Memetic Warfare: An In-Depth Look at Fake Antifa Trolls [Part 2]

In the second installment of our Memetic Warfare series, I break down two troll tactics utilized by Fake Antifa: name-calling and framing.

An illustration on anarchist and totalitarian strains in the Antifa movement by Linas Garsys. (Source)

“You have me all wrong,” I.E. Antifa began in the afternoon of January 26, 2018. “You’ve been trolling me for sometime now.”

The troll account was responding to a tweet we sent to the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), in which we warned the organization that it was following a fake Antifa account.

Exposed, I.E. Antifa tried to save face. After all, the ill-informed follow was an embarrassment for the nonprofit but a major accomplishment for the troll.

“I really wish you would quit calling me fake antifa,” the troll complained. “@IFW (sic), do not listen to this man, he is a fraud!”

However, the whining wasn’t enough: IWF unfollowed the account after our tweet.

Tactic 3: Call your opponents outrageous names.

I.E. Antifa is one of more than 180 troll accounts dedicated to undermining Antifa’s presence on social media. Using weaponized memes and deep sarcasm, the loosely-coordinated accounts mock left-wing ideas and provoke arguments with left- and right-wingers alike.

But when Fake Antifa is called out for its trollish behavior, name-calling is used as a defensive mechanism.

According to Fake Antifa, those who call it fake are:

  1. #FakeTifa
  2. #FakeAntifa
  3. Nazis
  4. And fascists.

By shamelessly calling its opponents fascists and #FakeAntifa, Fake Antifa tries to confuse bystanders who are still uncertain about the account’s legitimacy.

But it’s also used to provoke rivals and pass on malicious memes.

For instance, on February 17, I.E. Antifa was called out after promoting a fake news story about the Black Panther movie. The troll account responded by calling its opponent a sexist and a fascist, which, as you can tell from the screenshots below, fueled an argument that lasted for about two hours.

Here, the troll account emotionally provokes the Twitter user, and wastes their time. Furthermore, unsuspecting spectators of the conversation are exposed to the meme that Antifa is childish and immature, an idea that is further reinforced as the conversation carries on.

Essentially, name-calling serves as both a defensive and offensive mechanism.

Tactic 4: Frame Antifa for mass shootings.

People are most vulnerable to fake news when and after tragedy strikes. It is a period of shock and awe, of mourning and confusion. And trolls know this. Trolls exploit our desire to learn more about a tragic event, such as its scope and its perpetrator. They may do this by doctoring images or creating and spreading false narratives.

While some trolls do it for the lulz, many others do it to frame their ideological opponents. And Fake Antifa is no exception.

As families of the victims of the recent Parkland, Florida mass shooting mourned their loved ones, numerous fake Antifa accounts and 4chan trolls designed and disseminated a blatantly false narrative about the tragedy: That the author of the massacre was a member of Antifa.

Just hours after the tragedy, Laguna Beach Antifa posted an image of a man wearing a Communist-themed T-shirt. The picture unsurprisingly originated on 4chan, according to Great Lakes Antifa, a legitimate antifascist organization.

“Please dont RT this picture of [the domestic terrorist] wearing an Antifa shirt. We dont need anymore bad press,” the troll account wrote before adding two trending hashtags. The post was shared over 8,000 times at the time of this article’s publication.

If it’s in a picture, it must be true: I.E. Antifa posts a photoshopped screenshot of a Snopes article that claims Laguna Beach’s post was true. (Source)

Netizens were quick to point out that the picture was fake news.

“Idiots are spreading a fake image claiming [the shooter] was antifa,” warned Alex Griswold, a journalist at Free Beacon. Meanwhile, Snopes published an article about Laguna Beach’s post and confirmed it was deceptive.

Nevertheless, Fake Antifa and other troll accounts shared their companion’s post, and Laguna Beach retweeted them in return.

The Antifa-framing tactic was also used after last year’s Sutherland Springs and Las Vegas massacres, the latter being the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in the United States.

And on September 30, 2017, @AntLfaChecker tweeted that the Antioch, Tennessee church shooting was “sanctioned” by Antifa.

In sum, the memetic warfare tactic has a three-pronged effect on the social media battlefield:

  1. It provides a quick and believable answer to the question: “Who committed the crime?” This makes the fake story more likely to be shared and go viral.
  2. It strengthens the idea that Antifa is comprised of “domestic terrorists,” especially in right-wing echo chambers.
  3. It confuses inexperienced reporters who may bring the fake story to the mainstream media. This greatly deteriorates, even for a little while, public opinion regarding Antifa.

Finally, it is apparent that Fake Antifa’s framing tactic abides by Adolf Hitler’s Big Lie technique, which, according to the dictator’s propaganda minister, is:

“When one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.”