This is my third article in a series looking at the negative impacts of Social Media on our Society viewed through the case study of the Covington Student Event and the resulting National firestorm.
A week removed from the incident there are still rumblings going through the Twitterverse, and Network News Broadcasts so it’s obvious that this remains a raw wound even though there was no physical contact or altercation between three groups expressing their right of free speech.
I’ve watched this case study closely and feel the Students were put in a no-win situation. They were confronted by hateful, racist, homophobic rants by a group that call themselves the Black Israelites and a Native American Elder named Nathan Phillips who decided to insert himself into that fray. He chose to get into the personal space of a 16-year-old who, in turn, tried his best to defuse the situation.
Video was captured, carefully edited to present the kids as disrespectful and confrontational, which fit a preconceived narrative. The result was the Internet and Cable News blew up! Luckily, the recently released, unedited versions of the video shows a different picture and we’ve regained our sanity.
I can relate to the Covington Boys because my mother was Catholic and I was raised Catholic, though now I am a non-denominational Christian. We made the decision to put our son in a Jesuit High School, even though it was a financial hardship. We chose this path for our son because of our experience with some of our friend’s teenagers that attended Jesuit. They graduated as more mature adults, pursued and were accepted to good Colleges, and developed a personal philosophy known as “Men for Others” that made them socially aware and empathetic towards those less fortunate.
I mention this because much was made of the boys chanting. The school chants from the students were not taunting, as portrayed by the initial storyline. At Jesuit the chanting is used to build unity in the group, promote feelings of brotherhood, and in this case, it turns out, the students were chanting to overcome the non-stop obnoxious slurs, racial remarks, and foul language hurled at them by the Black Israelites. Side Note: I have not heard any demand for accountability for that group from most of the talk show Pundits. Where the heck is the Media when you need them?
You could also see the Jesuit type of emotional discipline in Nick Sandmann’s composure that has been mischaracterized as disrespectful and his smile labeled a sneer. I believe what you saw was a young man that comported himself way beyond his years. I am comfortable stating that I believe the Covington Students did nothing that warrants the hyperbolic reaction by this Country.
I also have life experience that allows me some insight into Nathan Phillips. For instance, we are of similar age (he‘s a year older). I am also a Vietnam Era Veteran. The “Era” is significant. It says I served during the official time period of the war but didn’t leave the Country. The military classifies me as a Vietnam Veteran, but I use the “Era” tag to separate myself from those had to go to Vietnam and fight.
In addition, I have Cherokee heritage through my grandmother, though many generations removed. I was born and grew up in Oklahoma so Indian history was part of our upbringing and education. I respect Nathan’s heritage as well as the bias and mistreatment I believe his group is trying to illuminate.
I’m being open with my background because I want to have an honest discussion. I would like to discuss why I think this tripped so many people’s trigger. Was this reaction a window into this Nation’s soul or is our country being manipulated into tearing itself apart from the inside and if so, who benefits?
To determine that, I’ve been doing some investigation into this drama. I want to ascertain the answers to several questions: Who produced the video? Who launched the negative tweet storm? Why amplify this incident? Who stands to gain from the dissention?
First, who published the initial edited version of the video?
No one has claimed ownership of that video and given the rollercoaster of the entire event it is easy to understand their desire for anonymity. I do have some theories, though, mainly based on the edited message of the content and the angle of some of the video clips.
For instance, look at the right edge in the middle of the following image. It shows a camera being held by what I believe to be a member of Nathan’s entourage. You can see this person and the camera in unedited version of the video. That person is filming Nathan as he starts to walk towards the students and follows him into the crowd. The angle he is holding the camera seems to be the angle displayed by the original edited video capturing the interaction between Nathan and Nick Sandmann.
Next Question: Who created a deceptive version of the interaction and why would they do that?
Here’s one possibility. Since Nathan initiated this interaction by wading into a group of teenage boys he may have been expecting (or desiring) a conflict. Several of the boys were wearing MAGA hats and for two years the press has painted people that wear MAGA clothing (Make America Great Again – Donald Trump’s campaign slogan) as biased and racist. Published reports identify the fact that Nathan Phillips is an activist for Native American Rights so it would make sense that he would have his group film the interaction. If they wanted to create the impression of a conflict, however, they would have to edit the final product as the boys did not respond with aggression.
If this is all true (a phrase now made popular by Pundits looking to cover themselves), would it be possible that someone in his movement published the original edited version of the video with the intent of creating sympathy for Nathan and his cause? We may never know but it does explain a possible genesis of the video.
Next Question. Who initiated the Social Media firestorm?
According to a report by Newsweek, the post was generated by a twitter account under the handle of @2020fight. In their words “@2020fight seems to be the property of a California school teacher. But a CNN report indicates the photo is from a blogger in Brazil”
This of course leads to the question of why amplify this incident?
It depends on who the real initiator is. If the account holder wanted us to believe it belonged to a California Teacher, their intent might be to make it look like an effort by a Liberal group.
Before anyone’s head explodes understand that to many Conservatives, California is perceived as a bastion of Liberalism. Academia is perceived as a breeding ground for Liberal brainwashing. We can debate that at another time but I’m putting all the cards on the table to get to a bigger point.
A more insidious possibility is that this is an effort to sew distention by an outside Nation State (Brazil?) They may have seen this as an opportunity to play off National tensions created by relentless negative news coverage of the current Administration. Regardless, we as a Nation were sucked in.
Here were some of the triggers that were touted by the Press and Social Media to pre-convict the High School Students. The boys wore Maga hats. The boys were Catholics. They were teenagers were white (White Privilege). The boys displayed racism against Native Americans. The boys were attending a Pro-Life Rally. The boys were supposedly chanting “Build the Wall”. You could find examples of all these deadly sins in the carefully edited video and the media picked up a megaphone and started yelling.
Back home these boys were in danger of being expelled by a school administration that buckled at the first hint of controversy and immediately threw the boys under the proverbial School Bus. The School’s knee jerk apology added fuel to the fire and was used as proof that the boys misbehaved.
The boys started receiving death threats when Liberal Activists began doxing them (finding and publishing private information on individuals, and minors in this case). Threats ranged from encouragements to physically assault them, burn their school down with them in it, or throw them into a wood chipper. Really?
Luckily for Nick Sandmann and his Covington classmates unedited versions of the video began to surface and they were exonerated but the damage had been done. Many retractions were issue, especially by traditional conservatives. The more reputable News Organizations that had vilified the boys rapidly backtracked as it was obvious that everyone had overreacted. Interestingly, there are still those that want the bad actor storyline to be true (Hollywood Celebs, Opinion Show Pundits, Social Media Liberal Paragons, and the ultra-left Twitterverse), and they are still trying to find a way to convict the boys.
So, who benefitted from this?
Obviously, Nathan Phillips becomes a cause celeb, though it seems now there are inaccuracies in his story. Regardless, he was able to get attention for his cause and it has been disclosed that he was able to do fundraising off the publicity.
The Mainstream media thought they had proof of what terrible people MAGA hat wearing protestors were. Now, the Media would have a counterpoint image to post against Antifa & Left Leaning Extremists stories. They would be able to say “see, they’re bad too” in an effort to reinforce the negative image they have been trying to create for 2 years.
The Left thought they had a MAGA pelt (sorry PETA) to hang on the wall to reinforce their impressions of White Privilege, Catholics, Toxic Masculinity, and Trump supporters as racists.
The Pro-Choice movement had the cudgel of negative publicity to threaten other High Schools to make sure they would offer no future support for the March for Life.
Anti-Catholics/Anti-Religious people would be able to say that professions of faith were hollow.
Conversely, Conservatives found a rallying point. They can now point to the press coverage and validate their perception of Media Bias and #FakeNews.
The students at Covington have gotten an invaluable lesson in Civics and the cost of entering a Public Forum as Conservatives.
And MAGA hat sales are probably through the roof.
Final Question – Why are we, as a Country, operating on such a hair trigger and have become so susceptible to this kind of manipulation?
I fear that the Entity that most benefited from this drama are the external enemies that are looking for this Country’s Achilles heel. They are learning to use the Press and Social Media to tweak us. Here is a link to a great article by the Federalist that takes a more in-depth look at how outside entities are influencing our media:
They know they can’t easily beat our Military. Nuclear weapons lead to assured mutual destruction, though with terrorists that are willing to sacrifice their life that is not the deterrent it once was. If they invaded, they would be facing 300,000,000 guns in the hands of a private militia. They can’t beat us in the marketplace of ideas or production (at least not long term). They can’t starve us out or blockade us, as we are self-sufficient.
Their only hope, and I want everyone to take this to heart, is to beat us from within! Remember that this was part of the al-Qa’ida strategy behind the 9/11 attack. They hoped that the chaos that would ensue would pit neighbor against neighbor in this country. Instead we rallied against our attackers and took the fight to them. We came together to be that unbeatable force that is part of our DNA. That was then, and this is now.
Who is trying to find that internal weakness? Look at some of the identified intrusions we are still trying to validate. What if it is true that Russia really did hack the DNC servers, or that China planted a spy to act as a Senator’s driver. Did Pakistan really insert an Information Technology team to dig up dirt on our politicians or did a group in Brazil post negative tweets to create unrest.
What if we discover that a Foreign Government tried to influence our election by planting information about one of the candidates in a fake dossier? What if a foreign agent (or agents) are able to take over the content determining positions in major media outlets? They could drive a divisive narrative to exacerbate the split in the country?
What If we learn that our Social Media conversations are being monitored and analyzed to find reactions to divisive issues and foreign Nation States deploy bots to respond with posts that amplify passions?
Are we being manipulated into a Civil War – Right vs Left, Black vs White, Male vs Female, Gay vs Straight, etc.? These are honest questions and we better darn well better figure out the answers before the next cataclysmic event like a “sneer” causes us to lose our minds. So what do we do?
REMEMBER: WE ARE ALL AMERICANS!
This is our country for all its warts and shortcomings. It’s still the best Nation on the Globe and if you don’t believe that I invite you to go explore your alternatives and if you find something better, move.
We have achieved more than any other nation in our short history. Given the real global problems that exist, the World needs us to be the Superpower that we are. We are a compassionate people and we have the mental, physical, financial, and spiritual resources to respond to virtually any emergency on the Globe. We are always willing to be the White Knight we are uniquely qualified to be.
We can’t achieve that reality, though, if we are fighting amongst ourselves, especially over manufactured crises created by an outside agent. Many issues facing our Country are fixable if we reach consensus. To do that we have to prioritize where we focus our blood and treasure, but that is what the tool of debate is for. Real honest debate is difficult, and it requires patience & the ability to listen, something this latest incident proves we are deficient in.
I think our dependency on Social Media has weakened our ability to communicate civilly and it makes us susceptible to manipulation. In addition, this medium keeps us talking at each other instead of to each other. Look at the discussion you are in and determine if you are trying to solve a problem or you are trying to win an argument. I know we have the capability to re engage with our fellow citizens, but do we have the desire?
If we don’t back away from this cliff, we are destined to follow all other great empires that reached a pinnacle and then disappeared into the dustbin of history.
Consider this a Clarion Call to the Country!
Written by Russ Hicks
I want the best Country possible for my children.
Russ Hicks is a 62 year old Vietnam era Veteran with strong opinions and a humorous take on life.
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