Nick Sandmann — the Covington Catholic student with the arrogant, sh*t-eating smirk seen staring down Nathan Philips while his fellow students laughed, jeered, and taunted around him — gave an interview to Savanah Guthrie on the Today show this morning. He sounded like a kid rattling off memorized talking points that someone else wrote for him, because that’s probably exactly what this is.
“As far as standing there, I had every right to do so. My position is that I was not disrespectful to Mr. Phillips. I respect him. I’d like to talk to him…But I can't say that I'm sorry for listening to him and standing there.” Nick Sandmann on if he owes anyone an apology pic.twitter.com/iiVqPtltjf— TODAY (@TODAYshow) January 23, 2019
But here’s the thing: You don’t need to see this video. You don’t need to juxtapose the statement he made in that video — “We’re a Catholic school, and it’s not tolerated. They don’t tolerate racism, and none of my classmates are racist people” — with this video footage.
You don’t need to read a bunch of think pieces about “context,” or about “ruining the kid’s life,” or about the racist, homophobic history of Covington, or a piece comparing Sandmann’s microexpressions to that of Brett Kavanaugh. Everything in front of your face is obvious. “Don’t doubt what you saw with your own eyes,” Deadspin wrote on Monday.
To the 99 percent of people reading this piece right now, there is nothing up for debate, and the other one percent are trolling MAGA choads who stumbled across this piece on Google. You don’t need to argue amongst yourselves about what was really going on. You don’t need to watch this video and throw your laptop or smartphone through a window.
“In that moment, he’s looking at you - you’re looking at him - what’s going through your mind?” -@savannahguthrie— TODAY (@TODAYshow) January 23, 2019
“I wanted the situation to die down. And I just wish he would’ve walked away.” -Nick Sandmann pic.twitter.com/JRhecZAGLv
Everything about this story pisses you the hell off, doesn’t it? You can’t stop talking about it, can you? You can’t stop having arguments in your mind with the Covington defenders, some of whom are real and others of whom are strawmen of your mind’s own invention, can you? You’re angry, and pissed off, that this kid will likely face no consequences, but even more angry at the other side for defending him, aren’t you? Are you pissed off because Today gave him a platform? Because the media is allowing this kid and his PR firm to control the narrative? Does it make you hate Trump even more? Does it make your hatred for MAGA-hat-wearing assholes burn even brighter? Does it sew even more distrust in the media? Do you feel the bile and anger rising up in you? Are you ready to break some sh*t?
It’s exactly what they wanted.
A bunch of anonymous tweets, Twitter algorithms, and social media fraud amplified and elevated the scene that took place over the weekend into the most talked about story in America, and there was only one goal in mind. Was it to expose these kids as the obvious racists they are? No, not really. Was it to confirm our long-held beliefs that those who wear MAGA hats are awful, terrible people? No, not that either.
It was designed to make you hate the other side, and to make the other side hate you. And it f**king worked. Twitter manufactured this controversy, the media turned it into a week-long story, and our outrage over every turn is going to keep the fires stoked until the next algorithmically generated controversy comes along.
It’s exactly what the Russians did in the 2016 election. The only difference is, we know we’re being played this time, but it doesn’t make a goddamn lick of difference, because we can’t help ourselves. Half the comments to this piece will be, “Yeah, I know we’re being played, but f**k that guy.”
I can’t help myself, either. Everything about this story infuriates me. I am blinded by rage, and even as I know I’m being manipulated, I cannot control my anger at this situation. My anger with this smug little sh*t. My anger with NBC for interviewing him. My anger at CNN and Jake Tapper for pushing the kid’s statement, written by a PR firm with connections to both the White House and CNN. My anger at Trump for defending this kid, and at every privileged white jackass worried about ruining the racist kid’s life. Every drib and drab that comes out only amplifies my anger.
So, what is the solution? THERE IS NO SOLUTION. We must voice our outrage to combat the outrage of the other side. What the hell are we supposed to do? Just let it go? Ignore it? Let these kids go back to their lives, chanting “It’s not rape if she enjoys it?” No, that’s exactly what the other side would want us to do. And so we must play this game. We just feed right into their goddamn hands. We must call out the Today show. We must expose the machinations behind all of this. We must call out the kid for not taking any responsibility.
We must continue fighting this war of attrition. We’re stuck. We’re well-meaning fools playing someone else’s game, and it’s impossible to take our pieces off the gameboard. It’s lunacy. Our outrage is being turned into profit, but we can’t do anything about it because the future of our country is at stake.
What a time to be alive (and I don’t mean that in the inspiring, Lin-Manuel Miranda kind of way).