By now you’ve probably heard that Ivanka Trump and her family had a rough start to their holiday travel.
A little bit is known about the guy doing the harassing, but it’s his big-mouth husband, one Matt Lasner, who is grabbing all of the headlines. Lasner’s social media is filled with intolerance regarding those with whom he disagrees politically. He’s a college professor so…typical. Lasner quickly deleted his Twitter account (we’ve still got screenshots), but his Instagram is still up and peppered with partisan spitefulness. (UPDATE: Lasner has since made his Instagram account private, but here is the screenshot.)
The reason Lasner fled Twitter was that he’d proven that he had proudly boasted that Goldstein’s intent was to harass Ivanka and her family:
Apparently, it’s OK to irritate and delay a plane full of people as long as you not-too-cleverly hashtag your target as “evil.”
This is an incident that kicked off on Twitter, so it was only fitting that it continued there. As with yesterday’s incident with YouTube prankster Adam Saleh and Delta Airlines, the people being kicked off the plane were given a free pass by many who immediately “reported” the news. There are still a few entities who behave responsibly out there. Not many, but a couple came through with accurate takes:
Ivanka Trump, children harassed on flighthttps://t.co/FDI14nfaIl
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) December 22, 2016
The social media person at The Hill didn’t fall for the “poor, poor passenger” narrative either:
— The Hill (@thehill) December 22, 2016
There may have been a few more examples that didn’t opt for a skewed headline simply because Ivanka Trump was involved and they thought they could get away with it, but they weren’t readily available. Social media, like cable news, doesn’t really reward a calm, cool approach, even if the people and organizations tweeting should be prudent. Shrill sells on both platforms, however, and a premium is often placed on the creative presentation of facts.
Many news organizations feel they have some wiggle room to sensationalize on social media, whether through purposely placed qualifying words or omission. Here’s a tweet from a Good Morning America producer that illustrates the former:
Jet Blue says flight 415 is delayed. Statement below comes after couple removed for allegedly harassing Ivanka Trump pic.twitter.com/GxHHwtAo5T
— Michael Del Moro (@MikeDelMoro) December 22, 2016
Sure, the inclusion of “allegedly” would normally be deemed a cautious, professional move. By the time Del Moro tweeted this, however, almost anyone possessing genuine curiosity had unearthed Lasner’s tweet that proudly proclaimed harassment as the intention. There was nothing “alleged” about it. Even if Del Moro could be forgiven for getting this out there around the same time that Lasner and Goldstein had been exposed, his employer couldn’t:
— ABC News (@ABC) December 22, 2016
That tweet from ABC “News” was posted long after Del Moro’s, when Twitter was overwhelmed with various tweets and screenshots of Lasner’s “harassment” tweet.
Note to ABC: sometimes “not entirely accurate” news is fake news too.
The next two tweets fall under the “omission” category. Neither is actually wrong, but they don’t tell the story even though more clarifying facts were available.
Men removed from JetBlue flight with Ivanka Trump aboard https://t.co/bOR8V7GU2b
— Winston-SalemJournal (@JournalNow) December 22, 2016
— Yahoo News (@YahooNews) December 22, 2016
That tweet from Yahoo! News is insidiously biased. Again, it isn’t factually incorrect. What it does though, is leave all kinds of room for inference. It makes it seem as if a man calmly questioned something, and was removed from the plane for doing so. The question itself is lunatic–she has the right to fly–but it is presented as if it were a perfectly legitimate premise. What’s left for the reader to ponder is exactly what Ivanka did to provoke it, which is precisely the intent.
Of course, if you’re looking for completely unhinged bias you go to Think Progress, where it’s the editorial prime directive:
Passenger kicked off Jet Blue flight for talking to Ivanka Trump. "Your father is ruining the country!," he said https://t.co/BbghfOSva4
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) December 22, 2016
Just “talking to” her. That’s all Legum’s original tweet on the matter said. When he posted the new tweet with Goldstein’s ranting quote in it, he didn’t seem to notice that it negated the “talking to” line.
As someone who blogs and is on Twitter all day, I can attest to the fact that most of the people “consuming” news on social media really just consume the headlines and/or tweets. The stories are sometimes skimmed, but not often devoured for details. Opinion can be easily manipulated by misleading tweets, especially if coming from a news source. Most people tailor their social-media exposure to ideologically friendly feeds. There is a very real possibility that almost no one who follows and believes Judd Legum knew anything about Lasner’s original tweet. If they did, it wasn’t until hours later. This may not seem like much, but it may actually be the linchpin for how fake news spreads. The news on the other side of a link may not even be fake, but the headline promoting the article can be, and often is, deliberately intended to manipulate opinion, rather than generate clicks. Bad marketing, but a brilliant move for propagandists.
Naturally, all of this would have been presented and received differently had the harassment been directed at a famous liberal woman. However, wealthy liberals don’t fly coach. They prefer to sit in first class and discuss what’s best for average Americans.