Author Page | Media Matters for America

Cristina López G.

Author ››› Cristina López G.
  • Meet the Press let Trump lie about his family separations policy -- and then spread it further

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    NBC’s Meet the Press aired President Donald Trump’s prerecorded interview with Chuck Todd on Sunday, and -- as it has become the norm for Trump -- the interview featured a number of demonstrably false claims, some of which Todd seemed unable or unwilling to push back on.

    The most egregious lie, however, was one that Trump has told regularly: blaming former President Barack Obama for his own policy of separating immigrant families at the border while falsely taking credit for ending the practice; it's a lie that he and his cadre of media sycophants have repeated so often that multiple fact checks are available explaining that Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy first established the cruel practice.

    Todd not only let Trump’s demonstrably false claim go unchallenged while taping the interview, but he also didn’t provide any pushback while offering live commentary on June 23, days after the interview was recorded. Moreover, Meet the Press irresponsibly amplified and spread Trump’s lie by repeating it without context or pushback on Twitter while the show aired, an act of journalistic malpractice in which news outlets instead become “propaganda distribution systems.”

    Meet the Press amplified this lie without pushback despite that the interview was recorded days ago; this was not a real-time tweet gone awry.

    And it wasn’t the only lie the show helped Trump amplify this way. Meet the Press also tweeted out without any context Trump’s claim that impeachment would be “a very unfair thing because nothing I did was wrong,” failing to mention the number of reported impeachable acts Trump could be held accountable for.

    During the interview itself, Todd failed to pushback effectively on a number of other lies, and he declined to add context for his audiences while commenting on the interview when it aired. As CNN’s Daniel Dale pointed out, Trump also lied about voter fraud in California, and about the real amount of U.S. military sales to Saudi Arabia, and he mischaracterized the way he invoked WikiLeaks while campaigning for the presidency in 2016:

    It's no wonder that many found Todd's interview lacking.

    Meet the Press could have used the time between taping the interview and airing it to add factual context to Trump’s many lies. Its refusal to do so raises questions about the show’s commitment to putting informative, fact-finding journalism before access to the administration.

  • Legacy media ignored Proud Boys presence at Trump’s rally

    In covering Trump's rally, CNN, Fox News, Wash. Post, and NY Times all ignored the extremism present within the Trump coalition

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Cable news and legacy media outlets flocked to Orlando, FL, on June 18 to cover yet another rally for President Donald Trump but ignored the presence of the far-right, extremist group Proud Boys among Trump’s supporters. By not reporting on the group, media failed to contextualize the violent extremism within Trump’s coalition and the campaign’s silent embrace of it.

    While the Orlando rally was no different from the 59 other Trump has held since he became president, media at large fell for his gimmick of rebranding the event as the official launch of his 2020 reelection campaign, showering the president with coverage. And while the presence of Proud Boys got the attention of a few reporters tweeting from the event (some of whom uncritically amplified claims from members of the extremist group), cable news networks CNN and Fox News failed to mention them.

    The welcome exception was MSNBC, which had a more in-depth segment that discussed the Proud Boys and Trump’s “appeal to white supremacists” during the June 19 edition of Deadline: White House, and continued to cover the presence of the extremist group at the rally during The Beat and All In with Chris Hayes.

    The most prominent national newspapers didn’t fare much better. The Washington Post only gave the group a passing mention in its three pieces about the event, using the same lines in every piece:

    The Proud Boys, a self-proclaimed Western chauvinist group, coalesced outside the arena. Police blocked their path forward.

    This phrasing left out the context in which the group members were stopped by police: They were prevented from reaching a gathering of anti-Trump protesters. The group has a record of premeditated violent behavior against anti-Trump protesters and anti-fascist activists.

    The New York Times did not mention the presence of Proud Boys at Trump’s rally in any of its six pieces written about the event, nor during the June 19 edition of its podcast The Daily. It’s a puzzling omission considering it was one of the Times’ own correspondents covering 2020 elections who reported on Twitter about the Trump campaign’s silent embrace of the extremist group.

    It is not hyperbolic to call the Proud Boys an extremist gang. There is ample evidence that the group is prone to violence, as its founder Gavin McInnes once explained:

    McInnes claimed in late 2018 that he was quitting the group, but his graphic misogyny and violent views are also his group’s core ideology. Proud Boys has claimed that women’s primary role in society is to “stay home and make more babies” and its members have been recorded “brutally beating and kicking several individuals.” Violence is, in fact, a requirement to become part of Proud Boys, and McInnes himself has said he “cannot recommend violence enough. It is a really effective way to solve problems.” Even at the Trump rally, the group was heard chanting in defense of Chile’s late far-right murderous dictator Augusto Pinochet, known for throwing political dissidents from helicopters:

    The day of the rally, a HuffPost journalist was doxxed in a Telegram app channel associated with Proud Boys, and there was a veiled call to harass her for her coverage of Gab, a social media site where extremism and white supremacy run rampant.

    But most legacy media and cable news seemingly didn’t consider Proud Boys’ presence at the president’s rally newsworthy, nor deemed its past and present extremism worth contextualizing -- even as Trump and his Party have embraced it.

    Alex Kaplan provided research for this piece.

  • Pro-Trump media -- including Fox News -- are using deceptively edited videos in a smear campaign against Speaker Pelosi

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On Thursday, deceptively edited videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) meant to cast doubt on her competency made the rounds on social media and right-wing websites. Later, Fox put its weight behind the narrative, and the network’s most prominent viewer, President Donald Trump, tweeted out a Fox clip about it.

    The smears seem like an obvious attempt to discredit Pelosi after she questioned Trump's fitness for office during a May 23 press conference, saying she wished “his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.” A day earlier, Pelosi had made the true statement that Trump was engaged in a cover-up. As CNN’s Brian Stelter pointed out in the May 24 edition of his Reliable Sources newsletter, “What's going on here is pretty obvious. Pelosi is questioning President Trump's competency -- saying she's concerned about the president's well-being, suggesting an ‘intervention’ is needed -- so Trump's allies are saying the exact same things about her.”

    There are actually two videos circulating in the pro-Trump media sphere. One spliced together clips of Pelosi’s comments on Thursday to make it seem like she stammered throughout the press conference. The other significantly slowed remarks Pelosi made during an appearance at the Center for American Progress (CAP) on May 22 to make her look inebriated. (Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani tweeted and later deleted that manipulated video.)

    Conspiracy theory website Infowars pushed the narrative with the headline “Watch Nancy Pelosi Stutter Slur And Suffer Memory Lapses in Press Conference.” Then Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight adopted a similar frame in an on-screen chyron and aired the deceptively spliced clip of the May 23 press conference. Trump then tweeted the Fox segment out to his 60.5 million followers.

    On Fox’s Fox & Friends this morning, guests Diamond and Silk falsely accused Pelosi of inebriation, possibly referring to the doctored footage of her appearance at CAP. Co-host Steve Doocy claimed in a later segment that he was unfamiliar with the doctored video but issued a correction for Diamond and Silk’s accusation by citing the Post. However, the two Fox Nation hosts refused to back down:

    Copies of the videos continue to spread on social media platforms like Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter, garnering thousands of interactions. Though these videos are deceptive, the tech giants seem unable to halt their spread -- and in some cases, they may even be making money from views, as at least one video pushing the smear on YouTube featured an ad.

  • Stefan Molyneux is MAGA Twitter’s favorite white nationalist

    Molyneux has talked fondly about white nationalism. Donald Trump Jr. amplifies him on Twitter.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Update (5/22): This piece was updated with additional information.

    Stefan Molyneux is a virulent misogynist and white supremacist with a penchant for spewing extremist talking points on YouTube and Twitter, but he has become a prominent influencer on the right thanks to the amplification he receives from certain right-wing figures and outlets.

    Last night that amplification came from Donald Trump Jr., who quoted a transphobic tweet from Molyneux to his 3.5-plus million followers.

    CRTV (now TheBlazeTV) has hosted Molyneux repeatedly, while NRATV hosts have promoted Molyneux’s content and appeared on his show to talk about scientific racism, which promotes debunked correlations between IQ scores, race, and crime statistics. On Fox’s Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson has parroted Molyneux’s misogynistic talking points. And last night’s tweet wasn’t the first time Trump Jr. has amplified Molyneux by either retweeting or liking tweets of his that feature hateful content.

    Molyneux has amassed significant influence on Twitter (over 404,000 followers) and YouTube (close to a million subscribers) thanks in part to the amplification of right-wing media figures with huge followings, which suggests that his views have become more the rule than the exception on the right. Some journalists have also pointed out the way prominent conservatives seem to ignore Molyneux's record of extremism when amplifying his tweets:

    Here’s a brief sample of Molyneux’s extremism.

    Molyneux is a white supremacist

    Molyneux often promotes scientific racism. On Twitter, Molyneux has repeatedly pushed statements that link IQ, race, and crime, a basic tenet of scientific racism. An episode of his YouTube show titled “Why Liberals are Wrong About Inequality” centered on discussing IQ differences between races, which earned him the accolades of neo-Nazi outlet The Daily Stormer.

    Molyneux was one of the most prominent promoters of false claims about “white genocide” in South Africa. On his YouTube channel, Molyneux has devoted several episodes to fearmongering about white “genocide” in South Africa, even hosting far-right troll Lauren Southern and appearing with Simon Roche, a South African agitator with ties to American white nationalist Jared Taylor.

    After a visit to Poland, Molyneux talked fondly about “white nationalism.” As reported by Angry White Men, a blog that tracks right-wing extremists, Molyneux “told viewers he was becoming much more sympathetic to white nationalism” after visiting Poland. On his YouTube channel, he recorded a video in which he waxed poetic about the country’s being “99% white” composition and relative lack of crime, and said that while he had previously “spoken out against white nationalism,” he “can’t argue with the reality.”

    Molyneux uses YouTube to promote white supremacist talking points and fearmonger about “population replacement.” The blog Angry White Men has documented Molyneux’s use of YouTube to push white supremacist talking points and racist rhetoric, including framing immigration as “population replacement,” claiming that diversity “means fewer white people,” and advocating for having “people of the same race and culture in a country” in the name of “social cohesion.” On YouTube, he also promoted white nationalist Richard Spencer’s views by calling for people to “listen to his goddamn arguments.”

    Molyneux is a virulent misogynist

    Molyneux regularly attacks feminism. Molyneux often uses his massive Twitter platform to lash out against feminism, once claiming that its purpose was “reducing white Christian birth rates.”

    Molyneux is a men’s rights activist. His YouTube content regularly features complaints about the supposed oppression of men in society, and he strongly championed James Damore, the Google employee who was fired after writing a memo contending that women’s underrepresentation in the technology field is due to biology.

    Molyneux is also an amplifier of idiotic conspiracy theories

    Molyneux once fearmongered that a new film in the Star Wars franchise was about the failure of diversity. As reported by Right Wing Watch, Molyneux devoted one of his YouTube videos to lashing out against Star Wars: The Last Jedi, claiming it was about the suffering of white men caused by increasing diversity.

    On his YouTube channel, he amplified the asinine claim that Democrats were involved in “spirit cooking” rituals. In a video that can still be found on his YouTube channel, Molyneux hosted rape apologist Mike Cernovich, who claimed that John Podesta, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, was involved in “spirit cooking” rituals during which participants mixed “semen with breast milk” to drink.

    He has claimed “globalism” is a plot to “take money from white males.”

  • A short history of Turning Point USA's racism

    These incidents of racism just keep happening

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Turning Point USA is often associated with the time its members wore diapers in an attempt at “triggering” liberals, but this should not be the only public failure the group is remembered for. The conservative organization, which focuses on increasing right-wing political influence on college campuses, has a long history of involvement in racist incidents that are now permanently linked to its name.

    TPUSA’s founder and executive director, Charlie Kirk, has repeatedly denied that his organization is racist, yet the incidents of blatant bigotry involving members of TPUSA keep happening, even as leaks show white nationalists plotting to infiltrate it. Kirk, the right-wing “boy wonder” who has used Fox News to turn fearmongering about left-wing ideology on college campuses into a profitable grift, has also successfully leveraged his “perfectly incoherent” sycophancy for the Trump administration into a cozy relationship with the president’s family -- a relationship seemingly unaffected by TPUSA’s pattern of racism.

    Here are incidents of racism involving TPUSA:

    • Former TPUSA National Field Director Crystal Clanton sent text messages to another TPUSA employee that said “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE. Like fuck them all . . . I hate blacks. End of story.” Kirk had previously said about Clanton: “Turning Point needs more Crystals; so does America.”

    • After firing Clanton when her racist text message became public, Kirk hired Shialee Grooman and Troy Meeker. HuffPost reported that Grooman had written several anti-gay and racist tweets that included the n-word and Meeker had also tweeted an anti-Black slur. HuffPost also reported that former TPUSA Midwest regional manager Timon Prax was pushed out because of his record of using “bigoted language in tweets and texts,” including racist jokes and messages that “made fun of black people and referred to them as slaves.”

    • A former TPUSA field director recalled watching speakers at one of the organization’s annual student summits who “spoke badly about black women having all these babies out of wedlock. It was really offensive.” Speaking to The New Yorker in 2017, the former employee said that “looking back, I think it was racist.”

    • TPUSA defended Florida Atlantic University professor and TPUSA chapter faculty adviser Marshall DeRosa after The Nation reported his ties to white nationalist group League of the South.

    • In her resignation letter addressed to TPUSA field director Frankie O’Laughlin and regional manager Alana Mastrangelo following the group’s disastrous diaper protest, far-right Infowars personality Kaitlin Bennett pointed out that O’Laughlin had “liked” tweets from white supremacist YouTuber James Allsup.

    • Kirk’s own Twitter feed has featured anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim tweets, and he once tweeted a flawed statistic that minimized police brutality against Black people: “Fact: A police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male, than an unarmed black man is to be killed by a police officer.”

    • At a December 2017 TPUSA conference, attendee Juan Pablo Andrade was recorded telling several other conference attendees, “The only thing the Nazis didn’t get right is they didn’t keep fucking going!”

    • Members of the TPUSA chapter at Florida International University shared “racist memes and rape jokes” in the group’s chat messages. According to the Miami New Times, a prominent chapter member had to tell other TPUSA members to “avoid using the n word and don't reference Richard Spencer too much and don't Jew hate ... all the time.”

    • TPUSA Director of Urban Engagement Brandon Tatum told anti-Semitic YouTuber Bryan “Hotep Jesus” Sharpe that Sharpe was banned from TPUSA events because of “the optics of the anti-Semitic rhetoric.” Tatum summarized TPUSA’s position as being “between a rock and a hard place” because while “personally, none of us have a problem with you -- we want you here. It’s the optics. The media.”

    • TPUSA originally listed Gab, a white supremacist-friendly social media platform, as a sponsor for its 2018 Student Action Summit but “quietly dropped the company” shortly before the event.

    • TPUSA’s Iowa State University chapter reportedly invited white nationalist YouTuber Nick Fuentes to speak on campus.

    • Speaking at the December 11 launch of Turning Point UK, then-TPUSA Communications Director Candace Owens said, "If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine. ... I have no problems with nationalism."

    • TPUSA Chief Creative Officer Benny Johnson kicked off a TPUSA event by saying, “Oh my God, I've never seen so many white people in one room. This is incredible!”

    • Riley Grisar, president of TPUSA’s University of Nevada chapter, praised white supremacy, saying, “We’re going to rule the country! White power!” and using the n-word in a video uncovered by the anti-fascist website It’s Going Down News.

    • Update (5/23): Former TPUSA high school outreach director Kyle Kashuv apologized on May 22 for his use of racial slurs while in high school. Kashuv joined TPUSA after becoming a prominent pro-gun activist following a deadly shooting at the school he attended, Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. On April 26, Kashuv spoke at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting, and as of May 16, he stepped down from his position at TPUSA. As reported by The Daily Beast, right-wing activists and Parkland students circulated a Google Doc and screenshots of texts attributed to Kashuv in which he had used the n-word repeatedly.

    Media Matters is updating this piece as more incidents of racism linked to TPUSA come to light.

    Alex Kaplan contributed research for this list.

  • Fox News anchor misleadingly splices together tweets of anti-gun violence activist to accuse her of politicizing Colorado school shooting

    NRA's Dana Loesch went on Fox to dismiss calls for gun safety legislation as a rush "to politicize" a tragedy

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Yesterday, a shooting at a school in Highlands Ranch, CO, left one student dead and eight injured. To discuss the tragedy, Fox anchor Shannon Bream on Fox “news”-side show Fox News @ Night brought on NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, who derided people for blaming guns after shootings.

    Loesch also accused actress Alyssa Milano and gun safety activist and founder of Moms Demand Action Shannon Watts of politicizing the tragedy in their tweets condemning the school shooting and criticizing the NRA, asking, “What is wrong with these ladies’ hearts that their first response to a tragedy, before we even know who the victim is, is to rush to politicize it?”

    Fox featured on screen a tweet attributed to Watts that was actually two tweets the network had misleadingly spliced together -- one posted after the shooting and part of another she had posted the day before. Fox has a history of propping up the NRA and the embattled organization’s legislative priorities. The NRA frequently accuses activists of politicizing deadly shootings.

  • Facebook just removed six extremists from its platforms. Here's what should happen next.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Facebook just announced the removal of a notable cross-section of extremists from social networks Facebook and Instagram, including neo-Nazi sympathizer Milo Yiannopoulos, anti-Muslim bigot Laura Loomer, far-right YouTuber Paul Joseph Watson, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones (again), and white supremacist Paul Nehlen, a failed Republican congressional candidate, while also removing Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan for his record of anti-Semitic rhetoric. This move by Facebook is a step in the right direction, opening doors to making its platforms safer and inspiring some optimism that the tech company might be capable of taking responsibility for the ways its platforms have empowered extremists. But it is clear that there is more to do.

    A long record of hate

    The newly banned figures owed their influence to the massive reach they were allowed to cultivate through Facebook and Instagram, using their accounts to post content that dehumanized entire communities, promoted hateful conspiracy theories, and radicalized audiences -- all while they profited from directing people to their own websites.

    After being banned from most other social media platforms, including YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook itself, Jones found a safe haven on Instagram, where he had continued to post Infowars content that featured hate speech, promoted conspiracy theories, and amplified other extremists.

    Similarly, Laura Loomer used her private Instagram account to post content that violated the platform’s hate speech and bullying policies, consistently spewing dehumanizing anti-Muslim rhetoric.

    For his part, Yiannopoulos was banned from Twitter in 2016 for leading a racist harassment campaign against actress Leslie Jones, but the former Breitbart editor went on to use Instagram and Facebook to spread hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric and mock people of color.

    Watson, who had long been affiliated with Jones’ Infowars outlet, used Facebook and Instagram to push anti-Muslim content, masquerading his hateful rhetoric as thinly veiled irony, and regularly maligning Islam as “incompatible with western society.”

    White supremacist Nehlen -- who has publicly stated that a “race war” needs to be “kick[ed] off” in the U.S. -- had already lost his Instagram account after posting anti-Semitic memes, but he still had an active Facebook page he used to share anti-Semitic dog whistles and screenshots of neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer with tens of thousands of followers, as well as to profit from running ads on the platform.

    What comes next

    It’s a welcome but long overdue step in the right direction that Facebook has now taken definitive action against some of the most glaring examples of toxicity on its platforms -- especially considering the tech company’s record of struggling to enforce policies that are effective in curbing the reach and influence of extremists. The company’s recent attempt to ban white supremacist content from its platforms proved insufficient, as its lack of specificity allowed extremists to continue posting racist content as long as they weren’t too explicit.

    However, there are still a number of achievable measures that Facebook could take to make users safer and to convince the public of the company’s resolve to fight extremism. Shireen Mitchell, who founded Stop Online Violence Against Women and the nonprofit Digital Sisters to promote diversity in the tech industry, has explained how Facebook’s moderation policies have been weaponized to harass women of color -- especially if they’re advocating for social change. Speaking to Media Matters, Mitchell said Facebook has banned people of color and activists like herself as a result of posts that mention white people in the context of racism and white supremacy. Her experience is consistent with a Media Matters analysis of Facebook pages that showed that white supremacist content is often treated as equivalent to content from groups that actually fight oppression, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, seemingly treating white people as a protected group while ignoring the historical context of structural racism.

    Some achievable measures that could help curb extremism while protecting users who experience oppression include:

    • Commit to enforcing standards against more codified white nationalism by more effectively pairing automated and human reviews to better identify violating content. Increasing the number of people tasked with platform monitoring and staffing those positions with culturally competent individuals would help identify white supremacists’ use of the coded extremist rhetoric and insidious false equivalences that artificial intelligence seems to be missing. Doing so would also help curb the uncritical amplification of dangerous content such as video clips of violent hate crimes or the manifestos of their perpetrators.

    • Proactively limit the visibility of content when its traffic is being directed from known toxic sources like anonymous message boards 8chan and 4chan. As reported by NBC’s Ben Collins, platforms are already able to identify traffic coming from toxic sources. In light of recent crimes in which perpetrators have gone on anonymous message boards to link to their Facebook accounts and broadcast mass shootings as extremist propaganda, the platform should more actively limit the visibility and spread of content that starts receiving high influxes of traffic from extremist sites.

    • Extend anti-discrimination policies currently applied to ads to include event pages and groups. Event pages and private groups are often useful tools that help extremists organize and mobilize. Existing anti-discrimination policies should also apply to content in these pages and groups.

    • Reassess fact-checking partnership with Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller, which has ties to white supremacists and anti-Semites. The Daily Caller has a long history of publishing white supremacists, anti-Semites, and bigots; just yesterday it was revealed that The Daily Caller has fired the managing editor of the affiliated Daily Caller News Foundation (DCFN) for his connections to white supremacists. DCFN provides significant funding to the Daily Caller's fact-checking operation, Check Your Fact. Daily Caller founder Carlson constantly echoes white nationalist talking points on his Fox News show. And yet Facebook has teamed up with Check Your Fact as a fact-checker.

    • Pay attention to the cross-platform influence of highly followed users. White nationalists often use platforms like Instagram to sanitize their images with lifestyle content while spreading extremist propaganda on other platforms. As Data & Society research affiliate Becca Lewis told Media Matters, influential extremists on Instagram “will simply mimic fashion, beauty, or fitness influencers, but will espouse white supremacist propaganda elsewhere. In those cases, Instagram acts as a kind of honeypot.” Lewis suggested Facebook emulate Medium’s cross-platform moderation approach, in which users that violate Medium’s content policies on other platforms get banned on Medium.

    • Increase transparency in metrics for third-party auditors. Experts have warned about the risks of Facebook’s most recent privacy initiatives that limit Application Programming Interface (API) access to researchers (or access to the tools that allows individuals unaffiliated with Facebook to build software that uses Facebook data), hide Instagram metrics, and prioritize groups on Facebook (which would allow propaganda and extremism to propagate unchecked). As BuzzFeed’s Jane Lytvynenko pointed out, the move makes it harder for researchers and experts to audit content and metrics on the platforms. While it might save the tech company some bad press, it hinders outside researchers in their efforts to identify and scrutinize security concerns.

  • Study: As Notre Dame burned, anti-Muslim content thrived online

    On 4chan and 8chan, the number of posts with mentions of Muslims and anti-Muslim slurs spiked on April 15, and on Facebook, the top-performing post was from an anti-Muslim bigot.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Anti-Muslim content surged online as the tragic news broke on Monday of a fire engulfing Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, with far-right figures weaponizing news of the seemingly accidental fire to link it to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and to scapegoat Muslims and Islam. A Media Matters analysis found that anti-Muslim sentiment spiked on 4chan and 8chan on April 15, while the story containing the words “Muslim” or “Islam” that got the most engagements on Facebook was from an anti-Muslim bigot and claimed, “Jihadis reveled in the fire engulfing the Notre Dame Cathedral.”

    On anonymous message boards 4chan and 8chan, posts containing mentions of either “Muslim” or “Islam,” references to 9/11, or offensive anti-Muslim slurs skyrocketed on April 15 well beyond the average in the days before Notre Dame burned. On 4chan’s “politically incorrect” board, “/pol/,” the thread with the most posts containing those search terms was an April 15 discussion about the fire at Notre Dame. From April 9 to April 14, we looked at spikes in mentions of these words and found 10 high spots. The average number of mentions from those spikes was 209. But on April 15, 897 posts contained those words -- over four times the average.

    Media Matters also analyzed Spike data for Facebook posts containing the search terms “Muslim” or “Islam,” which showed that the post that earned the most interactions on April 15 came from anti-Muslim bigot Pamela Geller, who linked to a story on her site accusing Muslims of laughing at the sight of Notre Dame burning. (The story was based on a far-right hoax that baselessly claimed people who reacted with laughing emojis to a Facebook livestream of Notre Dame burning were Muslim). The post earned almost 38,000 interactions -- well over twice the 16,506 interactions of the next highest search result, a HuffPost story unrelated to the burning cathedral. Geller’s Facebook post overperformed her usual content by 15.71 times, a metric which Spike calculates “by comparing a story or post’s performance to the publisher’s historical average.”

    French prosecutors have reportedly ruled out arson as a cause for the tragic fire. This is not the first time news cycle events have triggered waves of bigotry on anonymous message boards: A study by the Anti-Defamation League found that there was a spike in posts containing racist terms on 4chan following President Donald Trump’s election.  

    Natalie Martinez provided research for this piece.

  • The far-right is using the tragic Notre Dame Cathedral fire to push conspiracy theories and bigotry

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    As a fire consumed the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, far-right figures took to social media platforms and message boards to spread misinformation and baseless claims, such as speculating that the fire was connected to terrorism or suggesting that Muslims and ISIS were linked to the tragedy.

    As reported by The New York Times, a spokesperson for the cathedral said the fire’s cause is not yet known, and prosecutors have since ruled out arson. And yet far-right narratives and speculation have already influenced automated suggestions on social media platforms like YouTube, which scrambled as the news was breaking to contain auto-generated text linking content about the cathedral fire to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

    Here are some examples of the far-right using the Notre Dame fire to spread bigotry, misinformation, conspiracy theories, and other baseless claims on tech platforms and elsewhere:

    A popular conspiracy theorist known as Partisangirl speculated that French President Emmanuel Macron had “probably set fire to Notre Dame” as a way to deal with recent protests:

    Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson spread a claim based on a since-deleted tweet that cited a Notre Dame Cathedral worker saying “the blaze was deliberately set":

    White nationalist Faith Goldy appeared to suggest that the fire was possible retaliation for the mosque shootings in New Zealand last month in which 50 Muslims were murdered:

    Jim Hoft’s The Gateway Pundit published a “flashback” to ISIS claims that the 2015 terrorist attack in a Paris concert house was “just the beginning”:

    A thread in Reddit’s pro-Trump forum “r/The_Donald” suggested Islam was to blame for the tragedy:

    Anti-Muslim extremist group leader Frank Gaffney baselessly suggested that the fire was part of a “Sharia-supremacist assault on Christianity.”

    Anti-Muslim blog Jihad Watch originally wrongly implied a Muslim woman arrested for an attempted car bombing was related to the attack (it later noted it was a separate story); the baseless suggestion was picked up by The Gateway Pundit and anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer.

    Fox guest host Mark Steyn mentioned terrorist attacks by Muslims while discussing the fire and suggested it showed the decline of Christianity in Europe.

    Loomer, fellow anti-Muslim bigot Pamela Geller, and others on social media suggested a connection between the fire and two men smiling near it, with Geller writing, “Muslims laugh as blaze destroys Notre Dame.”

    Far-right conspiracy theorists Mike Cernovich, Stefan Molyneux, and James Woods claimed the fire meant “the West has fallen,” that it showed the “general decline in IQ throughout the West,” or that it showed “the great and glorious history of Christianity … being eradicated from the face of the ‘new’ Europe.”

    TheBlaze host Glenn Beck said that if the fire “was started by Islamists, I don't think you'll find out about it.”

    Major Twitter accounts pushing the QAnon conspiracy theory also suggested the fire was set deliberately, including Educating Liberals (run by Dylan Wheeler), an account the president's son Donald Trump Jr. follows.

    Anonymous users on far-right message boards on 4chan and 8chan blamed Muslims, suggested it was a false flag, and claimed it was retaliation from “the deep state.”

  • The Joe Rogan Experience disproportionately hosts men

    Over 91% of the guest appearances on one of Apple’s most popular podcasts are made by men

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Joe Rogan Experience, a podcast hosted by comedian Joe Rogan, is consistently topping the charts in terms of popularity. It was the second most downloaded show on Apple Podcasts in both 2017 and 2018, consistently tops the popularity charts on podcast app Stitcher, and the episodes reach over 5 million subscribers on Rogan's YouTube channel.

    The format is simple enough: a freewheeling, hours-long conversation between Rogan and his guests. As Justin Peters explained on Slate:

    I have listened to a lot of Rogan episodes over the past few months in order to try to understand why the show is so popular. It is a bizarro Fresh Air, a rambling, profane interview program in which the host is often high, loves to talk about cage fighting—Rogan has long worked as a UFC commentator—and never lets his guests go home. (Episodes can stretch past three hours.) His interviewees are an esoteric lot spanning Rogan’s wide range of interests: stand-up comedy, mixed martial arts, evolutionary psychology, alternative medicine, music, acting, business, and the excesses of leftist identity politics.

    Rogan’s guests are also mostly men. Media Matters tracked guest appearances on 142 episodes of his podcast aired between June 26, 2018, and April 3, 2019, and found that out of 161 total guest appearances, only 14 were by women.

    Methodology

    Media Matters tracked guest appearances on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast and coded appearances by men and women in 142 episodes that aired between June 26, 2018, and April 3, 2019. The analysis focused on guest appearances as opposed to individuals, as some guests appeared more than one time during the time frame analyzed.

    Nikki McCann Ramírez and Alex Kaplan contributed research to this piece.