Exploiting Hearts and Minds: Fake Antifa Trolls A Senator

From setting up honeypots to enraging right-wing social networks, the ongoing smear operation against Antifa has proven to be a powerful sower of discord, a force to be reckoned with in the dark era of fake news. In this article, I take a look at how a Republican lawmaker likely fell victim to the troll tactics of a prominent #FakeAntifa profile.

US Senator James Lankford made national headlines on September 27 when he claimed “Russian troll farms” on social media contributed to the “noise” behind the hashtag trends #TakeAKnee and #BoycottNFL, two emotionally charged phrases at the center of an ongoing NFL-anthem controversy.

Speaking to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Lankford affirmed the Russians were “trying to just push divisiveness in the country.”

“We’ve continued to be able to see that. We will see that again in our election time,” he told the Committee.

Republican Senator James Lankford at the “Threats to the Homeland” hearing on September 27, 2017. (Source)

FBI Director Christopher A Wray did not respond directly to the Oklahoman senator’s comments, but did confirm the government was “collecting more intelligence” about Russian election interference in the US and other countries.

However, to back up Lankford’s claims, the lawmaker’s spox referred to the now-defunct Boston Antifa, one of the most impactful #FakeAntifa accounts on social media, and its alleged geolocation of Vladivostok, Russia, according to the Washington Post.

A tweet published by the currently suspended Boston Antifa Twitter account with the alleged geolocation tag of Vladivostok, Russia. (Source)

Yet, in April of this year, Gavin McInnes, an influential alt-right figure and founder of The Proud Boys, interviewed the owners of Boston Antifa: a young couple residing in Oregon.

Yeah, you read that right.

Brandon and Alexis (last names unknown for obvious reasons) admitted to managing the Boston Antifa account in a parodical interview with McInnes on April 7, 2017.

“For some reason a lot of people seemed to buy it up,” Brandon told the right-wing leader.

“I don’t think any of them should feel bad, because the real people are so ridiculous anyway.”

So, did Boston Antifa really troll an American legislator, a deed that perhaps none of its dozens of comrades-in-deceit have accomplished thus far? Lankford was likely duped because:

  1. The senator linked the account’s alleged geolocation to Russian social media warfare on the same day the Twittersphere caught wind of it.
  2. Vacaville Antifa, another crucial #FakeAntifa account, set its location in Russia, this time in Provideniya, sometime after the senator’s comments were made public. And it’s worth mentioning that both Boston and Vacaville blocked us around the same time earlier this year.
  3. The language and tone in Boston Antifa’s controversial tweet is seen in other #FakeAntifa accounts, many of which are linked to alt-right trolls on 4chan.
  4. It is very unlikely that professional Russian trolls would slip up and accidentally reveal their physical location after all this time. (Boston Antifa was created in February 2017.)

Nevertheless, Dan Glaun of MassLive News reported,

“A source close to Lankford acknowledged in an email that the Boston Antifa account may not be linked to the Russian government, but maintained that there was a high likelihood it was connected to some Russian entities, based on information collected by the Senate Intelligence Committee.”

Is it possible that Russian government operatives are somehow linked to Boston Antifa? Sure. And when Lankford and company produces legitimate evidence of that connection, we’ll take a look at that, too.

But taking into account the power of fake news and the alt-right’s “war on the mainstream media,” it seems more likely that a couple of Oregonian trolls punked a member of a national security committee so hard that he erroneously linked Boston Antifa to Russia.

A bit crazy, isn’t it?

But that’s exactly what the #FakeAntifa smear campaign is all about. To develop craze. To sow discord.

To exploit the hearts and minds of Americans.