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Conspiracy theorists push false report of California shooter being ‘Middle Eastern’
The shooter was white.
No, the shooter who killed at least 12 people at the Borderline bar in Thousand Oaks, California, on Wednesday night wasn’t Middle Eastern. He’s been identified as 28-year-old Ian David Long, who had previously served in the Marine Corps, and was a white man.
However, several conspiracy theorists who regularly espouse anti-Muslim rhetoric made the jump to identify Long, who is also dead and believed to have shot himself, as a “Middle Eastern” man before he was formally identified, and some still haven’t owned up to spreading misinformation even now that he has.
On Twitter early Thursday, local anchor Jory Rand shared that he had spoken with a man who was at the entrance of the dance hall whenever the shooter began firing. Rand wrote that the witness had “described shooter as middle eastern looking with a beard.”
Just spoke with a man who was at the front door of the bar when the shooter began firing. Says he had a handgun, shot the guard at the door, threw several smoke bombs inside, and then continued firing. Described shooter as middle eastern looking with a beard.
More to come…@ABC7
— Jory Rand (@ABC7Jory) November 8, 2018
Rand hasn’t deleted the tweet, or clarified the identity of the shooter. A recording of the interview was shared nationally and broadcast on CNN. Snopes, however, has debunked the conspiracy.
Middle Eastern Muslim terrorist mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California. Targeting country music fans again. pic.twitter.com/ZCe2qi8CbJ
— NewsBALL Inc (@NewsBALLinc) November 8, 2018
Several people have pushed back on Rand’s reporting of a single witness’ testimony and treating it as fact.
ABC's Jory: Shooter is "Middle Eastern-looking with beard" – great journalism there. Can't help but push the canned #ISIS narrative. You've done your bit to reinforce Islamophobia in America. Well done. Knee-jerk propaganda. Disgusting. #thousandoaksshooter #BorderlineBar
— Patrick Henningsen (@21WIRE) November 8, 2018
ian long wonder what part of middle east he's from !!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/Tth3X4ovuw
— diablo44 (@diablo442) November 8, 2018
Paul Joseph Watson from InfoWars, conservative nationalist Laura Loomer, and anti-Islamic blogger Pamela Geller were among several of these conspiracy theorists who jumped onto this reporting, tweeting statements that parroted Rand’s tweet. Other right-wing conservative publications, such as Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire, reported this information as well. A Twitter account sharing unverified information from California’s fire scanner also spread the information.
Thousand Oaks shooter identified as Ian David Long, a white former US Marine. As usual Prison Paul was ahead of the curve this morning, he has since deleted this tweet. pic.twitter.com/RMhn4kCVd6
— Henry Langston (@Henry_Langston) November 8, 2018
Twitter must do more to stop people who spread fake news like this. The gunman’s name is Ian David Long. pic.twitter.com/XLrYI1Ztsf
— Kia Makarechi (@Kia_Mak) November 8, 2018
I am still trying to figure out how fast this narrative changed in California.
First the suspect was a “middle eastern man with a beard” who set off smoke bombs.
Now he’s a white male who is also a Marine who had an illegal extended magazine on a LEGAL handgun.
— Laura Loomer (@LauraLoomer) November 8, 2018
Have heard 3 different accounts on the identity of the male shooter:
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) November 8, 2018
— Imran (@KhanUR1983) November 8, 2018
Mass shooting @ Borderline Bar & Grill, 99 Rolling Oaks Dr in Thousand Oaks (Ventura Co). Scene not yet secure for EMS. Initial suspect description is middle eastern male w/ beard & beanie. Suspect NOT in custody. #ThousandOaks #Borderline
— CA Fire Scanner (@CAFireScanner) November 8, 2018
Watson has since deleted his tweet and clarified that the information was wrong in a reply to a call-out of his original tweet. Loomer, meanwhile, has since questioned why the shooter was no longer being identified as “Middle Eastern” despite his identity being revealed as white. Geller has doubled-down, framing her assertion as plausible, be it under a media coverup, or otherwise. “This may turn out to have been something other than a jihad attack, the media” would be doing a “coverup,” Geller wrote on her blog.
Early reports from mainstream news outlets reported that he was "Middle Eastern." That explains my tweet, which I deleted as soon as I learned this was wrong. Now will the mainstream media and a thousand blue check marks delete their false and damaging tweets about me? No. pic.twitter.com/odnQdx4ID6
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) November 8, 2018
Geller’s “reporting” tactic: not updating the story she now knows is not only proven false but wildly dressed up as a classic “what the media won’t tell you” bit. Shooter is a 29-year-old, white former Marine. pic.twitter.com/p06ERbxuS7
— Kia Makarechi (@Kia_Mak) November 8, 2018
At what point will conservative bloggers take a moment to verify reporting before demonizing people from an entire region? It remains unclear.
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.