News of a lone gunman shooting into a crowd at Strasbourg’s famous Marché de Noel on Tuesday night has been met with suspicion by many yellow vest protesters who have suggested the French government is responsible for the attack.
The main conspiracy theory circulating on gilets jaunes Facebook groups is that Macron’s government wants to divert attention from the current crisis engulfing his presidency.
Commentators on Facebook pages, which have increasingly been a breeding ground for fake news, claim the Strasbourg attack is orchestrated to enable Macron to have the perfect excuse to ask protesters to call off their action ahead of the Act V yellow vest protest day set to hit Paris and other French cities on Saturday, December 15.
They also believe the attack was nicely planned to make many protesters fearful of joining protests on Saturday and to allow the government to plead to yellow vests not to put the police under any more strain.
AFP journalist Guillaume Gaudin has tweeted a number of the conspiracy posts he’s come across on yellow vest social media channels, including comments such as:
“You’ll see next week there won’t be a single yellow vest. Well played, Macron”
“Coincidence, chance? Or just manipulation!”.
“They want to create fear so that people don’t take to the streets.”
“Well of course it was the State! If you look back in time, there have often been terror attacks when there were too many strikes or protests.”
Sur la page de cet event Facebook sur « l’acte 5 » de samedi, pour lequel 60k+ personnes sont intéressés, de nombreux posts évoquent une « manipulation » de l’Etat ou un « attentat » qui « tombe bien » concernant la fusillade de Strasbourg. pic.twitter.com/kltnPRX5QY
— Guillaume Daudin (@GuillaumeDaudin) December 11, 2018
One of the most controversial figures of the yellow vests movement – Maxime Nicolle, who goes by the name Fly Rider online – offered his own detailed conspiracy theory during a Facebook Live video.
“Do you really think that a guy who wanted to carry out a terror attack would wait until there were three people in the street at 8pm? He would go into the Middle Of the Champs Elysees and blow himself up,” Nicolle argued.
“Dites-vous bien que le mec qui veut faire un attentat vraiment, il attend pas qu'il y ait 3 personnes dans la rue le soir à 20h00″…#Strasbourg : l'indispensable analyse du #GiletJaune Maxime Nicolle ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/3qf8d9qlN5
— Conspiracy Watch (@conspiration) December 11, 2018
There’s another theory that’s been doing the rounds on yellow vest channels in which a screenshot of a tweet by the Bas-Rhin prefecture warning of the attack appears to show it was time-stamped and supposedly posted at 11:47am, hours before the attack.
This allegedly incriminating proof that the government knew of the attack before it happened has since been discredited by French news agency AFP's “fact-checking” team, who tweeted “sometimes users don’t set their account’s time zone and end up with posting times that aren’t in line with where they are.”
Secretary of State to the Minister of the Interior Laurent Nuñez has reacted to the outlandish claims with shock: “I'm outraged by all this, how can people say such things?
“There’s an attacker who killed three people, there are others who are seriously wounded.”
Other yellow vests have also denounced what they see as outlandish claims that discredit their movement and illustrate how many protesters are turning to violence, incited by the prevalence of fake news on their social media feeds.
Yellow vest “anger” groups on the internet have been inundated with idiotic posts implying that the Fr government plotted terrorist murders in Strasbourg to distract sympathy from their movement. So much so that the moderators of two groups refused further posts on the issue.
— John Lichfield (@john_lichfield) December 12, 2018
Some yellow vest Facebook group moderators even went as far as temporarily taking down the pages to stop the flurry of disrespectful and far-fetched comments.
Government ministers have however asked yellow vests to call off Saturday's protests to allow police to concentrate on dealing with the aftermath of the terror attack, while the country remains on the highest alert level.
That stance has drawn an angry response from opposition parties who accuse the government of using the terror attack to try to quell the yellow rebellion.
While protests are still planned for Saturday it's unclear how many will turn up. Recent polls suggest public support for the “yellow vest” movement is waning.