Rolly: Fake news tried to keep Utah kids away from march against gun violence

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Paul Rolly.

Someone tried a bit of trickery Saturday in an apparent attempt to lower the turnout for the march from West High to the Utah Capitol by mostly teenagers wanting something to be done about gun violence in schools.

Russian trolls? Gun rights activists? Or just a 400-pound guy sitting on his couch — as Donald Trump might say? Whoever it was, it was fake news.

It didn’t really work.

The rally, organized by March for Our Lives SLC, was set to gather at 11 a.m. at West. It attracted an impressive 8,000 supporters. It was preceded by a pro-Second Amendment group promoting the idea of gun ownership.

But on Saturday morning, a Facebook post appeared from “March for Our Lives in Salt Lake City” (notice the subtle difference?) that said its page had been down and its information lost. It reminded supporters to show up at West at 3 p.m. (four hours after the real time).

It clearly was a bid to confuse those planning to march for more gun control and, as a result, diminish the size of the crowd and any possible influence on policymakers.

When a user asked on the Facebook page about the group’s identity, he got a response that said “The Nunya” — as in “none of your business.”

When he asked why the rally was at 3 p.m. instead of 11 a.m., the response said: “LOL, you just don’t get it, you poor little thing, bless your heart.”

That response implied that the forces behind posting the fake rally time thought they were dealing with a naive teenager who could be easily manipulated. From what I’ve seen of these marchers nationwide, the fake-news people are underestimating their adversaries.

The attempt to blunt the march was a cowardly act. We’ve seen this kind of skulduggery before.

Remember when fake signs appeared in San Juan County announcing a party featuring then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to celebrate the new Bears Ears National Monument but telling Utah Navajos they weren’t invited?

That was an attempt — another cowardly one — by anonymous sources to divide the Navajo community and turn sentiments against a new monument.

See no evil • Sam Young, a Houston businessman and former LDS bishop, has been pushing to change the interviews local lay leaders have with young Mormons.

He has gathered thousands of signatures on a petition demanding a halt to one-on-one interviews with children and any sexually explicit questions that sometimes are asked.

Top Mormon leaders unveiled a change Monday allowing children, teens and women to invite another adult to sit in on those interviews. Young says that doesn’t go far enough. He wants the church to “require” two adults be present in those closed-door conversations.

Young has organized a noon march Friday from Salt Lake City Hall to the LDS Church Office Building to advocate his position.

He also bought a full-page ad from Utah Media Group, the advertising arm of The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News, promoting the rally and explaining the reasons why such interviews are harmful.

The ad was in the form of a letter to “apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

“We are marching in support of you, our dear apostles, to update our interview policies for children up through the age of 17,” the ad said. “… We are calling for a change in policy. Not a change in doctrine. Not a change in theology.”

The ad ran on B3 of Sunday’s Tribune. The LDS Church-owned Deseret News declined to print it.

“We turned down the advertisement because we did not believe it was an appropriate way to attempt to reach our owner,” Deseret News Editor Doug Wilks explained to me in an email.

At least he was upfront about it.

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