When President Donald Trump peddles unsubstantiated claims as legitimate narratives — paid protesters, millions of illegal voters, CNN as fake news — the right-wing media scrambles to find isolated examples to justify the president's grandiose claims.
Because all it takes is one.
Thompson, who has shown a pattern of erratic behavior, is already infamous as a serial fabulist who was fired from the Intercept for fabricating stories. But even as he was appropriately exorcized from the journalistic community for his malpractice and arrested in accordance with his alleged lawbreaking, Thompson could become a keystone example in President Donald Trump's promulgation of anti-left conspiracy theories.
Thompson is the perfect amalgam of Trump conspiracy tropes: a fake-news writer, a black man with racial animus for white women and a radical leftist drumming up false flags. Trump has already floated the idea that the threats against Jewish community centers could be red herrings.
Never mind the fact that Thompson was dealt with thoroughly by the Intercept and his peer group in the media when it became clear he had fabricated quotes, individuals and stories. His career swiftly ended, and the Intercept has called for full investigation and prosecution following his arrest. The important thing for Trump's political allies is that Thompson fits the broad strokes of a desired narrative.
In the wake of recent anti-fascist riots, right-wing media outlets are building the case that anti-Trump protesters are a dangerous, terroristic movement. On Thursday, it was revealed that the Department of Homeland Security now identifies anti-Trump sentiments as a key driver of violent domestic terrorism, as opposed to anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim white extremism.
Juan Thompson's arrest provides the perfect opportunity to chalk up domestic terrorism to the anti-Trump left, and ignore the recent tide of right-wing extremism, turning one man into a false ambassador for a well-intentioned movement.
We've already seen this before, after a lone sniper in Dallas killed five police officers in the name of Black Lives Matter. Regardless of Black Lives Matter's official statement categorically condemning violence against police, conservative demagogues like Tomi Lahren used the shooting as evidence that the entire Black Lives Matter had become a violent, anti-police movement.
This already has ramifications in our legal system. Around 32 "blue lives matter" bills have been introduced nationwide to put violent acts against police under the umbrella of hate crimes — providing legal protections to a group that already has exceptional and unique legal protections.
Conservative media is already pegging Thompson's threats as a natural consequence of left-wing politics. As of time of reporting, the top of Breitbart's homepage declares the threats against Jewish Community Centers are from a "Bernie voter" and "fake news reporter." The National Review wrote, in more measured tones, that "perhaps a little circumspection" is required when assigning the blame for anti-Semitic threats to right-wingers. And while the National Review is hesitant chalk up Thompson's behavior to politics, the Daily Caller excitedly proclaimed Thompson as an "anti-Trump communist."
Expect this narrative to continue — if an extremist has expressed pro-Democratic or pro-leftist viewpoints, they'll be made an incidental avatar for an entire political identity that systematically repudiates him, even as his counterparts on the right are forgiven or erased.
And given there are bills introduced in at least 18 states that crack down on protests in the wake of massive demonstrations against the president, expect those ambassadors to be elevated as threats worthy of systemic retribution by Republicans in power, looking to disperse peaceful dissidence in the name of fighting terrorism.