We already know Russian troll farms used social media to spread fake news stories and micro-target specific voters for influence, but according to The Daily Beast their operations took a step further by organizing actual rallies.
Russia's professional trolls reportedly used Facebook Events to organize rallies including an anti-immigrant rally in Idaho. And, amazingly, there's an Alex Jones connection here.
Much of the Russian Facebook propaganda campaign has since been deleted. But bits and pieces remain visible in search engine caches, including a 2016 notice on Facebook Events—the site’s event management and invitation tool—announcing an August 27 rally in a rural Idaho town known to welcome refugees.
“Due to the town of Twin Falls, Idaho, becoming a center of refugee resettlement, which led to the huge upsurge of violence towards American citizens, it is crucial to draw society's attention to this problem,” the event notice began. The three hour protest was titled “Citizens before refugees”, and would be held at the City Council Chambers beginning at 11:00 am. The notice provided the street address and ended with a fiery exhortation.
Only a handful of people showed up to the "Citizens before refugees" rally in Twin Falls, but there can be no doubt that they were sent there by Russian operatives. Facebook confirmed to the Daily Beast that this rally was among the $100,000 in ads traced back to Russian entities.
So what's the Alex Jones connection?
You may recall that the Chobani yogurt company filed a lawsuit against Jones earlier this year after he accused the company of causing an outbreak of tuberculosis and child rape, among other things, because they hired immigrants.
The epicenter of those accusations was the company facility in Twin Falls.
To recap: Alex Jones and Breitbart wrote fake stories about a pro-immigrant city and company in Idaho. Their stories were promoted by Russian bots and trolls on social media culminating in what could be described as an astroturf rally organized through ads secretly purchased by the Russian government.
I don't expect this news will unnerve Jones or the sad sacks who signed up for or attended these rallies because, at the end of the day, even if they were party to a minor conspiracy they were all there for the same purpose: white supremacy.
I would say it's 'ironic' that the conspiracy theory crowd is actually creating real conspiracies, but that doesn't feel like a strong enough word. In a world devoid of the conspiracies they dream of, they've taken to creating their own.