U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign is using antifa as the new boogeyman to terrify Republicans on Facebook. But the campaign’s latest scaremongering about the decentralised anti-fascist movement might be their most irresponsible yet. Trump is now using an old stock photo to call random protesters — people who’ve been accused of no crime — antifa “terrorists.”
The new Facebook ad went live yesterday and uses an old photo of May Day protests in Seattle to very directly call Americans terrorists. But notably, the people in this photo have not been accused of a crime by police. The photo appears to have been licensed from Shutterstock, the stock photo website, and was taken in either 2018 or 2019.
“Dangerous MOBS of far-left groups are running through our streets and causing absolute mayhem. They are DESTROYING our cities and rioting – it’s absolute madness,” the new Facebook ad from the Trump campaign reads.
“It’s important that EVERY American comes together at a time like this to send a united message that we will not stand for their radical actions any longer. We’re calling on YOU to make a public statement and add your name to stand with President Trump against ANTIFA,” the ad continues.
“Please add your name IMMEDIATELY to stand with your President and his decision to declare ANTIFA a Terrorist Organisation.”
The ad uses the word “terrorist” in big bold letters and “ANTIFA!” in even larger letters. Again, the people in the photo are simply marchers at a May Day demonstration from a year or two ago, as far as we can tell. The protesters might look scary to regular viewers of Fox News, but that doesn’t make them “antifa,” let alone “terrorists.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to an emailed question from Gizmodo on Friday morning about whether the company has existing rules about using random stock photos to call people terrorists.
The photo was uploaded to Shutterstock by a user called SeaRick1 who appears to be a photographer in the Pacific Northwest. But it’s not clear when the photo was actually taken. In one version, the photographer lists it as 2019, but in another that’s been desaturated to make it black-and-white, the listing says it’s from 2018. Other photos from that contributor show militarised police wearing body armour preparing for a May Day parade, also listed as being from 2018.
During the 2018 protest in Seattle, police arrested one man for throwing a brick at the Amazon Spheres, according to the Seattle Times, but the 2019 protest in that city appear to be have completely peaceful. The only real scuffles in 2019 appear to have been between May Day marchers and people wearing pro-fascist hats supporting Trump, otherwise known as the infamous “Make America Great Again” hat.
Based on the information provided by Facebook’s Ad Library, this particular ad is being shown overwhelmingly to men with an emphasis on users in California, Texas, and Florida. While California will almost certainly go to presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in the Electoral College, traditionally red states like Texas are surprisingly in play, given the latest poll numbers in the state. Trump and Biden are basically in a dead heat in the Lone Star state, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Trump is spending millions on Facebook ads as November’s presidential election draws near, and he’s even planning to start his neo-fascist rallies again. The first one is scheduled for Juneteenth in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which many observers believe isn’t a coincidence. Juneteenth is a celebration for the end of slavery, and Tulsa was the site of a massive anti-Black riot in 1921 where dozens of people were killed and thousands more were injured by white terrorists.
Trump has made it abundantly clear whose side he’s on. He’s on the side of the fascists.