On a fundamental level, our political allegiances are formed and determined by our personality and temperament. Human personalities are partly inherent and partly socialized, but they will nevertheless lead us to our instinctive reactions to a wide array of political affairs. In the absence of thorough personal research on an issue, it is our temperament that guides us to an opinion. It’s no sin to have strong values that inform one on how to act. However, overarching values applied in frivolous manners don’t allow for much distinction to individual circumstances.
TJ Roberts | United States
It seems that everyone has an opinion about the infamous January 19 incident in which a Covington Catholic High School student stood and smirked as a Native American by the name of Nathan Phillips banged a drum in his face. The outrage from the Leftist mobs led to a media firestorm. The media rushed to cover the story, and the truth paid dearly as a result. Now, the media continues to look dishonest. Several children have experienced humiliation and violent threats.
Mark West | United States
Last weekend was a bit of a blunder for me. I watched several viral videos surrounding what happened at the National Mall that spread on social media. Angered at what I perceived as disrespect, I made a snap judgment. I shared the first meme I noticed concerning the issue on Facebook. I had to partake in the political discussion on this controversy, right?
The narrative pitted the Covington Catholic High School students, many of which were white, male, and sporting MAGA (Make America Great Again) hats, against a group of Native Americans. The two groups had been involved in separate rallies on the National Mall that day. The Covington Catholic students were leaving a March for Life rally while the Native Americans had just finished an Indigenous Peoples March.
Both were about to intersect in a manner that would spark an unintentional national controversy.
A scene consisting of a what appeared to be a stare-down between Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann and Native American activist Nathan Phillips immediately split the national audience into regiments. The still shots from the video cast Sandmann in a negative light, with a smug, disrespectful smile on his face.
The Mainstream Media Story
We were incessantly informed by the mainstream media that Phillips heroically confronted the students as they chanted “Build That Wall” at the Native American protestors. An image serving to reinforce the narrative that racial motivations and anger are the motives for support of the southern border wall.
Erroneously, I believed the mainstream media reporting and shared the meme I mentioned previously. However, a close friend cared enough to hint that a full-version video was accessible on the internet. I found it, watched it, and I realized I was dreadfully wrong. Of course, I also deleted the meme I ignorantly shared.
The Hidden Story
Now, I’m not here to tell you what happened at the National Mall. Most of us have already decided our version of the timelines and our judgments of the intentions of the participants. What I am here to report is the hidden story of the MAGA hat kid.
The hidden story of the MAGA hat kid is the tribalism that drives each of us to ignore context while making snap judgments that fit our own narratives. I’ll pull a little gospel principle in by quoting D.A. Carson who said, “a text without a context is a pretext for a proof text”. In other words, if you ignore the context you will get the wrong message.
I got the wrong message, initially, because I was lacking the context to make sense of what was going on. There is an unfortunate occurrence in political conversation in our society. Far too often, we use pretexts and proof texts to reinforce our tribal view.
Our failure to contextualize is contributing to the erosion of political debate. We should thoroughly examine the context and all the information available to us. An opinion should be formed based on the previous. Instead, we almost always have our pre-disposed opinions. Consequently, we seek only the facts that offer support. The stare-down at the National Mall highlights just that.
I’ve witnessed the anti-Trump crowd attacking Sandmann and his school over racism, as well as doxxing he and his classmates. Simultaneously, the MAGA crowd is attacking Phillips’ character and motives. The tribes are at war even though I’m not convinced that the principles themselves ever were. Through all of the back-and-forth, the demagoguery hurled by the Black Hebrew Israelites, which served as the flashpoint that escalated the tense scenario, has been largely ignored.
My first exposure to the tribalism that dominates our political process came as I listened to President Obama’s supporters chanting, “Yes We Can”, at campaign rallies. I spent the next eight years trying to have reasonable policy conversations with people who could never hold the man they supported accountable. They had their pretexts and ignored any contexts.
During the 2016 campaign, I saw a new emergence on the other side. Watching President Trump’s campaign rallies filled with chants of, “Build That Wall”, and “Lock Her Up”, I realized that I would spend President Trump’s tenure trying desperately to have the same conversations with folks who are out to get the Democrats back for President Obama’s term. They also have their pretexts and ignore any contexts.
So, instead of discussing what really happened and using the lessons as instructive to the society around us, we’re instead hedging into our tribes. We are devoting our energy to ensuring that we prop up those in our tribe while viscerally attacking those of the other. The tribalism is driving the context out of the conversation.
I’m Just as Guilty as You Are
Disclaimer: I’m not speaking from an ivory tower. I’m not exempt in my own tendencies to fall into tribal politics as well, as noted earlier in this column. However, my goal is to objectively focus on facts in their appropriate context, as best I can.
If we are going to secure a society of liberty for future generations to enjoy it is vital that we restore contextual facts to the political debate. Our tribes are not always right, and the other tribes are not always wrong. Our tribes haven’t cornered the market on patriotic fervor any more than the other tribes have un-American sentiment.
The Dire Consequences
Now, tribalism itself isn’t the issue, that’s not the takeaway here. The problem is ignoring reality in order to preserve the ideals of our tribe. In a way, our tribes become more important to us than our nation. When we allow our national fabric to be ripped apart for the sake of our tribe winning, we all lose.
We are all people and we bring a variety of perspectives to the same set of facts. Hence the necessity that we appropriately contextualize the facts at hand. Otherwise, we just continue the evisceration of political dialogue in our nation and become further polarized against our neighbors. If we don’t improve talking through our differences, our differences will manifest into the very things that will threaten the future of liberty in our nation.
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Ryan Lau | @agorisms
Last weekend, a bitterly polarizing event took place in Washington, DC. Present for the March for Life, a group of around 60 students from Covington High School in Kentucky was suddenly in too deep.
For over an hour, the black supremacist group Black Hebrew Israelites hurled insults at the children. Some of them were needlessly rowdy in return, but for the most part, it appears they maintained their composure well, especially considering their age. Nathan Phillips, a Native American, then came between the groups. Chanting some native hymn and beating a drum loudly, stood next to one of the students, Nick Sandmann. Over the span of about a minute of this faceoff, Sandmann’s only reaction was an awkward-looking smile.
For several days, the media railed against Sandmann and company, calling them white supremacists. Despite this, they have no affiliation with any known white supremacist groups. Some users online went so far as to affiliate the kids with Nazis.
Edited, short videos had portrayed the kids as shouting “build that wall”. But upon further examination, that and several other statements became apparently false. For example, many sources falsely reported Nathan Phillips to be a Vietnam Veteran.
Some figures in the media took time to apologize for their statements and condemnations. CNN’s Jake Tapper retweeted a Reason article that showed how the media got this one wrong.
.@reason: “Video footage strongly contradicts Native American veteran Nathan Phillips' claim that Covington Catholic High School boys harassed him. The media got this one completely wrong,” writes @robbysoave https://t.co/9Ki4iiTkQ9
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 20, 2019
The Jack Morrissey Tweet
But not everyone backed off of the situation. Jack Morrissey, the producer of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (2017), made a particularly awful tweet towards the children. He stated, “#MAGAkids go screaming, hats first, into the woodchipper”. That’s right, he held nothing back, idealizing the slaughter of a bunch of children with different political views, who demonstrated in a way that most can now agree was not initiating controversy in any meaningful way.
It doesn’t matter whether or not they initiated the standoff, though. Regardless, it is not acceptable, especially as the director of a Disney kids movie, to talk about killing kids, personally or not. This really shouldn’t be a controversial thing to say in 2019. Glamorizing the murder of children is wrong.
Rightfully, this received immediate backlash. Morrissey set his tweets to private and later deleted the tweet. But it was too late, and the damage was done. Or was it?
After deleting the tweets, Morrissey admittedly issued a profound apology on Twitter. He reported to The Wire that he would “throw [his] phone into the ocean” before tweeting that again. The famed producer also indicated that the comments were supposed to be satire.
Neither of these two remarks comes close to excusing Jack Morrissey. For nearly 100 years, Disney has aimed its material at children and tried to show good messages through positive films and books. When a child thinks of a haven of entertainment, Disney may be the first thing to come to mind. Saying that it is in any way desirable or acceptable to kill a child is a Disney villain’s job. When producers steer into the realm of evil, they do not deserve a job. Someone acting an awful lot like Gaston simply should not be writing movies about the character.
Where is Disney, and for that matter, where is the rest of the media? Currently, the only media companies to have reported on this issue are a few alternative conservative outlets. Not one source of major attention has given Jack Morrissey a passing glance. Where is the outrage for this clearly morally reprehensible act?
Compare this incident to the controversy around Aziz Ansari, who took a considerable reputation hit for the crime of not sexually assaulting a woman he went on a date with. His story took the country by storm, deeply accentuating the divide that the #MeToo movement has created. Though he did and said nothing wrong, many people rushed to conclusions, condemning the hilarious actor.
Proper Action: Immediate Termination
Morrissey, on the other hand, made a terrible decision with his woodchipper tweet. I am not in any way suggesting that he would actually kill children and do believe in the sincerity of his apology. But someone who may make such a rash decision should not have a major role in making children’s movies. I cannot imagine how it must feel to be the parent of one of the Covington boys, reading that tweet. I imagine that it would fill my heart with sorrow, rage, dread, or perhaps some of each. The same must apply to many other parents, whose children idealize his films. Just be careful, kids, and don’t get caught wearing a MAGA hat; you may find yourself the subject of a bitterly vile joke from a man who deserves to be fired.
Moreover, one can compare the situation to that of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ director James Gunn. Last July, he was fired from his position due to a number of offensive tweets. These included extremely insensitive remarks about pedophilia and the Holocaust. Not long after they surfaced, Gunn lost his role.
In this case, Disney absolutely made the right decision. They took swift and commendable action against an employee who acted in a vile manner. Why have they not yet done the same to Jack Morrissey? For his incredibly lowly and immoral tweet, he deserves the same fate. Anyone who tweets about throwing children into a woodchipper has no place at a company predominantly focused on entertaining kids.
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Glenn Verasco | United States
It was perfect: white, male, MAGA-hat-wearing, pro-life, Catholic school teenagers mocking and harassing an elderly, Native American veteran. The Gods of grievance studies and the Democratic Party had combined their omnipotence to deliver the video exemplifying toxic masculinity and white supremacy in Trump’s America to end all videos exemplifying toxic masculinity and white supremacy in Trump’s America. The Donald and freedom of association would now see defeat in one fell swoop.
Unfortunately for some, the initial video in question, like most videos, neglects crucial and extenuating context.
Nathan Phillips and the MAGA Kid
In the viral Twitter video, a lone Native American man is banging on a drum and chanting a Native American hymn. Directly in front of him stands a white teenager in a MAGA hat. The teenager, whose face is terribly punchable, remains still with an irritating grin plastered on his mug. Surrounding these two are dozens of other teenagers bouncing, cheering, laughing, and clapping to the rhythm as well as some individuals who appear to be with the Native American man.
I've seen that look before — on the MAGA boy's face as he taunts a participant from the Indigenous Peoples March. Fueled by ideology and a desire to dehumanize, it frightens me and reminds me of other cruel youth groups from history.
(anyone know original source of video?) pic.twitter.com/Ka6t5HKmCz
— Melissa Chan (@melissakchan) January 19, 2019
The clip spread online with captions and explanations suggesting that the boys had instigated the situation. Sources identified the man as Nathan Phillips, a veteran, and the boys as pupils of Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky.
It was at this point that an NPC hate mob was born and all the usual suspects latched on. Obviously, left-wing identitarians, woke celebrities, blue check marks, and anti-Trump radicals pushed the hardest. However, cowardly conservative pundits and journalists joined in too.
A Reality Too Convenient to Question
Next came doxxing and explicit threats of violence towards the boys and platitudes of admiration for Mr. Phillips. What never came, at least out of the burgeoning mob, was skepticism. I guess some realities are just too convenient to question.
More video of the situation then began to emerge. To anyone willing to open their eyes, it was clear that the situation was far more complicated than the mob would permit for consideration.
One video shows that it was Phillips who approached the boys, not the other way around. As the boys shout their alma mater wildly, something teenage boys do, Phillips walks towards them with his drum:
As one present student explains, the boys’ initial thought was that Nathan Phillips was making “a cultural display”, so they decided to join his chant. They then grew “confused” after sensing hostility on Phillips’ part:
— Adam Clements (@AClementsWKRC) January 20, 2019