A flyer posted on Social Media saying "Get Paid to be a Professional Anarchist," which included contact information for the Thurston County Democrats, began circulating on Facebook and Twitter last week as protests in Minneapolis began to spread throughout the country.
The flyer, which has not been seen in Olympia or elsewhere in Thurston County, promises to pay $200 to those who join, and features the Banksy artwork "Love is in the air," along with several anarchist and Antifa symbols.
Chairman of the Thurston County Democrats, Victor Minjares. took to Twitter to inform people of the post. "Over the last 24 hours, we were one of the victims of a nationwide 'fake news' trolling operation," he wrote.
He continued, adding that the post was determined to be fake by the fact-checking website Snopes.com, writing on twitter, "It was a fascist-style disinformation campaign to discredit protesters nationwide; we were the incidental victims."
While the email address on the flyer was fake, the phone number listed was the Thurston County Democrats' real number. Over the last few days their phone was "swamped with calls from gullible conspiracy theorists, accusing us of being backed by George Soros [a billionaire political donor]," Minjares wrote on Twitter.
Minjares was first made aware of the flyer when the Thurston County Democrats received a phone call from a man asking, "Is George Soros there?" "I just chuckled and said, 'don't call back here.'"
That was just the start, however, and by Tuesday, the Thurston County Democrats had received an "innumerable" amount of calls. "When I turned the phone on Sunday morning, which is when I became aware something serious was going on," said Minjares, "the phone's voicemail box was full, and the phone just kept ringing and ringing and ringing with calls from all over the country. You couldn't say 'Hello' without the phone ringing and another call coming in."
Even after posting about the flyer's illegitimacy, accusatory calls still came in. So, the Thurston County Democrats were forced to change their number.
As fake as the flyer comes off to the majority of people, there was still a vocal minority that believed it was real, explained Minjares. "It was a legitimate threat to our organization."
The flyer's origin is unknown but has been posted and seen by people across the country via Facebook.
Glen Morgan of the "We The Governed" website saw the flyer and quickly dispelled it as fake. "You could tell immediately it was fake," he said. "Number one, the email address was wrong... but secondly there is no way they would ever put out a public flyer of any kind that says they're funded by Soros. That's just openly and obviously stupid."
George Soros, billionaire investor and democratic donor, is the subject of many online internet conspiracies among right-wing and alt-right groups. His name and his organization -- the Open Society Foundation -- were both listed as sponsors on the flyer.
"I think that it's just so amateurish that it was just somebody screwing around somewhere. What's weird is I'm not sure why they picked the Thurston County Democrats because it looks like it didn't even come from this state." Morgan said.
Morgan, who posted his own article calling the flyer fake, said analytics showed that a majority of the articles' readers were out-of-state. Accounts that post the flyer on Facebook are from all over the country, as well.
"There's always going to be misinformation spread whenever there is times of chaos and we've got plenty of legitimate thing to cover that are bad enough and plenty of bad news scandals that we don't need to go and get hyped up about something that's obviously fake."