- Justin Ide/Crozet Volunteer Fire Department
- Conspiracy theories were spread after an Amtrak train carrying Republican lawmakers collided with a truck on Wednesday.
- The cause of the crash has yet to be determined, and the scene is still under investigation.
Following a Wednesday-morning train crash that killed one person and severely injured another in the Washington, DC, area, conspiracy theorists attempted to commandeer the story on social media.
The Amtrak train carrying Republican lawmakers and their family members from Washington to an annual retreat in West Virginia struck a garbage truck. The incident spurred multiple conspiracy theories in light of heightened partisan bickering over the Russia investigation and accusations of law-enforcement bias against President Donald Trump.
Some of the conspiracy theories claimed the train incident was perpetrated by “deep-state” actors – a term used by fringe right-wing groups to describe rogue government employees who secretly attempt to manipulate US policy.
“If you think that that truck just stalled there by itself, and somebody didn’t kill that guy and park it up there on the tracks, that’s how they like to do it,” the InfoWars host Alex Jones said on Wednesday. “It’s a classic CIA tactic too.”
“You’ll kill somebody, have them in the car, and remote control it into the next vehicle. That is the standard assassination tool right now,” Jones continued. “This is standard dump truck … That is CIA playbook 100%.”
Jones’ website suggested someone hacked the traffic controls in the area, prompting the collision.
Others began analyzing images of a damaged train to support a theory that a truck intentionally rammed the train to derail it.
The timing of the crash also raised eyebrows among purveyors of the deep-state conspiracy, amid the looming release of a polarizing House Intelligence Committee memo believed to include claims of anti-Trump bias at the FBI.
Conspiracy theorists also latched on to a deleted tweet from the conservative political analyst Bill Kristol.
“Once we’re sure everyone involved is ok, assuming they are, I hereby give permission to Twitter to indulge in all manner of GOP train wreck jokes,” Kristol said. “I do think that by having the train hit…yes, a garbage truck…the scriptwriters of ‘2018’ jumped the shark.”
Screenshots of the tweet showed an 11:07 a.m. time stamp, apparently 13 minutes before the train crash occurred at 11:20 a.m. ET. (That could be explained by a difference in time zone; if the screenshot was taken by a Twitter user in the Central time zone, 12:07 p.m. ET would show up as 11:07 a.m.)
The cause of the crash is still under investigation, Reuters reported.
A search of “GOP train crash” on Twitter yielded results from users who have made unsubstantiated claims about the incident. Top tweets with the most engagements included posts from users who amplified the conspiracy theories.
“Isn’t it odd that a dump truck was on the tracks of a scheduled GOP retreat? Are we supposed to believe this was an ‘accident’?” one tweet with more than 870 retweets and 1,700 likes said. “Don’t forget when republicans were targeted by a crazy liberal when they had a baseball game!”
“Wray should be worrying about a truck that just happened to crash into a GOP train,” another user tweeted. “Not covering the asses of corrupt FBI agents. Wake up!”
The conspiracy claims also spread to Facebook, as posts made by users not affiliated with news organizations began adding their own comments to otherwise-reputable news articles, which then began appearing at the top of Facebook’s curated news sections.
Facebook responded to the incidents, calling them a “bad experience” and saying it would “work to fix the product.”
“Trending includes a separate section of people’s individual posts related to the news event; it’s essentially a comments section,” a Facebook representative said in a Daily Beast report. “We built this as a way for you to easily see what others are saying around a topic.”