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‘False Flag’ Theory on Pipe Bombs Zooms From Right-Wing Fringe to Mainstream

Just hours after the news broke this week that explosive devices had been sent to Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and other prominent Democrats, a conspiracy theory began to take shape in certain corners of conservative media.

就在比尔和希拉里·克林顿(Bill and Hillary Clinton)、贝拉克·奥巴马(Barack Obama)和其他著名民主党人收到爆炸装置仅仅几个小时后,一个阴谋论就开始在保守媒体的某些角落成形了。

The bombs, this theory went, were not actually part of a plot to harm Democrats, but were a “false flag” operation concocted by leftists in order to paint conservatives as violent radicals before the elections next month.


“These ‘Suspicious Package’ stories are false flags, carefully planned for the midterms,” tweeted Jacob Wohl, a pro-Trump internet troll who writes for Gateway Pundit, a right-wing news site.

“这些‘可疑的包裹’的故事都是为中期选举精心策划的假旗行动”,支持特朗普的互联网喷子雅各布·沃尔(Jacob Wohl)发推文写道,他是右翼新闻网站Gateway Pundit的撰稿人。

By nightfall, as more explosives were discovered addressed to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Eric H. Holder Jr., an attorney general under Obama, the fact-free explanation had gelled: The bombs were props, planted by Democratic operatives and amplified by a biased liberal media. A woman arrived at a debate between the two candidates for Florida governor, Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum, with a sign that read “Democrats Fake News Fake Bombs.” Lou Dobbs, the Fox Business host and confidant of President Donald Trump, echoed that line in a tweet that he later deleted.

时至晚间,随着更多爆炸物被发现寄给了加利福尼亚州众议员玛克辛·沃特斯(Maxine Waters)和奥巴马的司法部长埃里克·霍尔德(Eric H. Holder Jr.),一个毫无事实依据的解释已经得到确立:炸弹是道具,由民主党操作者植入并由有偏见的自由派媒体放大。一名女性来到佛罗里达州州长候选人罗恩·德桑蒂斯(Ron DeSantis)和安德鲁·吉勒姆(Andrew Gillum)的辩论现场,带着一块写着“民主党假新闻假炸弹”的标语。福克斯商业(Fox Business)主持人、唐纳德·特朗普总统的知己卢·多布斯(Lou Dobbs)在他后来删除的推文中对此表示赞同。

Conspiratorial thinking has always been with us — the grassy knoll, the moon landing, the Freemasons. But it has been turbocharged in the Trump era, as cable news networks and pliant social media networks allow hastily assembled theories to spread to millions in an instant. Often, by the time the official, evidence-based explanation has taken shape, it has been drowned out by a megaphonic chorus of cranks and attention-hungry partisans.


“The process by which something gets called a false flag has accelerated,” said Anna Merlan, author of “Republic of Lies,” a coming book about conspiracy theories. “People who make a living conspiracy-peddling are in an arms race with each other, so there’s a rush to stake out that territory and start spinning their narratives about what happened.” 纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com

“一件事被称为假旗行动的过程已经加速了”,即将出版关于阴谋论的新书《谎言共和国》(Republic of Lies)的安娜·莫兰(Anna Merlan)说。“以搬弄阴谋论为生的人们正在展开军备竞赛,所以他们急于争夺这块地盘,左右对所发生之事的叙述。”

Within hours of the first bomb’s discovery, conservative media figures were openly speculating about the true motives behind the campaign. Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and other high-profile commentators flocked to an alternative narrative that could explain the targeted threats to top Democrats without blaming those Democrats’ political opponents.

在发现炸弹几小时内,保守派媒体人物开始公开揣测该行动背后的真实动机。安·库尔特(Ann Coulter)、拉什·林博(Rush Limbaugh)、迈克尔·萨维奇(Michael Savage)及其他著名评论员纷纷提出另一种叙事,这种叙事在不把责任归咎于那些民主党人的政治对手的情况下,对这些具有针对性的威胁作出解释。

“Republicans just don’t do this kind of thing,” Limbaugh said on his radio show. (Critics quickly provided Limbaugh with plenty of counterexamples, including abortion clinic bombings committed by right-wing extremists.)


As prominent conservatives tiptoed around the conspiracy theory swamps, the right-wing internet dove in headfirst. Users on a pro-Trump Reddit forum called r/the-donald frantically assembled evidence to buttress the unfounded theory that the bombs were a left-wing setup. Conservatives on Facebook and Twitter distilled the theory into memes and talking points that were shared thousands of times. Groups originally formed to promote QAnon, a sprawling pro-Trump conspiracy theory, latched on and turned up the volume even higher.


Historically, “false flag” conspiracy theories — named for a naval maneuver in which a ship flies a different country’s flag in order to trick enemies into retreating or to facilitate an escape — have remained on the edges of American discourse. Alex Jones, the conspiracy-theory-loving Infowars founder, was labeled a crank and worse for theorizing that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were an “inside job,” and suggesting that the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was an elaborate hoax concocted in order to promote gun control.

纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com/

“假旗”原指一种海军战术,即一艘舰船打着另一个国家的旗子,骗得敌人的撤退,或制造逃走的机会。历史上,“假旗”阴谋论一直处在美国话语的边缘地带。由于提出了2001年9月11日的袭击是“自己人干的”,并且暗示2012年桑迪胡克小学(Sandy Hook Elementary School)的大规模枪击事件是为了宣传控枪而精心编造的骗局,热爱阴谋论的Infowars创始人亚历克斯·琼斯(Alex Jones)被打上了暴戾或更糟糕的标签。

“The reason we’re seeing more false-flag narratives is not that there are necessarily more of them, but that they’re more visible,” Merlan said. “It’s much easier for a casual news consumer to see them on Twitter.”


Conspiracy theories most often rise around fast-moving news events, like mass shootings and bomb threats, in which fuzzy initial reports often give way to more accurate explanations later on. And sometimes, those questioning the most apparent motives turn out to be justified.


There are structural reasons for the conspiracy theory boom. Social media platforms like YouTube, Reddit and Facebook have allowed fringe thinkers to bypass traditional gatekeepers and reach millions of people directly. In addition, the dominance of Fox News and other partisan media outlets has created a flourishing market for conspiracy-driven outrage. And a polarized electorate has eagerly lapped up explanations for major news events that conform to their views.


The desire for politically convenient explanations is not contained to the right. Soon after the bombs were reported, and before key facts about them were known, liberals on Twitter adopted the term “MAGAbomb” to describe the campaign, referring both to the explosive devices and to Trump’s signature rallying cry.


It is Trump, of course, who has done more than any other prominent figure to promote (or in the case of the racist conspiracy theory about Obama’s birth certificate, to popularize) a number of conspiracy theories. Other theories have taken root among his followers — like Pizzagate, QAnon and the baseless, sensational claims made about Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault — often without official censure.

当然了,在宣传(或者在奥巴马出生证明这个种族主义阴谋论里,是要普及)大量阴谋论方面,特朗普比其他任何知名人物做得都要多。其他阴谋论已经在他的支持者心里扎了根——例如Pizzagate(披萨门)、QAnon及关于克莉丝汀·布莱西·福特(Christine Blasey Ford)毫无根据的、耸动性的说法,福特是指控布拉特·卡瓦诺(Brett Kavanaugh)大法官性侵的女性——这些往往都没有官方的问责。

“We have a president who pushes these ideas because he built a coalition that believes in conspiracy theories,” said Joseph Uscinski, an associate professor of political science at the University of Miami who studies conspiracy theories. “He has to continue pushing these ideas to keep his people motivated.”

“我们有一位推行这些想法的总统,因为他打造出了一个相信这些阴谋论的联盟,”迈阿密大学(University of Miami)研究阴谋论的政治学副教授约瑟夫·乌希钦斯基(Joseph Uscinski)说。“他必须要继续推行这些想法,才能让他的追随者有动力。”



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