When I first saw that "Social Justice Weekly" flyer at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, I knew it was fake. It didn't take a lot of deductive faculties to arrive at that decision -- if you've been around leftist spaces, you know that (despite obvious and deep seated reservations towards the military), no one writes like that. No one uses the acronym LGBTQQI2SAA, nobody is arguing seriously to ban veterans, and nobody with the name Terry Steinawitz exists because it's the most obvious dogwhistle for anti-semites I've seen since a major news organization started slapping globes around the names of Jews.
On August 31, a local news affiliate in Colorado Springs revealed that the flyer's authors admitted it was a hoax. Not only was it a hoax, it its authors were veterans themselves. This is the veteran equivalent of the neo-Nazi who stabbed himself and blamed it on antifa, the crotchety old man who spray painted "Blacks Rule" on his own driveway and blamed it on Black Lives Matter, and myriad other hoaxers who opt to own themselves spectacularly in hopes that it will make an imaginary enemy look bad. Yes, veterans can be huge idiots, too.
This comes as no surprise to anyone with a brain, of course, but a quick cursory search on social media reveals that basically no one has shared this article in nearly 24 hours since publication. Meanwhile, articles excoriating the flyer appeared on IJR (the rightwing clickbait site that Benny Johnson founded after getting fired for plagiarism), The Blaze, Fox News, Popular Military (a sort of low-rent, extra-duty version of IJR), Zero Hedge (the best place to get half-baked finance insight and pro-Putin apologia), extremely not fascist veterans' sites Tactical Shit and This Ain't Hell, Victory Girls Blog, and many, many others. Considering the total saturation of this story, and that right wing outrage news sites never issue corrections, you can rest assured that this story will effectively become true in the minds of a particularly unhinged group of Americans. All of which is predictable, of course, but corrosive to our society.
The headline from the Blaze struck me particularly: "SJWs want veterans ‘banned’ from four-year colleges — and veteran responds forcefully." I appreciate that they aren't even hiding the fact that right wing media vocabulary has firmly ensconced itself between the twin gonads of 4chan and the alt-right, but it's the kind of thing that won't get a retraction or correction. Right wingers get mad, institutions have to respond, various politicians show up to grandstand, centrists apologize preemptively, professional veterans offer gritted-teeth paens to their own tolerance of free speech, and upon discovering the hoax, there's crickets.
Except that this is propaganda, pure and simple. News organizations fell for a trap after social media momentum made them feel obligated to write a story about an obvious, transparent fake. Journalists at the center failed to exercise proper judgment, and journalists on the right cynically manipulated their hair-trigger outrage audiences for precious pageviews and conversions. And now, as the dust settles and the perpetrators admit the hoax, most people who made contact with this story will come away from it believing that SJWs, and by extension anyone who believes in social justice, is reflexively anti-veteran.
Don't get me wrong, there are elements of the far left who are anti-military and anti-veteran. And had they written this flyer, I wouldn't have gone on the podcast and reflexively called it a fake (I would probably still be poring over a Maoist-Third Worldist dictionary trying to understand all the acronyms). But when I see an anti-veteran flyer that avoids the most logical point of left-wing critique -- the fact that the U.S. military has killed untold numbers of innocent people across the world since 2001 -- my instinct tells me that whoever wrote it doesn't represent or even know the left. Which, in this case, was true.
We've all been faked out online -- on this recent episode, Francis recounted a case of this happening to him on Twitter. And every conscious human being in America circa 2017 has heard endless warnings about the power of fake news. In this case, however, it's unforgivable that journalists treated this like it was real. It's categorically embarrassing.
And the fact that the perpetrators were veterans? Beat your faces, fuckheads. You're such crybabies that it's beyond parody.