It's been a week since a Minneapolis police officer was seen on video pressing his knee into the neck of an unarmed black man who subsequently died. And it didn't even take that long, as the nation's cities were plunged into chaos in the last several days amid vociferous protests, for the conspiracy theories to take hold on social media.
Jon Miller of the JonXArmy channel on YouTube posted a 22-minute video on Friday suggesting that George Floyd's death was faked. As the New York Times reports, that video was subsequently shared around 100 times, mostly in QAnon lunatic groups, reaching some 1.3 million people.
Also, the phrase "George Floyd is not dead" was spreading on Twitter over the weekend and reportedly peaked on Monday morning, with 15 separate mentions in a 10-minute span.
Zignal Labs, which tracks online activity and has done so during other times of protest around the globe, finds that the protests stemming from George Floyd's death have already far surpassed the online-mention activity than did the Yellow Vest movement in France or the Hong Kong protests last year, with 8.8 million mentions as of Friday.
Likewise, and aided by President Trump himself today, there's a baseless theory about antifa — the loose term used to define anti-fascist and anti-Trump protesters with violent street tactics who figure into many far-right diatribes — being behind all of the protests and looting. (To be clear, there is likely some overlap between some of the anarchist types participating in illegal activity in some cities, under the guise of protest, and those who self-identify as antifa, though there is no group or organizational structure called antifa.)
Also, favorite anti-conservative villain and fixture of many conspiracy narratives, George Soros, has now been dragged into this. As the Times explains, Soros has been mentioned in tweets 34,000 times in the last week, with conspiracists claiming that Soros funded the protests happening around the country. And several high-engagement posts on Facebook promoting this Soros conspiracy have been shared over 110,000 times.
As Snopes reports, there's a fictional "riot manual" also making the rounds for a second time, this time supposedly because it was "handed out" by Democrats, or George Soros, to antifa activists in recent days. This particular meme first surfaced in April 2015, as Snopes explains, in connection with the Baltimore protests following the death of Freddie Gray.
A spokesperson for Soros tells the Times, "We deplore the false notion that the people taking to the streets to express their anguish are paid, by George Soros or anyone else."
Wow, could it be that Americans are actually really upset and motivated to protest on their own?