Viral photo of tear-gassed immigrants gets branded a hoax by far-right

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Why such a fight over this particular photo?

A group of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border was hit with tear gas launched by U.S. Border Patrol agents late Sunday. The response online was split down party lines, with conservatives calling it downright inspiring that America would protect its border, and liberals deeming it an atrocity.

But a third group had a different response: Trying to prove parts of it didn’t happen.

President Donald Trump’s biggest supporters, who mainly support the use of force on the border, are also adamant a photo from it is staged. Their argument comes from a picture by Reuters of a woman and two children, which went viral in the aftermath of the tear gas attack.

Fans of the president pounced on the media publishing the picture, taking a Zapruder-style lens to the image.

The image picked up steam on Reddit’s r/The_Donald forum, where it was used as an immediate reason to debunk the news. Everything from the children’s feet to their outfits to the placement of others at the border was picked apart, proof that this specific picture, which was published by Reuters, was staged.

It also became a canvas for memes, with Trump getting photoshopped into the image, screeching at the family to keep them out.

The photo debunk story made it up to the Gateway Pundit, a conservative blog, where it was branded as proof of a “HOAX,” saying it was nothing more than a photo op. But the same site published an article hours earlier saying the tear gas attack happened.

The claim that this specific image is a hoax reveals a stark truth about Trump fans. In the same conservative circles, the U.S. defending its border with tear gas was met with cheers, and the use of tear gas was all but confirmed last night by Homeland Security head Kristjen Nielsen.

So why such a fight over this photo? It should be held up as proof the U.S. is willing to go to great lengths to keep out migrants. But it’s not. While many in conservative circles would say they want the U.S. to respond to behaviors like this with force, those who call for the use of force prefer it to be faceless. If it’s shown on an intimate scale, it makes it harder to justify. Hence the attempt to discredit it.

The use of tear gas can be real—a lone person being hit with it can’t, apparently.

David Covucci

David Covucci

David Covucci is the Layer 8 editor at the Daily Dot, covering the intersection of politics and the web. His work has appeared in Vice, the Huffington Post, Jezebel, Gothamist, and other publications. He is particularly interested in hearing any tips you have. Reach out at [email protected]