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21 June 2009 9:53 AM

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The director of the website later tweeted that the story was scheduled to run that morning, meaning the timing was accidental. However, many people on social media misread the story as new and connected to the fire. This is when anti-Muslim conspiracies and hateful posts began picking up steam on mainstream social networks and fringe message boards.

Three key narratives took hold and spread during this period: Suggestions that ISIS was responsible, the connection of this fire to previous church desecrations in France, and a continued attempt to paint Muslims as celebrating the destruction of the Notre Dame Cathedral. The completely unsupported ISIS connection seems to have started with PartisanGirl , a far-right Twitter account that previously spread disinformation about the conflict in Syria, among other topics. She tweeted an incomprehensible statement about ISIS destroying artifacts, and also offered a conspiracy that French President Emmanuel Macron was the one who set fire to Notre Dame to make the Yellow Vests movement — a populist political campaign for economic justice that has been fueling protests — look bad.

At roughly the same time, recent stories about suspicious fires in French churches began spreading rapidly by people who often help push anti-Muslim stories or conspiracy theories.

The stories about other church fires were also shared by the Russian propaganda outlet RT and, a day later, by the German far-right party AfD. Around the same time, Fox News anchors had to step in as their live guests began baselessly questioning the cause of the fire, the Daily Beast reported. By then, there was still no evidence of any foul play in the fire, and people were in shock as the fire was getting worse.

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Soon, a video of Facebook reactions posted by a French far-right personality brought forward a new anti-Muslim narrative. The video showed people with Arabic-sounding names reacting to the Notre Dame fire with smiley emojis, implying celebration. It was boosted by Infowars writer Paul Joseph Watson to his , Twitter followers and by far-right personality Katie Hopkins to her , followers.

The same thing happened in during the London bridge attack. The laughing-face emojis were clearly in the minority of reactions to the fire video, and it's impossible to know why people chose a specific emoji, or for that matter, the religion of people reacting to a Facebook video. But it makes for good content, apparently.

While that video spread, hundreds of Twitter accounts began sharing a link to a story about an unrelated terror plot, the same one Jihad Watch had posted about roughly an hour earlier.

A Timeline Of How The Notre Dame Fire Was Turned Into An Anti-Muslim Narrative

The first tweet linking to the story was posted just after 2 p. The newspaper later posted a note at the top of its story to reinforce that it was from , but the link continued to be shared. It was also spread by far-right personality Faith Goldy, who was recently banned from Facebook for her white nationalist content and hate speech. Finally, this same one-hour time period saw the first video of a worker walking on the outside of the cathedral in a tweet written in Spanish. In the coming hours, people would use the grainy video to make false claims about the fire, including that the person shown was an "Imam" or a Yellow Vest protester setting the fire.

Both are false. It was filmed after first responders to the fire had entered Notre Dame. Moments later, firefighters can be seen in the original footage. But the false claims and innuendo helped this video travel across social media and feed conspiratorial narratives. With the narratives largely set, the remaining hours of the day, and the day after, were dedicated to further spreading these claims and accusations.

Katie Hopkins claimed the destruction of the cathedral was a symbol of the West burning, and Pamela Geller pushed the narrative of Muslims celebrating. One of her posts with that message received over 32, shares and more than 10, reactions on Facebook, according to the Oxford Internet Institute Junk news Aggregator. Lam Thuy Vo contributed reporting to this story. Kings, queens, popes, soldiers.. We do not live in harmony with the environment we depend on for our own survival.

We withhold technologies and wisdom that could allow us to live in harmony because we are obsessed with power. So to mock these people who believe they deserve respect is almost necessary, while to demand respect for the natives and other with similar culture and beliefs, is also crucial.

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You think Native Americans are different from the rest of humanity? Wow, amazing point. Cuts to the heart of colonialism like a hot knife through butter. If only I had access to your scalpel-like logic before I ever wasted my time writing this. Native tribes fought and colonized each other for resources, were they not as greedy as the kings and queens of Europe?

Not fully disagreeing with your point, just curious. Trying to compare a trickle to a flood to assuage a reckoning? Indigenous tribes everywhere the Europeans arrived were already warring, killing and colonizing each other…. That you skip over that to try and claim Indigenous peoples were probably just as bad I say probably because I do not for a second believe you know more than the tiniest little bit, if that, about pre-Contact happenings here , is mind-bogglingly obtuse.


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Bye, Mike. Resort to false equivalencies is always the last refuge of the scoundrel. It is a sad, old trick.

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How can you compare inter-tribal warfare among native populations just as occurred in Europe with mass genocide, rape, torture, starvation, and extermination of millions of innocent men, women, and children? Every square inch of land that we live, work, and breathe on today, was stolen from them. If you do not acknowledge this then you are complicit in the immorality and crimes against humanity. Just try understand what is being said.. How can we stand up for others culture if we know nothing about…can only voice our own!

She probably is. She is defending her own and other like cultures. Simple as that. It is up to the Empresses of the world to defend their own cultures.


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I respectfully ask you to rethink. Kings, Queens, Knights, Priests, Popes, etc… have not been colonized, oppressed, and had everything ripped away from them over and over by the people making a mockery of their tradition and culture either. Big difference. You cant oppress a pope or a king by wearing their regalia, however if a group of people have been systematically oppressed and marked for death by another, is it okay for the oppressor to then wear the regalia of the oppressed?

Its never done in context, respect or with any knowledge.

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Actually Kings Queens etc. This was very common practice in Europe, actually everywhere in the world. Kingdoms would send their peasants to conquered lands to replace the native not our first nations inhabitants. This was very common practice. Isolation is the surest way to cultural death. We are not to blame for the violence your people are enacting. Maybe we would not be so mad if you know the near genocide of natives did not happen. It would be like if someone killed you in your home and then wore your clothes as a costume, I am sure your remaining family would find that disrespectful.

I think historical context matters. Nikki, do you run into a court with a fake law degree and bask in the judicial system while having only finished your third month at burger king? By these people doing this not only u disrespect the whole navive nation, but the elder that wears it!!

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Sure they learned about respecting there Elders? But these are different arguments. And Some Undian nation are very modest, even events, gathering pow-wows we cover our shoulders , legs we Woman for most part wear skirts even if we are not performing, like in cerimonies or dancing! The difference here is that Native populations are among the MOST oppressed group in the world, whereas the examples you reference are almost exculisively from the oppressor.

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