IT’S A WORD OF THE DAY QUIZ BONANZA!
Origin of false flag
Words nearby false flag
ABOUT THIS WORD
What is a false flag?
A false flag is intentional misrepresentation, especially a covert political or military operation carried out to appear as if it was undertaken by another party.
Where does false flag come from?
The term false flag first appeared in the 16th century as a metaphor for an intentional misrepresentation of one’s motives. The idea draws on military flags flown to signal one’s allegiances, with a false flag thus misdirecting an opponent.
This day in history. On November 26, 1939, the USSR shelled the Russian village of Mainila and claimed it had come from Finland. Four days later, Moscow used this false flag operation as an excuse to start the Winter War. pic.twitter.com/9ocQkZ0iKF
— Meduza in English (@meduza_en) November 27, 2018
In the 1800s, actual false flags were flown in naval operations. Officers or pirates would fly the flag of their enemy to approach them slowly without trouble, only to switch back to their true colors in an attack. It wasn’t long before the cannons fired.
In the late 20th century, false flags persisted as a metaphor for when perpetrators make it look like another group initiated the attack. In contemporary contexts, it’s more likely to be terrorists, militants, political operatives, or governments engaging in false flagging, or carrying out false flag operations. Notable false flag operations in history include the Gleiwitz incident during World War II and the Gulf of Tonkin incident during the Vietnam War.
False flag came into the public spotlight in October 2018 when pipe bombs were mailed to prominent Democrats and critics of President Donald Trump, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Some right-wing observers claimed, with no supporting evidence, that these pipe bombs were false flags, sent by liberals but made to look like a conservative carried it out in order to drum up outrage ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
How is false flag used in real life?
The term false flag is frequently raised in news reporting on major geopolitical incidents. In 2016, for instance, a journalist for the BBC reported that some speculated Turkey’s 2016 military coup could be a false flag, stating of the attempted coup: “One theory suggests it was a ‘false flag’ event staged by President Erdogan to gain more power, but common sense dictates the event went too far to be a false flag.”
Syrian insurgents reportedly fire chlorine-filled mortars at govt-held Aleppo and like magic, the Bellingcat crew transforms into chemical attack skeptics, demanding more evidence, cautioning against a reckless rush to judgment and warning about false flag/fabrication. pic.twitter.com/4EcRTTQyOG
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) November 26, 2018
More examples of false flag:
“‘False Flag’ Theory on Pipe Bombs Zooms From Right-Wing Fringe to Mainstream”
—Kevin Roose, New York Times (headline), October 2018
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.