I saw the short video of the Covington Catholic School student face to face with the drumming Indigenous Elder. I believed what I was told, and watched as it echoed around my social media chamber, read the comments as they piled up, agreed that it was reprehensible. I listened to what the Elder said he felt in those minutes of his song.
Later I read the student’s statement and watched a longer video with more angles and discovered there was a bigger story. As counter-claims emerged I sensed embarrassment settle over the viral landscape. Clearly there’d been a rush to judgment. My first reaction was relief that I hadn’t re-tweeted or shared the video, that apart from a single “like” to someone’s comment I’d kept quiet. But then I remembered that I’d believed everything I was told and was plenty disgusted at those boys with their MAGA hats.
I also remembered that watching the first video I’d wondered about the student’s face. I was puzzled by his strange smile which didn’t actually seem jeering, though it did seem nervous and stubborn and maybe uncomprehending. As that video panned to students behind the Elder, I thought they seemed unsure what was going on, laughing uneasily like adolescents caught in something stupid. I remembered these tiny doubts about what I saw but I’d kept quiet about them too, because I was afraid if I voiced them I would be shouted down by the Comments crowd, and that just makes me more unsure of myself. Besides, by then I’d abandoned all doubt as I rushed off to absolute judgment.
Maybe the speed of viral is simply too fast. Too dangerous.
Is there room for judgment here? Of course. But oh that it could be slow and measured. Weighed. Maybe the speed of viral is simply too fast. Too dangerous. Some of the people I follow and most trust and respect are acknowledging their own rush to judgment and asking good questions. Some media are attempting to investigate further and thus add nuance. But it’s still pretty loud and lively out there.
Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I’m not re-parsing this situation or rushing to some illusory other side, or even saying my doubts were right. Just that they were there, which might have been a signal to me to pause and wait! I’ve now seen both ugliness and dignity in this scenario, but I honestly do not know what happened. I’ve realized again how quickly I join the rush and wish I’d hung on to the “benefit” of doubt a while longer.