Social media’s weekend of glory

I’ve quit and rejoined Twitter several times over the past year, but this is the exchange that finally broke me:

He didn’t write Unforgiven.

Michael Green is a grown man who wrote Blade Runner 2049, Logan and Alien: Covenant. Nick Sandmann, whose life he wants to destroy forever, and whom he would rather hate than see him repent for his alleged sins, is a high school student.

A high school student who, aside from wearing that stupid hat, really didn’t freaking do anything wrong.

Far from engaging in racially motivated harassment, the group of mostly white, MAGA-hat-wearing male teenagers remained relatively calm and restrained despite being subjected to incessant racist, homophobic, and bigoted verbal abuse by members of the bizarre religious sect Black Hebrew Israelites, who were lurking nearby. The BHI has existed since the late 19th century, and is best describes as a black nationalist cult movement; its members believe they are descendants of the ancient Israelites, and often express condemnation of white people, Christians, and gays. DC-area Black Hebrews are known to spout particularly vile bigotry.

Phillips put himself between the teens and the black nationalists, chanting and drumming as he marched straight into the middle of the group of young people. What followed was several minutes of confusion: The teens couldn’t quite decide whether Phillips was on their side or not, but tentatively joined in his chanting. It’s not at all clear this was intended as an act of mockery rather than solidarity.

One student did not get out of Phillips way as he marched, and gave the man a hard stare and a smile that many have described as creepy. This moment received the most media coverage: The teen has been called the product of a “hate factory” and likened to a school shooter, segregation-era racist, and member of the Ku Klux Klan. I have no idea what he was thinking, but portraying this as an example of obvious, racially-motivated hate is a stretch. Maybe he simply had no idea why this man was drumming in his face, and couldn’t quite figure out the best response? It bears repeating that Phillips approached him, not the other way around.

And that’s all there is to it. Phillips walked away after several minutes, the Black Hebrew Israelites continued to insult the crowd, and nothing else happened.

Here’s a close-up video of the encounter that went viral on social media this past weekend. Indiginous protestor Nathan Phillips, drum in hand, goes toward the throng of students, many of whom start chanting along with him. When he stands directly in front of Sandmann and starts drumming and singing in his face, you can hear someone say “I’m so confused.”

Some of the kids make “tomahawk chop” motions and act obnoxiously, but Sandmann literally doesn’t do anything. From the video he looks like he doesn’t really know what to do.

Sandmann is frankly the least disrespectful person there, but he’s the one who’s been designated the face of hatred in Donald Trump’s America and doxxed accordingly. (Well, him and another kid who wasn’t even there. Great job, internet!)

As of this writing, a lot of important people, and also Kathy Griffin, are still itching for a fight. This tweet, from a self-professed journalist, illustrates the mob mentality so perfectly it could have been scripted:

Yeah, what kind of asshole jumps to conclusions without reading the whole thing?

“I refuse to read it” should be Twitter’s new motto. Actually, “smoking crater where a social media platform once stood” should be Twitter’s new motto.

As for Michael Green, it’s not just that he rushed to judgment and sicced his followers on a teenager, but that he wants to stay angry at him. He’s asked point-blank if he wants the kid to repent and become a member of a more harmonious society, and his answer is a definitive “no.” The anger is precisely the point. It’s the 93 octane fuel on which Twitter runs.

Hopefully, Sandmann will grow up and make amends for wearing the hat associated with the worst President of our lifetimes. And hopefully Green will grow up and make amends for writing Green Lantern.

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