On 22 May 2017, various conspiracy theories began to emerge on the Internet pushing narratives that a suicide bombing attack that killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England was either a hoax or a "false flag" — a mass tragedy staged by the government (or governments) to manipulate the public.
One such widely-shared video was posted to YouTube the same day of the attack, and has since been viewed thousands of times. In it, a male narrator concludes that the attack was a hoax, because he takes at face value the words of an announcer who was trying to calm a panicked crowd at Manchester Arena by assuring them there was no need to run in the aftermath of the explosion.
An archived copy of the conspiracy video can be viewed on the Wayback Machine:
In footage from a camera phone taken inside the arena immediately after the bomb exploded, the announcer's voice can be heard urging calm. He says:
Ladies and gentleman, please take your time. There’s no need to bunch up. There’s no problems here. Just take your time and exit the building. There’s no need to bunch up and run. Take your time, there’s no problems here. Thank you for coming and having a good time tonight. Everything is fine. Just take your time in exiting the building. Thank you very much. Walk slowly, there’s no need to run.
— alex (@butterywig101) May 22, 2017
The explanation for the announcer's verbiage is simple. After the explosion, footage from inside Manchester Arena shows panic, with people running for the building's exits. This is recipe for a stampede, and the announcer was trying to prevent that from happening — and may well have succeeded. After posting the video in which the announcement can be heard, the same Twitter user said people did slow down in order to listen to him:
We were trying to get out as quick as possible but people were stopping to listen to he announcement so it was difficult to
— alex (@butterywig101) May 22, 2017
But the narrator of the conspiracy video took the announcer's words literally, saying that by directing people not to crowd and panic, he inadvertently revealed nothing had actually happened:
Supposedly 19 killed, 50 injured by a massive explosion, and this man says over the P.A. 'don't panic, don't run, don't bunch up, there's no problem here.' See the problem here? This is nothing but a fabricated hoax, and this of course, this audio he's saying wasn't meant to be captured of course and to be put out for public consumption. It doesn't jive of course with the narrative that this was a of course terrorist attack... 'Everything is fine.' And everything is fine... This is an open and closed case, right off the bat.
The conspiracy video's narrator states his belief that the attack was staged as part of a series of fake tragedies to control the masses. This is demonstrably false. Greater Manchester Police confirmed that they have spoken to grieving families of the 22 deceased and that the coroner is performing postmortem examinations. Once this is complete, identities of the victims will be made public. Police are actively investigating the attack and have taken multiple people into custody. There is also ample footage taken by concert goers that shows everything from the moment the bomb exploded to people scrambling for safety. Authorities have identified the suicide bomber as 22-year-old Salman Abedi, a British citizen who had been on their radar for his extremist views.
In an e-mail, Manchester police panned the suggestion the attack was a hoax. They told us:
We are currently dealing with a live investigation into the attack which has left 22 innocent people dead.
We take great offence to any suggestion that the attack on the Manchester Arena is some sort of ‘false flag’ or ‘drill’, as I’m sure the rest of the people of Manchester and the families of the victims would.
Another iteration of the conspiracy theory was posted by notorious fake news-generating web site, YourNewsWire. The post pushes the baseless "false flag" conspiracy that the British government knew about the attack beforehand and even practiced for it days earlier but did nothing to prevent it, as evidenced by a terror attack drill at Manchester mall days earlier:
British intelligence and law enforcement were aware of plans to kill as many people as possible at the O2 Arena in Manchester, but rather than apprehend the terrorist, they let him kill 19 people, and the death toll may yet rise.
Britain’s open borders have provided the elite with the useful terrorists necessary to do their dirty work for them. British intelligence and law enforcement ‘allowed’ this attack to happen in order to justify cracking down on the innocent population even further, taking away more and more civil liberties, until we are living in a police state.
As "evidence" the article points to a year-old video from RT (formerly Russia Today, a Kremlin-funded television station) that depicts a drill conducted by police at Trafford Centre in Manchester the evening of 9 May 2016. But YourNewsWire either misread the year, or is deliberately misleading readers by claiming that the drill occurred "less than two weeks" before the 22 May 2017 suicide bombing attack at the concert:
Less than two weeks after RT posted footage of crisis actors preparing for a terrorist attack in Manchester, a radical Islamic terrorist carried out a bloody attack on young girls, and it was allowed to happen.
Terrorists are walking freely into our countries and being allowed to perform barbaric acts that terrorize good, law-abiding citizens. In some cases law enforcement and intelligence actually assist the terrorists.
According to The Guardian, the 2016 drill was meant to mimic similar attacks in Paris and Brussels and included 800 volunteers. This is no surprise — the terror threat level in the United Kingdom has been "severe" since 2014, which means authorities believed an attack was "highly likely." After the Manchester suicide bombing the level was raised to "critical" meaning an attack is "imminent." Practicing for the likely event of a terrorist attack in a country that has been on alert for that very thing is hardly suspect.
British authorities are actively investigating the Manchester attack and as of 24 May 2017 have taken seven people into custody as they work to head off further tragedies. There is no credible evidence supporting the claim the tragedy was a hoax or a "false flag", and YourNewsWire has a long track record of promoting false information.