Will a time come when the right doesn’t actively try to deceive its own base? Perhaps. But this weekend wasn’t it.
Antifa—short for anti-fascist action—has grown in notoriety since the election of Donald Trump. Supporters see it as the front line in street-level protests against racism. But in the minds of the far-right, antifa are painted in cartoonishly broad strokes, either as the caricature of the “entitled millennial liberal” or as a dangerous, violent “alt-left.” Both of these deeply incomplete understandings of antifa come largely from the far-right itself—and are amplified by fake antifa accounts on Twitter which credulous idiots lap up and regurgitate.
Former Buzzfeed plagiarist and current Independent Journal Review “Chief Content Officer” Benny Johnson did just that this weekend with a piece titled “Alleged Boston Antifa Thanks Hillary Clinton, Democrats for Their Support as They Burn American Flag.” The listicle attributes such damning actions as burning a flag, burning a sign that says “free speech,” and “thanking ‘Hillary Democrats,’” to the Twitter account @AntifaBoston. The lead image, which is implied to be antifa members burning an American flag, is actually from a 2015 protest in Denver following the mass killing committed by Dylann Roof. Likewise, the address listed on the Boston antifa Facebook page correlates to a Harvard staffer.
Johnson’s post was later updated with the following editor’s note:
After people questioned the legitimacy of the Twitter account, Independent Journal Review reached out for verification of the authenticity of the group. In an automated response, the group said: “Thank you for contacting the official page for the Antifa organization in the Boston area.” We will update this article as needed.
A cursory scroll trough the timeline of @AntifaBoston raises alarm bells, particularly with its willingness to retweet known fakes and winkingly promote right-wing personalities like Proud Boys founder Gavic McInness.
AntifaChecker—a project which seeks to verify real antifa groups and out fake ones (of which there are many)—claims that “as far as we know, there are zero legitimate organized Antifa groups in Boston,” and told Gizmodo over Twitter DM that “fake accounts aren’t ever really ‘effective’ to anyone with a modicum of awareness, but they’ve mostly been effective at stirring up shit with people who already hate antifa.” Back in March, the duo behind the fake @AntifaBoston account were identified as trolls living in Eugene, Oregon by Eugene antifa.
Johnson, it seems, was hoaxed. Unfortunately, he’s not alone
The same account fooled a columnist from the conservative Toronto Sun yesterday—who called the presumed antifa members “rich white kids of draft dodgers.” He’s also the author of a book titled The Jew is Not My Enemy.
Someone posing as a Boston antifa member (which again, doesn’t seem to exist in any publicly organized way) appeared on Fox News’ Watters’ World, baiting the host into asking immensely dumb questions like “What about when an antifa member stabbed a police horse in the neck with a knife. Was the horse a racist Trump supporter?” The troll alluded to right-wingers posing as antifa during the interview, and Watters was none the wiser.
Earlier this summer, a similar fake Facebook account claiming to represent antifa in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania sent right-wingers—including alt-lite figure and former Navy urine analyzer Jack Posobiec—into a frenzy when it made reference to a (fake) rally planned for Gettysburg. Right-wing counter protestors showed up and found no one to protest. Somehow, one of those fooled into traveling to Gettysburg managed to literally shoot himself in the foot.
Keep in mind, any of these accounts are blatantly fraudulent to anyone with a passing familiarity with right-wing talking points. But for people looking for a new strawman, the bare minimum of research doesn’t enter into the equation.