Allowing the hate group the space to espouse its unedited, unchallenged rhetoric is an egregious, irresponsible lapse
Over the weekend, a meager group of Proud Boys marched in suburban Dublin. In the aftermath, one local outlet, which we've chosen not to name or link to here, decided it would be wise to reach out to the Columbus chapter of the Proud Boys and then run the group's unedited, unchallenged responses at length. The results are... not great. Here are just a half-dozen of the issues I had with the irresponsible, borderline damaging coverage.Get news and entertainment delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our daily newsletter
There is zero context
Outside of describing the Proud Boys as “a far-right organization that admits only men,” there is no attempt by the outlet to put the group in any kind of context. Instead, a spokesman for the Proud Boys is able to define the group at length, insisting that its members aren't racist or violent, casually referring to it as a “drinking club,” and writing, “If you come and talk to us, we are your dad – your grand father, your great grandfather.”
What a quaint advertisement!
In reality, the Proud Boys, founded in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, are classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and its members have appeared marching alongside white nationalists at extremist gatherings like the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which was partly organized by Jason Kessler, a former Proud Boy. More recently, two members of the extremist group were convicted in a violent attack on anti-fascist activists that was captured on videotape in New York following a 2018 speech by McInnes. And that's just scratching the surface.
Additionally, in a feint of balance, the outlet requested comment on the march from the SPLC, which declined, leaving the Proud Boys as the sole on-record voice.
You're freely giving your platform over to a hate group
This really needs to be repeated: The outlet just handed its platform over to a group that was banned from Facebook in 2018. Facebook! You've seen the kinds of things that Facebook allows to fester, and even it couldn't maintain a connection to the Proud Boys.
The Proud Boy spokesman is able to remain anonymous
Not only did this outlet platform a hate group, but it allowed the spokesman to submit the responses anonymously, giving him the leeway to push the Proud Boy agenda free of public scrutiny or any potential personal and professional blowback.
You can never be certain about the message you're allowing a group to spread
Extremist groups are filled with bad-faith actors who frequently employ in-jokes and coded language when speaking to the public — words and phrases that might be innocuous to the average reader but that resonate with the intended audience. Publishing unedited responses afforded the group the potential to communicate in its own language with a purposely targeted, potentially sympathetic crowd.
Allowing the powerful to co-opt the language of the oppressed and go unchecked in claiming victim status
Let's be clear: White men are not a marginalized group by any metric. Yet, in this exchange, the Proud Boys write, “There is an untold story here, and it's how men like us are being slandered and marginalized with freedom by people to throw around words 'racist' and 'hate' and 'white supremacists' without fear.” Allowing this very white, very male group to claim victimization cheapens the struggle of the legitimately oppressed. There's also an undercurrent in play here that suggest words like "racist" and "white supremacists" are somehow slanders on par with slurs used to describe actual minority groups. When you proudly march beneath a banner modeled on a Nazi flag, these descriptors are fair play and can be used by critics "without fear."
The publication's writer is anonymous
Putting a writer's name on an article lets readers know who is giving them the information, which, ideally, leads to better accountability, and in turn better journalism. Otherwise, you run into situations like this, where it plays like cowards providing cowardly coverage for other anonymous cowards to spread cowardly half-truths alongside outright fictions.
I'm sure the post in question will generate clicks for the site due to the nature of this media hellscape we're currently living in. But there's not a soul involved with its creation who should be proud that this thing exists.