The Corner

White House

MAGA Hats and Double Standards

(Jim Bourg/REUTERS)

In the cacophony of malice that was generated this weekend against the Covington Catholic High School students who were falsely accused of surrounding a Native American man and chanting “Build the wall”, those who jumped the gun and have a sense of rectitude have since apologized for participating in the unwarranted pile-on. Others chose to only walk-back their attacks, resorting to the continued character assassination of teenage boys based upon the apparel they wore.

The students in the approximately 4-minute video that went viral after being recorded at the March for Life were censured by Twitter blue-checks on both sides of the aisle — that is, until the longer, nearly two-hour video emerged, turning the tables on the prevailing narrative that the boys were harassing Nathan Phillips, the Native American man beating a drum who had pushed himself into the crowd of cheering boys until he was face-to-face with the young, MAGA-hat wearing student whose face has been immortalized.

While some apologies were issued following the surfacing of the full story — Meghan McCain, for example, apologized for having “reacted too quickly” — others have decided to continue blaming the students. The boys, according to these figures, should’ve known better: Specifically, if they didn’t want to attract attention to themselves, and if they wanted to avoid confrontation, they shouldn’t have worn their MAGA hats.

Alyssa Milano tweeted on Sunday that “The red MAGA hat is the new white hood. Without white boys being able to empathize with other people, humanity will continue to destroy itself. #FirstThoughtsWhenIWakeUp”. Putting aside the irony of her involvement in stoking the fake-news fire that contributed to the violent and professional threats to student Nick Sandmann’s family and to the school, necessitating school be shut down for a day, the argument that the MAGA hat symbolizes white supremacy is an absurd one on its face. By wearing the hat, the case goes, the Covington boys were representing a set of morally reprehensible ideas and were asking for trouble. Yet it was the Black Hebrew Israelites hurling slurs at the students, and calling the black students racial epithets, with very little condemnation from the internet choir that eagerly spread the false story that the boys were chanting “Build the wall.”  The argument that a dinky red hat symbolizes white supremacy, and that Catholic-school students are a monolith that would be cognizant of this idea that it does and wear it, beggars belief. (A white-supremacist administration would surely not enjoy the support of nearly half the voting public, for starters. )

How about the charge that the hat had no place at a pro-life rally? Personally, I consider it incoherent. The March for Life has this administration’s support, and in 2017, Vice President Mike Pence became the first vice president to speak at the March for Life since 1974, when it began. Trump has promised to appoint pro-life justices, and has already confirmed two. He reinstated the Mexico City Policy, ensuring that American tax dollars are not funding abortion overseas. These policies are aligned with the interests of the pro-life cause. By a utilitarian standard, the March for Life has forged a successful (if transactional) relationship with the Trump administration.

If progressives’ new standard is that campaign apparel for a president can be offensive depending on the president’s actions while in office, they’re applying that standard inconsistently. Where was the current outrage during the last administration? Andrew Lawrence, senior researcher at Media Matters, tweeted that “If you’re still wearing a maga hat after Charlottesville, and baby cages, and Muslim ban, and trans military ban, and using “Pocahontas” as an insult…then yea, people are going to assume some things about you.”

I don’t agree with the travel ban, but where was the outrage directed at the Obama administration, whose administration was responsible for dropping 26,171 bombs on seven Muslim-majority countries in 2016 alone? Was there similar criticism aimed at President Obama when migrant children were being held in cages at the border in 2014? Did the same people haranguing those boys for wearing Trump hats direct their outrage toward people whose cars were emblazoned with Obama bumper stickers? If anything, they’re wistful for the last presidency. Can we not also assume that Obama-supporters are reflective of the actions of the former president, or do we grant them the benefit of the doubt because he wasn’t as ham-fisted?

Take note of anyone who blames the Covington boys’ clothes to justify their outrage. They shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Marlo Safi is a Collegiate Network Fellow with National Review.

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