Leaked documents reveal the Department of Homeland Security spread an absurd claim that a 19-year-old was training terrorists via a comedy video she posted on the social media site TikTok. The teen’s video and social media profile were then sent to police departments throughout Maine by the Maine Information and Analysis Center (MIAC), a node in the DHS network of “Fusion Centers” that ostensibly collect and distribute information about “potential terrorist threats.”
On May 31, a DHS report made public as part of the massive BlueLeaks data breach alleged the teen was providing “tips on how to riot.” Two days later, in its alert to local law enforcement agencies, MIAC warned that the comedy video was “providing tactics, techniques and procedures on how to interfere with the US National Guard during riots.”
The teen who made the TikTok video goes by the username Weirdsappho. Her posts on the social media platform are “mainly comedy around the gay leftist TikTok realm,” she told Mainer, and typically garner a few hundred views. The video cited by DHS was “a joke,” she said.
In the TikTok clip, Weirdsappho first displays a satirical tweet from the stand-up comedian Jaboukie Young-White, a correspondent for The Daily Show, that “thanks” police for “bringing in the army” to combat peaceful protests against police brutality. The tweet encourages protestors to throw “water balloons filled w sticky liquids (esp some sort of sugar/milk/syrup combo)” at tanks, in order to “support our troops.”
Weirdsappho’s video continues for another 30 seconds, during which she displays images of replies to the comic’s tweet. One reply is a picture of a tank with the caption, “here’s what you’re aiming at.” Other TikTok users suggest water balloons filled with “cornstarch” or “soap” would be “really hard for our troops to clean off.”
Before being contacted by Mainer, Weirdsappho was unaware that her comedy clip was being spread by federal and state law enforcement agencies as if it were an instructional video for would-be rioters. But she’s pretty sure how DHS was made aware of the post.
“Once the video went viral on TikTok, conservatives started duetting/reacting to the video, taking it seriously,” she said. “I started getting threats on the video and folks reaching out to my Instagram listing my phone number and personal info.” (Mainer is not identifying Weirdsappho due to these threats.)
The video was subsequently posted on Twitter, where adherents to the perverse far-right QAnon conspiracy theory “took it and ran with it,” Weirdsappho said. Tweets by QAnon trolls sharing the video garnered thousands of likes and retweets. Some QAnon accounts claimed Weirdsappho was part of a “pedophile network,” based on “satanic” images in her video (QAnon followers believe the world is controlled by a cabal of Satanic pedophiles). Many posts also called her a “terrorist” and tagged the official FBI and CIA Twitter accounts, which is likely how the video came to the attention of federal agents.
“I ended up making the video private and eventually deleted it,” Weirdsappho said. “It had broken past my normal crowd of lefties. MAGA types who regularly troll creators like me started to see my content and they were almost exclusively the ones commenting from there on out.”
Fusion Centers like MIAC, which is headquartered in Augusta and run by the Maine State Police, are engaged in a pattern of spreading misinformation, based on far-right rumors, that raise fears of leftist violence at peaceful protests against police brutality. Earlier this month, Mainer exposed how two social media posts by unreliable sources became fodder for official warnings about anarchist “plots” to leave stacks of bricks at protest sites for use as weapons against police.
In a July 15 article based on the BlueLeaks files, The Intercept revealed how DHS and its fusion centers are hyping far-fetched plots by alleged anti-fascist “antifa” activists despite evidence that far-right extremists pose actual threats to law enforcement personnel and protesters.
“These folks reporting and harassing me are literally the same people that started talking about wanting to bring guns out to go after lefties at protests,” Weirdsappho said. “And I don’t think if I reported their videos anything would happen.”