What is a 'False Flag' Attack — and Was Boston One?

During the Boston Police Department's final press conference of a confounding and deadly day, someone in the audience asked if Monday's bombing was a "false flag" attack. We can both explain and answer that question.

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The questioner — who appears to be Dan Bidondi, a radio host for InfoWars — asked:

Why were the loud speakers telling people in the audience to be calm moments before the bombs went off? Is this another false flag staged attack to take our civil liberties and promote homeland security while sticking their hands down our pants on the streets?

To which Governor Deval Patrick, at the mic to field questions, flatly responded:


What is a "false flag" attack?

The term originates with naval warfare. For centuries, ships have sailed under a flag identifying their nationality. During times of war, ships would sometimes change the national flag they flew in order to fool other vessels that they sought to attack or escape from. They would fly, in other words, a "false flag." The term then expanded to mean any scenario under which a military attack was undertaken by a person or organization pretending to be something else.

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What the questioner was asking, then, was: Did the United States government orchestrate this attack, pretending to be a terrorist organization of some sort, in order to justify expanded security powers?

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Is There Historical Precedent for Such a Move by a Government?

There is.

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The most famous example, however, is contentious. Conspiracy theorists (of which there are a lot in America) often suggest that the 1933 fire at the Reichstag in Berlin was a "false flag" operation by the Nazis to consolidate power and undermine the Communist Party. This is still a subject of debate among historians, some of whom think the man convicted of the crime, Marinus van der Lubbe, was actually responsible. In 1998, a German court exonerated van der Lubbe.

The nexus of fascist government manipulation and phony disasters has proven difficult for theorists to resist. Following most attacks similar to Monday's bombings, there have been accusations that they serve as a tool of government oppression.

For example, the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary were quickly labeled a "false flag" operation by conspiracy theorists, the implication being that the Obama administration wanted to use the tragedy to tighten gun restrictions. If that was the president's goal, the Senate wasn't on board with it.

Who is calling the Boston bombings a "false flag" operation?

Unsurprisingly, Bidondi's colleague Alex Jones, the founder of InfoWars, who tweeted this within an hour of the bombings to his 180,000-plus followers:

Our hearts go out to those that are hurt or killed #Boston marathon - but this thing stinks to high heaven #falseflag

— Alex Jones (@RealAlexJones) April 15, 2013

Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon noted that Jones went further on his afternoon radio program.

On his radio show, Jones speculated that it may have to do with the sudden drop in the price of gold, a favorite commodity of paranoids everywhere. “With gold plunging, what could this signify?” he asked rhetorically. He also noted that Boston has special significance in American history, and because it’s where one of the planes took off from on 9/11. “I said on air that they’re getting ready to blow something up. To fire a shot heard round the world like at Lexington and Concord, and then they do it at this same place on the same day!” he said.

This is the thing about conspiracy theorists: any and all explanations are considered viable.

Nor were InfoWars the only conspiracists; as of 10:30 p.m. Eastern on Monday night, a search for "boston marathon false flag" returned more than 85,000 hits on Google.

Why were loudspeakers asking everyone to remain calm prior to the blast?

There are no credible media reports or public law enforcement comments that they were.

Are elected officials legally obligated to reveal that they're participating in a "false flag" operation, like how cops are with entrapment?

Well, first of all, undercover police don't have to identify themselves if asked.

And second, no. If the Boston attack had been a "false flag" attack, Gov. Patrick would have responded "no" anyway. Asking the question reveals nothing about the situation, but an awful lot about the questioner.

So, was the marathon bombing a "false flag" operation?