Whoa: The White House is circulating a video which it claims shows a cache of antifa bricks, but the image is actually just a year-old security barrier set up by the Chabad Jewish center in Sherman Oaks to prevent anti-Semitic car ramming attacks. https://t.co/hTjTErAHXm
— (((Yair Rosenberg))) (@Yair_Rosenberg) June 3, 2020
Anna Merlan, who’s something of an expert on these topics, at Vice:
… There’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that cop car was “planted,” or that demonstrators or their supposed Jewish overlords or even the cops were helpfully pre-arranging bricks, but there’s no doubt that suspicion was in the streets, and, more concerningly, in the White House. Donald Trump claimed that the protests were perpetrated by “ANTIFA and the Radical Left,” then announced that the government would be “designating ANTIFA as a terror organization.” There is no domestic terror list that “ANTIFA,” which is not an organization, can magically be placed on through the power of Twitter. The point was nevertheless made.
The discourse around this weekend’s protests was fueled, in other words, by misinformation. Bad, fractured, and partial information has raced through the marches, social media, and the Oval Office. It is being used to cynically frame what has been and will be happening, and in the hands of the powerful, it will serve specific political interests…
Whether the purported culprit is antifa, Soros, or Russian murderbots, the narratives here—all of which went wildly, worryingly viral—converge on a trope common among conspiracy theorists of all stripes: What is happening was caused, more or less, by the crisis actor participating in a false-flag operation. What you think you see is not what there is to see, and it is not caused by what you think it is caused by. Really, something else is happening, and someone else is to blame…
Taken together, this all feels like a frightening escalation in how we talk about protests, peaceful and otherwise. One of the main projects of authoritarian regimes all over the world is to paint popular uprisings as illegitimate. It’s a roadmap we’ve seen many times: A claim that a revolt is led by the CIA, perhaps, as Russia claimed of the 2014 Ukranian revolution, a baseless accusation aided by the fact that the CIA has backed many coups, primarily in South and Central America. Or maybe the unrest or discontent is a product of media manipulation, as Rodrigo Duterte claimed before the midterm elections that could have ended his regime. (That didn’t happen: amid accusations of voting machine “irregularities” and accusations of vote-buying, Duterte swept to a resounding victory that also saw three of his children elected to public office.)
And the accusations of paid carpetbagging agitators, old as they are, look different on social media. The claims about antifa armies, Soros “rent-a-riots”—another phrase that made the rounds—and Russian contract killers don’t just smear the protesters. They seek to make every social justice campaign, every effort at peaceful regime change, and every call to conscience look unreal. They turn hashtags into disinformation breeding grounds, activists’ Facebook groups into halls of mirrors, and every ally into a potential cop, informant, or agent provocateur. They could sap power and momentum from what looks, at this moment, to be a turning point in a long and shameful history of racist, violent policing…
After Trump and Barr blame antifa groups for violent unrest, the guy who wrote the book on antifa says: “If antifa on its own could orchestrate a national campaign of burning down police stations and burning down malls, they would have done it years ago”
— Mark Berman (@markberman) June 1, 2020
For people quibbling w “actual protesters” – the black bloc types aren’t attached to a cause. Anti-war rally? They’ll smash windows. Animal liberation? Sounds like window-smashing time. Renew “Billions”? Better smash some windows https://t.co/0M9t8clEVX
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) May 31, 2020
A synagogue posted Monday to debunk false rumors that its rock-filled anti-terror barrier had been put there by rioters. The AP, BuzzFeed also ran debunkings.
Today the official White House account tweeted the conspiracy nonsense to 23 million followers: https://t.co/nFHLRkRTrp
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) June 4, 2020