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In the wake of the mass shooting in Portland last Saturday night, when reliable information was still scarce, some of those on the right took advantage of the confusion to spread a little more confusion of their own.
Right-wing trolls posted disinformation about the identity of the shooter and the woman he allegedly killed. Others on the right, drawing loosely on misleading and in some cases factually incorrect statements by police, made up their own story of the events, transforming the shooter’s attack on the demonstration into an act of self-defense against am antifa mob attacking his house. (See my last post on the subject for more on this.)
Still others, who stopped just short of blatant lies, attempted to muddy the responsibility of the shooter for the death and injuries among the demonstrators and their supporters by describing the events of the night as what far-right “journalist” Andy Ngo called an an “antifa-involved mass shooting” — a turn of phrase that makes it sound like it was Antifa responsible for the death and the injuries of their own allies. Indeed, some on Twitter took it to mean just that:
Given Ngo’s longtime animosity towards antifa (the feeling is mutual), it seems likely to me that Ngo is deliberately encouraging his uncritical followers to jump to this conclusion.
Ngo used the phrase or a similar one in multiple tweets to his nearly one million Twitter followers.
Ngo has also referred to “the mass shooting involving #antifa” and “the deadly mass shooting last night involving #antifa”; in more recent posts he has talked of the “the antifa vs homeowner shooting” and “the furry neighbor vs antifa deadly shooting.” (He has made much of the fact that the alleged shooter was a furry, evidently as a way of eliding discussion of his oft-stated far-right beliefs.)
Several right-wing publications have also leaned heavily on the word “involved.” The Post Millennial, the web publication for which Ngo is an Editor at Large, referred in one headline to the “Antifa-Involved Mass Shooting.” The Epoch Times declared, also in a headline, that “Portland Shooting Leaves 1 Dead, 5 Wounded Amid Reports Antifa Is Involved.” National Conservative offered its own take, reporting that the “First ‘victim’ of Antifa related mass shooting [had been] identified.” The Lid, citing Ngo as a source, “reported” that “[a]n armed Antifa confrontation with an armed Portland Homeowner near Normandale Park left one woman dead and 5 other people wounded… .”
None of this jibes with what seems to have really happened Saturday night, as made clear not only by the eyewitness accounts but also in the charging document of the solitary suspect. The accused and now arrested shooter — apparently a fervid far-rightist (and Andy Ngo fan) who regularly talked about his desire to shoot “commies” and antifa — reportedly confronted, then opened fire on, a group of women who were trying to diffuse tensions, shooting a disabled 60-year-old woman in the head, killing her instantly, according to accounts of the evening. 43-year-old Benjamin Smith was taken down with a bullet fired by one of the demonstrators before he had a chance to injure or kill anyone else. If the witness accounts and the charging affidavit are accurate, Smith was a cold blooded killer; the man who shot him is a hero, a rare example of a “good guy with a gun” stopping a mass shooting in its tracks.
Antifa was “involved” only in that most of the wounded and injured (except Smith himself) were at least informally associated with the movement. Calling this an “Antifa-involved” shooting makes about as much sense as calling the assassination of Abraham Lincoln a “president-involved shooting.”
While dismissing a survivor’s account of the shooting posted anonymously to Twitter, Ngo eagerly jumped on rumors that the alleged shooter had only been defending himself — a rumor he thought discredited the antifa “narrative.”
Ngo in one tweet tried yet another way to blame the shooting on Antifa, declaring that:
It’s not clear if anyone other than the demonstrator who allegedly shot Smith was armed in the antifa camp. Saying the shooting “happened” because protesters insisted on protesting would be roughly equivalent to blaming the Lincoln assassination on the President’s trip to the Ford theater.
Ngo has also spent a good deal of time tweeting derogatory information about one of the survivors, including her photo, knowing full well that this puts her at significant risk of harassment and worse from his numerous followers. He has also posted tweets about antifa in which he simply makes up “facts” about the group members and their motivations.
The only way to know if the disruptors were “fearful” about the potential release of information would be to literally read their minds. Many in, or in sympathy with, antifa have repeatedly called on the police to release MORE information.
Ngo and his allies on the right are taking a tragedy and trying to turn it into a farce.