Scene-Level Trope: Riot Bricks

The “riot bricks” trope is a good example of how scene-level tropes function on “trope-field fit”. The riot bricks trope is used in the service of a larger narrative-level trope around protest — that protests are actually being organized for violence by a secret elite. Like most narrative-level tropes, there are examples of less-than-organic protests (and protest violence) in past and present history, but the conspiracy theory version goes further, imagining a secret elite that provisions these riots day before in plain sight, often through some conspiracy with local officials.

With that as your narrative, what evidence can you bring to bear? Repeatedly since at least 2020, the “riot bricks” trope has been popular. The idea, of course, is some secret conspiracy is making sure bricks are ready-to-hand for some riot that will appear spontaneous but is really a coordinated operation. It’s a silly trope, of course. It’s not as if there aren’t a lack of heavy things around cities or that the professional rioters these people imagine wouldn’t be capable of bringing a brick or two to a protest. There’s not been, to my knowledge, any riot where dozens of rioters have been unloading brick after brick off pallets, at least in recent U.S. memory. There are many more compelling conspiracy theories you could build if you were starting from scratch.

But that’s the thing — you aren’t starting from scratch. When creating these “detail-driven rumors” the conspiracy theorist is stuck with the details at hand, and what the riot bricks trope lacks in believability it makes up for in availability. There’s always bricks around a city, somewhere, after all. So the recipe here is quite straightforward: find some bricks before an anticipated protest. Snap a picture, ask a question that will be clear to those who know the trope but opaque to moderators. Collect retweets. Lather, rinse, repeat.

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