Dismantling disinformation surrounding Black Lives Matter
By: Ariana Genna – 2021 Summer Intern
In the past year, the Black Lives Matter movement has garnered both increasing support and large opposition. The movement’s core purpose is to create a more equal society and to protect Black Americans from injustice. So why has it become so controversial?
Deliberate disinformation surrounding BLM is likely to have contributed to this phenomenon. We first need to unpack what BLM actually is and how it came about.
The movement began in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer. Its mission is to eradicate white supremacy, prevent violence to Black communities, and create equity. For example, despite making up only 13 percent of the population, Black people made up 28 percent of those killed by police in 2020.
Many Americans think BLM is a violent movement when, in fact, over 93 percent of the protests in the past year have been peaceful. The false narrative that BLM protests are violent and hateful has spread through disinformation.
Various conspiracies about BLM have falsely linked it to the radical ANTIFA movement. Bots and fake accounts pretending to be ANTIFA have attempted to falsely associate the two groups. Other disinformation has claimed that Black Lives Matter is organizing attacks on white suburban communities. This, of course, is also false.
These disinformation campaigns villainizing BLM activists and supporters come from various sources.
Foreign entities, particularly those operating in Russia, attempt to sow discord in the American public exacerbating divisions within the United States. These Russian narratives have gained popularity and credibility in American culture and have even been circulated by mainstream media outlets like Fox News.
White supremacist groups have also established disinformation campaigns as a means of gaining more support.
In June 2020, on the online forum 4chan, white supremacists promoted “#AllWhitesAreNazis,” with the hope of appearing as if the hashtag was created by BLM activists. In another example, groups have been known to pose as BLM activists in predominantly white communities and put up inflammatory flyers.
In reality, the BLM movement is largely peaceful and has an agenda of creating equality and preventing violence against Black communities.
This demonstrates not only the importance of reading news and information critically but also of critically assessing our own beliefs and recognizing possible internalized disinformation.
Ariana Genna wrote this opinion piece while interning with the World Affairs Council of Harrisburg and PA Media Group. It was published here.