We all saw the video of the annoying hysterical woman calling the cops on an apparently harmless African American birdwatcher who had merely remonstrated with her about her violating park rules by letting her dog run off-leash. What a racist!
But, as Kyle Smith informs us, the video, and the Media accounts, omit one rather significant detail: the African American birdwatcher actually did threaten her and her dog.
Once again, further evidence upended the narrative of a viral video â€” but not before someoneâ€™s life and reputation were destroyed.
Funny thing about viral videos: They donâ€™t necessarily give the full and complete context for what happened, do they? They might, for instance, begin only after someone does something bizarre and provocative but record solely the reaction. Covington was only 16 months ago. Did we learn anything from it? Apparently not. A similar thing happened in Central Park this weekend, the world reacted in the same way, and once again a misleading video made it appear that a target of a deliberate provocation was a racist for reacting understandably to the provocateur.
New Yorker Amy Cooper was walking her dog in Central Parkâ€™s Ramble area, a little patch of semi-wilderness in an otherwise manicured park. She allowed her dog off the leash, which is against the rules. But on the other hand, the Ramble is the one little-frequented spot in the entire vast park where it kinda, sorta seems like rules donâ€™t apply. For decades, the rules definitely didnâ€™t apply: It was a popular gay pickup location for connoisseurs of anonymous al fresco sex.
On Memorial Day, Cooper, a middle-aged white woman, was allowing her dog to run off-leash, breaking a rule that is widely ignored, albeit crucial for bird-watchers. Nearby was Christian Cooper, a middle-aged black man of no relation to her. Mr. Cooper is an avid birder and doesnâ€™t much like dogs interfering with his avian observations. So he issued what to her sounded like a threat to poison her dog. Ms. Cooper freaked out. Who wouldnâ€™t?
As her freakout was underway, Mr. Cooper filmed her on his phone. And Covington 2 was off and running. The public viewed the conveniently edited video more than 30 million times, Ms. Cooper was denounced as a â€œKaren,â€ or self-appointed whistleblower, for her understandable reaction, and few noticed that the inciting Karen of the affair was not the middle-aged white lady but Mr. Cooper himself, for busting her over allowing her dog off-leash. Her employer not only fired her but â€” far worse â€” publicly branded her a racist.
News accounts have repeatedly characterized Ms. Cooper as having â€œthreatenedâ€ Mr. Cooper. That is the opposite of what happened. We know this because of Mr. Cooperâ€™s helpful Facebook post on the matter, from which I quote:
ME: â€œLook, if youâ€™re going to do what you want, Iâ€™m going to do what I want, but youâ€™re not going to like it.â€
HER: â€œWhatâ€™s that?â€
ME [to the dog]: â€œCome here, puppy!â€
HER: â€œHe wonâ€™t come to you.â€
ME: â€œWeâ€™ll see about that.â€ . . . I pull out the dog treats I carry for just such intransigence. I didnâ€™t even get a chance to toss any treats to the pooch before Karen scrambled to grab the dog.
Possibly it was an overreaction for Ms. Cooper to call the police. Then again, when citizens feel threatened, calling the police and letting them sort it out is what is supposed to happen. What Mr. Cooper said to her was unmistakably a threat. It was reasonable for her to be scared. â€œIâ€™m going to do what I want, but youâ€™re not going to like itâ€? Thatâ€™s a menacing thing to say. He then called the dog over while offering it a treat. He meant her to think he was going to poison her dog to motivate her to leash the animal. By his own admission, he said something calculated to frighten her. Apparently, he does this all the time; he carries dog treats while birding â€œfor just such intransigence.â€ If there were no threat linked to his offering the dog a snack, he would not have prefaced this action by saying, â€œYouâ€™re not going to like it.â€ He didnâ€™t say, â€œLook, letâ€™s be reasonable here, Iâ€™ll even give your dog a nice snack to show I mean well.â€ Mr. Cooper intended to scare Ms. Cooper, he succeeded, and in her fear she called the cops.
Ms. Cooper would probably have been wise to leash her pet and walk briskly away, but when a stranger threatens to poison your dog in Central Park, that is bound to cause consternation. Itâ€™s not unreasonable for her to have felt herself (as well as the dog) personally threatened by Mr. Cooperâ€™s saying, â€œIâ€™m going to do what I want, and youâ€™re not going to like it.â€