On the same night as the video of Tyre Nichols’s brutal murder at the hands of more than 5 cops was released, tons of misinformation flooded social media about the event. Unsubstantiated rumors began to flood social media about Nichols having an affair with one of the police officer’s wives – suggesting that this is why he was murdered. There is no evidence to support that.
Similar rumors began to circulate after the murder of George Floyd claiming Derek Chauvin was jealous of Floyd because of a woman Chauvin was interested in. This was based on reports that Floyd and Chauvin worked at the same club, El Nuevo Rodeo. Floyd was a bouncer and Chauvin worked as a security officer. A false report in major media led far-right actors to begin portraying the narrative of jealousy over the club’s owner, Maya Santamaria.
The rumor was a flat-out lie.
Nichols’s family has asked the public to “squash” the rumors immediately as it is not true. The purpose of rumors like this is to shut down conversations about police brutality and the systemic issues with policing in the US. While it was a smaller distraction in Floyd’s case, it seems to have taken on a life of its own in Tyre’s case. Those who are solely focused on whether Tyre’s murder was motivated by an affair are no longer discussing the more important issue of police brutality. As far as white-wing extremists are concerned, their strategy is working.
A false rumor originating from a Twitter account that has a tendency to post counterarguments to addressing police brutality eventually made its way to extremist channels on the encrypted Telegram app. The story was then promoted in a QAnon group on Telegram called “Pepe Deluxe” by commenters responding to a post about Tyre’s murder.
While all this was happening, the story began gaining traction on Facebook, then, exploding into dozens of YouTube videos parroting each other with speculation. While those of us who actively work against corrupt policing and the murder of innocent unarmed civilians are trying to work, we are constantly distracted by people commenting as if the story is true. The distraction not only takes time away from the work we do but also distracts the public at large to silence any discussion about the plague of police misconduct, brutality, and murder.
In that sense, it’s working.
However, seeing so many people duped by false stories – whether intentionally or not – end up acting as players working against finding justice. Essentially, being easily manipulated by unfounded claims on social media makes one a tool for racists and far-right extremists. It behooves everyone to verify every claim before promoting it.
Sadly, too many people are motivated by “clicks” and “follows” to be bothered by the truth no matter how much damage they do. That can be evidenced by the hordes of users correcting the people behind the accounts, to no avail. As of this writing, the posts remain up on public social media while extremists celebrate on more obscure platforms.
And for that, you should be ashamed of yourselves.
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