If you’ve ever studied Right-wing propaganda in its various forms, you know that the content has a distinctively formulaic character to it.
The folks who push it have what amounts to a mental Rolodex of go-to themes and each post or podcast or chest-beating radio hour is just a riff on one of a handful of narratives. Those narratives change over time to accommodate current events.
One example of a go-to narrative is the idea that Western governments consistently perpetrate false flag attacks in an effort to manipulate the masses. Examples of false flag propaganda include Alex Jones’ contention that Sandy Hook was staged, Russia-sponsored blogs insisting that Bashar al-Assad has never used chemical weapons on his own people, and of course, the notion that the Twin Towers were rigged with explosives and that 9-11 was a controlled demolition.
Another go-to is the paid protester/nefarious organizer conspiracy theory. This one is versatile in the sense that it can be applied to any rally where the participants are demonstrating against someone or some cause the propagandists support. So for example, if there are people protesting against white supremacists, propagandists will simply take it upon themselves to say that those protesters were either compensated for their participation or else manipulated into showing up by some bad actor with ulterior motives (usually George Soros who, if you believe Alex Jones, spends almost all of his time devising complex schemes to figuratively castrate society).
Of course what’s so funny about this entire dynamic is that in many cases it is in fact the parties on whose behalf the propagandists are writing who really are engaged in the type of behavior that’s being projected onto Western governments and globalist billionaires.
Case in point, consider the following out today from The Daily Beast:
Russian operatives hiding behind false identities used Facebook’s event-management tool to remotely organize and promote political protests in the U.S., including an August 2016 anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rally in Idaho, The Daily Beast has learned.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to The Daily Beast that the social-media giant “shut down several promoted events as part of the takedown we described last week.” The company declined to elaborate, except to confirm that the events were promoted with paid ads. (This is the first time the social-media giant has publicly acknowledged the existence of such events.)
The Facebook events—one of which echoed Islamophobic conspiracy theories pushed by pro-Trump media outlets—are the first indication that the Kremlin’s attempts to shape America’s political discourse moved beyond fake news and led unwitting Americans into specific real-life action.
“This is the next step,” Clint Watts, a former FBI agent and expert on Russia’s influence campaign, told The Daily Beast. “The objective of influence is to create behavior change. The simplest behavior is to have someone disseminate propaganda that Russia created and seeded. The second part of behavior influence is when you can get people to physically do something.”
Much of the Russian Facebook propaganda campaign has since been deleted. But bits and pieces remain visible in search-engine caches, including a 2016 notice on Facebook Events—the site’s event-management and invitation tool—announcing an Aug. 27 rally in a rural Idaho town known to welcome refugees.
“Due to the town of Twin Falls, Idaho, becoming a center of refugee resettlement, which led to the huge upsurge of violence towards American citizens, it is crucial to draw society’s attention to this problem,” the event notice began. The three-hour protest was titled “Citizens before refugees,” and would be held at the City Council Chambers beginning at 11 a.m. The notice provided the street address and ended with a fiery exhortation.
“We must stop taking in Muslim refugees! We demand open and thorough investigation of all the cases regarding Muslim refugees! All government officials, who are covering up for these criminals, should be fired!”
The event was “hosted” by “SecuredBorders,” a putative U.S. anti-immigration community that was outed in March as a Russian front. The Facebook page had 133,000 followers when Facebook closed it last month.
Any guesses as to why the Russian front targeted Twin Falls?
It’s the whole Chobani yogurt/Soros conspiracy theory that InfoWars was pushing right up until the company sued Alex Jones who later issued a forced apology on air.
We of course lampooned that mercilessly as it unfolded. Here’s an amusing excerpt from one of our posts:
Recently, Jones has found himself in a similar predicament after suggesting that Chobani yogurt is involved in a George Soros-assisted conspiracy to spread crime, tuberculosis and rape in Twin Falls County, Idaho. And yes, that is just as crazy as it sounds.
You can read that whole story here, but suffice to say Chobani wasn’t having it. So they sued Jones and InfoWars for defamation.
Jones, getting back into “character” after a couple of rough days in child custody court, vowed to fight the evil Chobani cabal. Here is his long-winded rant (and do note the “reliable” sources he cites at the tail end):
So either he couldn’t convince his viewers to fund his defense or else he just pussied out (probably a combination of the two), but guess what the result of this was? Here’s TIME:
- Right-wing radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones says he has settled a lawsuit filed by Greek yogurt giant Chobani, reversing course from previous claims that he would never back down in the defamation case.
- Jones read a brief statement at the end of his radio show Wednesday saying he had retracted previous stories and tweets about Chobani.
- Chobani had argued in its lawsuit that Jones and his InfoWars website posted fabricated stories earlier this month that linked Chobani owner Hamdi Ulukaya and the company to a sexual assault case involving refugee children. The company filed the lawsuit in Idaho District Court in Twin Falls, where it operates the largest yogurt plant in the world.
- Jones added that he regretted mischaracterizing Chobani, its employees and the people of Twin Falls.
How funny is that, right?
This is perhaps the best available example of what we said here at the outset. Here was a case where Alex Jones, Breitbart, and others posited a conspiracy theory involving immigrants, the spreading of disease, Chobani yogurt, and George Soros, in Twin Falls.
As it turns out, there actually was a conspiracy going on there but it was actually being orchestrated by Russian Facebook fronts who were doing exactly what Right-wing propagandists have variously accused Soros and others of doing: organizing rallies and protests under false pretenses.
In this particular case, it seems entirely reasonable to suggest that Jones, or at least Breitbart, worked in concert with these Russian social media fronts to spread the Twin Falls story and sow anti-immigrant sentiment consistent with the agenda being pursued by Steve Bannon and Donald Trump.