Yesterday, in illustrating my largely “they’re-in-our-division” hatred for the Kansas City Chiefs, I brought up a story that I thought by now would have fizzled out because of common sense and decency. Nicholas Sandmann, the sneering teen made famous for squaring off against Native elder Nathan Phillips over the weekend in Washington D.C., is apparently meeting with Donald Trump in the White House tomorrow as part of the far-right’s active measures campaign to spin the narrative of the Covington Catholic school kids as victims of media bias and a left-wing mob mentality. It’s a predictable extension of the story and one a variety of outlets have fallen for in their hand-wringing about whether or not it’s OK to throw this young bigot and his friends under the bus.
As the waters of the story are muddied, it’s important to understand the basic facts before analyzing exactly what is happening with the rest of the narrative. Sandmann and other students from Covington Catholic School in Kentucky were flown into D.C. to attend the annual March for Life anti-abortion demonstration, where many of them chose to deck themselves out in Make America Great Again regalia. This happened to fall on the same day as the second Women’s March in D.C., also commemorating the ruling on Roe v Wade as well as a protest by indigenous people against the longstanding and continued marginalization of Native Americans.
Evidently either encouraged by chaperones or due to a complete lack of supervision (pick one), the students moved around National Mall in a large group, where they catcalled women, yelled right-wing slogans, and said things like “it’s not rape if you enjoy it”. This caught the attention of a group of Black Israelites, a fixture in many east coast cities notorious for aggressive, street-level proselytizing who began to heckle the group of “future school shooters” as “Donald Trump incest babies.” This interaction apparently got heated and the Native people moved to deescalate the situation, which is when the Covington students famously mocked the Native elder by doing tomahawk chop gestures, mocking “war cries” and even a Maori-inspired “school Haka” not unfamiliar at US sporting events.
Now, even engaging with the Black Israelites is a mistake akin to trying to have a nuanced debate with the Westboro Baptist Church or arguing with Scientologists, but that’s neither here nor there. These kids were roaming D.C. as a brownshirted mob, harassing women, Native and black people well before the escalation that peaked with the students chanting “Build the Wall” at Mr. Phillips. Using the Black Israelite apparent “aggression” as a an excuse for these kids is blatantly racist spin. It’s frankly unsurprising that a decades-old group notorious for yelling on street corners, unprompted, that white people are a race of demons created by an evil scientist on a Greek island chose to engage with a mob of youth screaming at Native people that they’re “drunken thieves” and that black people should “go back to Africa”. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. In no way does any of the par-for-the-course behavior exhibited by the Black Israelites excuse the frothing frenzy exhibited towards Nathan Phillips.
Liberals, reminding me once again why I have zero faith in guilt-ridden, spineless Democrats, walked back previous statements of condemnation in the wake of the school being closed today due to “threats” and a statement put out by Sandmann, whose mother is a Vice President for US Bank and hired a PR firm. Sandmann is appearing on The Today Show for what’s sure to be a softball interview. Reports of remarkable spikes in traffic and commenting activity on Reddit, a process commonly known as “brigading”, were also registered, the sites top politics and news boards as well as local Cincinnati and Kentucky boards flooded with copy/paste comments supporting the Covington students. Many users reported being harassed in private messages and quickly piled on for questioning new, longer video that supposedly “vindicated” the students. Tactically, this is very similar to activities seen during the 2016 election by the Internet Research Agency, a Russia-based troll farm.
It seems that since the new video emerged of the unhinged crowd, the mainstream media, fresh from apologizing for their initial condemnation, have more or less dropped the story for today. That’s curious, considering what should have been a day-long story at most, cementing the MAGA hat as this generation’s Klan hood or Nazi armband once a crowd that resembled those that surrounded black people at lunch counters and bus stops donned them, turned into the second story in a week about “trusting the media.” A story published by Buzzfeed last week about Trump advising his former attorney to lie in testimony to Congress, prompted a rare rebuke from Mueller’s office, igniting praise from the right-wing and sparking a storm of “fake news” condemnation towards the media that ran with the story. The reality of the Buzzfeed story is that its death was also trumpeted too early, and the Special Council’s dispute very well might have been buying time for the prosecution process or deliberately false information was fed to reporters. Just as Buzzfeed’s story may have been a success and later a victim of the 24-hour news cycle, so too could the redemption of Nicholas Sandmann and the Covington Catholic students. They’re very much relying on amplifying their “last word” and killing follow-ups to the story and using “active measure” techniques to achieve it.
Why? This week, the government has officially been shut down for over a month. Federal workers are preparing to not receive paychecks for the second pay period. The FBI is reporting substantial losses in their ability to operate regularly. Rudy Guilliani continues to completely botch the public defense of his client. Teachers in California are about to win their strike, likely prompting a wave of new labor actions. Impeachment talk is reaching a fever pitch and Mueller wants information on the 2016 campaign’s connections to the NRA, widely assumed to have been laundering foreign money for GOP political contributions. The stock market remains extremely erratic and there are legitimate fears of an incoming recession. What better way to distract a deeply divided American public from the real stories than, just as in 2016, exploit the factionalism with the wedge issue of a young, white American male in a racially charged incident replete with sides of attempting to discredit the media and online astroturfing?
Unfortunately, Nicholas Sandmann and other sufferers of “affluenza,” are just the latest young white man to benefit from institutional structural racism and sexism in America. Once again, even liberal intelligentsia bought into the “boys will be boys” bullshit about “ruining lives” when it became time to hold another young adult accountable for their racism. Juxtaposed next to a week in which the police officer that murdered Laquan McDonald, a young black teenager from Chicago shot 16 times, gets a slap on the wrist and police in Tempe, Arizona, shoot a fleeing 14 year-old boy in the back, it’s pretty clear to me that the value of the life of a rich white boy from a private school with a blackface problem that covers for a rapist is a lot higher than a young black or brown kid in America. Sandmann goes on “The Today Show” and gets an audience with the rapepig kidtoucher “elected” as leader of the “free world” after becoming the face of a racist, catcalling mob, Trayvon Martin has his wardrobe analyzed after being stalked and murdered by a needlessly panicked gun nut stooge.
We all see how it goes and it’s surprising less and less people every day. Wear the right hat, come from a rich family that can hire you a PR firm, and the neo-Confederacy will defend you to death against anyone that tells you you’re an asshole.