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January 21, 2020

One Year Ago, The Media, Including the Usual Suspects In the NeverTrump Cult, Slandered the Covington Kids

This Reason piece by Robby Soave discusses not just the incident, and not just the media's retraction after it finally bothered to fact-check-- but the media's determination to revive the false claims days after the truth came out.

Nick Sandmann's lawyers, I'm sure, are looking at this same angle.

A Year Ago, the Media Mangled the Covington Catholic Story. What Happened Next Was Even Worse.


Journalists and pundits who frantically doubled down on their initial bad takes deserve more criticism.

...

[L]ess well remembered than the mainstream media's belated mea culpa was the absurd effort to re-legitimize the initial narrative.

On the next day, January 21, the New York Daily News published a contemptible hit piece attributed to its sports staff titled: "SEE IT: Covington Catholic High students in blackface at past basketball game." The first sentence read: "This won't help Nick Sandmann's case," as if the story was some sort of indictment of him. In fact, it had nothing to do with him, or any of his classmates at the Lincoln Memorial. The "blackface" incident was from a Covington basketball game years before, in which some attendees had painted themselves black to show school spirit. Ill-advised, in today's rage-charged climate? Sure. An example of racial harassment? Probably not. In either case, it had nothing to do with Sandmann.

Not to be outdone, Ben Kesslen of NBC News published a story the next day with the headline: "Gay valedictorian banned from speaking at Covington graduation 'not surprised' by D.C. controversy." Kesslen's piece included critical remarks from the gay valedictorian, as well as a local Native American activist group for good measure. The Covington kids "were not blameless," said the valedictorian. Readers who consumed the article too quickly may have missed that this student hailed from a different Covington school (albeit one in the same diocese), rendering his subjective impression of what may or may not have happened at the Lincoln Memorial fairly useless.

An eight second clip of boys who were not identified as being from Covington surfaced. The boys shouted something at a passer-by that was unintelligible.

So: Boys who were not from Covington, as far as we know, shouted something we don't understand at someone for reasons we also don't know.

This Hot New Evidence was immediately seized upon -- by people who should be in constant communication with their lawyers -- as smoking gun proof of... something.

For some reason, Vox's Emily Stewart embedded the short clip in her January 24 piece about Covington. This isn't even the most astonishing failing of the piece: She also uncritically cited Phillips throughout.

"Phillips told the Post that even before the confrontation, he and other Native American activists had issues with the students during the day," wrote Stewart. "And it wasn't just him and the Hebrew Israelites--a video surfaced on Twitter purporting to show the Covington boys harassing a group of girls as they walked by."

Stewart's piece is shockingly devoid of pushback, failing to note that Phillips' account was misleading—even though the piece was written four days after his narrative had fallen apart. She made note of my piece, and a few others from those in the Fox News orbit, but her bolded points were "We're probably never going to know exactly what happened on the Lincoln Memorial steps" and "These kids still don't look great."

On the latter point, she linked to a piece by Slate's Ruth Graham, who wrote, "There's no mistaking the core dynamics of the encounter: Sandmann smugly grins in Phillips's face and declines to step backward, and he's backed by dozens of boisterous teens who are jeering and mocking the much smaller group of Native marchers."

In a previous piece, she had referred to Sandmann's face as "punchable and untouchable." Her new piece contained no apology--indeed, she hardly changed her mind about him at all.

Not that it matters, but continuing to reassert a claim which harms someone's reputation, which you know to be factually false, satisfies the "malice" standard of defamation law.

And let's not forget the Usual Suspects of the for-paycheck-purposes-only pseudo-right who just had to rush to speech-patrol the right -- Jonah Goldberg, Rich Lowry, Ben Howe (who was actually in the midst of writing a trashgarbage book attacking the right for being too quick to socially shame strangers when he shamed Nick Sandmann), Ben Shapiro, National Review, and the #HotTake Emporium Twitchy.

Say, you guys are really into Social Shaming, right?

Right?

From The American Conservative-- will hundreds of millions in settlements force the media to change its behavior?

Spoiler: probably not.

The hope is that justice recognizes that a new media environment has emerged, one that drags innocent people onto the national stage unnecessarily in a way that is unethical and exploitative--and that even politicians, never mind the voters who select them, deserve factual reporting. But in the case of CNN and Nick Sandmann, it appears the network would rather pay out millions of dollars than see what a court would say.

That CNN has not made any noticeable changes in its obsessive stream of agenda journalism since the original incident a year ago, or since settling with Sandmann, suggests what they paid out is to them a reasonable price to continue to lie to the American public. Most MSM gave the settlement little or no coverage. CNN itself devoted 29 seconds to the story. Like botox, settlements are just another business expense.

...

The Founders assigned journalism a specific role to ensure that citizens would be able to carry out informed debates. Truth, they understood, is more than an ideal; it is a perspective. Yet over the last three years, serious journalism has all but been pushed aside in a rush to do away with Trump, not by honest persuasion but by any means necessary. Fear won out, and so objectivity is now #Collusion. Seeking facts before going viral is so 2015. The media gutlessly picks on kids because they can't get Trump. We asked for an informed citizenry and we instead got Mean Girls.


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posted by Ace at 06:45 PM

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