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Stoning Karen

You may have seen the video of a 41-year-old New York City woman’s appalling carrying-on in Central Park, when a black pedestrian, a birdwatcher, confronted her about having her dog off the leash in an area of the park where that is not permitted:

The woman’s name is Amy Cooper. The man is Christian Cooper. They are not related. On the video, Amy Cooper appears to call 911, and, hysterical, proceeds to tell the police that an African-American man is threatening her. Christian Cooper posted the video he took of the encounter to his Instagram account, with this telling of what happened before he started filming:

The clip went viral. Amy Cooper really does come off horribly. But get this: Now, Amy Cooper has lost both her dog and her job as a banker an executive at an investment manager. She’s professionally ruined now, only a day after this park encounter. The social media pile-on is terrifying, as usually happens in these bizarre cases. She is being excoriated as a “Karen,” the pop culture term for bossypants white women who overreact and police other people’s actions.

But as New York Daily News columnist Robert A. George (a friend and former New York Post colleague of mine) writes, Christian Cooper is the real Karen in this situation. George, who is black, acknowledges that Amy Cooper made an ass of herself:

But Christian did not one of us any favors. He and Amy may not be related, but they’re sure as hell part of the same family of privileged New Yorker. As one Twitter person put, ironically, Christian is the “Karen” in this encounter, deciding to enforce park rules unilaterally and to punish “intransigence” ruthlessly. And how — luring Amy’s dog with dog treats he regularly wears in his handy utility belt? To enforce leash laws?

Exactly! One of the most famous previous Karens was a hysterical white woman in Oakland, Calif., who in 2018 called the police on black people grilling in an unauthorized area of a city park. That Karen was technically correct, just like Christian Cooper. The thing that made the Oakland woman a Karen was making a massive legalistic issue over something that she ought to have just let slide.

In the New York City case, both Coopers are Karens. Both of them behaved snottily, though Amy Cooper’s racialized report to police was especially egregious. Still, it’s not hard to see why Amy Cooper felt ill at ease by Christian Cooper’s behavior. What would you think if you were a woman, and a tall, hostile male stranger said, “I’m going to do what I want, but you’re not going to like it” — and then calls your dog over to himself? For all she knew, he was going to hurt the dog. Well, Christian Cooper may be a Harvard graduate, but he is also black and gay, so he wins the Oppression Olympics over a white woman.

So, yes, Amy Cooper humiliated herself by her rotten behavior, for which she has apologized. That should have been the end of it. But then the shelter came and took her adopted dog away, and the investment bank management firm where she worked fired her. I find this shocking. If it is now a fireable offense for New York City bankers business executives to behave like jerks on their private time, there won’t be anyone left in the industry. She committed no crime. The police came, investigated, and charged no one. And yet, thanks to social media, the obnoxious Amy Cooper has been wrecked.

I know it’s a naive question at this point, but what the hell is wrong with people? Why are people so merciless, and take such pleasure in destroying others? Why do people demand that those we target on social media not be merely shamed, but gutted in every way possible? The mob is absolutely merciless. What the mob is doing is a thousand million times worse than what awful Amy Cooper did in the park. People have killed themselves after being set upon by the social media pack. In Japan this week, the government is considering legislation to curb cyberbullying after the suicide of a 22-year-old Netflix reality show personality. What on earth is to be gained by ripping people apart like the mob does?

Amy Cooper is a jerk who got crossways another jerk in Central Park, and reacted in a terrible way that tripped all the wires. But she is a human being who does not deserve this stoning she’s getting from the mob. No human being would. Yet according to the Social Justice Scriptures, “Thou shalt not suffer a bitch to live.”

I agree with James Lindsay:

There is no cause worth doing this to a person. None. A mob is a mob is a mob, and the mob is always wrong. If you think you are safe from the mob, you are wrong. Nothing will protect you if it decides to attack you. If you say the wrong thing, and somebody puts it on social media, they can take your job and destroy your life in a single day — and they will — and nobody and nothing can protect you.

Jonathan Kay writes about how Canadian transgender activists set upon Amanda Jetté Knox, a woman who has become popular as a trans ally after writing a popular book about her child and her husband both coming out as trans. What was her crime? Being non-trans, and successful at advocating for trans people. Seriously, that’s what she did. Yes, they called her a “Karen,” which has become the all-purpose term of abuse for white women the progressive mob decides to hate. And after the social media beatdown earlier this month, Knox thought about killing herself, and drove to the emergency room. Knox wrote last week:

I was severely bullied throughout my childhood. In middle school, I was set on fire by two kids in front of a bunch of other kids – just for fun. That’s the most dramatic example of many times confrontation and conflict hurt me deeply, cast me out, and left me scarred. After that incident, I took steps to end my life. A few months later, I went to rehab for substance abuse issues. Ever since, I haven’t been great at dealing with conflict. Add to this grief and a pandemic, and I had arrived in the worst place in my adult life.

“I think I’m having a PTSD episode,” I said to the ER doctor. “I think that’s why it hit so hard and it hurts so much and I can’t get my brain to stop.”

“I think so, too,” he said. “And I’m sorry this is happening. I see you and I hear you. We’re going to get you some help.”

Do we know whether or not Amy Cooper reacted so terribly to Christian Cooper’s prissy policing of the park because she was mentally unwell, or had been traumatized in the past, and was triggered? No, we do not. It doesn’t matter, not to the mob, for whom mercy is a sign of weakness.

UPDATE: Just saw on Twitter that there was a violent mob protest in Minneapolis against the police over the killing of suspect George Floyd. Based on the footage taken of Floyd’s last moments, people have every right to be angry about what the police did to Floyd. But look: the police chief (who is black) has fired the four cops and invited the FBI in to investigate Floyd’s death. What else can possibly be done at this point? Does throwing rocks through the windows of the precinct really make things better? Does vandalizing police cars advance the cause of justice for George Floyd? If the state finds cause to charge one or more of those officers with a crime, then they deserve a fair trial, and if convicted, should go to jail. No good can come of violent mob action.

UPDATE.2: Reader Dukeboy1:

What’s completely disingenuous about this situation is that if any characteristic of the parties involved were reversed, the white party would still be the villian and the same people, here in this comment thread and elsewhere, would be arguing the opposite side.

Let’s reverse their races. A white male birdwatcher tells a black female with her cocker spaniel unleashed to leash her dog. A verbal conflict ensues and the black woman calls the police and makes a point of accurately describing the person she’s in conflict with by giving his race.

Not a single one of you accusing Amy Cooper of trying to “swat” Christian Cooper would make that claim if the races were reversed. In fact, most of you would be confident that our hypothetical black woman’s fear of a white man confronting her over trivial violations of law was justified. After all, look at happened down in Georgia when white people took it upon themselves to try to enforce a minor violation of law. A black woman would be totally justified in calling for help if a white man called out her rule breaking.

Now let’s leave their races the same, but reverse the roles. Amy Cooper is the birdwatcher and Christian Cooper is the unleashed dog walker. As Rod pointed out, the birdwatcher is the original “Karen” in this case and not a single person outraged (or feigning outrage, more likely) now would hesitate to pile on her for “Karening” if the roles were reversed the way that they conveniently ignore that Christian was the original instigator in real life.

No matter the mix or match of race or roles, it’s “heads I win, tails you lose” for the white party as far as the mob is concerned.

Let’s also not forget the fact that if there was no racial angle between the parties, none of us would have ever heard about this quite typical vignette of life in the big city. People are jerks. All people, myself included. People are also all capable of doing decent, noble, and honorable things from time to time. But Amy Cooper had the misfortune to be a jerk to (and to meet a jerk) a person who had the means to ruin her over something ridiculously trivial.

But everybody got to enjoy this week’s “Two minutes of hate for a designated White Jerk” and feel self- righteous over their status as an oppressed minority or a virtuous Good White, as the case may be.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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