When I wrote about the now-infamous Covington Boys incident last Sunday, I had no idea that it would become the most sensational story of the week. I wrote before seeing the longer video of the incident but, even so, thought that the cataract of abuse that the boys were subjected to was way over the top. I acknowledged, “of all human passions, the passion of moral self-righteousness is the most delicious,” but went on to observe that “the problem is, the people who are the objects of our indignation often present a more complicated reality than we first assume.”Read more here.
So, of course, it turned out to be with the boys from Covington Catholic. The boys did not approach or taunt the drum-beating fake-Vietnam-vet creep of an Indian activist Nathan Phillips. On the contrary, he waded in among them, obnoxiously taunting them while my new favorite group of wackos, the Black Hebrew Israelites, hurled a variety of racist and sexual slurs at the high school students as they waited for a bus to whisk them back to Kentucky after their participation in the annual pro-life March for Life.
Neither fact was clear from the original brief clip of the incident. The pretend Tonto, beating his drum, and skirling incoherently, stands there in front of Nick Sandmann, the MAGA-behatted Covington Catholic student whose visage has burned up the internet this last week. Sandmann just stands there smiling uncertainly. (His expression was widely derided as a “smirk,” but I disagree with that diagnosis: I think it is a nervous smile). His schoolmates stand behind him clapping and cheering and generally comporting themselves as well-brought-up male teenagers should when suddenly confronted by unexpected rudeness.
The wild abuse these boys, and especially Sandmann (whose name was not known for a day or two) was Brett Kavanaughesque in its viciousness and utter lack of foundation. Also for its promiscuous nature. Catholic bishops and officials from the boys’ school joined CNN lefties and HuffPo brats in calling down anathema on his head. A school announcement mentioned expulsion as a possible response to his behavior, while an angry lefty contacted a college to which she thought he had applied to encourage administrators not to admit him. (Actually, the instigator of this vile intervention got the name wrong, something for which she later apologized, without, nota bene, apologizing to Sandmann.) Then came the death threats and public shaming and calls for violence, credible enough that Covington Catholic was shuttered for a few days. The boys’ parents meanwhile have lawyered up and I wish them well in their defamation suits.
...Stepping back from the episode, one gets the sense that most conservative commentators are inexpressibly grateful for the release of that longer video. It offered the perfect instrument of expiation. “If only we had known about the Black Hebrew Israelites,” they seem to have said, “if only we had known that Nathan Phillips was the instigator, and a mountebank to boot, then we would not have come down on these boys like a ton of bricks and tried to ruin their lives. Thank God for the video.”
...The public—though not, for the most part, the academic elite—has reacted with condign disgust at the treatment of the boys from Covington Catholic. It knows that Nathan Phillips is no more “native American” than Nick Sandmann: both were born here and have equal title to American natality. And it senses that the culprit is the political correctness that has distorted our common life and even our ability to speak the truth about sensitive issues. If there is a silver lining in this disturbing episode, it is that public revulsion at this episode may, just possibly, spark a reconsideration of our ill-advised and demeaning adherence to the tenets of political correctness.
Sunday, January 27, 2019
“of all human passions, the passion of moral self-righteousness is the most delicious,”
Roger Kimball wrote about the Covington Catholic kids last Sunday before the longer second video became available. One week later, he writes in American Greatness,