Michael Goodwin: Covington kids’ race, religion and politics made moment dry tinder for social media bonfire

“Open another can of outrage” is a phrase I first heard years ago. The speaker attributed the words to a New York politician and accused him of keeping manufactured outrage on the shelf and releasing it only for political gain.

Young and naive, I was scandalized by the possibility. Now I long for the days when outrage was rationed and dispensed only with cynical purpose.

These days, outrage is everywhere, is genuine and spontaneous — and far more dangerous.


Technology gives it the power to erupt instantly over the slightest provocation — or no provocation at all. But technology, for all its magic, can’t turn outrage into hate.

Only people can do that, and the most hateful people in America today are leftists.

Exhibit A is the confrontation involving a group of Catholic high school kids from Kentucky and a Native American activist last Friday in Washington, after the right-to-life march. A partial video set the internet on fire because it claimed to show the students mocking and harassing the older Native American man, who was banging a small drum.

Regardless, at almost any other time in any other place, the confrontation would have been deemed unremarkable — because it was. Sure, there was disdain, but no violence or even pushing and shoving. And you can see more menacing looks than that on a rush-hour subway any day of the week.

The Washington incident, near the Lincoln Memorial, had a unique element: the Catholic kids were predominantly white and pro-life, and some wore pro-Trump Make America Great Again hats. Suddenly, the unremarkable incident was egregious enough to start World War III.

But the Washington incident, near the Lincoln Memorial, had a unique element: the Catholic kids were predominantly white and pro-life, and some wore pro-Trump Make America Great Again hats.

Suddenly, the unremarkable incident was egregious enough to start World War III.

The students were threatened with violence and their school closed Tuesday for security reasons. Leftists singled out one student for especially vicious attacks, a junior featured in the video who smiled but didn’t say a single word.

He was nonetheless declared the face of white supremacy and privilege, called the new Brett Kavanaugh, and so he, too, deserved a beating.

One writer,” Sarah Beattie, promised oral sex to “whoever manages to punch that maga kid in the face.” Others called for the school to be burned down — with the students in it.

All that happened within hours, minutes even, before a longer, more revealing video emerged. It showed a different story — that the confrontation started when a group of Black Hebrew Israelites shouted insults at the Catholic teens, cursing at them and calling them “crackers” and “babies of incest.”

It also showed the Native American man, Nathan Phillips, moving between the two groups and toward the students, who initially backed up. Some may have mocked him, but he was hardly blameless.

Videos and accounts continue to emerge, and some who initially criticized the students, including prominent Catholics, have apologized or deleted their nasty comments. But it’s impossible to erase the knowledge that something must be very rotten in America for such an insignificant incident to spark such dangerous reactions.

In that sense, it recalls last week’s BuzzFeed story and the way it, too, created an instant frenzy. For the better part of 20 hours, the media, despite being unable to confirm the anonymously sourced report, almost universally had President Trump on the path to certain impeachment — until the office of special counsel Robert Mueller debunked the story.

The air went out of that balloon, but within hours, the permanently outraged found a new cause — the incident involving the Covington, Ky., teens.

Trump, of course, is the common denominator. As others have noted, the Friday incident might not have happened had the Catholic kids been wearing school hats instead of pro-Trump hats.

But it’s a delusion to believe that, if Trump disappeared, America would be healed. The chasm opened in our society is not his fault, nor will it automatically close once he’s gone.

Those who oppose the coercively liberal culture found their voice in him, just as those who feel left out are bucking the ruling parties in Great Britain, France and across Europe.

While Trump is hardly an angel, the hatred for him is out of proportion to anything he says or does. Indeed, his accomplishments, instead of healing the haters, seem to be fueling ever greater outrage.

Haven’t these people ever heard of sedatives, psychiatrists or religion? Whatever their problem, the contempt for everything Trump, including his supporters, must stop before innocent people die.

As the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan once warned, a bullet has no friend once it leaves the gun.

So it is with unrestrained hate. It can kill without prejudice.

The rhetoric authorizing violence is already a bridge too far. If history is any guide, actual, widespread political violence won’t be far behind.

This time, the focus was on high school kids who did no great harm. Yet they were targeted as if they were Public Enemy No. 1.


What will spark for the next bonfire of outrage? Who will be the target?

Based on recent days, it’s likely there will be no real justification — just warped hearts and minds, full of hate for Trump and anybody who supports him.