To step into these old forums is to enter a cesspool of wingnut self righteousness. It is a world where the DNC rigged the primary, but Republican stances on voting rights don't matter. It is a world where there is no hard evidence for Trump's campaign colluding with Russia even though there is a trail of fired campaign operatives leading to the White House, who were fired for their connections to Russia. Think I mean the right wing? While much of the mainstream media blames Sean Hannity and the right wing for the Seth Rich conspiracy, it was actually here, on the far far left that this conspiracy first took hold in the shadows of the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
The motive for creating this narrative was blatantly self serving from the start. The radical left needed evidence to corroborate their theory that the primary had been rigged and in Rich, they found the perfect target. By this time, the radical left had fed itself a steady stream of right wing trash for months (we saw this dynamic on Newsvine, much to my dismay). Then a political man dies under suspicious circumstances, and at the "right time," and cannot defend himself from beyond the grave. They took the opportunity and ran with it for blatantly partisan gains:
For the fringe left, the motivation is to cast out the remnants of the corporatized Clinton wing of the Democratic party. Accepting that Russia interfered in the 2016 election undermines their argument that Democrats lost in 2016 because of a lousy, faux-liberal platform. For the far right, the problem is essentially the same: Russian influence suggests that maybe it’s not their platform of xenophobia, misogyny, and bigotry that won Donald Trump the White House after all.
Seth Rich's death was used for political gain, beginning at the time of the murder. Here is a thread from ten months ago that provided some of the first kindling for this fire. Notice that the poster is a longtime Sanders supporter and has over a year of left wing posts to his credit. At the time, posts like this seemed innocuous, ramblings from the asshole of the internet. What's happened in the months that follow proves not only the power of the internet, but the power of those who are loudest and most forceful on it.
Coming into and out of the convention, there were more than a few snakes in the political grass who tried to take advantage of Sanders' angry base. One of them was Tim Canova, who ran for Congress against Debbie Wasserman Schultz, pretty much on the position that he was not DWS. Canova lost his race handidly, partially because he ran a bad campaign and got flooded with outside money. It didn't help that Bernie didn't show up to support him. In spite of his consistent lagging in the polls, poor campaign, and the community's concern about his outside money from activists (how ironic is that?), Canova's loss somehow gave the radical left further cover to cry conspiracy. Canova kept his newfound fan base though, and can be seen keeping the Seth Rich conspiracy alive. Of course, I'm sure the fact that some Sanders supporters use the Seth Rich conspiracy to cast doubt on all DNC elections, including his loss, has nothing to do with any of this. Never mind the fact that Canova's campaign was a joke. And certainly nevermind that Sanders wasn't running his campaign to win in the first place.
This theory was stoked on the far left further when WikiLeaks stepped into the fray, using Rich as a way to distract from their probable ties to the Russian government. Julian Assange was purposefully vague in his wording, but the mere mention of the circumstances surrounding Rich was enough for his most fanatical supporters. For those on the political fringes, Assange is an oracle in a world of darkness. But once Assange mentioned Rich, the conspiracy takes on a life of its own. This is the pivot where the far right took it and really ran with it, ramping it up and taking fringe leftists along for the ride, just like they've been doing for the last two years with their faux support of grassroots progressives. Unlike the radical left, the radical right has a national media powerhouse which is willing to act as its mouthpiece.
Some of you may argue that this is actually astro-turfing from the far right. While this could be the case at times, I have done research on some of the users on the far left throwing these theories out. These users appear to be acting legitimately. I base this on the age of their reddit accounts and rhetoric that predates the rise of the alt-right. It's important to understand that long before the alt-right we still had the alt-left, primarily a fringe community of conspiracy theorists that first got its legs online when the internet exploded during the Bush administration. They were mostly teens at the time, and most of you probably thought they'd grow out of it. I'm here to tell you that many of them haven't.
While larger media outlets certainly bear the brunt of the blame for propagating this story and reviving it in 2017, it is also important to understand its long history as a political football. It is actually hard to pinpoint a time in discourse when anyone was actually interested in getting to the bottom of Rich's murder without motivation. That goes for the far left and the far right.
Sometimes it can feel to those of us who post on message boards that what we say has no consequence. Some of us become so deeply entrenched in our views that we will use things like a murder of a low level political staffer to project strength onto our argument. Some of us treat arguing online like a game to be won and lost, where the onmly sin is losing, and the only goal is winning. There is no truth to be found, only arguments to be won or lost, only people to humiliate.
Next time you meet a "Still Sanders" supporter, a "Bernie turned trumper," or a "Jill Stein" supporter, ask them about this conspiracy. You will be pretty disgusted by what you hear in response.
Authors Note: All "un-sourced" examples of behavior from radicals were observed by the author on reddit. After fearing this would happen for months, I don't want to go dig these up. Please contact me if you really want to see post histories.