“Obama’s a Kenyan-born Muslim”, “Hillary is a murderer” and “Pizzagate” are all alt-right conspiracies you likely have heard over the course of the last 12-18 months. In fact, many of these theories have been pushed, not only by right-leaning Americans, but also by hostile nations who are participating in a disinformation war against the United States. Now we can add yet another such theory to the laundry list of made-up or partially made-up stories which seem to capture the imagination of millions on social media and around the world.
Seth Rich was a 27-year-old employee of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), in the midst of a hard-fought political battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. On July 10th of last year, Rich left a bar fairly intoxicated and was not seen alive again. Rich was shot in the back twice at fairly close range, and although nothing was taken, authorities believe that the murder was part of a botched robbery. After all, there had been numerous robberies in the area over the preceding months.
Immediately those within the alt-right began publicizing this murder and skewing facts, alluding to the possibility that the DNC or even Hillary Clinton herself had arranged the murder of this young man. Here we are 10 months later and on the same night that one of the most impactful negative stories related to President Trump broke, news began to leak that Rich had been in communication with Wikileaks prior to his murder.
While Fox News seems to be the only outlet within the mainstream media making even a peep about this story, social media, particularly Twitter, has been blowing up with tweets from conspiracy theorists, Russian bots, Americans themselves and even Wikileaks. These are just a few the the Tweets we’ve seen today:
“The Senate and House Judiciary Committees must Subpoena Clinton, Podesta, and her entire campaign #SethRich”
“The #SethRich story is a journalist’s dream. So, why aren’t they reporting? Media colluded with HRC. Told to stand down.”
“I don’t even understand why people are calling #SethRich’s murder a mystery. He had the goods on #HillaryClinton. She had him killed. SIMPLE”
So what aren’t these conspiracy theorists telling us? What are they conveniently leaving out? How about the fact that the family of Seth Rich, who the investigator making these claims reports to work for, has come out with the following statement:
“It’s sad but unsurprising that a group of media outlets who have repeatedly lied to the American people would try and manipulate the legacy of a murder victim in order to forward their own political agenda. I think there is a special place in hell for people like that. Even if tomorrow, an email was found, it is not a high enough bar of evidence to prove any interactions as emails can be altered and we’ve seen that those interested in pushing conspiracies will stop at nothing to do so. We are a family who is committed to facts, not fake evidence that surfaces every few months to fill the void and distract law enforcement and the general public from finding Seth’s murderers. The services of the private investigator who spoke to press was offered to the Rich family and paid for by a third party, and contractually was barred from speaking to press or anyone outside of law enforcement or the family unless explicitly authorized by the family.”
So not only was this private investigator paid for by an outside source, but he has breached his contract by providing information to the press regarding what he had found. If this man is willing to breach a contract with a distraught family and go against their wishes, why would we expect him to tell the truth about what he found? Even if Rich had been communicating with Wikileaks, that certainly isn’t evidence that Clinton or the DNC had hired a hit man for crying out loud.
What’s immensely more worrisome than the actual information being reported, is the timing in this matter, in which it all began to hit social media and Fox News. Just hours after President Trump’s leaking of classified information to the Russians in the Oval Office had been reported by the Washington Post, and later BuzzFeed, the Seth Rich story began to pop up. Wikileaks, who is expected to have colluded with Russia in last year’s election also pounced on the Seth Rich news, and multiple known Russian bots began retweeting the story. This organized plan to shift attention away from a major story, like the one we saw yesterday, is a hallmark of Russia’s disinformation campaigns of the past. The only thing that’s left is for President Trump himself to start pushing the Seth Rich narrative himself via Twitter. It’s still early in the day…