Chicago police announced on Wednesday they had arrested four black people for involvement in the kidnapping and torture of a mentally handicapped white man. Their actions had been broadcast via Facebook Live before being shared across social media. (UPDATE 1.5.16 6:30 p.m. CST: Police have confirmed there is no link between the attackers and #BlackLivesMatter.) Let's preface everything in this article by making something absolutely clear:
This was a disgusting, horrendous crime with clear motivations based in hate—whether against a white person, a handicapped person, or both. This cannot and will not be in dispute as far as I'm concerned.
What's also not in dispute is how quickly a certain segment of Trump's biggest internet supporters have immediately resorted to a campaign of disinformation, aimed at creating further distrust of the media and stoking hatred against Black Lives Matter.
The exact moment the story broke is hard to pin down, though it seems to have been sometime after 5 p.m. central time from a local CBS affiliate. Police themselves stated the arrests didn't occur until after they responded to a call at 5:26 p.m.
Major networks picked it up shortly afterwards. CBS News published an article and video just after 7 p.m., with Buzzfeed, TMZ, Fox News, NBC, The Guardian and the rest not far behind. Nothing about this is out of the ordinary; once a local outlet publishes breaking news, others will want to get confirmation and try to out scoop each other by contacting people related to the story. It's how news has functioned since the dawn of time.
Enter Mike Cernovich, best known for telling his followers to try rape, spreading false information after the murder of Philando Castile, and calling police officers liars during investigation of the NYC bombing.
Mike first tweeted about the video shortly before police first announced their arrests. He followed this up by linking to a Fox affiliate in Chicago, which stated investigators were looking into the video.
What happens next won't shock you:
He linked to the same article twice, both times claiming the people arrested were part of Black Lives Matter. What evidence did he have? Well, not the article, nor any article from a reputable source—because not even Chicago police have alleged any connection between the perpetrators and BLM. In his second tweet, he helped spread the hashtag #BLMKidnapping, meant to fuel the racist fires of Twitter's resident neo-nazis.
But seeing as Cernovich couldn't find any actual police officers or journalists linking BLM to this crime, he wrote his own article about it! Some may call this "crafting a narrative," a term Cernovich is very knowledgeable about. He then resorted to accusing various media personalities from mainstream networks of not talking about the crime, linking to more propaganda insinuating any media he doesn't like is fake news, and took a break with retweeting accusations of Black Lives Matter being a terrorist organization.
Fake news and racist conspiracies abound
Mike Cernovich's entire feed will be studied by future historians as they track the rise of fascism in relation to the fall of America. From spreading information he almost assuredly knows is false, to boosting fellow neo-nazis and Trump supporters like Stefan Molyneux—who are so desperate for victim status that they concoct a conspiracy of media being racist against white people—there's little hope the country can survive when people like him are given a large platform and praise.
The praise is by far the most baffling aspect of New Fascism in America. From Cernovich to James O'Keefe, Tomi Lahren to Milo Yiannopoulos, it seems the "unheard voters" we've been so concerned with listening to are nothing more than angry, mostly white bigots who become infuriated their favorite conspiracy theories and racist propaganda wasn't getting them enough attention.
We could engage in armchair psychology regarding what drives their attachment to such low-energy, unintelligent hate-mongering: maybe it's a lack of self-respect; maybe this is what happens when a bully graduates school and can't bully anymore; maybe a lot of the male supporters have faced rape and battery charges in the past just like Mike; or maybe it's the logical result when decades of propaganda has made a significant part of America hostile towards even the slightest bit of education and self-reflection.
It doesn't really matter what drives them, though. Our role is to name and shame the cowards, counter their propaganda, and hopefully de-radicalize the few still capable of being saved. The most effective way of doing this is to talk to your friends and other people close to you. They're going to be more open to a conversation with you than anyone else, more likely to listen and make changes.
With our government being taken over by white supremacists and conspiracy theorists, a grassroots attack on disinformation is the only hope we have of maintaining progress. Each little bit of effort you put forward makes it that much harder for fascism to be effective. You can spare the time.
Erin Jeffreys Hodges contributed information to this report.