5 Paris Attack Hoaxes & Conspiracy Theories That Need To Be Shut Down ASAP
As Western leaders scramble to coordinate a response to the deadly attacks in Paris earlier this week, one counterproductive but predictable reaction has reared its ugly head. Over the last few days, the Internet has been flooded with hoaxes and conspiracy theories about the Paris attacks. This is a sleazy, opportunistic, and unhelpful response to the tragedy, but unfortunately, it's not surprising. Violent attacks, from Pearl Harbor to 9/11 to Benghazi, have always given birth to misinformation and hoaxes, and this most recent tragedy is no exception.
To be sure, there's still a whole lot that isn't known about the attacks. Authorities are currently in the process of piecing together exactly what happened on Friday, and while Western leaders have put the blame on ISIS and named several suspects, there is plenty more to learn than we know now. Nevertheless, a lot of bad and incorrect information has been circulating since the attack. Some of this can be chalked up to well-intentioned mistakes; other bits of misinformation were clearly disseminated with the intent to deceive. Regardless of where they fall on that spectrum, hoaxes about the Paris attacks need to be shut down. Here are some you should be aware of.
Terrorist Takes Selfie Before Attacks?
Over the weekend, an image circulated that purported to show one of the Paris attackers shortly before the assault. The picture, which was spread in part on pro-ISIS social networks, claimed to be a selfie of a man holding a Quran and wearing what's implied to be an explosive vest. Mainstream news outlets throughout the world reported the image as real. But nope, it's a Photoshop. A bad one, too.
The man is wearing a Sikh turban, which a Muslim terrorist would not wear, and his bathroom had North American electrical plugs, which a photo taken in Europe would not have. More importantly, the man in the picture, Veerender Jubbal, released the unedited version, revealing that the "Quran" is actually an iPad and the "suicide vest" is actually, well, non-existent.
Jubbal is actually an outspoken critic of GamerGate (bet you didn't expect to see that word in this article), and some horrible supporters of the "movement" have gone on to celebrate the slandering of his reputation. Jubbal has long been a target of racist and Islamophobic attacks, and he should have never been mistaken as a person behind horrific acts of terrorism.
Same Woman Spotted At Multiple Attacks?
This hoax has made the rounds before, and it's now being re-appropriated for the Paris attacks. The allegation is that the "same woman" has been seen grieving at multiple tragedies; the implication is that she's actually a "crisis actor," and that the events she's supposedly been spotted at (Sandy Hook, Boston marathon, etc) are actually false flags.
Of course, this is nonsense. Apparently, some people simply can't believe that there might be several white women with brown hair around the world who look marginally similar to one another. Snopes debunked this hoax with ease by identifying the women in the pictures and revealing that — shock — they're different people!
Video Game Predicted Attacks?
In one of the sillier allegations made in the wake of the attacks, some pointed out that the video game Battlefield 3 features a chapter wherein the player has to stop a terrorist attack in Paris. The kicker? The in-game date of this level is Nov. 13, 2014 — exactly a year before the real-world attacks took place.
Most sensible folks will understand that this is a simple coincidence, but nevertheless, some smelled whiffs of conspiracy. Even at the conspiracy theory forum on Reddit, most users doubted there was any connection between the popular action game and the terrorism in Paris. However, some were still convinced that something nefarious was afoot.
Refugee Camp Set Ablaze?
Hours after the attacks in Paris, a camp for migrants in the French town of Calais caught on fire, destroying many tents and housing structures. Many Syrians lived in that camp, and soon after the fire, speculation surfaced that it was an intentional act of arson, carried out as a (misplaced) act of revenge for the Paris attacks.
It is true that the refugee camp at Calais caught fire after the attacks. However, there's no evidence so far that this was done intentionally, let alone as a retaliation for the attacks in Paris. Various reports have blamed an electrical fire or an errant candle for the fire, but nothing has been confirmed just yet. This doesn't, of course, rule out the possibility that it was intentional — but so far, there's no proof to support that allegation.
Donald Trump An Asshole?
Shortly after the attacks, a screenshot made the rounds purporting to show Donald Trump's tasteless reaction to the tragedy, as well as a response to Trump by Gérard Araud, France's ambassador to the United States.
This is not, technically, a fraudulent image, as both of those tweets are real (though Araud subsequently deleted his). But look at the date of Trump's tweet. This exchange actually occurred over nine months ago in response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks. After the most recent attacks in Paris, Trump was markedly more respectful.
Of course, this doesn't exonerate Trump for his initial tweet, which was sleazy and disrespectful. But let's not condemn Trump for invalid reasons — there are more than enough other valid reasons to condemn him.