A former journalist named Juan Thompson, who was sacked by the Intercept last year for inventing sources, has been arrested after the FBI traced back to him multiple bomb threats against Jewish community centers, and one against the New York headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League. Authorities are claiming psycho-sexual motives, saying he attempted to pin the threats on an ex-girlfriend who dumped him. In true troll fashion, NBC reports that he even feigned outrage over the threats on his own Twitter account. And while some of the threats were in the name of his ex, some were in his own name in an apparent attempt to frame his ex for framing him. Plenty twisted, but none too bright. Reports in the Riverfront Times, of Thompson's hometown St. Louis, delineate his long history of improbable inventions about himself on social media, revealing an inveterate liar with a pathological antipathy to the truth rivaling that of our incumbent president. The fact that he worked for the lefty Intercept, and that he is African American, makes this a propaganda windfall for the right. So, are the "false flag" theories reportedly floated by Trump (and certainly by some of his supporters) now vindicated?
In a word: No.
For starters, we need a little clarity about what would actually constitute a "false flag." A few years back an actual pro-Zionist "cognitive infiltrator" was outed, who appears to have posted anti-Semitic material on left-wing websites with the intent of discrediting them. This may come close to fitting a reasonable definition of a "false flag." In contrast, note the recent Ukrainian case in which pro-Keiv provocateurs apparently forged anti-Semitic leaflets portrayed as having been issued by the Donbass rebels. Using terror against Jews cynically, to try to tar your political enemies with it, is itself anti-Semitic. It still turns up the heat on real Jews, and exploits their vulnerability in a stratagem inimical to their interests.
The failure to recognize this is pretty alarming. Yair Rosenberg, a conservative pro-Isreal tweeter who nonetheless often makes some good points, now tweets with insight: "Saying 'anti-Semitism is a bigger problem on the left/right' is how many on the left/right avoid confronting it within their own community." He adds these five very sensible and vital points:
1. The left and right have elements in their communities who like attacking Jews, but many on both sides prefer to blame the other.
2. Anti-Semitism is bad even when it can't be blamed on your political opponents. The sooner we recognize this, the better off we'll be.
3. There is no situation where making bomb threats to Jewish preschools is not anti-Semitic. Harassing Jews as a prop is anti-Semitic.
4. People often act out their problems on Jews. That Jews are so often the target of the personal pathologies of others is precisely why anti-Semitism has been so potent. This is just the latest example.
5. The left needs to reckon with the fact that such people are in their midst. The right needs to reckon with the fact that many of Trump's backers are anti-Semitic and one bigoted leftist hoax doesn't change that.
So, predictably, righties at places like FrontPageMag are pouncing with glee on Thompson's bust, while there is deafening silence on the left. We can imagine that the situation would be neatly reversed if the perp had been a veteran of Breitbart rather than the Intercept. Too much to hope that Thompson's bust will spark some grappling with the actual bad politics of the Intercept that may have attracted such a noxious personality.
Meanwhile there is no reason to believe Thompson was responsible for all the voluminous threats on Jewish centers in recent weeks. Almost certainly, the party or parties responsible for the big majority of them remain at large. And for the relentless vandalism attacks on Jewish cemeteries. So Trump and his machine are by no means off the hook for having created the climate that enables such acts—or the related wave of xenophobic and racist attacks still mounting across the country.