Media Narrative of “Catholic MAGA high schoolers mob Native American elder” doesn’t hold up to video scrutiny
Twitter mob launched against teens by celebrities encouraging doxing and assault against minors
The internet blew up over a (as it turns out) heavily-edited clip of white male Catholic March for Life high schoolers apparently taunting, mocking, and otherwise behaving badly toward a Native American elder. Even many on the right condemned the MAGA hat-wearing boys for their perceived vile behavior.
The problem? We didn’t get the whole story, and many people, including those on the left, are now expressing their regret at jumping too readily to condemn these boys. As it turns out and in the true spirit of “unexpectedly,” there is much more to this story than we were first treated to in the initial reports.
As first released, the video did look damning, and the leftstream media was in hog heaven berating the young men involved. They did so largely as a vehicle for condemning President Trump, the right, pro-life people, and Catholics—many of the left’s boogeymen, in other words, so they had a lot at stake in this narrative and apparently didn’t bother to find out the whole story before running with it.
The New York Times: “Viral Video Shows Boys in ‘Make America Great Again’ Hats Surround Native Elder”
CNN: “Teens in Make America Great Again hats taunted a Native American elder at the Lincoln Memorial”
The Washington Post: “‘It was getting ugly’: Native American drummer speaks on the MAGA-hat-wearing teens who surrounded him”
Variety: “MAGA Hat-Wearing Teens Harassing Native American Elder Spark Condemnation From Hollywood”
The list goes on. And on. But you get the picture, these are teens who support Trump by wearing MAGA hats, so they must be bad and ill-intentioned, they must be evil.
This led to high profile celebrities encouraging retaliation against the teens:
First the Fury, Then the Facts
The full story has given a lot of people on the left and right pause. Maybe these kids weren’t the bullies but were, instead, the pawns of activist bullies attempting to leverage them into the role of political pawns. Pawns played by the left to undermine not only President Trump but every right-leaning conservative person in the country.
If this hateful display against a Native American is conservatism, we—and they—know, we don’t support it. Don’t kid yourselves, the progressives in power, the elite, know we are not racists or xenophobes or pretty much anything else they accuse us of being. They just play that hard for their increasingly under-educated base in order to win elections. Democrats count on widespread ignorance, and the dumber the citizenry, the better.
Ultimately, we are not racists, nor are we disrespectful or given to unruly, unlawful, and immoral displays. Because of this, the video didn’t strike the authentic chord with me. Something didn’t add up here, and I just didn’t buy it.
Sure enough, after the internet blew up and the news media hammered these boys, the truth finally emerged.
One of the best articles thus far about the incident was written by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative. Dreher is Irish and explains how he experienced this story from abroad.
Good morning from Dublin. It is really interesting to observe US public controversies from outside the American bubble. I am startled by the massive controversy that has erupted over the Covington (KY) Catholic school boys and the Native American man, Nathan Phillips, in the aftermath of the March For Life. Several video clips of the confrontation between an elder of the Omaha tribe and a large group of Catholic high school boys wearing MAGA hats have gone viral.
A selected part of the clip shows boys jumping and hooting and acting in a somewhat intimidating way towards the older man, as if to mock him. Some people interpret the boy standing in front of the man, the kid with a rictus grin, as sneering at the old man. Others say that you can’t assume that was a sneer; maybe the kid just didn’t know what to do.
In any case, the Catholic school has apologized for its students’ action, and the mayor of their hometown has denounced them. The boys were in town for the March For Life. The video is being widely cited as an example of the Trumpification of Christianity, and connected to the Karen Pence school controversy as yet another example of why conservative Christianity is an evil that must be driven from the precincts of the decent.
It is possible that the Catholic boys were complete asses. My initial judgment was that they certainly were that. You don’t treat a peaceful elderly person like this. Even if they thought he was wrong, those boys owed him respect. Yes, the old man approached them, but they could and should have handled him with respect. They come off as bullies.
Indeed, the boys do come off as bullies in the initial clip, but when more context is added by subsequent video clips, it’s hard to retain that stance.
And, in it, one of the Indians with Phillips shouts: “White people, go back to Europe. This is not your land.” He curses the students with f-bombs (video is NSFW). He goes on: “You’re being a white man about it. That’s all you know how to do.”
You didn’t see that in the news reporting, did you?
Then, at the 4:40 mark, members of an insane black radical cult called the Black Hebrews (I remember them from my DC days) starts ranting at the boys about whites and sodomy, and says that “your president is a homosexual.” He makes fun of Christian civilization, saying: “You give faggots rights!”
Here’s the video with greater context:
It’s worth noting, as Dreher does, that this same Native American elder was involved in a prior incident of supposed “disrespect” toward Native Americans from white youths.
Here’s something else: in 2015, this same Native American elder, Phillips, confronted college students wearing Indian garb at a college party, and claimed he was treated disrespectfully by them. So he said; no video exists. It appears that he was looking for a confrontation of some sort. If those college boys behaved that way, it was indeed wrong, and offensive. But Nathan Philips seems like a man who seeks out these opportunities for confrontation, and then to go to the media with them. Notice in the clip that went viral, Philips had a man with a camera following him as he approached the MAGA boys.
Ultimately, it appears that Phillips has found a strategy of attacking the young and impressionable that works for him. His manipulations would not work on adults, so he focuses on our children, attempting to paint them and us all—by extension—as racist xenophobes.
Trump’s presidency didn’t start Phillips’ malicious actions, but Phillips was happy to see MAGA hat-wearing youths so that he could bait and trap them, and by extension, the president and all of his deplorables. The problem for Phillips is that we do have the full video and can draw our own conclusions.
The anti-Trump media, of course, ties the edited actions of these people to President Trump. After all, goes the theory, anyone wearing a MAGA hat is a defacto Trump supporter and Nazi . . . or whatever their Trump-addled fevered imaginations imagine.
Conservatives tend toward the moral and principled path, but I wonder if we are too quick to judge and condemn our own to signal our virtue and principle. These boys were subjected to the most vile hate, bullying, and abuse, and it appears that evoking a response that would damn the current target—white males—was the only goal.
These kids were surrounded by Black Panthers and Native Americans chanting about how they are the evil that stalks the earth. It’s really pretty horrifying, but the left will go to every length, including traumatizing and destroying the future of the dreaded white male.
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 Klu 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.
Ultimately, the left loses when they push #FakeNews like this . . . they just don’t know it yet.
Regrets, Some People Have a Few
I apologize to the Covington Catholic boys. What Rod Dreher says of himself goes double for me. I jumped the gun and that was stupid and unjust. It is I, not the boys, who needs to take a lesson from this.
— Robert P. George (@McCormickProf) January 20, 2019
Yesterday I had one impression of the maga kids from Kentucky. Now after seeing more videos I have a different more complicated impression. Makes all the hot takes seem silly.
— David Brooks (@nytdavidbrooks) January 20, 2019
i agree. i took the first reports as true and ugly.. now i'm wondering whether i fell for something. maybe the sites that pushed the initial narrative might examine their coverage and address how accurate it really was. https://t.co/bFwQIgmsdQ
— GregGutfeld (@greggutfeld) January 20, 2019
Watching the full videos, I see remarkably restrained young men attempting to rise above a challenge far beyond their years and ability to comprehend. And I see small, petty identity peddlers preying on the young, feeding on them like leeches, and I am appalled.
Even the NY Times, which helped feed the false narrative, is backtracking, admitting that a “fuller picture” emerges from additional video:
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.
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