By Daniel Mallock (February 2019)
The existential political and philosophical crisis now underway in the United States has no lack of real and manufactured flash points. Most recently on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial occurred a minor event that became a bitter national controversy due to the extraordinary influence of social media and the extreme bias of “news” outlets, their viewers, readers, and fellow travelers.
The weaponization of news and the hyper-partisanship of many journalists are not new phenomena. Placing the visit of the Covington Catholic School boys to Washington in an historical context will illuminate the current American philosophical/political crisis and help to explain the hatred from those on the American left toward those in the center and right. Fake news and rush to judgement can have catastrophic consequences.
Reflecting these recent events off the distant, shattered mirror of history will bring another consequence—it will bring hope.
In the now infamous video showing the young men from Covington, Kentucky waiting at the base of the Jefferson Memorial for their bus transportation after attending the March for Life on Friday, January 18, apparent boorish and intolerant behavior appeared to be on display from members of their group. That some of them were wearing “MAGA” hats (Make America Great Again), made popular during Donald Trump’s campaign for president in 2016 and continue to be associated with supporters of the president, made jumping to conclusions about what had happened all the easier for many Americans awash in hatred, bias, and anti-intellectualism.
What had actually happened was not at all what the media portrayed though a day or two only was required before angry pundits, fake journalists, and citizens from the left and some from the center-right, too, piled on and viciously attacked and insulted the innocent Covington students. What the widely viewed video excerpt appeared to show was overturned when the entire hour plus video was released. There had been no abuse of the supposed Vietnam veteran Native American man at all from the boys, and what was on display from them was rather exceptional patience, tolerance, forbearance, and extraordinary self-control as they were taunted and abused by radical, extremist racists, then accosted and harassed by the same man whom they were falsely accused of abusing.
The famous confrontation with the American Indian activist (Nathan Phillips) and, according to numerous fake news outlets, Vietnam veteran, was also not at all what the media claimed that it was. In fact, despite assertions by outlets such as The Washington Post and Detroit Free Press, the Vietnam veteran in the story wasn’t. According to the Marine Corps (as reported by Fox News) Mr. Phillips “never served in the Vietnam War and wasn’t deployed overseas.” The young men were not harassing him, or anybody else. While 4 minutes of video were shown on outlets around the country and falsely spun up by leftist media journalists, pundits, politicians, activists, and entertainers as further evidence of the racism and hatred rampant among Trump supporters, the additional one hour of video which few at first saw showed quite the opposite.
Nick Sandmann was the student shown being drummed at by the Native American activist. “I see it as a smile, saying that this is the best you’re going to get out of me . . . You won’t get any further reaction of aggression. And I’m willing to stand here as long as you want to hit this drum in my face. People have judged me based off one expression, which I wasn’t smirking, but people have assumed that’s what I have
This nightmare situation for the Covington students is an illustrative event, and shows the extraordinary ease with which people who have extreme biases, and deep anger and bitterness can so easily rush to false conclusions.
In such cases there is no interest whatever to wait for a complete telling of the story, nor to consider that perhaps the entirety of the story is not fully known—the idea that the early conclusions involving the Covington students might be inaccurate seemed to enter the minds of very few. The widespread use of social media, the desire for rapid virtue signaling, the endless news cycle, and the rapidity of transmission of information make these kinds of grotesque situations all the more likely. Forbearance is not now commonly seen, appreciated, nor understood as a virtue.
The concept of “virtue” is almost entirely upside down within certain circles of the citizenry.
As of this writing, President Trump is expected to host the group of Covington students at the White House.
That the twitter account which was instrumental in spreading the short and misleading video across social media was not that of a California school teacher, as was claimed on the account, but was rather that of a blogger based in Brazil shows the global reach of social media and supports the contention that foreign actors can readily influence events and people in countries not their own. This deceptive, yet negatively influential and spurious account was suspended by the Twitter platform.
In a country so divided as is ours it is an easy matter for manipulators to ply their trade and, concomitantly, so many are ripe consumers for deceit. In a disunited country sociopathic and hateful reactions abound; in a disunited country sociopathy is easy.
Destabilizing the United States and sowing discord and discontent is certainly not only a domestic effort.
Is it ironic that this false event of hatred and lies and the demeaning of innocent students should occur on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial? During the long run up to the 1860 election, Lincoln declared, during his debate with Stephen Douglas in Springfield, Illinois, on June 16, 1858, that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Few would challenge the assertion that the United States has rarely been more divided than it is now. This unhappy and dangerous divide does and will have both foreseen and unknowable consequences for individuals and for the country if the rifts are not healed, and soon.
Though the accusations against the Covington students were proven false only several days after the leftist media and many of their followers and fellow travelers rushed to judgment and pilloried them, the speedy appearance of threats and abuse was passing swift. The students themselves rightfully denied that they had been racist or intolerant to the American Indian man who had actually been the aggressor. President Trump on Monday, the 21st of January, weighed in and defended the students saying, quite accurately and without exaggeration, that they had been “smeared” by the press.
On Tuesday, the 22nd, the Covington Catholic school where the boys are students was closed due to security concerns. Many in the country now see the political environment and the culture in general as dangerously dysfunctional and poisonous; they are not wrong.
With each crisis we are approaching a defining moment.
Several days after the video was posted and the media and the American left in general had swiftly piled on against the innocent and falsely maligned students a Hollywood producer known for Disney films felt the need to join the virtue signaling stampede.
“Film producer Jack Morrissey apologized Monday for joking about ‘MAGA kids’ going ‘screaming, hats first into the woodchipper.’ The tweet was accompanied by an iconic image from ‘Fargo’ in which a dead person’s blood flies from a woodchipper.
‘It was something that I did not give any thought to,’ Morrissey told TheWrap. ‘It was just a fast, profoundly stupid tweet . . . I would throw my phone into the ocean before doing that again.’”
Kentucky Democrat and House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth also could not stop himself from exposing his hatred and extremist views. In his case, he didn’t suggest mass murder of the boys, but rather mass censorship and state control of speech.
After a deluge of criticism, Rep. Yarmouth (D-Ky) claimed that his tweet had been a joke. It seems unlikely that anybody on the planet believed him.
Perhaps the most colorful over-reaction to the false story at the Lincoln Memorial is from Ms. Sarah Beattie, a writer for the NBC television comedy program, now a grotesquery of leftist agitprop, Saturday Night Live. Channeling the pop singer Madonna’s promise to provide certain sexual favors to those who’d vote for Mrs. Clinton during the 2016 campaign, Ms. Beattie follows along and offers similar to anyone who might physically assault the Covington student shown smiling uncomfortably at the Native American activist who was drumming his drum in the young man’s face. [It should be noted that no research has shown that Ms. Madonna kept her very public promise.] Incitement to commit a violent crime (assault) is not legal in the United States last time I checked.
Crassness, vulgarity, excessive rhetoric, stereotyping, hatred, intolerance are all elemental tools for utopians fighting the status quo, and those who do not see the world as they do. The utopian view is an absolutist one—opposition is not tolerated. In this inverted moral nightmare which is the utopian worldview of perpetual, existential revolutionary conflict, Ms. Madonna and Ms. Beatie are heroes rather than unfortunate victims of their own hubris, lack of taste, and hate.
The press is little different. To suggest that American journalism has failed is not a sufficient explanation of these outrageous abuses by the press against innocent citizens; it is more accurate to say that it is no longer a servant of objective reporting but of disseminating and validating a utopian worldview so that readers and viewers are manipulated. With such a dysfunctional and dangerous utopian revolutionary viewpoint and its failure to support and protect the truth, American journalism is no longer the fourth estate, but a fifth column.
For example, even after it had become clear to all who cared to see that the events on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial had been mischaracterized by fake journalists, activists, and utopian/socialist/communist revolutionaries masquerading as “journalists,” some elements of the press continued to support the original false interpretation. In effect, the story was immediately weaponized and, even when it was shown that the facts of the event had been misrepresented by pundits and fake journalists, some diehards and true believers would not retract or withdraw; they just kept on like proper soldiers in an existential conflict, which appears to be exactly their prevailing view of themselves.
Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump is publicly siding with the mostly white students of a Kentucky high school who were engaged in a confrontation with a Native American elder that renewed a sensitive national debate about race relations in America.
CNN, Wednesday, January 23, 2019
The current miserable political and philosophical crisis in the United States is founded upon a great crisis in the American Left which has abandoned the reasoned statesmanship and patriotism of Andrew Jackson, Truman, JFK, and FDR, and become a globalist/utopian/socialist/communist monstrosity. The Walk Away movement is populated by former Democrats who are now fully woke to the collapse of their party and their once beloved political ideology. The Democrat Party no longer represents American ideals but rather globalist/utopian/socialist/communist fantasies all of which have destroyed countries, empires, societies, and millions of innocent people through the course of history.
In the utopian’s worldview those who ignore history are not at all condemned to repeat it—instead, they are on the path to “get it right” where those who came before all failed.
In this dark time of neo-Jacobinism and utopian crises, and the fall of parties and people into the darkness of ignorance, moral and ethical confusion, and rigidity, a fine light shone on the right moment of history can provide some lessons and hope. In one of his final letters, Robert E Lee wrote to Col. Charles Marshall, his one-time aide,
“The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”
One of the leading Jacobins, one of the great supporters of the French Revolution, one of the most serious “true believers” of all was Camille Desmoulins (L). It was he who literally started the revolution by jumping on a table at an outdoor cafe in the Palais Royale in Paris and haranguing a growing crowd angry at the firing that day by King Louis XVI of Finance Minister Jacques Necker, a popular official with the people. This was July 12, 1789. Desmoulins exhorted the crowd to arm themselves; this same crowd became the nexus of the mob that would assault and destroy the Bastille several days later and spark the revolution.
As a representative in the National Convention, Desmoulins became a leading proponent for eliminating the monarchy. His was the loudest voice in the Convention for executing the king. As a rabble rouser and the leading fake journalist of the Jacobins, Desmoulins excoriated his readers to string up from lampposts those who opposed the revolution. After the king’s execution, civil war in the south of France, threats of foreign invasion, and wars to spread liberté, egalité, fraternité by slaughter, Desmoulins came unexpectedly to the defining moment of his life.
He had attacked in his pamphlets for weeks and months a rival Jacobin faction led by a former colleague accusing them of disloyalty to the revolution. Finally, they were all called before the Revolutionary Tribunal. In such a fake court there are but two possible outcomes: acquittal or conviction (and death by guillotine).
In attendance at their trial and upon hearing their death sentences read out, Desmoulins realized that it had been his own bitter and hateful rhetoric that had brought the trial, and his own vicious attacks in print that had convicted them. He suddenly understood that he himself was directly responsible for all their deaths. “Oh, my God, my God! It is I who kill them!” Desmoulins was heard to say as he fainted in the courtroom.
Desmoulins the-true-believer became Desmoulins the-champion-of-clemency rather than Terror. This put him fundamentally in opposition to the radicalism and cruelty of the revolution and its leader (and his personal friend) Robespierre. When given the opportunity to recant, Desmoulins refused. His path then led directly to the guillotine where he was executed, April 5, 1794. Not satisfied with Desmoulins’s head only Robespierre arrested and executed his wife, Lucile. Robespierre, the leader of the Committee of Public Safety and the de facto dictator of France at that moment, had attended the wedding of Camille and Lucile Desmoulins and had signed their wedding contract as a witness; impediments such as friendship are irrelevant to the utopian mindset. All such things fall for the greater benefit of humanity.
Camille Desmoulins is a hero of France (as is his wife), and of the world. He is a hero of the world because he recovered his humanity and his compassion and actively fought against the evil that he himself had been instrumental in creating. His recovered compassion and bravery give all decent people hope. Such are the bitter lessons of the past that today’s new cadre of modern socialist/communist/utopians ignore.
During the Terror tens of thousands were executed or murdered in France. Lenin was a hungry student of the French Revolution and considered it a model for his study and emulation.
The radicalism that fueled the Jacobin revolutionaries of France was utopian; Lenin and Stalin were utopians, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao, every one of them utopians. And what does it mean to be such a person? Utopianism is the idea that societies and people can be perfected, inequality and injustice eradicated, war and poverty and cruelty eliminated. It is a rosy fantasy full of blasted hopes and powered by extremist beliefs of what is right and what is wrong. Such a discredited and disproven belief system with a casualty count already in the hundreds of millions of dead sees the individual as a functionary and servant of the state only—this view is in fundamental opposition to American’s views of the value of the individual and the essential importance of individual rights. Such a belief system is alien to our American democracy.
Most importantly, those who do not believe in the utopian dream-of-the-moment are the great enemy to be reviled, distrusted, insulted, and hated. In the mindset of the utopian there is this question: what sort of person would oppose the advancement of humanity, the perfection of society, the implementation of true equality? There is only one answer: those who oppose our utopian dreams are evil.
Because of the crisis in the American left our country is in a dark, revolutionary time. The collapse of the leading political party of the left into utopian/socialist/globalist/communist/Jacobin fantasies is fueling a great national crisis of identity, unity, and, finally, of compassion.
With a utopian revolutionary worldview comes the eradication of compassion.
Our American Desmoulins moment will be the moment when the revolutionaries of the left suddenly realize that what they have been agitating for, what they have been shouting about, what they have overturned their compassion and reason for, what they have done and said, are not at all what they thought.
We have not yet reached our Desmoulins moment. It is coming.
There is no way to know where the roads converge because there is no map; there is no way to know which moment is “the” moment because the future hasn’t been written. All there is for us to follow are the lessons of history.
If we ignore what is behind us and what looms ahead; if we should choose poorly or not at all then ours is a country of tragic, unhappy fools. There is nothing at risk now but everything.
Daniel Mallock is a historian of the Founding generation and of the Civil War and is the author of The New York Times Bestseller, Agony and Eloquence: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and a World of Revolution. He is a Contributing Editor at New English Review.
Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast