Swatting Hoax: National Report Publishes Another False Story

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The National Report has released another highly disturbing story out of Louisiana where Paul Horner, 15, allegedly was given 25 years to life for “swatting” — calling in a face police report on an online gaming opponent. The problem is that the story is entirely untrue. There is nothing funny of course about the article like an Onion publication. National Report, which we have previously discussed, is a fake new site in which grown adults do nothing but try to trick blogs and news sites into republishing false stories. That is it. Just a juvenile “gotcha” site that is the equivalent to journalistic graffiti. Now, once again, here is my question: why do advertisers support this site and why hasn’t someone sued these people? The latest fake story shows the picture of a person crying in a courtroom surrounding by officers. The editors list the photo as an Associated Press photo and the website appears to have removed its prior disclaimer that the stories are false.

The story recounts how Horner broke down in tears after the judge sentenced him to twenty-five years to life in federal prison in the first swatting prosecution. The article goes into depth about the facts and allegations, including the gamer tags of the parties and the decision to charge Horner as an adult. It even quotes Judge Arthur Digsby warning others to leave “your petty pride in the realm of digital fantasy where it is still safe. Because, as young mister Horner has learned, actions in the real world don’t have a reset button. And every parent should make sure their children understand that.”

The picture has the following caption: “15-year-old Paul Horner reacting to a judges ruling which sentenced the young man to 25 years in prison on multiple domestic terrorism charges. (AP Photo/Dennis System, File) / AP ” The question is who is being shown in the picture and whether that person can now sue. This is not a news story protected under common law rules for newsworthy publications. It is not news at all. Moreover, the article implicates (falsely) Associated Press in a false story.

What the editors accomplish in such stories is little more than a journalistic version of tripping someone on the stairs from behind and then laughing.

There was a disclaimer on the site that could be easily missed and equally easily misunderstood:

DISCLAIMER: The National Report is an online portal for “citizen journalists.” The views expressed by writers on this site are theirs alone and are not reflective of the fine journalistic and editorial integrity of National Report. Advice given is NOT to be construed as professional. If you are in need of professional help, please consult a professional. National Report is not intended for children under the age of 18.

However, I could not find that disclaimer this time.

The website lists editors like Allen Montgomery. In one report, National Report Publisher Allen Montgomery is quoted in saying that “We have been targeting Tea Party types recently as they are the most gullible and are willing to spread misinformation across the internet with little/no research.” Now there is a worthy purpose in life: finding ways to spread misinformation on issues that deeply affect people’s lives from free speech to homosexual rights to the environment. Other people are trying to deal with a global attack on free speech, but the people at National Report are trying to re-direct that debate into false alleys and walls.

I was drawn to the story initially for our site, which has long discussed the problem of runaway sentencing laws and abusive prosecutions. Those are serious questions that some of us try hard to raise in the hope of reform or at least greater awareness in the public. We are hindered by the work of outfits like National Report. While people try to make serious contributions to this world, the juveniles at these sites simply try to trick people and misdirect news. The stories tend to work to the advantage of those who engage in such abuses when people waste time and effort on a false story (which is then proclaimed as merely made up). The disclosure of the hoax makes it more difficult to get people to rally or respond to real abuses. For the life of me, I cannot imagine why adults want to spend their time trying to victimize people who feel strongly about public issues and act on those feelings. While most people have disconnected from public debate, the National Report staff targets those who want to actively debate the issues and raise awareness of threats. It is like putting beacons on a shore to try to get ships to crash or spreading a rumor at a high school that a classmate was killed in a car accident. It is purely malicious and craven conduct. However, the people at National Report were able to find others who enjoy this type of malevolent fun.

The most mystifying aspects of this work however is the absence of any litigation. Here the National Report is showing an actual person and claiming that he is a boy sentenced for terroristic threats. The photo appears real and is linked to a legitimate news organization. Putting aside the man in the picture and Associate Press as potentially injured parties, there is the question of the Internet suppliers. The problem is that the protection for Internet companies under federal law is so extensive that there is now no incentive to act on such false sites despite the damage that they do to legitimate news and political speech on the web. It is ironic. One wayward photo can lead to the banning of a site for copyright violations but an entire site that is committed to tricking people and creating false stories is perfectly alright. The absence of a clear disclaimer should be a material problem for any such site, but National Report appears to be operating with impunity on such issues.

The latest hoax has snared a couple of sites, but hopefully the early disclosure of the hoax on this and other sites will reduce the damage of the National Report and its editors. However, it is very easy to fall victim to these false stories and the editors and writers of the National Report will likely be able to claim additional victims in the next round of hoaxes.

If anyone is suing National Report and its editors, we would be very interested in following such a lawsuit and reporting on its progress.

61 thoughts on “Swatting Hoax: National Report Publishes Another False Story”

  1. Perhaps Professor Turley needs a heads up that The Onion is also made up.

    God help us if he runs across Andy Borowitz!

  2. > National Report, which we have previously discussed, is a fake new site in which grown adults do nothing but try to trick blogs and news sites into republishing false stories.

    Honestly, I am a great believer in a free press and a huge admirer of your Professor, but I think trying to trick news media into printing fake stories using a single solitary website is a very valuable addition to the news scene.

    Our press is lazy, shallow and refuses to do the basic journalism tasks required to vet stories and fact check them. They constantly print distortions, they cover stories pretending to be experts and get it all wrong.

    FOOLING these people is a very worthy task. Shoving their face in mud and embarrassing them may be the only way to teach them a lesson.

    Author & Physician Michael Crichton:

    > Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.
    In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”

    The media is terrible. They deserve this and so do we.

  3. If journalists are lazy (which they seem to be these days) and they don’t do their due diligence then these hoaxes happen.

    The NR reads like satire and many of the stories are quite funny. Did you go to the staff page. If not, please do, it is hilarious.

    TurIey, I suppose you would complain about the following site as well.

    http://www.landoverbaptist.org/

  4. doc, I told a priest who did a similar Holder joke report on another blog I was going to steal it. A preemptory confession as it were. I tell people my sources, I just don’t do links. Your continuing problem w/ that is duly noted.

  5. Nick,

    Sorry I didn’t get the joke but you are always so deadly serious about ‘ the vile’ Holder – how was I to know that it was an example of Spinelli hilarity and not a copy of a submission for the Sludge Report?

    Hoping to avoid your opprobrium in the future, how can I differentiate between the two?

    Wait. I know. I’ll ask for supporting documentation and I’ll hope I won’t get your curious explanation why you are not like the rest of us who are happy to supply some kind of support – support that is just a bit more substantial than your own inestimable. and esteemed opinion

    1. docmadison – Drudge is an aggregation site and he finds his own articles. I am not sure he takes submissions.

  6. Theo : “you must verify the information before you accept it as truth. If you fail to do that, then you fail at basic citizenship”

    This needs to become a basic credo. If you understand that the net is full of truth AND lies you become RESPONSIBLE for figuring out which is which… At least before you duplicate that information by sending it along

  7. @Theo
    You do realize that nationalreport.org and nationalreport.net are 2 entirely different websites. The discussion is regarding the bad satire (bad because unlike places like The Onion), national report.net is doing. They are making up stories that contain elements that fit with the subjects, so people accept the new claims by nationalreport.net as truth, even though any amount of searching would show that the claims were just lies.

    I already expect the news media to lie to me. I also expect the Internet to be full of truth and lies. As others have said the comments, you must verify the information before you accept it as truth. If you fail to do that, then you fail at basic citizenship. It is our duty to seek out the truth and discredit the lies.

  8. LOL!!! Oh, JT, I love your blog, but you are showing your age on this one (and you’re younger than me). It is hilarious that any reasonable adult (obviously, that excludes Republican congressional “leaders”) could scroll down the homepage of National Report and not instantly realize it is a complete farce. LMAO!!!

  9. Sort of like the National Review, claiming it was parody after people noticed the report was a complete lie. Busted.

  10. docmadison, It was a parody, a joke, lighten up. Pretend I was making fun of Gonzalez, then you’ll get it.

  11. Trust but verify…>Ronald Reagan

    A good rule to live by.
    Actually, I don’t trust much either.

  12. Nothing wrong with hating Republicans, but I give equal time to hating Democrats too. Neither party is worth a tinker’s cuss. They are only there to distract you while the Illuminati takes away another liberty and taxes you more for it.

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