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Over-Hyped Fire in Paris Garage Prompts Palace of Versailles Conspiracy Theory

From French news site 78Actu, 23 April:

Les cendres fument encore à l’heure qu’il est mais l’incendie qui a détruit un garage, rue du Parc de Clagny à Versailles (Yvelines) est maitrisé.

…Vers 17h, dans le garage Automobiles du Parc de Clagny, un ouvrier est en train de faire des soudures lorsque cela déclenche l’incendie.

The report explains that a welding accident had caused a large fire at a garage in the Paris suburb of Versailles. Apparently more than 80 firefighters were involved in putting it out, and videos of the incident show that there was a substantial plume of dark smoke. There were no injuries.

This was mundane news of some local interest, but the words “Versailles” and “fire” led to a misunderstanding on social media that the Palace of Versailles (Château de Versailles) was on fire. Coming so soon after the fire at Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral, this was then cited as new evidence that the Notre Dame fire was suspicious. As the days have passed, the lack of any news reports confirming such a dramatic development has been described by diehard conspiracists (using a #versaillesfire hashtag) as a “news blackout” – a proposition so boneheaded that it must be superfluous even to allude to the many obvious improbabilities and impossibilities of such a proposal.

The misunderstanding owes a great deal to the Kremlin-linked news agency Sputnik. Sputnik’s English-language report did specify “a car warehouse at the Rue du Parc”, but this was not reflected in the headline, which referred only to “a huge fire in Versailles”. (1) Sputnik’s French Twitter feed made use of a gratuitous flashing “URGENT” gif (which it also uses on other reports), while its Moldovan report sensationalised via a stock image of a conflagration and asked “Istoria se repetă?”, clearly implying a link with Notre Dame. The information about the welding context provided by 78Actu (“de faire des soudures”) was not mentioned anywhere.

The news cycle has moved on, but within the conspiracy milieu a vague memory will likely lodge that a famous French landmark was consumed by fire shortly after Notre Dame, with disconfirmations (most obviously, the continued existence of an undamaged Palace of Versailles, visited daily by thousands of tourists) either irrelevant or demonstrating the extent of the cover up.

Excursus

A related conspiracy theory suggests that the fire in fact targeted a church on the same street as the garage. However, this church has a social media presence and its postings indicate nothing amiss.

Footnote

1. Some social media discussion refers to a “car dealership” rather than a “car warehouse”.