Whereas at one point I was intensely in tune with politics in the USA, I have over the years become less so since making Aliyah (moving) to Israel.
However, the shock that echoed through social media upon President-elect Trump’s election was impossible to ignore. Among folks that are more vocal in my social media stream, the liberal element tends to be much more active. Whether this is a lack of activity from the conservative side, an excess of activity by the liberal side, or I just somehow ended up with a high concentration of liberal ‘friends’ on my network, I’m not sure.
As an individual who was quite a bit more distant in this election, one of the messages that seemed to repeat itself over and over was that individuals knew someone who was a victim of Trump-supporter hate. I was shocked and ashamed to hear of this behavior.
But then something caught my attention. One of the individuals who was trumpeting (pun intended) about a crime committed by Trump supporters was someone I know very well, but certain details of the story she was spreading revealed that it was impossible to be true. A huge alarm went off in my head.
After doing a little research, I discovered that things weren’t as they seemed. An article from Reason.com really put things elegantly:
The first one [high-profile case of Trump-supporter hate] to really go viral involved a Muslim female student at the University of Louisiana who claimed to have had her hijab ripped off and her wallet stolen the day after Trump’s election by two white men wearing Trump hats. But on Thursday, local police announced that the young woman had admitted she fabricated the story. “This incident is no longer under investigation,” the Lafayette Police Department said in a press release.
In another incident, this one in San Diego, a young Muslim woman’s purse and car were stolen by one white male and one Hispanic male. While the men allegedly made negative comments about Muslims, it seems car stealing was more their motivation than harassment or intimidation—which is obviously shitty, but not necessarily a Trump-inspired act of bigotry.
And an alleged incident of a gay man named Chris Ball getting beaten up by Trump supporters in Santa Monica on election night seems to have not happened the way it was initially recounted, if the incident even happened at all. The Santa Monica Police Department posted a message to Facebook Thursday saying that neither the department nor city officials had “received any information indicating this crime occurred in the City of Santa Monica” and “a check of local hospitals revealed there was no victim of any such incident admitted or treated.”
Other instances of “Trump inspired” violence and vandalism have also turned out to be hoaxes or misinterpretations. An alleged Ku Klux Klan rally in honor of Trump’s victory turned out to be an old photo of conservatives carrying U.S., Gadsden, and Christian flags that were billowing out in a manner mistaken in a grainy photo for Klan robes. There were no Southern Illinois University students posting blackface selfies to social media after Trump’s win.
A Nazi flag that went up over a home in San Francisco Wednesday wasn’t a show of support for anti-Jewish sentiment but “a comment on our new president-elect,” according to the anti-Trump resident who put it up. “I am hoping people get that this is a political statement, and that I’m not a Nazi supporter.”
To further highlight the manipulation, when I investigated who spread these stories on my social networks, it turned out to be people I knew personally who were never involved in politics. I found that not being in tune with US politics allowed me to be easily manipulated by the propaganda of a vocal minority.
To the readers of Shoebat.com, you probably won’t find yourself in my situation, but there is clearly a call to action from folks who associate themselves with the political right: you have to be well-informed and very vocal, and provide good hard evidence to help counter the manipulation.