From the Wall Street Journal
Of the most culturally deplorable boxes one can check in progressive America in 2019, the boys of Covington Catholic High School have most of them: white, male, Christian, attendees at the annual March for Life in Washington, and wearers of MAGA hats. What’s not to dislike? So when four minutes of video footage emerged online this weekend showing the students appearing to harass a Native American Vietnam veteran named Nathan Phillips, America’s media and cultural elite leapt to judgment.
A short video clip of student Nick Sandmann supposedly “smirking” as Mr. Phillips banged his drum in the student’s face went viral, and instantly the boys of Covington Catholic in Kentucky were branded racists.
Best-selling author Reza Aslan tweeted that the high school junior had a “punchable face.” Former Democratic Party chief Howard Dean opined that Covington Catholic is “a hate factory.” GQ’s Nathaniel Friedman urged people to “Doxx ‘em all,” i.e., make their personal information public.
Meanwhile, mainstream news outlets published misleading accounts of what happened based on incomplete information. And pundits on the right and left rushed to demonstrate their own virtue by trashing high school students as somehow symptomatic of America’s cultural rot in the Age of Trump.
Only it turns out there was a much longer video, nearly two hours, showing that almost everything first reported about the confrontation was false, or at least much more complicated. The boys had been taunted by a group of Black Hebrew Israelites, who shouted racist and homophobic slurs. Far from the boys confronting Mr. Phillips, he confronted them as they were waiting near the Lincoln Memorial for their bus.
It also turns out that Mr. Phillips is not the Vietnam veteran he was reported to be in most stories. On Tuesday the Washington Post offered a correction, noting that while Mr. Phillips served in the Marines from 1972 to 1976, he was “never deployed to Vietnam.”
Some of the students did respond to Mr. Phillips by doing the Tomahawk Chop, and it would have been better had they all walked away. But on the whole these teenagers were calm amid the provocations and far less incendiary than the adults who taunted them and the progressive high priests who denounced them.
The new information has people who had so eagerly cast the first stones hastily deleting their tweets. Still, it is telling that some of the most disgusting tweets were the work of the blue-check elites who pride themselves on their tolerance. More surprising is the rush to judgment by those who might have been expected to consider the boys innocent until proven guilty, or at least until all the evidence is in.
On Saturday the boys’ school issued a joint statement with the Covington Diocese saying they “condemn” the students for their actions and were considering appropriate action “including expulsion.” A post on National Review said the boys might as well have “just spit on the cross.” And the March for Life distanced itself from the “reprehensible behavior” of the marchers from Covington.
Many of these early critics have now apologized or walked back their initial condemnations. But these social injustices perpetrated on social media are not so easily redressed. Covington Catholic was closed Tuesday for security reasons.
Most of those who so eagerly maligned these boys will face no lasting consequences, while the boys themselves will always have to wonder, when they are turned down for a job or a school, whether someone had Googled their name and found only half this story. This is an ugly moment in America, all right, but there are few things uglier than a righteous leftist mob.
A righteous leftist mob is just a normal day in American politics.
Labels: Black Hebrew Israelites, Covington Catholic High School, Howard Dean, March for Life, Nathan Phillips, Nick Sandmann, Reza Aslan