On July 6 2020, Facebook user John Sargent shared the following image, which he claimed showed an “antifa street rioter” named Brian — heavily implying that “Brian’s” injuries were from receiving a righteous beatdown after he “hit a woman”:
This is Brian.
Brian is an Antifa street rioter.
Brian has an allergy.
Brian is allergic to hitting a woman in front of a REAL MAN.
Don’t be like Brian.
A reverse image search rapidly revealed the photograph was taken no later than March 2015; anti-fascism (or “antifa”) did not become a subject of widespread discourse in the United States until late 2016.
A prominent early appearance of the image involved LGBTQ publication The Advocate, which published “After Brutal Beating of Gay Man in Miss., Suspect Outs Himself,” in March 2015:
An alleged antigay hate crime in Mississippi may turn out to be something else entirely now that the suspect has come out in an interview.
James Scott admits he attacked Devin Norman in the parking lot of a Corinth Walmart [in March 2015]; Norman was kicked in the head several times and suffered scars and broken bones. Scott says he didn’t attack Norman because Norman is gay; instead he claims he and the victim were sending photos to each other and Norman threatened to post them on Facebook.
The article clearly identified the bruised person (Devin Norman) as a gay man, and the alleged assailant as a closeted bisexual man.
On March 22 2015, WMC-TV did not use the image, but reported:
CORINTH, MS (WMC) – Twenty-six-year-old Devin Norman has fractures in the bones of his face and bruises to his eyes.
Corinth police say 22-year-old James Scott attacked Norman at the Walmart in Corinth [in March 2015].
“I never thought of him as the kind of violent type,” said Norman. Norman says Scott should be facing hate crime charges, since he used gay slurs and attacked him because of his sexual orientation.
Norman says Scott grabbed him by the back of his neck and punched him after he tried walk away.
A day later, the same news organization followed up with alleged attacker James Scott. Scott claimed the altercation occurred after Norman allegedly threatened to “out” him on Facebook:
CORINTH, MS (WMC) – A man charged with beating up a gay man in Corinth, Mississippi says he snapped, not because the man was gay, but because of what he feared the man would reveal to the rest of the world.
James Scott … says Norman scared him by threatening to post lewd pictures and messages between them to Facebook for the world to see.
“I was screaming, and I said, ‘Don’t you dare post that. Don’t you dare post that on Facebook,'” Scott said.
Scott says he has been in the closet as a bisexual, and he was afraid of how posting those messages would change his life.
“I was in fear for what my kids were going to think. I wasn’t ready to tell anybody,” Scott said.
Police in Corinth, Mississippi indicated they did not believe that it was a hate crime.
A Facebook post claiming a man with a black eye was “Brian,” an “antifa street rioter” who was justly harmed for “hitting a woman” in the presence of a “real man” was composed of lies from start to finish. The man’s name was not Brian, it was Devin Norman. Norman was never accused of “hitting a woman,” rather, he was injured in an altercation over the alleged threatened outing of a bisexual acquaintance. Scott, the man accused of attacking Norman, did not allegedly strike Norman for “hitting a woman,” but for reasons he said related to the content of his messages with Norman. In other words, everything about this photograph is false — except for the photograph itself.