Covington Catholic, “Hashtag Activism”, and the Dehumanizing Effect of ‘Fake News’
What the Internet’s reaction to a misleading video clip reveals about our society in 2019
I had a relatively quiet weekend. This past week, I started up my final semester of my current graduate program. After a relaxing Christmas break, I returned to the daily grind — classes, research, writing, and some Xbox. I was able to sleep in late on Saturday morning, and upon waking up at noon, I instinctively grabbed my phone to check my messages, emails, and Twitter. As I scrolled down my timeline, I saw a video from the 2019 March for Life, featuring a young, white male wearing an infamous red hat, smiling in the face of an older Native American man, who was chanting and beating his drum. The now-deleted tweet containing the video was captioned, “Students from Covington Catholic High School harass Native American protester”. I watched the video clip. Immediately, I was filled with disgust. After reading through a few of the replies (“Wow, typical #MAGA losers”, “How DARE they disrespect the indigenous population!”, “His stupid smirk is the literal definition of white privilege”), I decided to take a stand, too. I quote-tweeted the video, and furiously typed my own commentary: “This is disgusting. A group of fatherless idiots harassing a Native American protester. This is a scandal, especially coming from those who claim to be ‘pro-life’.” I hit the ‘tweet’ button, published my take, and closed out of Twitter. I then proceeded to lay in bed for another half-hour, switching between NFL news & my Instagram feed, before checking the NBA scores from the night before.
Eventually, I wandered back on Twitter, proud that my tweet condemning the racist kids from Covington Catholic was doing well — 30 likes, 4 or 5 retweets. One reply, from some anonymous user:“How is this a scandal? This video doesn’t prove anything.” Seeing this tweet, I rolled my eyes & shook my head, tossed my phone on the other side of the bed before getting up and hopping in the shower. As I was drying off, I picked up my phone again. I saw several tweets from influential Twitter users, including Fr. James Martin, SJ, a very popular Jesuit priest & author. Though I disagree with him on a few different things, the evil of racism is not one of…