STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Debunking the despicable 'false flag' theory on the mail bombs

Campaign politics tends to be a lowest-common-denominator business. If something works -- no matter how loat...

Posted: Oct 27, 2018 10:00 AM
Updated: Oct 27, 2018 10:00 AM

Campaign politics tends to be a lowest-common-denominator business. If something works -- no matter how loathsome or even untrue -- then it gets used. The end always justifies the means -- and the end is always and only winning.

And yet, even by that incredibly low bar, what some right-wing pundits have done in the wake of 10 mail pipe bombs being sent to prominent Trump critics, Democratic politicians, party donors and CNN's New York office is astonishing. In short: They have suggested -- with zero evidence -- that is all one big hoax designed to help Democrats in the 2018 midterms, a classic "false flag" operation.

Bombs and explosive devices

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Freight transportation

Government and public administration

Media industry

Political organizations

Politics

Postal services

Transportation and warehousing

US Democratic Party

US political parties

Weapons and arms

Even President Donald Trump himself seemed to pick up on the theory Friday morning, tweeting: "Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this 'Bomb' stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows - news not talking politics. Very unfortunate, what is going on. Republicans, go out and vote!"

The President's tweet came shortly before news that federal authorities have arrested a man in connection to the suspected explosive packages, according to multiple law enforcement sources Friday.

While talk radio host Rush Limbaugh was far from the only conservative to toy with the "false flag" idea, he explained it best:

"[Democrats] have thrown every trick at Republicans. Their media acolytes are doing their tough lifting for them — and none of it, none of it, none of it has worked. So what would you do? Democrat operative, best way to turn all of that around? How about a day like this? How about a day like this where you create a scenario where it looks like the mobs are on both sides.

"It looks like the Republicans have a mob, too, or at least an 'insaniac.' There's some Republican out there sending bombs to decent, good Democrats and media people — former Democrat presidents and the harmless people at CNN. Wouldn't it serve your ... up here if you're a Democrat operative to make it look like the Republicans are a bunch of insane lunatics and have some mobsters on their side as well? The very same people the media says Republicans hate the most! Isn't this interesting?"

This is both hugely cynical and incredibly logistically difficult. The cynical part is self-explanatory. But consider what Limbaugh and his ilk are suggesting -- from a purely logistical perspective. Here's what would have had to happen for the events of Wednesday to be a false flag:

1. Someone or someones who wanted to help Democrats -- and the media, I guess, somehow? -- would send a series of pipe bombs to prominent Democrats around the country.

2. Then Democrats or the media or, again, someone, would have to have coordinated with the state and local police -- not to mention federal authorities -- so that law enforcement said that they initially assessed these were functional bombs (even though, again, according to this theory, they weren't).

Which, um, is not what happened. As any reasonable person -- regardless of your political affiliation -- can recognize that that sort of broad conspiracy not only stretches the bounds of the possible but snaps them in two.

The problem, of course, is that Limbaugh -- and people like fellow talk radio host Michael Savage and Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs -- are playing to an audience that already believes some mysterious "they" are working to pursue a secret liberal/socialist agenda that aims to countermand the will of the broader public.

That way of thinking isn't new. It's the same ridiculousness that led some to label the murders of 20 6-and-7-year-olds at Sandy Hook Elementary School a "false flag" operation aimed at creating a more sympathetic national environment in which to pass new restrictions on gun owners. And to insist that the man who came to Washington and fired an assault rifle at a local pizzeria where he believed there to be a pedophilia ring being run by Hillary Clinton was all just a grand bit of theater to throw people off the scent that there really IS a pedophilia ring at that spot (To be clear: THERE ISN'T).

The natural reaction here is to dismiss all of this out of hand. But, to not engage with this sort of conspiracy crap is to let it fester. These "false flag" claims are like a college bar: They don't hold up when you shine a little bit of light in/on them. Let's shine that light.

UPDATE: This story has been updated with additional reporting.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 49575

Reported Deaths: 2739
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11812690
Lake5337247
Elkhart343257
Allen2867133
St. Joseph202569
Cass16439
Hamilton1629101
Hendricks1439100
Johnson1306118
Porter78038
Tippecanoe7439
Clark67144
Madison66864
Vanderburgh6296
LaPorte59727
Bartholomew59245
Howard58258
Kosciusko5654
Marshall5217
Noble49128
LaGrange4829
Jackson4773
Delaware46052
Boone45944
Hancock45736
Shelby43425
Floyd39144
Morgan32831
Monroe31528
Grant30226
Montgomery29720
Henry29316
Dubois2906
Clinton2882
White26810
Decatur25532
Lawrence25125
Dearborn24723
Vigo2408
Warrick23229
Harrison21722
Greene19132
Miami1892
Jennings17912
Putnam1708
DeKalb1634
Scott1628
Daviess15017
Wayne1496
Perry1409
Orange13623
Steuben1332
Franklin1278
Jasper1252
Ripley1247
Wabash1152
Carroll1122
Fayette1037
Gibson1032
Newton9910
Whitley995
Starke963
Huntington822
Randolph804
Wells791
Jefferson782
Fulton731
Jay680
Washington671
Pulaski661
Knox650
Clay644
Rush603
Owen511
Adams491
Posey490
Benton480
Spencer461
Sullivan451
Brown421
Blackford392
Fountain332
Crawford320
Tipton311
Switzerland280
Parke240
Martin220
Ohio210
Vermillion170
Warren151
Union130
Pike110
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 61331

Reported Deaths: 3006
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin11122439
Cuyahoga8518383
Hamilton6396206
Lucas2859304
Marion273739
Montgomery228335
Summit2269209
Pickaway220641
Mahoning1885239
Butler172147
Columbiana132460
Stark1171114
Lorain107368
Trumbull101474
Warren91825
Clark78410
Delaware64515
Fairfield61417
Tuscarawas59010
Belmont55822
Lake55122
Medina54832
Licking53612
Miami48631
Portage47759
Wood46151
Ashtabula43844
Clermont4367
Geauga41543
Wayne36752
Richland3595
Allen33841
Greene3009
Mercer29410
Erie26022
Darke25326
Holmes2524
Huron2342
Madison2069
Ottawa16124
Sandusky14215
Washington14220
Crawford1375
Ross1363
Putnam13315
Coshocton1323
Hardin12312
Morrow1201
Auglaize1094
Jefferson952
Muskingum921
Union921
Athens911
Monroe8917
Hancock841
Preble811
Hocking798
Lawrence790
Guernsey763
Shelby724
Williams722
Clinton700
Logan661
Fulton650
Ashland621
Wyandot615
Carroll603
Brown591
Scioto560
Defiance543
Knox531
Fayette510
Highland471
Champaign461
Van Wert430
Perry401
Seneca362
Henry320
Jackson270
Paulding270
Pike270
Adams241
Vinton222
Gallia201
Noble130
Harrison121
Meigs120
Morgan110
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 75°
Angola
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 72°
Huntington
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 74°
Decatur
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 73°
Van Wert
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 73°
Breezy, Sunny Saturday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events