Last night, Covington Catholic High School graduate Nicholas Sandmann spoke at the Republican National Convention. Before tonight’s slate of speakers causes Sandmann’s appearance to recede somewhat in the news cycle, it is worth a few words about him and his ordeal.
Before the 2019 March for Life, Sandmann was a nobody. But an awkward encounter at the March with an interloping activist, captured on video and misleadingly edited, sufficed to turn him into a figure of utter hatred on both social and mainstream media. As he put it last night, “the full war machine of the mainstream media revved up into attack mode.” For a time, the mere sight of Sandmann’s face caused for some a reaction akin to that compelled by pictures of Emmanuel Goldstein for residents of Airstrip One in George Orwell’s 1984.
Sandmann was ultimately vindicated, and has now settled defamation lawsuits with CNN and the Washington Post, two outlets that facilitated the Two Minutes’ Hate against him. But even to this day, some continue to find him repulsive. Others take a more curious tack against him. E.g., the Huffington Post, which lumps him in with the “right-wing media system” that supposedly created him and sustained him beyond his merited relevance:
Nicholas Sandmann and many of the speakers at the #RNC2020 are purely creations of the right-wing media ecosystem, whose viral moments or relevance would have faded if it wasn’t for their utility to conservative media and their white grievance politics. https://t.co/9BKX2lxDip
— HuffPost (@HuffPost) August 26, 2020
But Sandmann is not a product of conservative grift. He was the failed target of a character assassination that was subsequently proven totally misguided. His elevation from anonymity was an attempt at personal destruction, one he fortunately proved resistant to. What happened to him was a perfect example of how politics shouldn’t work: premature judgments, emotion replacing reason, real people becoming symbols, conformity replacing thought, the many bearing down upon the few. He now has every right to express publicly his hope that what happened to him not happen to others. One hopes that his message finds a reception.