The Web, DebunkerColby Klaus

Fast spread of misinformation on Fort Lauderdale shooting

The Web, DebunkerColby Klaus
Fast spread of misinformation on Fort Lauderdale shooting

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A gunman opened fire in a Florida airport, with five confirmed dead at this time. What's been confirmed so far is the shooter's history with the Army National Guard, a birthplace of New Jersey, and his name being Esteban Santiago. He was wearing a Star Wars shirt while carrying what appeared to be a 9mm handgun.

At this point, Broward County officials have informed Reuters the gunman arrived to the airport from another flight; his gun was inside the luggage he checked, which is surprisingly legal. Reuters has also filed a report from a Canadian embassy stating the gunman's flight was from Anchorage, AK to Fort Lauderdale, FL. CTV News confirmed this report, with officials stating the gunman's flight originated in Anchorage and wasn't provided by any Canadian company.

What was the immediate reaction?

The disinformation playbook was followed to the letter. First, propagandists had to plant seeds of distrust against "the media" by alleging a conspiracy.

Multiple shooters are reported often whenever a mass shooting has occurred. Why? Because humans are imperfect, especially under stress. A loud noise, suspicious looking person, or simple hiccup in the brain's processing power can lead someone who just experienced a violent tragedy to believe they're seeing or hearing something they haven't.

Propagandists and liars exploit this well-documented phenomenon in every shooting they can. Once a media outlet has alerted the public of a potential second shooter—generally including information that the report is unconfirmed—propagandists spread this as 100% fact while leaving out the qualifier of these reports being unconfirmed.

Later, officials will announce there was no second shooter. Media will report the announcement, and propagandists strike. "See? The LYING media is covering this up! WHAT ARE THEY HIDING?!" they'll say. The propaganda is effective because the speaker omits key information, such as officials confirming there was no second shooter, and that officials never confirmed there was a second shooter—it was only a witness believing something while experiencing extreme duress.

What came next?

Media reports relayed information from police and witnesses regarding the identity of the shooter. When his name and appearance didn't fit into traditional stereotypes of Muslims, a new vector was needed. So, without any evidence or source, a new ideological enemy is needed to take the blame.

Yes, now the gunman has been tied to democrats, Hillary Clinton, and the left-wing. How so? Because it's convenient. The same tactic was used to blame #BlackLivesMatter after the Chicago torture involving four black people, despite police officials clearly stating there was no connection.

Within an hour of the shooting, a narrative is already built:

"The Media" is lying, and you must blame democrats.

And blame they did! Could the National Rifle Association, its lobbyists, and politicians it has funded be said to have helped create a system that allowed a gun to be transported via airplane luggage and used in a massive tragedy?

NO! It's actually "leftists" who should be blamed, because nobody else in the airport had a gun to stop this tragedy!


The narrative gets continued as more information is flooded, too much for most people to independently research. Additional accusations of fake news arise, but the propagandist omits the fact that the initial reports were based on county official statements rather than media speculation.

Or they'll claim the person is of a different nationality, omitting the confirmed birthplace was within the lower 48 states.

But the media's reporting will be trusted by propagandists when they repurpose it to take credit. CBS, for example, reported at 3:59 p.m. CST information from sources regarding the gunman having previous contact with the FBI. WeSearchr, a far-right propaganda outfit ran by noted rape apologist Chuck C. Johnson, republished the same information just two minutes later and claimed it as their own.

You can't trust "the media," but trust our rehashing of what the media just said.

Tactics like these are nothing new. Johnson has used them before, as has Cernovich. Because they don't have the resources of a traditional media organization, they ride coattails to pick up breaking news and copy the bits which fit their pre-fabricated narrative.

That's why each mass shooter is accused of being muslim, and the ones later found to have no relation are either forgotten or used to claim "the media" is lying. Or why every claim of rape is a lie, unless the rapist is a person of color or of a different religion.

Lying through omission is effective because at least part of your narrative is based in fact. It adds credibility, builds trust with people who either don't know or don't care about your shady practices. Every time you speculate and real journalists provide confirmation, you're given an opportunity to celebrate as though you "beat the networks."

But nobody was beaten on a scoop. The propagandist simply peddled the same theories they have in countless other situations. Eventually, one will stick.

The times where they got it wrong? Well, they'd rather you don't talk about those.

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