The incident shows how online conspiracy theories, an ongoing right-wing campaign to increase fear of anti-fascist groups, and the reinforcement of false claims by QAnon supporters have real ramifications.
That particular claim was reinforced only 12 hours earlier by “Q” – the anonymous person or people behind QAnon.
Early Thursday morning, “Q” posted a link to a tweet from Paul Joseph Romero Jr., a former Senate candidate who lost his Republican elementary school in May. He falsely claimed that the Douglas County Sheriff̵
CNN asked Romero for a comment.
In the post that included Romero’s tweet, “Q” suggested that the fires were related to “highly coordinated … domestic terrorism”. President Donald Trump threatened to label Antifa a terrorist organization earlier this year, which experts say is unconstitutional.
The wildfires that swept the state have burned down around 900,000 acres since they first started this week in heavy winds, forcing half a million people to be evacuated, Oregon officials said Thursday. At least five to four people were killed in the fires.
An anonymous post on an obscure online site doesn’t usually deserve much attention, but QAnon supporters are fervent and tenacious, and the FBI has identified them as a potential domestic terrorist threat.
QAnon’s supporters believe that there is a “deep state” within the US government controlled by a cabal of satan-worshiping pedophiles. According to the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory, the Cabal is largely run by Democratic politicians and liberal celebrities – and Trump is trying to put them down.
“We are inundated with questions about things that are FAKE stories. One example is a story that is different about which group was involved in making fires and arrests,” they wrote, adding, “THIS IS NOT TRUE ! “
And Medford City Police said screenshots of alleged Facebook posts from the police department’s account were fake. In the screenshot, a post showed a picture of a man and claimed five people had been arrested in connection with arson.
“We have not arrested this person for arson, nor anyone associated with Antifa or Proud Boys, as we have heard all day. Also, no confirmed Antifa meetings have been reported that have also been reported,” wrote the police.
Medford Police told CNN they had requested to remove the fake posts from other Facebook accounts and posted a note on the false claims on their own page. “However, we still get calls from locals and outside the area asking us if they are.”
In the anonymous online publication, “Q” also shared a link to a post by a Washington State soldier who said a 36-year-old man was arrested for starting a fire. However, Washington authorities gave no indication that the alleged arson was politically motivated. CNN reached out for comment.
Craig Roberts, Clackamas County Sheriff, was asked about the possibility of an arson in Oregon. He said, “At this point we have no evidence [arson] But the origin of these things will be part of an investigation as things move forward. So, as you can imagine a fire of this magnitude, there will be an in-depth study that examines all the possibilities and everything that could result from them. But at this particular point in time, there is nothing in particular that would point this out to us. “