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Just two days after news broke that Breitbart.com’s serial harasser Milo Yiannopoulos would speak at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the conference’s hosts have rescinded his speaking invitation after video circulated of Yiannopoulos “condoning pedophilia.” While CPAC is now trying to do damage control, there were any number of reasons not to elevate Yiannopoulos before the video resurfaced. And anyone familiar with Yiannopoulos’ persona -- including the leadership at CPAC -- should have known that continuing to ally themselves with a champion of the so-called “alt-right” would eventually lead to something like this.
Milo Yiannopoulos is a senior editor at Breitbart.com, the “alt-right” website formerly run by Stephen Bannon, President Donald Trump’s chief strategist (Bannon is still set to speak at CPAC this year). Yiannopoulos has spent years positioning himself as the poster boy for radical “free speech,” traveling on speaking tours and doing publicity stunts that target, hurt, and harass women, people of color, undocumented students, and the transgender community, among other already at-risk groups.
He was a key figure in the 2014 “Gamergate” harassment campaign, and was also permanently banned from Twitter for his role in the targeted online attacks on black actress Leslie Jones after she starred in an all-female remake of Ghostbusters. More recently, Yiannopoulos targeted a transgender student during an appearance on his college tour, displaying the student’s name and photo on a giant screen, as the Breitbart livestream of his speech featured a camera with crosshairs scanning across the audience (a “trigger cam”).
This behavior is typical of the Breitbart senior editor -- Yiannopoulos and his misogynist “alt-right” fans encourage each other constantly within smaller online communities, repurposing cartoons, speaking in code to one another, and seeking out new individuals to target outside of their “alt-right” white nationalist base.
CPAC was apparently ready to reward Yiannopoulos’ dangerous behavior with more speaking time at its conference than the sitting vice president was offered. On Saturday, the Hollywood Reporter broke news that Yiannopoulos was reportedly set to deliver the keynote speech at CPAC next weekend; Yiannopoulos said the speech would focus on his "experiences in America battling feminists, Black Lives Matter, the media, professors and the entertainment industry.” Some conservatives were not pleased. Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, the group that hosts CPAC, subsequently released a statement clarifying that Yiannopoulos was not the conference’s keynote speaker but would remain one of 75 speakers in total.
Then, on Sunday night, video emerged on Twitter that “appeared to show the far-right agitator defending pedophilia.” The shared videos, in which Yiannopoulos seems to defend sexual relationships between 13-year-old boys and older men or women and joke about sexual abuse, “weren't new, they were repackaged and published on Twitter by a conservative account clearly critical of the CPAC invite.”
The conservative Twitter account behind the original video, “The Reagan Battalion,” has since posted several more videos of Yiannopoulos, including another in which he makes light of sexual assault and a longer, unedited cut as well as the full original video (in response to Yiannopoulos’ original defense that the video was “selectively edited.”) After the videos made the rounds on Twitter, more conservative figures belatedly expressed disappointment and horror at Yiannopoulos’ CPAC role. And now, just two days after the initial reports of his planned speech broke, CPAC has rescinded Yiannopoulos’ invitation due to the “offensive video.”
But Schlapp, and the larger conservative movement that’s increasingly relied on heinous “alt-right” harassment bros to drum up support, knew what they were doing when they invited Yiannopoulos to speak at their annual conference. It is worth reiterating that the Reagan Battalion videos were not new, and neither are any of the other things Milo Yiannopoulos has said and done over the years.
It’s not news that Yiannopoulos thinks the campus sexual assault epidemic is a “fantasy” or that he will say literally anything for attention, no matter how out-of-bounds. It’s not a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the “alt-right” white nationalist movement Breitbart has supported that Yiannopoulos repeatedly frames targeted harassment campaigns of transgender individuals, black women, and undocumented students as some disgusting testament to his own conveniently warped understanding of the First Amendment.
While Yiannopoulos is no longer speaking at the event, CPAC did announce another speaker on Monday: someone who was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault and then managed to win a presidential campaign.
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Elle.com, the online version of the women’s style magazine Elle, announced it is joining a project coalition led by nonprofit investigative journalism outlet ProPublica in order to offer its readers a place to report hate crimes and bias incidents. The collaboration is an example of the important roles women-centered outlets are playing in the world of political journalism.
With its diverse audience and newsroom -- and its focus on personal stories -- Elle.com will help ProPublica's "Documenting Hate" project reach a broader population, translating into more accurate reporting.
ProPublica, a public interest journalism nonprofit, launched the project last November in an effort to “create a national database [of hate crimes] for use by journalists, researchers and civil-rights organizations." ProPublica explained that it hoped to partner with a variety of news outlets, schools, and civil rights groups to document hate crimes and incidents of identity-based harassment and intimidation systematically, since the federal government’s documentation of these instances is not comprehensive (emphasis added):
Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the New York Police Department report a recent uptick in bias incidents and hate crimes. But with thousands of police departments failing to report alleged or even confirmed hate crimes to the FBI, we lack foundational information about how many such crimes occur in any given year, where they might occur the most and least, who the targets of such crimes tend to be, and how this has changed over time.
The “Documenting Hate” project already listed several notable identity-specific outlets as partners on this commendable project, including The Root, Univision News, Latino USA, New America Media, and The Advocate. On January 31, Elle.com joined their ranks with a simple post explaining the lack of comprehensive hate crime data available to reporters and the public. It concluded by encouraging readers to share details of hate crimes they’d experienced at ProPublica’s website and wrote, “We need to hear it.”
Elle’s announced participation in the “Documenting Hate” project is in line with the fearless, reader-oriented commitment to political reporting that many were somehow surprised to find in the pages of women’s magazines and websites during the 2016 presidential race. In fact, it all makes perfect sense.
Elle.com, like other women-focused outlets, is helmed by a woman and features, almost exclusively, women writers. In addition to editorial director Leah Chernikoff and executive editor Chloe Schama, the site recently welcomed former MSNBC host and professor Melissa Harris-Perry as editor-at-large, with her work focusing on “the intersection of race, gender, politics, and yes, even fashion, telling the often-overlooked stories of women and girls of color” across Elle’s platforms. The young women and women of color leading the way at Elle.com mirror the demographics of their readers -- populations that are also significantly more likely to experience identity-based violence according to the limited data that’s already available.
Elle is one of many women’s outlets that have published work this post-election season that has uplifted individual experiences that aren’t otherwise told in mainstream media, and has highlighted quality political reporting from and about often-overlooked voices. This latest move seems to signal that Elle is not only planning to keep telling stories that speak to women -- especially young women and women of color -- it’s ready to listen to them, too. With a presidential administration that’s infinitely more hostile to both members of the press and the women who make up Elle's newsrooms and audience, now is the time for more identity-based outlets to step up.
Image created by Sarah Wasko.
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President Donald Trump appears to be proposing policy responses to a segment from Fox News host Bill O'Reilly on the violence in Chicago. Trump announced on Twitter that he will "send in the Feds" to respond to the "carnage" in Chicago. Trump's tweet included statistics that were used in a graphic from O'Reilly's show and referenced statements made by O’Reilly during the segment.
During the January 24 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly discussed the violence in Chicago, asking, “can President Trump override local Illinois and Chicago authorities, and stop the murder?”
BILL O'REILLY (HOST): And in the Impact Segment tonight, the violence in Chicago getting worse, if you can believe it. The first 23 days of this year, 42 homicides in the Windy City, up 24 percent from last year. An unbelievable 228 people have been shot and Chicago in 23 days. While campaigning last July, Donald Trump said this.
The question is, can President Trump override local Illinois and Chicago authorities, and stop the murder? Joining us now from Washington, Horace Cooper, an attorney that specializes in federal law. So, can he go in? And Cook County is where Chicago is located. Everybody says the same thing, gun crimes are not prosecuted aggressively, the sentences are way too low, the gang thing is getting worse, the mayor of Chicago has no clue, the governor of Illinois doesn't want to do anything about it, so can the feds go in and stop this?
HORACE COOPER: Well absolutely the feds can do this. And as you’ve pointed out there has been a wholesale failure on the part of the state and local communities to address this really serious problem. I don’t know another word besides carnage to describe the devastation that’s been taking place.
The segment included on-air graphics of Chicago's violence so far in 2017.
In what appears to be a response to O'Reilly's segment, Trump mimicked O’Reilly’s language in a tweet about an hour later noting that Chicago has had 228 shootings and 42 murders so far in 2017. And in what appears to be a reference to Horace Cooper, Trump called the violence "carnage," claiming that "If Chicago doesn't fix the horrible 'carnage' ... I will send in the Feds!"
If Chicago doesn't fix the horrible "carnage" going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2017
WND Uses Fake News Reports To Fearmonger Against Middle Eastern Immigrants
WorldNetDaily (WND) writer Leo Hohmann is standing by debunked reports that Syrian refugee children sexually assaulted a 5-year-old girl in Twin Falls, ID. Local officials said the reports were not true, and the state’s former attorney general called out Hohmann’s reporting and said his “so-called news” site plays “fast and loose with the truth.” Hohmann, who has a history of fearmongering about Muslims and refugees, claimed that the local officials are “covering up” the real story. WorldNetDaily also played an instrumental role in promoting the racist “birther” campaign against former President Barack Obama.
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While every other major cable news morning show acknowledged the guilty verdict of Charleston, SC, gunman Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black parishioners in a racially motivated shooting, Fox News’ Fox & Friends made no mention of it during the December 16 broadcast.
On June 17, 2015, Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, and murdered nine black parishioners, having been influenced by white supremacists and white nationalists. On December 15, Roof was found guilty on all 33 charges brought against him, including “hate crimes that resulted in death,” after only two hours of deliberation by the jury.
While cable morning shows on CNN and MSNBC both reported on the verdict and discussed the implications for race relations, Fox & Friends failed to mention it, even in a brief headlines segment. Instead, the show found time to host a Fox News doctor to attack the Affordable Care Act, give a Fox News contributor who is under consideration for a position in the incoming administration an opportunity to pitch himself, and test out “As Seen on TV” products.
The omission is not the first time Fox News has played down the issues surrounding the Charleston murders. When the shooting was first reported, Fox & Friends’ Steve Doocy claimed it was “extraordinary” that it was considered a hate crime, Fox guest Rudy Giuliani claimed that Roof potentially “hat[ed] Christian churches” -- a point that was echoed by Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade on his radio show -- and one Fox guest blamed the shooting on “the left wing” and “their education system.”
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is scrubbing online content pushing the false and dangerous conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton’s campaign trafficked children through a D.C. pizzeria. A man who recently entered the pizzeria with a rifle and fired shots reportedly shared a piece of Jones’ content before the shooting; the video he shared is still on the website.
Jones is a radio host who has claimed that the government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and the tragedies at Columbine, Oklahoma City, Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon. Jones has also repeatedly accused the Clintons of murder. He has been elevated from the fringes to the mainstream by President-elect Donald Trump, who appeared on his show and praised his “amazing” reputation. Trump adviser Roger Stone is also a regular Jones guest and contributor.
Jones and his Infowars website have promoted the false conspiracy theory dubbed "pizzagate," which alleges that top Clinton associates such as campaign chair John Podesta are trafficking children through the Comet Ping Pong restaurant.
The false claims took a dangerous turn when Edgar Maddison Welch fired an assault rifle inside the pizzeria because he was trying to “self-investigate” the conspiracy theory. FBI special agent Justin Holgate stated in a criminal complaint that Welch said he sent a video on the night of December 1 with the message “Watch PIZZAGATE: The Bigger Picture on YouTube” to a friend before the shooting:
“Pizzagate: The Bigger Picture” is the headline Infowars used for a December 1 article -- still online -- promoting a video from Infowars producer Jon Bowne that pushes the pizzagate conspiracy theory. Jones tweeted the headline on December 1. The headline was also used on YouTube by a non-Infowars accounts to promote the Infowars video.
Jones and Infowars appear to be scrubbing commentary about pizzagate. Jones’ YouTube channel posted a November 23 video headlined “Pizzagate Is Real: Something Is Going On, But What?” The video has since “been removed by the user,” though it’s not clear when.
The video has been re-uploaded or re-upped by other toxic conspiracy theorists (some of whom speculated about why Jones deleted it). During the video, Jon Bowne states that Clinton allies are “using a code to communicate child sex trafficking as casually as ordering a pizza.” The video then states that Comet Ping Pong “may be competing for the lucrative Washington, D.C., pedophile market right out in the open.”
While Jones has removed content related to pizzagate, his website still contains false articles promoting the conspiracy theory. For instance, Kit Daniels posted a November 5 piece headlined “Law Enforcement Begs World: Read Hillary Emails To Find Child Rape Evidence; Hillary Linked To Child Sex Ring, Emails Suggest.” The article suggested that John Podesta was potentially involved in “child molestation” and “child pornography” because his hacked email account contained “strange” references to “pizza”:
Jones has been attempting to distance himself from his clear promotions of pizzagate. Yet Jones’ own content -- scrubbed or otherwise -- proves that he can’t run away from it.
*This post has been updated for clarity.
The New York Times interviewed Edgar Welch, the alleged armed gunman who went to Washington, D.C’s Comet Ping-Pong pizzeria in a self-described attempt to investigate the false “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory repeatedly pushed by Donald Trump ally and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Jones has been described as “more responsible than any other person for the spread of ‘Pizzagate,’” and has bragged about his private conversations with Trump and their close ideological beliefs. In the Times interview, Welch admitted to being a listener to Alex Jones and claimed that “he touches on some issues that are viable,” but even the alleged gunman admitted that sometimes Jones “goes off the deep end.”
He said he did not believe in conspiracy theories, but then added that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks needed to be re-examined. He has listened to Alex Jones, whose radio show traffics in conspiracy theories and who once said that Mrs. Clinton “has personally murdered and chopped up” children. “He’s a bit eccentric,” Mr. Welch said. “He touches on some issues that are viable but goes off the deep end on some things.”
ABC, NBC, CBS Show “How A Fake News Story Can Lead To A Real Life-Threatening Situation"
Nightly news programs on NBC, CBS, and ABC examined “how a fake news story can lead to real world consequences” in their reports on a shooting incident at Comet Ping Pong, a Washington, DC, pizzeria.
Accused shooter Edgar Welch entered the pizzeria on December 4 with an AR-15 assault rifle, fired at least one round into the floor, and told authorities he was there to “self-investigate” the conspiracy theory that dozens of prominent liberals are complicit in an international child sex trafficking ring, because emails stolen from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta referenced “pizza.”
While conservative media outlets have typically downplayed fake news stories calling them “silly” and “nonsense,” broadcast nightly news programs on NBC, CBS, and ABC reported how fake news can have dangerous consequences.
NBC correspondent Tom Costello reported on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt that “the Pizzagate conspiracy began with the Clinton WikiLeaks and an email stolen from campaign chief John Podesta about a fundraiser involving the restaurant.” Costello noted that 4chan users “suggested without any proof whatsoever that the word ‘pizza’ was code for ‘child sex trafficking’ at the restaurant,” and from there the malicious rumor spread “to Reddit and YouTube, feeding fake online news stories, then jumping to Facebook and Twitter.” Even though “both DC police and federal agents say the story is false,” Costello added that “discredited rumors about sex trafficking” targeting Democrats are “even shared by President-Elect Trump’s choice for national security adviser, General Michael T. Flynn.”:
On CBS’ Evening News with Scott Pelley, Chip Reid took apart the “fictitious online conspiracy theory” started by “right-wing sites that make up fake news” alleging Clinton and her associates were involved in a pedophile ring. Host Scott Pelley noted that the shooter gave up when he “found no evidence that underage children were being harbored in the restaurant,” as the lies on the internet baselessly alleged:
ABC senior justice correspondent Pierre Thomas highlighted the “egregious and deliberate lie” that is the Pizzagate conspiracy on ABC World News Tonight with Scott Pelley. Thomas reported that the suspect “aimed a rifle at an employee and fired a round into the floor” because he decided to “self-investigate” the “utterly false story about child abuse” at Comet Ping Pong. Thomas further reported that “employees have been besieged by death threats” since the right-wing lie gained traction online, “shows how a fake news story can lead to a real life-threatening situation”:
President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly considering right-wing talk radio host and Fox News favorite Sheriff David Clarke for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Not only is Clarke’s record as Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin questionable, he has repeatedly appeared on Fox News to spout racially-charged rhetoric, including comparing Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance to the Ku Klux Klan and calling Black Lives Matter a “subversive movement.”
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