You know those inkblot tests that are supposed to reveal something about your personality, based on what you see in confusing, splattery images? Well, the cellphone video clips of a physical altercation involving a photographer at a Donald Trump rally on Monday are like a real-life Rorschach.
How you react says a lot about what you think of Trump, the media and law enforcement.
Here's what we know: There was a violent confrontation between a photojournalist and a Secret Service agent during Trump's campaign event in Radford, Va.
That's pretty much all we know, though, because none of the snippets of footage circulating on social media in the hours since it happened seem to fully capture and contextualize the incident.
There's this eight-second clip from the Independent Journal's Joe Perticone, which picks up part of a verbal exchange between Time magazine photographer Chris Morris and the agent, while Black Lives Matter demonstrators were marching through the Radford University arena hosting the rally. The agent can be heard ordering Morris to "get in the pen," referring to the restricted area set up for journalists at Trump events. Morris replies, "F--- you," and the two men bump chests. But the video ends before things really escalate.
A video posted by the Washington Examiner's Gabby Morrongiello picks up with Morris already on the ground, kicking at the agent standing over him. Morris yells at the agent, "you grabbed me by the neck."
A longer video from Perticone starts at the same point but runs longer, showing Morris grabbing at the agent's neck after returning to his feet. Perticone reported in a tweet that the agent had choke-slammed Morris first, but there is no footage of such a moment.
Video shot from a different angle and posted by CBS News's Jacqueline Alemany shows police leading Morris out of the arena, as he tries to explain what happened.
The best view out there right now, though, might be this long-distance video posted to Instagram by Radford University student Celeste Chorniak. The agent can clearly be seen at the bottom of the screen, grabbing Morris by the throat and taking him to the ground. But the video offers no insight into what led up to that moment.
In a brief interview posted by Annie Anderson, a reporter at ABC affiliate WSET-TV in Lynchburg, Va., Morris says he only put his hand on the agent's throat to demonstrate what had been done to him.
Thus, we have an incomplete account of the incident — an inkblot that invites us all to see what we want to see. Did the agent overreact or did Morris provoke him in some unseen way that would warrant such a response? What's the backstory here? Many of the same journalists and Secret Service agents interact on the trail every day. Is there a relevant history between these two?
These are just some of the questions to which answers were not immediately clear in the aftermath.
But nevermind an absence of facts. Instant assessments of the dust-up included: This is the latest example of over-aggression by a guy with a badge, this is a journalist being put in his place, this is Trump trampling on the First Amendment, and this is some kind of media fabrication.
The reactions probably say more about the worldviews of the people sharing them than they do about what actually happened. And as more information comes out, don't expect these opinions — crystallized immediately — to change, no matter what.