Only a matter of time before the social media mob comes for you

Not content with the bonfire of journalistic credibility that Buzzfeed set alight on Friday, much of the mainstream media have now made matters even worse. Over the weekend, they directed their politicized venom at a group of teenage boys from Covington Catholic School in Kentucky. So because of their inherent political bias, they got it very wrong once again.

As the March for Life in Washington wound down, a video surfaced online showing what appears to be a group of high school students, many clad in “MAGA” hats, confronting Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist. This set off all kinds of social justice alarm bells. The mainstream media leapt into action, condemning the students with ferocity and vindictiveness.

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Journalists went on the offensive. CNN ran an article titled “Teens in Make America Great Again hats mocked a Native American elder at the Lincoln Memorial” then later changed the headline to “Teen in confrontation with Native American says he was trying to diffuse the situation.” Anna Merlan of Jezebel tweeted out a request for Covington Catholic School yearbooks in what appeared to be an effort to identify, and to possibly dox, the students. Former CNN host Reza Aslan posted “honest question have you ever seen a more punchable face than this kids” with a photo of one of the Covington students seen in the video.

The apparatchiks of the social justice left piled on to ensure that heads would roll. The activist gathering site Change.org published a petition demanding several changes at Covington Catholic School, including the termination of the principal. Clearly petrified by the avalanche of bad press, the administrators at Covington initially condemned the actions of their own students, some of whom were said to face expulsion. There were even reports that Covington parents have received death threats.

Unsurprisingly, this entire incident has been egregiously mischaracterized to bash the Catholic students who showed support for Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border MORE and to protect some left wing adult protestors from accountability for acting very poorly. The mainstream media saw an opportunity to advance a narrative of “white privilege” boys disrespecting a Native American elder for no reason other than a “dislike of others.” They of course ran with it.

But that is not what really happened. You should watch the full video of the incident. The truth is that these high school students were harassed, mocked, and threatened leading up to the confrontation with Philips, who chose to get in their faces and pound his drum. Present before and after the entire exchange was a radical activist group called the Black Israelites. They yelled all kinds of phrases at the Covington students from “white people go back to Europe” to “the biggest terrorist on the face of this earth is the pale faced man” to “come any closer and you gonna catch it” to “I hope you crackers are ready” to “you have a school shooter haircut.”

There were slurs, all manners of hateful language, and all directed at the Covington students. These are teenage boys who were being menaced by a group of adult men. It was in that circumstance that Philips, clearly well aware of what was going on, decided march into the crowd of Covington students as the radical activist group of Black Israelites egged him on.

Once again, the mainstream media has utterly disgraced itself with its coverage of this incident. They could not resist the opportunity to slam a group of teenage boys who match the preconceived notions of “white privilege.” Their support for Donald Trump made them de facto guilty in the eyes of many journalists before anything was said or done. That these students were defamed, with their lives possibly forever damaged, for the transient satisfaction of reckless journalists is appalling. There is much soul searching that needs to be done in newsrooms across the country.

There is also a bigger lesson to be drawn. Social media mobs are a growing cancer on this country. Those in newsrooms have an obligation not to carelessly dramatize such malignant efforts at the cost of personal destruction. This affects all of us. It does not matter who you are, whether you are active online, care about politics, or keep to yourself. Social media mobs may come for you, for your spouse, or for your child. They engage in a ritualistic destruction of online reputations. Even a trip to the Lincoln Memorial for high school students can turn into something catastrophic.

Journalists must find it in themselves to be better than this, especially those who have the power of large online platforms. Perhaps the only way we can change the current climate is to hold accountable those who play into the rage mobs and remind the rest of us that, no matter who you are, it is only a matter of time before the online vigilantes come for you too.

Buck Sexton (@BuckSexton) is the cohost of the show “Rising” on Hill TV.