Posted by Curt on 21 January, 2019 at 11:39 am. 2 comments already!


If you’re in a public place and someone starts heckling you, are you entitled to heckle back? How about if someone does something much worse than heckling you in a public place? What if that person in fact takes a drum up to you and starts banging it in your face? Are you entitled to heckle back? How about smirking? Are you allowed to smirk?

I think you are, even if you’re wearing a MAGA hat. Even if you’re an entitled brat. Even if you’re an entitled Catholic brat.

We’ll stipulate that the Catholic boys from a high school in Kentucky were a little obnoxious when an indigenous man named Nathan Phillips banged a drum at them in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Friday. But Phillips was being a lot more obnoxious. To put it another way, if you were minding your own business in a public place and someone came right up to you and put a drum up to your face and made a huge racket inches from your nose, would you be happy about it?

The kids from Covington Catholic High School in Covington, Ky., were ambassadors for causes much bigger than themselves: Catholicism and the right to life. As such, they should have comported themselves better than to jeer and do a tomahawk chop in front of Phillips. Ideally, the kids would have ignored him and walked away. Until about ten minutes ago, it was broadly agreed in our culture that kids are allowed to do some dumb things because they’re kids. Should these kids’ lives be ruined because some of them responded to obnoxious provocation by being a bit rude themselves? I’d say their reaction was if anything more restrained than you would expect from teenagers. I’d advise them to do better next time. I certainly wouldn’t consider expulsion.

Phillips, on the other hand, is an adult, and he repeatedly lied about what happened to the Washington Post, which was utterly taken in by him and reported everything he said uncritically.

It would have been revolting if Nathan Phillips had been minding his own business doing a tribal chant while a gang of kids swarmed around him and started jeering. That’s what many media outlets reported: “Boys in ‘Make America Great Again’ Hats Mob Native Elder at Indigenous Peoples March,” ran a New York Times headline over a story that said “a throng of cheering and jeering high school boys” were “surrounding a Native American elder.”

That isn’t what happened. Phillips was the aggressor in the situation. It’s a curious feature of our culture that people aggressively seek to be victimized, go out of their way in hopes of getting punched in the face, but here we are. People do that because they know the media hand out condemnation based on perceived ranking in the victim hierarchy. “Old Ypsilanti man” is near the top, while “privileged-looking young white male probable heterosexual in a MAGA cap” is the absolute bottom. The surface appeal of the story short-circuited the reporters’ brains to such a degree that they failed to perform basic tasks such as asking the people they were accusing for their version of events. The Times and other outlets had zero evidence that a “mob” “surrounded” Phillips, except a claim of Phillips that he has since backed away from.

Phillips has on at least one other occasion gotten himself into what he says was a racist altercationwith a group of youths. This one, four years ago, also involved him approaching others, in this case a group of college students. (“Why did Phillips go over to the fence? Why not just walk away?” wondered a reporter. “For me just to walk by and have a blind eye to it,” Phillips said. “Something just didn’t allow me to do it.”)

Friday he waded into a group of Covington students, evidently hoping to troll a response out of them suitable for a viral video. According to the Washington Post, Phillips, 64, said that he felt threatened by the teens and that they swarmed around him as he and other activists were wrapping up the march and preparing to leave. This is a lie. They didn’t swarm around him. He strolled right into the middle of their group:

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