In Which I Look Back and Whitesplain Nathan Phillips' Fabricated Incident at the March for Life a Week Ago
I set a goal to publish a blog post every week, and this de facto ended up being on the weekends, and that format means that sometimes I'm really late to the party discussing current events. But while this storm may have mostly blown itself out, it hasn't ceased to be an issue, and even if it had it would deserve to be recapped in detail so that we could, theoretically, learn from our stupidity. So sorry not sorry for bringing this up after all the cool people have stopped talking about it.
Wanting to be the bigger person and forgive their occasional lapses of integrity (like their refusal to cover Kermit Gosnell), I initially trusted the media accounts of the so-called incident at the March for Life (which for some reason doesn't merit media coverage unless an incident happens or it disrupts traffic). I had no reason to doubt the claims that a group of white teenagers wearing "Make America Great Again" hats surrounded elderly Native American Vietnam War veteran Nathan Phillips and taunted him with chants of "Build the Wall". There was nothing particularly implausible about such a story. Trump's rhetoric and actions have created a climate where droves of formerly ostracized white supremacists are comfortable being loud and proud about their white supremacy, and that the vast majority of said white supremacists, not coincidentally, voted for him and continue to support him.
Nick Sandmann in particular, appearing to be the ringleader, went viral for having the racist audacity to smile at Phillips. If "smiling while white" isn't officially classified as a hate crime, it should be. Naturally, many liberals throughout the country demonstrated their moral superiority by threatening to harm and/or murder him and his family, just like Martin Luther King would have wanted. But don't worry, they had plenty of hatred left over for the other students involved, so much that Covington Catholic High School had to close for safety concerns. This one, though probably meant to be funny somehow, is my favorite because the total lack of consequences really shows where Disney's priorities are (besides murdering the second biggest franchise of all time, of course).
Since I detest Donald Trump and consider it a patriotic duty to speak out against him, this story was convenient for me in a certain sick sense, as it was for many others who believed it. I didn't become consumed with rage or make any threats, but I passed the information along in the naive hope of weakening Trump's influence among decent people in some small way. If I were the average American voter, I would have tried to persist in believing said information when it turned out to be an SJW fairy tale. But unfortunately I have this peculiar, un-American mental disorder that I like to call "being honest enough to change my opinions when I know they're wrong". So instead I redirected my former anger toward the ones who actually deserve it, and I apologize for sharing the lie, and I would apologize far more profusely if I thought I'd actually influenced literally anybody.
Because, as everyone should be aware by now, there turned out to be many more minutes of footage than the one we got worked up over. Nathan Phillips' account of events falls apart even before the students share their side of the story which actually matches the video. Yet I'm still seeing people trying to pretend his account is accurate and he's some kind of hero or victim. The actual facts (remember those things?), which naturally didn't go as viral by a long shot as the original mindless outrage, turned out to be that:
*Prior to this encounter, a group of black protesters was yelling racially charged insults and threats at the students. Of course this wasn't newsworthy or outrageworthy because racism against white people is okay.
*The students, with permission from their chaperone, started chanting school spirit chants to drown out the aforementioned racism they were being bombarded with. Instead of, I don't know, retaliating in any way.
*The students did not approach or "surround" Phillips. He walked into the spot where they had been standing for some time and played his drum in Nick Sandmann's face for no adequately explained reason.
*Literally nobody during this encounter chanted "Build the Wall". Literally. Nobody. You. Lying. Sacks. Of. Crap. One of Phillips' Native American protesters did yell at the students to "go back to Europe", though.
*Phillips is not a Vietnam War veteran. He never set foot in Vietnam. He was a refrigerator mechanic who only served in the US, was frequently AWOL, and never got promoted past Private in four years.
CNN, to their credit, published a statement by the one smiling student who's received most of the American Left's special brand of tolerance. He seems to have more maturity in his pinky finger than all his haters possess together. Twitter, to their credit, suspended the fake account that posted the original deceptively edited (remember that phrase?) video. But this account can hardly shoulder the blame for everyone who believed the story or continues to do so.
Yes, I was one of the many who believed it, because I had these crazy notions that Nathan Phillips was an decent honest guy and mainstream news outlets were reasonably trustworthy sources, but since I never got involved in the unwarranted vitriol toward these students and have since changed my mind in response to additional information, I have a clean conscience. I posted a thing about the original false account, and when I realized I was wrong I posted a thing about the truth, and one of my liberal friends went ballistic about how the truth doesn't matter because these teenagers are still unforgivably bad people for not moving aside when an old man walked into them. And that obviously still warrants viral news coverage and death threats. A couple days later - I'm not making this up - she shared a derogatory post about how sensitive white males on the internet are.
There's also this unsurprising little irony:
I don't remember perfectly, but I do know for a fact that I could count the number of social media posts I saw about the torture on one hand, all of them from conservative sources complaining about the lack of coverage from liberal sources. The attack wasn't very newsworthy or outrageworthy for a couple reasons: because it was black-on-white, and because the black men and women said things like "F--- Trump" while they were torturing the white boy. Awkward. In fairness, CNN did give the story a bit of coverage that failed to go viral, during which Don Lemon refused to denounce the torture as "evil" because "I think these are young people, and I think they have bad home training." I mean, every single one of the black torturers was a legal adult and older than the white students that liberals thought deserved to die for literally no reason, but nobody asked me.
In fairness, with the trivial exception of grossly misrepresenting his military record and allowing others to do so, maybe Nathan Phillips isn't actually the belligerent lying scumbag he appears to be. Maybe this was all a big misunderstanding, and he's a decent honest guy who was simply mistaken about the boys' intentions and somehow got every verifiable detail of the encounter wrong. But since he followed up the next day by loudly trying to barge into a Catholic Mass with a group of his activists, which I don't need to tell you isn't newsworthy or outrageworthy because reasons, I doubt it very much.
Why is it that the people who are obsessed with shaming other people are incapable of feeling shame themselves when they should? The worst of the haters are either still defending Phillips and bashing the students, or trying to quietly move on as if nothing happened and they didn't just screw up innocent people's lives with their stupid witch hunt. Delusion or cowardice, respectively. What if we all had the humility of Dr. Robert P. George, one of the few prominent conservative figures I still respect, who wrote:
And (like me) he wasn't a part of the irresponsible media or the liberal hate machine, so he doesn't even have that much to apologize for. Guess who does?
But then the real problem, according to some other nobody on Twitter, is that these boys "were in D.C. for the sole purpose of promoting male control of women's bodies", having been "bussed in to demand adult women be subjected to forced childbearing". Okay, I grant that would be pretty bad and would definitely warrant death threats for teenagers and their families if it were true instead of being the stupid straw man (no pun intended) that it actually is. Somebody would need to mansplain to all the poor stupid women who participated in the March for Life that they've been duped by men into promoting male control of their bodies, but nobody could because that would be sexist, so it's a good thing that isn't necessary.
This damnable post-truth fake outrage society I'm forced to live in makes me yearn for an early death. (Insert your own quip about also yearning for my early death here.) And pardon the cliche, but if the American Left is really serious about combating bigotry, it needs to take a long look in the mirror.
As of yesterday, Season One of Netflix's Carmen Sandiego reboot that I wrote about extensively last week is out. I'll wait until Season Two and the live action movie are out before doing an extensive review of the whole thing, but for now I want to revisit my primary misgiving from last time: Netflix's decision to make Carmen a literal hero. How does it hold up in practice?
Okay, so despite not being crazy about that aspect, I obviously decided to go along with it and enjoy the show. And it's a very good and entertaining show and when I do a more extensive review I'll talk in detail about its positive attributes. The coolest one is that it's chock-full of references to previous Carmen Sandiego media, especially the "Where on Earth" TV series, which add some extra amusement and nostalgia for longtime fans without being distracting or confusing to anyone who doesn't notice them. Unlike, say, Jon Kasdan's ridiculous game of Wookieepedia bingo in the script for "Solo: A Star Wars Story". This is clearly its own self-contained canon apart from the other stuff, but Netflix still cares about the other stuff and it shows.
As for Carmen being a good guy - so be it. But I felt like they laid it on a little thick. Two or three episodes make the point that whenever she ends up with a bunch of V.I.L.E.'s money, she donates it to various charities and orphanages. Great, I'm glad that fictional charities and orphanages are getting this fictional money, but it seems a bit heavy-handed. It seems like Netflix is so determined to distance this incarnation of the character from the evil one who's been evil for more than thirty-three years that on top of rewriting her backstory it had to go and make her Miss Perfect. (She's not a Mary Sue, though, because she needs other people's help sometimes, so that's a relief. It was okay for the original Carmen Sandiego to be a Mary Sue because she was evil, but not too evil.)
There's a much bigger problem, though, and maybe Netflix will do something clever to resolve it in Season Two, but if so it should have at least been mentioned at some point in Season One to assure the audience that the writers know what they're doing. An apparent massive plot hole that I found a bit distracting runs through all nine episodes.
(Very minor spoilers follow)
Carmen uses her thieving and sneaking skills to fight the Villains' International League of Evil, V.I.L.E., after defecting from them. They're perfectly aware of this and they hate her, so that's not a reason for acting secretive about it. Yet law enforcement, mostly in the form of Interpol/ACME agent Chase Devineaux (whose name is one of the great references to earlier media), thinks she's working with V.I.L.E. and continuously tries to arrest her. And she does or says nothing in any of the episodes to correct this misconception. She lets Devineaux and everyone else who doesn't know her personally think she's a bad guy.
Sure, sometimes she's in a hurry chasing the bad guys while the good guys are chasing her, and doesn't have time to explain. But that's not the case in the first episode, where Devineaux shows up while she's in the act of robbing a warehouse that happens to be owned by V.I.L.E. and full of already stolen items. For no apparent reason, instead of stopping to chat with him and explain what she's doing, she acts like the criminal he thinks she is and makes a run for it. There are also lulls between capers where she gets to relax a little and could contact the authorities herself, but doesn't.
So Carmen has more enemies than she needs to have. She has more obstacles than she needs to have. She could easily rectify this situation. She could not only get law enforcement off her back, but join forces with them. She could share with them her substantial knowledge of V.I.L.E. and they could share their resources. Maybe they're unwilling to work with a vigilante like her, but that isn't explained or even hinted at. Maybe she enjoys challenges so much that, like her predecessor, she deliberately makes things harder for herself - but she's also causing unnecessary stress for Interpol and ACME and diverting their time and resources away from actual criminals. Guess how many murderers and rapists have gotten away because of you, Miss Perfect. Go on, guess.
Maybe they just wouldn't believe her. But it shouldn't be too hard to convince them of her true intentions if she just shows them her results. Devineaux's assistant Julia Argent, the brainy female foil to his foolish machismo, already voices her suspicions several times based on the evidence from crime scenes that Carmen is actually working against V.I.L.E. And Devineax always dismisses her hypothesis with typical male arrogance. But they wouldn't even need to have this discussion if Carmen clarified it for them from the beginning. Maybe, just maybe, Devineaux persists in thinking she's a criminal because she runs away, sometimes gently taunting and/or incapacitating him in the process, every time he gets close to her.
I mean, I don't expect perfect logic from a cartoon, but this plot hole is so woven into the basic premise that it's distracting for me. Like in one episode, a three-car chase ensues with Carmen going after a V.I.L.E. agent and Devineaux going after her, and it's supposed to be amusing but I just kept thinking how Carmen brought this on herself for no reason. By the final couple episodes it reaches absurd proportions, as complications arise that could have been easily prevented if she would just freaking talk to Devineaux.
Will you fix this in Season Two, Netflix? Will you give some explanation for this Carmen Sandiego's apparent idiocy and take it as an opportunity to teach children about open communication? That was one of life's hardest lessons for me as an adult, but since nobody else in my life seems to have learned it, it's done me very little good.
Because some of my earliest memory fragments - I'm talking two, three years old - are about the first Carmen Sandiego game show, it didn't give me a warm fuzzy feeling last October when a Pumpkin Walk exhibit devoted to the greatest thief of all time prompted a couple of little kids nearby to ask, "Who the heck is that?" This underrated and unappreciated character has been on a bit of hiatus, it's true, but since it's only a matter of time before every piece of media ever created by humans gets twelve sequels, a reboot, and/or a remake, Netflix is stepping in to introduce her to a new generation. Yay! Mostly.
Make no mistake, I'm excited to watch this. But I also want to critique a little, because that's what people come to my blog for, no? Okay, so in case you were too lazy or unable to watch the trailer, it's basically about how Carmen Sandiego attended a thief school called V.I.L.E. but turned against it when she realized that crime isn't a game. She decided to only steal from other thieves, to protect artifacts. And Netflix is advertising this series as the backstory for the very same lady in red we all should know and hate to love, okay? So I'll overlook the minor continuity problem of her altered skin tone and facial structure.
But Netflix seems to be deliberately ignoring a far more crucial piece of information...
CARMEN SANDIEGO IS A VILLAIN.
Or a villainess. Are we still allowed to say that? No one would deny that she's villainous, but is she a villainous villainess?
Anyway, I can kind of appreciate what Netflix is doing here. I presume this show is targeted toward a younger demographic that doesn't really understand moral complexity, and we don't want them consuming media that teaches them bad is good and good is bad.
The fact is that humans are morally complex. Nobody is all good or all bad, and in fiction, cranking this paradox up to eleven makes characters oh so fascinating. I wish Netflix had gone this route.
Here's how I fantasize, I mean imagine Carmen Sandiego, which, though there is no overarching cohesive canon in this franchise, is largely drawn from the aforementioned TV series, the comics, etc. She's a somewhat eccentric, somewhat amoral genius of larger-than-life proportions. Crime is literally a game to her, something she does to challenge herself for fun, since catching criminals as an ACME detective was too easy for her. In one of the TV episodes she breaks into the latest high-tech vault and doesn't steal anything, just because she had to take the challenge. Then she accepts a challenge to give up on her high-tech gadgets altogether and steal things the old-fashioned way. She steals the unstealable, the impossible, the unthinkable, but she rarely steals anything that will hurt someone. She steals artifacts and landmarks that aren't owned by any one person. In another episode, she buys something she needs for a theft when she could easily shoplift it. She's not making anyone go hungry.
And because crime is a game to her, she goes out of her way to leave cryptic clues for the detectives following her, and doesn't begrudge them in the slightest for tracking her down and recovering what she stole. Remaining calm and optimistic, she signs off most episodes with a friendly "Until next crime." She even saves their lives more than once when they're in trouble, and yells detective Ivy's name out in panic when the latter slips from her grasp hundreds of feet off the ground. She's never killed anyone. Neither she nor any of her henchmen are even armed. And though the comic series tragically only lasted four issues, it had time to show her display even more of a conscience than that:
(Note: This comic was made in the mid-nineties. A black girl growing up to become President of the United States must have seemed impossible then, but now, in 2019, it's only half as impossible.)
(Note: That remark was intended only as a sardonic commentary on the United States that has nothing to do with anything else in this post.)
And of course, her stylish and iconic outfit is impossible not to like, am I right?
Granted, on some occasions Carmen Sandiego is more evil than others. In the creepy "Word Detective" game, she captures ACME agents and puts them in a machine that scrambles their speech into gibberish as part of her mission to create world illiteracy, which is creepy. I'm not arguing that she's not a villain. She is a villain, and that's entirely the point, and it makes her awesome because she's a fictional character. I realize there's a risk of sending that message to impressionable children who might then grow up to steal Mount Rushmore, but...
What more do I extrapolate from these clues in previous Carmen Sandiego media that Netflix has chosen to diverge from, as is admittedly their right? What do I think really drives this character, besides boredom? I think she enjoys her status as a villain a little too much. I think she craves attention and recognition for her brilliance, whether she'll admit it to herself or not. I think she knows deep down that she has a good heart, but she tries to quash it because she has an image to maintain. She overcompensates by running an organization called "Villains' International League of Evil" or "V.I.L.E" - heavyhanded much? (In the Netflix series, for some reason V.I.L.E. has been changed into a thief school that Carmen didn't create but attends and then rebels against.) I think she builds up this image as an amoral mysterious figure of mystery and constantly eludes capture because she has a proverbial wall around her tender heart to stop people from hurting her like they hurt her in the past.
Now I get what my therapist meant about projecting myself onto fictional characters.
Okay, so I have my own fantasies, I mean ideas about what this franchise should look like. If I somehow magically had the resources and expertise to do so, I would forgo cartoons and TV shows in favor of at least twelve live-action movies. The potential of live action hasn't been fully explored here. It would be a realistic, gritty portrayal of the Carmenverse with the latest special effects and action sequences worthy of Indiana Jones or James Bond, but with the same bizarre humor, tortured puns, and ludicrously impossible thefts that the shows and books and games deserve to be more famous for. It would be as much of a paradox as Carmen Sandiego herself. The movie would spend equal time following her and an agent like Stan Packer from the audio games who drives himself half-mad trying to catch her in movie after movie. And she would commit crimes, like always, but she would show her redeeming qualities and have occasion to thwart far worse villains than herself. And somewhere along the way she would open her heart just enough to let in a certain Waldo (or Wally outside the United States), who would later be killed, crushing it.
And then... in the final movie (spoiler alert)...
Packer finally captures her. Whether because he got lucky or she got careless, it's hard to tell. But she's getting bored of her life of crime anyway. Like her previous life as an ACME detective, it's just too easy. She's pulled off so many of the greatest heists in history that it's getting old. So she resigns herself to her fate and, with a smile, holds out her wrists to be cuffed.
Packer hesitates. This is what he's worked for all this time, the culmination of his career, his key to fame, and yet...
For some reason, he can't bring himself to do it. Maybe because of the good she did for the world in the previous movies, or maybe just because putting her in jail would be like putting a butterfly in a cage, he growls at her to "Get out of here." She tips her hat and does so. Packer stares off into the distance where she disappeared for a while, then turns and walks home. Cue wistful music and roll credits. Carmen Sandiego is never seen again.
...until the next few movies after the final movie. It turns out she cryogenically froze herself and set the alarm for a few hundred years. Now she's ready to have a bunch of cool adventures in space.
Since I don't magically have the resources and expertise to do that, I have to content myself with criticizing other people's efforts. Look, I'm excited for this series regardless and I wish it great success, but not so much success that Disney buys it and ruins it. Seriously, Disney, how do you manage to make a Star Wars movie flop at the box office? Not even George Lucas managed to do that. Please leave Carmen Sandiego alone. There are rumors of a live action movie to go with this series, so I hope that happens too.
Am I taking this too seriously? Of course. Because this and other fantastical fiction franchises just so happen to be approximately two thousand percent less depressing than real life. Sorry not sorry.
"The Sage of Darkness" has finished re-uploading and can be viewed here. The other two major Legend of Zelda fan films that were supposed to release this past fall have been delayed further. While this is of course a really really really big disappointment, it's also encouraging evidence that the respective creators are taking their time. In both cases filming wrapped years ago, so there's little or no doubt that they will be completed eventually. It's just a lot of editing and post-production work that takes a while for amateur filmmakers who are also stuck with obnoxious competing obligations like "jobs" and "families", and I want them to do it well so I can be patient. In the meantime, this jaw-dropping gem from my other favorite franchise popped up out of nowhere:
The second, even more ambitious episode is already in the works:
As everyone knows, "Darth Maul: Apprentice" is the greatest Star Wars fan film of all time, and here it is for good measure. I thought it destined to hold that title forever. But if the second episode of "Vader" lives up to the precedent set by the first and the ambitions laid out for it, then the series will achieve the impossible and snatch that title away. It will have, in addition to the costuming and stunts and special effects, more of an actual storyline - not that "Darth Maul: Apprentice" suffers in the slightest for its thin story, but "Vader" looks to be more well-rounded. So here's another thing to look forward to and distract myself from the crappy real world that I live in.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.