After Quebec shooting, white nationalists, Twitter bots, and Fox News spread misinformation (The Daily Dot link): In the small hours of Monday morning, false information presented as facts about the tragic mosque shooting in Quebec rapidly engulfed Twitter.
Fabricated details about the horrendous crime in Quebec City, which left six worshipers dead and more than a dozen others wounded, were promoted by an army of bots and high-profile right-wing commentators.
The shooter, they claimed, was a Muslim. First, a Syrian refugee; then, a man of “Moroccan origin,” as Fox News claimed in an article it quietly deleted around noon without correction. (A Moroccan man interviewed by police was actually a worshipper at the Cultural Islamic Center of Québec.)
However, the accused shooter is not a Muslim and he is not a refugee. He was born in neither Syria nor Morocco. The suspect is a 27-year-old white French Canadian named Alexandre Bissonnette, whom an immigration rights group has identified as a far-right internet troll. What’s more, Bissonnette’s Facebook “likes” include, among various celebrities and musicians, President Donald Trump and far-right French politician Marine Le Pen, in addition to a number of other figures critical of Islam.
While most Americans were still asleep, a misinformation campaign was being carried out on Twitter that largely targeted users who lean politically to the right. Pamela Geller, a right-wing commentator famous for her “Draw the Prophet” contests and a partnership with a prominent American white supremacist named Richard Spencer, is among the more well-known individuals who deserve credit for circulating the fake news of the Syrian refugee assailant. (Readers may recognize Spencer from viral videos depicting him getting punched in the face—occasionally to a soundtrack.)
In a series of tweets Sunday night, Spencer mocked the victims of the shooting while calling for the deportation of every Muslim in North America.
Among those circulating fake news about the shooting were accounts supportive of Trump and the visa ban he ordered on Friday restricting travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Many of the accounts appeared to have no regard for the truth and were instead seizing the moment to inspire hatred toward the Muslim victims. Others appear to be gullible bystanders with their own preconceived biases against non-whites.
The concerted spread of misinformation goes to show that even terrorist attacks targeting Muslim communities can be spun by white nationalists to inflame hostilities towards Muslims and refugees.
This was exemplified by none other than White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who inexplicably used the attack—once again, carried out by a Canadian citizen—as evidence of why Trump’s travel ban on Muslim-majority countries was necessary.
“It’s a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the President is taking steps to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security,” Spicer said.
Hannity’s misinformation made it’s way through conservative media following reports from fake news purveyors central to the alt-right, Gateway Pundit and Prison Planet, both of which claimed the shooter had shouted “Allahu Akbar.” They cited a then-live-updating CBC report claiming a witness heard the gunman yell “Allahu Akbar” as he fired. According to the most recent reports, the suspect in custody is alleged to be an “obviously pro-Trump” 27 year old white French Canadian who has been described as an “anti-immigrant far-right ‘troll’.”
Hannity was not alone in using the eyewitness report to falsely insinuate a Muslim had committed the attack. Alt-right outlets across the internet parroted false reports that the attacker was a Muslim, or used the "Allahu Akbar" report to insinuate that he was. Gateway Pundit even attacked mainstream media outlets that did not repeat their Islamophobic fearmongering, claiming these outlets were “those who hid the truth,” and had promoted “alternative facts.” Fox News also initially reported the attacker “was of Moroccan origin” before correcting themselves, and White House press secretary Sean Spicer used the Quebec mosque attack to defend the administration's dangerous and "un-American" Muslim ban.
By Sunday evening, more than a dozen GOP members of Congress had spoken out against Trump’s executive order on immigration. Among them were an array of the party’s most influential figures. The top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, said the United States should not implement a religious test. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said the plan to strengthen vetting of refugees was itself not vetted. And the political and policy groups led by Charles and David Koch offered their first public criticism of Trump, whose candidacy the billionaire brothers found so unpalatable they sat out the 2016 election.
The wave of criticism marks the end of a startlingly brief honeymoon period for a new President who has been in office for scarcely a week, and even set the White House on defense as it backtracked on the ban applying to green-card holders. And while much of the blowback was driven by Trump’s immigration orders, the controversial plans he has on the horizon suggest the rest of his term could be just as rocky.
The emerging rifts come amid mass protests in cities around the U.S. against an executive order that would block millions of people from entering the United States. Legal permanent U.S. residents were detained at airports, refugees were trapped en route to the United States and judges from coast to coast stepped in to stop the unprecedented White House action. The chaos knocked the White House back on its heels and prompted Trump on Sunday night to release a defense of the policy.
Trump Going On Vacation This Weekend Confirms FAA (news.groopspeak link): President Donald Trump hasn’t been in office even 10 days and is already scheduling his first vacation to start this coming Friday. He will be taking a trip to his Palm Beach club at the Mar-a-Lago resort and stay there for the entire weekend.