While much of the media has been discussing the controversy surrounding the students from Covington Catholic High School, and many pundits who initially jumped the gun and berated the students are now walking back their statements and apologizing, very few people are asking how this situation became such a flashpoint issue to begin with. That’s the thing with anything that goes viral: everyone knows about it, reads about it, watches the videos, but no one know how exactly it went viral in the first place. Thanks to Twitter, however, we now know how the Covington case went viral.
Twitter shut down the account whose posting of the video of the confrontation between a high school student and an American Indian quickly became the dominant narrative before all the facts came together. The account, @2020fight, claimed to be that of a California schoolteacher but used the photo of a Brazilian blogger. With over 40,000 followers and with an average of 130 tweets per day, the account was deemed by Twitter to be suspicious and was shut down.
The account’s minute-long video of the event was retweeted over 14,000 times and viewed over 2.5 million times, quickly becoming the dominant narrative on social media. The effect of the account’s depiction of the event was amplified by a network of anonymous Twitter accounts that worked to spread the video across the network. Who exactly was behind the account is unclear, but it is believed that the account was based in the US, although no one can be certain.
One thing that we can be certain of is that too many people are looking to be outraged over something, anything. They want to think that the people they believe are their opponents are evil monsters, so anything that feeds into that mindset is consumed uncritically. Even now that the truth about the Covington controversy is coming out there are still many on the left who won’t let the facts get in the way of their belief that white people are inherently evil and these teenagers were troublemakers who deserve to be punished. While it’s good that Twitter is banning accounts that continue to stir up trouble, it’s incumbent on all of us not to allow ourselves to be duped by such accounts in the first place.