If you are inside the “alt-right” information bubble, you might be preparing yourself for a civil war to commence this Saturday.
Since late September, the idea has been circulating on Facebook groups, subreddit message boards, Twitter, and leading conspiracy media outlets that on 4 November, anti-fascist groups will begin a violent insurrection.
Some websites are telling their readers that antifa groups are “planning to kill every single Trump voter, Conservative and gun owner” this weekend. Hundreds of Facebook posts show how seriously consumers of such media are taking the news, and comments like “One more threat against white people and I swear to God I’m going to take a goddamn car and run over every fucking one of them” are not unrepresentative of the response.
But antifa groups have no plans to protest that day, and the small leftist groups who are planning protests have only dubious connections to the antifa movement. So what gives?
Actually, the left-leaning group Refuse Fascism is planning rallies across the country on Saturday, the first step in a large-scale, long game demonstration organizers hope will achieve nothing less than the unseating of the Trump administration. Refuse Fascism is committed to nonviolent protest,
The whole thing rests on some very slender reeds, according to Spencer Sunshine, who recently wrote a report on the theories for the far right-monitoring group Political Research Associates. In the conspiracy underground on YouTube, he explains, there has been talk that “there was going to be a civil war” starting in November for some months.
Beginning in late September, three things kicked it a into higher gear. First, Refuse Fascism, a small group linked to the Revolutionary Communist party, staged a visually spectacular protest in Los Angeles. They blocked the 101 freeway and held up signs that enigmatically spelled out “Nov 4 it begins”. This is the same group that is organizing a series of protests around the country against the “Trump-Pence regime” this weekend.
Second, a video posted on a Facebook page called Vets Before Illegals went viral. The video, entitled “Antifa sets a date for civil war”, claimed that “on their website, they are calling for an open civil war that will start in November”, and set out alleged plans for attacking police officers, then citizens and the government.
Last, but by no means least, the rumor was picked up and amplified by Alex Jones, the radio star with an audience of millions. As Sunshine explains, Jones “is a kind of meta-conspiracy theorist now” who “harvests other people’s theories” and repackages them to fit his narratives and his audience.
Once Jones had mentioned it, Sunshine explains, the rumor mill exploded: “Once Jones says something, even more people pick up on it and put their own spin on it.” Jones’s website was still running the story on Wednesday morning.
In recent days, the story took an absurd turn, and had its closest brush with more mainstream conservative media, when Gateway Pundit, a longtime conservative blog that has recently expanded into news coverage, published a story by its White House correspondent, Lucian Wintrich, claiming that an “antifa leader” had promised to “behead white parents” on 4 November.
The tweet the story was based on, however, was a joke from an account that had no apparent ties to any antifa groups.
And yet, it’s very likely that thousands of yahoos believe this, just as they believed that Hillary Clinton was running a child prostitute ring our of the basement of a D.C. pizzeria (which had no basement). I guess the question is if there will be a confrontation — somehow, somewhere –as a result of rightwing counter-protesters turning out to shut down the “revolution.” Good Lord, if someone dies as a result of “fake news”, maybe Congress will take notice.