You may find the description below distasteful, disturbing and overwrought. But after reading this column, you may very well agree with the assessment.
America saw its third “Kennedy assassination” earlier this month.
No one died, though we may have witnessed the death of a promising career. It wasn’t political — at least not in the traditional sense, though there was an “election” involved; and the incident was featured on national television, though only on one network.
On May 12, 16-year-old Caleb Kennedy, one of five finalists, left “American Idol” after a social media entry from four years ago resurfaced. Kennedy’s hometown newspaper, The Spartanburg (South Carolina) Herald-Journal, reported that a Snapchat post included a video in which Caleb was seated next to someone who appeared to be wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood.
Never mind the fact Caleb was all of 12 years of age at the time of the Snapchat entry; never mind the fact that the video was of three seconds’ duration; never mind the newspaper’s cautious description that the person beside Kennedy appeared to be wearing a KKK hood.
No, any information that might put the accusation in context must be summarily dismissed. Welcome to the age of “woke,” a curious title for a practice that demands the reflexive response of somnambulism.
It may be difficult to believe now, but the left once indicted what it now champions. Eighteen years ago, Haynes Johnson of The Washington Post penned a predictable polemic, demeaning the two terms of President Reagan with the derogatory title “Sleepwalking Through History.”
Whatever Reagan’s shortcomings (and assuredly they were fewer than what Haynes Johnson imagined), they certainly did not include the inclination to ignore reality, nor the willful ignorance of historical context.
Yet, today’s “Courtroom of Public Opinion” allows for no statute of limitations on imagined offenses. Neither do leftist elites or their “professional grievance mongers” recognize the constitutional sanction against ex post facto laws. (Then again, does the left ever truly recognize constitutional primacy?)
Moreover, the basic notion of fairness is eliminated because there is no “presumption of innocence.” So, in today’s hothouse of Big Tech’s instantaneous and invasive social media, an accusation becomes reality.
Small wonder that Caleb Kennedy and his family opted for an Instagram post instead of mounting a vigorous rhetorical defense.
Perhaps with the advice of a “woke” Disney/ABC publicist, young Mr. Kennedy offered an apology that was more of an admission of guilt:
“There was a video that surfaced on the internet, and it displayed actions that were not meant to be taken in that way. I was younger and did not think about the actions, but that’s not an excuse. I wanna say sorry to all my fans and everyone who I have let down. … I know this has hurt and disappointed a lot of people and made people lose respect for me. I am so sorry!”
Again, context is missing. What if the person “appearing” to wear a KKK hood sat down beside Caleb uninvited? And with a video that runs only three seconds, what if Caleb got up and moved after five seconds? Moreover, the Herald-Journal refused to link to the video in its internet edition, citing the fact that Kennedy was only 12 when it was shot.
However, the publication reported that others had added the word “bow” in subsequent video copies they produced. Because Caleb is a country singer from South Carolina, that would seem to imply that viewers should infer that Kennedy has some sort of allegiance to the Klan.
What Caleb Kennedy does possess is pure talent, housed in an unflappable persona.
He’s only a high school sophomore, but there’s nothing sophomoric about his songwriting and performing abilities. He might have won “American Idol” but instead became the latest casualty of the “Woke Wars.”
He could very well mount a comeback, as hard it is to imagine that a 16-year-old would have to do that.
If there’s a “silver lining” to this curious culture battle it is this: Character assassination isn’t fatal.
J.D. Hayworth worked as a sportscaster at Channel 10 Phoenix from 1987 until 1994 and represented Arizona in Congress from 1995-2007.