In September 2019, we received multiple inquiries from readers about the authenticity and provenance of several photographs that appeared to show teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg of Sweden posing next to the billionaire George Soros, a member of Isis, and with what was described as “the Antifa terrorist organization.”
On Sept. 23, a Facebook user going by the name Stephen Potter posted a collage of three separate images accompanied by the caption, “Well well well … do I need to explain anymore? #AnonsKnew #GretaThunberg #DeepStatePuppet”:
The images and caption purported to be a screenshot of an earlier post by a Facebook user going by the name “Kristen Shadowbanned Seefeldt,” who regularly promotes the discredited and debunked #QAnon conspiracy theory. However, such a post was not visible on her page on Sept. 24, which means we cannot verify that it originated there, though it is possible the post had been deleted or removed from public view by then.
Whatever the origins of Potter’s post, the images contained in the collage were either doctored, did not show Thunberg, or included a misleading description.
Thunberg with Isis?
The above image does not show Thunberg. It was taken during a Quran recital contest hosted by Isis members in Aleppo, Syria, in 2013, as we outlined in an earlier fact check article.
Thunberg with George Soros?
This image does show Thunberg, but the face of financier and philanthropist George Soros has been digitally superimposed onto the body of the man standing next to her. The original photograph actually pictured former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and was posted to Twitter by Thunberg in December 2018:
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) December 30, 2018
The doctored image was created by the French website SecretNews, which presents its content as satire, as part of an Aug. 28 article with the headline (translated), “Greta Thunberg is the granddaughter of left-wing billionaire George Soros.” Others, apparently unaware of the “satire” label applied to all SecretNews content, have mistakenly understood that article to be genuine and promulgated the false claim that Thunberg and Soros were family relatives:
Thunberg is aligned with ‘the terrorist organization Antifa’?
The underlying image in this meme was the only one of the three photographs that was authentic, unedited, and also showed Thunberg. She posted it to her Twitter account in July 2019 as part of a campaign to promote the band The 1975, which featured a speech by Thunberg and was set to be the opening track on The 1975’s forthcoming album “Notes on a Conditional Form.”
The original photograph showed the band’s lead singer Matt Healy sitting next to Thunberg, who wore a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Antifascist All Stars”:
Opposing fascism or wearing an “Antifascist All Stars” T-shirt does not necessarily make one a member or supporter of “Antifa,” a frequently misunderstood and misused term that describes a movement of typically militant and sometimes violent left-wing activists in the United States and beyond.
Despite those nuances, Thunberg appears to have received criticism from some quarters for her decision to wear the T-shirt, and she eventually deleted the original photograph from her social media account. In a subsequent tweet, she offered an explanation that made it clear she had intended only to express her opposition to fascism, and that she rejected the use of violence:
Yesterday I posted a photo wearing a borrowed T-shirt that says I’m against fascism. That T-shirt can apparently to some be linked to a violent movement. I don’t support any form of violence and to avoid misunderstandings I’ve deleted the post. And of course I am against fascism.
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) July 26, 2019
Given the inherent ambiguity of meaning in wearing the T-shirt, as well as Thunberg’s subsequent explanation and deletion of her tweet, it is difficult to support the characterization of the photograph contained in the meme, which claimed Thunberg had “aligned” herself with Antifa.
The description of Antifa as a “terrorist organization” is also questionable. In the U.S., the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) does not currently list Antifa as a domestic terrorist organization, but the summer of 2019 saw increasing calls for such a designation.
In July, Republican Senators Bill Cassidy (Louisiana) and Ted Cruz (Texas) introduced a U.S. Senate resolution calling for “groups and organizations across the country who act under the banner of Antifa to be designated as domestic terrorist organizations.” In August, President Donald Trump warned, in a tweet that “Major consideration is being given to naming Antifa an ‘organization of terror.'”
Aside from the lack of any official designation, no fixed, universally accepted definition of “terrorist” or “terrorist organization” exists, so the question of whether Antifa — which is more a transnational movement than a traditional, hierarchical organization — should be labeled as such is ultimately a matter for subjective argument.