As we will be reminded by the mainstream media on an hourly basis (if not more often) every day until the election, dangerous hate crimes, often in the form of “speech,” are being perpetrated by the “MAGA Republicans” constantly. Sometimes they go further than saying unpleasant things or expressing views that hurt the feelings of liberals. Sometimes they resort to arson. That was clearly the implication in a tweet that showed up in Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman’s Twitter feed last night. A picture of a Fetterman campaign sign going up in flames is shown, along with a dire warning about “violence and intimidation.” The arson is alleged to have taken place “on a farm in deep red Lawrence County.” (I’ve saved a screen capture in case this gets deleted today, which won’t be at all surprising.)
This happened last night on a farm in deep red Lawrence County.
There is no place for violence and intimidation in politics.
Our campaign is about bringing people together and rejecting hate + extremism.
All Pennsylvanians should feel safe to show their political support. pic.twitter.com/AIihG37bt4
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) October 29, 2022
This would hardly be the first time that we’ve seen reports of politicians’ yard signs being stolen or damaged during a heated campaign. Some of those stories are even legitimate. But is that what we’re seeing here? Even at a quick glance, hoards of people reacted immediately with skepticism or simply outright mockery. We’ll get to the reasons for that in a moment.
The first indication of something being amiss might be found in the lack of media coverage of this supposed arson attack. You’d think that a story like this would play into the media narrative beautifully and elicit some sympathy for John Fetterman, right? Further, you can see that the dry grass beneath the sign was already on fire. Given the massive danger posed by wildfires around the country lately, this could have turned into a major disaster. And yet a Google search this morning for “Fetterman sign burning Pennsylvania” only produces a link to the tweet. A Google News search for the same term produces… nothing. Why the radio silence for such a huge story?
With angry MAGA fanatics roaming the Pennsylvania countryside committing arson in an effort to intimidate supporters of the Fetterman juggernaut, shouldn’t our dedicated press corps be on the trail of this outrageous act of right-wing domestic terrorism? Perhaps even Fetterman’s most ardent supporters quickly realized that this was, as our President might say, a load of malarkey.
Let’s just call this what it was. It was a staged event. It was a hoax designed to try to profit off of the liberal wave of accusations about violent attacks by “MAGA extremists.” But it wasn’t even a good hoax. Take a close look at the picture. Most of us are familiar with campaign yard signs. Having worked on multiple campaigns, I’ve not only had them in my yard but I’ve distributed them and picked them up after election day. They tend to be composed of cheap wire frames with mass-produced plastic (and generally fire-resistant) banners promoting the candidate.
The one pictured here appears to be a sizable wooden structure placed out in a field near a road. Note that the wooden frame is ablaze, as well as the sign. And the sign is burning in a conveniently neat fashion from left to right, with the majority of the candidate’s logo still visible in the firelight. Wouldn’t a true arsonist have doused the entire sign with some sort of accelerant before tossing a match and speeding off into the night?
And yet the picture they captured is almost like a still frame from a movie set. Isn’t that just terribly convenient? Someone just happened to come along at exactly the right moment to capture this act of arson while it was still entirely obvious what the sign said. And it had to have been burning for a little while for the frame to be alight in that fashion. But nobody managed to get a look at the arsonist or at least their vehicle? As of the writing of this post, the tweet has more than 8,000 replies and nearly 7,000 retweets. And the responses were almost uniformly less than kind, to put it mildly.
For what it’s worth, Team Fetterman didn’t do themselves any favors by immediately following up the announcement of the arson attack with a pitch for more campaign donations. But what else should we have expected? As I said later on Twitter myself, “It’s hard to come up with nominations for a politician ‘fail of the week’ this close to an election, but looking at all the RTs and replies, Fetterman may be the favorite.”
— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) October 30, 2022