Inventing a conspiracy

We tracked how bigots and trolls raced to spread the "crisis actor" lie after the Parkland school shooting.

Inventing a conspiracy
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (Photo by Andrea Melendez)

Full story: We studied thousands of anonymous posts about the Parkland attack — and found a conspiracy in the making

Forty-seven minutes after news broke of a high school shooting in Parkland, Fla., the posters on the anonymous chat board 8chan had devised a plan to bend the public narrative to their own designs: “Start looking for [Jewish] numerology and crisis actors.”

The voices from this dark corner of the Internet quickly coalesced around a plan of attack: Use details gleaned from news reports and other sources to push false information about one of America’s deadliest school shootings.

The posters on anonymous ­forums, a cauldron of far-right extremist politics, over the next few hours speculated about the shooter’s ethnicity (“Hope the kid isn’t white”) and cracked off-color jokes. They began crafting false explanations about the massacre, including that actors were posing as students, in hopes of blunting what they correctly guessed would be a revived interest in gun control. ...

“Just wanted to say thanks for all your digging and research,” one poster wrote on 8chan. “Extra thanks if you’re spreading info or memes about this kid. It’s already breaking through the normie-sphere. KEEP PUSHING!” ...

A poster on 8chan soon advanced a battle plan. “We Go to War. Gather any dirt we can find on the leaders and their parents ... Disprove, Disrupt, Discredit, Disinfo, Discourage, Demotivate, Deny. Sabotage the movement,” the poster wrote. 

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