In the aftermath of the 2016 Presidential election, a variety of “hate hoaxes” dominated headlines all across the country on both center right and left media outlets. The mainstream left and even some on the center right instinctively sided with the alleged victims, believing that a rise in hate crimes was proof that Trump’s rhetoric has emboldened racist extremists. Time and time again, they were embarrassed as their favored victim of the week was proven to be a liar. The most recent hate hoax is shaping up to be no different.
On January 19th, a video that depicted Trump supporting high schoolers in a confrontation with a Native American activist went viral. The mainstream media and most viewers initially sided with the Native American activist, as the original video appeared to show the high schoolers mocking him. Since the videos publication, a slew of other footage has come out that contradicts the mainstream narrative, showing that the activist confronted the children first, and that most of them were just participating in their school chant.
The unfortunate reality surrounding hate hoaxes like these is that by the time the dominant narrative is called in to question by contradictory facts, the damage has already been done, but that isn’t an accident, it is by design. Poll after poll and psychological study after study finds that conservatives tend to view liberals as good people with bad ideas, while liberals tend to view conservatives as bad people with bad ideas. Thus, “hate hoaxes” present an opportunity for liberals to reaffirm their moral sanctitude and see themselves as protagonists in a world filled with racists, homophobes, and sexists.
So, what are the implications for well meaning conservatives who are trying to navigate an increasingly hostile and hysterical political climate? Should we revert to complete political tribalism and reflexively defend our own, even when they are wrong, or continue to attempt to be the better people? I contend that there is a middle ground, which should consist of only condemning our own side after we are certain of the facts at play. We cannot continue to let the left frame the discussion when it has been proven time and time again that they play loose with the facts to steer discourse in a direction that demonizes us.