Disinformation literacy
for concerned people

Toto, we’re not in Scarsdale anymore

Scarsdale was trending on Twitter. Scarsdale? Why? So, I clicked.

Quickly, I was brought to a post by @3r1nG, whom I follow for updates and trusted information on what’s flowing as far as disinformation. There it was: Scarsdale and a suspended Antifa account. Huh?

Wait a minute. Scarsdale? I live a few miles away from Scarsdale, New York. It epitomizes the affluent suburb. It was home to the infamous Scarsdale Diet Doctor. It’s mentioned in some songs, such as Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen”, and there was even a Seinfeld episode about it.

So, why was Scarsdale trending?

Apparently the now-suspended Twitter account, @ScarsdaleAntifa, had posted about setting the fires in Oregon. While in real-life, firefighters were risking all to control blazes across the West Coast, internet trolls had been pointing fingers, distracting trying to place the blame for the fires on Antifa. Did they even think about where Scarsdale, NY was?

Antifa is an anti-fascist movement with roots going back to the 1990s in Europe. Many of us in the United States only started hearing about Antifa recently, in the years since Trump was elected. During those years we’ve seen a marked rise in right-wing extremist violence. There has also been a rise in activity by those whose mission is to fight such violence. Fighting extremism is dirty, risky business. The Antifa practice of wearing black masks and black clothing is for self-protection. This is for the purpose of protecting one’s identify and what Caroline Orr Bueno describes as reinforcing a collective anonymity. I recommend Orr Bueno’s article, In Defense of Antifa, for her discussion of how a movement that exists to fight villains has paradoxically become labeled the villains.

Back to Scarsdale.

There is no Scardale Antifa. Nor is there a Martha’s Vinyard Antifa nor a Mar-a-Lago Antifa. These accounts were part of a flurry of fake Antifa accounts that appeared during 2017. The New York Intelligencer article, How to Spot a Fake Antifa Account uses these accounts as examples of parodies. In Fake Antifa Twitter Accounts Are Trolling People and Spreading Misinformation, Craig Silverman shows how the fake accounts are used to spread false information about Antifa violence in a string of coordinated posts on Memorial Day weekend in 2017. These troll accounts are there to make Antifa look bad.

Overall, the number of posts across the fake is accounts minimal, as is the number of followers. Not surprisingly, the parody accounts follow each other. And maybe even a few real ones. It’s difficult to know.

It’s also difficult to know why the dormant Scarsdale Antifa started posting this past weekend about setting fires in Oregon. Almost nothing for years and then this. Did someone suddenly remember that those accounts existed? Who controls these accounts?

CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan and Konstantin Toropin attribute the push to amplify the false reports as being Q, the source of the Qanon conspiracy. Because of its size, the Qanon community is capable of sharing false messages on a mass scale and causing these claims to trend. Emergency workers ultimately mades plea to social media companies to remove the accounts after becoming inundated with calls of false reports. The Portland FBI posted warnings and debunked the claims.

Fake accounts dressed up to look like Antifa were posting false claims and in the process taking time and energy away from the real firefight.

Why would Q want to do this?

The question to ask is this: Who does it serve when it looks like Antifa is setting the fires that are devastating the west?

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