Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Crisis Actors And The Gateway Pundit Smell Test

WaPo |  The bloodshed had barely ended in Parkland, Fla., last week when the Gateway Pundit added its own unique take on the students who had quickly become media-friendly gun-control advocates.

“EXPOSED,” read its headline. “School Shooting Survivor Turned Activist David Hogg’s Father in FBI, Appears To Have Been Coached On Anti-Trump Lines.” It later doubled down, asserting — without any evidence to support it — that operatives linked to liberal billionaire George Soros had “selected anti-Trump kids to be the face” of the massacre.

The stories helped spread a debunked conspiracy theory about the students being paid “crisis actors.” This was a few days after the site initially claimed that the suspected shooter was “a registered Democrat.” A few hours later, it realized it had zeroed in on the wrong Nikolas Cruz but soft-pedaled its correction, merely amending its story to say he wasn’t a Democrat, as “some sources had reported” — a group that seemed to include news sites that had cited Gateway Pundit’s story.

Gateway Pundit didn’t stop there. Reporter Lucian Wintrich, who wrote the Parkland stories, took to Twitter to denounce the protesting students as “little pricks.”

The take-no-prisoners approach — not to mention the conspiratorial tone and dubious assertions — has been the trademark of Gateway Pundit since its founding by a former corporate executive named Jim Hoft in 2004. Despite this, its influence has grown both among the fringe right and more mainstream conservatives. In 2016, it championed Donald Trump’s candidacy; Wintrich eventually received White House press credentials in the new Trump administration.

Hoft — who declined an in-person interview and only responded briefly to questions via email — rejected the label often applied to his creation: far right. The term, he said, is “used by Democrats and far left media to smear anyone who opposes the leftist narrative.”