Immediately after the police identified the suspect in the Florida high school massacre, as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, the media began to scour social media, desperate to find any ties Cruz may have had to the “Right”. In the media’s narrow minds, you can’t be a gun owner and not be tied to the Republican Party. The Republican Party and the NRA must be held accountable, and they must be held accountable at all costs, even at the cost of being accurate or truthful. When the media couldn’t find any facts to report, they immediately began to scour social media for hints. What they got was a bunch of social media trolls who thought it would be funny to lead the mainstream media on with lies about the shooter. The mainstream media and the Anti Defamation League (who ironically, claims to defend people who are victims of discrimination, yet works overtime to demonize anyone whose views are to the right of theirs), had to settle for fake ties to the massacre suspect and ‘white supremacist’ group in Tallahassee, Florida.
Unfortunately, both the media and the Anti Defamation League’s stories quickly fell apart when they were outed for not having done their homework to properly vet the comments made on an open chat, social media platform called 4Chan.
On Thursday afternoon, the Anti-Defamation League reported that a white supremacist group claimed ties with Nikolas Cruz, who confessed to the shooting spree that killed at least 17 people, including many high-school students, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
From the Anti Defamation League’s website:
A spokesperson for the white supremacist group Republic of Florida (ROF) claimed to the Anti-Defamation League on Thursday, February 15, that Nikolas Cruz, the man charged with the previous day’s deadly shooting spree at a Parkland, Florida, high school, was associated with his group.
The italicized paragraph is the ONLY place in the entire ADL article that mentions their story is FAKE.
UPDATE: On Thursday afternoon, following news reports of the alleged association between Cruz and the Republic of Florida, a member of an alt right discussion forum wrote that all of the claims were false and were part of an elaborate attempt to troll a network news reporter and other media outlets. At a press conference Thursday afternoon, the Broward County sheriff said a connection was “not confirmed at this time,” but that law enforcement was still investigating.
Instead of deleting their story, and posting an apology, the ADL left the falsehoods up on their website for everyone to read:
Cruz, 19, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, allegedly entered the school Wednesday, February 14 with an AR-15 and opened fire, killing at least 17 people and injuring 14 more. Cruz left the scene but was later captured by police and has been charged with premeditated murder.
After self-described ROF members claimed on the discussion forum 4chan that Cruz had also been a member, the Anti-Defamation League spoke with an ROF member who identified himself as Jordan Jereb.
Jereb, based in Tallahassee, is believed to be the leader of ROF. In 2016, he was arrested on charges of threatening a staffer in the office of Florida Governor Rick Scott because he was allegedly angry at the staffer’s son.
Jereb said that Cruz was associated with ROF, having been “brought up” by another member. Jereb also claimed that Cruz had participated in one or more ROF training exercises in the Tallahassee area, carpooling with other ROF members from south Florida.
ROF has members in north and south Florida. The alt right white supremacist group borrows paramilitary concepts from the anti-government extremist militia movement (not itself a white supremacist movement). ROF describes itself as a “white civil rights organization fighting for white identitarian politics” and seeks to create a “white ethnostate” in Florida. Most ROF members are young and the group itself is only a few years old.
Jereb added that ROF had not ordered or wanted Cruz to do anything like the school shooting.
If Cruz’s role is confirmed, the Parkland school shooting would be the second school shooting by a white supremacist in the past two months. In December 2017, another young white supremacist, William Atchison, engaged in a shooting spree at a high school in northwest New Mexico, killing two students before shooting himself.
What we know about ROF (the Republic of Florida):
- The Republic of Florida (ROF), also known as the ROF Militia, is a white supremacist group that started in 2014, adopting many concepts from the anti-government extremist militia movement (which itself is not part of the white supremacist movement), including paramilitary structures, paramilitary trainings, and uniforms. Members even have a camouflage painted vehicle.
- The leader of the group is Jordan Jereb, based in Tallahassee; the group also has members in South Florida, where Chris Cedeno seems to be one of the leading figure.
- Group members have had contacts and associations with a variety of other white supremacist groups, including the Vinlanders Social Club, the League of the South, and Atomwaffen
- As the alt right grew more well known, the ROF adopted a number of alt right concepts and language and now can be considered an alt right-style white supremacist group. It openly identifies as “identitarian.”
- It seeks to create a “white ethnostate” out of Florida.
- The group does not have a significant track record of violence, though that may be due more to its newness than anything else. Members have used violent language (and Jereb) was arrested in 2016 for threatening a staffer in the governor’s office. In 2014, before he founded ROF, Jereb said on social media that “the traitors of my country (Florida) will be hung in our courts.”
- At least some members of the Republic of Florida appear to have attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017.
“A spokesperson for the white supremacist group Republic of Florida (ROF) told the Anti-Defamation League on Thursday, February 15, that Nikolas Cruz [….] was associated with his group,” the ADL reported. The ADL quoted a man named Jordan Jereb, who runs the small group, which is based in Tallahassee.
“Jereb added that ROF had not ordered or wanted Cruz to do anything like the school shooting,” the ADL wrote in a blog post that was quickly picked up by ABC News and The Associated Press, and later percolated through dozens of other media outlets. Even The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, picked up the claim.
Some outlets reported they had their own conversations with Jereb or classmates of Cruz who allegedly corroborated the association of Cruz with ROF.
But a few hours later, after law enforcement agencies said they had no evidence linking Cruz to ROF, Jereb said his identification of Cruz was a “misunderstanding” and that he, too, had been the subject of a “prank.” On online forums and Twitter, trolls and white nationalists gloated at the disinformation they had sowed.
Politico reports- “All of our evidence seems to point to the ADL getting this wrong,” said Joan Donovan, a researcher who tracks online misinformation campaigns for Data & Society, a think tank in New York City.The ADL subsequently revised its report, as did many news outlets.
“ADL shared information from our experts on extremism and claims from white supremacist that we believed could be helpful to both law enforcement and the public due to the fluid and evolving nature of the events,” an ADL spokesperson said in a statement on Friday. “Confirmation of whether Cruz was part of ROF is now in the hands of law enforcement, and that’s what the Broward sheriff’s team is looking into.”
The ADL traced its original tip to posts on 4chan, where researchers found “self-described ROF members” claiming that Cruz was a brother-in-arms. But many of those posts seem to have been written specifically to deceive reporters and researchers.
On Wednesday, an anonymous 4chan user posted about receiving a message on Instagram from an ABC News reporter after making a joke suggesting he knew Cruz.
“Prime trolling opportunity,” another user replied.
“You have to take advantage of this,” a third chimed in.
He asked for proof of the reporter’s identity, according to posted screenshots from their correspondence. The reporter provided an official email address and sent a photo of an ABC identification badge.
Some on the 4chan thread joked about sending back obscene photos, but others gave concrete tips for tricking the reporter: “Keep talking to her so she gains your trust”; “Keep this going be realistic … say you have known him for years you met him on a Liberal Facebook page years ago and you have kept in touch”; “Say you are scared to tell her in case you get blamed, it will get her excited you know something big.”
This particular 4chan user seems to have sent the reporter a racist cartoon and was quickly blocked. Many on the forum ripped into him for missing a “a golden opportunity.”