Balance of Power: The 'crisis actor' crisis

Increasingly, nonsense like "crisis actors" is being pushed online. It's the idea that mass shootings don't really happen - and that everyone involved is being paid a pretty penny to fake these events to scare us.

KUSA - Apparently it's hard for some folks to accept that a young person might be both articulate and hold different opinions than they do because some people found it necessary to falsely accuse real kids from a real school shooting of being paid "crisis actors" over the past week.

If you'd like to see a solid debunking of this nonsense, here's a solid report from Will Pitts at our station in Phoenix.

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It went viral enough that some of the big players in social media felt compelled to offer public explanations that the bogus claims shouldn't have been able to go viral on their platforms.

Asked why people seem to have such trouble discerning between fact-based vetted news and people publishing hunches dressed up to look factual, NBC political director Chuck Todd focused on the social media platforms themselves.

"The social media companies have not addressed this problem. They claim that they have," Todd said. "It's clear the companies haven't figured this out, or don't want to."

Todd went so far as to predict that the federal government nay need to step in with regulations on social media, which would obviously raise some thorny First Amendment issues-- and possibly issues for the bottom lines of social media companies.

"I had a consultant friend of mine tell me when Facebook knew that it had a child pornography problem... Facebook shut it down," Todd said. "Do they really want to shut down InfoWars? Or shut down fake news overall... or is there too much revenue tied up in that traffic?"

Not only is a bogus claim like this hurtful to people going through a tragedy in their community, it can also start to create an image problem for the pro-gun side of the debate by turning off people who are less passionate about the issue.

The NRA went on the offensive in the wake of the shooting and used some pretty bombastic language in the process.

"The NRA is almost sort of embracing and adopting some of these more extremist talking points that I think Russian bots are coming up with," Todd said. "The NRA is I think risking its brand here a little bit. Ten years ago this was the most powerful lobby in Washington because they had a bipartisan group of supporters."

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Todd also points out that President Donald Trump and Florida's Republican governor Rick Scott are now embracing policies opposed by the NRA, further making the organization appear outside of the mainstream.