The counterprotester who filmed the footage that showed a white supremacist ploughing his car into a group of demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month has spoken out about how he and his family have become the target of conspiracy theories and death threats.
In an op-ed published by Politico Monday, Brennan Gilmore described how in the wake of the video’s release, a number of elaborate and nonsensical theories surfaced regarding his involvement in Charlottesville. Some of the theories included accusations that he staged the car attack to drum up antipathy for the “alt-right” movement and overthrow President Donald Trump.
“They wrote that I was a CIA operative, funded by (choose your own adventure) George Soros, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, the IMF/World Bank, and/or a global Jewish mafia to orchestrate the Charlottesville attack in order to turn the general public against the alt-right,” Gilmore wrote.
“Desperate to lay blame on anyone besides the alt-right, they seized on these facts to suggest a counter-narrative to the attack, claiming there was no way that someone with my background just happened to be right there to take the video.”
A Google search of Gilmore’s name indeed retrieves several online forums on the first page discussing Gilmore’s previous work at the State Department — Gilmore’s public Twitter profile lists his former job as a foreign service officer and chief of staff for former US Rep. Tom Perriello — and questioning whether his presence at the Charlottesville scene was a coincidence.
The ensuing online rage, Gilmore said, left him saddled with hate mail and death threats, and with the addresses of his family members exposed. His parents received a four-page letter accompanied by a “suspicious white powder” that Gilmore said turned out to be a hoax.
The threats were severe enough to prompt local police to heighten their patrols around the house, Gilmore said, adding that his parents took the hate mail “in stride.”
“My parents’ sole precaution was to pick the remaining tomatoes from their garden, ‘so the Nazis wouldn’t get them,'” Gilmore wrote. “Even in the South, there must be a limit to our hospitality.”
But beyond the threats, Gilmore said he was more concerned that what had initially been outlandish accusations on fringe websites went “mainstream,” and were picked up by Infowars, an outlet that frequently traffics in conspiracy theories, but has hosted Trump himself as a guest.
“Trump has parroted Infowars several times, something even Infowars founder Alex Jones has described as ‘surreal,'” Gilmore said.
“Did I actually have to worry that the president of the United States might launch an investigation against me because I happened to capture footage of a white supremacist terror attack and spoke publicly about what I saw? I realised I couldn’t rule it out, and that frankly scares the hell out of me — for my family, but particularly for our country.”
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