Social Media Accounts Spew Conspiracy Theories About Key Bridge Collapse

Right-wing influencers on X used the tragedy in Baltimore to boost their brands.

Social media accounts were serving up conspiracy theories within hours of a container ship knocking down the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on Tuesday.

Federal and local law enforcement said they suspected no foul play, but several people on X, the former Twitter, claimed that the incident looked deliberate, and that it may have been orchestrated by terrorists or shadowy foreign actors.

“There should be a serious investigation into the horrifying tragedy of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Maryland. Is this an intentional attack or an accident?” far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) pondered in a post on X — the latest in a long list of conspiracy theories she’s helped push into the mainstream.

Some accounts suggested that Israel directed the freighter to strike the bridge as retaliation for the U.S. allowing the United Nations to adopt a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.

Other accounts mused that the shipping company must have adopted “diversity, equity and inclusion” policies that lowered hiring standards and resulted in less-qualified staff piloting the ship.

There’s no evidence for the DEI theory, but it’s a concept that X owner Elon Musk has himself promoted, baselessly, as an explanation for recent air travel safety snafus.

And Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist best known for defaming the grieving parents of children who were murdered in school shootings, said the bridge collapse “looks deliberate.”

A cyber-attack is probable,” Jones proclaimed on X, the platform where Musk restored his account in December after Jones had been banned for almost five years. “WW3 has already started.”

Andrew Tate, the social media personality who is facing rape and human trafficking charges in Romania, joined Jones in peddling the “cyber-attack” theory.

“Lights go off and it deliberately steers towards the bridge supports,” Tate wrote on X. “Foreign agents of the USA attack digital infrastructures. Nothing is safe. Black Swan event imminent.”

Conservative talking heads were quick to hop on the bandwagon, working to connect the incident to everything from clean energy investments and President Joe Biden’s border policies to the lingering impacts of COVID-19 lockdowns.

“You look at our critical infrastructure, and I’m one of these people that believes we’ve never fully come out of all the lockdowns and the COVID issues,” Matt Schlapp, the head of the Conservative Political Action Committee, said on the right-wing Newsmax. “I’m no expert on what’s going on on the seas, but all I would say is that if you talk to employers in America, they’ll tell you that filling slots with employees who aren’t drug-addled is a very huge problem.”

In an interview with Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) on Tuesday morning, Fox News host Maria Bartiromo cited a statement from the White House that there is no evidence the incident was deliberate. She then applauded Scott for “talking a lot about the potential for wrongdoing, or potential for foul play, given the wide-open border.” (Bartiromo was presumably referring to the U.S.-Mexico border, which is, at best, some 1,500 miles from Baltimore, and is not “wide open.”)

In an interview with Newsmax, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) blamed Biden’s climate and clean energy investments for America’s aging infrastructure.

“We’re not spending it on roads and bridges,” Mace said of recent infrastructure funding. “Look at the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that was done a couple years ago that the left hails as this massive success, but it was mostly Green New Deal [spending] actually in that bill.”

That bill passed in 2021 with bipartisan support.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) said the container ship issued a distress call and lost power shortly before it struck the bridge. Moore said a preliminary investigation indicated the collision was an accident and that there was no reason to suspect terrorism.

“There is no specific and credible information to suggest any ties to terrorism at this time,” the FBI’s Baltimore field office said on X. “The investigation is ongoing.”

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