The Video vs. The Media

Yesterday Reason posted an article about the incident at the Lincoln Memorial. The magazine took the time to analyze the entire video of the incident.

This is the entire video as posted at YouTube:

Here are the key points of the video as noted by Reason:

Phillips enters the picture around the 1:12 mark, but if you skip to that part, you miss an hour of the Black Hebrew Israelites hurling obscenities at the students. They call them crackers, faggots, and pedophiles. At the 1:20 mark (which comes after the Phillips incident) they call one of the few black students the n-word and tell him that his friends are going to murder him and steal his organs. At the 1:25 mark, they complain that “you give faggots rights,” which prompted booing from the students. Throughout the video they threaten the kids with violence, and attempt to goad them into attacking first. The students resisted these taunts admirably: They laughed at the hecklers, and they perform a few of their school’s sports cheers.

It was at this moment that Phillips, who had attended a nearby peace protest led by indigenous peoples, decided to intervene. He would later tell The Detroit Free Press that the teenagers “were in the process of attacking these four black individuals” and he decided to attempt to de-escalate the situation. He seems profoundly mistaken: The video footage taken by the black nationalists shows no evidence the white teenagers had any intention of attacking. Nevertheless, Phillips characterized the kids as “beasts” and the hate-group members as “their prey”:

“There was that moment when I realized I’ve put myself between beast and prey,” Phillips said. “These young men were beastly and these old black individuals was their prey, and I stood in between them and so they needed their pounds of flesh and they were looking at me for that.”

Again, all the evidence suggests that Phillips got it backward.

He also claimed that he heard chants of “build the wall.” While I cannot rule out the possibility that some of the kids indeed chanted this—those who were wearing MAGA hats are presumably Trump supporters—I did not hear a single utterance of the phrase in the nearly two hours of video footage I watched. Admittedly, the kids do a lot of chanting and it’s not always possible to tell what they are saying. Their stated explanation is that they engaged in a series of school sports chants: That’s what one student told a local news reporter. His account largely tracks with the video.

“We are an all-male school that loves to get hyped up,” said this student. “And as we have done for years prior, we decided to do some cheers to pass time. In the midst of our cheers, we were approached by a group of adults led by Nathan Phillips, with Phillips beating his drum. They forced their way to the center of our group. We initially thought this was a cultural display since he was beating along to our cheers and so we clapped to the beat.” According to this student, the smiling student was grinning because he was enjoying the music, but eventually became confused, along with everyone else. (Indeed, multiple people can be heard to shout, “what is going on?”)

It would be impossible to definitively state that none of the young men did anything wrong, offensive, or problematic, at some point, and maybe the smiling student was attempting to intimidate Phillips. But there’s shockingly little evidence of wrongdoing, unless donning a Trump hat and standing in a group of other people doing the same is now an act of harassment or violence. Phillips’ account, meanwhile, is at best flawed, and arguably deliberately misleading.

Unless other information emerges, the school’s best move would be to have a conversation with the boys about the incident, perhaps discuss some strategies for remaining on perfect behavior at highly charged political rallies—where everybody is recording everything on a cell phone—and let that be the end of it.

The writer accurately sums up the situation:

The boys are undoubtedly owed an apology from the numerous people who joined this social media pile-on. This is shaping up to be one of the biggest major media misfires in quite some time.

This is what a media mob looks like, and provides us with another reason to distrust the media.

 

 

The Need To Protect Free Speech

Free speech is something most Americans take for granted. We don’t necessarily agree with what someone is saying or approve of their language, but generally speaking, we respect free speech. Free speech is under attack in America from a number of directions. Some of them are very subtle and seem almost logical, and some are totally obvious. Both need to be dealt with quickly and openly.

As I have stated in previous articles, I am reading Stephen Coughlin’s book Catastrophic Failure, which is about the dangers America faces at the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood and other related groups. The book talks about the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the human rights movement in the United Nations. The book explains that the OIC definition of human rights includes the provision that these rights have to be in compliance with Sharia Law. This means that any negative statements about Islam are not considered acceptable free speech, but are punishable by law and may result in the death penalty. The goal of the OIC is to bring non-Muslim countries under Sharia Law–in America that means ending the First Amendment right of free speech. We saw the OIC in action recently when Pamela Geller was condemned for a “Draw Mohammed” contest in Texas which resulted in violence. She was blamed for the violence–not the people who committed the violence. This was an attempt to turn public opinion away from the idea that all free speech is protected. There is nothing in our Constitution that protects us from being offended. However, the First Amendment does protect our right of free speech. The press response to what happened in Texas was a very subtle attack on free speech. It needs to be exposed and countered.

A more obvious attack on free speech was initiated by the U.S. Government recently against “Reason Magazine.” Reason posted an article yesterday telling the story.

The article gives the background of the attack on free speech:

For the past two weeks, Reason, a magazine dedicated to “Free Minds and Free Markets,” has been barred by an order from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York from speaking publicly about a grand jury subpoena that court sent to Reason.com.

The subpoena demanded the records of six people who left hyperbolic comments at the website about the federal judge who oversaw the controversial conviction of Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht. Shortly after the subpoena was issued, the government issued a gag order prohibiting Reason not only from discussing the matter but even acknowledging the existence of the subpoena or the gag order itself. As a wide variety of media outlets have noted, such actions on the part of the government are not only fundamentally misguided and misdirected, they have a tangible chilling effect on free expression by commenters and publications alike.

Yesterday, after preparing an extensive legal brief, Reason asked the US Attorney’s Office to join with it in asking that the gag order – now moot and clearly an unconstitutional prior restraint – be lifted. This morning, the US Attorney’s Office asked the Court to vacate the order, which it did. We are free to tell the story for the first time.

The article at Reason further reports:

Regardless of the legal details, the growing government demand for user data and our own experience with court-enforced silence on a self-evidently ridiculous investigation raise important questions about free speech and the abuse of power.

Reason’s unmoderated comment space is rare among comparable publications and has, over the years, developed into a forum that is by turns exciting, intellectually advanced, outlandish, cringe-inducing, and more foul-mouthed than any locker room this side of the Crab Nebula. It is something to be celebrated as a voluntary community that can be engaged or ignored as the spirit moves you (we say that as writers whose work and physical shortcomings rarely escape unscathed from any thread). However trollish many of our commenters can be, they have created a sphere of free speech that delivers on one of the great promises of the Internet, which is unbridled expression, dialogue, and argument.

We took risks by creating an autonomous zone in which our readers are left to their own devices. Some of the risk is reputational—how many other serious outlets allow anonymous commenters to run riot as we do? Some of the risk is legal, as in the current situation.

One further note about anonymity in our comment threads. Commenting on our site requires registration using a working email address (which is hidden from public view unless a commenter chooses to have it displayed). We also log IP addresses. We do both of these things in order to fight spammers and trolls–people who have shown enormous determination in their efforts to disrupt the discussion. 

Our commenters are generally a tech-savvy bunch. It is likely that those who have a desire for a very high degree of anonymity are taking control of that themselves, using anonymous email addresses and tools to prevent us from logging IPs connected to them.

But Reason.com is not the dark web. Many of our regular commenters voluntarily display either personal website information or their email addresses. In fact, three of the six commenters subject to this very subpoena voluntarily displayed public links to personal blogs at Blogger as part of their comments, one of which further links to a Google+ page. Raising the question: How can the government view these so-called “threats” as so nefarious when people posted them in such a non-anonymous fashion? 

Please follow the link above to read the entire article. It is an amazing saga of an out-of-control government trying to conceal the fact that it is out of control. Thank you, editors of Reason for standing up to this threat.