The War that Wasn't

While I was writing this newsletter I thought a war had started. Also a look at the George Floyd conspiracy theories

Welcome back. In this week’s Hat Tip:

  • Breaking News: The War That Wasn’t

  • Big News: George Floyd Verdict

  • Subs only: Keir Starmer should be doing better

  • Curious: Italian civil servant skips work for 15 years on full pay

Breaking News: The War That Wasn’t

As I was writing this newsletter, I didn’t hear a loud bang.

I didn’t hear it, but everyone else around me seemed to, because my Twitter feed filled up with people asking “what was that bang?”

Rocket sirens had just sounded in the Negev desert in the south of Israel, close to the Dimona nuclear power plant. The loud bangs in the sky seemed like they might have been anti-missile interceptors.

Immediately, rumours began. A rocket from Syria had been fired at the Dimona plant, and Israel was responding with strikes on Syria. The initial claims suggested that the rocket was fired by an Iranian proxy. That made some sense, because Iran’s nuclear enrichment facility mysteriously exploded recently, in an act of sabotage attributed to Israel.

But a rocket attack on a nuclear power plant would be a major escalation and might trigger a war. As I thought about it, I realised that it might already have started a war.

I was just checking my bomb shelter was fit for use when the facts emerged about what actually happened.

A Syrian anti-air battery fired a missile at a plane, possibly an Israeli military aircraft over Syria. The missile missed. By a LOT. It kept on going, heading over central Israel where the Arrow anti-rocket system fired interceptors at it. The interceptors also missed, causing huge explosions in the air. Air-raid sirens sounded in the region near to the power plant, just in case. The missile landed without causing any damage. Israel’s Air Force destroyed the Syrian anti-air battery that fired the errant missile.

So it was all a mistake, and there’s no war with Iran, and my nerves are all frayed anyway.

Big News: George Floyd Verdict

The verdict in State of Minnesota v. Derek Michael Chauvin was handed down yesterday. Former policeman Chauvin was found guilty of all charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. In May 2020, Chauvin held his knee over George Floyd’s throat during a police stop, pressing on his throat for long minutes while Floyd fought for air and eventually died.

Sentencing will be in about eight weeks.

That doesn’t mean that the Floyd case is closed. The other three officers who were involved in George Floyd’s death will face their own trials later this year, and the Justice Department announced a federal investigation into the Minneapolis police department.


There’s already lots of talk about an appeal. US conservative commentators have been promoting the idea that Chauvin’s conviction will be overturned for some reason or other.

There will probably be an appeal — in Minnesota, there’s an automatic right of appeal. This Politico piece goes through some of the possible grounds, like whether Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, a prosecution witness, mixed facts and opinion in his testimony, but most of the legal analysts seem to think an appeal is unlikely to succeed. There’s also close to no chance at all that it gets to the US Supreme Court.

Conspiracy theories

Like every major news event, there are all sorts of conspiracy theories out there. Almost as soon as George Floyd had died, people started claiming he was really alive and his killing was actually a false flag. This idea caught on particularly inside QAnon, stoked partly by the actual Q poster, who thought that the Obama Foundation had tweeted about Floyd’s death weeks before he was killed. This turned out to be a pretty basic misunderstanding about how Twitter works, and was one of the rare times that QAnon followers told Q he’d got it wrong.

Another theory that appeared shortly after Chauvin was arrested for Floyd’s murder claimed that the man on the video and the man who was arrested were different people. Images of Chauvin from his mugshot were compared with the recording. This claim, oddly enough, was spreading both on the far Left, which claimed that fake-Chauvin was a patsy put up by the police to protect the real killer, but it was also popular on the conspiracist Right.

So we saw pictures like the one below being shared by both Ice Cube in June and QAnon influencers as recently as yesterday, suggesting that these are two different people (they aren’t!).

An even weirder conspiracy theory claims that George Floyd was a high-level Freemason, and his murder was some sort of ritual that was planned by the masons in order to trigger civil unrest. In this strange theory, Floyd and his killer are claimed to be on the same side, working for some unclear purpose.

The interesting thing about these conspiracy theories is all of them had already emerged by early June 2020, just days after Floyd’s murder. And all of them are still being shared today.

The days immediately after a high-profile incident are critical for fighting conspiracy theories. Once something’s out there, it hangs around in the public imagination.

George Floyd got a little justice this week, but hundreds of thousands of Americans believe he’s still alive. Many others think his real killer isn’t in jail.

Subscriber article: Keir Starmer should be doing better

Subscribers will have received my article about Keir Starmer’s first year as Labour leader.

If Keir Starmer’s first job was to detoxify the Labour Party in the eyes of moderates, that part’s done. Labour isn’t toxic. But being not toxic isn’t enough; the next challenge is to get those moderates to actually vote for him and his party.

If you’re interested in seeing sub-only articles, subscribe! If not, no worries.

Curious: Italian civil servant skips work for 15 years on full pay

An Italian hospital administrator was caught after fifteen years of not coming into work. In this time, he earned more than half a million Euro in salary.

Reportedly, the man threatened his old manager to get out of working, and then eventually the new management didn’t know he existed.

The Guardian has the story.

Thanks for reading!