“It’s the look of white patriarchy, of course.”
Facts have proven no match for the moral panic over a boy’s viral standoff with a Native American elder.
Even after the original liberal narrative ― that he and his teen mob harassed the man ― was effectively debunked, liberals have found reason to be outraged and aggrieved. His “smirk” alone, many have decided, was an aggressive act of sexism and racism.
One theme of the conversations over the past 24 hours = how deeply familiar this look is. It's the look of white patriarchy, of course, but that familiarity — that banality — is part of what prompts the visceral reaction. This isn't spectacular. It's life in America. pic.twitter.com/TmziDwAjYA
— Anne Helen Petersen (@annehelen) January 21, 2019
To quickly recap: A widely circulated video captured a moment on Friday when the March for Life collided with the first Indigenous People’s March outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. The boy, a participant in the anti-abortion rally, is seen smiling and staring straight ahead as the Native American man chants and beats a ceremonial drum.
News outlets and liberals instantly made the teen ― who was identified as Nick Sandmann, a student at Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky ― a poster boy for bigotry in President Donald Trump’s America. Native American activist Kelly Hayes spoke for many when she accused Sandmann of “racist abuse.” The New York Times’ headline blared that he and his compatriots had “mobbed” Phillips.
However, additional videos and accounts have since made it clear that the Native American man, an activist named Nathan Phillips, initiated the confrontation. Both he and Sandmann said as much, though each insisted his intentions were entirely pure.
Sandmann explained in a statement Sunday that his smile was intended only to signal that he “was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation.”
Other established facts: A group of hectoring Black Israelites helped escalate the situation. And no one got hurt― at worst, the boys made a few insensitive remarks.
The full video suggests the boy did nothing wrong. Plus, what kind of person defines a kid’s face as “punchable”? https://t.co/YUFfDMni3e
— Christina Sommers (@CHSommers) January 20, 2019
Some liberals, including CNN anchor Jake Tapper, seemed swayed. The Times even removed “mob” from its headline, and added a link at the top of the story directing readers to follow-up reporting that provides a “fuller picture.”
.@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 multitudes, though, refused to be placated. Instead, much of the focus shifted to Sandmann’s smile, which was, they deemed, enough to make him part of the white patriarchy. For Trump nemesis Rosie O’Donnell and many, many others Sandmann triggered traumatic memories of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process.
— ROSIE (@Rosie) January 21, 2019
Nor was Graham alone in reporting having endured the unbearable power of white male smirks in her youth. Gizmodo senior editor Alex Cranz called it a “facial gesture that weaponized their privilege” and could “DEVASTATE.”
From elementary school through college I went to school with sheltered upper middle class white boys who could DEVASTATE with a smirk. A facial guesture that weaponized their privilege. Infuriatingly you can’t fight that fucking smirk with a punch or words.
— Alex Cranz (@alexhcranz) January 19, 2019
Editor Heidi N. Moore lumped Sandmann in with male reporters who have the audacity to question her.
Any woman with authority has seen this smirk too. When you edit a piece and some bro gets the "how dare you change my perfect words" smirk. When you get a job they wanted and they do everything to undermine and trash-talk you afterwards. THIS GUY. We all know this guy. https://t.co/bQ5x3VIpJb
— Heidi N. Moore (@moorehn) January 21, 2019
Journalist Jeff Sharlet was sure he saw in Sandmann a future misogynistic adult, à la certain Trump supporters.
That kid with the smirk, from Covington Catholic? Here he is, all grown up. https://t.co/ERwgATWx5I
— Jeff Sharlet (@JeffSharlet) January 20, 2019
Hayes, for her part, pointed out that Sandmann’s smile wasn’t his only allegedly racist accoutrement: Don’t forget his “Make America Great Again” hat.
The both siders act like MAGA hats aren't necessarily suggestive of racism. This is a perspective willfully detached from reality. The whole MAGA brand is grounded in racism.
— Puff the Magic Hater (@MsKellyMHayes) January 21, 2019
I lost my assault smirk in a boat accident. https://t.co/U6c6BrMNpf
— SweetDee (@sweetdeesez) January 20, 2019
The left has yet to adopt it.