It’s been an absolutely insane weekend. Across the country and even the world, hordes of people have been out in the streets, protesting the murder of George Floyd and rampant police brutality in general. Police have responded with more violence and brutality. And right-wing conspiracy theorists have been looking for people to blame, going back to the old claim that mysterious forces are paying protesters to stoke chaos. One of the people swept up in this wave of absurdity is the National’s Aaron Dessner, who’s been accused of encouraging rioting and who’s denying that he’s been anywhere near the protests.
On Saturday, a YouTube user named Steve Kirsch posted a 19-second video of someone who looks a bit like Dessner at a protest in Columbus, speaking to other protesters and apparently handing something to one of them. Shortly afterward, a Twitter user who has since been suspended claimed that the person in the video was Dessner: “He’s an Antifa organizer paying people to riot!! He needs to be arrested NOW!!” Other Twitter users posted images of the National, claiming that they’re all Antifa organizers.
According to the local NBC News station, Columbus police claim that they’ve identified the man in the video: “We’d like to speak with this man.” That same news story also quotes Taylor Waters, an attorney who claims to represent the man in the video. Waters says that it’s a misleadingly edited video from a biased source.
In any case, Dessner says that he’s not the person in the video at all. Yesterday afternoon, Dessner posted an Instagram photo of remote mountainous landscape and wrote that he’s been in quarantine with his family and that he hasn’t been near any protests, in Ohio or anywhere else:
I’m very fortunate and grateful to wake up every morning in the rural countryside I live in, looking at farmland and these beautiful mountains. I’ve been here for three months now isolating with my wife and young children. This morning I’ve woken up to the unpleasant and surprising news that I’ve been misindentified by some social media users as someone seen encouraging rioting in Columbus, Ohio — I am not the person some are suggesting I am. Nor have I been in Ohio since June 2019. However I do FULLY support peaceful protests and activism against endemic racism and racially motivated violence in this country, which somehow continues generation after generation after generation. Like so many, I’m hoping for peaceful resolution and actual progress addressing these persistent issues in our society.
If you check Dessner’s Twitter replies, you’ll see that he’s still got tons of QAnon psychos harassing him.