Thursday, February 7, 2019

Covington Catholic Pro-Life MAGA Boy Threatens Wide Legal Action v. Journalists and Dioceses as "Operation Stand Your Ground" Rolls Out on U.S. Campuses

And now there's this development in the story of the Covington Catholic pro-life MAGA boys, as Sarasi pointed out to us in a comment here yesterday: Carol Zimmerman writes,

Two weeks after the much-talked about and interpreted incident that occurred between Catholic high school students, a Native American tribal leader and members of another protest group, lawyers for one of the students sent more than 50 letters to media outlets, individual journalists, celebrities and Catholic dioceses and archdioceses warning of possible legal action. … 
The list of letter recipients includes The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and National Public Radio along with the Kentucky dioceses of Covington and Lexington and the archdioceses of Louisville, Kentucky, and Baltimore. The Baltimore and Louisville archdioceses and the Diocese of Lexington confirmed to CNS that they received the letter.

And at the very same time that this news comes out, the following news also breaks — as if the two stories are side-by-side stories, interlinking stories, stories dependent on each other: as right-wing media outlets and social media are reporting, "Operation Stand Your Ground" is now underway on U.S. high-school and university campuses. Posters of Nicholas Sandmann in his MAGA cap are plastering U.S. campuses, and t-shirts of him in his MAGA cap with the racist "Stand your ground" slogan are being offered for sale in the same places.

Questions we might ask:

1. It's an astonishing step for a litigant and high-powered legal team to threaten legal action against not one journalist but a whole slew of major publications, plus bishops and dioceses. I can think of only two possible explanations for such a step: either the litigant occupies such a moral high ground that he think he's entitled to proceed forcefully to assert his rights in the case, or the litigant and his legal team are engaged in overt, blatant bullying because they know there's something to hide behind the loud bullying. What's the explanation in this case?

2. If the latter explanation obtains in this case, then what does the need for blatant bullying targeting one major media outlet after another, plus bishops and dioceses, tell us about the moral ground being occupied by the litigants? This right on the heels of the immediate choice of the same litigious folks to hire a high-powered right-wing PR firm to put out a media blitz…. Where is the funding for all of this coming from? Who is banking on the MAGA boys' faces to become the new symbol of aggrieved white U.S. Christians standing their ground against the media and minorities? The fact that the PR blitz was followed by an immediate "Stand your ground" branding blitz targeting, in particular, high-school students and university students suggests someone somewhere — someone (or several someones) with deep pockets — is working hard to brand the Covington Catholic MAGA boys in this particular way.

3. What does it say about and to a Christian community that it is now being branded in this way, that it has permitted itself to be branded in this way — that its best and brightest spokespersons immediately caved into the bullying campaign and permitted this branding campaign to be mounted with no pushback? What does it say that this has become the face of the "pro-life" movement that led more than half of white U.S. Christians to elect Donald Trump? What does all of this say about the "pro-life" movement and the idolatrous stance to that movement many U.S. Christians, including many so-called "liberal" ones, have adopted?

4. Is a picture of Nicholas Sandmann with his MAGA cap really the lesson that Catholic parents want to teach their young people at this point in American history: here is the holy martyr; what the Covington Catholic MAGA boys did is brave and morally exemplary; this is the face of American Catholicism at its best? 

5. Are these the lessons the U.S. Catholic community now wants to impart, and is this the face the U.S. Catholic community really wants to show the world as "the" Catholic face?

These are questions well worth asking, it seems to me, though it's uncomfortable to ask them as major Catholic spokespersons and Catholic journals, including so-called "liberal" ones, fall totally silent in the face of the bullying, leaving anyone else asking these questions susceptible to stepped-up bullying from these folks.

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