In the wake of Wednesday’s attempted bomb attacks on CNN and the offices of multiple prominent Democrats, it was inevitable that conspiracy theories would start to snowball online. The same pattern has repeatedly emerged after mass shootings, where those on the far-right and fringe online communities claim that the shootings were in fact false flags designed to help further a liberal political agenda.
But what’s the made the latest “false flag” claims so worrying is that it has been picked up by mainstream conservative commentariat.
For example, Candace Owens, Turning Points USA’s communications director who has been praised by Trump and is a mainstay of Fox News, said in a since-deleted tweet on Wednesday that the only thing suspicious about the bombings was their timing.
Coulter and Owens’ comments were echoed by several other right-wing commentators. Town Hall columnist Kurt Schlichter tweeted that he was “not buying it,” while right-wing media personality John Cardillo said in a since-deleted tweet that the bombings “smell like the false flag tactics of unhinged leftists who know they’re losing.” Noted pro-Trump baby boomers James Woods and Bill Mitchell also quickly got in on the act.
The false flag theory was also readily abetted by Fox News, which made no attempt to stop the rumor when it was mentioned on their network. In fact, a since-deleted tweet from Fox News host Lou Dobbs indicates that he thought the attack was fake news as well.
Fox guest: This could be a false flag
Martha MacCallum: Fascinating pic.twitter.com/sbdhTzsCXI
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) October 24, 2018
What makes the spread of this theory so depressing is that it has moved into mainstream conservative conversation despite being the exact same theory that is currently being propagated by neo-Nazis like Andrew Anglin at the Daily Stormer and conspiracy theorists like Laura Loomer.
The fringe internet to Fox News pipeline has proved increasingly successful in recent months. Republicans for instance have now increasingly begun adopting George Soros, a recurring enemy of the fringe-right whose invocation is a dog-whistle to anti-Semtisim, as their go-to boogeyman. This week, Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) both claimed that the migrant caravan might be funded by Soros. Donald Trump also blamed Soros for the protests against now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Similarly back in August, Trump said that he’d asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to look into the supposed “large scale” killing of white South African farmers, a fake news story which has been one of the far-right’s main talking points for years. Trump picked up on the idea after seeing a segment on it on Fox News by Tucker Carlson, who himself often promotes white nationalist stories and has been praised by the Daily Stormer.
This is the result of a Nazi-to-Fox-News-to-the-White-House propaganda pipeline.
Starts on alt right/Nazi message boards, ends up on Breitbart/ Daily Caller, goes to Fox News…. and then the president does a tweet https://t.co/89dc0wBgEO
— Christopher Mathias (@letsgomathias) August 23, 2018
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been doing her best to gaslight the world about the incident. In a tweet on Wednesday, she accused CNN of attempting to “divide America” — ignoring the stunning hypocrisy of how much Trump had incited violence against journalists.