Bullying, Plausible Deniability, and Nick Sandmann

Bullying, Plausible Deniability, and Nick Sandmann

I’m still taken with the confrontation between Covington Catholic High School students, four Black Hebrew Israelites, and a group of Native Americans. When the video first came out, the Covington teens looked very bad. Then a longer video came out where they still looked very bad, but not quite as bad. And then a large fraction of liberals did as they often do: folded and blamed themselves for rushing to judgment. Let’s be clear: the initial reaction to this confrontation was correct.

Let me provide some background. Members of the Black Hebrew Israelites — a group the Southern Poverty Law Center as called out for their hatred — were voicing taunting the Covington students as well as the Native American protestors.

As a result, the students crossed the street — apparently to engage. One of the Native Americans, Nathan Phillips, stepped forward to get between the two groups. As a result, the students focused on (encircled) him. That was more or less the idea and we should all be pleased that there was no violence.

Nick Sandmann: Typical Bully

The behavior of the student group was bad but it certainly wasn’t what caused all the hullabaloo online. Instead, it was the image of Nick Sandmann — in his red Make America Great Again cap and self-satisfied smile — staring down Phillips.

Sandmann was staring Phillips right in the eye. Images from the other angle show that Phillips was staring past Sandmann into the distance. This makes sense. Immediately afterward, Phillips said that his intent was to stop the groups from confronting each other. What was Sandmann’s intent?

We do have a statement released by the PR firm hired by Sandmann’s parents:

I believed that by remaining motionless and calm, I was helping to diffuse the situation. I realized everyone had cameras and that perhaps a group of adults was trying to provoke a group of teenagers into a larger conflict. I said a silent prayer that the situation would not get out of hand.

There are a couple of things about this. First, the statement clearly wasn’t written by Sandmann. Second, and more important, is that this is clearly reverse-engineered.

Bullying 101

Sandmann played one of the most common tricks in the bully playbook. Bullies don’t beat up people all that much. Instead, they terrorize people. And the main way that I was bullied as a child was in this way: intimidation with the threat of violence.

What’s great about this from the bully’s perspective is that it provides plausible deniability. A bully can stare you down, just inches from your face. And if you call them out and complain to an authority, they will say, “I didn’t do anything! I didn’t touch anyone!”

Bullies don’t beat up people all that much. Instead, they terrorize people.

Not only was Sandmann staring down Nathan Phillips, but he was also backed up by dozens of rowdy high school boys.

And that is exactly what Nick Sandmann is doing now through a PR firm. We are told that that smug smile was not an attempt to intimidate; it was the sign of a young man praying. Please!

Craven Liberals

But I’m not that upset with Nick Sandmann and the other right-wingers who support him. They are just doing what conservatives always do. There is no difference between Sandmann’s statement and Ann Coulter’s constant refrain that her bigotted remarks are really just jokes.

What bothers me is that nothing we have learned since the initial confrontation came out has changed what happened. Bully Nick Sandmann was staring down an elder Native American while boys behind him mocked his drumming and made tomahawk chops.

Yet it seems half of liberal America is self-flagellating. And all this does is encourage conservatives to believe this wasn’t an act of racial insensitivity. And it allows them to continue on with their false narrative that liberals “rush to judge.”

Indeed, Fox News on Monday was filled with stories about how liberals had rushed to judgment. This is from Fox News — the network that does virtually nothing but rush to judgment. But this time, they had huge numbers of liberals to back them up. What’s that all about?

I’ve written about this tendency of liberals to fold when there is any indication that they might be wrong. Remember Shirley Sherrod? The Obama administration couldn’t get rid of her fast enough because they were afraid of the coverage on conservative media. And after the video was shown to be edited so as to make her look bad, Andrew Breitbart just changed his justification for why he was right to publish the video.

As liberals, we all should demand the truth. But now Nick Sandmann is making media tours instead of being given a time-out. This bully is now widely presented as a victim. And liberals have enabled this instead of fighting back with the truth.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

4 thoughts on “Bullying, Plausible Deniability, and Nick Sandmann

  1. If there was one good thing that could come of of this incident (but I highly doubt it will) it would be awareness that the “tomahawk chop” is inherently racist. It’s done at Atlanta baseball games and some college sports that still have (or recently changed) tribal team names. Fans will always defend it as “team tradition” and “done in fun.” Well, individual fans right be participating with no harm meant, but it certainly has a demeaning effect on Native viewers. And that’s clearly the intention of the teens seen doing it here.

    I’m fine with not using antisocial media to absolutely crush dumb young people for doing senseless things. But that’s different from justifying their behavior. When I was a kid and my mom caught me stealing a comic book, we marched right back to the store and I was forced to apologize.

    The same thing with these kids (at least, the tomahawk-chop ones). And the kids doing Nazi salutes in school pictures. If they attended a decent school, they’d get detention. But these are probably privileged-jerk academies and nothing will happen. Except they’ll have learned the lesson that being awful gets you attention.

    • The first thing I posted about this (on Facebook) acknowledged that this was, at base, just typically stupid teenage boys. I even think that Sandmann got himself trapped. There wasn’t any way for him to back down without losing face.

      What really bugs me is that he didn’t get a comic book moment. It’s been quite the opposite. He did something terrible. And now he gets to go around on national TV and have people tell him what a hero he is. It’s awful. He’ll grow up to be Brett Kavanaugh — regardless of how much he likes beer.

  2. Obama took far too long for a man of what I esteem is his intelligence to learn that there was no appeasing conservatives. I know it and I’ve never held office. The reflexive liberal/Democratic defensive crouch has been misguided since the George W Bush administration. Everyone who is persuadable can see plainly what monsters the Republicans are. Trying to appease them just depresses your base. And the concept of Liberal Media Bias has been a fiction from the beginning. The man who concocted it was Nixon. And he was guilty. The media people of those times should have noticed this when deciding whether to incorporate this Bias concept into their professional conduct.

    • I think there are some things that are outside intelligence. Obama’s temperament just didn’t allow for the way politics is in this country. It’s strange, because it was obvious. It could also have been hubris: he thought that he was so great that he could triumph where others had failed.

      What I don’t understand about the Republicans is why they don’t take their base for granted. The Democrats did that very effectively. Maybe they fear that if they don’t pander to these people they might note that the Democrats actually represent them better. “Annoying the libtards” only takes you so far.

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