I haven’t commented on the Covington/MAGAhat story, partly because I’ve been too busy. I’ve also been unable to get traction on the thing, as conflicting stories have shot across the media ecosystem. Hot takes have proliferated, backfired, and backtracked at a speedy and competitive clip.
Here I’d like to try and step back a bit by asking: what does this story tell us about America in 2019? Further, what does it suggest about the near future?
My purpose in this post is to stir conversations and ideation, not to proffer my own take. It’s like what I do with the Future Trends Forum.
If you would like help getting started, the Wikipedia page is fairly comprehensive and offers many links. This On The Media program does a decent job of critically sketching the media firestorm. Josh Rothman explores many viewpoints soberly.
Or consider some topics and hypotheses (to put it charitably) that have emerged in discussions around the event. I don’t endorse these, nor offer them in any ranking, but instead to share them as evidence, to help prompt reflection:
- Covington shows American partisan polarization accelerating.
- It’s a sign of Twitter (and perhaps social media in general) corroding political discourse by forcing conversations that are shallow, frantic, and far too fast. Will this story take social media down a notch, or will journalism’s reputation suffer? Alternatively, will Covington serve as an object lesson to drive better Twitter usage?
- It shows either the rise of racism, conservative religion, and hypermasculinity under Trump, or the growing intolerance of progressives, or both. (Were there any women involved in the event?)
- It shows the rich religious diversity of the United States in a single scene, including Catholicism, some aspect of Native American belief, and the Black Hebrew Israelites. Or it demonstrates various forms of interfaith conflict, which might rise (i.e., anti-Catholicism).
- The possibility of multiple legal actions reminds us of how litigious Americans are.
- The Twitter account which shared the first video that kicked this whole thing off is gone, and Congress is investigating its identity. This could become another interesting case of anonymity persisting even in an age of widespread information and snooping, much as we still don’t know who invented blockchain technology or who came up with the idea of stochastic terrorism.
- Does Covington point out tensions rising towards civil conflict, as Andrew Sullivan suggests? Or is it instead a watershed moment when Americans peer over the edge, stare into the abyss, and pull back? (I’ve been tracking this possibility since the 2016 election)
- Are the high school students the sign of a new, post-Millennial conservative generation? If so, does that break my generational pivot forecast? Or are they such outliers that the generational shift may continue?
Those are starters. There are more.
So, what do you think? What does Covington mean? The comment box stands ready for you.
(thanks to Laura Gibbs on Twitter, my Facebook discussants, and friends on- and off-line for thinking about this with me)