Dustin Haggerty’s Saturday had started out innocently enough. He worked out, ran a few errands, and ate some lunch. Then Haggerty decided to check his news feed. One picture and headline he encountered filled him with rage, a feeling he had become accustomed to and could even turn into a perverse pleasure at times. What he wasn’t prepared for were the conflicted feelings to follow, and the maze of emotions he was about to stumble through. When he finally emerged from that maze, it was strapped to a gurney bound for the psychiatric ward of City Hospital.
“When I saw the look on that young man’s face, I about lost it,” recounted Haggerty. “The smug look of contempt he was directing at the indigenous gentleman made my blood pressure rise and the veins on my neck pop out. How dare he disrespect this man like that.”
The young man, of course, is Nick Sandmann, and the indigenous gentleman is Nathan Phillips. Early media accounts of a scene that took place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial appear to show a smirking, MAGA hatted, Sandmann, getting in the face of the elderly Native American, Phillips, who was playing his drum and chanting.
“After seeing the photograph and reading the reports, I was ready to jump on Twitter and unleash my fury on the MAGA teens and Sandmann in particular. I had read an incredible piece in Slate by Ruth Graham. This journalist is amazing. With scant few facts she was able to intuit so much about the young man just by looking at his face. She didn’t even know his name or anything about him, yet by drawing upon her expertise as a journalist and her powerful psychic abilities, she was able to nail him down as a white supremacist and a possible sex crimes perpetrator.
“That was enough for me. I got on Twitter and let those kids have it. I went off on white privilege, shamed their parents and school administrators, and called for heads to roll. Later, I sat back and watched the ‘likes’ and the ‘retweets’ pile up like I’d just hit the jackpot on a $5 slot. What a rush! Satisfied I had done my part to save humanity from these teenage oppressors, I passed out on the couch, exhausted and rage drained.”
As Haggerty slept that night and throughout the following day, a different picture began to emerge of the events that had unfolded on Friday. “Next time I go on Twitter, I find a link to a YouTube video. Among other things, it shows some African-American men shouting racial and homophobic slurs at the students. It also shows Phillips walking over to confront the students, rather than the students surrounding Phillips as we’d been led to believe. I check my most trusted news sources: WaPo, CNN, CBS and the Gray Lady herself – no mention. I’m thinking, are they pretending like these other things didn’t happen? Then I click a link to an article written by Robbie Soave at Reason. In addition to describing a vastly different account than I’d picked up from my go to news sources, his story seemed to assert that the MAGA boys were almost entirely blameless. I realized I had some soul searching to do. Were my infinitely reliable MSM sources deliberately trying to mislead the public, and is it possible these boys weren’t the product of a ‘hate factory’ as the honorable Dr. Howard Dean had put forth in a tweet?”
Confusion quickly gave way to sweet scorn as Haggerty once again took to his Twitter machine. In quick succession, he went after Alyssa Milano, Kathy Griffin, and Reza Aslan, who on Twitter is apparently some kind of punch thirsty badass. Feeling righteous fury swell inside, he next turned his attention to his trusty news sources and shamed them all for deliberately and willfully misleading the American people. Additionally, he berated the MSM for driving him to the pages of conservative news sites, seeking the truth regarding the incident. “I felt dirty and compromised for having to go to places like Fox News, The Blaze and Daily Wire to get a fuller picture of what happened. But my tweetstorm seemed to pay dividends because, one by one, most of my traditional news outlets began to admit there was more to the story. Again, I went to bed satisfied that my rage had not been in vain.
“The next day was bliss for me, I spent the entire day firing off snarky tweets at celebrities and prominent journalists who had reacted badly to the MAGA teen incident and were now apologizing. As the days wore on, however, I started to notice something curious – some news outlets and journalists were not backing off their assertion that these teens were a bunch of rich, entitled white supremacists. Vox was still going with its original reporting and Matthew Yglesias was tweeting a video from a 2012 basketball game that purported to show Covington Catholic students wearing black face paint. The Guardian and others were running stories that asserted the right wing media hijacked the story and changed the narrative. I was tempted to jump on Twitter and go after Sandmann and his publicist. Then I read Caitlin Flanagan’s piece in The Atlantic and I once again became enraged at the New York Times.
“Eventually, my hostility seemed to take on a life of its own, shifting from target to target with no ability on my part to control it. I’d no sooner began composing a nasty tweet directed at NBC News, when I became seriously pissed at Conor Friedersdorf. I heard the chatter of analysts and talking heads. I saw the MAGA boys bouncing and chanting in my head. My outrage swelled, but finding no where to go, it turned on me, and consumed me like a shark attacking blood in the water. Last thing I remember, I was replying to all my previous tweets, hurling abuse and monstrous invective at myself. Then everything went black.”
Haggerty is currently recovering in a psychiatric hospital, undergoing therapy for acute inrage disorder. Although rare, especially in these days of the internet and social media, inrage occurs when all of the subject’s hostility and rage becomes focused inward on himself. “It is as if the poles have flipped and magnetic north is no longer out there somewhere, but it is now inside of him. We must refocus that energy outward again,” says Dr. Frederic Rumgarten, the psychiatrist treating Haggerty. “We will start him out with a little low level external stimuli – perhaps let him view a little C-SPAN. Slowly, by degrees, we will draw the anger outward again, until he is able to return to social media fully capable of maximum externally directed rage. It is a simple process really. ‘Only another turn of the screw of ordinary human virtue.’”