A crackpot conspiracy theory promoted by QAnon followers linking a tweet from former FBI director James Comey to an imagined warning about an imagined Jihadi attack triggered the shutdown of a school fundraiser in a small Northern California town.
“In the current political and social climate, schools and communities must take into consideration matters never before imagined,” organizers said in a statement scuttling the Blue Marble Jubilee by the Grass Valley Charter School Foundation. They canceled the event “out of an abundance of caution,” the statement noted.
Conspiracy theorists on Twitter raised the possibility of a terror attack the day after Comey posted a humorous tweet last month listing the “five jobs I’ve had,” one of countless similar tweets by myriad users that are part of an ongoing Twitter gimmick.
QAnon followers noted that the first letters of “jobs” and “I’ve” added to “had” spells “Jihad.” That led to the theory that “5 Jihads” would targeting the foundation’s gathering because the first letters of each of Comey’s five jobs GVCSF ― happen to be the acronym for the group. The FF in the conspiracy tweets means “false flag” in QAnon code, meaning Comey’s tweet is not what it appears to be.
Grass Valley and county investigators found no threat to the event after the tweets surfaced. But the tweets went viral (though many comments mocked the forced connections, with one suggesting, “Put down the cocaine”), and concerned emails to the school skyrocketed.
Charter foundation president Wendy Willoughby called the theory “nutty,” and told The Sacramento Bee that canceling the event left her “heartbroken.”
The event to raise funds for the organization’s downtown elementary school was planned for this coming Saturday in the town of 13,000 nestled in the Sierra foothills about an hour northeast of Sacramento.
The fallout from the tweets left little choice but to cancel the event, Willoughby told the Bee. The crazy tweets left some people wondering if the charter organization was legitimate, while others who “follow this madness … were concerned,” she said.
In “today’s world, based on recent events, regardless if it is debunked” an unhinged conspiracy theory “mobilizes unstable people to take action,” Willoughby added.
One of the conspiracy theorists tweeted that he wasn’t sorry the event was canceled because “Comey’s Twitter account is definitely being used to transmit coded messages.”
Mike Rothschild, a California-based researcher of conspiracy theories, told the Bee that the Jihad notion was “so incredibly poorly conceived, it’s a wonder anyone believes it.”
But the QAnon followers who spread the warning have already shown a willingness to believe half-baked conspiracy theories positing that President Donald Trump’s administration, in a battle against the so-called deep-state, is poised to prosecute and imprison an array of its critics on such charges as treason and child sex trafficking. The QAnon movement began attracting attention last summer, especially as its followers started making their presence felt at Trump rallies.
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