President Trump caved on the government shutdown. You can’t polish a turd. We lost and lost big, folks. He blinked. Maybe there’s a part II if this is a grand scheme, but as of now, this is a loss. The government is re-opened. We have no wall. And the Democrats are now even more emboldened to deny the president one penny for his border security agenda. These three weeks will fly, and it’s quite possible that we could go into another government shutdown on February 15. Yet, maybe there is a silver lining that can be found in the wake of the end of the shutdown fight. While Democrats and the Trump White House were duking it out over the border wall, the March for Life was embroiled in a flurry of fake news trash when a group of students from Covington Catholic High School was falsely maligned for engaging in a racially motivated mocking of a Native American man at the Lincoln Memorial. From one clip, an entire school was sentenced to death, death by a thousand media cuts. More videos emerged which blew up the liberal media narrative. The students didn’t accost the Native American man, Nathan Phillips, nor was it a racial incident. Phillips approached the group of students, who were being insulted by a group of Black Hebrew Israelites, and there were no chants of “build the wall” hurled at Phillips who was there for an Indigenous Peoples March. How is this beneficial to Trump? Well, we once again have the new media going insane, spreading fake news, and all of this occurred because the kids were wearing “Make America Great Again” hats. It should remind the GOP base and the loyal cohorts of Trump voters that the media hates them. Yes, I know some of you still know that the 2016 election coverage still being a raw moment, but often times voters need to be reminded. And this was a classic case where half the country was reminded that the major news networks and publications hate them. The Atlantic did a thorough analysis of the botched story, most of it directed at The New York Times, while also reminding the publication’s readers, that these trip-ups are one of the many reasons why Trump is president:
…the story had become so hot, and the appetite for it so deep, that some news outlets felt compelled to do some actual reporting. This was when the weekend began to take a long, bad turn for respected news outlets and righteous celebrities. Journalists began to discover that the viral video was not, in fact, the Zapruder film of 2019, and that there were other videos—lots and lots of them—that showed the event from multiple perspectives and that explained more clearly what had happened. At first the journalists and their editors tried to patch the revelations onto the existing story, in hopes that the whole thing would somehow hold together. CNN, apparently by now aware that the event had taken place within a complicating larger picture, tried to use the new information to support its own biased interpretation, sorrowfully reporting that early in the afternoon the boys had clashed with “four African American young men preaching about the Bible and oppression.”
But the wild, uncontrollable internet kept pumping videos into the ether that allowed people to see for themselves what had happened.
The New York Times, sober guardian of the exact and the nonsensational, had cannonballed into the delicious story on Saturday, titling its first piece “Boys in ‘Make America Great Again’ Hats Mob Native Elder at Indigenous Peoples March.”*
But the next day it ran a second story, with the headline “Fuller Picture Emerges of Viral Video of Native American Man and Catholic Students.”
How had the boys been demilitarized from wearers of “Make America Great Again” hats to “Catholic students” in less than 24 hours?
O, for a muse of fire.
It turned out that the “four African American young men preaching about the Bible and oppression” had made a video, almost two hours in length, and while it does not fully exonerate the boys, it releases them from most of the serious charges.
The full video reveals that there was indeed a Native American gathering at the Lincoln Memorial, that it took place shortly before the events of the viral video, and that during it the indigenous people had been the subject of a hideous tirade of racist insults and fantasies. But the white students weren’t the people hurling this garbage at them—the young “African American men preaching about the Bible and oppression” were doing it. For they were Black Hebrew Israelites, a tiny sect of people who believe they are the direct descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel, and whose beliefs on a variety of social issues make Mike Pence look like Ram Dass.
How could the elite media—The New York Times, let’s say—have protected themselves from this event, which has served to reinforce millions of Americans’ belief that traditional journalistic outlets are purveyors of “fake news”? They might have hewed to a concept that once went by the quaint term “journalistic ethics.” Among other things, journalistic ethics held that if you didn’t have the reporting to support a story, and if that story had the potential to hurt its subjects, and if those subjects were private citizens, and if they were moreover minors, you didn’t run the story. You kept reporting it; you let yourself get scooped; and you accepted that speed is not the highest value. Otherwise, you were the trash press.
At 8:30 yesterday morning, as I was typing this essay, The New York Times emailed me. The subject line was “Ethics Reminders for Freelance Journalists.” (I have occasionally published essays and reviews in the Times). It informed me, inter alia, that the Times expected all of its journalists, both freelance and staff, “to protect the integrity and credibility of Times journalism.” This meant, in part, safeguarding the Times’ “reputation for fairness and impartiality.”
I am prompted to issue my own ethics reminders for The New York Times. Here they are: You were partly responsible for the election of Trump because you are the most influential newspaper in the country, and you are not fair or impartial. Millions of Americans believe you hate them and that you will casually harm them. Two years ago, they fought back against you, and they won. If Trump wins again, you will once again have played a small but important role in that victory.
Will this happen again? It remains to be seen. The 2020 Democratic field isn’t solidified. We still have roughly two years to go; an eternity in politics and the suburban Republican voter could betray us again. Still, this incident should remind even the most moderate of GOP voters that the media and the Left hate you. They hate the president. They hate the people who voted for them, roughly half the country. Catholic high school students are now the epitome of all this is racist and wrong in America. If that, by itself, doesn’t register as a red flag that you’ve overreached, then no one can help you. Regardless, there have been bad trip-ups before, but this one was quite epic. It was devastating. And we’re less than 30 days into 2019. The next presidential election is still months away. How many more times will the media give the Trump campaign in-kind contributions and remind the president’s base that the media will go to extraordinary lengths to destroy its enemies?
Remember, after ‘the kids mocking the Native American man’ narrative blew up, the student’s religious affiliation the pro-life advocacy was attacked, with the usual actors pretty much saying that they deserved to be dragged through the social media mud.
The face-off between Catholic school teens and a Native American elder is a reminder of 500 years of conflict https://t.co/P2uv0ZLNBj— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) January 24, 2019
Pretty impressive amount of anti-Catholic content being generated at mainstream outlets this week.— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) January 24, 2019