A new report from the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), which typically studies the spread of far-right propaganda on social media, suggests that “violent” memes are surging on social media — but this time, from the far-left.
The Washington Post reports that NCRI “warns that some left-wing groups have embraced similar social media tactics, including memes and humorous catchphrases, to spread their messages and possibly help coordinate offline activity,” including violent protests in places like Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.
The “surge” includes “calls to destroy property and attack [police] officers,” the outlets said.
There have certainly been a number of incidents of protesters-turned-rioters doing both. In Portland, anti-racism and anti-police brutality demonstrations have gone on nightly for more than three months, and many of those protests have turned destructive. In Kenosha, Wisconsin, protests over the police-involved shooting of Jacob Blake caused more than $60 million in damages to city property alone.
Chicago’s looters, who have hit the city’s downtown retail districts twice — once in May and once in August — are, perhaps, the best example of social media-coordinated activity. WGN news reports that Chicago police and local experts believe looters coordinated their activity on social networks before breaking into stores on the city’s north and northwest sides.
“CPD became aware of several social media posts encouraging looting downtown,” Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said at the time. “Once we got word of these social media posts, 400 officers were dispatched to our downtown area.
NCRI researchers say left-wing groups may have used social media to coordinate “riots in Seattle, Portland and other cities on July 25, involving fires, looting and property damage.”
“Some memes that spread on social media depict police officers being shot or their vehicles burned,” the Washington Post noted. “One post from a left-wing group cited by the report called for the use of laser pointers to obstruct surveillance and the lighting of fires at police barricades. Another post urged people to use 3-D printers to make guns that can’t be traced by authorities.”
The group noticed a particular uptick in “anti-police rhetoric.”
“Comments using anti-police slogans surged nearly 300 percent on Reddit and more than 1,000 percent on Twitter during the unrest triggered by the killing of George Floyd in May, according to the report,” The Washington Post said. “It also described the growth of left-wing networks on Facebook, with such groups as Redneck Revolt and the Socialist Rifle Association boasting about 50,000 and 40,000 members, respectively.”
The numbers NCRI says, still “pale in comparison” to right-wing online groups, but it’s the escalation, not necessarily the number, that points to trouble.
Although neither The Washington Post nor NCRI mention it, the increase seems to correlate with an increase in organized left-wing activity overall.
As The Daily Wire reported late Monday, leaked information from the Department of Homeland Security indicates that “the department has ‘overwhelming intelligence’ that the extremist violence in Portland was ‘organized’ by individuals with an ideology categorized as ‘Violent Antifa Anarchist Inspired.'”