Accuracy in Media

There is a new rule from our friends on the authoritarian left: If you’re going to support President Donald Trump, you better be careful where you do it.

Only in the comfort of your home, says the Black Entertainment Television website. “In light of recent events,” it intoned on Monday, “Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ hats have become taboo to wear in public.”

The BET website was writing about an incident last Saturday in which two white teens from Pennsylvania who were in town for a field trip went into the Howard University cafeteria for lunch wearing pro-Trump paraphernalia. Both had MAGA hats they had bought the previous day at Pentagon City Mall in Virginia, and one was wearing a pro-Trump T-shirt.

Students at Howard, a historically black college in Washington, D.C., did not even wait for the girls to get their lunch before setting upon them. One student grabbed one of the girl’s hats; another said “F— y’all.” Others stared and made comments, according to the girls.

Finally, the scene grew so uncomfortable the chaperones on the trip decided to find lunch elsewhere. But the media was all too quick to blame the victims. “The teenagers who wore MAGA hats to Howard aren’t martyrs for free speech,” screeched a Washington Post headline. “These White Women Wore Trump Hats To Howard University And Tried To Play Victim After Getting Called Out,” said the BET website.

There is nothing for them to get “called out” for. The girls say neither they nor their chaperones realized Howard is a historically black college. One said that even if she had known, she has the right to publicly support the president.

And they didn’t “try to play the victim.” They were the victims of harassment from a supposedly open-minded college community that, it turns out, cannot countenance other ideas.

“You came to an HBCU (historically black colleges and universities), one of the few places Black people have historically been relatively safe from racism, and openly supported a racist,” tweeted someone who goes by BlackLorenaBobbitt. “What did you expect?”

“To get lunch without being harassed,” one of the teens tweeted back.

“You said, It’s unfortunate that Trump supporters have more fear when going places than others, tell me, how could this possibly be true?” tweeted another person. Perhaps because no one harasses Trump opponents in the lunch line.

Howard reacted with a series of tweets that did not provide much clarity, much less moral leadership. “Though this is an institution where freedom of thought, choice, and expression are ever-present, we will never compromise our values or allow others to convince us to do so.”

HU Dining, which operates the cafeteria, tried to insinuate that it had kicked the girls off campus, although the girls said they left voluntarily. “We will take any action necessary to ensure that HU students feel safe&comfortable in our dining spaces,” it tweeted. “The group is no longer on campus.”

But the chilling aspect of all this is the way the media leapt to the defense of the notion that it’s all right to harass anyone who supports the president and to declare some of the country off limits to those people.

Molly Roberts of The Washington Post summed it up thusly:

“As stifling to debate as the ‘safe space’ argument can be at schools across the country, Howard is one of the few examples of the term at its purest and most persuasive. ‘Safety’ as many students today use the word has little to do with physical harm and more to do with emotional discomfort. Safety at Howard, from its founding, has meant, well, safety.” She then goes on to recount Howard’s history – it was founded shortly after the Civil War as a seminary for African-American clergy. Then she says it was “a place for African Americans to study without fear not just of racist words, but of racist acts – of people stopping them from going to school at all, of people discriminating against them when they were there, and yes, of people trying to hurt them.

“Howard students did not simply disagree with the teens who appeared on their campus. The those-were-the-days Trumpian worldview the girls were advertising was anathema to everything Howard has always stood for. And the white supremacists Trump continues to court are exactly the people Howard was designed to protect its students from and equip them to counter.”

So either Molly Roberts thinks these two high school girls were about to start beating up a lot of Howard students, or she thinks they are incapable of handling any thoughts with which they don’t agree. The students at Howard did not encounter any racist words or acts from these girls. The girls were not trying to hurt anyone. They merely were doing something completely uncontroversial before last November – wearing clothes that supported the president.

And if the whole object is to “equip them to counter” other ideas, how can one countenance college students intimidating high school girls over what hats and shirts they wear? How does that counter the ideas? What does it teach the Howard students about resolving conflict and moving toward a less racist society? That the key is to intimidate anyone who doesn’t agree? Or that debate is for sissies and real men or women snatch hats off of heads instead?

It is part of a larger trend by the mainstream media to not just excuse but justify, even champion, any behavior, no matter how violent or mean or irrational, so long as it opposes President Trump. This is not news gathering. It is an attempt to incite a mob. And it’s a disgrace to the country at what so many of its proud media organizations have allowed themselves to become.

“Our campus is a space for educational engagement to occur between both those who do and do not share our values,” Howard’s administration tweeted. “Thankfully, when visitors set foot on our campus they are met with some of the brightest and best students in our nation.”

We must hope as Americans the brightest and best of Howard’s students weren’t the ones representing the school in the cafeteria last Saturday.

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