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Monday, January 21, 2019

The Covington chronicles: on hating the face of a teenage boy

What is it about the boy's face that caused so many people to hate him and wish to do him harm?

One of the most chilling aspects of the hatred fanned by the duplicitous reporting on the videotaped incident regarding the Covington students and the 60-something Native American has been the venomous rage directed against the face of one of the students, as well as the conclusions drawn about the expression on the face and what it might signify about the person.

I’ve talked about Orwell before in connection with all of this, and I’m going to bring him up again, because the anger unleashed resembles Orwell’s Two Minutes Hate (although this hasn’t been limited to two minutes at a time). In Nineteen Eighty-Four Orwell wrote of the feeling stirred up in the audience—interestingly enough, by a propaganda film designed for the purpose:

A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.

The image that provoked a truly hideous rage in an enormous number of people on the left and some on the right was of a teenaged boy named Nicholas Sandmann, whose statement can be found here along with the video screenshot that seems to have sparked the most outrage:

“Bullying” doesn’t even begin to describe what has been done to Sandmann by supposedly responsible and thoughtful adults. Even if the original story of what occurred had been true—and it was most definitely not—the depth of the rage would be way out of line....

From the article by Ruth Graham, which shows us what the author is fantasizing based on the manipulated story and video:

I think the real reason the clip has spread is simpler: It’s the kid’s face. The face of self-satisfaction and certitude, of edginess expressed as cruelty. The face remains almost completely still as his peers hoot in awed delight at his bravado. The face is both punchable and untouchable. Many observers recognized it right away.

What is it they “recognized”? A face that is now permissible to hate, apparently; they’re not shy about writing about their hate and signing their names to it. That face is white, male, and supposedly “privileged” (whether they know a single thing about that person’s actual life circumstances or not). I have come to think of it in a kind of shorthand as hatred towards the “frat boy” in their minds. And it’s not new, although I’ve never before seen a national eruption of this hatred expressed towards someone who is not yet an adult

This hatred is bigoted and prejudiced, pure and simple. The hatred’s origins lie not just in the work the media had undertaken to shape its audience towards feeling this hatred—although that is most definitely part of it—but it also is an opportunity for the viewer to draw in all sorts of historical references to other white men and/or boys they have grown to hate, and to make often-absurd parallels....

The people hating on Sandmann ought to be ashamed of themselves, but there is no indication of even a flicker of that feeling. Nor are they likely to damp down their hatred based on the evidence of Sandmann’s innocence.

They know that face, you see, and it’s the face of their enemy.

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