George Soros did it. Or maybe it was the Deep State. That was the reaction of the far right to Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left three dead. Even as images played on television of James Alex Fields, Jr., plowing his car into a crowd protesting the Unite the Right rally, a counter-narrative was coalescing on the Internet that offered a competing reality, one that had little grounding in confirmable fact.
The disconnect between what most Americans saw or read about the events in Charlottesville, where white nationalists had gathered to protest the removal of a Confederate statue, and what the far right told itself about the very same events, suggests that nearly a year after fake news helped elect a president, alternative facts remain as alluring, and persuasive, as they have ever been.
For the extreme right, Charlottesville was not a cautionary tale about emboldened white supremacists who appear to have found troubling succor in the presidential administration of Donald J. Trump. Instead, the entire Unite the Right rally was potentially a false flag perpetrated by the Democrats and their enablers in the Deep State, a nonexistent figment of the right-wing imagination that invokes a network of career federal and military officials seeking to bring down Donald Trump. A global network of elites, many of them Jewish, may also have been involved, according to this version of events.
A false flag is a diversionary tactic employed in battle at sea. Today, it most commonly refers to a government staging a terrorist attack it subsequently uses to malign and possibly prosecute forces hostile to the establishment. The notion of pervasive “false flags” has been popularized by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, founder of Infowars. According to Jones, the attacks of 9/11 were a false flags, as was the murder of 20 children at the Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012.