John Minchillo, AP
Protestors gather outside the Catholic Diocese of Covington Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, in Covington, Ky. The diocese in Kentucky has apologized after videos emerged showing students from Covington Catholic High School mocking Native Americans outside the Lincoln Memorial on Friday after a rally in Washington.

Despite new information surrounding the incident between Covington High School students and a Native American elder in front of the Lincoln Memorial, all sides have held firm to their initial reactions. The concerning lack of humility is an example of how damaging preconceived expectations can be.

A new poll issued a week after both the initial viral episode and the expanded videos found 74 percent of liberal voters still believe the fault lay with the students. Conversely, 75 percent of conservatives placed the blame on the national news media.

In the end, everyone saw what they wanted to see, and further information, footage and commentary did little to influence those initial reactions. It may have deepened them.

Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that only 40 percent of what one sees comes in through the eyes. The rest is pieced together by what one expects to see. That too easily creates a space for instant certainty to thrive, the harm of which we wrote about in a previous editorial on the Covington controversy. Now with the settling dust comes a new question: What does it take to change a mind?

If the additional footage and details of the event were not enough to make some question and examine their initial reactions, then what would have? The Covington story is a magnified example of trends that seem to be gripping the country. Social media algorithms make it easier to filter opinions and news in a way that affirms what one already believes and makes it harder to be open to and process new information, thoughts and alternative perspectives.

Once hailed as great unifiers and sources of communication, social media has turned out to be a source of deep division and angry rhetoric that boils over on issues like the Covington story or the ongoing Brexit debate happening in the U.K., where social media has been awash with hateful comment sections and divisive debate that has resulted in the government being unable to compromise and reach a solution.

Being limited to echo chambers of similar ideas inhibits one’s ability to have a healthy discussion about issues and from being able to learn and grow from different opinions. This is not new, but it has reached an extreme that results in hateful rhetoric, closed minds and even a complete standstill on issues and progress.

What will it take to change this trend? One answer is not something that can be fixed through legislation, social media guidelines or comment sections: It’s humility.

28 comments on this story

Escaping the spiraling trap of instant certainty and standstills will require a large effort of setting aside pride and turning toward humility. Being humble means adapting to new information and adjusting initial beliefs when more truth comes to light. It requires learning from those with whom you disagree, exercising healthy dialogue and communication, giving credit where credit is due, asking for advice and admitting when one is wrong.

No one is exempt — the media, lawmakers, pundits and citizens all need a healthy slice of humble pie to stay true to the facts, the principles and the honest conversations that will lead the country forward.