Donald Trump recently suggested that Martin Gugino, the man who suffered a critical injury after being pushed by Buffalo police, was associated with Antifa and attempting to scan police communications. In a Wednesday piece for Raw Story, Salon writer Amanda Marcotte claimed that this “bizarre and baseless smear” is part of an attempt to downplay the “legitimate concerns and organizing prowess” of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“As the pressure mounts, expect to see more and more of these conspiracy theories proliferate through both right wing media and on social media platforms,” Marcotte wrote. “It seems some conservatives would rather spend time on these conspiracy theories than talk about the larger problems being highlighted by the protests.”
Marcotte paralleled the claims about Gugino with other purported right-wing allegations, including the claim that George Floyd’s death was faked, that billionaire left-wing philanthropist George Soros is behind the recent protests, and that the coronavirus is a hoax to harm Trump’s chances in November.
Marcotte said that argument over such theories is best achieved by focusing on how each theory purportedly pushes “baseless claims” to further a “racist agenda.”
“Conspiracy theorists win if we focus too heavily on arguing the content of the theories. The key is to shift away from the ‘what’ to the ‘why.’ Highlighting the goals of conspiracy theorists — defending racism, spreading confusion — instead puts conspiracy theorists on the defensive.”
The theory about Gugino stemmed from a segment by One American News Network reporter Kristian Rouz. According to the Washington Examiner, several OANN employees in the newsroom have spoken out against the story. The publication cited one source who spoke under the condition of anonymity and said they did not believe Gugino has ties to Antifa. They suggested that the story could harm the reputation of the network and, in turn, the journalists and reporters working for the company.
UPDATE: Pres. Trump on Tuesday tweeted a baseless conspiracy that the 75-year-old protester pushed to the ground by Buffalo police 'could be an ANTIFA provocateur.' Gugino remains hospitalized; the two officers who shoved him have been charged with assault. pic.twitter.com/DrTGBBsvN9
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) June 9, 2020
Charles Herring, OANN’s president, defended the report and said that the network’s investigative team found many anti-police statements and sentiments on Gugino’s social media. In addition, he claimed that the posts were deleted as part of a cover-up.
OANN doubled down on its claims on Wednesday and accused Gugino of being an anarchist with possible links to radical left-wing movements, including Antifa. According to the report, other protesters present on the day Gugino was injured said they believe he was being provocative toward law enforcement.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown accused Gugino, who has a history of political activism, of being involved in looting and vandalism in the city.