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Far Right Promotes 'False Flag' Conspiracy Claim On Mass Shootings

Fringe right-wing media figures are pushing baseless conspiracy theories that the recent deadly mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, were “false flag” operations orchestrated by the United States government to take away civil rights from American citizens.

Buffalo

The mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, left 10 Black people dead. The suspect in the mass shooting allegedly wrote a hateful manifesto that repeatedly cited the fascist “great replacement” conspiracy theory as a motive for violence against Black people. The great replacement theory has become a staple of Tucker Carlson and Fox News’ coverage of minority groups and immigration.

Shortly after the shooting in Buffalo, Arizona Republican state Sen. Wendy Rogers posted on the white nationalist-affiliated social media site Gab that the shooting was conducted by federal agents, rather than an 18-year-old racist.

Rogers’ comments were only the start of a flurry of false flag conspiracy theories that followed these shootings:

On the May 16 edition of Alex Jones’ show on Infowars, Jones claimed the Buffalo grocery store shooting was a staged event. Jones attempted to link the Buffalo shooting to the Unabomber, pushing the conspiracy theory that “The unabomber worked for the CIA,” and asserted that he knows “how the globalists operate and I know who they wind up and I know what they do.”

Militia-linked radio host and right-wing extremist Pete Santilli claimed during his May 27 radio show that the CIA and FBI radicalized, hypnotized, and indoctrinated the shooter through his computer screen via “mind control” and “screen flicker technology” to commit the shooting. Santilli proclaimed that the shooter “was copying and pasting” his racist manifesto “from the CIA and the FBI” and that “they helped him do it over a two year period.”

White nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes posted a video to his streaming website after the Buffalo shooting with the title “False Flag Confirmed: Buffalo Shooter Groomed to Kill by FBI Agent.”

During the video, Fuentes asserted that the mass shooting was “done by or permitted to go on by law enforcement.”

Former Infowars host, QAnon conspiracy theorist, and failed congressional candidate DeAnna Lorraine suggested that the Buffalo shooting “could just be all just a false flag to target the white guy.”

Lorraine also declared that the shooting was “yet another false flag” to target white conservatives who live stream events and wear tactical gear. (The Buffalo shooter live-streamed the tragedy on Twitch and wore tactical gear.)

QAnon influencer RedPill78 argued that the shooting “is very emblematic of attacks that we’ve seen in the past where federal agents are involved and they urge these people on to commit an attack or to do something that is outside the boundaries of the law that is then going to be used to try to take away more of our rights.”

RedPill78 continued, claiming, “These people, in my opinion, would not be dead if it wasn’t for the FBI convincing this disturbed young man to go out and commit this heinous act.”

Uvalde

On May 24, another mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, ended with 19 children and two teachers dead. The constantly changing narratives and information from the Uvalde police about the timeline of the shooting have sparked criticism and indignation, feeding into conspiracy theories about the event.

During the May 25 edition of Infowars’ The Alex Jones Show, Jones agreed with a caller who suggested that the Uvalde shooting was a false flag event. Jones said that the timing of the attack was “very suspicious” and that “everybody should be able to question this because there's been so many false flags, so many provocateured operations.”

Fuentes suggested that the elementary school shooting was a false flag operation because “40 police officers showed up on the scene of the mass shooting while it was in progress” and “waited outside the school for 40 minutes for the shooting to be finished.”

Fuentes proclaimed that the police waited for the shooting to end before entering the classroom in order to push a “gun control agenda.”

QAnon conspiracy theorist, antisemite, and failed congressional candidate Lauren Witzke suggested that the Uvalde mass shooting was a false flag operation intended to “change the public narrative” around Texas’ politics because “Hispanics are starting to lean more conservative and these people are crazy, midterms are coming up.”

On May 27, QAnon influencer Jordan Sather proclaimed that it looks like the event was “orchestrated.”

Why This Matters

Right-wing media has a long history of claiming that acts of violence are false flags orchestrated by the federal government and outside forces. Conspiracy theorists often suggest that fabricated attacks are a tool the opposition uses to drive their own political agenda and shape the narrative around a certain topic.

Extremists also use these “false flag” tragedies and events to distract from their culpability in problems like the proliferation of white supremacy or the gun control impasse, and to push their audiences further from reality. Some right-wing media figures have a history of using lies and conspiracy theories about these tragic events to attack and harass mass shooting survivors and their families. Survivors from both the Parkland and Sandy Hook shootings became victims again when conspiracy theorists spread debunked claims about these traumatic incidents.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Bannon Promotes GOP Candidates Charged With Sexual Misconduct

Former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon hosted 2022 Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster on his podcast after eight women accused him of sexual misconduct, including a GOP state senator.

On the April 19 edition of his show, War Room: Pandemic, Bannon invited Herbster to discredit the reports of sexual misconduct.

Steve Bannon platforms Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster after eight reports of alleged sexual misconduct

Steve Bannon platforms Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster after eight reports of alleged sexual misconduct www.mediamatters.org

During the interview, Bannon set up Herbster to suggest that the current Governor of Nebraska, Pete Ricketts, was behind the allegations.

Bannon asked, “Do you think the Governor Ricketts is in back of this?”

Herbster responded, “There’s no question in my mind about it. He is in back of this.”

Published with permission from Media Matters for American.

Steve Bannon’s 'War Room' Podcast Is Platform For QAnon Propaganda

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon's podcast, War Room: Pandemic, is a deceptive showcase for the QAnon conspiracy theory.

With its conspiratorial nature, calls for revolution and violence, and overwhelming number of QAnon-connected guests and co-hosts, the podcast mirrors other QAnon programming.

Bannon's podcast is broadcast by Real America's Voice, a far-right news site that also has a history of propagating QAnon content. Streaming platforms that host the show – including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and ViacomCBS' PlutoTV – are dispensing a program closely connected to the dangerous QAnon conspiracy theory.

Apple Podcasts has delisted dangerous conspiracy theory content in the past, including Alex Jones' Infowars. According to ProPublica, Apple Podcasts has declined to comment on why the company continues to list Bannon's show while it seemingly violates its terms of service against "harmful or objectionable content."

The former Trump adviser started toying around with the conspiracy theory publicly on his show in October 2020, describing QAnon as "the elephant in the room" and claiming it "at least appears directionally to be correct."


STEVE BANNON (HOST): This is the elephant in the room. The elephant in the room is this QAnon thing that's been out there.

The elephant in the room is, people say they're crazy, I'm just leaving that -- put a pin in it. But when they look at the facts of this, how are they not, at least an aspect of their argument, at least appears directionally to be correct.

After QAnon adherents and other Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6, Bannon attempted to distance himself from the conspiracy theory by labeling it an "FBI psyop."

Despite this attempt to distance himself, Bannon has grown increasingly supportive of the conspiracy theory, defending it from scrutiny. On the July 8 edition of his show, for example, Bannon complained that mainstream media "disparages" the conspiracy theory and uses its coverage to "smear" QAnon believers.

While "Q," the lead figure in the conspiracy theory, is not discussed on Bannon's program, the show's complete detachment from reality, its extremism, and the sheer number of QAnon connections make War Room appear essentially indistinguishable from other QAnon podcasts.

Bannon has embraced and touted his podcast guests as trustworthy sources of information on politics, without noting their connections to baseless conspiracy theories.

Here are some of the people connected to the QAnon conspiracy theory who have appeared on War Room:

Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, ViacomCBS' PlutoTV, and other outlets are responsible for providing a platform to Bannon and dozens of QAnon supporters and conspiracy theorists to spread their dangerous misinformation and lies about the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines, elections, and more.

Fox Promotes Disgraced Trump CDC Appointee Who Minimized Covid Crisis

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

In the last few months, Fox News' Laura Ingraham has repeatedly hosted Paul Alexander, former science adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services under President Donald Trump and key aide to Trump loyalist and former HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michael Caputo. While working for Caputo at HHS, Alexander sought to politicize public health guidance from inside the government bureaucracy, seeking to alter reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which reflected poorly on the Trump administration.

Politico reported in September 2020 that Alexander "was effective at delaying the famed Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports and watering down guidance" from the CDC. (The reports are a key CDC communications product that provides updates on the state of the pandemic, among other things.) In one email reported by Politico, Alexander wrote, "Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little risk….so we use them to develop herd…we want them infected." This strategy is deadly flawed, to say the least.

The erroneous political hackery of Alexander makes him the ideal guest for Ingraham, Fox's worst COVID-19 misinformer. In fact, Alexander has pushed misinformation during every one of his seven appearances on The Ingraham Angle:

  • On February 23, Alexander claimed Dr. Anthony Fauci "has shifted from becoming a scientists physician and more towards a political physician."
  • On February 25, Alexander claimed that the COVID-19 vaccine is "not entirely effective" and will not prevent "moderate to severe illness or even death." He also suggested that wearing a mask is "actually harmful."
  • During the March 5 edition of The Ingraham Angle, Alexander said that mask mandates are "very ineffective."
  • On March 12, Alexander claimed that kids "don't spread" COVID-19 to parents and teachers.
  • During the April 1 edition of The Ingraham Angle, Alexander purported that vaccinating children is "incredibly dangerous."
  • On April 22, Alexander said the CDC's guidance on mask-wearing "is about driving fear and obedience" and again claimed that masks are "ineffective."
  • On May 4, Alexander appeared on The Ingraham Angle to cast doubt on the efficacy of the vaccine, describing it as "experimental" and "highly untested as to safety."

As far as medical expertise goes, Alexander and Ingraham are a perfect match: According to The Washington Post, Alexander, who is not a physician, was "an unpaid, part-time health professor" at a Canadian university prior to joining HHS, while Ingraham has a history of pushing misinformation about all aspects of the pandemic -- attacking masks, vaccines, and social distancing, pushing unproven therapeutics, undermining public health experts, platforming quacks, and promoting a so-called "herd immunity" strategy that would lead to millions of unnecessary deaths.

It's nearly impossible to picture someone with Alexander's disgraceful background of lying to the public about the pandemic appearing anywhere else on cable news, but that hasn't stopped Ingraham from inviting him seven times to spread COVID misinformation on Fox prime time.

Research contributions from Katherine Abughazaleh

Bannon Says QAnon Is “FBI Psyop” After Embracing Cult In October 2020

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

After fully embracing QAnon, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is now denouncing the conspiracy theory.

QAnon claims that former President Trump was secretly working to take down a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who make up the "deep state" and Democratic Party. The conspiracy theory has been labeled as a domestic terror threat by the FBI and has been linked to multiple arrests of QAnon supporters connected to the January 6 Capitol insurrection.

Bannon embraced the conspiracy theory in late October while streaming his podcast War Room: Pandemic on YouTube. He went so far as to proclaim that QAnon "at least appears directionally to be correct" and suggested that the baseless theory is "real" and is "the elephant in the room."

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From the October 21, 2020, edition of War Room: Pandemic

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From the October 21, 2020, edition of War Room: Pandemic

Ever the pro-Trump strategist, Bannon has turned on the conspiracy theory following increased scrutiny of the far right in the wake of the January 6 Capitol insurrection. On January 22, Bannon's newsletter, Populist Press, had its lead story read "'Q ANON' AN FBI PSYOP."

Populist Press

CitationFrom the January 22 edition of Populist Press

The linked article suggested QAnon was a "psychological cyber operation" fabricated by the FBI to "discredit and ultimately derail the supporter base of US President Trump."

During the January 22 edition of War Room: Pandemic, Bannon and his co-host drilled down on their newfound disdain for the conspiracy, with Bannon calling one of the core QAnon claims that there would be mass arrests of prominent Democrats "nonsense." The co-host responded by labeling QAnon claims as "shortcuts to protecting your republic" and suggesting that QAnon followers are "in the way" of real political change with their "happy talk" and "fantasies."




From the January 21, 2021, edition of War Room: Pandemic

Bannon's embarrassing fall into the QAnon rabbit hole came and went as he watched Trump's loyal base of followers wreak havoc at the Capitol and fail to overturn the election results. His sudden turn to dismiss the conspiracy theory only further exposes the hollow political opportunism of his constant stream of misinformation and calls to violence as equally disingenuous and dangerous.

Bannon Launches ’National Tour’ To Promote Election Conspiracy Theories

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has kicked off a national speaking tour about the upcoming election titled "The Plot to Steal 2020." It's a thinly veiled attempt to spread conspiracy theories and discredit any efforts to ensure that citizens can vote safely.

Bannon, who recently pleaded not guilty to federal fraud charges, has stated that the tour will take place in select swing states and via digital streaming platforms. In his most recent appearance, he outlined three main prongs of his conspiracy theory: Democrats will use "lawfare," social media, and street protests to supposedly steal the election from Donald Trump. His vague and incoherent conspiracy theories have also featured heavily in recent episodes of his podcast, War Room: Pandemic. Here's a selection from the September 21 episode:

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