My “Fake Protest” Claims and America’s Angry Division

On Wednesday a few minutes after 5pm, upon leaving a meeting near downtown Austin, I chanced on a large group of busses parked just east of the I-35 on 5th Street.  I snapped a few pictures and was on my way.

Later that day, I noticed news reports of protests in downtown and near the University of Texas campus.  Having dealt with closed streets and unusual traffic patterns that day toward the south of the downtown (below 8th street) and having seen some pictures of protests that looked more like the south end of downtown than near the capitol, I presumed the busses had something to do with the protests.

Casually, I texted a few friends and then made a Twitter post.  I post on Twitter just a few times a year, and until yesterday I had about 40 followers.

The response was massive (about 15,000 retweets in the first 36 hours), and even the local news commented:

Fox 7 News: Protests across US and Austin accused of being fake by some on social media

And for a fleeting moment the front page of Reddit I’m told as well:

https://m.reddit.com/r/The_Donald/comments/5cawfz/ok_thats_it_the_antitrump_protesters_in_austin/

Was I flat wrong?  Perhaps!

It turns out Tableau was having a massive conference having nothing to do with politics less than a mile away.  Could these have been busses for Tableau’s shenanigans?  I hope they don’t mind me linking to the schedule from that same day:

Tableau 2016 Conference Schedule

And so, I posted this:

Does Anyone Care if I was right or wrong?  Sadly, not enough.

In the 3 hours since posted, my alternative (and possibly true) view of reality has garnered a whopping 8 retweets and 11 likes.

What’s going on?  The systems that carry information to us all are filtered by what’s sensational — not by what’s true.

To be cynical for a minute, people are surprisingly uninterested in truth but very interested in what helps them to make their own case.  This is probably human nature, but is it healthy?  Is that really the basis and process by which we want to make big decisions about our future based upon?

A Few Words from the Middle of the Road

First of all, I voted for Gary Johnson.  I’m neither a supporter of Trump or Hillary, but I did consider voting for both of them for different reasons.

I’m secular independent who leans Republican.  I often describe my political views as “little ‘l’ libertarian with a heart.”

A few of my key political positions:

  • Reduce taxes on both individuals and businesses
  • Encourage the repatriation of wealth
  • Pro business
  • Freedom of religion
  • Pro gay marriage
  • Cover pre-existing health conditions for every American
  • Pro gun
  • Increase the availability of visas for foreigners while reducing illegal immigration

As you can see, I don’t fully align with any candidate.  Let’s promote new voices so that we can have the dialog necessary to reach real and lasting solutions.

Parting Words

I want to set an example.  I can be wrong, and I can admit it when I am.  I will strive for the truth, and I ask you to do the same.

Let’s respect and defend the rights that make America … America!  Let’s respect each other, and let’s give each side a chance to be heard.

Whether we like what’s going on in the streets today or not, remember those people have a voice.  I do not want to live in an America where people cannot make their views heard.

I ask everyone to do their best to tone down some of the anger and find compromises if not collaborations that can move us toward a better America.

 

 

 

There are 25 comments

  1. Dan Becker

    Hi Eric! Thanks for posting this. I am in Austin for the conference and I can confirm you are correct: those busses were there to shuttle about 15,000 people from the Austin Convention Center to the Long Center venue across the river for the big party. The busses were supposed to run in a continuous loop. But because the police closed some streets for the protest march, the busses ended up being corralled where you saw them. I know some people who stood in line waiting for a bus for 45 minutes before giving up and walking (fortunately it’s only a mile or so). I tried taking a Car2go because I have a bad ankle, but traffic was pretty gridlocked around there so I bailed after going 2 blocks in about 10 minutes. Anyway, I appreciate your update! And if you want to try vizzing some of your new Twitter data…. 🙂

  2. Steven Ben-Nun

    I appreciate your honesty Eric, and we did report this on Israeli News Live as well, but as soon as I was challenged by a man that had a friend attending the Tableau conference claiming that Tableau Chartered the buses, at this point I was ready to make corrections to the story. We posted your honest report here to our Facebook page, but made two notes of our own findings: 1.) We request a comment from Tableau to confirm they actually charter the Buses, no response. 2.) Further research shows that George Soros who has been proven to back protest during this election is a big stock holder in Tableau so it is a bit suspicious.

    In light of the fact that the man that contacted me on twitter to correct our report noted: Tableau charter the buses for a “Nite Out” makes one wonder.

    Israeli News Live reports facts not sensationalism, so if we can prove the buses were not in anyway related to the protest then we will clarify this further.

  3. SR

    I too value the truth (wherever it may lead), and very much appreciate your candor and integrity. Thank you for your observations, and also trying to set the record straight!

  4. Charles Bickford

    “Hope for an intelligent future?” Oh the irony. This is the problem with amateurs on the internet. You probably don’t even know you are a bad person. Hope George Soros sues you for slander, takes every penny you have.

  5. Aaron Swenson

    I love how you put fake protest in quotes and possibly it was wrong. For someone who says the love facts you don’t seem to care that you have ignored them. Fact is you got this wrong. You saw something and made it fit your personal narrative. I think the protesters are dumb for what they are doing, however that doesn’t make you right.

  6. Julie Hopkins

    Extremely irresponsible of you. I see those buses and I immediately think “band trip”, “sporting event”. You contributed to the stoking of the lies. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  7. Aaron Morgan

    Steven Ben-Nun & Heather Miller – the company owning the buses has confirmed they were in fact used for the Tableau Conference. So yes, as a matter of fact, we *do* know; please stop spreading innuendo. All you’re doing is confirming Eric’s point about people caring more about sensationalism than the truth. This Soros/Tableau stock angle is patently absurd. As someone who was also in Austin for TC2016, and who walked past the protest with 14,999 other people, I can tell you that the protest group I saw was probably a few hundred people at best, and would require maybe 2 or 3 of those buses, not the large fleet that was there. The lack of response is probably due to the fact that the Conference ended today and everybody from Tableau is either en route back home or tearing down the event.

  8. Michael E Bauer

    I see you are getting nailed in some of these comments, and I am sorry for that. I truly applaud you for your candor and willingness to try to correct what may have been (and likely was) a false assumption. We all do it. We all want to see only what supports our own views, but a lot of people aren’t willing to admit it or attempt to correct it. You are a good man. A smart man, and anyone else who says otherwise has some growing to do themselves.

  9. Steven Ben-Nun

    Based on Dan Becker’s statement we will update our report on Israeli News Live. Those that are so hard on Eric need to back off just a bit, this young man has the courage to publicly correct his error, how many of you have ever done like wise? I have a great deal of respect for his integrity to correct a mistake. We will and do the exact same, It is honesty that gains respect and this young man gas gained my respect for his honesty. Eric we have over half million viewers a day in multiple languages around the world, they will be proud of you for your courage.

  10. Kim

    In the article from the Statesman, you say you put two and two together? Where did you learn your math? Then you say: “Asked whether he thought he shouldered any responsibility for the backlash against the protests, he said: “I think that it is necessary for us to risk sometimes being wrong to help develop moving the dialogue forward.” Really?? You are completely at fault for your inflammatory post.
    You are part of the problem in this country. We need people to work to bring us together – NOT further divide us. There is no room in this country for hatred, bigotry and racism. How about you try to be part of the solution?

  11. kookoo63

    Please don’t be hard on yourself for possibly being cynical.
    On Tuesday, half of the country already made one of the biggest decisions of most of our lives based on knowingly NOT acknowledging the truth. Mr. Trump lied to his supporters EVERY SINGLE DAY and they didn’t care. Bring jobs back? There are NO JOBS to bring back. It’s call progress and technological evolution and global markets and plain old time moving forward. Build a wall? This will NEVER happen considering just one of the many hurdles includes imposing eminent domain upon over 700+ American home owners on the border. Re-negotiate Trade Deals? There is a pre-existing mechanism that is already built in that requires the United States government to re-evaluate and re-negotiate all trade deals if need be after a certain amount of time. Illegal immigrants are taking our jobs? Really, which jobs are they taking, exactly? The manufacturing jobs that were already fated to dwindle in this new world of global economics or all the nanny and fruit picking jobs that Americans refuse to do?
    Donald Trump used anger and frustration and the longing for a simpler, whiter time in America to reel in half of the country. And they ate it up. And he did it without a single genuine, real or productive idea on how to remedy the pain or the misguided lives of those who felt lost or un-heard. But still, they ate it up. There was no absolutely no room in the minds of Trump voters for any truth or factual information. They believed what they wanted to believe as long as they stuck it to those “elitists” who purportedly looked down on them. They were sure gonna show them! EVERY SINGLE DAY Donald Trump dished out heaping buckets full of false hope and fabrication and half of the country lapped it up like blind pigs at a trough.
    So, don’t kid yourself. You’re not being cynical at all. I’m not a big Hillary supporter either but the past two years have proven that we now live in a fact-less society. So give yourself a break.
    It’s a new America.
    You’ve been given permission to lie.

  12. Kimberly Whitman

    As I also appreciate your correction, the damage was already done. People need to THINK first before posting something. Check out whether it might be true before posting or even sharing someone else’s post, that’s how all these false stories spread so fast. Some of my family call me the FB police because I will speak up, usually privately, and let them know if a story they are sharing is true or not after researching it, unfortunately they don’t delete or post any correction. And don’t just believe the first couple stories that are on top on Google, read everything and look at where the story came from.

  13. Tim Herns

    Kimberly Whitman,
    Thank you for your post.
    For several years now people have been sharing half truths and lies wrapped up as facts.
    I have been an accountant for over 20 years and have returned to school to study journalism because the unethical behavior of the corporate businesses I worked for actually became a trigger for my Persian Gulf War PTSD.
    Like you I fact check things before I share them.
    As an accountant I would uncover information that seemed fishy. It wasn’t always something that would impact external reporting to the SEC. Sometimes it was more about how managers handled their internal budgets in order to pad them or to hide losses in order to make sure they would still receive bonuses. I was always told that it was okay and to just get the reports completed. What I found was that this was widespread in corporate America.
    This is why I had to change course in my life and work toward making a difference in society by doing proper journalism. It saddens me to read all the people who are giving up Eric a free pass on this despite his very poor behavior. With his single Tweet he changed the perception of many of these protest. It has lessened their impact but it seems that most people just don’t care for truth. Instead it appears that they just want their view point validated and will accept anything that agrees with it because it suits there purpose. Did we learn nothing from the recent Libel decision against Rolling Stone?

  14. EZ

    You “value truth” yet you didn’t even bother to do any fact-checking or question your assumptions before posting something inflammatory and divisive that shows you, despite your assertions here, to be strongly partisan. You haven’t done nearly enough to rectify the damage your asinine, absurd, conspiracy-mongering tweet has done to others. “Perhaps” your assumptions, facts, and attitudes were wrong? Perhaps? Perhaps? That’s an unnecessary qualifier if indeed you do believe that you were wrong. Your post here, and your re-tweeting of your initial tweet with a label on it saying “false” simply isn’t enough. Here’s what you need to do: 1) google this and, for the first ten pages of hits, make an individual post at each website, and individually to all posters who have commented there indicating that they believe it to be true, and tell them why it’s not true. 2) do the same for facebook articles about it 3) do the same for twitter re-tweeters.

  15. kelly

    HI Eric,
    I appreciate that you are trying to understand what happened, and owning your part in a viral story. You might find George Lakoff’s blog helpful. Lakoff is a linguist who has studied Trump, and why people respond to him as they do. I’ve linked one article, but really, all of his work is useful for anyone looking to understand this election and what appear to be such great divides in how we understand what is happening around us.
    https://georgelakoff.com/2016/07/23/understanding-trump-2/

  16. tuesday

    I’m staggered you can still find the mental space to continue to excuse yourself (‘too busy to fact check’).

    You aren’t sorry, I don’t think. You are sorry your post was called out nationally as the genesis of stupid fake news. (the key is ‘perhaps’ here: ‘was I wrong? PERHAPS.’ No peanut, the answer was YES.)

    This article’s point seems to be that other people – all other people – should be blamed for believing what you wrote. While that is a valid point, it definitely show your true mettle, that you are too ‘busy’ for facts and if other can’t understand that, then that it their problem.

    This whole thing is variations on ‘I’m not at fault.’ No wonder Trump rang true to you.

  17. Marcel Sereno

    You “personally value the truth” so much that your “apology” has NO TAGS so it is as invisible as possible.
    Uh huh.

    Go fuck yourself, hack.

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