White people seem to follow the same playbook whenever there’s a new high-profile case involving an unarmed black person being killed by neighborhood vigilantes or police. When they’re not shouting “What about black-on-black crime?” from every mountaintop they can find, character assassination appears to be the name of their game. Analysts who monitor the online activity of extremist groups found that far-right groups are taking the latter one desperate step beyond the usual reaching and mental gymnastics white folks resort to and are now pulling lies out of thin air to justify the extrajudicial execution of a black man.
According to the Washington Post, these analysts found that white nationalists groups are targeting Ahmaud Arbery—the 25-year-old black man who was fatally shot after being confronted while jogging by white father and son, Gregory and Travis McMichael—with false claims surrounding his death.
Video footage was released recently showing Arbery wandering into an open construction site, standing still while looking around the room for a few minutes and then going on about his business. That obviously wasn’t enough to paint Arbery as the criminal burglar some conservative groups would have the public believe, so those groups are adding a little fiction to back their false narratives.
“The most remarkable finding is that an alternate narrative was created, most notably that Arbery was carrying a hammer and wearing Timberland boots — two claims which CCTV footage and mainstream media reporting does not support,” a senior terrorism analyst for the Middle East Media Research Institute whose name was withheld for security reasons, told the Post.
The Post reports that Arbery was actually wearing a T-shirt, khaki shorts and running shoes at the time he was killed but, again, that reality doesn’t aid racists in painting the black victim as the aggressor with nefarious intentions—so they gave him a weapon and put him in a pair of Tims.
“White-nationalist groups have long pushed a narrative that there is an epidemic of black-on-white crime in the U.S. that has gone unreported and that black men, in particular, are inherently violent and represent an especial threat to white women,” senior research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center Cassie Miller said. “White nationalists are using the murder of Ahmaud Arbery to further prop up this narrative.”
Aside from the lies, analysts found that some of these right-wing extremists are even expressing anger towards their beloved President Donald Trump for betraying whiteness by offering minimal words of condolences for Arbery and his family.
From the Post:
Some supporters of the groups have also attacked President Trump for calling the killing “horrible” and saying Arbery looked like a “wonderful young guy.” A video clip of the president speaking about the incident was posted on a far-right channel with nearly 3,000 users on the messaging app Telegram. Using racist language, the poster said the reaction to the killing was a reminder that the United States “is the Great Satan.”
“Although initially we saw white supremacists embrace some of his rhetoric, this particular incident brings to light the criticism they have for his comments condemning this attack. Largely they are concerned that he is not representing the white race,” said Joanna Mendelson, associate director of the center on extremism for the Anti-Defamation League.
More expressions of anger toward Trump and conservatives appeared on the same channel after the Justice Department said it would review the case and determine whether federal hate crime charges should be pursued. The post, which includes a story about the announcement, ends by saying that the coronavirus is the plague the United States deserves.
Who knew that all Trump had to do to turn neo-Nazis against him and America was refer to black victims as “very fine people” instead of their white assailants.
At the end of the day, the bottom line is simple: If Arbery was truly the villain in this story, then you wouldn’t need to make up lies.