Shortly after the initial far-right assault on the Capitol building, the Washington Times published an article linking the attacks to "Antifa," a vaguely-defined and loosely-affiliated collection of anarcho-leftist activists who oppose fascism by various means.
"A retired military officer told The Washington Times that the firm XRVision used its software to do facial recognition of protesters and matched two Philadelphia antifa members to two men inside the Senate," the article written by Rowan Scarborough said at first. "The source provided the photo match to The Times."
Naturally, there were no links or image to support these claims. Adding further eyebrow-raising concern was the fact the XRVision is a less-than-reputable company with a close affiliation to the right-wing smear blog Gateway Pundit, and a history of making up false claims about Democrats.
The initial version of the Washington Times piece also included a brief "history" of "Antifa" (scare-quotes necessary):
Born in Portland, Ore., Antifa has mounted a year of violence in that city. The mayor said this week that Antifa is trying to destroy the town and called for tougher police measures.
Antifa, which is loosely organized nationwide, exports warriors to other towns.
Before the Nov. 4 election, an Antifa chapter sent out on social media a reminder for members to disguise themselves as Trump supporters by wearing the distinctive red Make American Great Again (MAGA) hat.
"On Nov. 4 don't forget to disguise yourselves as patriots/Trump supporters. Wear MAGA hats. USA flags. A convincing police uniform is even better. This way police and patriots responding to US won't know who their enemies are and onlookers and the media will think there are Trump supporters rioting so it's harder to turn popular opinion against us."
Once again, there was no evidence provided to support any of these claims. In particular, it is historically indefensible to claim that "Antifa" was "born" in Portland when in fact the tradition dates back to the resistance against Mussolini's fascist party in the 1920s. The more-recently-published Antifa: An Anti-fascist Handbook largely links the current "Antifa" movement to the punk rock scene and Anti-Racist Action groups of the 80s and 90s, who often scrapped with skinheads at DIY concerts.
Shortly after the publication of the baseless and absurd Times piece, Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham shared it, and Rep. Matt Gaetz entered the article into the official Congressional record, citing it as evidence that the entire Capitol Raid was in fact a left-wing false flag operation (it was not). He specifically referred to it as, "pretty compelling evidence from a facial recognition company showing that some of the people who breached the Capitol today were not Trump supporters, they were masquerading as Trump supporters, and in fact were members of the violent terrorist group Antifa."
But by Thursday morning, XRVision had claimed the story wasn't true, telling The Daily Beast:
XRVision takes pride in its technology's precision and deems the Washington Times publication as outright false, misleading, and defamatory. Our attorney is in contact with the Washington Times and has instructed them to 'Cease and Desist' from any claims regarding sourcing of XRVision analytics, to retract the current claims, and publish and (sic) apology.
In fact, the only people identified by XRVision's technology (whatever it might be)…were known white supremacist insurrectionists.
By this point, the "Antifa False Flag" — which, to be clear, was as baseless and indefensible as any of Trump's claims about election fraud — had been picked up by numerous right-wing outlets and politicians alike. The New York Post published their own take on the story at 12:40am on Thursday, January 7, relying largely — but, allegedly, not entirely — on the Times' un-sourced claims:
At least two known Antifa members were spotted among the throngs of pro-Trump protesters at the Capitol on Wednesday, a law enforcement source told The Post.
The Antifa members disguised themselves with pro-Trump clothing to join in the DC rioting, said the sources, who spotted the infiltrators while monitoring video coverage from the Capitol.
The infiltrators were recognized due to their participation in New York City demonstrations, and were believed to have joined in the rioting so that Trump would get blamed, the source said.
Like the Times, the Post did not provide any evidence for these claims. 12 hours after the Post published their article—and an hour after the Daily Beast published the denial from XRVision—Times journalist Rowan Scarborough shared the Post link on Twitter, after otherwise spending the day retweeting anti-Antifa grifter Andy Ngo.
The Times updated their story several times throughout the day on Thursday, January 7. By mid-day, they had removed the bizarre false history of Antifa section — although they did leave in the detail about "Antifa" "exporting warriors" to other cities. By the early evening — about 24 hours after the article's initial publication — they added a correction, kind of. The top of the article now reads:
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that XRVision facial recognition software identified Antifa members among rioters who stormed the Capitol Wednesday. XRVision did not identify any Antifa members. The Washington Times apologizes to XRVision for the error.
Which sounds like bare-minimum responsibility. But the body of article was also updated to say:
The Washington Times erroneously reported late Wednesday that facial recognition technology backed up that speculation and identified two Antifa members. In fact, XRVision has not identified any members of that far-left movement as being part of the attack.
There is other evidence Antifa members may have been there.
The New York Post, quoting a law enforcement source, said two Antifa from New York were in the crowd.
A video on social media also seems to show people wearing Trump "Make America Great Again" paraphernalia shouting "Antifa, Antifa" as a man with some type of instrument tried to smash a window and break into the Capitol. MAGA people then forcibly subdued the man to prevent further damage.
A law enforcement source gave this day-after account to The Washington Times.
"The professional protesters were in the crowd posing as Trumpers. They were preaching violence. As they approached it was announced that [Vice President Mike] Pence had said he has no Constitutional authority. The crowd got mad. The agitators used this to whip-up anger. If the Feds are really intent on making the linkage between the instigators and Antifa, the evidence is there."
Like Trump's own absurd statement in the aftermath of the attack, the Washington Times said, "Oopsies!" and then immediately doubled-down on the lie. Worse is that they cited the Post's "reporting" — which itself was largely based on the Times' "reporting" — as evidence that actually maybe there was an Antifa Boogeyman after all. Also like the Post, the Times presented a quote from some anonymous vague "law enforcement source" — who, best case scenario probably learned the information from the Times in the first place.
So, to recap: the Times made up an Antifa Boogeyman Story with no sourcing. That story was used as evidence in Congress and by the New York Post to prove that the "Antifa infiltration" was real. When the Times got called out by their source for lying, they insinuated that the story might still possibly be true … because people in Congress and the New York Post said so.
What a perfect ouroboros of bullshit. And yet, it works.
Image: Old White Truck / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)