President Donald Trump ordered an airstrike on an airfield in Syria on Thursday in response to a poison gas attack that killed dozens, including children, in northern Syria. Almost immediately after, the internet swelled up with conspiracy theories about the nature of the chemical attack that prompted Trump’s airstrike.
One of these baseless theories is that Russian President Vladimir Putin had orchestrated the whole thing — including the massacre of dozens of civilians in Syria — for Trump’s sake. This was all supposedly planned to divert the attention of Americans from the intelligence community’s investigation into Donald Trump’s campaign ties to Moscow.
What started off as an obscure conspiracy theory from the anti-Trumps suddenly became mainstream news when MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell mentioned it during his news program, The Last Word.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if it was just completely, totally, absolutely impossible to suspect that Vladimir Putin orchestrated what happened in Syria this week — so that his friend in the White House could have a big night with missiles and all the praises he’s picked up over the past 24 hours?”
Later in the program, O’Donnell spoke about the theory as the text “Wag the Dog?” was displayed beside his face. The MSNBC host added that the Syria conspiracy theory would be difficult to ignore given that Trump’s campaign has been linked to Moscow.
“[Y]ou won’t hear… proof that the scenario I’ve just outlined is impossible,” he said.
Tonight @TheLastWord let's see if anyone can convince me that Putin didn't plan all of this to help his fan in the White House. 10pm
— Lawrence O'Donnell (@Lawrence) April 7, 2017
The backlash was almost instantaneous. O’Donnell was widely mocked for “dreaming up wild conspiracy theories” and was called “deranged.”
@washingtonpost So easy to get paid for sitting around dreaming up wild conspiracy theories, then airing them… only the idiots in the masses will listen
— Donna Shelley (@DonnaShelley2) April 9, 2017
But O’Donnell wasn’t the first to speak publicly about conspiracy theories on the nature of the massacre. Others had already expressed doubts about the chemical weapon attack in Syria. For instance, during a press conference, Russia Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova commented on the composure of those who responded to the massacre, noting that they were “too calm.” Many have taken this to be a hint that the chemical attack in Syria was fake or staged.
On his Ron Paul Liberty Report broadcast last week, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul said that the attack was a “false flag” specifically designed to draw the U.S. into another world war.
— mike luckovich (@mluckovichajc) April 7, 2017
“Before this episode of possible gas exposure and who did what, things were going along reasonably well for the conditions,” Paul said. “Trump said let the Syrians decide who should run their country, and peace talks were making out, and Al Qaeda and ISIS were on the run.”
“It looks like, maybe, somebody didn’t like that so there had to be an episode, and the blame now is we can’t let that happen because it looks like it might benefit Assad.”
The chemical weapon attack in Syria last week caused dozens of people, including around 20 children, to die in a cloud of what may have been sarin gas. Photos of the victims, especially the children and babies, have since flooded the internet.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley displayed several of these photos during her emotive speech about Syria at the U.N. last week. In her speech after the Syrian chemical attack, Haley warned that if the U.N. fails to respond to the atrocities of the Assad regime, the United States may be forced to act.
— Mediaite (@Mediaite) April 8, 2017
President Donald Trump later lamented that it was seeing the photos of the children killed in the chemical weapon attack that had him reconsidering his stance on Syria. On Thursday, he ordered the bombing of the Syrian military airfield from which the chemical attack was launched. The airstrike marked the first direct U.S. military intervention in the Syria civil war, which has been ongoing for six years.
Russia condemned the airstrike as a “disgraceful act” and retaliated by suspending an agreement designed to coordinate air operations over Syria and prevent accidental encounters between the U.S. and Russian forces.
[Featured Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]