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RollingStone - September 3, 2019

There’s a folksy saying that grandparents of all stripes like to dispense: If it looks like a duck and acts like a duck, then you shouldn’t be surprised when it starts quacking. Another, perhaps less folksy version of this idiom is Occam’s Razor, the theory that the simplest explanation for an event or phenomenon is usually the most likely.

Nowhere was this demonstrated more quickly than in the case of the meteoric rise and equally rapid fall of Andy Ngo, the provocateur and social media personality who garnered nationwide sympathy last June, when he tweeted that he was attacked by antifascist protesters at a Proud Boys rally. Last week, the local newspaper the Portland Mercuryreported that a left-wing activist going undercover as a member of Patriot Prayer, a far-right group known for promoting and engaging in violent clashes with leftist activists, had given the publication an 18-minute video that included footage of Ngo with a group of Patriot Prayer members as the members discuss an upcoming brawl, including weaponry to be used in altercations with antifa. Ngo, who describes himself as a journalist, did not record the conversation, and does not appear to have his camera or notebook out. For part of the footage, he is seen on his phone.

... But the issue wasn’t so much that Ngo had finally been “exposed” as a right-wing provocateur as opposed to a journalist. It was that he’d managed to successfully convince so many ostensibly reasonable people otherwise, despite significant evidence to the contrary — and, in so doing, did some serious damage in the process.

Ngo has a long and rich history of trolling those on the left. While getting his master’s degree in political science at Portland State, he became convinced that a “social justice frenzy” was rapidly sweeping the nation, as he told a reporter who profiled him for BuzzFeed, becoming particularly focused on what he viewed as the increasingly urgent threat of Islam. In 2017, Ngo attended an interfaith student panel and tweeted a paraphrase of a Muslim student’s comments about how non-Muslims would be treated in an Islamic state. After he posted the tweet, which used inflammatory language out of context, Ngo was fired from the campus newspaper, the Portland State Vanguard. At the time, the editor-in-chief of the Vanguard said the firing was not motivated by partisanship, and that Ngo was removed from his post because the tweet was a “half-truth” that “incited a reaction and implicated the student panelist,” thus putting them in imminent jeopardy. But Breitbart and other national right-wing news outlets salivated over the story, painting Ngo as an innocent victim on the pyre of political correctness and liberal media bias. ...
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