A series of videos posted recently to Facebook show a brigade of angry bikers descending on Washington D.C. to both lobby Senators on behalf of Brett Kavanaugh and beat back the embattled Supreme Court nominee’s leftist critics.
It’s a dramatic, if not Trumpian, bit of influence-peddling that has garnered a fair bit of buzz online. At least one of the videos has been viewed more than 2.5 million times on Facebook in just two days.
The only problem is, it’s fiction. The nation’s capital has not been deluged with Kavanaugh-loving bikers demanding that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) resign for her role in surfacing accusations of sexual assault against the court nominee.
Instead, the videos, which have been trumpeted by the Facebook group “World against terrorism,” are just the latest popular, pro-Trump hoax pushed around to great fanfare on Twitter and Facebook. In fact, it’s not the first viral social media post that’s involved a huge squad of bikers descending on Washington to bolster whatever Trump issue is in the news.
In July, videos posted on Facebook and Twitter claimed that a massive number of bikers were going to protest in Washington until special counsel Robert Mueller ended his investigation into Russia and the Trump campaign. In January 2017, a biker army supposedly headed to Washington to swell the crowds at the Trump inauguration and fight “antifascist” protesters.
In neither case did a biker brigade actually materialize.
Fake claims about pro-Trump bikers in Washington are so common that the people promoting them regularly reuse the same fake footage. The most popular video of pro-Kavanaugh bikers, for example, was actually footage taken from a 2016 French motorcyclist rally against bike regulations. But that footage has been used at least once before for another hoax, about a huge number of bikers supposedly coming to the inauguration.
There is at least one actual group of pro-Trump bikers, “Bikers for Trump,” whose members met with Trump last month at his New Jersey resort. But a Bikers for Trump representative told The Daily Beast that the group isn’t involved in any ride to D.C. to support the Kavanaugh confirmation.
The obviously fake nature of the footage didn’t stop the claim about pro-Kavanaugh bikers from proliferating on social media, with Facebook accounts ripping off the original fake footage and scoring tens of thousands of more views. A local Republican Party chapter in Florida further circulated the claim, posting the footage and claiming the bikers were headed to Washington to force Feinstein’s resignation.
The biker hoaxes can have a big upside for the groups promoting them. In the case of the “World against terrorism” Facebook page, which was created just days earlier in September, the hoax appears to be an attempt to promote a series of suspicious news sites. Media Matters noted that the Facebook page frequently promotes a series of suspect sites that use the same Google ad account as a network of Macedonian hoax sites.
But foreign operators aren’t the only people trying to profit off of conservative fondness for footage of politically-active bikers. The Twitter account “@WeSupport45” garnered more than ten thousand retweets after posting what are clearly unrelated footage of groups of bikers and claiming they were headed to Washington support Kavanaugh. Anyone looking to support the bikers, WeSupport45 claimed, could donate to them through a link.
But the link in the tweet didn’t go to any biker group. Instead, it took visitors to a site that sells laser-engraved “border wall brick” souvenirs. While the bricks, which start at $100, are ostensibly meant for the proposed border wall with Mexico, they’re currently being added to an unrelated wall in the state of Georgia.
The operator of the @WeSupport45 Twitter account initially told The Daily Beast that the legion of bikers really was in Washington, but that they were “keeping a low profile” due to threats from agents of billionaire and conservative bogeyman George Soros. The videos of bikers revving their engines for Trump, the account’s operator insisted, were “not fake at all.”
After The Daily Beast pointed out that the supposed footage of the pro-Kavanaugh bikers was a hoax, the account’s operator conceded that the footage was only meant to “get eyes on our message.”