MAGA Student Confronting Native American Veteran Story Fake News?

The longer video and deeper investigation of the incident reveals a very different story.

The recent outrage over a Catholic high school student wearing a Make America Great Again hat confronting an American Indian who was peacefully demonstrating is apparently misplaced.

NYT (“Fuller Picture Emerges of Viral Video Between Native American Man and Catholic Students“):

A fuller and more complicated picture emerged on Sunday of the videotaped encounter between a Native American man and a throng of high school boys wearing “Make America Great Again” gear outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

Interviews and additional video footage suggest that an explosive convergence of race, religion and ideological beliefs — against a national backdrop of political tension — set the stage for the viral moment. Early video excerpts from the encounter obscured the larger context, inflaming outrage.

Leading up to the encounter on Friday, a rally for Native Americans and other Indigenous people was wrapping up. Dozens of students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, who had been in Washington for the anti-abortion March for Life rally, were standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, many of them white and wearing apparel bearing the slogan of President Trump.

There were also black men who identified themselves as Hebrew Israelites, preaching their beliefs and shouting racially combative comments at the Native Americans and the students, according to witnesses and video on social media.

Soon, the Native American man, Nathan Phillips, 64, was encircled by an animated group of high school boys. He beat a ceremonial drum as a boy wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat stood inches away. The boy identified himself in a statement released on Sunday night as Nick Sandmann, a junior.

It was a provocative image that rocketed across social media, leading many, including the students’ own school, to condemn the boys’ behavior as disrespectful. But on Sunday, Mr. Phillips clarified that it was he who had approached the crowd and that he had intervened because racial tensions — primarily between the white students and the black men — were “coming to a boiling point.”

“I stepped in between to pray,” Mr. Phillips said.

In his statement, Mr. Sandmann said he did not antagonize or try to block Mr. Phillips. “I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves,” he said.

The encounter became the latest touch point for racial and political tensions in America, with diverging views about what really had happened.

Reason’s Robby Soave is more matter of fact in his account (“The Media Wildly Mischaracterized That Video of Covington Catholic Students Confronting a Native American Veteran“):

Partial video footage of students from a Catholic high school allegedly harassing a Native American veteran after the anti-abortion March for Life rally in Washington, D.C., over the weekend quickly went viral, provoking widespread condemnation of the kids on social media. Various media figures and Twitter users called for them to be doxed, shamed, or otherwise punished, and school administrators said they would consider expulsion.

But the rest of the video—nearly two hours of additional footage showing what happened before and after the encounter—adds important context that strongly contradicts the media’s narrative.

Far from engaging in racially motivated harassment, the group of mostly white, MAGA-hat-wearing male teenagers remained relatively calm and restrained despite being subjected to incessant racist, homophobic, and bigoted verbal abuse by members of the bizarre religious sect Black Hebrew Israelites, who were lurking nearby. The BHI has existed since the late 19th century, and is best describes as a black nationalist cult movement; its members believe they are descendants of the ancient Israelites, and often express condemnation of white people, Christians, and gays. DC-area Black Hebrews are known to spout particularly vile bigotry.

Phillips put himself between the teens and the black nationalists, chanting and drumming as he marched straight into the middle of the group of young people. What followed was several minutes of confusion: The teens couldn’t quite decide whether Phillips was on their side or not, but tentatively joined in his chanting. It’s not at all clear this was intended as an act of mockery rather than solidarity.

One student did not get out of Phillips way as he marched, and gave the man a hard stare and a smile that many have described as creepy. This moment received the most media coverage: The teen has been called the product of a “hate factory” and likened to a school shooter, segregation-era racist, and member of the Ku Klux Klan. I have no idea what he was thinking, but portraying this as an example of obvious, racially-motivated hate is a stretch. Maybe he simply had no idea why this man was drumming in his face, and couldn’t quite figure out the best response? It bears repeating that Phillips approached him, not the other way around.

And that’s all there is to it. Phillips walked away after several minutes, the Black Hebrew Israelites continued to insult the crowd, and nothing else happened.

Both stories contain links to the fuller video.

In all honesty, I don’t much care whether one particular boy was a jerk in one particular instance. But I’m concerned about what the incident tells us about our current political culture.

Because almost everyone carries around smartphones with high-quality video recorders and the ability to instantly upload video to global media platforms, we have removed gatekeepers that once applied judgment to what constituted “news.” Not very long ago at all, a kid who wasn’t otherwise a public figure engaged in what may or may not have been a confrontation with another non-public figure simply wouldn’t have been considered newsworthy. Or, if it were, editors would have demanded that reporters investigate the wider story, interview the students involved, and otherwise get a more complete picture before airing it nationally.

Instead, the old saw “A lie goes halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on” has become amplified geometrically. And innocents who are not legitimately figures for public criticism get swarmed by the mob—often abetted, as it was in this case, by otherwise highly credible and honorable journalists.

Of course, in this particular instance, the virality was enhanced by the fact that the kid in question was wearing a hat associated with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. From the standpoint of the elite media—a term I use in its original, praiseworthy sense rather than with disdain—this is prima facie evidence that the wearer is a vile racist. And, why, he was at an anti-abortion rally on top of that.  He’s obviously evil. In actuality, there’s a pretty good possibility that this is a pretty good kid earnestly marching for his principles awkwardly caught in the crossfire of competing protests.

Realistically, there’s no way to bring back the old gatekeepers. In many ways, I’m glad they don’t have the power they used to. (Certainly, I’ve benefited considerably from the ability to self-publish both in the blogosphere and on Twitter.) But we need to figure out how to restore some of the old sensibility of reserving judgment before the facts are known. That’s especially true when we’re dealing, not with politicians and other public figures, but with ordinary citizens simply caught on video.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Media, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    I’m in agreement with your basic premise that a misconstrued video can ruin a life and, taking it farther, that public shaming and harassment can destroy people way out of proportion to their offenses.

    But, that said, I wouldn’t take the words of the boys as worth anything here. They were all wearing MAGA hats. Their self declared role model is a liar who never, ever takes personal responsibility. He’s also a blatant racist who openly supports white supremicists. By proudly wearing those hats these young boys have told us who they are, or at least who they are as teenagers. When someone tells you who they are you should listen to them.

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  2. Jax says:

    I suffered thru that two hour video and several others yesterday trying to get a better handle on what had really happened, and also came to the conclusion that the Covington boys and the BHI guys were working their way up to an actual brawl, until the Indian elder stepped in. Some of the boys were rather disrespectful, but it was not what I expected given the pictures that had been released.

    Their adult chaperone should probably lose his job, though, anyone with a brain could see what was gonna happen between them and the BHI guys if someone didn’t intervene. The person intervening should’ve been the chaperone, getting them the heck out of there. I would not be a happy parent if my minor child had gone on a school field trip to the March for Life and ended up getting in a brawl at the Indigenous People’s March.

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  3. Modulo Myself says:

    Right, the facts–they had no choice to jeer at an elderly Native American man because of the Black Israelites. Soave’s account is ludicrous: everybody can see what those kids are up to. The bigger problem is that the parents of these kids represent the true GOP base–wealthy, preppy, and resentful white middle Americans. Before social media, kids like this acted the same way and without accountability. Now they’re getting busted and the MAGA base is screeching and trying to say whatever they’re trying to say.

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  4. KM says:

    The whole problem with the concept of “gatekeepers” is *they* get to decide what to show and when and we are at the whims of their judgment. Frankly, a news-outlet could have decided to run the shortened version anyway if they had a specific agenda in mind and we’d never have had the longer version to contrast it. Far too often, news outlets were only telling certain perspectives and using biased language to slant coverage (see police shootings for examples) and the public trusted that they were doing a good job. People likely won’t accept the gate-keepers anymore because they’ve asked the question: what makes your judgement on this issue better then mine?

    As for the videos and waiting on facts, we need to start training people on recognizing when something’s been edited or truncated. Too many people accept “who do you believe, me or your own eyes” as gospel right up there with “common sense” – both are deceptive and easily manipulated. Magicians, CGI editors and others make a living off showing you something untrue and making you believe it. As tech gets better and better, we need to educate our populace that just because you see it doesn’t mean that’s exactly what happened. The future belongs to those who can skillfully manipulate images to a population that just happily gobble them up.

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  5. Steve Morgan says:

    The Native American Phillips is supposedly 64 years old. Last Marines were out in May 1975. Last combat units out in March of 1973. It’s possible he served in Vietnam if he joined and was Embassy Security Force but less probable if “Recon” as some are saying. Marines are free to speak but this appears a staged stunt.

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  6. CSK says:

    People believe what they want to believe. I once co-wrote an article with a guy who inserted something blatantly untrue into it. When I objected, his reply was: “So what? It makes a better story.” The magazine’s legal team removed it before publication.

  7. KM says:

    The context isn’t really absolving the teens like the conservatives claim. Just because someone’s being an asshat to you doesn’t excuse your own asshattery. I’m sorry if they were harassed – that shouldn’t happen to anyone. But if they were “cheering and jeering” themselves like the videos shows, then they were harassing as well. It’s not like they were just standing there doing or saying nothing, being all innocent, saintly and Catholic-school-like.

    We’ve seen plenty of examples lately of people holding their sh^t and remaining dignified in the face of abuse. You don’t have to be abusive back, you don’t get a pass to let your own asshat flag fly. If I’m being sexually harassed and I fire back with a homophobic or racial slur, I’m in the wrong for how I chose to defend myself. They can and should own their behavior as being less then ideal while pointing out they weren’t the utter bad guys as initially portrayed.

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  8. drj says:

    The Native American man in question, Nathan Philips, gave an interview to the Detroit Free Press:

    Phillips said some of the members of the Black Hebrew group were also acting up, “saying some harsh things” and that one member spit in the direction of the Catholic students. “So I put myself in between that, between a rock and hard place,” he said.

    But then, the crowd of mostly male students turned their anger towards Phillips.

    “There was that moment when I realized I’ve put myself between beast and prey,” Phillips said. “These young men were beastly and these old black individuals was their prey, and I stood in between them and so they needed their pounds of flesh and they were looking at me for that.”

    The crowd of students, some of whom wore MAGA caps, mocked Native Americans while chanting “Build the Wall” and using derogatory language, he said. The students had a “mob mentality” that “was scary,” Phillips said. “It was ugly, what these kids were involved in. It was racism. It was hatred. It was scary.”

    Speaking from his niece’s home, Phillips said: “I’m a Marine Corps veteran and I know what that mob mentality can be like. That’s where it was at. It got to a point where they just needed something for them to … just tear them apart. I mean, it was that ugly.”

    Phillips said he recalled “the looks in these young men’s faces … I mean, if you go back and look at the lynchings that was done (in America) …and you’d see the faces on the people … The glee and the hatred in their faces, that’s what these faces looked like.”

    “When I took that drum and started singing, I placed myself in between these two factions of people. It wasn’t a real conscious process, it was just what they call a spur of the moment.”

    Maybe the “elite gatekeepers” got it right and Reason’s Soave is just full of it?

    ETA: it wouldn’t exactly be the frst time for “reasonable people” to be bending over backwards to excuse the vile behavior of white men.

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  9. Bob@Youngstown says:

    I wouldn’t take the words of the boys as worth anything here.

    As a parent of teenagers who will make explanations of their behavior, my impression is that these boys defense of their actions is mighty thin. The passive-aggressive smirk says more than the hat.

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  10. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Steve Morgan: I am 62. I graduated from high school in 1974. At 64, he would have definitely had the opportunity to serve in Vietnam, at a very young age.

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  11. Kathy says:

    Ordinary people who are not public figures nor trying to speak for, or draw attention to, an issue of major importance, are not news and should be left alone by the media, including social media. Making a big deal out of every outrage, minor or major, committed by people like this is a pure waste of time.

    Not that the traditional gatekeepers were perfect in this regard. Remember Joey Buttafuoco and Lorena Bobbitt? That was prurient interest, plain and simple.

    I should mention things like a passenger being violently dragged off an overbooked plane is a different matter, because a major corporation is involved. Overbooking is a common practice (with arguments for and against it), that does affect thousands of people each year, even if they are a tiny percentage of the flying public. Using law enforcement in what is a customer service matter is also a major concern.

  12. drj says:

    More Phillips (in the Washington Post):

    “It was getting ugly, and I was thinking: ‘I’ve got to find myself an exit out of this situation and finish my song at the Lincoln Memorial,’ ” Phillips recalled. “I started going that way, and that guy in the hat stood in my way, and we were at an impasse. He just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.”

    So yeah, maybe Phillips is the liar here. But… come on.

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  13. Franklin says:

    There’s plenty of blame to go around.

    Look, a teenage boy from a Catholic school wearing a MAGA hat is likely to be wildly misinformed about the world, so I’ll forgive him for that (mostly his parents’ and teachers’ fault). What he needs to learn is that when you don’t know anything, just be quiet and listen for awhile.

    But I think the idiots who promoted this story without context should’ve known better. If they had a cause, they managed to set it back further.

    Congrats go to NYT and CNN and whoever else for making efforts to correct the story.

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  14. JohnMcC says:

    We live in a village. Anyone who’s lived in a village, where everyone else in the village is certain to have some knowledge and plenty of opinions about everyone else in the village would recognize it. The earliest advocates of our new-tech world (anyone remember the Tofflers?) promised us and we should have been warned. It’s something of a problem because we share a mostly urban physical space and have an expectation of anonymity in every other way. The interface between spaces that are village-like and those that are anonymity-friendly is elusive and shifting. It’s a problem I avoid as I guess most old guys do by avoiding the digital world as much as possible.

    But that guy yelling at those clouds? Definitely not me. Maybe soon but not yet.

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  15. Stormy Dragon says:

    earnestly marching for his principles

    Middle class white america has this strange belief that the earnestness of middle class white principles somehow absolves them of all criticism for the content of said principles.

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  16. Steve says:

    Even the kid’s mom thought he was out of line–hence her defense that he was provoked by the “Black Muslims” into doing what he did.

    Similarly, many conservative apologists similarly imply bad behavior by the kid by suggesting he was provoked by having on old guy beating a drum in his face (and that’s some pretty weak sauce right there, the idea that that little ceremonial drum was provocative).

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  17. JF1017 says:

    @MarkedMan:
    People are what they DO, not what they wear. So, it would seem that the people you should be roundly condemning are: 1) the so-called “black Israelites” who were harassing the white kids, calling them “insect children” and screaming “faggot” (last time I looked, the left had NO tolerance for gay slurs. Has that changed???), and 2) the alleged Viet Nam veteran (if you know anything about history or math, you realize a 66 y/o man was never in Viet Nam) who aggressively approached the kids.

    And as far as bigotry, look in the mirror. Your expression that all Trump supporters are racists is the most vile, bigoted and ill informed opinion out there. You hold it and believe it – so aren’ t you this generation’s Archie Bunker?? So much for either moral OR intellectual superiority to ANYONE.

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  18. dmhlt says:

    For further “context” it would appear that Covington Catholic HS does have a problem with racism.
    Here’s a photo of their basketball team after winning last year’s semifinal game with several them celebrating with the “White Power” sign:
    https://twitter.com/crackers_chris/status/1087205881173995521
    And another shot where they’re all dressed in black, including some black masks (their school colors are blue & white) & another “White Power” sign while taunting a black player:

    https://twitter.com/dezzthehumanist/status/1087223024934244353

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  19. drj says:

    @JF1017:

    Your expression that all Trump supporters are racists is the most vile, bigoted and ill informed opinion out there.

    Trump supporters may not be racists, but they are certainly OK with it.

    You too, it seems.

    Because, as you said, people are what they DO. And you’ve apparently chosen to support a vile racist. You shouldn’t complain now that you are being judged by your actions. Take some responsibility for what you’ve done (and continue to do).

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  20. Stormy Dragon says:

    @JF1017:

    if you know anything about history or math, you realize a 66 y/o man was never in Viet Nam

    66 – (2019 – 1973) = 20

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  21. MarkedMan says:

    @JF1017: Yes. I absolutely condemn the Black Israelites. They too, have told us who they are.

    I’ve never said all Trumpers are racists. What I have said is that Trump is a liar and a racist and blatantly so. If someone is a Trumpet it tells us about them. At the very least they are willfully blind to racism. At the very least they don’t consider blatant lying to be particularly troubling. And of course we should take that into account in deciding whether they are trustworthy.

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  22. Stormy Dragon says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I’ve never said all Trumpers are racists.

    I’d argue that everyone is racist to some degree.

    I might go with “not all Trumpers are more racist than the general population”.

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  23. Catchling says:

    It’s kind of weirdly fascinating that the white supremacy at the core of this kid’s mindset is so obvious to everyone in the conversation that all these disparate elements of the story can come together without creating a sense of non sequitur.

    Like, what exactly does his conflict with African-Americans have to do with yelling at a Native American? And why in the world does the presence of either group prompt these white Catholic kids to yell “Build the wall”, when “the wall” is ostensibly about keeping out foreigners ? Like, the connections are obvious and nobody’s even feigning ignorance about them, they’re just treating it as “understandable” or whatever.

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  24. Michael J Perkins says:

    @MarkedMan: I have never seen anything this disturbing in my life, these innocent young men (school kids ) who were being harassed and insulted, yet I never heard any of them hurl one insult back at the thugs attacking them, acted like the adults in this situation and the pathetic, disgusting, repulsive so called adults were acting like the spoiled little brat children here, This is really disturbing, we all really need to wake up, this is really getting out of control here, just watch the WHOLE video, everyone of these young men acted with class and respect towards these people who do not deserve respect, and shame on you MSM and all the people so fast to attack these fine young men, even after the truth has come out these people will not apologize, they just keep spewing their hate, Is this really what this country is turning into ??? God help us all , And to all the parents of these young men, you should be very very proud of your son, every one of these students is the young man we all hope are young children will grow up to be, and Nick Sandmann you did nothing wrong buddy, you were put in a situation you did not ask to be put in, you acted with class and dignity your my hero buddy
    And I was going to attack Phillips ( The Native American who lied about this whole ordeal, the USMC must be real proud of you ) but I wont

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  25. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Steve Morgan:
    I am 64, born in July of 1954. I was in the old lottery draft and drew a high number, but before the lovely number popped up my father – Chief Warrant Officer, two tours in Vietnam – was talking about driving me to Canada if I got called. And I absolutely could have volunteered. You’re wrong.

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  26. Paul L. says:

    Do not let the racists make the narrative of this story too toxic,hurtful hateful and insulting.

    Now they are trying to swiftboat Force Recon Ranger veteran and Native American leader tribal elder Nathan Phillips by abusing FOIA like they did to Richard Blumenthal and Tom Harkin over serving “in Vietnam” during the war.
    Stand strong against the Right’s shifting of the narrative like BuzzFeed and the Trump suborned perjury story not like Rolling Stone and UVA.

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  27. Among the outrage mob’s great achievements this past weekend: doxxing the wrong kid.

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  28. Cian Cafferky says:

    The kid came wearing a MAGA hat. It’s meant to incite. No one in the country is unaware of this. While not everyone who wears it is a racist, racists wear it as a badge of honor. Whether the kid himself understands this, I can’t say, but his parents do.

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  29. KM says:

    @Catchling :

    Like, the connections are obvious and nobody’s even feigning ignorance about them, they’re just treating it as “understandable” or whatever.

    It’s blatantly obvious to anyone with a smidgen of honesty that “building the wall” is solely about keeping brown people out. It’s become mental shorthand for what they really want to say, exactly as the writers intended when they pushed it on Trump. “MAGA” and “Build the Wall” are now being heard outside the country by like-minded conservative haters specifically because they know damn well what it means. For god sake, there’s videoes of white people in Canada un-ironically screaming MAGA in their hate-filled screeds like America isn’t supposed to be the first A!

    Everyone, EVERYONE knows what this whole movement is about. They can talk about border security all they want but they don’t even bother to hide the fact it’s means “security from those people!” anymore. Teens who are growing up in this new age of screw-the-dog-whistle are just being more upfront about it. They’ve been taught they don’t have to obfuscate anymore – that it’s OK to be out and proud in their hate. That’s why you see the Hilter-themed proms, White Power signs at games and this kind of crap on field trips. The Wall is just a meme for them expressing what they want to say.

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  30. steve says:

    Round 1- The kids are evil.
    Round 2- The kids are all innocent little darlings.

    I suspect the truth is somewhere in between, but we will never know now since the two competing narratives are more interested in scoring points than finding any truth. That said, I would agree 100% with James. Let’s lay off the kids. Who really cares what some teenagers did as long as they didn’t physically harm someone? It is disappointing to see people going after teens like this. To be clear, this is incredibly prevalent on the right. I think writers like Rod Dreher probably make 10% of their income off of writing stories about what some horrible kids at some high school or college did.

    Rather that deal with the best arguments of your opposition or stronger opponents, we now go after the kids. That just sucks and should stop, but it won’t.

    Steve

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  31. Mister Bluster says:

    We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.
    Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
    1929-1968
    RIP

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  32. Franklin says:

    One troll has suggested we support the Hebrew Israelites. I can find no evidence of that assertion. Most of us hadn’t even heard of them before. I, for one, am not impressed with any of their reported rhetoric.

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  33. Steve says:

    How is it the same people who are so ready to draw conclusions about African Americans wearing hoodies don’t see a problem with white teens wearing MAGA hats?

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  34. mattbernius says:

    I think Jesuit Priest, and America magazine’s Editor at Large, James Martin did a great job (with one small exception) in his reflection on the incident shared late yesterday on Twitter:

    Re #CovingtonHighSchool: I will be happy to apologize for condemning the actions of the students if it turns out that they were somehow acting as good and moral Christians. The last thing I want is to see Catholic schools and Catholic students held in any disrepute. 1/

    And I’ve certainly been wrong before. 2/

    Because it seems like that there are now three narratives. First, students jeer at a Native American elder (and Vietnam Vet) after the March for Life. This is what horrified many people. And, frankly, a group of taunting high school students seemed to speak for itself. But… 3/

    A second narrative is that students themselves were being jeered at by another group. That counter-narrative prompted some apologies today from some who had, like me, strongly condemned the students. 4/

    But it’s very hard to square that second narrative with the apology from the school itself, and the Diocese of Covington, who would presumably have known, from first-hand reports and eyewitnesses, if the students’ actions had been somehow misrepresented. 5/

    Now, a third narrative has emerged, thanks to the Detroit Free Press and other sources, which reports that Mr. Phillips, the elder, interposed himself between two jeering groups, chanting to bring peace. At which point the Covington students then turned their ire on him. 6/

    Where does this leave us? First, a comment about the March for Life, which I support. The gross over-politicization of this religious event, and its increasing reliance on political figures to draw crowds, is unnecessary, irreligious and dangerous. 7/

    Second, a more practical, pastoral, concern: where were the chaperones? The idea that a group of Catholic high school students appeared to have been placed, wittingly or unwittingly, in such an incendiary situation, seems to indicate a lack of oversight. 8/

    Third, Rashomon-like, we may never know exactly what happened and the various “sides” may continue to disagree and condemn one another. But I hope the truth emerges and apologies are forthcoming. Mine will be, if necessary. If necessary, I hope the students’ will be as well. 9/

    Until then, a willingness to learn and dialogue are essential. Dialogue among Covington High School administrators. Between Covington students and Indigenous Peoples. Between that group of students and Mr. Phillips. 10/

    In disagreement, dialogue is essential, as is what Pope Francis calls a “culture of encounter.” For example, a service trip for the students to a Native American reservation–as a learning opportunity. 11/

    Another essential lesson, which transcends whatever happened in Washington this weekend: an understanding of the appalling treatment that Native Americans have endured in our country. That lesson needs to be learned regardless of what you think of Covington High School. 12/

    This Teachable Moment can offer us, if we are both open and humble, important lessons about racism and marginalization, about dialogue and encounter, and about truth and reconciliation, during this coming week, which is, believe it or not, Catholic Schools Week. 13/13

    Thread starts here: https://twitter.com/JamesMartinSJ/status/1087108813331857411

    I have personal objections to certain points — for example, I (and most Native Americans I know) are not huge fans of “service trips to teach folks about Indians” unless the idea really comes from the tribe themselves. But overall I think he’s right on almost all points.

    Also, as a complete aside, and more evidence of us being in the stupidest timeline, if someone was to tell me that the Black Israelites would be at the center of a national debate in my lifetime I would have laughed in their face. Having grown up in the area surrounding NYC in the 80’s and early 90’s, getting yelled at them when you visited Times Square was a rite of passage.

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  35. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    My take on this is that we should probably be paying less attention to so-called viral internet news stories than we do. Maybe “viral” is a metaphor in addition to being an adjective in this case.

    if you know anything about history or math, you realize a 66 y/o man was never in Viet Nam

    Speak for yourself, honkie college boy! I’m 66 and have classmates who died in Vietnam.

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  36. MarkedMan says:

    Here’s a Washington Post Story about an ardent Trump fan that doesn’t resemble the stereotypical MAGA hat wearing, angry, bitter racist. All his life he has had people of color that are important to him, people he views with affection and love. He’s sure there was no real racism in the area he lives in, even as he and the reporter are driving past sites famous for lynchings and attacks on civil rights protesters. When the reporter interviews one of the guy’s friends, a black man who he shoots pool with, the friend is pretty off handed in saying there is no point in talking to him about what life is really like because the guy just isn’t going to listen or change his mind. There’s a lot more and it’s worth a read.

    So what are we to think about the fact that the guy wears a MAGA hat? He’s not a racist, at least not in the vicious and angry way. But what we can tell is that he is gullible and incurious. He’s not interested in hearing about anything that might contradict his world view. So, although he may not deliberately lie to you, he could easily give you wrong information or repeat things that aren’t true. Bottom line, you would be foolish to trust him on anything that isn’t 100% under his control.

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  37. As the father of three boys who has spent (and still spends) a lot of time around boys of this age, I am more than convinced that, at a minimum, the main kid in this brouhaha was trying to entertain his classmates (and they were clearly entertained as can be seen in the various videos I have seen). It may be no more complicated than that. (Teenage boys, it may shock the uninitiated to know, often think being a jackass is funny, and their peers often agree).

    That, by the way, is no defense because young people often don’t think through how entertaining their peers can be disrespectful to others.

    I do think that there are some racial elements that I am not sure how to fully assess in a comment box, so I will mostly leave alone for the moment.

    I will say a few things, however:

    1) I am not sure it was smart, in the context of multiple protests and whatnot happening at the National Mall, for a bunch of school kids to wear MAGA gear–it was an invitation to confrontation. (This a chaperone fail).

    2) The kid should have walked away (or the chaperone should have rounded them up–indeed, should have done do when the BHI were taunting the students).

    3) Just for the record: the BHI’s (which I am not even sure if I have heard of before) sound quite despicable.

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  38. Stormy Dragon says:

    @mattbernius:

    I think Jesuit Priest, and America magazine’s Editor at Large, James Martin did a great job (with one small exception) in his reflection on the incident shared late yesterday on Twitter:

    For example, a service trip for the students to a Native American reservation–as a learning opportunity. 11/

    Native American reservations don’t exist to provide photo ops for your white redemption narratives. Why would the people living there want to be subjected to a bunch of students that have already demonstrated a profound disrespect for Native American culture?

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  39. KM says:

    @MarkedMan:

    He’s not interested in hearing about anything that might contradict his world view.

    And that right there is why they get so damn offended when anyone points anything out, not just about race but sexism, LGBT discrimination, religious issues, class warfare, etc. Because it might cause them to examine their own life or worldview and that’s just not happening. Nothing is wrong, everything is fine and if there *is* a problem, well it’s certainly not happening here where they can be inconvenienced by it. They’re good people and that’s what matters, right? It’s not malicious but rather insidious – the creeping apathy of the status quo and the moral superiority of being the salt of the earth.

    I view it thus: a sleeping lion is still a lion – it’s just not an active threat. It’s asleep because it chooses to be, granting a detente on the savanna. Hell, it probably prefers sleeping as it’s default state of being. A sleeping lion is harmless in that it’s not actively malicious and will ignore a lot of what an awake one would chase down. A sleeping lion doesn’t get it’s own name because it’s really no different then an awake one. All that changes is how you interact with it while always keeping in mind that it’s a damn lion. Forgot that at your own peril – lions are not pets and wake up when provoked.

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  40. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I agree and it can’t be stressed enough what an epic fail this was for the chaperone.

    It also can’t be stressed enough that however much jackassery occurred, teenage boys should not be ruined for life because of this type of thing. At the very least, this is going to affect the outed kids entries into elite universities and perhaps, depending on the length of Internet memory and how common their names are, even affect future employment. This is not right.

    Finally, my understanding is that the Black Israelites are older and they do this on a regular basis. Many of us have a lot of experience with these types of people and even those of us who can’t resist feeding the trolls in an anonymous blog know that engaging with such nutters in real life just makes you look as much a jackass as them. I don’t expect non-urban kids to have experience or to understand the dynamics, which just reinforces the chaperone failure. The school sending someone who couldn’t do the math and figure out the only sensible course was to de-escalate puts the Administation in as bad a light as the chaperone themself.

  41. Eric Florack says:

    The “native American” in this case is a well-known left-wing activist who was pulled this stunt many times. He went there looking for a confrontation.

    End of story

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  42. Monala says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I have no love for the BHI. I had a junior high teacher who was one, and her behavior towards students was shameful. I also have many unpleasant memories of getting shouted at by BHI members at T (subway) stops in Boston.

    That said, this twitter thread posts a more than hour-long video by the BHI of the entire incident. It shows that:

    – There were 5 BHI dudes, and at least 50, maybe even 100 teenagers.
    – The BHI dudes were shouting some pretty offensive stuff, but they were keeping their distance.
    – The teens were getting more and more amped up, and moving in closer to the BHI dudes, so it did look like violence might break out. (ETA: there’s also a white woman in the video who says to the kids, “You guys are acting like a mob!” So it wasn’t only the Native protesters who thought so).
    – At that point, the Native protesters step in, and it does appear as if they’re trying to ease the tension.

    I sympathize with what Nathan Phillips was trying to do. Years ago, I stepped in between a large group of teens (about a dozen) who were in a verbal altercation with a homeless man. I was worried it would turn violent, and given the size of the teen group, they could do a lot of harm vs. one man. Mostly, I tried to convince him to walk away, telling him, “They’re just stupid kids. It’s not worth it.” Finally, muttering and swearing, he walked away.

    But I agree with you, the biggest takeaway is that this was a huge chaperone fail.

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  43. mattbernius says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    I agree, that’s why I wrote:

    I have personal objections to certain points — for example, I (and most Native Americans I know) are not huge fans of “service trips to teach folks about Indians” unless the idea really comes from the tribe themselves.

    “Not huge fans” was an understatement on my part. Just about every tribal group I know just wants to be left alone — especially from church groups.

  44. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Eric Florack:

    The “native American” in this case is a well-known left-wing activist who was pulled this stunt many times. He went there looking for a confrontation.

    We could just as easily say, “the “Catholic” school in this case are well-known righ-wing activists who was pulled this stunt many times. They went there looking for a confrontation”

    Oh I forgot: in Florack world, only white political opinions are legitimate.

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  45. Monala says:

    @MarkedMan: One of the things I’ve realized over the years is that people have an incredible ability to compartmentalize their prejudices. Knowing and liking a person of a different (pick one: race, religion, nationality, etc.) doesn’t necessarily mean you stop stereotyping or having biases against the group that person is from. It often just means you place that person into the “one of the good ones” category.

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  46. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    the BHI’s (which I am not even sure if I have heard of before) sound quite despicable.

    They are a fixture in larger cities in the Northeast. I’ve been yelled at them in both Boston and NYC (they used to camp out in Time Square).

    Yeah, 100% this entire thing is first and foremost a chaperone fail.

  47. Stormy Dragon says:

    @mattbernius:

    My comment was directed at the Jesuit priest, but I had to include your bit for context purposes.

  48. Monala says:

    @Monala: Let me add something about this part of my comment:

    I have no love for the BHI. I had a junior high teacher who was one, and her behavior towards students was shameful.

    I attended a majority black (about 65%) school. This teacher received a lot of student and parent complaints, and in the middle of the school year, she was fired, and rightly so. However, there were several white teachers whose behavior toward students was equally bad, who also received a number of complaints — and none of them were fired.

  49. Monala says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified the BHI as a hate group, that has become more militant in recent years.

  50. michilines says:

    Okay, so the full video lasts over one hour. Were the chaperones not in that video at all? How could all of that go on for so long without a chaperone rounding the kids up if for no other reason than one of them could get hurt — even accidentally — or in some other sort of trouble. what’s the point of having chaperones if they are nowhere to be found for over an hour when they were probably needed the most?

    Secondly, if you want to leave the children out, then don’t let them participate in a political march. While some may argue that the march they were in is not intended to be political — it has been for a long time. Leave the kids at home and schedule them to visit the capital at a time when no protests or marches are scheduled. I hear schools from across the country do that sort of thing all the time. These particular kids were there for a political purpose — so should we give them a pass because they were there “earnestly marching for (their) principles” or should we give them a pass because they are teenagers? If their actions outside of the march are chalked up to being teenagers, then should their action in participating in the march be similarly valued?

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  51. @michilines: To be clear, lest I be perceived as defending anything: I am not excusing their behavior as just being teenagers. I mean, yes, they were acting as teenagers often act, but the fact that they did so in this manner and in this context matters.

    And yes: the trip was political. It does seem to me, however, that not much was done to educate them as to how to behave as either observers or as participants of a political event.

  52. KM says:

    @michilines:

    These particular kids were there for a political purpose — so should we give them a pass because they were there “earnestly marching for (their) principles” or should we give them a pass because they are teenagers? If their actions outside of the march are chalked up to being teenagers, then should their action in participating in the march be similarly valued?

    The “earnestly marching for (their) principles” logic is BS. Plenty of people manage to be earnest and passionate and not douchebags in the process. If we start giving a pass for bad actions done in the heat of passion while marching….. well, isn’t vandalism while marching along the same vein? Officer, they’re just riled up because they really BELIEVE in this cause! They’re just expressing earnest passion that has nothing to do with the topic of the mob on the window of this store! Passion has never been a legitimate excuse in society for bad behavior, especially in it’s youth. That’s not a path society should head down.

    I’m also not chalking it up to inherent teenager douchebagginess. Sorry apologists, but that’s a particular strain of that’s only manifested in the last few years and is definitely political in nature. They went there, either obtained the hats or brought them with and deliberately wore them knowing their political connotation. The chaperones had to have known – it’s not like the teens hid the hats the whole way and just happened to put them on the second the adults’ back was turned. This whole thing was intentional on everyone from the school’s part – the only intention they didn’t have was going viral for all the wrong reasons.

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  53. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    It also can’t be stressed enough that however much jackassery occurred, teenage boys should not be ruined for life because of this type of thing. At the very least, this is going to affect the outed kids entries into elite universities and perhaps, depending on the length of Internet memory and how common their names are, even affect future employment. This is not right.

    I’m not quite as empathetic as others on this thread may be about this point. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen too many helicopter parents and too many parents that would rather be out in their business/professional communities than being concerned about their children. (And yes, I HAVE been told by such parent that taking care of their child’s homework completion and socialization issues was why THEY hired me [to be a teacher].) We have chosen to adopt tools that record our asshattery and save it for generations to come. Kid’s need to be aware of that from an early age. Their parents and support systems exist should provide that information.

  54. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @michilines: Over an hour? Not just chaperone fail–EPIC chaperone fail.

    On the other hand, based on news already posted above about other “antics” that happen at this school, maybe the chaperones DGAF.

  55. Raoul says:

    My two cents worth: the kid was a jerk.

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  56. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    there’s a pretty good possibility that this is a pretty good kid earnestly marching for his principles awkwardly caught in the crossfire of competing protests.

    Bullshit. This is not a good kid. This is a spoiled, entitled, smug little shit.

    No good comes from that smile. There’s a mixture of sadism and self-satisfaction there, that matches up with his actions.

    He might, someday, grow up to be a fine man. He might reflect on this moment with a bit of awkward shame. But this is not a good kid.

    And I am not going to feel sorry for the poor little innocent boy who just didn’t understand. The worst possible consequence for him is that he will be known for this forever, and that he will always be using a bit of his unearned privilege to get past it. My god, what if elite college administrators see this and he has to go to a — gasp! — state school, which his wealthy parents will pay off. He might only end up better positioned than 99.5% of his generation, rather than 99.7%! Horrors.

    Or, he might simply have to say “Yeah, that was me. Not my proudest moment.” And then people will be mildly wary until they see that this moment doesn’t reflect who he has become.

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  57. Gustopher says:

    @Monala:

    Knowing and liking a person of a different (pick one: race, religion, nationality, etc.) doesn’t necessarily mean you stop stereotyping or having biases against the group that person is from. It often just means you place that person into the “one of the good ones” category.

    It does mean, however, that they are capable of believing that there are good ones.

    No one is without bias, and the road to less bias has to start somewhere. The path to marriage equality started with gays coming out, and straight people saying “well, Bob isn’t like those gays.” And then Pedro and Lucy. And then a reassessment of “those gays”.

  58. R. Dave says:

    Folks in this thread keep claiming that Phillips was just being a good Samaritan, selflessly trying to deescalate the brewing dispute between the Covington students and the BHI asshats. However, from what I’ve read, it seems that only became his stated rationale after the second, longer video came out showing that he approached the students in the first place. His initial comments to the press indicated that he was just minding his own business, trying to march up to the Lincoln Memorial in accordance with his permit, when the Covington students approached and surrounded him, blocking his path forward. The guy appears to be full of it.

    Heck, even if he’d had the foresight to go with the “just trying to help” line from the beginning, it wouldn’t really pass the smell test. Who honestly believes that walking up to a bunch of amped up teens, chanting at them in a language they don’t understand, and banging a drum literally inches from one of their faces, constitutes a reasonable, good faith deescalation tactic? Sorry, but as ready as I was to believe these kids were a bunch of Trump-loving deplorables harassing an old man, it seems pretty clear it was the other way around.

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  59. Mikey says:

    oh yes the kid who was marching against women’s reproductive rights while wearing a hat promoting an evil homophobic racist misogynistic sociopath was TOTALLY misrepresented

    https://twitter.com/nachosarah/status/1087337735260524544

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  60. Monala says:

    @Gustopher: I used to think that, until I started noticing that too many people expand their “one of the good ones” envelope without ever questioning their biases. A Balloon Juice commenter once described their mother as, “Someone who thinks that all black people are thugs and welfare queens, except for every black person she knows.”

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  61. bookdragon says:

    @Steve Morgan: If he is 64 (I keep seeing different ages given, but this is the youngest so far) then he would have been 18 in 1973. Same age as my oldest cousin, who served in Vietnam. If you can’t do basic math, you shouldn’t comment.

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  62. Gustopher says:

    @Monala: Point taken, but that mom’s kids turned out better than they did. Sometimes progress is just really slow.

    Also, I’m an optimist at heart — I think that mom was a bit dimmer than most people.

  63. Scott O says:

    @dmhlt: Wow, especially the 2nd pic.

  64. michilines says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Over an hour? Not just chaperone fail–EPIC chaperone fail.

    I’ve read a few other accounts since that post. It seems that the adults/chaperones were there and told the boys that it was okay to shout school chants back at the BHI types in response to the taunts/slurs. Thinking about it now, the adults/chaperones were actually there and this continued for an hour at least . . . that’s more than an EPIC fail and perhaps sheds light on the statement that the school and the diocese released. The kids were awful — the adults were worse.

    Chaperones should have immediately stopped what is shown in this video.

  65. Scott O says:

    @dmhlt: Looking at that 2nd one again, I’m going to call it a photoshop.

  66. Gustopher says:

    What followed was several minutes of confusion: The teens couldn’t quite decide whether Phillips was on their side or not, but tentatively joined in his chanting. It’s not at all clear this was intended as an act of mockery rather than solidarity.

    The only person for who this would not be clear is an idiot. And, the idiot has weighed in, tweeting away his support for the fine young smirking scumbag, while getting his name wrong (because, of course, idiot).

    This is what the party of Trump elevates and extols.

    Also, the kid’s family’s hiring a PR firm really did work out. The right has their hero du jour, and it is a smirking idiot child with a punchable face (I do not advocate punching that face, I merely note that it is punchable) who mocks minorities, and comes from a nearly completely white school where painting themselves black for basketball games is considered appropriate.

    (No, Scott O, that’s not photoshopped, there are videos)

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  67. Blue Galangal says:

    @MarkedMan:

    It also can’t be stressed enough that however much jackassery occurred, teenage boys should not be ruined for life because of this type of thing.

    I’m sorry, but I keep seeing this aired as a rationale. Why are teenage (white) boys exempt from the consequences of their actions? A 12 year old black boy playing in a park with a toy gun was murdered, and his murderer is walking free and still working as a cop. During the media storm surrounding his death, it was pointed out that a 12 year old boy is “almost a man,” and that his mother was at fault for letting him have a toy gun, and just basically all of them should have known better than to play while black.

    Or, another example, a 17 year old boy who was buying Skittles and a drink is dead now. His murderer is walking free. Everyone said he was not an innocent because he smoked pot, and because he was “big” and “scary.” Everyone blamed him for not walking away, even though he was trying to get himself away from the scary self-appointed vigilante stalking him. He is still being blamed in right-wing circles for his own death.

    So forgive me if I don’t have much sympathy for a 17 year old white kid who has a smirk on his face any parent of a teenager will recognize. He knew he was being filmed and he was enjoying it. So I think he’s old enough to face the consequences of his actions. It wasn’t just a half second someone caught as a screen cap and is circulating. He stood there like that for several minutes, smirking. He should face the consequences of his choices and actions the same way everyone said Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin should face the consequences of their actions.

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  68. Scott O says:

    @Gustopher: Damn. I didn’t want to believe that in 2015 whatever adults that were in charge would allow students in blackface.

  69. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Good point! And please note that Brett (I LIKE BEER!) Kavanaugh seems to have been an asshat in high school and it didn’t affect his admission into elite schools at all.

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  70. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @michilines: So this has evolved to DGAF AND use the opportunity to teach the kids how to escalate conflicts? Kywl! MAWA!

    ETA:

    I’m sorry, but I keep seeing this aired as a rationale. Why are teenage (white) boys exempt from the consequences of their actions? A 12 year old black boy playing in a park with a toy gun was murdered, and his murderer is walking free and still working as a cop. During the media storm surrounding his death, it was pointed out that a 12 year old boy is “almost a man,” and that his mother was at fault for letting him have a toy gun, and just basically all of them should have known better than to play while black.

    Yeah, it do boggle the mind.

  71. Tyrell says:

    @Franklin: “Native Americans bringing bison back from near extinction!” (The Guardian). This story was ignored by the main news media. Good, positive news is not reported, only negative, sensationalized, inflammatory things. Now that’s what gets you.

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  72. MarkedMan says:

    Ever notice how on some discussions we suddenly see new people who have never commented before, have very strong opinions, obviously have not read any other comments and never show their heads ever again? (It happened on this thread at least 2-3 times.) Talking Points Memo offers a clue: “Scott Jennings’ PR Firm Played Big Role In Phillips-Sandmann Spin“.

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  73. KM says:

    @Blue Galangal:

    Agreed. Brock Turner’s family used the same excuse – that a rapist caught mid-act shouldn’t pay “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action” (his father’s own words). It’s always important to certain groups that future earning potential and reputation be protected above the need for justice and equal treatment under the law.

    I absolutely hate the “young and dumb” excuse people trot out to excuse bad behavior in middle-class and up youth. Believe it or not, teenagers aren’t inherently stupid or prone to self-destruction. Most people were not “young and dumb”, at least not to a point the police got involved. I understand the urge to not stigmatize but frankly, that’s what society does. That’s what a police record is, that’s why we ask for references and do background checks. We may forgive but we won’t forget because it’s rare person that can really change themselves. If you haven’t figured that out by your teens, then reality isn’t going to be kind to you when you screw up.

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  74. Monala says:
  75. Gustopher says:

    @KM:

    I absolutely hate the “young and dumb” excuse people trot out to excuse bad behavior in middle-class and up youth. Believe it or not, teenagers aren’t inherently stupid or prone to self-destruction. Most people were not “young and dumb”, at least not to a point the police got involved. I understand the urge to not stigmatize but frankly, that’s what society does. That’s what a police record is, that’s why we ask for references and do background checks. We may forgive but we won’t forget because it’s rare person that can really change themselves. If you haven’t figured that out by your teens, then reality isn’t going to be kind to you when you screw up.

    A lot of people have to learn things the hard way, and a lot of white, middle-class and upper-class are sheltered from the consequences of their actions when they are younger.

    The poor, and the minorities, end up with the full consequences way earlier and have to learn.

    I coasted through school, and never learned to work at all, until I finally failed out of one of the best engineering schools in the country where I was surrounded by people almost as smart as me but who had to work to get there. It was a lesson that I am glad I learned, but kind of wish I learned before then. Going to a state school didn’t ruin my life though.

    Kids that age need to face some consequences for their actions, but I think they really should be protected from the worst consequences of their actions so long as they don’t cause permanent harm. They may need a hard smack upside the head, but they don’t need to be crushed (metaphorically speaking).

    “Young and dumb” shouldn’t be an excuse. It’s a fine explanation, but they have to learn from it.

    Not excusing Brock Turner. Raping someone, even for just 20 minutes, even if they are passed out, is causing permanent harm. If his life is destroyed in the process, well, thems the breaks rape-boy.

  76. Tony Robinson says:

    I’ve seen the videos.
    I fail to see how these “kids”can be held blameless in all this.
    Makes me so mad.

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  77. Tony Robinson says:

    OMG. I just watched the other videos out there.

    I’m ashamed to admit I was totally wrong.

    Those kids behaved remarkably well considering everything going on. Waiting for the bus, being taunted by a bunch of racist and anti-gay people (and why aren’t we talking about those BHI bigots more??). Then some old man, who we know now isn’t even a Viet Nam vet, strolls over to make a scene.

    Now those kids are receiving death threats and they’ve had to close the school. Now I’m really mad. First I was mad at the kids, but now I’m even more angry at the media and the people who pushed these blatant lies.

    Tweets are being deleted in what now looks like self preservation against the lawsuits that are certain to be filed. (I’ve defended Kathy Griffen, but never again.)

    And blaming CLOTHING?! My God. I have a daughter. I never want to hear THAT argument used to justify anything.

    EVERY account of this story was not only wrong, but in many instances outright lies. And a bunch of “adults” slurped it up and started advocating violence against children.

    Aren’t we better than this?

    As much as I may dislike Trump, this kind of reporting only serves to justify his claims of fake news and calling CNN the enemy of the people. In this one case I fear he’s been proven correct. Thanks to horrible reporting, a complete lack of fact checking, the want for clicks over veracity, and a BLIND hatred of Trump these kid’s lives are being ruined. This story will remain in the front of his supporters minds for a long time. And I’m not sure I can blame them this time.

    Hating this president should not make us automatically believe every bad thing we hear about his supporters. We are supposed to be better than them.

    In this case tho, seeing the hate on Twitter, I’m truly ashamed to say I’ve allied myself with some of these people.

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  78. MarkedMan says:

    @MarkedMan: interesting juxtaposition: shortly after I posted this, we get the pair of comments above from newcomer Tony. Makes you think.

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  79. @MarkedMan: Indeed.

  80. Scalia says:

    @Steve Morgan: He did not serve in Vietnam. He lied about that.

  81. Scalia says:

    @Tony Robinson: I upticked your comment, but the system doesn’t appear to be allowing it. Strange.

    Anyway, you make good observations. This is clearly another case of the media’s failure to fact-check before publication. The fact that one may hate a particular politician does not justify dishonest reporting.