By David Futrelle
Late Sunday night, far-right attack journalist Ian Miles Cheong began tweeting the grisly details of a murder that had taken place that morning. At that point, he was the only journalist who seemed to know much of anything about the death of Instagram “e-girl” Bianca Devins.
IMC — as he’s known online — suggested that he had insider knowledge of what had really happened. His first tweet on the subject was lurid and arresting, and quickly garnered tens of thousands of likes and retweets.
Unfortunately, almost everything in the tweet seems to be wrong. Devins was 17, not 18, and according to police she met her future killer on Instagram, not Discord. Though her throat was brutally slashed, her head was not “sawed off.” According to police, she went to the concert in question with her murderer, not with “another guy she met on Discord,” and she rode home with him afterwards as well. We still don’t know for sure what motivated his actions.
In followup tweets, IMC continued to report speculation and rumors as facts. He referred again to “her decapitation,” and “the fact that a guy stalked her and cut her head off,” though no picture I have seen after much searching shows such a thing and no reputable publication has reported this.
He set forth his theory that the killer was a “beta orbiter” who had stalked his victim; in fact, according to police, the two had had some sort of “personally intimate” relationship in real life for several months (whatever that means; I’m not convinced that it was a romantic or sexual one). He had even met her family. (Click on the images below to see archived versions of the tweets in question.)
IMC later demoted the alleged killer to “some incel omega orbiter from her Discord.”
I have found no indication that the alleged killer was an “incel” or that he ever used that term to describe himself. None of the postings from him that I’ve seen used any characteristic incel lingo.
IMC later posted a “correction” for getting the age wrong. And in another tweet he acknowledged (without admitting his earlier errors) that the two had known each other in real life for several months — though he added another error to his growing pile by attributing this information to the Syracuse, NY police, when in fact it had come from the Utica, NY police. (Utica is where Devins had lived and is where the arrest took place.)
Defenders of IMC might argue that a lot of early reporting on developing stories is wrong, and they would be right; it is. They might also note that a lot of other people were spreading misinformation and disinformation, (and worse) and they would be right about this as well.
Does it even matter that IMC got so much wrong in his tweets?
It’s true that reporters — and the official spokespeople who are often their sources in crime stories like this — get things wrong. This is why good reporters don’t make categorical pronouncements until the facts in question are nailed down beyond a shadow of a doubt. They use words like “alleged” and “apparently,” and they cite the sources for these claims. (That’s why stories about crimes are filled with many repetitions of the phrase “police said.”)
IMC sometimes hedged his claims by saying things like “from what I can tell,” but he made numerous categorical assertions of fact as well, and was exceedingly vague about his sources for these claims.
IMC is the managing editor for a far-right publication called Human Events. Were he writing for a left-wing publication, his erroneous tweets would almost certainly have led to demands he be fired and blackballed from the profession.
Indeed, when then-New-Yorker factchecker Talia Lavin — someone I should note I’m friendly with online — speculated on Twitter about a tattoo on an ICE agent’s arm with a strong resemblance to a German Iron Cross — she became the subject of an online smear campaign that has yet to let up, with her story providing fodder for a number of segments on Fox News. This despite the fact that after learning that the tattoo in question was not an Iron Cross she deleted the tweet and offered an apology.
IMC has not offered any corrections of, or apologies for, most of the misinformation he has posted on this case. I don’t expect he ever will. And I don’t expect it to have the slightest effect on his career. Because that’s the world we live in today.
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