Covington Catholic: The Rebound

Mainstream media, to the extent such a beast still exists, got caught. Erik Wemple did a side by side comparison of the initial stories on the young, MAGA-hat-wearing, smirking (or not) Nick Sandmann who perpetrated the “facecrime” on Nathan Phillips, whose stories fluctuated with his veteran status. Then the story expanded, not to fill a void but to defend against the exposure of the media as defending its legitimacy in the face of failure.

The expanded video showed the interaction with a group that calls itself the Black Hebrew Israelites, which had nothing or something to do with what happened afterward. Then there was a shirtless kid. One of our new members of Congress saw them “taunting 5 Black men” which was about as bizarrely false as possible.

Then came the series of irrelevant revelations, designed not to address the original incident but to create a secondary means of salvaging the ruined dignity of those who needed to justify their abuse of a child.

They were in blackface — It was a “black out” themed game for school spirit

They flashed the white supremacy sign — It was the 3-pointer sign

They chanted in favor of rape — One kid did so, and he wasn’t a student at Covington Catholic

But none of these had anything to do with the interaction at the Lincoln Memorial. When your reason to hate fails, do you go in search of alternative reasons to hate, seize upon anything that creates smoke so you can scream “fire”?

See? See?!? I told you these kids were evil, even if the original reason wasn’t actually a big deal. But I’m not abusing a high school student; Covington Catholic is a cesspool of racism, misogyny and evil. I was right, even if my reason was off. 

Reading my twitter was brutal, watching smart people, good people, release their inner-liars to rationalize their desire to hate this kid, this school, by seizing upon these irrelevancies. But not merely irrelevancies, but irrelevancies they didn’t even know to be remotely accurate. Yet they clung mindlessly to these claims rather than let go of their hate.

Among the many claims that failed to bear out was that the group was chanting “build the wall” as Sandmann and Phillips stood face to face. Perhaps this answer is the most telling, truthful and dangerous possible.

Going out on a limb here, but for the hat this wouldn’t have happened. The image of Sandmann and Phillips, sans MAGA hat, would have gone nowhere. It was the hat. And the hat talks to the woke. The hat says “build a wall.” It says white supremacy. It says hate me, as I am whatever evil you project onto me.

The social justice view is that there is no legitimate disagreement between people who support Trump, support conservative or libertarian positions, and certainly with anyone who wears the hat. And if you don’t see it, don’t hate anyone wearing the hat, then you approve of them, the hat, Trump.

The kid didn’t need to be wrong in what he did, even if there is a legitimate dispute over whether he was a jerk or right to stand his ground when Phillips got into his face. The kid was the personification of white supremacy because he wore the hat. The school was evil because it brought students to Washington to protest abortion. There is no legitimate disapproval of abortion either, but that too was a secondary rationalization for the hat.

It’s a struggle to maintain that people who disagree with you aren’t evil. It’s even harder when people you like, friends, blame you for not hating as much, for not signalling your team spirit by hating the right people. When I first wrote of this incident, I called it a litmus test, and that proved more correct than I imagined.

You may never don a MAGA hat. I know I won’t. But if someone does, is that “all you need to know” to make him a white supremacist, deplorable, evil, deserving to be punched? Many journalists believe so, and revealed themselves with clarity this time. It doesn’t make Trump’s lies any less false. It doesn’t make their lies any more true.

Ross Douthat calls this a “scissors” event, an algorithmically calculated occurrence that cuts through the fabric of society.

When you start arguing with someone over a Scissor statement, Alexander’s narrator explains, “at first you just think they’re an imbecile. Then they call you an imbecile, and you want to defend yourself. … You notice all the little ways they’re lying to you and themselves and their audience every time they open their mouth to defend their imbecilic opinion. Then you notice how all the lies are connected, that in order to keep getting the little things like the Scissor statement wrong, they have to drag in everything else. Eventually even that doesn’t work; they’ve just got to make everybody hate you so that nobody will even listen to your argument no matter how obviously true it is.”

Douthat then plays out the argument, him attacked for trying to be “even-handed.” It’s a curious device and will ring familiar with many, even though he oddly chose to make his antagonist alt-right in his scenario. His purpose is to show how the sides vilify each other, and vilify those who refuse to vilify, leaving no safe ground except within the bosom of the tribe, whichever tribe that may be for you.

This isn’t about some kid or his high school. While the hat was a trigger, it’s not about a hat. This could have been a wake-up call to the smarter of the woke, that they weren’t standing on top of higher moral ground, but they cared no more about the facts, or even the lesser failing of proportionality, than their evil deplorable enemies. And not only did they conclusively demonstrate their slavish bias, they left no middle ground unscorched.

Whether anyone who isn’t an SJW will go out and put on the MAGA hat is doubtful, but they now know their choices are to join the woke tribe or be hated for not hating whom they tell you to hate. This was a chance for people, especially in the media, to let go of their hatred, their bias, and see that they had gone off the rails. They chose not to do so. And they chose not to let you (or me) do so either.

49 thoughts on “Covington Catholic: The Rebound

  1. Richard Kopf


    Pounding drum or not, I’m wearing my John Deere hat. If they don’t like it, well then, they can just piss off and take the drum with them.

    Make Green Great Again (MGGA) Pronounced Mugga.

    All the best.


    PS Kill Kubota!

    1. SHG Post author

      As you know, I got a coloring book while you got a cool hat. It’s unclear what the message was, but I don’t envy your ideology.

      PS Kubota is for sissies.

      1. Skink

        Message? Why does everything have to be meaningful?

        You got two coloring books. With the first, you posted that your wife gave it meaning. The meaning was you should stop writing. You had an unfun conversation with Dr. SJ, but you got a million belly rubs from the Hotel denizens. You didn’t want that, neither.

        Rich got a hat. It wasn’t as colorful as the first piece of headwear he was given, and he gave neither “meaning.” To him, they’re just things that go on bald heads or statues.

        The Austrian psychiatrist had it right: sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar. When it comes to divining meaning, you should be more like Rich.

          1. Jim Tyre

            This isn’t the first time your Deere-size obsession has reared its ugly head. Perhaps you should contemplate seriously why that is the case, then reveal your deepest thoughts in a blog post.

            Or perhaps not.

    2. Skink

      “Make Green Great Again (MGGA) Pronounced Mugga.”

      I see what you did. You’re right–money is good–but the hat goes with the big green tractor.

  2. Oskar

    When the culture war is going straight into “if you aren’t with us, you are against us” and not stopping, how are you/we/anyone supposed to pull on the brakes?

    My thinking has always gone towards ‘if you can’t loose if you don’t play’ but I’m not so sure about that as a viable strategy now. These things seems to become more common and the response from all sides escalate. I got some good arguments against not pushing back here which included a a well placed boiling frog analogy and now I don’t really know what to think.

    If the middle is scorched, where do you go?

    1. SHG Post author

      The English phrase is “if you’re not with us, you’re against us,” and I’ve used a variety of phrases (like the “unduly passionate” to capture the attitude over the years. But it was a position mostly expressed by the furthest fringes of ideology, where the more thoughtful realized it was wrong and irrational.

      Now, seeing most of the media, a great many lawyers, indulge the same scorched earth approach to tribalism, it’s unclear whether there can be any middle ground going forward. Much as many of us will believe that’s where we are, neither side accepts its existence and we’re under attack not just by the dopes on the fringes, but people we thought were smart and rational as well.

      1. Oskar

        It seems too easy talk yourself into going full culture warrior. In certain areas I’m probably one, even if I don’t realize it myself.

        You just need to tell yourself: the threat from person or ideology X/Y/Z is so devastating that I/we are fully justified strike back now in any way or form I/we can. And quickly.

        Is it worse because of social media? Probably. But what is the solution?

        You can go of the grid and wait until everything blows over (when the nukes start to fall).

          1. Oskar

            I have no answers Scott. None. I can’t even convince myself to have a firm opinion about this.

            (As a side note: thought leader is such a strange word. It gives me the creeps)

            But I am going ice fishing this weekend. Perhaps the lady of the (frozen) lake will provide me with and adequate cutting tool to make a claim for the throne.

            1. B. McLeod

              “A bint at night,
              Is my delight,
              And a gallon in the morning,
              The old women are my heart-break,
              But the young ones are my darlings.'”

        1. rojas

          I’d say the extremely virtuous acting out on social media appear to be on a similar path as the extremely virtuous fraternal order of the day at this point.

      2. Sonetka

        Watching Balko jump headfirst into that morass was one of the most depressing things I’ve seen on Twitter.

        1. SHG Post author

          He appeared to be substantially conflicted. I don’t imagine he would have been so inclined to try so hard to condemn a few years ago.

          1. ElSuerte

            “Substantially conflicted” is an insufficient description of Balko’s stance. He’s claiming that the three point gesture (ok sign) is a white power sign, and that the school’s basket players made those gestures years before the march somehow damns the current crop of kids.

            He’s so committed, he’s driven off a cliff.

  3. Laches

    The tribal behavior is nothing new, but I think both sides have reached new levels of ridiculous on this one.

    #TeamWoke, joined by some normally sane, rational voices who sadly and inexplicably decided to go full SJW on this one, has decided that these kids are Hitler reincarnated and must be destroyed. They’re running basically the same playbook that cops and badgelickers have used for years against black kids who were shot dead because they allegedly posed a threat after video emerged showing they posed no threat at all – come forth with evidence of irrelevant misdeeds to try to prove they were bad kids.

    And now #TeamMAGA, not to be out-stupided, has launched a smear campaign against Nathan Phillips and turned these kids into martyrs. Now they will apparently get a White House invitation.

    It’s discouraging that so few see any room between the 2 extreme positions, even though the video shows plainly that both are equally insane.

  4. Black Bellamy

    I know how you love personal anecdotes.

    So at the giant liberal media corporation I work at, I volunteered to be the fire warden on my floor. In addition to the awesome responsibility of clearing the bathrooms of stragglers and standing by the fire warden phone like a hero, I get to wear a nice red trucker hat.

    The hat says FIRE WARDEN on it but it might as well be MAGA. During fire drills I make my rounds and I catch these momentary glimpses of pure hate before people realize who I am and what my hat is. I shit you not. I’ll be looking at a crowd of people and there will be one or two faces with these twisted wtf expressions, really hostile, just boring holes in me with their glare, like who let this despicable retard into our safe space, and then they see fire warden and are like ok, let me put away my hate, for now.

    Our warden hats have been around for like a decade now. I expect when they get worn out they will be replaced with day-glo yellow or orange so as not to confuse people whether the wearer is there to save them or to away all they got and all they ever gonna have.

    1. SHG Post author

      It takes a certaint kind of person to volunteer to go into bathrooms to seek out stragglers. Without a hat, it’s considered criminal in some states.

  5. Jake

    Seriously though, if one sends their children away for a weekend with the Catholic Church, and they get abused, can the people charge the parents with criminal child negligence for being too stupid not too predict this outcome?

      1. Jake

        Are you denying there is a crisis of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church or that the crisis matters?

          1. Jake

            Well, at least you’re not shutting down orthogonal comments on your neo-libetal orthodoxy by hiding behind ‘muh law blog! You ain’t qualified to share!’ today.

  6. PseudonymousKid

    Dear Papa,

    If one nobody confronts another nobody and no one reports on it, does it matter? Too much ink has been spilled already on this. The only way to win Douthat’s game is not to play. Let’s get back to the real topics, like Jake’s obsession with the Catholic Church or big company X’s advertising campaign already.

    If you have any hope that anyone tweeting reflexively about this or razors or anything else will stop doing so in the future, you’d best abandon that right now. No amount of comeuppance is enough.


  7. B. McLeod

    As the day wore on, buffoons on the Internet swore off Savannah Guthrie’s show because she interviewed the kid without being mean to him. You can’t make this stuff up.

    1. SHG Post author

      Observing discussions, it’s like the twilight zone. And these are mostly young lawyers, soaring beyond stupid into psychotic delusions. I can’t even.

  8. Nigel Declan

    What is disappointing is that this could be easily seen as a perfect example of free speech at work. Three different groups got to express their point of view in the public square. Nobody got violent or engaged in criminal activity. However odious one considers the views of one or all of the participants, speech was met with more speech and everyone who saw the incident live or on video got to participate in the “marketplace of ideas” by weighing competing perspectives. Hopefully, the speakers learned something from the experience.

    Perhaps we are simply too jaded (or, if we are being less charitable, stupid) to see a system working as it should.

    1. SHG Post author

      That’s an excellent way to look at it, though free speech doesn’t quite warm the cockles of the woke as a general proposition.

      1. Nigel Declan

        It wasn’t that long ago that “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was the default attitude, rather than grounds for child protective services to seize youths who are endangered by their parents’ desire to raise resilient offspring.

        1. Casual Lurker

          “…rather than grounds for child protective services to seize youths who are endangered by their parents’ desire to raise resilient offspring.”

          This is another reason to counter the influence of APA-2* (and their proponents in local Govt.) from persuading state lawmakers to codify “opinion parity” with APA-1 members (as their lobbyists have been attempting to do), as judges and ALJs frequently dismiss the opinions of APA-2 members when an APA-1 member testifies.

          We’re edging ever closer to Orwell’s “Thought Police”. Especially by allowing ACS** the authority to intervene in matters outside of the physical well-being of a child or the deliberate, blatant, creation of a hostile living environment, and doing so at a time when most families are least equipped to engage in meaningful pushback.

          In spite of the definitions*** for both parents and guardians being theoretically identical to those of “Mandated Reporters”, once it gets to the hearing level, we see how social workers and bureaucrats for ACS just use their own creative definitions and interpretations. Not teaching your kids to use the preferred gender pronouns for a trans’ neighbor? To some, that’s abuse requiring their immediate removal from the parents.

          As an aside, if ACS comes to your door with mere “suspicion” of improper treatment, if you thought you had 4th amendment rights, you’re in for a rude lesson.

          *APA-1 = American Psychiatric Association
          APA-2 = American Psychological Association

          For reference see:
          SJ – “Real Men Don’t Shrink”
          Jan. 9, 2019

          **What in most states is known as CPS (Child Protection Services), in NYC it’s properly known as ACS (Administration for Children’s Services).

          ***ACS: “What is Child Abuse/Neglect?”

          Links provided solely for the host’s convenience.

    2. Jeffrey

      Nigel Declan: “What is disappointing is that this could be easily seen as a perfect example of free speech at work. Three different groups got to express their point of view in the public square. Nobody got violent or engaged in criminal activity.”

      Which, at the end of the day, is exactly how this whole scene went down…until the press media got hold of it and facilitated sentiment transformation to, “kill the haters, a.k.a. group #3 Covington.” Ironic, no?

  9. Rxc

    “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.”

    This was an Alinsky teaching moment for Mr. Phillips. He even had a video person there to record it for use in future training sessions. Some (NPR) are still trying to use it.

  10. Brady Curry

    It’s not just the fault of the MAGA hat, it’s also the fault of social media in general. It began with the “first” comments made by people who never read a single word of a post. Today everyone’s quest on social media to be in the “lead” when it comes addressing the post of the moment. And to be “first” one must make instant decisions as to what “wrong” one thinks is described by that post.

    But being right or being wrong about the posted words, pictures, or videos has nothing to do with truly being in the right or in the wrong. It’s showing all the other SJW’s in the world that you’re one of the group but you’re just a little bit better than they are because you posted first. You’re carrying the team flag into battle ahead of the rest of the group. And for that you should be respected by the group, even when you’re later shown by outsiders to be a complete idiot.

  11. Casual Lurker

    “Ross Douthat calls this a ‘scissors’ event…”

    I’m confused??? I always thought a “scissors event” referred to “tribadism”.

    A slight lyric adjustment to “I don’t feel like Tweetin’; no sir, no Tweetin’ today” may be in order.

      1. Casual Lurker

        “You thought it referred to Stalin’s Russia, didn’t you?”

        Why yes, Comrade Greenfield, I too miss those days when you could just march your detractors out and shoot them!

        “You may never don a MAGA hat. I know I won’t.”

        Even if, like the guy I’d seen in Canada, it spells the “G” word in MAGA “GRATE”?
        (See? Only 325 today!)

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