On Saturday, Fox News ran a misleading segment and posted an article about an upcoming "antifa apocalypse," a term invented by right-wing commentators.
The rumour started with a video posted in September that warned viewers about an "upcoming civil war." It was posted by Jordan Peltz, who works for the private company US Warrant Service and maintained a Facebook page that had a profile picture of donkey wearing a Nazi armband. Peltz also has a website called Nazi-donkeys.com.
Anti-Trump protests were planned from Nov. 4 onward by Refuse Fascism, but the group told BuzzFeed News that the protests are meant to be non-violent. No "antifa" group has called for violence online during the Nov. 4 protests.
"What they're saying is completely false," Taylor said. "They’re blatant lies, and they’re creating and intending to intimidate people who want to stand up to the Trump/Pence regime. It's concerning that these lies are being spread and that they're unleashing threats."
The "antifa apocalypse" and "antifa overthrow" ideas were then baselessly perpetuated by right-wing websites like InfoWars and the Gateway Pundit.
The false narrative gained more and more popularity as it was being repeated. Right Richter, a newsletter written by The Hill editor Will Sommer, even noted fabricated campaign posters and InfoWars sold Nov. 4 swag.
Those same commentators then called "antifa" out on Twitter for not "overthrowing" the government on Nov. 4.
Many publications picked up on the claims to debunk them, including Time, Snopes, Washington Post, and BuzzFeed News. However, the Fox News report put more weight on the false claims of pro-Trump commentators. "Antifa apocalypse? Anarchist group's plan to overthrow Trump 'regime' starts Saturday," says the headline. The Fox News article already has 46,000 shares, comments, and likes on Facebook according to social tracking tool BuzzSumo. Fox News didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Fox News did note that Refuse Fascism disavowed violence, but that fact was preceded by examples of "antifa" violence.
The Fox News article cited the Washington Post as a source, despite the Post debunking the claim.
Part of the issue could have been the Washington Post's headline, which didn't directly refute the false rumours.
This is not the first time pro-Trump Twitter users have highjacked the narrative, but the Fox News coverage shows how a falsehood can be repeated enough to be featured in mainstream media.
Last week, many of the same users who made claims about the "antifa apocalypse" pushed also misrepresented a protest against pro-Trump commentator Mark Cernovich. They said the protesters were marching with a sign that said, "no pedo bashing," but people at the protest told BuzzFeed News the sign was planted and video shows it was carried for less than a minute before protesters realized what it said.
Jane Lytvynenko is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada. PGP fingerprint: A088 89E6 2500 AD3C 8081 BAFB 23BA 21F3 81E0 101C.
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