Seth Rich, 27, was an employee of the Democratic National Committee. He was murdered on July 10, 2016, at about 4 in the morning, in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington DC. He received two gunshots to the back and died within 90 minutes of it. The reasons for his murder are unknown, which has led to a long series of speculations and conspiracy theories.
Right-wing conspiracy theories are multiplying at a fast rate, some of which claim that Richard had been an active participant in the leaked DNC emails in the same year. However, this was strongly contradicted by the law enforcement branches that were investigating Seth’s murder, along with 12 Russian military agents who were involved in the July 2018 indictment for hacking email accounts and networks of Democratic Party officials. By the US Intelligence community’s claims, the leaked emails were indeed a part of the Russian interference with the 2016 US elections.
Social Media Eruption On The Murder Of Seth Rich
A day after Rich’s murder, racially-laced comments were making their appearance on social media. Right-wing conspiracy theories aimed at connecting Rich’s death to the DNC email leak of 2016 or the Clinton Foundation’s investigation by the FBI. Before Rich’s memorial service, a post on Twitter surfaced which fueled the idea of his death being a political assassination, with some Reddit users even jumping in to associate this matter with the ‘Clinton Body Count’ conspiracy theory, which was later popularized by Trump.
British journalist Campbell also claimed that the Russian intelligence agency tried to implicate Rich so as to draw suspicion away from themselves as the true inducers of the theft. The DNC files had date stamps altered to show that the data was obtained a few days before Rich’s alleged murder, with the time zone being changed to the Eastern timeline, within which Washington falls. The GRU front that was allegedly providing emails to WikiLeaks reported that Rich was their source for the information. Some experts also claimed that the emails had been copied in the DNC offices and not hacked from the outside.
Bank hack in early 2012Bank hack in early 2012The Involvement Of Wikileaks
The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, also fueled the speculation when he brought the case of Seth Rich and nodded on being asked if he was a source. However, he later said, “We don’t comment on who our sources are.” Further statements by the organization assured that Rich wasn’t a source, and deeper investigations also brought out the association with the Trump campaign, thus putting Assange’s motives under suspicion.
Four days after Rich’s murder, a mail was received by WikiLeaks from the Guccifer 2.0 persona. Direct messages on Twitter revealed that Assange was trying to obtain more emails from Guccifer 2.0, who was already under the radar for being linked to Russian intelligence. Buzzfeed stated that Assange knew a Russian government hacker and used this to feed the groundless claim that Seth Rich was his source. Mike Gottlieb, Rich’s brother’s lawyer, stated that the stolen documents were received by WikiLeaks a day after Seth was shot dead.
The sources for the Pizzagate theory are involved in fueling the conspiracies about Seth Rich’s death. Both these theories were started by far-right political enthusiasts and were spread by automated robots on Twitter using a branded hashtag. Each theory was circulated on Facebook in a planned manner. The promoters were asked to shift the burden of proof- pushing others to disapprove it without proper evidence.
The Metropolitan Police Department of Columbia associated the murders as an ‘attempted robbery’ and that the assumptions put forth by Mr. Wheeler were rather unfounded. Assistant Police Chief Newsham also stated that there were no available connections between Rich’s death and the data obtained by WikiLeaks.
Those who were close to Seth Rich stated that he was no expert hacker that could qualify him as leaking information to foreigners. Rich’s mentor also said that he was working as a programmer and that ‘this wasn’t his background’ when asked about his alleged connection to the hacking. Claims which stated that Rich had sent 17,000 attachments to WikiLeaks were verified by FactCheck.org, which stated that these were ‘unsupported’ and were not backed by enough evidence.