The Current

Video of teen, Indigenous protester standoff let people confirm their own fears: writer

As more information emerges, a rush to draw damning conclusions from video of an Indigenous protester and teenagers in MAGA hats shows our personal and political bias, says one writer.

Longer video shows more detail of events in Washington, D.C. on Friday

Nick Sandmann is seen here with Nathan Phillips during a protest at the Lincoln Memorial on Friday. (KC Noland/YouTube)
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People who drew conclusions from a recent viral video — of an apparent standoff between an Indigenous protester and a Catholic schoolboy in Washingotn D.C. — did so to confirm their own perspectives on the world, according to a technology and culture writer.

"[People] are looking for sort of concrete evidence that the current political climate is producing an uptick in xenophobia," said Navneet Alang, a technology and culture writer based in Toronto.

"I think there is a bias ... or an investment in saying: 'Ah, look, this thing that I know to be true is happening and here it is," he told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti

The Indigenous Peoples March in Washington on Friday coincided with the March for Life, which drew thousands of anti-abortion protesters, including a group from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Ky.

A video that began circulating online shows a group of the high school boys in MAGA hats chanting, while one of their number stands extremely close to an Indigenous man as he chanted and played a drum. The behaviour of the teenager, Nick Sandmann, was quickly condemned online. 

Some are calling the student "the face of evil" and "a member of the KKK" according to Robby Soave, an associate editor at Reason magazine.

However, a longer video later surfaced, which shows a third group — the Black Hebrew Israelites — shouting slurs at the boys.

"If you just look at the brief clip, it's easy to mistake what's happening. You miss so much important context," Soave said.

Social media has has sped up and potentially corrupted discourse.- Naveneet Alang

A statement published by local media outlet WKRC from Sandmann, said the Black Hebrew Israelites directed "derogatory insults" at the school group.

In this letter, Sandmann states: "I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves. To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why [the Indigenous protester] had approached me." 

Alang argued that the reaction to the shorter clip proves that "social media has has sped up and potentially corrupted discourse," to create a climate where we rush to judgment before having all the facts.

"Objectivity is still a crucial thing," he said.

"We still need to focus on what is actually true and present a fair and balanced perspective of things."

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Written by Olivia Pasquarelli. Produced by Idella Sturino and Ines Colabrese.