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National Media's Bad Mistake Reveals Confirmation Bias, but Local Hypocrisy Lies with a Candidate

I think it had a shot at being genuinely funny if it weren’t so horrifically sad. The media got tricked on Friday, and while it should have been our treat, the incident revealed such a commonly known problem among conservatives that it was hard to revel in the mistake.

Here’s what happened. Two young men walked out of Twitter headquarters with boxes and claimed to had just been fired under the new Elon Musk ownership, something the press has been all over since it leaked he has been telling investors that he might lay off up to 75% of the total staff (and Musk did fire all the executives for cause.)

The two men gave reporters their names as Rahul Ligma and Daniel Johnson. Ligma is a common term used by internet trolls for its similarity to “lick my” and so it’s no surprise that the second prankster went with a last name commonly used as a euphemism for male anatomy. The con becomes more clear when the two allegedly gave their supervisor's name as “Dinesh Suckondeez”.

Without hesitation or corroboration that the pair actually worked at Twitter, the media ran with the story of the layoffs beginning. Bloomberg News, CNBC and even the Associated Press published similar pieces quoting the two obscene phony fired men.

The hypocrisy here is self-evident but so heavily layered that it’s worth breaking down. The most blatant contradiction is the media’s overhyping of Twitter’s potential of becoming a haven for the spread of misinformation now that Musk will presumably relax some of the content moderation policies only to have the traditional media itself disseminate a false story within hours of Musk’s official ownership.

Exposing those who claim the moral high ground but who are no less susceptible to falling victim to their own biases was likely a main motivation behind the pranksters pulling this off. This is a classic case of confirmation bias. The reporters already believed a narrative to be true so they went seeking for information that confirmed their previously held beliefs rather than independently and objectively seeking the truth.

I’ve seen these same confirmation biases happen locally. In 2020, then-Chronicle reporter Mike Wright had already written the narrative for a story about resign-to-run laws that painted Sheriff Mike Prendergast in a negative light while Wright routinely ignored relevant facts like that the Florida Sheriffs’ Association recommended resign-to-run as standard practice in order to fit the slant he had already decided the story would go.

This election cycle, and particularly in the weeks since the primary elections concluded, the Chronicle has run several stories critical of Inverness City Council candidate John Labriola. However, the hypocrisy lies more on Labriola than on the Chronicle in this case. Several examples demonstrate why.

Labriola is either entirely unaware of his own contradictions or is too self-serving to care. The first was when he claimed the Chronicle is losing influence among voters to his newsletter the Citrus Crusader because only two of the five candidates the Chronicle endorsed won their primary elections. The Crusader endorsed seven candidates. Only one was successful.

Labriola has repeatedly claimed we must protect against Democrats moving from south Florida to our area while ignoring the fact that he spent much of his life until about a decade ago as a south Florida Democrat.

His fear is that they will bring moral degradation, quite the claim for someone with an extensive civil court history most upstanding citizens of society don’t have.

All of this aside, there’s one hypocrisy that is hardest to overlook. Much of what Labriola does from his lawsuit against his former county to his claims on his newsletter is in the name of free speech, a right that he feels is constantly violated. The difference between him and the Sheriff, though, is that the Sheriff directly responded to the journalistic offenses and the Chronicle, to their credit, gave him the space to.

The Chronicle has also given Labriola every opportunity to speak both to the public at their forum and to the reporters about the stories and he’s consistently declined.

It’s not about free speech for him. It’s about speaking only where the audience is in agreement, and there’s no real freedom in that at all.

The hypocrisy of the national media was on display for all to see as this week wrapped up. But don’t confuse their hypocrisy with thinking that means the media is always in the wrong. Sometimes the people they cover are just as bad, if not, much worse.


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