What Young Men of Courage Teach Us about Ourselves

You might have seen a headline or two about how “Students in Trump Hats Mock Native American.” The story is a carefully crafted piece of propaganda, with a deceptive image and edited video at its core. As Daniel McCarthy points out, “it was a tale perfectly tailored to liberal biases: white Catholic teenagers in MAGA hats had harassed an old and frail Indian veteran during the March for Life, which was also the date of an Indigenous People’s March.”

The opposite appears to be true: a left-wing activist harassed a bunch of young men waiting for their bus after attending the March for Life. Instead of taunting, the young men were taunted. Instead of causing a situation, the young men were restrained and avoided a worse situation. And the supposed smirk of an insolent child harassing a poor old man was more likely a friendly smile turned grimace of a young man of faith standing his ground in the face of unprovoked leftist harassment.

The actual story of what happened and the story of how many of us reacted to the fake news can teach us all a bit about ourselves. It shows us that we have not grasped what is really happening around us. It is instructive about the people we consider independent thinkers and courageous leaders. And it is telling about how far many of us have fallen to the Leftist world view about manliness and men.

The fact that it was propaganda should have been clear from the start. The story focused on a still image of a fluid situation, with an emphasis on a single facial expression. This is the media’s modus operandi in the age of clickbait headlines and fake news, since people hardly read past the headline anymore.

Likewise, the story included only one video, despite the fact that one can see several phones out filming. Vital context was missing. Then there was the language used to describe the two sides: on the one side was a white, Christian guy wearing a MAGA hat, on the other was a Vietnam vet and “elder” (as if the Left cares about vets or respecting elders).

Add to that the obvious fact that the man beating the drum was a leftist activist. He was there for the neo-Marxist Indigenous People’s Day, for one. For another, his tearful account of events read like a handbook of leftist talking points. Everything about the story reeked of incompleteness and bias, and the story was clearly being used for political messaging. It had all of the markers of propaganda.

Our Conservative Journalists Failed
Given all of this, why did anyone on the right accept it? It was clearly meant to create a first impression based on selected information. It was clearly an incomplete story with plenty of warning signs that it was a setup. It was obviously fake news. And many (
not all) of us ate it up. Why? The first lesson of this story is how fake the news is, and how much we still don’t get it.

The story is also instructive about how pathetic our blue-checked conservativeelites,” right-leaning media, and conservative outlets are. They accepted the story from the liberal media without question and were quick to jump on the bandwagon of condemning the students. For many of them, their first instinct was to interpret events as if MAGA-hat wearing, Christian men are naturally deplorable while drum-beating, leftist activists are innocent. They seem willing to trust a man attending the Indigenous People’s Day more than men attending the March for Life. Almost none of them picked up on the fact that it was clearly propaganda.

It is as though conservative journalists don’t do any actual journalism.

I follow leftist blogs and groups to stay aware of what is happening, and it was immediately clear who and what the supposed victim of the event is: a leftist activist with a history of this exact same storyline. The Left was simultaneously celebrating him for his activism while also presenting him as a poor victim. Supposed thinkers and media on the Right didn’t notice. What does it say about us that we still listen to these people?

A Greater Failure of Nerve
But by far the most telling, and concerning, element of the story is just how many of us on the Right have been emasculated. Do we have any spine or manliness left? Will we not stand for each other?

As far as I can tell from watching the many videos of the event, reading the various accounts of events, evaluating the credibility of the sources, and considering how I would react, the young man, Nick Sandmann, whose face is now famous was not smirking. He was smiling, then grimacing.

The young men didn’t pick up on what was happening quickly enough, but if you look closely, you can almost see the moment they figure it out. At first Sandmann is smiling, being friendly. Then he sees what is happening, and at that moment, resolve flashes across his eyes. The smile doesn’t fade, but the tone of it changes to something less friendly. There is a drum beating in his ear, so the smile serves as a good cover for a grimace. And if you think you wouldn’t grimace when someone is banging a drum in your ear and staring you in the face, you are kidding yourself. You can almost see the gears turning as he considers what to do. But then his instincts kick in. He doesn’t look to his friends for support. He stares down his opponent. He doesn’t fight back, but he doesn’t back down either.

If my son had traveled to Washington D.C. with his male classmates to attend the “March for Life,” I would be glad. If he had the gumption to wear a MAGA hat in D.C., I would be impressed. If he showed half of the positive attitude and comradery with his fellow young men as the men did on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial while waiting for their bus, I would be pleased. If my son was friendly enough to smile and welcome others beating drums, as the video clearly shows the young men doing, I would smile. And if, after it became clear that the drum-beating men were not friends but instead there do disrupt, my son stood his ground without flinching, I would be damn proud. Because that’s what good men do—they don’t let themselves be pushed around by bullies and haters.

Instead of celebrating this, conservatives seem more inclined to believe the fake world of Gillette and the Left. Some, after seeing the full story and realizing the men didn’t do what others said, still think the young men are at fault because they didn’t run away or because they dared to wear MAGA hats. What kind of manliness is that?

When Indignation Is Righteous
The young men were there first and they had every right to be there. Why should they leave? Would conservatives have been more pleased if the young men had run crying to their mothers and chaperones? How can we say we want our sons to become men while telling them men are never supposed to stand up for anything because it is “bad manners”? When do our conservative betters think we should stand our ground?

Many of us seem to have forgotten, but being a conservative man didn’t always mean running away. I think of young men at West Point singing “men of freedom, stand ye steady, those who hate are ever ready…free men never yield.” I think of John Stuart Mill’s line that “A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

Conservatives used to understand that a gentleman is one whose indignation is roused at appropriate times, not that it is never roused at all. Conservatives used to honor young men who stood their ground. They used to stand by them.

Watching the courageous young men is instructive. It tells us how we must be watchful about fake news. It shows us how we have to think for ourselves, since our “influencers” clearly don’t. And it teaches most of us a lesson about manliness.

The young men in the video, whatever their youthful exuberance and lack of awareness, did well in the moment of trial. A man doesn’t always know what is coming, but when trouble finds him and he is surprised, he should display the same instinctual resolve of the young man from Covington Catholic High School: stare evildoers in the face and stand your ground.

Photo credit: YouTube

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About Bill Kilgore

Bill Kilgore is the pseudonym of a writer serving in the United States military. It should go without saying that the views expressed in his articles are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. government.