A self-described libertarian media outlet released a video Feb. 23 claiming UCLA students believe in putting supporters of President Donald Trump in concentration camps.
Liberty Hangout, which has a right-leaning political bias and mixed factual reporting, according to Media Bias/Fact Check, filmed UCLA students without their consent and concluded from featured responses that UCLA students support mandatory re-education of conservatives. Media Bias/Fact Check is an independent media organization which aims to inform the public about media bias and misleading reporting.
The video, which depicts “Gun Girl” Kaitlin Bennett trying to convince students to sign a petition entitled “Students for the re-education and involuntary internment of conservatives,” has been circulated on far-right outlets like InfoWars.
Liberty Hangout did not respond to request for comment.
Matt Barreto, a political science professor at UCLA, said he thinks nothing about the video is objective or appropriate.
“They are admittedly a right-wing conspiracy propaganda machine, and they should be treated as such,” Barreto said.
Tim Groeling, a communications professor at UCLA, said he thinks journalists should follow ethical rules during interviews but added he does not consider Liberty Hangout or Infowars to be journalistic organizations.
“These people are clearly advocates,” Groeling said. “This happens on all sides of the ideological spectrum, where people are not trying to find some unbiased version of the truth.”
While the petition header used the phrase “re-education and involuntary internment of conservatives,” Bennett can be heard in the video describing the fake initiative in different terms. She refers to it as “a camp for people to come to learn about feminist ideals” and a proposal to have “conservatives on this campus to have to take re-education courses and sensitivity training.”
Groeling said it is common practice for such media organizations to misrepresent the viewpoints of a large group by drawing attention to the most extreme opinions within the group.
“It’s common to try to find people in these (videos) to tar a big group by finding some wacky examples,” Groeling said.
Groeling added he was concerned, however, that a student government official signed Bennett’s petition.
“They have succeeded in this video in taking it from a hatchet job to something that’s actually more scandalous,” he said.
Jamie Kennerk, who was featured in the video and is the Undergraduate Students Association Council external vice president, said she feels the video does not portray her interaction with Bennett fairly.
She added she felt it was her responsibility as a student government official to interact with students who approach her with any idea.
“When you’re talking to someone out on Bruin Walk, you’re primed in a different way than you are when reading a story with a kind of gotcha headline,” Kennerk said.
When asked if she wanted to put Trump supporters in concentration camps, Kennerk said she did not.
“Absolutely no, I do not support that,” Kennerk said.
Barreto said he thinks Liberty Hangout intentionally aimed to mislead people.
“She is cherry-picking very limited clips to include, we don’t have any idea of the full range of answers given,” Barreto said.
Groeling said he thinks the Liberty Hangout interviewers misrepresented their identities, did not fairly sample their interviews and did not disclose to people they were being recorded.
“In such situations, you would almost always ask for raw tape, the stuff you left on the copy room floor,” Groeling said.