Early Wednesday afternoon, the Twitter account of Ebony magazine raised an alarm about a distressing new campaign targeting the magazine:
We have so many Tea Party readers and followers. To lose all zero of them due to our September cover would be devastating.— EBONY (@EBONYMag) August 7, 2013
The remark referred to a swirl of unsubstantiated rumors, mostly on Twitter, that a group of Tea Party members had vowed to boycott Ebony for its decision to feature people wearing hoodies on four different editions of its September issue — a response to the July acquittal of George Zimmerman for shooting and killing Trayvon Martin. Which is mildly amusing inasmuch as a mass exodus of Ebony's Tea Party audience is unlikely to substantially affect the magazine's bottom line. Sadly, it was immediately clear that no discernible group of Tea Partiers had actually vowed to join the notional boycott. So where did these rumors come from?
The first mention of any proposed boycott of Ebony (limited to today) appeared in a single comment on Breitbart.com. A few hours later, this was passed off with complete credulity by U.S. News & World Report. But the very first mention of some sort of organized boycott appeared on the Twitter account of a Tom Head, a freelance writer living in Jackson, Mississippi:
Heh. Tea Party lynching apologists now threaten to boycott @EBONYMag over the Trayvon cover, as if any of them would have subscribed anyway.— Tom Head, Ph.D. (@_tomhead) August 7, 2013
When asked, Head refused to explain where he saw these "Tea Party lynching apologists" (note: plural) threatening to boycott Ebony.
@jktrotter Clearly it's making the rounds in Tea Party circles, but the place I heard it wasn't Twitter.— Tom Head, Ph.D. (@_tomhead) August 7, 2013
@jktrotter I'm not really interested in going into more detail on my source. I didn't make it up, and that's all I'm telling you.— Tom Head, Ph.D. (@_tomhead) August 7, 2013
So. A few lessons:
1) THERE WAS NO BOYCOTT.