Rolling Stone published a piece today titled “How a Right-Wing Troll Managed to Manipulate the Mainstream Media.” The piece argues that it’s a real shame Andy Ngo got beaten in the street by Antifa because that incident helped demonize masked, left-wing goons committed to political violence. What a shame.

The piece doesn’t quite deny that Ngo was beaten to the point he had to be hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage but it does dance around it a bit. Here’s the subhead “When a milkshake to the face brought the spotlight on Andy Ngo, politicians and talking heads on both sides were happy to take on his cause: demonizing antifa.” Of course, it wasn’t the milkshake to the face that resulted in public sympathy, it was the fists to the face using kevlar gloves, all of which can be seen on video. Eventually, Rolling Stone does mention these realities:

But it wasn’t until Ngo was attacked at the June rally that he truly ascended to the ranks of right-wing media shit-stirrer. “Attacked by antifa. Bleeding. They stole my camera equipment. No police until after. waiting for ambulance . If you have evidence Of attack please help,” he tweeted, later adding that he had been diagnosed at the ER with a brain hemorrhage and that antifa had thrown quick-dry cement milkshakes at him. (This claim was later debunked.) Footage also surfaced on Twitter of Ngo at the rally, being doused with a milkshake and silly string, and getting punched by an antifascist protester…

Immediately, he metamorphosed from being just another right-wing troll scrambling for attention to a blank slate, a canvas onto which political figures and journalists of all stripes could project their goals and desires. For those on the right, condemning the boogeyman of antifa was a no-brainer, an easy and convenient way to score points with the base; for those on the left, it was an opportunity to telegraph being fair, rational, and level-headed, while simultaneously taking a few steps away from their black-clad brethren further left. And for members of the media, the industry to which Ngo ostensibly belonged, it was an opportunity to demonstrate, in the face of constant and unrelenting allegations of liberal bias, just how unbiased they could be.

Your mob beats up someone and puts them in the hospital and suddenly people think you’re a bunch of bad people. It’s weird how that works.

Honestly, the virtue-signaling argument gets overused and this piece is a good example. Siding with Andy Ngo against violent street thugs doesn’t have to be viewed as dishonest or performative virtue. The fact is that most Americans, right or left, don’t like violent goons beating people up. The fact that the author sees the goons as the left’s “black-clad brethren” says more about him than it does about the people reacting to Ngo’s beat down.

Ngo’s reputation has taken a hit recently after an undercover Antifa fan released video allegedly showing him participate in planning a riot with members of Patriot Prayer. At least that’s the story that many outlets are eager to report. But over at Reason, Robby Soave has watched the video carefully and comes to a different conclusion:

Regarding Ngo, while the claims being made about him do contain “kernels of truth,” as he concedes, there is a vast chasm between what the video actually shows versus what it is alleged to show.

Far from being engaged in conservation with Gibson’s associates and intently involved in what they are saying, Ngo appears in the video only occasionally, and is mostly in the periphery, pacing and incessantly checking his phone. Ngo told Reason that he was scanning the internet for reports from other journalists pertaining to the earlier violence of the day, during which Ngo was punched in the stomach. He was much more interested in his social media feed than the conversations around him.

“The people are milling around for like probably an hour,” he said. “I was just like, nothing was happening. I wasn’t paying attention to what was being said because there’s just a whole bunch of different random conversations. I didn’t see any evidence of a violent conspiracy to launch an attack.”

One of the claims recently leveled against Andy Ngo is that he accepted protection from the Proud Boys. Rolling Stone repeats these allegations as well:

The source told the Mercury that Ngo and Patriot Prayer have an “understanding” that the group offers him protection when he covers rallies in exchange for favorable coverage. While this has not been confirmed, and Ngo strongly denies these allegations, an audio conversation between members of the Proud Boys, released by Willamette Week seemed to confirm that such discussions between Ngo and the Proud Boys had occurred, as one man is recorded saying that Ngo was attacked on June 29th because he refused an offer of protection. “Andy Ngo was fucking told that if he wanted protection from the PBs [Proud Boys], he went in with us and he went out with us,” the man says.

But the story doesn’t confirm that any discussions occurred. If anything it confirms that Ngo rejected or ignored whatever protection the Proud Boys were offering. But I think we’re also missing the point here which is that Ngo has been a target of Antifa for months. Ngo predicted Antifa might try to harm him before the attack that put him in the hospital. He knew this was possible because he’d already been threatened and attacked several times. Antifa was clearly escalating their violence toward him.

You can argue that Ngo should have been tougher on Patriot Prayer’s behavior prior to or during the Cider Riot incident (I was critical of their behavior) but given what happened to him weeks later, self-preservation seems like a reasonable explanation for why he was hanging in their vicinity. Not wanting to be beaten up by left-wing goons you know are out to get you doesn’t make you a secret member of Patriot Prayer. Finally, Rolling Stone closes the piece by quoting someone from the SPLC:

For groups like Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys, “what allegedly happened to Andy Ngo was galvanizing for them in a lot of ways,” Keegan Hankes, a researcher and analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, previously told Rolling Stone. “It got a lot of media attention and it reinforced something the Proud Boys have pushed for years, which is the real threat is the violent left.”

What “allegedly happened” to Andy Ngo? You mean the thing caught on video that we all saw? And yes, it did reinforce that the left is a violent threat. It did so because it showed the far-left being violent and threatening. I know that doesn’t fit the SPLC’s narrative but it keeps happening.