PAPER TRAILS: Not a Russian troll, Arkansan tells GQ writer

Sean Clancy, Paper Trails columnist

And now a few words on how to be a (fake) Russian troll without even trying.

Wednesday afternoon was particularly busy at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Washington bureau reporter Frank Lockwood broke the story that DNA testing proved that Hunter Biden was, indeed, the father of an Arkansas woman's child.

When it was posted, Maggie McNeary, the paper's deputy online editor, tweeted a link to the online version from the @ArkansasOnline Twitter account.

People replied with funny comments, mean comments, smarty-pants memes, etc. It got 13,000 likes and more than 7,700 retweets.

But Julia Ioffe, a Washington, D.C.-based reporter for GQ magazine, noticed something.

The tweet contained arrow symbols, which Ioffe interpreted as the work of some nefarious foreign outfit.

"Note the Russian quotation mark," she said in a tweet pointing out the symbol in the @ArkansasOnline item.

Well, no. It was just an arrow made by typing three keys simultaneously.

Here it is: »

"We've been using that for years," McNeary said Thursday. "Apparently she thought that we were a Russian bot or some sort of Russian troll spreading misinformation about Hunter Biden."

Such are the times in which we live.

Other Twitter users pointed out to Ioffe that the Democrat-Gazette wasn't a Moscow front.

When McNeary saw Ioffe's tweet, she responded from her @maggiemcneary account: "Yeah hi I am not a Russian troll, I just work at a paper in lil ole Arkansas/ Sorry to disappoint @juliaioffe."

Ioffe, a Russian-born American, deleted her two tweets about the matter and later tweeted an explanation, saying that the item "jumped out to me, a Russian speaker (and keyboard user) as a quotation mark and looked like other, sloppy attempts by Russian trolls to push stories. I apologize for the mistake, and am explaining it in the interests of full transparency. Thank you, everyone, for pointing it out!"

Naturally, wrote a gleeful account of Ioffe's gaffe, and since it's Twitter, where self-righteous outrage often overpowers common sense, some people demanded she lose her job.

Not McNeary, whom we now call "Svetlana."

"To be clear," she tweeted Thursday. "I am not calling for @juliaioffe to be fired. She made an error and she corrected it. That is not an excuse, but if someone makes a mistake, all I can ask is that they fix it."

SundayMonday on 11/24/2019