A conspiracy theory about whether a chemical weapons attack was actually perpetrated by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad started making the rounds shortly after that tragic incident shocked the world.
Surprise, surprise, now we know Russian social media posts fueled that conspiracy, according to ABC.
The conspiracy started with a pro-Assad website in Lebanon.
Al-Masdar News published a story about supposed problems in the evidence that Assad’s government was the group behind the chemical attack, even though the governments of many nations have little doubt about the perpetrator.
As many pro-Assad folks do, the website attacked a Syrian rescue group known as The White Helmets. The group known for their headgear and their willingness to save civilians after government attacks collapse buildings provided evidence that the chemical attack was perpetrated by Assad’s forces. But the article derided them as “al-Qaeda-affiliated,” and concluded that the chemical weapons attack allegation wasn’t true.
That’s when Russian social media accounts picked up the thread, and it didn’t take long before alt-right and conspiracy theorist guru Mike Cernovich found the story and promoted it with the hashtag, #SyriaHoax. Soon, that hashtag was trending across the United States.
Cernovich latching onto the story should tell the rest of us that its credibility is pretty damn questionable. The man is also a #pizzagate truther, which means he claims to believe Hillary Clinton’s campaign ran a child sex ring out of a pizza place in Washington, D.C. Cernovich is also a rape apologist, and has said Clinton has Parkinson’s disease.
Though analysts didn’t tie the promotion of #SyriaHoax to the Russian government, the Kremlin is skilled in the art of propaganda. Witnesses at a recent Senate hearing demonstrated how the Russian government promoted false news stories during the United States’ 2016 election and systematically leaked information about candidates that they obtained by hacking into the emails of campaign officials.
This misinformation campaign would only be the latest.