by Lady Yvaine

In the months since the election, thousands of us have had our friends list on Facebook swell with numbers of like-minded people – those who are on the left and are progressive and anti-fascist. I’m no different, and I’ve made a lot of new friends that way. Of course, as time has gone on, some of our friends’ lists have dwindled again as people’s true proclivities are revealed, or as they share false or misleading information. Raging against the current administration is good; spreading fake news stories without researching first – whether they help or hinder your cause – is not.

That’s why it disturbed me when an individual on my friends feed shared a news story that didn’t sit right with me. Immediately, a few things jumped out from the initial post, which is below. First, the picture clearly shows protesters sharing holding up a sign that reads “Justice for Mike Brown”. Second, the subject of the story has a specifically biased tone to it by calling out the “armed protesters” as black. Third, the website the article is from is not one I’ve heard of – and I think it’s safe to say that if this incident had occurred, then we’d be hearing about it from more mainstream media sites, and certainly from various social media sources.

After clicking on the article, a few more things jump out at you. First, the article is written by someone named “Forest Parks,” an obvious pseudonym. Second, the original date of posting is July 17, 2017. Again – if this had been an actual story, we would have heard about it in July and seen it all over the media. Third, the last statement of the first paragraph refers specifically to the Republican National Convention, and there’s a problem with that: the RNC only occurs every four years, during the election year, so the last one was – you guessed it – in 2016.

One of the things that fake news stories are extremely good at is sprinkling in factual information into their articles to make it appear that the article is accurate and true. A Google search of half of the article’s title, “Cleveland Police to Call for Temp Suspension of ‘Second Amendment’ Open Carry Law” does net actual mainstream news articles from when a similar situation occurred in 2016. After three Baton Rouge police officers were killed in an ambush, the Cleveland Police Union Leader requested that open carry guns be banned in the area surrounding the RNC for the safety of police officers, and the request was declined by Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Finally, we come back to the main part original post, designed to stir emotions upon first glance: the picture. Urban intellectuals credits another non-mainstream website with the original image, which clearly shows 2016 in the source URL. The only problem here is that a Google search of the picture reveals that it is actually not from 2016, nor is it from Ohio.

In fact, the image is from August 2014, and depicts the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, who together with a group of Black Panthers carried out an open carry march in Dallas, TX in order to protest police brutality and raise awareness of Second Amendment rights. Below is another picture of their group, where you can read the sign in full.

In short, whether you trust the person posting the article on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or your social media source of choice, take a moment before you react with anger or sadness, and do your research. Confirm the story is legitimate before spreading false news stories and creating a more toxic information environment.