Twice in the last week right-wing trolls have been caught trying to manufacture fake news to discredit things they don’t like. In the first instance, we have people posting fake stories on Twitter about white people being violently attacked going to see the new Black Panther movie.
In one tweet, Twitter user Hardcorial stole selfies which were shared online in 2016 by a woman attempting to speak out about her abuse. The Twitter user claimed to have been “brutally attack” [sic] by “black thugs” while attending, “because they said whites weren’t allowed to watch the movie.” This never happened…
But most fakes seem to be co-opting images of real violence. As documented in this tweet, one now-suspended Twitter account used a viral photo from January of a Swedish woman who was brutally attacked after resisting sexual assault; another since-suspended account used a stock image of a bloodied paper towel. Another Twitter user claimed to have witnessed an assault at the movie:
“Went to the #BlackPanther premier tonight and my wife was assaulted. Three black women approached us and one said “This movie ain’t for you white b****” and then attacked her. Security escorted us to the parking lot and we left. We just wanted to see a movie.”
The photo the troll used to illustrate the tweet, however, was a photo of Colbie Holderness, the ex-wife of former White House staffer Rob Porter, who resigned following accusations of domestic abuse. The photo was documentation of Porter’s alleged battery of Holderness while they were married.
Google’s reverse image search has revealed the real sources of those pictures, but that has not, of course, stopped others from spreading the stories around. There is an agenda here. Black Panther is an important movie for black people, and for society as a whole, and the racist right won’t just let that happen without attacking it and lying about it. And this is something that can be successful because of the decades-long anti-media rhetoric from the right. The fact that there is not a single report of real anti-white violence at a showing of Black Panther does not bother those who fall for such stories in the least. After all, the media is lying to you! Only Breitbart and Fox are telling you the truth! That’s how the ground was tilled to allow such fake news to grow.The second instance is the school shootings in Florida and the protest being planned by some of the surviving students. A well-known right-wing troll put up a fake Craigslist ad in Florida seeking paid protesters for that event, which then spread on social media.
But the trolls behind the fake ad made one glaring oversight: They attributed the ad to an organization that doesn’t exist.
The alleged Craigslist ad (which has since been removed) offered between $75 and $100 for participants to “stand for 17 minutes and hold a lightweight cardboard sign” on March 14, when Women’s March organizers are planning a national student protest against gun violence.
The ad claimed to have been posted by a group called “One Common Culture” which does not appear in registry searches of businesses and nonprofits. The address listed on the ad belongs to a California high school.
The ad was first circulated by an alt-right troll known online as “Microchip” who operates a massive bot farm. The user behind “Microchip” has spent all weekend peddling conspiracy theories and attacks on shooting survivors who have publicly spoken out against the Trump administration’s failure to react to gun violence in schools.
But again, their tactic will no doubt work for a great many people. All the decades of inoculating them against evidence and reason, of fostering ridiculous conspiracy theories that can explain away absolutely anything, have made this inevitable. It’s Alex Jones’ world now, folks, and we’re just living in it.