In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, there is a scene in which a group of Medieval villagers drag a woman through the town square excitedly shouting that they’ve found a witch. They take her to the town magistrate, inform him they’ve found a witch, and ask for permission to burn her.
“Well how do you know she is a witch?” the magistrate asks.
“She looks like one” the villagers reply.
I thought about this scene as I watched the response unfold over the weekend to the interaction between a group of high school students and a Native American elder at the Lincoln Memorial.
When the first video emerged, the kid at the center of the controversy sure looked bad. He had a big smirk on his face and a MAGA cap on his head, smugly standing just a few inches from an elderly minority while his friends hooped and hollered all around them. Just look at him. Of course he’s guilty.
And based off that short video clip and a one sided account of what happened, most of America did indeed pronounce him guilty. Then a fuller picture emerged, and instead of a two minute clip we could watch a two hour video. Instead of uncontrollable teenagers bolstered by their white male privilege surrounding a few minorities, we learned that the Native Americans walked into the crowd of students performing their high school cheers. Instead of a smirking kid getting in the face of an elderly Native American, we saw him walk up to a kid who did not move.
We saw the narrative implode.
After this new information came to light, most news organizations and most commentators who had condemned the kids issued corrections, as they should when the evidence proves their early assumptions wrong.
But far too many doubled down, and when the veneer washes away we see their true hearts.
In the full video we can see the kids did not move towards the Native Americans and they were already jumping up and down and chanting before the Native Americans entered their group. We can’t blame the kids based solely on their actions, because their actions alone do not prove they were acting like “beasts” and threatening elderly minorities. But did you see what they were wearing?
An outrage mob is dragging these kids through the Internet excitedly shouting that they’ve found racists.
Well how do you know they are racists?
“They look like ones” the mob replies. They wore MAGA hats, which obviously can’t mean anything other than an open proclamation of racism. They had attended the March for Life earlier that day, which obviously means they’re sexist as well. And that smirk! Just look at them. Of course they’re guilty.
Who needs evidence when there are witches to burn?