Sandmann’s Smirking

· News

Perhaps the reader is one of those people who has become tired of all the articles and other reports about the Covington schoolkids.  Same here.  So I will take a different tack.


Some of these reports insist on the racist nature of their behavior, others have issued retractions, and a few have gone on the attack at the others present during the confrontation.


I have no wish to write anything which might result as being incorrect, and forcing me to make a retraction.  Rather, I wish to focus on the expression on the face of the chief protagonist or antagonist – whichever you may prefer.  I refer to Nick Sandmann.  We can look at this from two points of view: do we authentically interpret the expression, and if we do, are there factors which predisposed to such a facial mien?


Inability to correctly interpret facial expressions may be caused by outright problems, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or social-emotional agnosia (Wikipedia).


There was an article in a British on-line newspaper, about two years ago, which challenged readers to identify the emotion of various expressions.  While I remember getting a sufficient number correct, it was challenging.  Pop psychology, of course, but not totally without merit. Most articles on this topic are too academic, but for those who can stomach them, we provide two links, here and here.  The first one of these includes a chart, which shows that, on average, no group of people will be 100% correct in its evaluations.


Also on a personal level, when I was a youngster, a photographer was to take a group portrait.  I was asked to smile.  He accused me of smirking.  Whether my smile is authentic or not, is for others to decide.  Smirking is not something I want to do. Some people just haven’t got the knack for these things.


Another anecdote was revealed to me by a person who has even greater difficulty than I in controlling his facial expression.  One day, for a routine check, he was taken down to the police station (somewhere in Latin America).  He was accused of smirking, and the police did not like it.  To me, he described it as a nervous tick.


Perhaps, if I had been in a similar situation, I would have had an expression similar to the one you find at the top of this web page.  It has been described as making me look like a bad person.


I’m kind of in favour of a Clint Eastwood expression, but I seem to fail at that, based on the number of street people who bother me.  Such an expression, however, would definitely not have gone over well with those defending the tribal elder (which one web site defined as being an Obama!)  (  That article has not been corrected as we write this.


The situation, as I see it, and as the media reported it from the outset, favoured Nathan Phillips, and perhaps still does, especially if we can justly accuse of an intentional smirk.  In that case, his followers can just keep smiling.

Others may choose to grin and bear it.


January 23, 2019

Copyright © Paul Karl Moeller

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