Imagine a headline like this: John Fetterman shares platform with infamous Jew-hater Ayatollah Khamenei. Or, Pennsylvania Democrats actively funding website used by school shooters.

That is about the tone, caliber and accuracy of an article published this week on Pittsburgh’s publicly-funded NPR affiliate, WESA 90.5, headlined: GOP candidate for Pa. governor Mastriano paid $5,000 to the website used by the Tree of Life shooter

If that headline sounds incredibly inflammatory, that’s because it’s meant to be. Mastriano’s crime, revealed below the shocking headline, is purchasing $5,000 in advertising on the right-wing social network Gab.

Reporter Oliver Morrison makes a direct tie between Pennsylvania’s Republican gubernatorial nominee and an anti-Semitic mass-murderer, relying entirely on guilt-by-association: “Gab is the website used by Robert Bowers, who is charged with killing 11 Jewish worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill in 2018. Bowers routinely posted antisemitic content on Gab before the shooting.”

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The case Morrison is making relies entirely on a link between Doug Mastriano and other people on Gab, none of whom he has endorsed. “Mastriano expressed no reservations” about posting to the social platform. His posts elicit a number of anti-Semitic comments, according to WESA 90.5. And the social network has users that “openly promot[e] white nationalist content,” including the views of its founder, a Pennsylvania resident.

Guilt-by-association is an easy game to play. High school shooters regularly stream their attacks on Facebook, which is used heavily by Democrats to run election ads. Twitter, which Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman uses frequently, allows Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme ruler of Iran and a genocidal anti-Semite, to share his message with millions in English, Farsi and French. The headlines I suggested at the beginning of this column could easily be used by Morrison. But of course they’re not, because guilt-by-association only cuts one way in the minds of America’s establishment journalists.

WESA 90.5 is a publicly funded media outlet, supposedly reporting on and representing the listeners of Southwestern Pennsylvania, a region that has trended Republican in recent years and likely will in years to come. According to the station’s 2020 tax filings, taxpayers supported its content to the tune of $1.4 million. Taxpayers funded this story, and many others that are continuing to inflame and manipulate our emotions.

I asked WESA’s editors if they could have framed this article differently, and whether they feel the need to reflect the perspectives of all of their potential listeners in Southeast Pennsylvania. They declined repeated requests for comment.

The investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, an expert on biased media and the author of The Smear, tells me that the social platform Gab has been a repeated target of legacy media outlets. “The ‘tell’ is that when mass killers, dangerous conspiracy theorists, anti-Semites and other horrible people post their damaging content on Twitter and Facebook, as they often have, there is no mob pushing to fault, de-platform, and smear those entire companies. But when one of them uses Gab, the smear artists immediately claim Gab is somehow uniquely providing safe harbor for such views.”

As a Jew, and as an American, I find plenty of anti-Semitism across social media — and in reality as well. And I resent the use of eleven Jewish lives taken at worship for a partisan hit piece.

I find Doug Mastriano and the figure he cuts in politics to be unsavory at best — I value some level of moderation in a candidate, and a desire to expand the base rather than simply turn out die-hards. I probably wouldn’t like most of the content on Gab. But as a Jew, and as an American, I find plenty of anti-Semitism across social media — and in reality as well. And I resent the use of eleven Jewish lives taken at worship for a partisan hit piece.

I am concerned about polarizing social media platforms. But the content has grown more polarizing through the actions of deplatforming mainstream conservative thought and driving right-wing people off of “mainstream” outlets like Twitter and onto places like Gab, where conspiracy theories metastasize. And I believe, as America’s founders did, that the solution to toxic speech is more speech, not less.

Ultimately, Doug Mastriano is not responsible for the Tree of Life shooting. That responsibility belongs to the shooter himself and the white supremacist millieu from which he emerged. Smearing people as anti-Semites for simply sharing space with actual anti-Semites is how we get people to ignore charges of anti-Semitism. And tarring all partisans with the words and actions of the most extreme fringes makes it all the easier for the fringes to welcome them in.

Albert Eisenberg is a millennial political consultant based in Philadelphia and Charleston, SC. He runs the messaging agency BlueStateRed and has been featured on RealClearPolitics, Fox News, the Philadelphia Inquirer and elsewhere. He is a co-founder of Broad + Liberty. @Albydelphia.

2 thoughts on “Albert Eisenberg: NPR’s grotesque, taxpayer-funded smear on Doug Mastriano”

  1. Mastriano has shown himself, repeatedly and regularly, to be a rightwing extremist, and that would be very difficult to deny, anywhere outside the extremist MAGAsphere. Coddling extremism is how we got to a point where a candidate for governor managed to not only be onsite for January 6th, he sponsored transportation and logistics for OTHER extremists who were there to overturn the will of the American voter. Responsibility must visit Mastriano, and it doesn’t require the approval of the people who support his seditious behavior.
    Mastriano is supposedly a tough guy. His fans love him for not caring what “The Others” think, they want him to be a Trump-level bully for the radicalized extremophiles in red hats and flack vests. That said, ALL bullies play the victim, eventually, and it’s usually quickly and repeatedly. This situation is no different, except in this case, the bully was already horribly unpopular with non-extremists, judging by the polls and arrests of J6 traitors he supported.
    Reporting facts may not be approved by the Trump Show fans, but NPR has a DUTY to report those facts, and Trump Nation has a responsibility to abide by them. The worst hasn’t even been revealed about Mastriano, and MAGAs will be held responsible for ALL of this absurdity and corruption, without their silly “approval.” PAGOP is deeply embedded in the crime we all watched take place, and Mastriano was open in his actions. MAGA must be weeded out and supplanted by real-world adults, not embraced, and PA’s voter’s are entitled to know ALL the facts, unedited by slack-eyed pigeons who see themselves as “eagles.”
    In short, the real world doesn’t ask the permission of the foolish.

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