As potential explosives were found addressed to Democratic politicians, and another forced evacuation of a CNN bureau, some online decried the slew of suspicious packages as a “false flag.”
But what is that — and why are some people using the phrase?
A false flag is basically a cover-up that attempts to frame a certain group or thing as an aggressor or problem. So, for example, a false flag could be a person sending themselves a violent threat and then blaming the threat on a certain opponent for personal gain.
As noted by The Guardian, some mass shootings are viewed by conspiracy theorists in the U.S. as “false flags” that use “crisis actors” to act as if they had experienced gun violence.
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“If this is true, conspiracy theorists think, it means that America’s gun violence crisis is not real, and has been manufactured in order to disarm the populace,” The Guardian explained. “Some conspiracy theorists will then argue that this is part of a larger plot to subjugate Americans to tyranny.”
And some right-leaning people on Twitter have suggested that the suspicious packages addressed to former President Barack Obama, former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Democratic U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, former Attorney General Eric Holder and billionaire George Soros are just that. Soros is known for his political contributions to Democratic candidates.
CNN employees were also forced to evacuate at their New York City office in the Time Warner Center because of potential explosives.
As the investigation begins, there is no evidence that the suspected bombs were sent as a part of a false flag operation. Law enforcement officials say they believe the devices are all linked, according to the Associated Press.
While in the White House on Wednesday, President Donald Trump decried the mailings of suspected explosives and urged the country to come together.
“We’re extremely angry, upset, unhappy about what we’ve witnessed and we will get to the bottom of it,” he said.
But some online were suspicious of the timing of the suspected explosive devices.
Gab.com, a website popular among members of the alt-right, tweeted out that opinion.
Ben Collins, a reporter for NBC News, noted many of the stories on the Donald Trump subreddit support the theory. That page has 671,000 subscribers.
Some anticipated that this was going to happen as reports of the alleged bombs started to make headlines.
And Michael Flynn Jr., whose father Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI while he served as national security advisor for President Trump, wrote in now-deleted tweets that the timing of the packages is “awfully suspicious,” according to The Daily Beast, which had screenshots of the message.
“This may be the worst political stunt I’ve seen in my lifetime,” he tweeted, per The Daily Beast.
Others said they believe that the Democrats sent the packages to their own politicians for political gain.