Too Quick to JudgeYonoson Rosenblum
The disgraceful shaming of the Covington kids
Wednesday, January 30, 2019
he major news story in the United States this week (as I write) involves a confrontation between a group of Catholic high school students from Covington, Kentucky and a Native American activist at the Lincoln Memorial. Many of the students were wearing MAGA hats, and they were waiting for a bus to take them home after participating in the March for Life, an annual anti-abortion rally. Two strikes against them.
The most serious charge that could plausibly be laid on the kids was that one of them, Nick Sandmann, "smirked" at Native American elder, Nathan Phillips.
The horror. A teenager smirked. Apparently, none of those calling for the scalps of the high school students have ever been teenagers or the parents of one.
In response, Nick Sandmann and his family were "doxxed" — i.e., their personal identities and residence were revealed — and they were subjected to death threats. A legislator called for a ban on MAGA hats for teenagers. (Once the ACLU argued for the First Amendment rights of high school students to wear the American flag on the seat of their pants; today liberals campaign to ban hats proclaiming Make America Great.)
Various "comedians" and other public figures offered rewards, pecuniary and otherwise, to anyone who would punch Sandmann in the face. The boys, the viral Twitter storm opined, were Brett Kavanaugh recidivous, the faces of smug, toxic male privilege. Their own high school threatened to expel them.
In various interviews, Phillips told gullible reporters that he had inserted himself into a dangerous situation, in which the high schoolers were preparing to attack a group of five Black Hebrew Israelites also demonstrating at the Lincoln Memorial. As a consequence, all their anger was directed at him. In other interviews, he claimed that the boys had restricted his freedom of movement and that Sandmann kept blocking his way.
Phillips, it turns out, has long had a wayward relationship with the truth. He is not a Vietnam vet as he has claimed in multiple interviews over the years, not even a Vietnam-era vet who served in reconnaissance, as he has described himself in other interviews.
Nor is there a scintilla of evidence that the boys were preparing to attack the Black Hebrew Israelites. The latter taunted them for a long time as "crackers," cast slurs at their gender identity — something that is apparently to be ignored when those casting the slurs are black. And they told a black student in the group that his friends would kill him and harvest his organs.
The boys' response consisted of an enthusiastic performance of some of their school cheers. There was no physical confrontation of any kind nor any threat of violence.
Far from Phillips being physically threatened, it was he who marched up to Sandmann and started aggressively banging a tribal drum two inches from his face. For several minutes, Sandmann stood there totally impassive. At some point (I got tired of watching the drum banging), he either smirked or, as he described it, smiled nervously not knowing what to do. He was acutely aware that cameras were present and that an effort was being made to provoke him and his friends into behaving badly. At no point did he menace Phillips in any way.
THE INCIDENT once again proves the old adage that falsehood spreads halfway around the world before truth can even put on its pants. But I'd like to focus on a couple of less obvious points.
Among those joining the baseless condemnations of the Catholic school youth were a number of prominent conservatives. An editorial in the National Review accused them of having effectively spit upon one of their religion's most sacred religious symbols. Jay Nordlinger in the same magazine opined, "Images of red-hatted kids surrounding that old Indian are unbearable. Absolutely unbearable. An American disgrace." Even Professor Robert George, a distinguished natural law philosopher at Princeton, jumped on the bandwagon of condemnation.
Those responses demonstrate the degree of cultural hegemony of the Left media. Even conservative intellectuals who approve of at least 70 percent of President Trump's political agenda — his judicial appointments, deregulation, tax cuts, thorough reversal of the Obama administration's Iran policy — have bought into the stereotype of Trump supporters as a group of racist imbeciles.
And they are eager to signal to those with whom they went to Ivy League schools that they are not part of the racist, stock-car watching, fast-food eating Trump mob. I understand the impulse. But frankly, conservative virtue-signaling is not much more attractive than left-wing virtue-signaling, with one major exception: The National Review took down the offensive editorial and Nordlinger and George issued apologies.
Many years ago, Rabbi Moshe Sherer warned against being sucked into your opponent's premises. He reprimanded a talented chareidi journalist for having written what was effectively a plea in mitigation for chareidi arsonists presumed to have burned a number of Jerusalem bus stops because of offending advertisements. Rabbi Sherer pointed out to him that the identity of the arsonists was still unknown. And indeed they turned out to be secular provocateurs.
The second point highlighted by the massive media coverage of last Friday's events at the Lincoln Memorial is how much of our national energy today is devoted to demonizing those with whom one disagrees and trying to prove their absolute evil. Americans are not exactly lacking for things to worry about — huge national deficits and unfunded pension obligations, the threat to American jobs from automation, the rapid expansion of China's military power. If wailing about national disgrace is to be the order of the day, I would put twelve murders over a weekend in Chicago over a gaggle of boisterous high school kids.
Given the real issues facing Americans, the attention given to bolstering the narratives of social justice warriors is itself a tragedy.
The Hate that Dare Speak Its Name
Victor Davis Hanson collects a number of choice quotes this week ("License to Hate") of what now passes for wit in polite left-wing society. The speakers take their cue from President Obama's description of bitter "clingers" and Hilary Clinton's characterization of those who voted for her opponent as "deplorables." Both remarks were well-received by the super-rich campaign donors to whom they were directed.
The dental hygiene, or lack thereof, of Trump voters is one frequent subject. CNN analyst Rick Wilson refers to them as Trump's "ten-tooth base." In that, he echoes Politico's Marco Caputo, who once said of a Trump rally, "If you put everyone's mouth together... you'd get a full set of teeth."
Former FBI chief of counterespionage Peter Strzok sought to impress his FBI colleague Lisa Page with this witty slur: "Just went to a southern Virginia Walmart. I could SMELL the Trump support."
What's the point? That Trump's supporters are "poor... uneducated [and] lazy," as another FBI attorney offered. Whatever happened to the Left's Marxist class consciousness? When did sympathy for the little guy transmogrify into contempt and disdain for those lacking one's own advantages of wealth and education?
And what distinguishes poor whites from ethnic minorities who faithfully vote to give power to the better types of folk — other than that fact alone? Is it self-evident that natives of Appalachia are advantaged over blacks born in a ghetto?
When did it become socially acceptable to sneer at anyone presumed dumber than you? And yet, I doubt those spewing their contempt of others for their low IQs and lack of Ivy League credentials would be open to a scientific discussion of IQ. Would they acknowledge that IQ is an excellent predictor of the ability to master complicated tasks? Or that it varies across ethnic lines?
Ashkenazi Jews for instance, possess IQs, on average, one standard deviation above the general population. And judging by the efforts of elite schools to keep down the percentage of Asian students, I would guess that many Asian groups perform at least as well on IQ tests.
Contempt, it seems, is selective: Toward some it is mandatory; toward others, it is verboten on pain of expulsion from polite society.