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Far-Right South Africans Are Spreading A Hoax Claim That Dylann Roof Was An Obama Supporter

No false flag here.

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The morning after after nine people were killed in in a historic South Carolina church, the Berkeley County government tweeted two images of the suspect, Dylann Roof, who at the time was still at-large.

The photo, below, shows him staring at the camera and wearing a jacket with two flags sewn onto it.

Suspect in #Charleston shooting identified as 21 yr old Dylann Roof. If you know his whereabouts, call 1-800-CALL-FBI

In South Africa, the Facebook page belonging to the right-wing National Front party, which advocates for white secessionism, published a post about the presence of the old flag on Roof's jacket. Here's a translation:

Liberal zealots and the ANC shout and scream because the Church Assassin of Charleston in the US has the old [South Africa] flag on his jacket on a facebook photo. For this ... is proof enough that there will be a connection with South African right-wingers.

Six hours later, the page carried another post about Roof and his jacket. This time it claimed to have evidence that the image was Photoshopped to add the two flags on Roof's jacket. In reality, they said, he was wearing an Obama badge.

facebook.com

The National Front said that they took the image from Roof's Facebook profile before it was removed. In fact, the image on his page showed him wearing the jacket with two flags. That's the image law enforcement used.

It appears that the fake Obama badge image first appeared on Imgur hours before it was picked up by the South African political party and its Facebook page. The image was uploaded late Friday afternoon, and has recevied well over 15,000 views.

It was subsequently posted to r/conspiracy on Reddit by user WideAwakeNWO.

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The Reddit post's headline aligns with the conspiracy theory offered by the National Front: the Obama jacket image is the original, and the other one was the edited version. (The most popular comments on the Reddit thread call it out as a fake.)

The image showing Roof wearing a jacket with an Obama campaign badge is clearly the fake. The image itself shows telltale blurring around the Obama logo. It's also clear that it's not the original image because there are other photos of Roof in the same jacket with the Rhodesia and Apartheid-era South Africa flags. These were on his purported website, Last Rhodesian.

The Obama jacket image has only surfaced in a few places and only in low resolution versions -- meaning it is not the original image. The evidence is also supported by the fact that it's highly unlikely that a white supremacist would wear an Obama badge.

Of course, the conspiracy theory is designed to undercut the racial motivation for the killings and remove any ideological link between Roof and right-wing groups such as South Africa's National Front. Finding a way to align Roof with a left-leaning black president is very much the point, even if it strains logic.

The most effective propagator of the Obama jacket conspiracy theory has been the website South Africa Today. It usually carries stories of white farmers being attacked and news about the National Front. It reprinted the party's Facebook post.

Others are spreading the false claim. This South African woman has over 6,000 Twitter followers and runs a blog that uses extremely graphic imagery to support her claim that there is black-on-white genocide happening in South Africa. She shared the hoax.

ATTACK ON THE OLD SOUTH AFRICAN FLAG: Charleston shooting – badges on jacket ‘Photoshopped’ http://t.co/JU3ZmoSjWJ

Some Twitter users are replying to prominent Twitter accounts with the hoax claim. They often shared the South Africa Today blog post.

@News24 no he didn't. #CharlestonShooting http://t.co/nJlcxcWFN6

@GeraldoRivera http://t.co/GJlhredpCG

@HistoryInPics the badges on his jacket are ‘Photoshopped’

This person tweeted a link to a website that also wrote about the Obama jacket.

UPDATE: ATHEIST DYLANN STORM ROOF JACKET WAS PHOTOSHOPPED - ORIGINAL JACKET LOGO WAS OBAMA 2008 ELECTION LOGO http://t.co/OM1ygWTXDo

The photo of Roof in his jacket is one of the most uploaded images on the site from the past few days, according to. Dr. Neal Krawertz, a forensic image analyst and software developer who runs FotoForensics.

fotoforensics.com

He said that examples such as the above, which was linked from Roman Catholic Imperialist, do not show that the Obama jacket image is the original. This image is too low resolution to be given proper analysis, he said.

"Every instance of the altered/Obama patch jacket is at a lower quality than

the original picture [of Roof with the two flags]," Dr. Krawertz told BuzzFeed News. "I have seen no instances of a high quality or large version of the altered patch image."

Dr. Krawertz said he has however seen high resolution versions of other photos of Roof in the jacket. These predate the Obama image and show that the Rhodesia and Apartheid-era South Africa badges were on his jacket.

Dr. Krawertz said the Obama jacket conspiracy fits a pattern he sees time and again when it comes to major events and disasters.

"Basically, whenever there is a major disaster, there are conspiracies," he said. "With horrible events come horrible people altering pictures to propagate horrible conspiracies."

Craig Silverman is Media Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto.

Contact Craig Silverman at craig.silverman@buzzfeed.com.

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