Welcome back to Can't Handle the Truth, our Saturday column looking back at the past seven days of fake news and hoaxes that have spread thanks to the internet.
On Thursday night, President Donald Trump launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at an airbase in Syria, a direct response to what he called "a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians." It marked a rare tonal shift, with many cable news pundits, most Republicans, and plenty of Democrats actually agreeing on something; for once, the establishment was embracing a move from Trump.
Ah, but a huge subset of blogers, vlogers, Twitter accounts (R.I.P. Trump's egg friends), and especially the multi-platform conspiracy theorists who have long supported Trump were confused. Everyone from Infowars kingpin and noted impressionist Alex Jones to fake news poster boy Mike Cernovich (two of Trump's biggest fans) think the missiles he just fired were a response to a lie perpetrated by the same secret government puppet-masters Trump's presidency was meant to abolish.
What a dilemma!
For those on the conspiracy-theory right who bought into narratives about Trump being a Yojimbo-style master of strategy, playing the warmongering puppets on both sides of the political spectrum against each other for the benefit of Real Americans, this missile attack is a disturbing plot hole.
Watch Alex Jones say he's sorry:
According to a statement tweeted on Wednesday—before the missile strike—by Cernovich, the gas attack was "done by deep state agents," rather than Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is assumed by most to be behind the attacks. At the time, Cernovich thought most of the world was being fed a lie by the "fake news media" that those deep state agents control. In other words: We've got an old-fashioned false flag on our hands.
On Friday, when the strike was a done deal, Cernovich seemed shaken, tweeting about how corruption from globalists working in the White House needs to be rooted out. But he wasn't ready to withdraw his support for Trump over it. "I literally wrote the book on how Trump plays 4-D chess. On #SyriaStrikes, he made mistake," he tweeted. Cernovich is far from alone in believing a secret cabal has pulled another fast one on the establishment.
Also on the long list of gas truthers is the crew at Alex Jones's Infowars, who claim that the actual culprits in the attack were most likely members of the Syrian search-and-rescue team called the White Helmets, who are often accused by Assad allies of being part of al Qaeda. After the strike, Infowars columnist and YouTuber Paul Joseph Watson—the David Miscavige to Jones's L. Ron Hubbard—was livid, tweeting "It's been fun lads, but the fun is over. I'll be focusing my efforts on [French far-right leader Marine] Le Pen, who tried to warn Trump against this disaster."
Speaking on his YouTube channel "Liberty Report," former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul said on Wednesday, there is "zero chance [Assad] would have done this." According to Paul, the gas attack was the result of "the collusion of several groups, and we might throw pro-oil people in and pro-military industrial people that [are] in this effort to continue wars going on."
Paul, who voted against the Iraq War once upon a time, also suggested that the guilty party might be "the same group of people that we dealt with when we were trying to prevent the remaking of the Middle East under Bush." But unlike Cernovich, Paul shrugged off the missile strike. "It looks like we're going to be very interventionist," he said on YouTube on Friday.
Dilbert creator-turned-Tom-Cruise's-character-in-Magnolia Scott Adams got in on the false flag game as well, writing on Thursday that the gas attack was "too perfect," and that Trump knows it, but is playing his cards close to his chest. "We'll be wondering for weeks when those bombs will start hitting Damascus, and Trump will continue to remind us that he doesn't talk about military options," Adams wrote.
Among those spreading doubt about the attacks was another famous Trump fan: Russia. Officials from that country strenuously denied that Assad was involved in the gas attacks, with President Vladimir Putin calling the accusation "groundless." Russia also voted against a UN Security Council resolution blaming Assad for the gas attack.
Russia's opposition to Trump's action would seem to cut against the idea that Trump is Putin's puppet, but if you think more information will get a conspiracy theorist to change their mind, you haven't met one. A few people on liberal Twitter noted the fact that Trump had warned Russia in advance—a necessary move to prevent casualties that could spark further conflict—and ran with it, imagining that this proved every dark notion about Trump and Putin. Noted Trump critic Jared Yates-Sexton came up with a separate conspiracy, tweetstorming on Friday that the gassing and the subsequent airstrike was all contrived as a convenient distraction for the sheeple to focus on in place of important issues like, "Nunes, the Nuclear Option, [and] Russian investigations."
"Now it's Trump—Commander-In-Chief," Yates-Sexton added.
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