On Smirking Cowardice

I don’t really have much to say about the facts of the Covington confrontation. But I will say this:

I’m really tired of the shrinking cowardice from the people that provoke these confrontations. These kids took school a bus to attend a counter-protest organized to coincide with a much larger protest. Whether this kid knew it or not, the counter-protest was intended to create discord.

And, as we are unavoidably aware, the inevitable confrontation happened.

“I wasn’t smirking.” — Nicholas Sandmann, Covington High School student

Know what? I know this kid. I went to school with this kid, 20 years ago. This is the face of somebody who knows, deep in his bones, that he can get away with whatever the fuck he wants. And when the message gets away from him? Well, this is the type of kid who hires a PR firm and gets tears in his eyes.

“My family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed.” — Brett Kavanaugh, Supreme Court Justice

I have only this to say: fuck you, kid. You know that this’ll blow over and you’ll go on to your regularly scheduled life of self-satisfied middle-management success. Or the Supreme Court. Or some similar form of utter destruction.

But what genuinely pisses me off is all the people who say we should give him a break. I mean, he’s just a kid. And yeah, I know that the social currents that put him there are bigger than he is, but – God, I wish some of these privileged white kids (and their families, and their appointed media representatives, and the apologists who aren’t willing to see what their eyes are telling them) would take a little ownership of what they are doing.

Yeah. So there’s this organized rally that you aren’t part of, and somebody is marching towards you – if you aren’t going to get out of the way, just fucking own it. “I stood my ground. I’m not going to let anybody push me around.” This namby-pamby “I was just attending an inoffensive rally about reproductive rights, I had no idea there was other stuff going on, and the clear joy in my peers behind me and that I had the face of a kid who is giddy with the power of being able to face off someone much older than him, none of that is relevant, because I’m just a misunderstood teenager” stuff – god, just shut up. You were there to provoke a confrontation. Congratulations; you’re an asshole.

I have no sympathy for this twit whatsoever, and if he was my kid, I’d be sending him to counseling.

But there is another frankly more important aspect to this, which has been well explored but I think is particularly well articulated by the renowned social commentator John Hodgman. (This is from a threaded tweet-storm, which you can see in its native habitat here. I reproduce it in its entirety below because stuff on the internet has this weird habit of disappearing over time):

Uh. You step aside. You say “Please don’t” or “Let’s talk, what’s happening here?” If your friends are backing you up with taunts and jeers, say, “Be cool, guys. You’re not helping.” There is no rule that you stand and smirk and escalate. Unless you get off on it

…And have grown up knowing that you won’t be punished for being an aggro fight picker, and in fact have been rewarded for it. But let’s take the most charitable explanation and suggest the guy didn’t know WHAT to do, Sure….

There was a lot of bad energy in that moment. He and his friends had just been called some bad names. They all had their fight up and were egging each other on. He made a bad call and couldn’t get over his big smirk energy. I honestly would understand BUT

…the NEXT thing you do, if you are not an asshole, is you say: I made a mistake. I stood my ground because I panicked and didn’t know what to do, but….

….I totally get why a young white guy staring down a Native American, smiling at him like he’s a thing, while the rest of my all-but-one white guy posse cheers me on, might look bad.

It might even look like the embodiment of the long history of dehumanizing the native population of this continent that led to their near extermination at the hands of young men who looked like me…

Maybe you don’t need to say all that. Maybe you just need to say: it was a bad situation, I made a bad call in the moment, I didn’t mean to make anyone uncomfortable, and I apologize to Nathan Phillips, whatever his intentions were. What you DO NOT do, if you are not an asshole…

Is hire a PR firm to argue in bad faith that you were, in fact, The Real Victim, and no one actually saw what they saw, and none of it happened except for silent prayer for peace my PR guy and I agreed was what I should say was happening in my head.

So yeah, there were a lot of other options both before, during, and after the encounter.

Indeed there were MANY MANY options available after the encounter to a young white man with access to power and money, INCLUDING hijacking the news with this doesn’t-pass-the-smell test victim/hero story that would NOT be available to someone without those privileges

Because if a group of non-white-dudes pulled this same stunt, their only option would be to branded as thugs and criminals, or if they were women, hysterics, and every one on this dumb website calling Sandmann an innocent would be calling for their incarceration or worse…

And if you dispute that, then I shall quote MOONRISE KINGDOM and say, “I love you but you do not know what you’re talking about.” And if you truly don’t see what is objectionable about all their behavior overall, well, I’m not sure I love you.

I abuse threading, I admit it, but twitter gave me this tool. I don’t like arguing here; mostly it’s a waste of the universe’s time. But this is something I feel strongly about, and I see you follow me, so I am answering your question in the fullness of my convictions…

I have said everything I need to here, so if it displeases you, just please unfollow me and we’ll call it a day between us. Signed: JOHN HODGMAN.

That is all.

About dondo

1 thought on “On Smirking Cowardice

  1. I saw Hodgman open for Flight of the Conchords, in what might have been the bravest pieces of standup I’ve seen (and I’ve seen some real bravery on stage). He pretended to fall down and hit his head, then channeled Ayn Rand for 45 minutes (with no explanation for why he had appeared on stage in a dress). Only 10% of the audience knew who was talking about (or, as), and only 10% of them thought the act was not-lame, but clearly this wasn’t the first or last night of this performance. I embarrassed myself by laughing profusely while some were actively booing. Clearly, being liked (or not smirked at) is not high on his interpersonal agenda.

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