The Thought Police Have Her on Video

Rapper Jay Z

by James C. Sherlock

You know how some things play out exactly as you expect and you still can’t figure out why they happen? Such a thing happened to me this morning when I opened the New York Times.

On the front page was an article that was a rehash of reporting that had been done in Virginia and Tennessee newspapers in early June of this year.

It was, of course, about racism (or close enough for the Times). In Leesburg, Virginia. Nearly five years ago. By a then newly 15 year-old girl. Who sent a three-second video to her girlfriend on which she celebrated getting her learner’s permit by saying “I can drive, N—–“.  In which she was imitating the language used on the rap music that dominated her and her friends’ play lists.

Mr. Daniel Levin writes about how that incident got blown up on the internet and ruined a young girl’s life.

If it did not when the story was originally published, Mr. Levin and his editors have assured it. The story has gone national, six months after it was first reported, complete with the young girl’s name and picture, part of “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” Sunday front page version.

Title: A Racial Slur, a Viral Video, and a Reckoning. Subtitle: A white high school student withdrew from her chosen college after a three-second video caused an uproar online. The classmate who shared it publicly has no regrets.

Helpfully, in the online version the Times offered to let me sign up for their Race/Related newsletter before the piece appeared below that advertisement.

The article started out like a thriller.

“His phone buzzed with a message. Once he clicked on it, he found a three-second video of a white classmate looking into the camera and uttering an anti-Black racial slur.”

Then, helpfully advancing the narrative,

So he held on to the video, which was sent to him by a friend, and made a decision that would ricochet across Leesburg, Va., a town named for an ancestor of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee and whose school system had fought an order to desegregate for more than a decade after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling….

“I wanted to get her where she would understand the severity of that word,” Mr. Galligan, 18, whose mother is Black and father is white, said of the classmate who uttered the slur, (name withheld here, but not in the Times). He tucked the video away, deciding to post it publicly when the time was right.

Ms. (name withheld) had originally sent the video, in which she looked into the camera and said, “I can drive,” followed by the slur, to a friend on Snapchat in 2016, when she was a freshman and had just gotten her learner’s permit.

Then Ms. (name withheld) was admitted to the University of Tennessee.

Mr. Galligan, who had waited until Ms. (name withheld) had chosen a college, had publicly posted the video that afternoon. Within hours, it had been shared to Snapchat, TikTok and Twitter, where furious calls mounted for the University of Tennessee to revoke its admission offer.

The consequences were swift. Over the next two days, Ms. (name withheld) was removed from the university’s cheer team. She then withdrew from the school under pressure from admissions officials, who told her they had received hundreds of emails and phone calls from outraged alumni, students and the public.

Then, helpfully, Mr. Levin offered more Civil War history of Leesburg, followed  by the obligatory racial breakdown of Heritage High.

And did you know that the miscreant lives with her family “in a predominantly white and affluent gated community built around a golf course”?  You do after reading the Times. You do not know where Mr. Galligan and family lived before he left for school in California.

Mr. Levin paused here for the mixed race Mr. Galligan to offer a touching story of lecturing his father about his father’s white privilege.

Then this, at the end of the 2300 word story, not at the beginning:

One of Ms. (name withheld)’s friends, who is Black, said (she) had personally apologized for the video long before it went viral. Once it did in June, the friend defended Ms. (name withheld) online, prompting criticism from strangers and fellow students. “We’re supposed to educate people,” she wrote in a Snapchat post, “not ruin their lives all because you want to feel a sense of empowerment.

For his role, Mr. Galligan said he had no regrets. “If I never posted that video, nothing would have ever happened,” he said. And because the internet never forgets, the clip will always be available to watch.
“I’m going to remind myself, you started something,” he said with satisfaction. “You taught someone a lesson.”

I’m going to hold off on subscribing to the Times’ “Race/Related newsletter” while figuring out the implications of the calculated treachery of Mr. Galligan, Mr. Levin and the Times.

It get’s stranger. Mr. “taught someone a lesson” Galligan is attending Vanguard University in California. From its website, Vanguard is a private, Christian, comprehensive university of liberal arts and professional studies equipping students for a Spirit-empowered life of Christ-centered leadership and service.

Not possible to make that up. Perhaps Vanguard University gets the New York Times.

Several thoughts.

What, exactly was the Times trying to accomplish with a re-hash of a 6-month old story? On the front page on a Sunday?

Is the anti-racism beat that dried up? The Leesburg angle too good an opportunity to re-fight the Civil War? Or was the article with the picture of the blond teenage cheerleader too hot to pass up?

From 2008 to 2015, Mr. Levin was based in Beijing, where he reported on human rights, politics and culture in China and Asia. Any comment here would be too easy.

Mr. Philip B. Corbett is Associate Managing Editor, Standards. Standards. Harvard man. Educated in the classics.

What I Like About Working for The Times?
Well, if you want to be a journalist, where else would you want to be?

I think I’ll drop him a note.

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18 responses to “The Thought Police Have Her on Video

  1. Ruined her life?! She’s a VMI shoo-in.

  2. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Mind numbing. I taught at Heritage many years ago. Galligan will have his moment someday. CRT doesn’t teach the value of mercy. Only the bitterness of revenge.

  3. What’s that phrase conservatives are so fond of…play stupid games, win stupid prizes? Certainly the folks here who think calling the governor Coonman/Governor Blackface for something he did 25 years ago also think what this student did four years ago is equally salient, right?

    There’s no systemic racism because all they talk about is disparity of outcome and look at all these potentially mitigating factors (while please to ignore how many are correlational with race) so we just can’t tell, but individual racism is still absolutely a problem! Oops, turns out individual racism isn’t a problem either because all these rappers out here are teaching these white children to use a word their white ancestors invented.

    For what it’s worth, I think UT erred in rescending this young lady’s offer to attend. The difference between 15 and 19 is huge, and if the university had any institutional self confidence it would trust that it’s education and environment would be more than sufficient to teach Ms. Redacted why sending a video of her using racial slurs to her classmates is a bad idea.

    • Comparing her to the Governor? He was an adult in med school, and I personally never called him out for that “indiscretion”.

      Remember humanity, or is that now relative also? There is no comparison. She had just turned 15 – and she didn’t have to dress up for her mistake.

      You are ignoring the fact that the NYT did not break this story – it was 6 months old. There was no news value. They ran it because they are apparently bereft of convenient and contemporary racism stories about adults and needed to feed the beast that is their target audience.

      UT erred? I agree. But that also was months ago. This story was pure evil back in June.

      As for the NYT, there is a special place in hell for them. Kicking that young woman when she was trying to get past being blind-sided by that remarkable horse’s ass Mr. Galligan is a new low for an organization that I thought had hit bottom.

      You want to hear the strangest part of the story? Mr. Galligan is attending Vanguard University in California. From its website, Vanguard is a private, Christian, comprehensive university of liberal arts and professional studies equipping students for a Spirit-empowered life of Christ-centered leadership and service. Not possible to make that up.

      • I actually do think the difference between someone at 25 and the same someone at 61 is (or should be) comparable to the difference between who someone is at 15 and who they are at 19. People are supposed to grow and change. It’s actually deeply shitty that her classmate waited until the moment she professed support for the George Floyd protest to drop something that was four years old. He seems smugly proud of it now, which he probably won’t when he’s 29.

        I usually don’t read the Times because most national media is a wasteland, but I wanted to be able to discuss this competently. By the time they wrote this piece the damage was done and space was clearly given to her to work on undoing it, including giving a paragraph to how her Black friend said she apologized for the video before it leaked. It also made UT look incredibly cowardly for rescending her offer because they’d let their on campus problems fester for so long instead doing an adequate job of addressing them. In the whole Ms. Redacted came across as completely sympathetic while Ms. Redacted’s classmate came across as a petty, vindictive jerk getting revenge against classmates who had harmed him directly and intentionally through someone who hadn’t.

        And that last bit isn’t terribly surprising – why should the Calvinist streak of judgment and permanent sin that has infected so much of the rest of mainline Protestantism skip over Black kids?

        • Seems more Old Testament than Calvinist. Your take on the NYT motivation is certainly generous, but I can’t buy it. Absolutely nothing in the recent history of the NYT suggests they would give that young woman a break. Seems like holiday filler in the race space to me.

    • You, Sir, are mistaken. You have taken happenstance for systematic. It is not systemic, not ingrained in the halls of power. It is a matter of pure chance that a white guy is 10 times more likely to get a bank loan while a black guy is 8 times more likely to be cop-shot In a traffic stop.

      The individual racist is not capable of causing such disparity…
      https://soundcloud.com/user-154380542/nixon-013-008-630-650/s-8Xc9l

      • Well, I’m at a loss trying to understand how this story, and the incident behind it, changes that narrative. Of all the participants, a foolish 15 year old girl seems the most innocent. The truly evil-hearted person who waited four years to destroy her, the cowards at UT, and the exploiters at the NYT all sink beneath contempt.

      • “It is a matter of pure chance that a white guy is 10 times more likely to get a bank loan while a black guy is 8 times more likely to be cop-shot In a traffic stop.”

        NN – You think credit scores are rigged, and banks which profit from making loans purposefully deny loans to qualified people ? Where’s the data to support that?

        • There are people out there who:

          1)Have no clue how what they do financially affects their credit score

          2)Have no clue why having a poor credit score could be a problem

          It’s not a “race” problem, it’s a “knowledge” problem.

          • So the question is if such things occur at diffrerent rates among the races?

          • Let’s just chalk it up to broke-ass culture and broke-ass public schools.

          • Economically disadvantaged are notoriously ignorant on financial issues. No question.

            But in terms of percentages – is there difference in the percent of ED by race?

  4. If somehow, everything any of us said at age 15 would be captured and available in the future for repeating, how many of us would have regrets for those words?

    But that’s what social media does for what one CHOOSES to put on it and words said in other non-published (speech not captured) venues stay there.

    The “mistake” is posting on Snapchat (or similar) and thinking it will “go away” and not realizing that screenshots won’t.

    Not understanding why the NYT article was “evil”. If nothing else, it may save a lot of folks who fail to contemplate/understand from making the same mistake.

    What you say these days that is “published” on the internet is more often than not a permanent record and for some reason, some of us are seeing this as “wrong” that it can’t be undone or that if someone else captured it that they ought not be able to “re-publish” it.

    She made a mistake and in the world of social-media it came back to hurt her , unfairly I agree, but incidents like this are now legion. Almost every day, there is some story about what someone “said” on the internet coming back on them later!

    This is sorta like the idea that, in the past, a person was “quoted” by print or broadcast media and that quote came back later. Now – you create your own “quotes” that live on forever.

    Free Speech DOES have consequences!

    Here, the “evil” NYT publishes another similar story AND it’s apparently going to the SCOTUS:

    A Cheerleader’s Vulgar Message Prompts a First Amendment Showdown
    A Pennsylvania school district has asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether students may be disciplined for what they say on social media.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/28/us/supreme-court-schools-free-speech.html

  5. For a sobering and chilling historical perspective on the depths of spite and vindictiveness that a system encouraging denunciations can reach look at Sheila Fitzpatrick and Robert Gellately (eds.), Accusatory Practices: Denunciation in Modern European History, 1789-1989 (University of Chicago Press, 1997). See also Joseph Perez, The Spanish Inquisition (Yale University Press, 2005) at pp. 140-141.

    • Thank you. I will attempt to acquire “Accusatory Practices”.

      Mao’s cultural revolution “shaming circles” are perhaps the most contemporary inspiration for the left.

      During the Cultural Revolution, people gathered to denounce publicly whoever had run afoul of the party’s thought police. Evidence was not considered necessary – the accusations were the evidence.

      The accused stood in a circle of his or her peers and was charged with bourgeois thinking or lack of loyalty to Mao and communism.

      Participation in the denunciations was considered mandatory, lest one’s own loyalty be doubted.

      The process was a formality. Conviction was the result. Punishments were severe.

      Remind you of anything?

  6. New York Times launches a massive media attack on a 19 year old girl for her 3 second video sent to one of her best friends four years ago when she was 15 years old in her excitement over getting a learner’s permit to drive, that included a slur commonly used in hugely popular best selling rap videos. Talk about viciousness. Who could have imagined that America would fall to this level of utter banality and depravity? America’s founders, that is who? They knew why too. 2030 years later we’re the clueless, banal and vicious fools of all to see.

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