Wednesday, January 23, 2019

About the Covington Catholic Boys

This article in Reason looks like the most balanced and dispassionate account of this now infamous event. Based on this, I think everyone who vilified these boys should be ashamed of themselves and apologize. It looks like they face libel suits if they do not.

Here's a key quote by the author:

It would be impossible to definitively state that none of the young men did anything wrong, offensive, or problematic, at some point, and maybe the smiling student was attempting to intimidate Phillips. But there's shockingly little evidence of wrongdoing, unless donning a Trump hat and standing in a group of other people doing the same is now an act of harassment or violence. Phillips' account, meanwhile, is at best flawed, and arguably deliberately misleading.

I might point out that is really neither right-wing or left-wing; the folks there are libertarian and line up either conservative or liberal, depending on the issue.

And, I might further point out that since this article, Mr. Phillips has been caught in some lies and shifting stories, so his credibility is, I think, shot. On the other hand, the statements made by the boys in the situation seem to line up with the video, so their credibility looks pretty good.

Let me also add that elsewhere, Glenn Beck laid out a minute-by-minute account. And he makes an additional point: the crazy-vile-vicious "Black Israelites," who are the real bigots and haters in this story, were initially directing their vile attacks on the Native American group -- not the high school boys, who were just a handful at the beginning. In his account, the boys' cheers were intended to drown out the hate; meaning, they were trying to be helpful to the "Indigenous Peoples" group. You may not like Beck; I don't necessarily like or agree with him. But you are welcome to refute him.

Also: at least one of the high school boys in the group was African-American, and the "Black Israelites" singled him out, calling him the n-word and saying his so-called friends were going to kill him. His friends -- who have been libeled before the world as racists, stood by him, hugged him and can be heard saying on the tape, "but we love you!"

There are a lot of people who have backed away from their initial attacks, but rather than apologize, pure and simple, they hemming and hedging, while they latch onto whatever the latest rumor or innuendo is that might discredit the Covington Catholic boys, even by the loosest association, all in order to avoid the right thing, which is a clean, full, unambiguous apology.

I was really sorry to see the bishop of Covington and the administrators of Covington Catholic High School react so rashly and throw their students under the bus. That decision is nearly impossible to defend. Again, all they had to do was say, we take this very seriously and we want to know what happened. We are going to find out. After their first, rash statement, they did issue a second statement that was more measured. I'm hopeful that after a full investigation, they will -- if the facts bear it out -- give a genuine apology.

Folks on the left better wise up. This sort of thing isn't going to be forgotten. Lots and lots of parents, who aren't particularly political, are watching this and saying, "that could have been my son." The scary and sad thing is that all this plays precisely into the hands of "white nationalist" nutballs. Think their recruiting is going well this week?

Oh, and by the way, anyone notice what I did? I waited. Lots of (self-) important people couldn't move fast enough to share their hot takes with the whole world. Do they imagine that if they don't, something terrible will happen? What egos they must have! I'm beginning to think the most dangerous place to be is in the path between Father James Martin and a microphone or his ability to send a tweet.

But it isn't just celebrities and professional opinionators who are guilty of this. Lots of people, including friends of mine and relatives, are awfully quick to share a sensational video or news item or whatever on Facebook or Twitter or wherever else. You might want to learn to forebear. First, as a matter of conscience. If I had helped smear these high school boys, I would not sleep well and I would be racked with thoughts of what I needed to do to put it right. As President Calvin Coolidge said, no one ever got in trouble for what he didn't say. Hyperbole, but it makes the point. Sometimes the right thing to do is to keep your yap tightly shut. The world will get along just fine without your immediate contribution.

But if not for conscience, then for your own well-being. The pendulum is going to swing on this, and sooner or later, there will be consequences for those who thoughtlessly or recklessly participate in these pile-ons. I'm not an attorney, but I'm guessing that you don't have to be anyone famous to be sued. If you post something online, I'm betting you can be held responsible.


Anonymous said...

I blame the school. They failed tuition-paying parents in several ways. (1) Allowing the boys to wear Trump campaign hats, knowing that they are considered incendiary and provocative (as in they provoke ire in many people) was a mistake. (2) Failing to protect the students from harassment by other protesters was a mistake. (3) Failing to curb student behavior when it clashed with others was a mistake.

My own all-boys Catholic prep school chaperoned me around several US and European cities and would never have made those mistakes.


TJM said...


Do you feel the Pink Pussy hats are incendiary and provocative? FYI, the boys bought those hats from a vendor while. Grow up.

Anonymous said...

Great post Father. Good advice. As with most stories, what is first reported is seldom accurate, especially in this age of agenda driven biased media. I find it sad that politics has become a blood sport. Looking through my collection of political souvenirs starting with an I LIKE IKE button, it is interesting that wearing any of them would make Americans vile hatred spew forth. Many Americans had little use for Barry Obama, but they did not vilanize those who supported him with the hartred of the left today, even as he put justices who are openly pro abortion on the court. Can there be any greater hate than butchering over 60 million infants? If we can stop the legal slaughter of infants, I am all in for Makng America Great Again.

Anonymous said...

Forgive the typo please. I left out 2 words. The line should read " . . . considered incendiary and provocative by many (as in they provoke ire in many people) was a mistake.".


Ann Malley said...

"...unless donning a Trump hat and standing in a group of other people doing the same is now an act of harassment or violence."

Good to see some reason put forward on this issue. Wearing a MAGA hat is not an incitement to violence--acting as if it is only encourages irrational behavior. What's interesting is how viewpoints shift depending on venue.

Bonfire of the Vanities, indeed.

rcg said...

It is difficult to imagine a series of events that could have done more damage to finish off the credibilty of Catholic bishops after their disasterous mishandling of the sex abuse issue. The Church was once known for teaching thoughtful consideration guided by prayer and the Word of God to deal (not to mention several hundred years of the best minds civilization has produced) with difficult situations that offered no apparent answers. Here, it appears that various second tier bishops lept at what they thought was an easy situation, not to offer thoughtful guidance, but to easily redeem themselves in the eyes of the World. Even if we ignore that the victims were once again young boys under their care, the failure of the bishops is that they decided, also once again, on a course of action that is intended to protect themselves at the cost of the sheep. Hardley the actions of a shepherd.

Anonymous said...

The first shall be last, and the last first.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Ann Malley:

"Bonfire of the Vanities, indeed."

If you have a point to make, I'd be grateful if you would make it straight out.

Fr Martin Fox said...

RCG said:

"...the failure of the bishops is that they decided, also once again, on a course of action that is intended to protect themselves at the cost of the sheep."

Alas, yes!

Ann Malley said...

Do you need me to break down the vast difference between affectation and a genuinely held belief? Really?

The failure of the shepherds is that many have decided, once again, on a course of action that is intended to protect themselves at the cost of the truth... and/or courteous well-intended discourse.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Mrs. Malley:

I am a reasonably intelligent and experienced person, but I have no idea what you are getting at, other than, perhaps reacting to a comment I made to you on another blog? Which is weird, because, why wouldn't you react to that comment, there? Why migrate here, and make oblique references? I am at a loss.

If you have a point to mkae, imagine I am 10 years old, and explain it that way.