If at first no publicity-driving race issue exists, try, try to create it.

Wednesday, a lie about the Tea Party got halfway around the world before the truth could get its hoodie on. Here’s how it happened.

Ebony magazine announced this week a series of four covers for its September edition featuring various celebrities and their children wearing hoodies. The covers are an allusion to Trayvon Martin’s now famous clothing, advertising a story inside the magazine about repealing Stand Your Ground, which was notably not used by the defense or prosecution in the Zimmerman case. I hesitate to give the covers too much credit by calling them “provocative,” but they’re “provocative” in the way that liberals do things that are utterly predictable and calculated for maximum media adulation and then pat themselves on the back for being “provocative.”

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Twitchy reported on the Ebony covers, with this benign headline: “Ebony magazine demands repeal of Stand Your Ground laws with four different Trayvon covers [pics]”

Breitbart’s headline was similarly benign: “Dwayne Wade poses with sons in hoodies for ‘We are Trayvon’ Ebony mag cover”

The Breitbart post spawned this comment, which as far as anyone can figure, is the only mention by anyone of a boycott of Ebony magazine until Ebony and the Twitter rumor mill decided to create one out of thin air:

They are just continuing to feed the race baiting community. How sad for America. Those that do not agree should boycott the Heat and the magazine!

But given that the magazine covers were “provocative,” and not actually provocative enough to create controversy, Ebony decided to kick it up a notch, with this tweet based on nothing. This example of the magazine’s reporting perhaps makes it more clear how they did a whole cover story on a law that had little to nothing to do with the Trayvon case.

Gawker, which went looking for the phantom boycott, pinpointed this tweet as the probable origination, from a freelance writer in Mississippi who refused to reveal his source (presumably because it was no one):

After Ebony ran with it, U.S. News & World Report happily regurgitated it, openly attributing an entire story on a boycott to one online comment. Journalism!

Ebony lashed out at tea partiers hours after conservative aggregator Twitchy denigrated the cover, writing that it was “much easier to slap on a hoodie and pretend to fight for social justice” than to “recognize a black American is more likely to be murdered by another black American than some ‘White Hispanic.'”

At conservative news site Breitbart, one commenter urged those who didn’t like the covers to “boycott the Heat and the magazine!”

The Atlantic draws a more accurate conclusion:

[A] search for the target of the [Ebony’s] zinger shows that there’s almost no evidence suggesting that the Tea Party, however you want to define it, was planning any boycott against the magazine in the first place. (We sent an email to Ebony for comment on the tweet, but did not hear back.)…

To be fair, there was plenty of online criticism of the Ebony cover, mostly from supporters of George Zimmerman, who still feel aggrieved about the equally loud public support for Martin. And it’s always tricky to assign any one idea to the “Tea Party,” which itself a loose conglomeration of political groups and ideas. But it does seems Ebony (or more accurately, the people spreading the rumors of the boycott) made a mountain out of a molehill still under construction. Whether or not Head is telling the truth will surely come out soon. There is always a lot of talk online that is nothing more than talk. But, if any kind organized boycott was developing, surely there would be a trace somewhere, some morsel of evidence left behind of a planned protest beyond a single angry and anonymous commenter.

But by all means, Ebony, make broad generalizations about an entire group of people, intentionally lie about them to sell magazines, and use the lie to foment race relations instead of improving them. Provocative!

The Misogynist Banker Bro Who Probably Wasn’t

In other memes that were not true this week, feminist site Jezebel obtained an e-mail, allegedly from a “banker bro” on a fraternity listserv, which even to those inclined to dislike the alpha finance stereotype, should have seemed a little suspiciously on the nose:

Luckily, due to the tough job market, my dad has agreed to let me access my trust fund early (mid 7-figures) to start a relatively small hedge fund, ___ Ventures, after graduation. I’m emailing you guys today to let you know that, for the rest rest of the year, I will be recruiting 2 full-time employees and 1 intern to help me get this off the ground.

With my financial expertise, help from my powerful father and connections, and a skilled team, I have no doubt that this fund will rise quickly to prominence. We’ll all get filthy rich and, inevitably, bag hot slampieces. If possible, I’d love to give all 3 of these positions to my brothers.

Jezebel made clear the social import of this e-mail lay in the fact it came from a real person:

This a real-life email from a person who is not Sack Lodge from Wedding Crashers, but an actual human being who has numerals at the end of his name. I have taken to The Google and found out who his father is; it is not a surprise.

Only it probably didn’t. A modest update points to a different story:

UPDATE: According to a tipster, the email is a prank — but a slightly more complicated one, if the story is to be believed. Hacked email accounts and dark listserv majick, etc. More here.

Buried in comments:

I write to you suggesting that you edit the article to include at least the notion that the email was a parody, because I know that it is. I am currently in the fraternity that that person was in, and that email is something we call a “sting” — an email from someone else’s email account that blasts them for their flaws, ridiculous actions, embarrassing moments. The guy who supposedly sent the email was a common target of stings, being a bit of a pompous ass from time to time. Since we all care much more about what a person has done rather than what their father did, that attitude was pretty unpopular in the house and he often got stings mocking him for it.

…the guy that got “stung” […] had absolutely no hand in writing it and wouldn’t be ridiculous enough to send that out to our list. Even though the sting has some basis in his actions and words, he’s not nearly the person the email portrays him as being.

But this story had already taken off, just like the non-existent Tea Party boycott, even inspiring some coverage in the Washington Post, in which Ezra Klein never notes the rather important update to the e-mail he’s excerpting.

Santorum’s Non-Existent Shower Fixation

And, finally: No, Rick Santorum is not fixated on young men showering at the YMCA. Huffington Post reported on Rick Santorum’s comments speaking to Students for Life this week:

You see what the Left does, what the pro-choice movement does is they just don’t focus on their little issue. They focus on everything they do in every aspect of their lives. They make it uncomfortable for students who come to Austin to shower at a young men’s Christian association, YMCA gym. Because they live it. They’re passionate. They’re willing to do and say uncomfortable things in mixed company…

You can watch video of the full remarks, here. HuffPo‘s implication that Santorum’s comments were just a random invocation of group-shower fear spurred a slew of snarky tweets from liberals ready to believe the worst of Santorum. What they didn’t know was the context that Santorum’s audience knew very well, and the Washington Examiner‘s Byron York had to provide them:

For one week the students planned to rally during the day, shower at the Town Lake YMCA, and then head to a church to sleep.

“We talked to the YMCA before we got here. We had an agreement with them that we would come between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. every night. Ten is when they close,” explained Coombs.

When the group arrived Monday, things went according to plan. They spent the day at the Capitol, then headed to the Y all dressed in blue T-shirts — the color representing anti-abortion advocates.

“We thought it would be best to go in in shifts and not just have everyone bombard at one time, and so we just wanted to be respectful to them since they were gracious enough to open their facility to us,” said Students For Life member Hannah Solem.

“We had absolutely no incidents. They talked to us afterwards and said, ‘You guys were great. You were respectful,” Coombs added.

But Tuesday morning, Coombs got an unexpected call from the Town Lake YMCA.

“Said, again, ‘You guys were respectful. We have no problems with you, in particular, however there were some people that support abortion who talked to our staff, intimidated them.’ They actually said that they felt threatened, and they asked us not to come back,” Coombs said.

HuffPo updated the piece (notably, like Jezebel, not correcting it), but do we think the Santorum-showering comment will ever disappear from the Santorum popular myth? Of course not.