Justice

How A Racist Troll Pretended To Be Ammon Bundy On Twitter And Punked Most Of The Media

CREDIT: Rick Bowmer/AP

Ammon Bundy, the leader of the armed occupation of an Oregon U.S. Fish and Wildlife Building

It was a tweet too terrible to be believed: last night, @Ammon_Bundy compared the armed occupation of a federal facility in Oregon to the heroism of Rosa Parks.

The outrage from Twitter users was swift and harsh. The outrage of the media wasn’t far behind.

From the New York Daily News:

NYDN

The Washington Post:

WaPo

Rolling Stone:

RollingStone

Similar articles appeared in TIME, Salon, The New Republic, USA Today, Mic, and more.

The only problem? The @Ammon_Bundy account does not appear to be actually run by Ammon Bundy, the Nevada rancher leading the group of armed men who’ve been occupying a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service building in Oregon since Saturday.

The account was created after the standoff began and Ammon Bundy became a media fixture, and, despite racking up over 4,000 followers, doesn’t have many tweets on its timeline. Right now, half a day after the infamous Rosa Parks tweet, the count is only at 61. The profile picture is a screenshot from a video of Ammon Bundy — one used in many parody accounts — whereas if it was actually Bundy’s account, he would probably use his own photo of himself. And the account is unverified, which means that Twitter doesn’t confirm that the person whose name is on the account is indeed the person writing the tweets. Without that, and without verbal confirmation from Bundy himself, there’s no way to confirm that the words on Twitter can be attributed to the person in real life.

In fact, as early as 7:19 a.m. this morning, the same New York Daily News exploding in outrage over the tweet reported that Ammon Bundy’s brother, Ryan Bundy, categorically denied that Ammon was behind the tweet — and said that his brother isn’t on Twitter at all. Tony Dokoupil, an MSNBC reporter who’s been covering the Oregon standoff on the ground, also tweeted that the account was fake early this morning.

Twitter briefly suspended the account yesterday, as reported by Talking Points Memo. The suspension could indicate that the site had doubts about the account — doubts that surfaced yesterday, before any of the Rosa Parks related coverage. Related to the Twitter suspension, Dokoupil had tweeted that the account was fake yesterday afternoon.

Snopes.com, the internet’s favorite fact check site, pronounced the claim false, and Gizmodo soundly debunked the account.

While some sites have updated their earlier articles to reflect the fact that Ammon Bundy the man did not, in fact, compare himself to Rosa Parks on Twitter, the outraged articles from other sites — such as the articles from TIME, Salon, and Rolling Stone — bear original publish dates after Gizmodo rounded up the contrary evidence. While doubt slowly dawned and turned to certainty in some corners of the internet, other corners were still reporting a hoax as if it were a fact — which the account owner is gleefully celebrating.

Twitter user @TheSaintNegro29 has now claimed responsibility for the trolling, mocking the mainstream media (“MSM”) who failed to exercise proper Twitter caution. They also photoshopped an offensive mask — which appears to be their signature image — over Ammon Bundy’s face in the account profile pic — and made the same image their own profile picture. From the Ammon Bundy parody account, “The Saint” mocked fooled reporters and the media and told followers to follow their other account, @TheSaintNegro29, where their recent feed is full of retweets mocking the mainstream and “liberal media” for falling for the troll. Unlike the newly created @ammon_bundy account, it’s an established account of 4,000+ tweets and retweets — many of which are extremely racist, including mocking tweets of the racist mask over black bodies, anti-Black Lives Matter tweets and a now-deleted tweet calling civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson a domestic terrorist under the hashtag #FactsArentRacist.

The hoaxer also conducted interviews with reporters over IM as Ammon Bundy, and gave an interview published in Jacobin — which Jacobin has now taken down, saying that it is the magazine’s first ever retraction.

While the Twitter account @ammon_bundy — which, in addition to comparing Ammon Bundy to Rosa Parks, also claimed that Martin Luther King Jr. would stand with the Oregon militiamen of today if he was alive — is doubtless the most successful Ammon Bundy parody account, it’s not the only one.

You can also find Ammon Bundy wannabes and mockers at @amon_bundy, @ammonn_bundy, @AmmonBundysCow, @PatriotBundy, @realAmmonBundy, @ammonbundy1, @amon_bundy, and @ammonbundy.

Some of these accounts explicitly state that they are parodies. From others, it’s pretty obvious. Some are playing it straight. All of them are newly created. But none of them are verified by Twitter — and as many media sites were just reminded, without that blue check there’s no guarantee that the person behind the Twitterfeed is who they say they are. As for Ammon Bundy — he doesn’t appear to have plans to join Twitter anytime soon. Apparently, he prefers to complain about government overreach on Facebook.

This post has been updated with more contextual information about the hoaxer’s own Twitter account.