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. There is one time when the practical joke/ bald faced lie can be welcomed: April 1st. I once got three friends believing that Mercury was being swallowed by the Sun! I still think the BBC’s Italian spaghetti farm was the coolest!

  2. There is no humor in this,only practical ‘joke’ nastiness. Additionally, it masks the truth about truly alarming things that ARE going on. I don’t find the Onion funny either, except very rarely, but at least it is not harmful. But Sqeeky’s limericks are funny!

    1. traveling limey – I am a conservative and I find the Onion laugh out loud funny for at least one article each issue. What happened to your sense of humor? Our sense of humor does change over time, is that what happened to you?

  3. Theo pay no attention to be Steve H. Last I heard JT wants his blog to have both left and right commenters and everything inbetween. Has this blog become a right wing echo chamber? I certainly hope not.

  4. Theo: So, by coming out of the closet as a Republican hater, you have destroyed your credibility on THIS blog. Please consider redirecting your energies and blind hatred somewhere else, perhaps The National Report or The Onion where people who look for (crave?) validation of their biased views will find solace in your hate speech.

  5. Squeeky, no I don’t that’s it, after a while I didn’t even hear what he was saying anymore, his voice reminded me of what he looked like jumping up and down in front of that CPAC audience. Ew, that was actually revolting.

  6. @Annie

    It was probably more the sound of him making some good points that irritated you. I don’t listen to Rush because it just makes me too angry about the situation, and it isn’t exactly like the Republicans have a bunch of rocket scientists waiting in the wings to save us all.

    My personal least favorite show on FOX is Bulls and Bears on Saturday morning, which they ought to rename “Bullsh!t and Bares (naked shorts, get it?)” The Five is pretty fun, though.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  7. The Five, ugh. My sister seems to love watching them even though she is a liberal. Throughout the show she keeps repeating how the obnoxious they are and comments on the sneers on the womens’s faces. When I’m visiting her I have to excuse myself, I refuse to put myself through that. I used to listen to Limbaugh just to hear what kind of rot he was spewing, but after a while I couldn’t bear the sound of his voice any longer.

  8. Squeekers, No thanks, I have. To be fair she is the least obnoxious of the commentators over there.

  9. Now I’ll say something about FOX. I don’t watch it b/c it takes too much time to short the wheat from the chaff I’d rather go to 3 or 4 different sources to try to figure out what’s going on.

    Elaine, I, too, stopped watching the Sunday morning shows. They all seem to be presenting spin.

  10. @Annie

    Quit reading silly surveys from Leftist sites and just watch FOX for yourself. Start with Megyn Kelly. If you want to survey OPINION shows, remember that OPINIONS are like rear ends. Everybody has one. IMHO, MSNBC “lies” every time they preach about “man made Global warming.” Or runs an inflammatory story on Ferguson, Mo.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  11. Squeeky, I didn’t say anything about FOX. What I said applies to those who have sent me emails that make false assertions. What they have in common is that they watch FOX news and listen Rush. Please read more carefully. I think you read what you wanted to believe, not what I actually said.

  12. bettykath

    I don’t know if those who have sent me emails, etc. are Tea Party “types” but those who get their news by watching FOX or listening to Rush 24/7 certainly are gullible. They pass on the darnedest stuff without checking. For awhile I did the research that showed the misinformation. I don’t know if it was the cognitive dissonance or just that I disagreed with them but I don’t get their stuff anymore. 🙂

    *****

    I don’t know if all those people who follow Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, etc., are gullible. I think those followers get the right-wing talking points that they want to hear. I’d add that those who don’t follow/trust any of the above don’t necessarily follow/trust MSNBC. I rarely watch the Sunday “news” shows any longer. The three major networks usually invite the same talking heads on to discuss news/issues week after week.

  13. Just curious – can any of the commenters who are accusing Fox News of lying give us some examples? I see this accusation thrown around a lot, but no one ever seems to back it up.

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  14. The boy in the photo was, in fact, getting 25 years to life, but for beating his own baby to death. I suspect he falls into the “impossible to defame because his reputation couldn’t get any worse” camp.

  15. @ Theo

    You said: (using a terrible Republican health plan to push through the ACA, for example).

    You do realize that the plan, I assume (correct me if my assumption is wrong) that you are talking about, the Massachusetts plan, was written by the Mass legislature which has/had a Democrat supermajority in both houses. The plan was not written by Republicans. Not written by Romney. He just didn’t veto the Mass. plan. Even had he done so, his veto would likely have been overridden by the Mass Democrat controlled legislature.

    “The Commonwealth’s House and Senate typically are constituted with 85% to 90% Democrat majorities. Such dramatic super-majorities are a dominant consideration in any discussion of Romneycare, as they render the governor’s veto into a mere symbolic gesture that cannot stop the passage of any legislation favored by the Democrats. For example, in Romney’s last year in office, the Governor issued 250 vetoes, every single one of which was overridden.”

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/09/understanding_romneycare.html

    If you are going to make statements, you might try for some accuracy.

  16. @bettykath

    Well, I am sure that you will have a happy Labor Day now that you have gotten in your obligatory digs at FOX and Rush Limbaugh. But if you want some really misleading news, just tune in to MSNBC on the Ferguson stuff. They done got the liberal bloodthirsty howling lynch mob ready to go on the Ferguson stuff when all the facts aren’t even in.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

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