Will Smith, right, hits presenter Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars on Sunday, which launched a host of conspiracy theories. Photo by AP Photo/Chris Pizzell
When Will Smith strode onto the stage at the Oscars on Sunday night and smacked comedian Chris Rock for making a joke about Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett-Smith and the rest of the world began tweeting about it, conspiracy theorists immediately cranked up their hive mind to figure out what was “really” happening.
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And it didn’t take them long to come up with some truly bizarre theories.First out of the gate was Max Blumenthal, a journalist who has frequently defended Russia and recently claimed the Mariupol theater attack was actually a false-flag operation carried out by Ukraine’s Azov Battalion. Blumenthal managed to marry the Oscars’ scandal with the ongoing war in Ukraine.“Just in time for the flood of Azov atrocity videos,” Blumenthal tweeted about a meme posted by another user claiming the Will Smith slap would take people’s attention away from what was happening in Ukraine.Last month Putin claimed he was invading Ukraine to “denazify” the country, referring to a longstanding Kremlin propaganda line that Ukrainian-speaking elites in the west of the country are the ideological descendants of the far-right nationalist forces that battled the Soviets in World War II.
But the insanity didn’t stop there. Over on the QAnon channels, where believers already see Hollywood as a cesspit of pedophiles who drink children’s blood, the incident was instantly dismissed as a fake—to distract the world from the real horrors of the widespread children sex trafficking they believe all Hollwood actors (except for Jim Caviezel) are involved in.
“Distraction... something big is about to drop,” one Telegram user wrote in a popular QAnon channel.To back up their claims that it was all a setup, commentators pointed out Smith was actually laughing at Rock’s joke initially and Rock appeared to brace for the slap as if he was expecting it. Of course they also pointed out that Smith had played Muhammed Ali in the past and if the slap had been real, Rock would not have been left standing.The incident dominated social media’s trending topics on Monday morning, but along with “Will Smith” and “Chris Rock” the word “staged” was also trending on Twitter.The claims it was all a fake were dismissed when Smith was awarded the best actor Oscar for his role in King Richard and he publicly apologized for his behavior. “I want to apologize to the Academy,” a tearful Smith said. “I want to apologize to my fellow nominees.” He didn’t apologize to Rock.But the apology did nothing to sate the desire of conspiracy theorists from uncovering the “truth” about the incident, and some claimed the slap was set up to boost the Oscars’ ratings.“Staged... to boost ratings and to make everybody talk about Will Smith and Chris Rock in Hollywood and stop talking about President Trump,” a member of a major QAnon channel on Telegram wrote.Some believed the whole ceremony and the slap were just a way to communicate a secret message.“They also use the live shows as comms,” a users of the QAnon message board Great Awakenings wrote. “It could have been a message to some operatives to go to Plan B.”Others went even further, claiming that while the slap wasn’t fake, it wasn’t the real Will Smith.“It’s not a fake incident but definitely clone cuz Will Smith is dead,” one member of a Telegram group linked to the JFK-QAnon cult in Dallas wrote. But in the same channel, at least one QAnon believer outlined their confusion about the whole situation: “I am losing track of who is good and who is bad is Will Smith good or bad?”Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Jim Caviezel.