It certainly wasn’t the first time we’ve seen a social media mob, and it certainly won’t be the last, especially in this election year. In case you weren’t following the viral mass overreaction, some northern Kentucky Catholic high school students, who had given of their personal time to attend the March for Life in Washington D.C., were standing on the steps of a memorial (as they had been instructed) waiting for their bus to pick them up.
An incident ensued wherein a Native American demonstrator, Nathan Phillips, pounded a drum and chanted within a couple of inches of one of the student’s noses. The initial (edited) video that went viral did look as if the teen might have been crowding Phillips. That impression was helped along by a nearly immediate Washington Post story that included a sympathy inducing interview with Phillips with the inflammatory title, “It Was Getting Ugly.”
In the interview for that article and in subsequent television interviews over the next several hours, Phillips accused the students of “taunting him,” “surrounding him,” and “swarming around him.” Note the editorial tone of the Post article:
“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.”
The “reporter” for the post goes on to write:
Phillips kept drumming and singing, thinking about his wife, Shoshana, who died of bone marrow cancer nearly four years ago, and the various threats that face indigenous communities around the world, he said.
Note to readers, the key words in all of that – and the reason the story went viral – are: “that guy in the hat.” The now all-too-familiar leftist Internet mob did the rest. The video and story went viral. The students, their parents, their chaperones, their high school and even the Catholic Church were disparaged in the harshest most profane manner in thousands of tweets and social media posts. The students’ photographs were reposted worldwide. Kathy Griffin, the failed and demonstrably unfunny comedienne – she of decapitated Donald Trump photo fame – called publicly for the students’ names and personal information to be published, her tweet including the “f” word to describe 15- and 16-year-olds. Expulsion from school was called for, loss of the schools accreditation was called for, death threats against the students and their parents were made.
By the next morning multiple alternate videos from other angles had surfaced indicating the teens did none of the things they were accused of. The opposite was true. Phillips instigated the close proximity drumming. Far from attempting to retreat, he clearly pushed his way into the center of the boys. The student merely stood still. There was even one video I viewed where it appears the student advised his fellow students not to argue with Phillips or the others who were shouting at them. Additional footage revealed numerous racial epithets were hurled at the teens by others in the crowd prior to the incident with Phillips.
None of this should be remotely surprising with the state of our current culture. The left will behave like the left. Antifa has physically attacked multiple people who were minding their own business but who had the temerity to wear a “Make America Great Again” hat like the one some of these students were wearing. And therein lies the true source of the Internet vitriol. The left’s hatred for President Trump is so virulent, so insidious, such a part of the very fiber of what modern-day liberalism and much of the media have become, that they sought to ruin the lives of these students. Again, these should not be surprising details.
What was particularly bothersome to me about this incident was how quickly some conservatives were to pile on to this story. How many times do we need to repeat this cycle of unfounded social media and mainstream media hysteria before we learn? Conservatives had better get smarter fast, learn to think critically on the fly, and filter EVERY story through the assumption that bias exists before jumping to conclusions. Conservatives would be wise not to behave like liberals.
The left thrives on made up grievance. They depend on manufactured outrage and on strawman villains to survive. We should wise up to that, because we will see this movie again, and again, and again before the 2020 elections. We should all pray that none of us becomes the next target of the maddening crowd.
“The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper (about your enemy). Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ’Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils.” – C.S. Lewis
Chris Skates is a freelance writer currently serving as a communications advisor to Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin.
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