Antifa gets blamed for everything, including this week’s fatal Amtrak crash
Antifa may be a loose, barely organized group, but it’s been blamed for many high-profile crimes or misfortunes that’s happened since earlier this year — the Las Vegas massacre, the Texas church shooting — and many that didn’t happen at all, like this attack on a police officer in Charlottesville, Va., and a violent uprising in early November.
The claim that Antifa caused the Amtrak train derailment Monday was based on something other than pure fabrication, though — It’s Going Down, an anarchist site, published a claim by a group in Puget Sound that they poured concrete on railway tracks in the area in April, though local police, the railway and the group that posted the claim wouldn’t say whether this had actually happened.
(The most obvious cause of the derailment, which killed three people, is that the train was going 80 mph in a 30 mph zone, a fact that was made public the same day as the accident.)
Alt-right online personality Mike Cernovich pointed to the original blog post, then angrily denounced people on Twitter who said he was going as far as blaming Antifa.
Gateway Pundit then amplified Cernovich’s account, claiming that the blog post was taken down after the derailment, a claim an unidentified anarchist interviewed by Buzzfeed disputed, saying that it had been “deleted four or five months ago because it kept getting taken out of context.” (All the Wayback Machine shows is that it disappeared at some point between Aug. 25 and last Monday.)
InfoWars whipped up a quick cut-and-paste post that, on Wednesday, was still the third-most read story on their site, with over 1,000 comments. InfoWars’ Alex Jones produced two videos, one of which drew heavily from a tweet on the @OfficialAntifa account, which is fake.
“Somebody knew exactly what they were doing,” Jones said. “They did it right there on the edge of the highway to block the highway for maximum sabotage. They may claim to spin it, like Vegas, and say it’s not a terror attack. There is a real, real evil spirit to these folks.”
The two videos, between them, had about 70,000 views by Wednesday.
From there, it slid down the pecking order of fake news sites, losing any attempt at qualifying it on the way: on Tuesday, yournewswire.com ran a straightforward fake under the headline Police: Antifa Terrorists Derailed Amtrak Train In Washington.
U.S. president Donald Trump spun the accident differently:
“It’s not at all clear his coming infrastructure plan is relevant,” the Associated Press responded in a fact-check. “The accident did not happen on a crumbling railway but rather on a section of track that had just been upgraded as part of a $181-million project for a new, faster route. The high-speed train was making its first run on newly constructed tracks when it derailed.”
In fake news news:
- Dozens of fake social media accounts based in Russia were used to spread “rumours, fake news and conspiracy theories” in the aftermath of each of four terrorist attacks in Britain this year, the Guardian reports.
- At the Nieman Lab, Axios‘s Matt Boggie laments how algorithms that try to deliver what we want to read, often rewarding the extreme or sensational, destroy the information ecosystem: “These filters fail at the most basic value a news organization can provide — ‘Tell me something I don’t know’ — in favour of a far more dangerous value: ‘Tell me what I want to hear.'”
- Google News has started excluding sites that mask their country of origin. It seems like an obscure move, but in Mashable, Raymond Wong predicts it ” … will have wide-ranging impact … Google is effectively burying fake news and reducing its chances of spreading.” We’ll see. It’s not that long ago, in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, that Google pulled in two top story results from 4chan and left them there for hours.
- Britain’s senior military officer warns that Russian ships have been regularly seen near crucial undersea communications cables, and worries that they could be cut during a crisis. The concern dovetails with a mystery that puzzled FBI agents following Russian agents in the U.S., who went to obscure places — wheat fields, remote gas stations — did mysterious things, and left. Eventually, they realized that the Russians had a “mission to comprehensively locate all of America’s underground communications nodes.” (There would be nothing new in this tactic — Britain cut Germany’s underwater cables with specially equipped ships on the outbreak of war in 1914.)
- A narrative defining the mainstream media as the enemy may lead to real violence against journalists, communications professor Matt Carlson fears: “Violence against the press in the United States has remained stunningly low, save for deranged attacks. But the environment seems primed for physical encounters to escalate. If the press is the enemy, violence is what you do to your enemy.”
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