For the fourth time in my life I am enjoying the smug satisfaction of having seen through a fake news story before it exploded in everyone's face. Sorry, I lied. I'm not enjoying it at all. I'm scared to death. Less than a week after the major media embraced a story first aired on Buzzfeed […]
For the fourth time in my life I am enjoying the smug satisfaction of having seen through a fake news story before it exploded in everyone's face.
Sorry, I lied. I'm not enjoying it at all. I'm scared to death.
Less than a week after the major media embraced a story first aired on Buzzfeed that Trump had ordered his lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to congress was disconfirmed by none other than special counsel Robert Mueller himself, the media got caught trying to hammer some high school kids based on four minutes clipped from a video lasting well over an hour.
The story appeared first as, 'Preppy-looking white kids wearing MAGA hats threateningly surround and diss revered tribal elder while chanting racistly with evil smirks on their faces.'
It began to fall apart immediately, though I had my suspicions from the first. It was just to perfect, it fit a certain narrative too well.
It's the same feeling I got years ago when I read the Janet Cooke story of the seven-year-old heroin addict that got her a Pulitzer Prize. Later revoked after the story was found to be made up.
I read it and thought, 'Bogus.' Because I've known junkies and junkies are not generous with their stash.
The same feeling I got reading about the murder of 'Green Beret Doctor' Jeffrey McDonald's wife and two little girls by 'a black man and a bunch of hippies with candles chanting 'Acid is groovy. Kill the pigs.''
That's not how crazed hippies act, it's how everybody thought crazed hippies act.
McDonald is now serving life for the murders.
And the same feeling I got after I was a minor participant in a hatchet job on three college athletes accused of an assault in a pub.
My part was only looking for criminal records, of which there were none. And I will say in my defense that I almost immediately had suspicions, followed up on them, and tried to do the right thing. Ultimately by resigning.
But for a few brief minutes I was caught up in the excitement of a big scoop about the kind of people I've always disliked, entitled college jocks.
The tale of the tape has shown the situation is a lot murkier than it appeared at first, but what we do know is this. The Catholic school boys were in Washington, D.C. on January 18, for an anti-abortion rally.
While waiting to board a bus for home there were a small group from a cult called the Black Hebrews nearby who were shouting insults and racial epithets at them for at least the hour and 12 minutes the video was running.
Thereupon they were approached by a small group including one Nathan Phillips, described as a tribal elder, Vietnam vet, and Keeper of the Sacred Pipe. Phillips walked into the middle of them and began drumming in at least one kid's face, and brandishing what appears to be a metal drumstick.
The boy does indeed have what appears to be an obnoxious smirk on his face. However last I checked the city code of Washington 'standing around with an obnoxious smirk' is only a misdemeanor subject to a small fine.
Since then the media has largely backed off the story. True believers are still trying to spin it, but when high-powered columnists such as David Brooks among others come out and fesses up to rushing to judgement you know the story has collapsed.
Good on you David, but no apology can erase the fact that you looked at only a few minutes of a much longer tape and never bothered to ask the accused what their story was.
And that someone pretty obviously looked through the whole video to find just the right clip to make the story.
And that a lot of people believed it because they wanted to believe it