Image: Facebook

Yesterday, four teens were apprehended in Chicago on charges of battery. While in police custody, they were determined to be the same assailants depicted in a Facebook Live video which has since been uploaded (and deleted) countless times on other platforms, wherein the same adolescents filmed themselves torturing a young man with mental disabilities. You might have seen something about it on Twitter associated with the hashtag #blmkidnapping.

The half-hour video is deeply upsetting and was pulled from Facebook on account of its glorification of criminal acts. Over those 30 minutes, the victim is beaten, cut, and forced to drink water from a toilet. “Fuck Trump” and “fuck white people” are heard as the kidnappers—all black—attack their captive, a white man. And there’s the rub.

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Anyone with a shred of empathy can agree it’s a heinous act, and determinations as to whether the kidnapping and subsequent attacks were racially or politically motivated are currently being investigated by police. But how exactly are these teens tied to the Black Lives Matter movement? The short answer is: they’re not.

Hello again, Centipedes

Not one legitimate news source linked the attack to BLM for the simple reason that no evidence of such a connection exists. Nor did I hear the movement being invoked at any point during the 30-minute video, which I watched in its entirety. An administrator of Centipede Central—a popular Trump supporter chatroom—was able to find the Facebook page of Brittany Herring, the young woman who filmed the act. Her public posts, which stretch back to September 2015, have no references to BLM either.

Only one mention of the leaderless activist movement, posted by a commenter an hour ago, appears on her page: “Ever seen a black lives matter meet? Thats the black kkk.” It’s one of many such comments to appear on Herring’s Facebook after news of her involvement spread—and a reflection of the deluge of tweets claiming the kidnapping was carried out by the movement’s supporters.

So how did we get from a sickening but isolated criminal event to an indictment of Black Lives Matter? It appears this campaign of disinformation began with none other than Mike Cernovich, the nootropic-popping mouthbreather who was recently exposed as a “massive cuck” by his own alt-right brethren. His blog post does nothing to source claims that the attackers were in any way associated with Black Lives Matter. (The post also asks readers to help fund “honest journalism” through Cernovich’s Patreon page.)

Following his lead were the likes of Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson, YouTuber Sargon of Akkad, internet dickhead Richard Spencer, and Stefan Molyneux—I’m still not totally sure what Molyneux does or why his smirking avatar keeps popping up every time large crowds gather online to parrot demonstrably false bullshit. With more than 850,000 followers combined, the message reached those who wanted to buy into it in the first place, and any sensible request for proof was drowned out by sycophants referring to BLM as a “terrorist group.”

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(Note though that Watson, despite drawing the connection explicitly in his tweet, does not mention BLM at all in the Infowars blog post he wrote on the kidnapping.)

We can all agree that kidnapping and torture are wrong. But the logical leap from “black people hurting a white guy” to “Black Lives Matter are terrorists” is bizarre and unfounded—spurred on by a single tweet from a guy known to make shit up, and an audience happy to feed into a fantasy version of the world where all black people are criminals. Race-baiting and outright lies are the business model for many figureheads in the alt-right, and soon, in all likeliness most of them will pretend they never said any of this.

Update 1/5/17 4:18pm EST: According to CNN the four individuals responsible have been charged with a hate crime, felony aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery.

4chan’s /pol/ was quick to celebrate as only they can. Gizmodo wishes a speedy recovery to the victim.

[Fox 32 Chicago, NBC, CNN]