Master Manipulators:

The Real Massacre Masterminds

Written by: Maksim Spivak (Diablo Valley College)

Editted by: Aimee Casey (Diablo Valley College)

Faculty Evaluator: Nolan Higdon (California State University, East Bay)

Bowling Green, Kentucky was the site of a horrendous massacre that the news media covered up because they were in cahoots with Barack Obama. Yet, it never happened. On February 2, 2017 high ranking presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway described the fictional massacre to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews during an interview on his show Hardball. The outrageous claim and ensuing media coverage demonstrated news abuse.  As coined and defined by Dr. Peter Phillips, news abuse is a story is covered but played down by the media, and is used to spread misinformation or offer incomplete perspectives   due to the story not receiving the critical attention it deserved and its potential to misinform people.

On February 2, 2017 Kellyanne Conway was being interviewed by Chris Matthews on Donald Trump’s newly instituted travel ban on individuals from seven Muslim majority nations. Coming to Trumps defense, Conway stated that Barack Obama, too, had an immigration ban on Muslims and that the ban was the result of two Iraqi’s coming to the US as refugees, getting radicalized, and committing the Bowling Green Massacre. Conway further stated that the media did not cover the massacre with the implication that the media was working for Obama. The only issue with Conway’s claim was that the massacre never happened.  This story received wide spread coverage, however the corporate media was not critical of the claims made in the story. Independent news sources provided broader coverage.  NPR provided a lengthy story on Conway’s false equivalency on the immigration bans of Obama and Trump’s administrations. Mother Jones was critical of the way that Chris Matthews responded to Conway’s outrageous statement in which he promptly moved on to the next interview topic. Yes! Magazine covered the possible reason for Conway making this obvious gaffe – to appease Trump and his war on the media. ThinkProgress was critical of Conway’s ensuing apology and pointed out that Conway has referenced the fictional massacre multiple times in the past.

There are many reasons why this news story is significant, but the main reason is the credibility of the media and of the Oval Office. Conway and other individuals from Donald Trump’s administration are guilty of presenting “alternative facts” more than any other administration in years past. Trump presented 492 misleading or untrue statements in the first 100 days of his administration alone. Conway often speaks an untruth and then backpedals to present it in a more favorable light and claims that she misspoke. In this case, she wanted to say “masterminds” instead of “massacre”. It has been proven that she spoke of the Bowling Green Massacre several times and that she alluded to soldiers getting killed as the result of the refugee terrorists. Her misspeaking was also an alternative fact. Conway is the advisor and the representative of the Oval Office. She is often being interviewed by the media and is expected to be a mouth piece for the president. When Conway makes bold lies as publicly as she does, it destroys the credibility of the Oval Office and the media that reports her lies. The viewing public does not receive reliable information and is at the risk of making false assumptions because of Conway’s statements. Conway’s statements also line up with Trump’s statement the week prior of the media being fake news and not covering all of the recent terror attacks. Trump stated that there are so many terrorist attacks that the media does not cover them anymore and because of the amount of terror attacks, the US should take a harder stance on immigration. Trump’s false narrative is a blatant attack on the media’s credibility and one that goes to further his desire for an immigration ban. Conway’s statements diminish the credibility of the Oval Office and the media.

While the corporate media did provide coverage for this story, it was mostly done in a humorous way. The Washington Post, among other news outlets presented readers reactions on Twitter and Facebook making fun of Bowling Green. CNN covered Chelsea Clinton’s admonishment of Conway on Twitter and the resulting Conway-Clinton Twitter war. The Daily Beast covered late night TV hosts Stephen Colbert’s mockery of Conway and her alternative facts. SNL even created a sketch of Conway backpedaling and trying to establish credibility in the face of her alternative facts. The corporate news diminished the significance of this story by satirizing it.

The motivation for the corporate media to commit news abuse with this news story is unclear. It is a very newsworthy story because of the implications that it presents. One theory is that the news media presented this story as satire because there have been already many stories of Conway and Trump presenting alternative facts. That amounts to laziness on the corporate media’s part. Another theory is that the Trump presidency churns out controversy on a daily basis and, that compared to other Trump scandals, this one is relatively small. The media and the viewers are suffering from apathy and fatigue towards the blunders of the Trump administration.

Kellyanne Conway has spoken many mistruths in her role as presidential advisor. She has alluded to massacres that did not exist and was widely ridiculed for it by the corporate media.  Apart from the ridicule, the corporate media did not dissect the Bowling Green Massacre story enough and is therefore guilty of news abuse. The independent media provided the criticism that Conway’s mistruth deserved.


Maksim Spivak was born in Kiev, Ukraine and emigrated to the US in 1999. Maksim currently works in the access control/construction industry and has recently returned to school to become an electrical engineer. In his free time Maksim enjoys working on his cars, boating, and spending time with his wife, family, and friends.

News Abuse

Nolan Higdon is a professor of English, Communication, and History of the US and Latin America in the San Francisco Bay Area. His academic work focuses on nationalism, propaganda, and critical media literacy education. He sits on the boards of the Media Freedom Foundation, Sacred Heart University's Media Literacy and Digital Culture Graduate Program, the Union for Democratic Communications Steering Committee, and the Northwest Alliance For Alternative Media And Education. Higdon is ta co-founder for the Global Critical Media Literacy Project. He has contributed chapters to Censored 2013-2017 as well as Stephen Lendman’s Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks World War III (2014). He has published articles on media and propaganda including “Disinfo Wars: Alex Jones War on Your Mind (2013),” “Millennial Media Revolution (2014),” and “Justice For Sale (2015).” He has been a guest on national radio and television programs.
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