Conspiracy theorists have insisted on social media sites in recent days that Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania has been replaced by a body double. And while it’s not unusual for random people to make outrageous claims online, this time is unique precisely because the outrageous claims gone viral, racking up millions of views. But there’s no evidence Fetterman has been cloned, as the conspiracy theorists insist.
One tweet suggesting Fetterman’s tattoos have somehow disappeared has been viewed over 2.3 million times on X, the website formerly known as Twitter. Why would someone go to all the trouble in making a life-like body double, yet forget to give that look-alike the same tattoos? That part isn’t clear.
As many people have pointed out, the tattoos aren’t visible in the second photo simply because they’re on a different part of the senator’s arm.
Another tweet featuring six different photos of Fetterman has racked up over 5.9 million views on X, implying that the senator is perhaps being impersonated by several different look-alikes.
But the most obvious explanation for why Fetterman looks slightly different in each photo lies in the differing focal lengths. Various focal lengths can make people look different, which is one of the reasons that film directors can cultivate a familiar style, even when they’re filming different actors.
Again, there’s no evidence that Fetterman has been replaced by a clone or body-double, despite such claims becoming more and more common on X. It should probably be noted that these claims are being made by people with blue check marks on X, a program that used to be known as verification. After Elon Musk bought the platform, the billionaire stripped so-called legacy users of their check marks and allowed anyone with $8 to spend a chance to get “verified.”
This decision has allowed people who peddle in disinformation and conspiracy theories to see their tweets get amplified. As a recent example, many of the false claims being made about Burning Man earlier this month—from fire tornadoes to Ebola outbreaks— were made by users with blue check marks.
Why are people so convinced Fetterman specifically is a body double? That part isn’t clear, but it’s a common idea among people who believe in the QAnon conspiracy theory. Essentially, people who follow QAnon believe that a global network of powerful people are conspiring to perform satanic rituals and abuse children. They also believe that Donald Trump was elected president to put a stop to the abuse and that many powerful figures have already been executed, thus the common belief among QAnon followers that people like Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton are actually clones or body doubles.
Attorney Mark Bankston, who’s represented family members of people who were killed in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, pointed out on X that it was incredibly common for people to claim his clients were actually “crisis actors” or people trying to hide their true identity. Bankston pointed out that what’s currently happening with photos of Fetterman is identical to what some of the Sandy Hook parents went through after conspiracy theorists insisted it was all a fake shooting to pass stricter gun laws. The conspiracy theorists never explain how the complete failure to pass stricter gun laws in the wake of Sandy Hook fits into their worldview.
Yet again, I have to stress there’s no evidence that Fetterman or any other politician has been replaced with a clone. It may seem obvious, but as the political media landscape becomes even more fractured and conspiratorial, it’s something that needs to be pointed out.
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