Let’s Hold the Real Bigot Responsible: The Editor/Publisher of the Covington Clip
Someone ought to be held to account for the damage they've caused.
The Covington kids got steamrolled for a misleading video clip making them appear racist and bigoted. I want to know the name of the real bigot — the person who edited and published that clip. Why isn’t he or she being held to account?
You think that wasn’t racism? You think it wasn’t wrong? Then try this hypothetical version out for size. Suppose it was audio instead of video, and it had the kids saying this:
We were standing by the Lincoln Memorial when we saw some people coming. They were Black. We stood there shouting racist slogans, including the “n” word and “You go back to the continent you came from!” I was proud of our behavior.
Now suppose that was actually an edited version, and the original was,
We were just ending our school field trip, standing by the Lincoln Memorial and minding our own business, when we saw some people coming toward us carrying signs. When they got closer we saw they were ‘Black Hebrew Israelites.’ We didn’t know what that meant, but we just stood there. They were shouting racist slogans at us including the “n” word at one of us, an African American himself, and yelling, “You go go back to the continent you came from!” I was glad when we could finally leave, and proud of our behavior, as we hadn’t reacted to them in any way.
If you’ve been following the story you know I didn’t make up that full version. It actually happened, as video proves.
This audio version is of course my own invention, to make a point. Any podcast editor could easily remove words here and there and make an innocent statement sound like inflammatory racism. It might sound jumpy and unnatural. This is hypothetical, though, so let’s go all the way and suppose the edit came out sounding fine. My point works either way.
And my point is this: Who would do such a thing? What kind of gall would it take? I can’t even imagine! What kind of bitter, cold, hateful scheming would it take to post it online as if it were the truth?
About the same kind of cold, hateful scheming it took for some unknown person to put this edited video out on the internet.
No Real Difference; Plenty of Damage
What’s the real difference between the two, after all? My pretend-edit here transforms an innocent statement into the face of bigotry. The actual (edited) video clip takes a group of students who are waiting for a bus, trying not to pay attention to the racial slurs thrown at them by the Black Hebrew Israelite group, and turns them into the so-called “face of bigotry,”
That’s where the real bigotry is: in that misleadingly edited video. The one that misled people into thinking these unsuspecting teens weren’t trying at all to mind their own business while waiting to head home from a long trip. That they were actually a horde of “smirking, loathing” “future sociopaths” and “little nazis.” That they were guilty of “blatant hate, disrespect and intolerance,” as even a member of Congress accused them.
Some people on the left say there’s no such thing as anti-white bigotry or racism. The first hour of the full-length video begs to disagree. I beg the same myself.
Granted, I don’t know who published this video or why. That means it’s just mathematically possible it was some dumb innocent error. It could have been someone playing video-editing games in his basement, thinking, “Wow, isn’t it amazing how much you can change a story with the right editing.” Maybe he just — “oops” — let it slip out onto the internet by accident.
I’m trying real hard to be charitable there. Problem is, I don’t believe a word of it. This was no innocent error. Someone posted it this intending to cause damage. And it worked. It did enormous damage. These kids are afraid for their lives, and for good reason. Some of their families’ businesses have been ruined. It’s going to take years to recover it all again.
Hold Them Accountable!
Freedom of speech doesn’t extend to shouting fire in a crowded theater, said Oliver Wendell Holmes. Why not? Because people get hurt that way. How is this video any different? People have been hurt, wrongly yet intentionally.
The person or persons who edited and published this video should be held to account for it. I’m no attorney, but I strongly suspect the school and the students could sue him for significant damages. It may constitute defamation. There’s also a lesser known cause of action known as right of publicity that is popping up in this era of social media. You can’t just use photos or video of anyone you feel like it however you want; there are restrictions in that area, especially when it comes to private, non-famous individuals.
Regardless, he ought to at least apologize. Publicly. I’m not holding my breath, though. This face of bigotry isn’t going to want to reveal itself.
Tom Gilson is a senior editor with The Stream and the author of Critical Conversations: A Christian Parents’ Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens (Kregel Publications, 2016). Follow him on Twitter: @TomGilsonAuthor.