Different Arenas, Same Tactics


Drifting in and out of online political discourse as an observer (rarely bothering or daring to get swept up in Twitter threads with self-righteous mobs of any persuasion), I have noticed that there is a common thread between some unlikely groups. Pro-China, Russia, DPRK, Assad, etc. “communists” (read: people who think anything anti-US imperialism is amazing), and “right-wing” conspiracy nutcases come up with similar stories to justify their positions – it’s all fake!

Just a quick comparison, don’t expect any deep analysis on this point at all here, and I want to stress this is about the tactic used, not comparing the events themselves.

Many people are rightly shocked when the latest mass shooting news comes out of the US. Mass shootings have been occurring there for decades, and in recent years has energised popular movements to implement gun ownership reform, similar to that of other nations. Where I’m from, Australia, we had a mass shooting take place at Port Arthur, Tasmania, in 1996 (I got to visit the memorial in 2016). In one of the (very) few good acts of his long stint as Prime Minister, the Liberal leader John Howard took swift and decisive action.

We’ve not had event of that scale since.

Most people are also rightly shocked and angered when some people hijack the latest tragedy and call it staged. Entire narratives are fabricated that call people survivors and family members of victims “crisis actors”, the most egregious of which is the Sandy Hook incident where young children were killed. I read a story some time ago that one of the fathers basically had to drop his life and go into hiding because he was being hounded by deranged, self-proclaimed online “detectives” proving he wasn’t real.

More recently, Marjorie Taylor Greene, the insane Republican Congresswoman who has done nothing but spread conspiracy theories, has been called out for her harassment of David Hogg, who was a student present at a school shooting in Florida. That one can carry out such abhorrent actions and still be elected is a real highlight of how depraved the US is.

Yet seemingly millions of people, for one reason or another, are convinced that all of these events have been staged. The “left”, the Democrats, communists, the Deep State, the Jews! No end to the list of evil culprits trying to… make schools safer for children, I guess.

Flip to the “communist” side and things are phrased in a similar fashion. When cultural genocide, “re-education camps”, and other crackdowns on the Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang, China, started coming to light, certain “leftist” fans of the Chinese Communist Party instantly began denying it. It wasn’t a genocide; it’s “deradicaliastion”, not “re-education”; the US is radicalising the population through the CIA, China has to defend itself.

Same with Hong Kong’s recent protests – it’s all pro-US infiltrators; the protestors are plants; China is just trying to remove imperialist interference from its borders. In the case of Assad, there are those who believe Rojava is also a CIA operation. The Kurdish minority couldn’t possibly be an “independent” force for self-determination and oppose Assad, they must also be US puppets (receiving US assistance, mostly in the context of fighting ISIS, does not imply reliance or alliance – Trump’s fumble left them at the mercy of Turkey and actually looking to Assad and Russia for aid).

Stepping back further in history, the defence of Lenin in relation to the Kronstadt Uprising is that the people of Kronstadt were backed by the Whites and foreign powers. Not only does this betray ignorance about the reality of Lenin’s butchering of the Russian Revolution, but again implies the people of Kronstadt could not possibly speak for themselves against the Bolsheviks – they must be being controlled from elsewhere solely to oppose the vanguard.

I just thought that was a fascinating connection. One side believes that their gun rights are sacred and will go to great lengths to try and “debunk” mass shooting stories as false flag events meant to crush their liberties. Another defends “communist”, or at the very least anti-US, parties and governments with such loyalty that they believe any resistance or opposition must in fact come from the US. They don’t even consider that perhaps people don’t enjoy being coerced or ruled over forcefully by totalitarian regimes, let alone that the regime in question is possinly totalitarian.

The notion that everything you don’t agree with or “believe”, regardless of the facts of the situation, is somehow a big conspiracy is something I’ve only really seen from these two distinct groups, usually within their own social media bubbles. Obviously the contexts of someone like Taylor Greene targeting school shooting survivors and China attempting to quell protests in Hong Kong are very different, but the tactics used by their respective defenders have a bizarre amount of crossover.

It’s kind of unnerving, really.

Liked this? Read Historical Amnesia Goes Both Ways

Previous piece: Outsourcing Deliberation: Political Misinformation Online

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