Con­way trips, but me­dia still ‘not cool’

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - PHILIP BUMP

Kellyanne Con­way messed up. Speak­ing with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on Thurs­day night, United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s se­nior ad­viser in­vented a mass killing that never hap­pened.

“I bet it’s brand-new in­for­ma­tion to peo­ple that pres­i­dent Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee pro­gram af­ter two Iraqis came here to this coun­try, were rad­i­cal­ized and were the mas­ter­minds be­hind the Bowl­ing Green mas­sacre,” she said. “Most peo­ple don’t know that be­cause it didn’t get cov­ered.”

There was no “Bowl­ing Green mas­sacre,” in any Bowl­ing Green. There was, as many have pointed out, an in­ci­dent in 2011 where two Iraqi men were ar­rested for try­ing to send weapons to al-Qaida. Both men ad­mit­ted to hav­ing at­tacked Amer­i­can troops in Iraq, but no at­tacks oc­curred in the United States. The Bowl­ing Green mas­sacre has the happy dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the least deadly mas­sacre in his­tory.

When the Con­way clip started to pro­lif­er­ate on so­cial me­dia, there were a few di­rec­tions that the re­sponse could go. We’ve come to ex­pect a cer­tain pat­tern from Trump him­self: an out­ra­geous claim, an im­me­di­ate blow­back, a dou­bling down from Trump, a some­times-strained de­fence from his loyal de­fend­ers. It’s a func­tion of the odd po­lit­i­cal space Trump oc­cu­pies, one that strad­dles truth and false­hood, where he’s given credit for what peo­ple want to read into his com­ments ver­sus what he ac­tu­ally said. (“Take him se­ri­ously, not lit­er­ally.”) How would that cy­cle it­er­ate for some­one be­sides Trump mak­ing an ob­vi­ously false state­ment from within his in­ner cir­cle?

The first re­sponse was right on cue. Re­ac­tion on so­cial me­dia was im­me­di­ate and harsh. “Bowl­ing Green Mas­sacre” trended on Twit­ter, with any num­ber of jokes made at Con­way’s ex­pense. News out­lets rushed to of­fer brief fact checks: the “mas­sacre” sim­ply didn’t hap­pen.

On Red­dit’s The_Don­ald fo­rum, one of the most en­er­getic and loyal bas­tions of Trump fan­dom, the en­su­ing re­sponse was var­ied — and rather muted. One user shared the clip un­crit­i­cally, say­ing Con­way had “school[ed] libs” on the mas­sacre. An­other called it “a strange choice of words” but de­clared it “only 10 per cent as dis­hon­est as what the me­dia does ev­ery day.”

On Fri­day morning, Con­way re­sponded on Twit­ter.

“On @hard­ball @NBCNews @MSNBC I meant to say “Bowl­ing Green ter­ror­ists” as re­ported here:”

That al­leged refugee ban also didn’t hap­pen. That’s why it was “brand-new in­for­ma­tion.”

You’ll be glad to know that Con­way still man­aged to make lemon­ade out of the whole Bowl­ing Green sit­u­a­tion: “NBC re­porter texted me at 632 am re:a diff. story; never asked what I meant on @Hard­ball b4 slam­ming me on @TODAYshow Not cool, not jour­nal­ism”

Sure, Con­way got her facts wrong. But, as al­ways, the real prob­lem is the me­dia.


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