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Articles by Ali Breland

Ali Breland is a reporter at Mother Jones covering internet disinformation.

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This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Wildfires have long been weaponized by climate deniers wanting to sow political division. But this week, the blazes consuming the West Coast became part of an election cycle culture war when claims that antifa started wildfires in Portland went viral. There’s no evidence that antifa started any wildfires, but conservatives on social media ran with the claim anyway, spreading it far and wide in Facebook groups and on YouTube.

It’s unclear how the conspiracy theory originated, but its first big boost appears to have come courtesy of RT (formerly Russia Today, a Russian state-controlled media outlet known for mixing news with Russian propaganda). RT’s signal boost came in the form of an article that smashed together separate pieces of information about policing in Portland and the wildfires, insinuating a nefarious (and nonexistent) link between the two.

“‘Antifa are thrilled to hear this’: Portland police ask protesters not to start blaze... Read more