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A reporter runs afoul of the Red Pill brigade

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Over the weekend of June 23, an event called the “Red Pill Expo” was held in Bozeman. Speakers from all around the world discussed topics of grave importance, such as the necessity for additional investigation into 9/11. The event was broadly criticized by the Montana Human Rights Network, which released a statement calling the Expo a “combination of paranoid conspiracy theorists; far-right, anti-democratic libertarians; and alternative health charlatans.”

After writing a 450-word story on the expo and the controversy surrounding it, I was alerted to the existence of a video response from Red Pill Expo organizers. It featured every person involved in the expo that I had interviewed for the story, including one woman, expo speaker Sherry Jackson, whose quotes I didn’t use in the story.

The 42-minute video is a hell-ride of baseless accusations and occasional tangents into off-topic conspiratorial musings. By all means, watch it (search “fake news red pill expo” on YouTube). It’s hosted by the expo’s executive manager, Patrick Wood, and features event organizer Debbie Bacigalupi. The high point of the video occurs at about the 13-minute mark, at which point Bacigalupi looks directly into the camera and says, “Michael Siebert, you’re fake news.” The video includes no specific allegation of inaccuracy.

While I’m honored, I feel that it’s important to address some of their concerns. (Wood declined to comment on the video’s allegations, and Bacigalupi did not respond to interview requests.) The crux of the argument made by Bacigalupi, Wood and Jackson is that I fabricated quotes and intentionally excised Jackson, a black woman, from the piece to suit the Human Rights Network’s argument that the event was full of white supremacists.

Reporters frequently interview people whose quotes don’t end up in the final product. This is the first part of a long, two-part process called “composing” and “editing.” In this case, Jackson did not make it into the story because I had a limit of 450 words and three relevant sources were already in the story (only one of whom spoke critically of the event).

Quoting someone who criticizes an event as “white supremacist” does not necessarily mean that the reporter of the piece holds that opinion. I do hold the opinion that criticizing that reporter for not reporting the unverifiable fact that your first boyfriend was named “Mario,” as Bacigalupi criticized me in the video, is “tokenizing.”

Funny as they are, the accusations lodged in the video are serious. Fabricating quotes is journalistic malfeasance of the highest order. And Bacigalupi’s suggestion that anti-fake news crusaders could start “targeting—um, uh, exposing, the bad players” is alarming.

The video ends with Wood “awarding” both me and the Human Rights Network a “Red Pill Goose Egg Award.” That’s definitely going on my resume.

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