There are viral sensations, and then there's the recent internet "fury" over District Attorney George Gascón.
Since its unveiling last week, a Facebook page called "George Gascón is a Racist" had amassed almost 89,000 Likes as of Tuesday evening; a similar Twitter account has almost 27,000 followers.
At first, it was easy to dismiss this internet ire as hack astroturfing — many of the "followers" are bot accounts or from foreign countries where likes are cheap. Then, whoever's behind the page started posting insider information, such as "leaks" that make specific accusations of inner-circle DA office dealings, including prosecutors' drunk-driving arrests or ties to Hells Angel, as well as the heavy allegation that a Vallejo man's shooting death at the hands of a police officer was covered up by a Solano County prosecutor now working for Gascón.
Though none of the claims could be immediately confirmed — and could be libelous — they have been shared on Facebook by real people, including those who claim to have been cops under Gascón at his old posting in Mesa, Ariz., and others identifying as current Bay Area sheriff's deputies.
But who's behind all this? It's a mystery. Gascón's current enemy No. 1, and the chief suspect — the city's police union, the Police Officers Association, which has been waging jihad on Gascón ever since he formed a panel to investigate bias in the department, and which recently spread the story of a wine-fueled Gascon spewing racial epithets at a dinner way back in 2011 — insists it's not them.
"We have nothing to do with it," says Nathan Ballard, the POA's political consultant, who said he "almost groaned" when the @GasconResign Twitter account started retweeting his tweets.
In a conversation conducted via Facebook, a page administrator says that it's a "group effort" of concerned "activists" — and they're not cops.
"Let's just say [Gascón] pissed off many minorities and we are activists revealing the truth," the administrator wrote, before accusing local media in San Francisco of covering up for Gascón.
As for Gascón — who is in trouble with local police for digging into racial bias, and who is now being accused of racial bias by a social media version of Anonymous — his people declined to comment, hoping silence would deny earned media to the shadowy social media smear campaign
But whether they're real or fake, the news spread to over 100,000 social media followers will be hard to ignore forever — especially if Gascón's mysterious enemies start dishing dirt nobody can deny.