TRASH JOURNALISM: WashPost Says Vaccine Skepticism is Fueling Violent Militias
- WashPost makes vaccine resistance out to be advancing the evil agenda of the violent militias that blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City
- Quotes one of the most discredited sources on domestic politics possible: the Southern Poverty Law Center
- No proof of violence except for events 25 years ago, but still tries to fearmonger about alleged militia’s fashion choices at a singalong in Buffalo
OUR RATING: Trash Journalism, aka the Daily Beast.
If you hesitate on getting the vaccine, you’re basically Timothy McVeigh and likely to blow up federal buildings, according to the Washington Post.
This is what counts as news apparently these days: specious accusations of vague groups of people who are ‘getting together’ with one another. As long as its validated by a shameless extreme left-wing fundraising group noted for falsifying its data, it’s fit to print.
This WashPost reporter covers ‘National Security’ if you want another laugh. 
- Creating False Connections
- Opinion as Fact
- Extreme View Slide
- Some people say
- Bad Sources
- Guilty Grouping
The Washington Post is filled with more staid left-wing opinion pieces these days and far less of what anyone would call ‘news’ – but this is in the news section. It’s supposed to be factual, objective, and providing readers with allegedly useful information.
Instead, Reporter Razzan Nakhlawi writes a polemic designed to malign those who resist the current vaccine mandates. She does so by trying to provide an almost non-existent link and connection to violent militia groups.
Since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, this has become part of Journalism 101 whenever referring to anything on the right: link it to the militias so you can link it to domestic terrorism.
The leader of a far-right “patriot” group in western New York stood on top of a truck trailer speaking to a crowd of about a hundred people in a quiet suburb of Buffalo. They had gathered in June to support a Buffalo Bills player who had refused to take the coronavirus vaccine, even at the cost of his career. Charles Pellien, head of the New York Watchmen, spoke proudly of a constellation of groups coalescing around their shared beliefs.
“We’re all coming together,” Pellien said. “That’s why this crowd is so big.”
Nakhlawi is presenting opinion as fact. She needs a way to group militias and anti-vaxxers together, so she takes one random person you’ve probably never heard of, and quotes him to establish this supposed fact. There is nothing to support this fact at this point in the story other than his opinion that “we’re all coming together.” Notice that his quote doesn’t even mention the various groups that she is trying to lump together. He just says the royal “we” and the reader is left to imply that must mean all the groups the Washington Post reporter is trying to denigrate.
Here’s her next paragraph:
Far-right groups across the nation have aligned themselves with those opposed to masks and vaccines, seeking new allies around the issue of “medical freedom” while appearing to downplay their traditional focus on guns, belief in the tyranny of the federal government and calls by some for violent resistance.
Almost every word in this paragraph is unsupported by evidence. What makes a group “far right” versus just “sorta, kinda right” and is it just ‘far right’ ones or are other centrist and left-wing militias joining the argument against forced vaccination?
What does “aligned themselves” practically mean? Have they sworn some sort of ‘far right’ treaty with other groups? Are they engaged in merger and acquisition talks with other political groups? Are they engaged in arranged marriages between their leaders’ children to keep the peace within the realm? Or is it merely that some of them happen to be at the same public events.
Be careful whom you go to the Post Office around, or the County Fair, or the local political group. It might mean members of your group are joining in league with members of all those people’s groups!
And let’s take “aligning themselves with those opposed to masks and vaccines” and question whether that’s accurate as well. The predominant demographic group that remains unvaccinated are African Americans.  Whites make up the majority of those who remain unvaccinated, but are overrepresented racially among vaccinations. Are militia groups conducting outreach to minorities? Who exactly are we talking about? There’s a wide diversity of people opposed to vaccine passports or vaccination requirements for employment. Are all of these people being courted now by militia groups?
Militia groups serve this great boogeyman for the left-wing media: a group they can always demonize and hype, but who have no spokesman, no definable characteristics, no organizational structure. When its a slow news day and they need to make some news up, they can always come to this fertile well.
Nakhlawi writes this next phrase and you can almost hear the sneer in her voice as she types it, “…seeking new allies around the issue of “medical freedom”” By presenting the wording as such, and the introduction of the scare quotes  around the topic, she is trying to make all their views seem illegitimate. You can see that in the rest of their sentence, “…appearing to downplay their traditional focus on guns, belief in the tyranny of the federal government and calls by some for violent resistance.” She is presenting their beliefs and values as inauthentic by virtue of lumping it together with other similar political issues that are otherwise unrelated to the story but are elite-disfavored and then the capstone at the end.
She’s using here what we call extreme view slide. The paragraph starts with the issue of medical freedom and then somehow manages to loop in ‘violent resistance’ to the list of values. Imagine if you described the political left in the same way as they built political coalitions:
Pro-vaccine advocates made another pitch today to recruit Hollywood celebrities to their cause, who in the past have supported murderous regimes in South America like Venezuela that are known to execute political opponents in the streets, radical abortionists who believe that dismembering a child in the womb as they are being born is ethically permissible, and a variety of movie financiers who have been credibly accused of systemic rape over decades.
You would say that even though those things might be true, they don’t really bear any relationship to vaccines. But just remember that the Washington Post cares more about maligning the political opponents of the regime than they do about fairly portraying political dissidents.
Public health mandates and the push to vaccinate as many people as possible against covid-19 have become animating issues for patriot groups, which have long held conspiratorial views of the federal government. The Watchmen and others say that official responses to the pandemic, both at the state and federal level, are a stark example of government overreach — an argument that helps them appeal to new potential supporters, analysts say.
This is the classic “some people say” argument. It’s when a reporter doesn’t identify who they are talking about, and/or don’t bother identifying first which person says the incriminating thing. It’s their naked attempt to control the narrative frame in the article before they put it in the words of any quoted source.
- Some people say you’re a monster, do you care to respond?
- Some people say you beat your spouse, care to comment?
- Some people say you cheat on your taxes, what say you?
You can really dictate a narrative frame by posing it this way. You can force the subject into an unjustified defensiveness, which again makes them look guilty of something.
A good reporter would identify who is saying these things before trying to claim the authority to speak for all people or anonymous ‘analysts’. So when she writes “The Watchmen and others say…” who are the others? When she says “…analysts say.” Who are those analysts? The reader shouldn’t have to read further to find out. The story only quotes one ‘analyst’ who is from perhaps the most discredited group possible for discussing these issues.
Another problem in this paragraph, though, is that it’s dishonest framing on the overall issue. If you notice that the phrase “long held conspiratorial views of the federal government” is in here without qualification. The reporter offers no explanation as to what that is in this instance, and subtly connects that with the vaccine issue. Yet the story doesn’t say that these groups are presenting any conspiracy theory about COVID or vaccines, they are merely opposed to the current stated policy of mandates. If a group of people believe in what a reporter considers conspiracy theories, must that fact be introduced to discredit them in an article where they are gathering and engaging in coalition building merely to oppose a current government policy?
There’s no reason the mention of ‘conspiracy theories’ is relevant in this story. It’s there merely to discredit the subject with irrelevant information.
No one is saying that vaccine passports are a conspiracy theory. You could argue there’s a connection between the two things, theories and passports, in that they represent resistance to the federal government, but then again every political issue would fall under that argument. The reporter is creating false connections. If a group of people oppose tax rates, is it relevant that they also believe in conspiracy theories about the expansion of government power? If a group is opposed to war, abortion, pollution, homelessness, their opposition is inherently based in some claim that Washington is either unresponsive or inattentive to their demands. The fact one or several members of the group believe in alternative theories about some different subject is not relevant.
This is just a smear by the Reporter of this particular group and on this issue. It’s a way of making anti-vaccination folks seem extreme, dangerous, and crazy. Now they’re even aligning with the crazy militias! And they believe in conspiracy theories!
It bears mention here that many of the so-called militia movements are wildly misclassified by the mainstream media. The Boogaloo bois, for one, are neither appropriately left or right,  but are always categorized as ‘far right’ because it fits the narrative. 
If you dig into the mainstream media rationale for making them ‘extreme right wing’ it boils down to the fact that they are opposed to the government and own guns, therefore, ipso facto, they must be hard-right. And when that narrative doesn’t fit, they just ignore it or bury it.  When ‘showing up and owning guns’ is the marker for extreme right designation, the media can’t figure out how to handle a group of 11 black men in a group called “Rise of the Moors” who should otherwise be labelled radical black supremacists or black nationalists.  No one seems to ask if this group holds “conspiratorial views of the federal government” in their reporting.
The media standards here are so sloppy that if applied to other examples they would be obviously stupid. Black Panthers: own guns and opposed to the government: extreme right wing. The Weathermen: own guns and opposed to the government: extreme right wing.
The media just finds a twisted rationale to label anything they dislike and can’t defend as somehow right wing.
The first expert cited in this story is Susan Corke of the Southern Poverty Law Center. This person and this organization are extremely biased, discredited and partisan, notorious for their attacks on conservatives and Christians, and their shameless fundraising dishonesty trying to link everything to the Ku Klux Klan and violent white supremacism, including College Republican chapters and little conservative book clubs. Everyone is an evil Nazi to groups like the SPLC, because that’s what gets the donation and fundraising machine printing money for their operations.
The SPLC’s Corke outs herself as a radical left extremist on the SPLC’s page about her when she says, 
“There are two different versions of America at the moment – one that believes in a country where everybody is free, has the same rights and embraces diversity, and the people we saw on the steps of the Capitol who are fighting for white supremacy,” Corke said.
So this is someone who believes that the half of America who voted for Donald Trump is “fighting for white supremacy.” When she says there are “two different versions of America” she’s really saying there’s the approved class of people that she likes, and the unapproved class of people she would like to oppress/suppress as diversity wreckers. This kind of exterminationist and totalitarian rhetoric is Soviet-esque. It’s not someone who is an ‘analyst’ on these issues, at a minimum she’s a partisan and a zealot on these issues and ought to be properly identified as such.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has been scandal-ridden for many years.
Their notorious racist founder Morris Dees was unceremoniously fired after decades in the organization two years ago.  After his firing a culture of sexism was uncovered and made public.  The SPLC was accused as being systemically racist by staffers in lawsuits.  The SPLC has suspiciously used tax havens and off-shore bank accounts for years. 
In order to pad their fundraising appeals, the SPLC invented enemies and ‘hate groups’ for their maps and statistics. 
One pundit labelled the SPLC “obviously corrupt” but noted the media refuses to stop using them.  The SPLC would regularly label Christian groups as ‘hate’ groups in order to scare away donors to small churches. 
This is whom the Washington Post decides to use as their impartial scholarly source for determining ‘hate groups.’ It’s a disreputable bad source.
You might be tempted to say perhaps the Reporter doesn’t know about the SPLC’s problems, maybe she’s just ignorant. But then you look again at her writing and her duplicitous injection of irrelevant facts and you can see her impure motive plainly. Let me put it another way: it takes us a full seven paragraphs for this story about the ‘far right’ to bring up the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
Patriot and self-described militia groups emerged in the early 1990s around the issue of gun control and fears of global government, and they were galvanized by violent confrontations with federal agents at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Tex. The movement’s violent tendencies reached a bloody climax with the Oklahoma City bombing. The groups waned in the 1990s and 2000s only to be reignited by the election of Barack Obama, which saw the emergence of the anti-government paramilitary networks such as the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters, some of whose members have been charged in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
So in case you’re not keeping track: anti-vaxxers are combining forces with militias. And militias are violent and blow up federal buildings. So anti-vaxxers will soon start blowing up federal buildings. This is the graf of the entire story. This is why newspaper circulations are down: because the news is this stupid, written by people this stupid, barfed upon readers who aren’t this stupid.
This is creating false connections again. It’s also extreme view slide. It’s a smear for sure, and also what we could call guilty grouping by putting all these things awkwardly together appearing as a political movement.
Let’s also note here that ‘violent confrontations with federal agents’ is a bit disingenuous to describe Ruby Ridge and the siege at the Waco compound. Those incidents involved the federal government’s initial overwhelming use of disproportionate and needless violence, and the subjects involved defending themselves.
And there was no ‘movement’s violent tendencies’ that expressed itself at Oklahoma City.
Let’s take these things in order:
Federal agents in camouflage open fire on the family dog. A firefight ensues. A federal agent dies, and the Weaver’s 14 year old son Sammy was killed by a shot through the back while he was retreating. The only other person shot was Vicki Weaver, who was needlessly killed by FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi for no valid or legal reason.
Serving a no-knock raid to enforce a warrant, four federal agents were killed in the chaos and confusion over one of the most poorly thought-out and executed raids in American history. Six Davidians were also killed that day.
The 51 day siege ended in a fire that the government claims was set by the Davidians, and some claim was set by the incendiary devices dropped by federal agents combined with flammable tear gas injected into the compound. 76 Davidians died in the fire, including 25 children and two pregnant women. Significant evidence exists that federal authorities refused to let them leave the compound  and also that the gas used would have suffocated people inside.  In sum, there’s a good reason there were Congressional investigations into the matter, and this isn’t fairly labeled as merely angry violent resistance to federal authority.
And look, it might cause me to be labelled as a purveyor of ‘conspiracy information’, but I just think it’s quite the damn coincidence that three of the four ATF agents killed in the first day of the Waco siege just happened to be agents who were at one point assigned to the personal security detail of Bill Clinton.
“My prayers and I’m sure yours are still with the families of all four of the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents who were killed in Waco: Todd McKeehan and Conway Le Bleu of New Orleans, Steve Willis of Houston, and Robert Williams from my hometown of Little Rock. Three of those four were assigned to my security during the course of the primary or the general election.” 
Timothy McVeigh’s views are hard to categorize. The media calls him a neo-Nazi because he was supposedly influenced by the “Turner Diaries” novel. McVeigh allegedly told the Washington Post he was a libertarian while in prison. The libertarians say no no, he’s a neo-Nazi, not one of us. 
McVeigh notoriously said very little while in prison. He expressed regret for the 1991 Iraq War and its civilian casualties. Some claim he was suffering from extreme PTSD, common among combat-duty soldiers. 
His convicted co-conspirator Terry Nichols claims he was only helping McVeigh because he’d told him he was an undercover federal agent working to expose violent radical cells. A man picked up and likely tortured to death for being suspected as McVeigh’s accomplice, Kenneth Trentadue, brings a new layer of complexity to the case. 
The point is that the existing narrative around the Oklahoma City bombing does not match the actual facts. There was no militia movement that stood behind Tim McVeigh. There are still many unanswered issues about the bombing to prevent it from used as a convenient political club against anyone, much less anti-vaccine folks who may not have even been alive in 1995.
As but two small examples of how the Oklahoma City bombing narrative is not as simple as the Washington Post pretends, an FBI Agent in Los Angeles offered to sell to Dateline NBC video proof that he had in his possession that showed a second bomber getting out of the Ryder truck with McVeigh. 
And secondly there is still ongoing litigation related to the Oklahoma City bombing, where the brother of Kenneth Trentadue, Jesse Trentadue, has sought documents related to the case for nearly 25 years. The government has engaged in dishonest delays and dishonest legal procedures in order to prevent the release of information. According to Jesse Trentadue, his brother likely got caught up in an ongoing government operation called “PATCON” that was the likely culprit for the bombing. Here’s how Trentadue describes PATCON:
”PATCON was designed to infiltrate/ incite white conservative militias and/or evangelical Christians to violence so that the Department of Justice could crush them.”
Now, admittedly, that’s a ‘conspiracy theory’ about Oklahoma City, but it is one backed up by nearly three decades of tireless litigation by Trentadue, who has survived fighting in federal court with the Department of Justice on repeated occasions. The fact that his efforts have not been summarily tossed out of court should be some indication that his arguments are not wild hearsay or entirely unsupported by evidence.
Randy Weaver and David Koresh were not militia members. Timothy McVeigh has been portrayed as one, but his story is complex and controversial. Yet these memes are being used to discredit modern day gun owners in 2021, as well as people who are reasonably opposed to vaccine mandates.
There’s so much wrong with this article it’s like a fact-check all you can eat buffet and I’m stuffed. But let’s keep going because this trash clearly won’t pick up itself.
The Watchmen have also seized on the pandemic to gain new allies. Since the beginning of the health crisis, they have moved from issue to issue, including supportive gatherings outside long-term care facilities when elderly residents were being ravaged by the disease. At one event billed as a singalong outside a facility in the Buffalo suburbs late last year, attendees in military-green sweatshirts bearing the Watchmen’s blue logo were dotted throughout the crowd.
So, let’s get this right, militias ‘seized on the pandemic’ because they didn’t go dormant for the two years of shutdowns of two weeks to flatten the curve? She says they have “moved from issue to issue” which implies they’re political opportunists, but wouldn’t any group involved in politics talk about the news of the day? Is there any claim whatsoever that they did anything nefarious, unethical, or illegal, or was their crime simply existing?
And let’s get to the crux of her entire damning fact in this paragraph: some people went to a singalong in Buffalo and wore the same logo on their shirts.
The horror! I can’t believe the National Guard wasn’t called out! I mean, they had the audacity to wear the same thing on their clothing?
It’s hard to believe this is really in a newspaper, much less the Washington Post owned by someone as nutty as Jeff Bezos with quality this low that she is complaining about their collective fashion statements at rallies.
Surely this isn’t what she meant to write and this is just a typo. Clearly this was a joke in the newsroom and it got published without anyone noticing?
Nope, check the next paragraph:
The group also latched onto the anti-lockdown cause. Protesters donned their Watchmen garb last November in a gym owned by Robby Dinero, a Buffalo-area man who had kicked out a health inspector days before. Dinero was ordered to pay a $15,000 fine for violating capacity regulations; he would later rip up the citation live on Fox News.
First a singalong and now a gym! What is Buffalo coming to! Can you believe the proliferation of the militia menace! They are singing to people and working out and they own guns, don’t you see what’s next?
By August, the coronavirus had brought the Watchmen to an anti-mask event at a suburban church in Getzville, N.Y., where they were ushering people to their seats. Jen Merica, a social worker and mother of three, spoke to the crowd, protesting mask mandates for school attendance this fall. Merica said she didn’t know why the Watchmen were there.
And then they went to Church!
Singalong, Gym, Church, the next thing you know these militias will be invading Britain! If we don’t stop the militias here and now, the next domino to fall will be Laos! If we let the militia menace drop this iron curtain across all of our singalongs, gyms and churches, then we will face a new cold war against militias all the way from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic.
The ‘proof’ of the violence of the subject militia becomes a joke they posted on Facebook. Without even a police report or an injured party, this is something where there is no evidence to support the reporter’s claims.
But the Watchmen have also brought their proclivity for violence to the issue. An anti-lockdown event outside the Buffalo City Hall devolved into a brawl between the Watchmen and anti-fascist counterprotesters.
Pellien appeared to brag about the violence on Facebook. “My flashlight was dented. Not sure if it was from head #1 or head #2,” Pellien wrote, according to a screenshot of his account provided to The Post.
If anything sums up the problems in reporting in the current year, it’s the last sentence where they brag about screenshotting something from Facebook in order to use it out of context in their article.
Razzan Nakhlawi has a Medium page  where she described Canada’s Justin Trudeau as “a real life Disney prince”  – if that doesn’t tell you all you need to know about the quality of reporters at the Washington Post, I don’t know what will.
This whole article is trash. If there was a real violent militia movement in this country it would surely be a lot more entertaining and interesting than having to complain about their fashion choices at singalongs, gyms, and church attendance.
OUR RATING: Trash Journalism, aka the Daily Beast.
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