Fact Check

Did 'Leftist Activists Loot Target To Protest Right-Wing Boycott of Target'?

This claim from the Twitter account News That Matters definitely is not news.

Published May 26, 2023

 (Twitter)
Image courtesy of Twitter
Claim:
In May 2023, "leftist activists" looted a Target store in response to conservative boycotts of Target.

On May 26, 2023, the Twitter account News That Matters garnered over 1 million views and myriad retweets by sharing a picture of a looted Target store alongside the text, "Leftist activists loot Target to protest right-wing boycott of Target."

The tweet came amid a conservative effort to protest Target for its inclusion of trans-friendly products and its collaboration with a "satanist" fashion designer in its Pride 2023 merchandise. That protest led Target to remove some items in the Pride collection, which in turn led to a liberal backlash.

Though not directly labeled as satire, the account's pinned tweet — along with the content of its Twitter feed — strongly imply that the content is satirical, as other fact-checking outlets have stated:

A new study shows that a shocking number of American adults have trouble spelling the word "satire," let alone recognizing it

The image used in the tweet is unrelated to the 2023 campaign against Target over the Pride collection. It was taken at a Target store in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the wake of protests over the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, on May 25, 2020. 

A variation on this "joke" was tweeted by right-wing internet pundit Ian Miles Cheong at nearly the same time as the News That Matters tweet. 

His tweet took a video from inside the same Target store during the same protests and sarcastically attributed the acts of destruction to conservatives, reminding them to "disavow the destruction of Target stores nationwide." 

In a later audio tweet, Cheong expressed disappointment that some people did not get the joke, saying: 

I am appalled, deeply appalled and disappointed in the fact that some of you cannot grasp sarcasm. When I post a video of Black Lives Matter rioters destroying a Target store and label it conservative destruction of target stores and call it transphobia, it's supposed to be sarcastic. 

In both cases, photographs or videos of events related to protests over Floyd's death were re-purposed to make a "satirical" or "sarcastic" point about liberal anger at Target for making concessions to conservative interest groups related to the store's 2023 Pride collection. 

Claims in which these assertions are taken seriously, therefore, originated as satire. 

Sources

@stillgray. "Conservatives Must Disavow the Destruction of Target Stores Nationwide. This Will Not Be the Summer of Transphobia." Twitter, https://twitter.com/stillgray/status/1662133238306062336. Accessed 26 May 2023.

---. "My Disappointment Is Immeasurable and My Day Is Ruined." Twitter, https://twitter.com/stillgray/status/1662137832490799107. Accessed 26 May 2023.

Swann, Sara. "Claim That Congress Members Exempted Themselves from IRS Audits Started as Satire." Poynter, 24 Aug. 2022, https://www.poynter.org/fact-checking/2022/claim-that-congress-members-exempted-themselves-from-irs-audits-started-as-satire/.

T, Brett. "'Completely Trashed': Townhall's Julio Rosas Takes Us inside That Minneapolis Target That Was Looted." Twitchy.Com, 28 May 2020, https://twitchy.com/brettt-3136/2020/05/28/completely-trashed-townhalls-julio-rosas-takes-us-inside-that-minneapolis-target-that-was-looted/.

"Target Is Shutting Down More Than a Dozen Minneapolis Stores 'Until Further Notice' After Looting." Yahoo Life, 28 May 2020, https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/target-shutting-down-more-dozen-223611736.html.

@ThatmattersNews. "A New Study Shows That a Shocking Number of American Adults Have Trouble Spelling the Word 'Satire,' Let Alone Recognizing It." Twitter, https://twitter.com/ThatmattersNews/status/1559941238538764288. Accessed 26 May 2023.

ThatmattersNews. "Leftist Activists Loot Target to Protest Right-Wing Boycott of Target." Twitter, https://twitter.com/ThatmattersNews/status/1662133229179006976. Accessed 26 May 2023.

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.