The origin of #StopTheSteal

Like a volcano bubbling underground, the #StopTheSteal hashtag had many wellsprings, but one in particular uncorked the eruption.

“The edifice of #StopTheSteal was constructed on a foundation of false claims of widespread election fraud that predates Trump’s candidacy,” Mother Jones says.

Their story (read it here) continues, “the evolving online and offline organizing tactics of the far right came together to create an unprecedented misinformation cascade.”

This we already knew. But the story of how #StopTheSteal went viral is like unearthing a brush-covered grave.

Philadelphia had set up several satellite election offices. Someone who walked in, camera rolling, was asked to leave. That was perfectly proper. “Under Pennsylvania law, poll watching is something that only credentialed observers do, and only on Election Day at polling locations set up to ensure voter privacy. The video showed someone with no relevant credentials showing up at an office neither logistically nor legally set up to accommodate them,” Mother Jones said.

Undoubtedly it was a setup. A Republican operative waited outside. Then he tweeted: “TRUMP observers are being blocked entry to all of the satellite voting locations in Philly!! What are they hiding?”

Later that day, Donnie Trump Jr. further inflated that lie by tweeting, “This is Biden’s only hope to cheat you out of an election by preventing a fair and honest election.” Then Trump himself brought it up in a presidential debate. He claimed “pollwatchers were thrown out. They weren’t allowed to watch. You know why? Because bad things happen in Philadelphia.”

Thus was born a movement, based on lies, that provided cover for duping millions of Trump followers and refusing to accept the legitimate results of a fair election, ultimately leading to a violent mob storming the U.S. Capitol to prevent certification of the election.

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