Earlier in June, a conservative journalist named Fiona Moriarity-McLaughlin faced the wrath of Twitter after a video of her seemingly asking a man boarding up a storefront in Santa Monica if she could hold his drill for a photo went viral. It was shared by celebrities including Ava DuVernay and Lebron James, and Moriarity-McLaughlin was doxxed after her full name, home address, and phone number were posted on social media.
In a USA Today essay published this week, Moriarity-McLaughlin, who has since lost her internship with the conservative news site the Washington Examiner, claims that the viral video “misrepresented” the situation and that she is just the latest target of “cancel culture.” I could be wrong here, but don’t you have to actually have some sort of fame or public presence to be “canceled”? Sorry, but I don’t think it counts as a cancellation if your fame only lasted 17 seconds.
Moriarity-McLaughlin claims that on the day the video was taken, she was driving around Los Angeles in the wake of the protests over George Floyd’s murder, wanting to “visit the destruction and document what [she] saw.” After filming clean-up and construction crews, she was allegedly discussing the clean-up with one of the construction workers, who then jokingly handed her the drill for a photo, which she posed for out of politeness. Maybe I’m doing this journalism thing wrong, but don’t journalists usually take photos of their subjects, not themselves?
After the man who’d accompanied Moriarty-McLaughlin to the scene—who she identifies as her father, not her boyfriend as he had been reported at the time—snapped the photo, she continues, “I noticed two activists who had been watching and filming me nearby. They heckled me, called out ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘boyfriends of Instagram.’ I felt threatened, quickly thanked the worker for his efforts, and left. The thought of publishing that photo never crossed my mind.”
It might be easier to believe what Moriarity-McLaughlin is claiming if she didn’t in the very same breath say she “felt threatened” by two (presumably Black) activists nearby. We don’t know for sure whether the bystanders were Black, but since it’s actually impossible to tell whether someone is an activist just by looking at them and Moriarity-McLaughlin said she “felt threatened” by their presence, it isn’t much of a stretch to make that assumption. And let’s not forget—the choice to focus on property damage in the midst of Black people protesting the violence of police brutality is dehumanizing. It implies that a broken window is more worth mourning than the lives of Black people who were murdered by law enforcement.
So, is it possible that Moriarity-McLaughlin is telling the truth, and that she took this photo for her own private collection, with no intention of posting it on social media? Sure. Is it likely? Probably not.