Covington affair, a rolling tour of media discovery where every fresh turn further established white Catholic teenagers as badly-wronged media victims, exposed an Indian elder as a serial fabulist and the Leftist mainstream media as, at best, judgmental, cruel and gullible, and at worst, as vicious, agenda-driven activists. These are kids, after all.
How many groups of teenage boys, waiting outside in the snow for a couple of hours, could pass forensic media scrutiny this well? Sandmann especially displayed poise to stand his ground politely in the face of Phillips’ provocation; unable to lay a glove on him, some in the media were driven to Orwellian accusations of face crime (smirking, menacing), body crime (standing) and clothing crime (racist hat).
For a hard nub of the Left, these boys’ crimes in the end amounted simply to being happy, confident, well-behaved young white Christian men. Many Leftists hate Judaeo-Christian tradition and culture; to see it successfully regenerating in a crowd of young men, whose symbolic leader was comfortable and strong in his culture and his values, angers them no end. Those haters who persist are increasingly revealing only their own anti-Christian, anti-white, anti-Trump prejudice.
After this shameful episode #exposechristianschools emerged on Twitter. NY Times reporter Dan Levin is asking students to come forward to him with their stories. This war is far from over.
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