Sunday, January 27, 2019

Why I'm still talking about Covington

A week after the media meltdown over Covington, it's not surprising that some people are starting to say eh, this is old news; people have apologized, so why not give it a rest?

You could give various responses about the larger significance of the debacle, that some people haven't adequately recanted, etc.

But I want to add something, which is that this feels personal because it could so easily happen to any of us. The encounter was so mundane that you have to wonder what other non-events will be used to try to destroy you or me. It happened to be video-recorded not because it mattered, but because that's just so easy with 2019 technology.

I didn't have to worry about that when I was 16, but I can't help thinking: what would it have been like if this had happened to me when I was 16? Are some people not having that thought because they see him as the Other, and consequently lack empathy for him?

I also think about what will happen if I ever have a kid. Would my 16-year-old always stay on the right side of the face police? Or might he occasionally be awkward at that age? What if he had some kind of a mental or physical disability that caused him to have facial expressions or body movements that people took the wrong way? (I say "he" because so much of the vituperation that's been directed at the Covington kids has been explicitly based on their gender.)

In the past few days, I've been under the weather (getting better now, so don't worry about me), and sometimes as I've stood around in a public place, I've stopped to think: hey, I might have had an inappropriate facial expression just now, because of a combination of feeling a little out of it and feeling physically uncomfortable. If someone were video-recording me, could they find one still that made it look like I was "disrespecting" the wrong person?

When I see a post saying the kid's "smirk" (always that same exact word choice) is proof that there's something bigoted or wicked about him, I wonder if the person saying that has gone through life always making an appropriate facial expression for every social situation. Presumably not, but let's say that is the case — would you want to be someone who always makes what others consider just the right expression? That sounds like someone who's very safe and inoffensive and well-scripted, not someone spontaneous and flawed and quirky.

I grew up in a far-left college town, and I've known so many young people who were free spirits, who were nonconformists, who were determined to be themselves no matter what anyone else said, who had a passion for noisy music and experimental art, who listened to the color of their dreams . . . And back then, it didn't seem incongruous that they were mostly on the left. Today, I see so many people on the left sternly admonishing a 16-year-old for having the wrong smile in the wrong place at the wrong time. That's a prissy attitude which seems like the antithesis of so many lefties I've known. How can you be a young person who identifies as left/liberal and take that attitude? I've always had my differences with the left, but for most of my life I at least would have admitted that hey, a lot of them are cool people, interesting people, people who are worth talking to, especially if you don't share their politics. And that has no resemblance to some of the self-appointed arbiters of propriety we've been seeing on social media.

I want to say to some of these people joining virtual lynch mobs based on the latest viral video: Is that really who you are? Or are you too afraid to say what you really think? Or have you forgotten what you really think because you're more focused on . . . looking just right?

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm still seeing things like this pretty routinely: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jan/23/how-conservative-media-transformed-the-covington-catholic-students-from-pariahs-to-heroes

It feels like lots of people are still firmly settled on "Those kids were terrible." I don't have any feel for how much this is putting a different spin on the video evidence and how much it is a SJW mindset that in any conflict between a POC and a white boy, the POC is automatically right. (How dare you use video evidence to try to override Phillips' lived experience?)

Unknown said...

How times have changed. Those boys were the adults, young gentlemen obviously well raised. I too, like to think I was well raised, but thinking back to my 16th year, and my classmates, it's fair to say that back in 1966, there surely would have been trouble. With the knowledge that we were right, however, we would have enjoyed the ensuing chaos, and from our side, there would be no shortage of bleeps on any recording of the event. We wouldn't have been smiling... we would have been laughing.


I went to a Chicago Public School of 5000 boys. They didn't call it a magnet school, but you had to test in, and thus it was full of reasonably intelligent guys. Still, things were different back then. Dare I say it...boys were boys.

Anonymous said...

Unknown, Lane Tech? Go Lane '70.

Unknown said...

Yes, Lane Tech '67. Can you imagine a group from Lenny's taking such unprovoked aggression so passively?

zachary smith said...

I graduated high school in 1977. I was thinking these kids are so much better behaved than me and my friends would have been. We would have had much fun jeering and mocking anyone shouting insults at us. I can see us tossing a few snowballs (or rocks) in their direction. Of course we were not under camera survellience everywhere we went.

Mike said...

Great post.

Anonymous said...

Thinking of the boys I knew growing up (mid-70s to early 90s) -- there would definitely have been some who mooned for rebuttal.

Anonymous said...

Thinking of the boys I knew growing up (mid-to-late 70s) -- there would definitely have been some who mooned for rebuttal.

Dick King said...

The boys’ crime was wearing MAGA hats.

-dk

Anonymous said...

"Today, I see so many people on the left sternly admonishing a 16-year-old for having the wrong smile in the wrong place at the wrong time. That's a prissy attitude which seems like the antithesis of so many lefties I've known. How can you be a young person who identifies as left/liberal and take that attitude?"

This right here is the most important aspect of this story. Whatever else you can say about the intersectional left, they are rapidly becoming no damn fun at all. Eventually people will turn their backs on the new left for that reason.

Jerry said...

Well, they CAN'T be fun. 'Fun' implies you're doing something enjoyable, and if there's one thing we've seen time and again from the left, the only 'enjoyable' thing you're supposed to do is find something to castigate the people you hate about - because they're hateful and mean and vicious.

Even if you've got to make it up completely - as in the Covington case.

The primal urge for the left is for there to be conformity to the dictates of the current fashionable thought. Anything outside that is to be limited as soon as possible and eradicated if at all possible.

They lead joyless lives, always looking out for the next offensive thing and watching their fellows for proper behavior.

apostate said...

@Jerry, Correct, and that is unsustainable. Right now, what do they do to attract new adherents? The only thing they have for most of the left is fear and that only lasts so long. As soon as the fear goes away so will their power and numbers.

Anonymous said...

Jerry, I think that their opposition to fun is due to the victim mindset that currently defines much of the left, and it is fashionable: How can victims have fun until they have achieved justice by making their oppressors suffer? To read popular news, there is no reason at all for fun, because everyone is suffering because there is no justice in the world. How can one have fun when suffering exists in the world? And so the feedback loop continues.

Anonymous said...

The smirk would be no big deal without the MAGA hat and the juxtaposition with the pained expression of the old minority gentleman. I hope you saw the video showing the prior behavior of the large group of kids mockingly shouting down this one vulnerable man peacefully and sincerely protesting for a cause.

To say it was the smirk or facial expression drawing repercussions is not credible. The MAGA hat is half way to a swastika and even in the freewheeling 60's, such a display given the surrounding circumstances would sicken anybody.

The central point of your article seems to be that technology captures bad behavior and brings it social repercussions. You are minimizing the bad behavior and reducing it to just a facial expression (and also equating it to a situation where one is a distant observer rather than flat in-somebody's-face). Even the 60's had new technology proliferating.

It is far better to call out bad behavior as such and thereby deter it while reinforcing and rewarding those who do not indulge in it. Everyone has been 16 and remembers what it was, and they respond proportionately. The specific MAGA-smirk kid your heart weeps for has a tremendous opportunity to write an essay showing how he has grown from the experience, and that would wipe that entire technological blemish off his social and personal record.

Unknown said...

Okay...you're not a guy, right?

Anonymous said...

Isn't Smirking appropriate when encountering comical and stupid behavior?