The recent interaction in DC between high school students (one in particular) and an older activist who is Native American reminded me of a warning I once received from a colleague as to how I needed to prepare myself if I ever was in a hostile crowd or confronted.

A classic leftist/occupy activist tactic, I was warned, was to confront a target and immediately start screaming that the target was being aggressive even though that was not true.

Unsuspecting people in the vicinity would not start recording the incident until there was this commotion. The videographers accompanying the provocateur also would edit the video to start when the provocateur started screaming. The target, not knowing what was about to happen, would not be prepared for it, and might even take the bait, such as in pushing the person away physically.

Regardless of what the target did or didn’t do, you would have video of the innocent target being portrayed as the aggressor, and the provocateur portrayed as the victim.

It happened to me at Cornell in April 2014 after the student assembly rejected a BDS motion.

After an Ithaca activist and campus members of Students for Justice in Palestine disrupted the assembly meeting, I went into the vestibule of the building with my cell phone camera in hand. The main aggressor then pulled this stunt on me, falsely screaming that I put my camera in her face (the video shows otherwise). She also shouted “back away from me” even though I had not moved an inch. Another SJP activist, who is still active in campus anti-Israel politics, approached me and told me to stop filming even though I had every right to film in a public space.

If I didn’t have my video, it would be my word against theirs as to who was being aggressive, and their video alone would be the documentary evidence.

That same tactic was used against pro-Israel students at Cornell later in 2014 by the same Ithaca activist and other SJP students, as I documented in Cornell Pro-Israel students taunted: “F**k You Zionist scums”. 

Look how the provocateur got inches from a pro-Israel student’s face, and started screaming “don’t touch me, don’t touch me” even though she was the aggressor and had not been touched. She then taunted the target to hit her, “slap me, do it, do it.” She also made a spitting sound (not clear if she actually spit) in the target’s face. The targeted student had the composure not to take the bait.

[The Ithaca activist reportedly was barred from campus after this, but there were no repercussions for the students who accompanied her.]

The DC incident seemed to fit this classic tactic.

The activist approached the students, who were waiting for a bus, the students did not approach the activist. The activist, accompanied by his own videographers, kept walking into the crowd of students until he ended up in front of that now-famous student. Why bring videographers with you unless you are expecting something to happen?

Yet the still photos and tightly clipped videos that spread like wildfire made it seem as if the students had approached and confronted the activist. That was the narrative spun by the activist to the media, which ran with it as if this was a 1960 lunch counter confrontation.

Additionally, the activist, having approached to within a couple of feet of the student, then started banging the drum in the student’s face, just inches away. Why beat the drum inches from the face of someone standing still unless it was a provocation?

The student had the composure to do nothing but stand there. He didn’t take the bait, and that was the right decision. Of course, that student now is being accused of showing white privilege by not reacting.

Only because there was more complete video did the media narrative of the student as the aggressor change.

There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to leftist activist tactics. Getting in someone’s face and then playing victim for the cameras is one of the oldest tricks in the book.


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