How the “November 4” conspiracy theory took over the pro-Trump internet
Nothing in America will be the same after November 4. Or at least that’s how YouTube user Steve Yeater sees it.
For most people, Nov. 4 is shaping up to be just another fall Saturday. But to Yeater and others steeped in the conspiracy-minded corners of the pro-Trump internet, that date represents the potential start of a violent reign of terror at the hands of left-wing antifa activists — and maybe, the fall of the American government itself.
On Nov. 4, they expect antifa to terrorize the country, going house to house stealing guns and, depending on which version of the theory you believe, murdering white people, Christians, and/or Trump supporters.
“These are vicious, vicious people,” Yeater says in one video that’s garnered more than 100,000 views. “Your life means nothing to them. Matter of fact, if you’re a white man, you don’t deserve to live. You deserve to die.”
Yeater is far from the only person anxious for Nov. 4. Cataloguing the gun collections you’ve prepped in anticipation of Nov. 4 home defense is a popular genre, as is shooting off the particularly fearsome ones — you really want this, antifa?
At popular pro-Trump blog Gateway Pundit, a credulous headline based on a single tweet warns that “millions of antifa supersoldiers will behead white parents” on Saturday. Meanwhile, the hard-right John Birch Society is urging its viewers to stay home on the would-be antifa “day of rage.”
InfoWars’s Alex Jones, the country’s most prominent conspiracy theorist, has warned his audience that antifa activists are handing out shanks and AK-47s ahead of Saturday’s planned attacks on public officials.
Fortunately for his viewers, the always entrepreneurial Jones has a solution — a special “November 4th” shirt that he guarantees will put the antifa snowflakes in their place.
“They’re going to lose on November 4th and every day after that, because they’re a bunch of meth-head pieces of crap,” Jones says.
Nov. 4 mania has its own thriving image culture on Facebook, including fabricated “planning documents” that urge antifa guerrillas to commit violence while posing as police or Trump supporters.
Naturally, there are also memes.
The idea that antifa death squads will be unleashed on the country on Nov. 4 — like Pizzagate or the idea that Hillary Clinton murdered Seth Rich — is ridiculous on its face. But like those other conspiracy theories popular on the right, it’s only gotten more popular as it received more exposure on the internet.
How did so many people become convinced that Nov. 4 marks a new era of American instability? It’s a story about some communists, fake news sites, a few amateur ham radio operators, and a well-armed bail bondsman.
Like a lot of conspiracy theories, Nov. 4 has a tiny bit of truth at its center. Some far-left activists really are planning to demonstrate in cities across the country on Saturday — it’s just that they intend to hang up banners and sell copies of their newspaper, instead of purging Christians.
Since the summer, the fringe Revolutionary Communist Party — best known for its membership’s devotion to leader Bob Avakian — have planned a protest for Nov. 4.
Organized through a front group called “Refuse Fascism,” the communists say it will turn into an ongoing Occupy Wall Street-style event meant to bring down the Trump administration. Attendees at one rally are asked to bring glowsticks.
Not exactly unnerving stuff. But the idea that the “Nov. 4” movement could be something far more sinister than a few lefties with megaphones received a major boost on Aug. 30, when a YouTube user named Jordan Peltz issued a warning that went on to earn millions of views.
Peltz’s video takes place in the front seat of a car, the usual backdrop for YouTube political monologues in 2017. But Peltz’s car has dividing glass between the front and back seats and a rifle mounted over the seats. In several versions of the video, he’s even described as a deputy or a U.S. marshal.
Peltz looks, to the viewer, like a law enforcement officer. This is a guy who seems like he could really have police intel — and he says antifa is coming in November.
“They are calling for an open civil war that they will start here in the United States in November,” Peltz warns. “They are fundraising for weapons, training, ammunition, supplies.”
“If you’re white, you’re a Trump supporter, you’re a Nazi to them, then, and it will be open game on you,” he adds, before saying that antifa will start with attacks on “us first responders.”
But Snopes discovered that, despite the law enforcement trappings in his video, Peltz is actually a combination bail bondsman and bounty hunter — not exactly the kind of guy who gets the first intel on antifa plots.
Peltz didn’t respond to my requests for comment. He’s since sought to distance himself from the conspiracy theory as its spread across the internet brought him more scrutiny, and now claims that he “inadvertently” posted the original video on YouTube.
Even as Peltz shrinks from the spotlight, though, his theory has snowballed away from him. The same day that Peltz’s video went up, popular hoax site Your News Wire echoed his claim, saying that “armed antifa militants” were intent on “civil war” on Nov. 4.
Between Peltz’s video and the Your News Wire story, social media users who were looking for an excuse to take a macho “come and take it” stance on Facebook had all the proof they needed that civil war was just a few months away.
Meanwhile, it turns out that actual antifa groups appear to want nothing to do with Nov. 4. Anarchist media hub It’s Going Down, for example, has been quick to distance itself from the Revolutionary Communists’ plans.
The Nov. 4 rallies earned their biggest publicity victory in September, when a handful of activists waded into a Los Angeles freeway traffic jam holding up signs that read “Nov 4: It Begins.”
Images of the stopped traffic — as well as police cars parked nearby that YouTube conspiracy theorists saw as proof that the police were in on the scheme — went viral and soon became a ubiquitous illustration on articles warning about the “day of rage.”
But even then, the Nov. 4 organizers did not exactly look like the kind of force that could topple a government, or even field a whole softball team.
According to LA Weekly, Nov. 4 organizers had originally planned to have each person in the highway protest hold up one letter spelling out their message. In the end, though, a couple people had to carry multiple letters — not enough people had shown up to help out.
Like any successful conspiracy theory, Nov. 4 theorizers see unrelated events as more proof that the theory is real.
For example, the government plans to coordinate with ham radio operators on Nov. 4 to test communication networks — a coincidence that has been used as proof on sites like InfoWars that something is going to happen that day.
Jones has ramped up his Nov. 4 coverage as Saturday approaches. Now he’s been backed up by dozens of less-polished theorists on YouTube, broadcasting their challenges to antifa and prepper advice from dimly lit basements or from behind their steering wheels.
Interest is high: even amateur videos about Nov. 4 prep can rack up tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of views across social media.
Nov. 4 will likely come and go quietly, and the theorists will be convinced that their videos scared off the antifa putschists. And plenty of angry, scared, increasingly armed people have been a little more convinced that their lives and homes under threat and their country out of control.
As for Peltz, whose video helped set off the whole conspiracy, he recently visited a Lamborghini dealership. His caption on Instagram: “spending some of my #viral #fame money!”
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