Far-right wing bloggers, Twitter users, and other promulgators of neo-Nazi/alt-right beliefs are making dubious claims against the Antifa (Antifascist) movement on the internet.
Among those claims, the extremists on the right are sharing images they say members of Antifa have created that demonstrate the leftist group promotes violent actions, such as abuse to women and attacks on the police.
But deeper research into the issue reveals that the rightists’ claims are bogus, and the findings are bringing to light a deeper conspiracy being peddled by the far-right and white supremacist movements themselves.
Eliot Higgins, who writes for the site Bellingcat, found evidence that the memes reportedly created by Antifa were in fact created by right-wing groups in an apparent effort to discredit the Antifa movement.
Higgins found posts on the deep-web site 4Chan where right-wing activists conspired to create the images depicting violence against women, for example.
— Eliot Higgins (@EliotHiggins) August 24, 2017
In one instance, the image of a woman who is the victim of abuse includes the captions, “53% of white women voted for Trump,” followed by “53% of white women should look like this.” Yet the image itself is of British actor Anna Friel, who posed with a bruise on her face for a public service announcement against domestic abuse back in 2007, the BBC reports.
But what of those sharing the images? It turns out that the accounts claiming to be Antifa show the hallmarks of being fake profiles, likely established by far-right groups themselves. The fake Antifa accounts, for instance, are just a few days old, and in some cases have only tweeted out the images and nothing more. One account reportedly sent 29 image tweets in a matter of a few hours.
The fake tweets are then retweeted out by the right-wing groups, who use them as examples to bolster their claims of a violent far-left movement in the United States, claims that, again, are based on inaccurate evidence.
This tweet, from user Walter Johnson (@Big_DaddyWalter) is a prime example of the far-right’s dastardly deeds. In it, Johnson shares a screenshot image from an account called “Official Antifa” that purports to promote the idea of beating women who support President Trump.
#Antifa is advocating violence against women who support Trump.
— Walter Johnson🇺🇸 (@Big_DaddyWalter) August 24, 2017
But as BuzzFeed News reported on Memorial Day Weekend, @OfficialAntifa is a fake account, set up to discredit the leftist movement. It doesn’t exist to promote Antifa at all, and instead sends tweets that can be used on social media to “prove” the movement is a violent one.
Whether Walter Johnson is part of the conspiracy or not is undetermined. But he and other users are sharing an image that is part of the plan to make the Antifa movement seem like a leftist plot to engage in acts of violence, a belief that isn’t backed up by the facts.
Another more recent example stems from the clash of protesters at the Charlottesville, Virginia “Unite the Right” rally earlier this month. Far-right wing groups, including white supremacists and neo-Nazis, engaged in serious acts of violence against counter-protesters who came to show opposition to their racist and bigoted ideals. The attacks perpetrated by white nationalists included one incident where a supremacist rammed his vehicle into a crowd of peaceful counter-protesters, resulting in the death of Heather Heyer and the injury of 19 others.
In an effort to bolster the claims that leftist groups were violent as well — an insinuation President Donald Trump made just hours after Heyer was killed — an image began circulating around the web detailing how an Antifa protester had beaten an officer who had fallen to the ground.
An example of the tweet depicting the alleged attack appears below:
Antifa beats a police officer and nobody is around to stop him. Why are our elected officials helping this terrorist group😭 pic.twitter.com/HahDKlVPQr
— Lorelei Lee 💋 (@julieoakman727) August 16, 2017
However, that image is a doctored photo, one that originated from Greek protests years ago, and is not from the events in Charlottesville or any other Antifa event. Notice the missing Antifa insignia on the original image below:
The conspiracy to discredit the Antifa movement is widespread across the internet. In many cases, conservatives who share the images are unaware of it themselves, sharing images they believe to be real that are not only exaggerated accounts, but actually fabricated depictions of crimes that Antifa members have allegedly committed. Yet in many other cases, the users sharing the doctored photos are fully aware of their lacking authenticity, spreading the misinformation on purpose to support their perverse agendas.
Images being shared by conservative organizations or individuals that suggest a coordinated and violent Antifa should be observed with a skeptical eye, to say the least. In almost all cases, the images are fakes, and are not true representations of what the movement is about. If anything, it reveals the disturbing extent some on the right are willing to go to in order to further their goals.