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Cristina López G.

Author ››› Cristina López G.
  • Right-wing trolls try to smear protesters as pedophiles by planting a sign referencing a reportedly disbanded organization

    This isn’t the first time right-wing troll Mike Cernovich and his allies have attempted to manipulate their followers into believing false narratives

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Last night, far-right troll Mike Cernovich spoke at Columbia University in New York City about the rise of alternative media, drawing protesters who oppose his far-right views and past dalliances with white supremacists and the “alt-right.” Later, on Twitter, Cernovich and his troll allies tried to smear the protestors by circulating a picture of a sign that they alleged the protestors were carrying, which featured a logo for a practically defunct pro-pedophilia organization. Many reporters pointed out the sign was likely a plant --  an attention-seeking tactic these right-wing trolls have used in the past to start false narratives, manipulate their audiences, and smear those who oppose them.

    The sign in the picture said “no white supremacy, no pedo bashing, no Mike Cernovich” and displayed logos of “antifa” and NAMBLA, which supposedly stands for the North American Man/Boy Love Association. Reporters who have attempted to contact NAMBLA in the past say either that it doesn’t exist anymore or that it has “only a handful of people ostensibly still involved.” Gothamist reporter Jake Offenhartz, who actually took the picture that Cernovich tweeted, mentioned in his original tweet that the sign was an “alt-right” plant. (Twitter apparently took down the photo in Cernovich’s tweet for infringing Offenhartz’s copyright.) An organizer of the protest later told Offenhartz that someone gave the sign to the protesters who held it for a short moment before they realized what it said and ran off the miscreant. Different reporters on Twitter agreed with Offenhartz’s skepticism regarding the authenticity of the sign

    But the damage had been done. Right-wing trolls including Jack Posobiec, Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson, MAGA Meetups Executive Director Will Chamberlain, Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, and conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer joined Cernovich in tweeting about the sign, and the narrative quickly reached the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., who liked Cernovich’s tweet. Trump’s love for far-right internet trolls is well-documented.

    Pedophilia (or “pedo”) isn’t a new focus for these right-wing trolls, who, along with leading conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, pushed the false “Pizzagate” narrative during the 2016 election, claiming that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her campaign staff operated a child abuse ring from a popular family pizza parlor in Washington, D.C. While Cernovich often presents himself as a warrior against pedophilia on his platforms, he doesn’t seem to mind it as much when it comes from his ally Milo Yiannopoulos, who has defended adult-minor sexual liaisons in the past. Only last week, Cernovich appeared as a guest on Yiannopoulos’ podcast.

    Far-right media and trolls have attempted to discredit protesters by linking them to NAMBLA in the past. MAGA (“Make America Great Again”) trolls have also taken a page from this tired playbook and have planted other incendiary fake signs among real protesters before: They reportedly planted a disgusting “rape Melania” sign at a protest in front of the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., and he was caught distributing fake flyers thanking lawmakers for protecting “ritual Satanic porn videos” and attributing the flyers to the organizers of the Women’s March.

    The strategy of right-wing trolls like Cernovich and his allies is transparent: They make a living out of creating content for their platforms, so it’s beneficial to manipulate their followers into believing false narratives to keep them engaged and outraged. In their need to create a demon for the audience to virulently oppose, they portray protesters and dissidents as monsters who sympathize with horrid things like pedophilia. It makes for compelling targets, which is what made the false “Pizzagate” narrative such a successful conspiracy theory, eventually inspiring a man to self-investigate the matter and open fire at the family restaurant.

    Cernovich, who has been trying to pivot toward becoming “more of a journalistic guy,” has also admitted that his approach to the craft isn’t necessarily based on facts but more on eliciting reactions and getting attention. While speaking at a Gateway Pundit gala celebrating the trolls during the White House Correspondents Dinner weekend in May, Cernovich said: “There’s this new form of media now which is part activism and part real journalism. And the way I put it is if there’s nothing happening, make it happen, and a lot of people say, ‘Well, that’s not real journalism. Real journalism is observing things,’ and I don’t really believe that’s true, actually. If you can get on a microphone and say ‘Bill Clinton is a rapist’ -- if the crowd reacts, that’s news.”

    The right-wing trolls also have another purpose for pulling the stunt at Columbia University protest:  It gives them an opportunity to try to discredit the mainstream media. If media outlets don’t fall for the stunt and refuse to cover it, the trolls can portray them as sympathetic to pedophilia. If outlets do cover the stunt uncritically -- as pro-Trump outlets like Infowars do  -- these trolls can also claim victory. In fact, Cernovich is already doing exactly that.

  • Meet AppSame: The mysterious right-wing social media company with an influential Twitter account

    What’s behind this spammy-looking, fake news-pushing, enthusiastic Trump-supporting “political marketing firm” with connections to the Philippines? And how much of what they claim to do is just bullshit?

    Blog ››› ››› NATALIE MARTINEZ & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Despite what its wildly misleading name might suggest, AppSame is not an application. Based on the biographical details its social media accounts provide, AppSame is “a conservative political marketing firm helping America back to its greatness.” While publicly available information does not clarify what exactly, if anything, this firm does to help MAGA, its impressive Twitter presence (1.1 million followers as of this writing) invites some questions -- about its tactics, its actual impact, its role in the spread of fake news purveyor-generated misinformation into influential right-wing Twitter networks, and whether its influence could become a case study in the way Twitter enables unknown entities to have a disproportionate impact in politics.

    Both its massive following and its clout among right-wing Twitter hubs like #TCOT (an acronym that stands for “top conservatives on Twitter”) earned AppSame the top spot in Brandwatch’s 10 most influential Republicans on Twitter rankings in 2016. AppSame’s Twitter behavior is practically indistinguishable from that of hard-core supporters of President Donald Trump: The account frequently retweets the president and his family (once earning a magnanimous mention from Trump) as well as memes featuring right-wing narratives, churning out more than a hundred tweets or retweets per day. But despite its impressive following, AppSame’s original tweets barely register any viral attention, which might be evidence of a heavy fake account presence among its followers. A Twitter audit report confirmed as much in 2015, finding that 45 percent of @AppSame’s followers are suspected fake accounts. 

    @AppSame’s social media habits also include disseminating fake news and conspiracy theories into right-wing Twitter networks. On Twitter, @AppSame has shared links to fake news purveyors like TruthFeed and True Pundit, and its tweets have on occasion been featured in items written by fake news purveyors. In multiple tweets, AppSame either suggested or explicitly claimed that Hillary Clinton was responsible for the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

    On its Medium account, AppSame has dabbled in original content creation, with a portfolio that expands on popular right-wing false narratives, including by claiming that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was involved in a sex scandal, accusing former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of having “built ISIS,” and claiming that Clinton “supports rape.” AppSame’s false claim that Gold Star father Khzir Khan’s speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention was written by Clinton staffers was eventually picked up by a 9/11 truther whose platform on YouTube reaches more than 110,000 subscribers. In other posts, AppSame has made pro-Russia arguments, engaged in anti-Islamic rhetoric (like calling Islam a “very screwed up” religion), and falsely equated white supremacy to the Black Lives Matter movement.

    On the now-defunct video-looping social media platform Vine, AppSame tried its hand at puppet theater in 2016 with bizarre political videos featuring a wide array of characters including a devil-horned Hillary Clinton, a Barack Obama in Middle Eastern garb shilling for ISIS, a disheveled Bill Clinton, and an orange-haired Vladimir Putin influencing Clinton. Its Instagram account hasn’t been active since 2014.

    Anyone interested in hiring AppSame, or even curious about what its services might be, would have a difficult time getting that information from the supposed firm’s actual website. It offers no contact information and, since May 2015, it has been publishing grammatically challenged posts advertising essay-writing websites for students in a variety of languages including Spanish, German, and Russian. In a similarly error-riddled fashion, AppSame has also promoted cell phone “spying” apps and online gambling. In an October 2015 post, AppSame advertised a Russian online casino game called “Елена Казино” (Elena's Casino), which was also promoted on Twitter in July of the same year by Russian accounts that seemed to be automated. Some archeological work into AppSame’s website using WayBack Machine revealed that in its genesis, in 2011, the site promoted gaming advertising. In 2013, the site underwent a makeover and veered sharply right, into the world of tea party conservative politics.

    Even though its current website has little to do with conservative politics, AppSame at some point earned the trust of both an angel investor (who reportedly provided $500,000) and at least one conservative political candidate. Federal Election Commission records demonstrate that the Heather Grant for US Senate campaign committee made a disbursement of $800 to AppSame Inc. within three months of AppSame’s Twitter endorsement of Grant’s candidacy, which was one of many that the entity made. Grant lost the 2014 Republican primary to Thom Tillis, earning a mere 4.7 percent of the vote. According to public information, the firm is located in Tampa, FL, but walk-ins seeking “political marketing services” at that location would find themselves in a quaint neighborhood boutique, as opposed to the headquarters of a digital marketing behemoth claiming to have offices in a number of states (depending on the claim, that number is either five, six, 10, or all 50) in hopes of unseating Democrats in 2018.

    Attempting to track AppSame’s links to the offline world by looking at its website domain registration is also fruitless, as it’s registered privately. A blog connected to the website, thecaped.com, appears to be registered to an Eric Stole with a Wayne, MI, address, who, based on a LinkedIn profile, is the vice president of client services for AppSame. A second LinkedIn profile, which lists him as CEO of AppSame, states that he lives in San Francisco, CA. However, a Facebook profile with information that matches his biographical details (including using the same logo as the AppSame Twitter account) states he lives in Phoenix, AZ. Interestingly, all of Stole’s Facebook friends appear to be from the Philippines, which might be explained by the fact that he claims to be an alumnus of schools located in that country. From that Facebook account, Stole offered the Bundy family $1 million to settle its legal dispute with the Bureau of Land Management. The Appsame Instagram account, which has only three posts, all featuring puppets mocking Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, has 100 followers, the vast majority of whom appear to be located in the Philippines as well. The only other LinkedIn profile of a supposed AppSame employee who is linked to  Eric Stole is for an unnamed “Manager at AppSame” who is located in Central Luzon, Philippines. Pitchbook lists Stole as the CEO of AppSame, but a public records search for his name turns up nothing that matches any of his bios. Reached for comment on Twitter, the platform of communication in which AppSame is most prolific, a representative provided Media Matters with the following ambiguous information:

    Maybe AppSame is just proof that endless retweeting, constant participation in right-wing Twitter conversations with well-placed hashtags like #TCOT, and use of the services that offer to boost one’s number of social media followers allow anyone to build impressive-seeming clout. But maybe AppSame is also evidence of something more, a playbook for political dirty tricksters to disproportionately sway conversations and influence politics via Twitter -- either by promoting false narratives, stoking racist politics, or providing a platform to fake accounts -- with little transparency about financial motivations and zero accountability.

  • A Facebook-verified Russian proxy site is pushing a fake news story attacking George Soros

    Russia has targeted Soros previously due to his charity work in Eastern Europe

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Fake news purveyor YourNewsWire is pushing a false narrative on its site and affiliated Facebook-verified page claiming that newly minted Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has banned “George Soros’s foundations from Austria.”

    The site, which habitually pushes misinformation and publishes fake news, on October 19 published a fake news story headlined “Youngest World Leader Bans George Soros’s Foundations From Austria.” (Paradoxically, during his campaign, Kurz was accused on another Facebook page reportedly set up by an advisor to his opponent of “being part of the ‘dubious political network’ of Hungarian-American financier George Soros.”) The YourNewsWire story is being promoted on a Facebook-verified page affiliated with the site and disseminated on message boards like 4chan. It’s even seeping into right-wing media networks through the retweets of gullible right-wing personalities like Dinesh D’Souza, the discredited conservative author and filmmaker who has made false claims about Soros before. Advertisements alongside the article are courtesy of the advertising network Revcontent, which has also allowed other fake news purveyors to monetize false narratives.

    YourNewsWire was classified as a “proxy” for Russia by the European Union’s East StratCom Task Force, a task force established to fight Russian propaganda. U.S. intelligence official and Kremlin propaganda expert Joel Harding similarly said the site has been “used by the Russians as a proxy site to spread disinformation.” The site is one of the most prominent fake news purveyors to receive a verification check mark from Facebook, granting it a degree of legitimacy that enables the spread of its fake narratives. The verification also contributes to the argument that Facebook is toothless when it comes to combating Russian influence in American politics.

    Russia has previously engaged in attacks targeting Soros for the work of his philanthropic foundations in Eastern Europe. As reported by Politico, the Kremlin sees Soros’ “funding for civil society groups in former Soviet satellite states as part of a plot to install pro-Western governments.”

    In the piece, YourNewsWire quoted Kurz as saying the following:

    If the bombastic quote attributed to Kurz seems eerily familiar, it's because it was lifted word for word from a 2009 Rolling Stone article written by Matt Taibbi:

  • The Periscope that shows how there's no difference between the "new right" and "alt-right"

    Lucian Wintrich's Periscope video featured praise for Hitler, racial slurs, homophobic imagery, and a swastika flag

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    For over an hour and a half, Gateway Pundit’s White House correspondent Lucian Wintrich broadcast a Periscope session that was meant to show “three gentlemen ... exchang[ing] ideas” but in actuality featured praise for Adolf Hitler, racial slurs, homophobic imagery, and a swastika flag. If Wintrich and his companions were aiming to troll and trigger social-justice-warrior (SJW) snowflakes, they had just the right ingredients: Consider me triggered! However, the Periscope session -- dubbed “Alt-Right Vs New Right, Debate Of The Century” -- managed to do a lot more by also offering clear evidence that the attempt to rebrand the “new right” as different from the toxic “alt-right” is merely performative, and that the movements are more alike than dissimilar.

    The October 18 Periscope video, an episode of Wintrich’s podcast Wintrich Report, featured “new right” personality Ali Akbar, an avid supporter of President Donald Trump, and Matt Colligan, who goes by “Millennial Matt” online and was a participant of the “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA. Wintrich and Akbar kicked off the broadcast by setting the rules of engagement, which included Akbar clarifying, “We’re not going to be mean. We’re not going to be super racist -- funny racist is a whole different story. And for the most part, we’re going to leave ethnicities alone, but there’s no problem talking about power structures and people who control certain industries and stuff like that.”

    The “honest exchange of ideas” included Millennial Matt waving a swastika flag in front of the camera, saying “Adolf Hitler, he was a great man,” and referring to white nationalist Richard Spencer as “a good guy.” Wintrich passionately defended Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as “one of the most brilliant generals that has come out of the United States” and bemoaned that his “legacy” was being destroyed. Both Wintrich and Akbar sat through the conversation and laughed at Millennial Matt’s jokes -- including his sporting of a T-shirt that read “Fags R gay” -- only politely objecting, “We don’t fully share views,” but with Wintrich eventually seeking common ground in the argument that “there are huge cultural problems where white people in this country are being demonized.”   

    The Periscope session  follows months of ostensible feuding and debating between representatives of the two factions, led by -- in one corner -- Will Chamberlain, newly minted executive director for the MAGA Meetups group, and Mike Cernovich, the most prominent MAGA troll, and -- in the other --  YouTuber James Allsup, Nick J. Fuentes, and Richard Spencer. The two groups have been publicly criticizing and debating each other, mostly for show, a strategy the “new right” trolls, in a quest to gain legitimacy, use to show contrasts with the vitriolic, outwardly racist “alt-right” by attempting to prove that the latter’s leaders dislike them.

    By hosting Millennial Matt -- a Holocaust joke lover who agrees “almost a hundred percent with” the “alt-right,” Wintrich managed to shed light on just how similar the two factions are. They talked about uniting against pedophilia in Hollywood to combat “these Marxists, these progressives … who are oppressing white people,” apparently unaware of the fact that one of the most prominent apologists of pedophilia is closer to the “alt-right” than to any progressive.

    During the conversation, Millennial Matt described the “new right” as “a bunch of guys and girls who got social media presences during the Donald Trump election,” to which Wintrich quipped, “Much like yourself.” Inadvertently, the exchange highlighted the common genesis of the factions. The overlapping nature of the factions was similarly apparent when Millennial Matt mentioned “free Kekistan,” alluding to a fictional country invented by message board users that tells the “tongue-in-cheek ethnic origin” of online trolls. Millennial Matt noted it as part of the culture of the “new right,” but Wintrich said it belonged to the “alt-right” just as much.

    By the end, the disastrous video -- during which Akbar reminded audiences that it wasn’t a debate, “there’s no winner, there’s no loser” -- managed to effectively blur the fictional lines between the factions. Members of the “alt-right” called it “refreshing,” and the groups showed they share an audience that enjoys anti-Semitism. Coincidentally, it might have poured cold water on attempts by supposed new-righter Cernovich -- who participated by trolling other users in the chat and even promoted the live broadcast in a now-deleted tweet -- to legitimize himself by doing “a big pivot” away from the toxic elements of the groups with which he’s been associated. Most importantly, though, it was useful in showing clear evidence that the attempt by some supposed members of the “new right” to rebrand is bullshit. They might purport to condemn and disavow racism after events like the rally in Charlottesville, but they allow it as long as it’s the "funny racist" kind. Their effort to draw contrasts with extremists did nothing but highlight their similarities, including how their origin story is the same -- hate speech and extremism disguised as meme culture.

    h/t Right Wing Watch for Cernovich's deleted tweet
  • How right-wing media are elevating conspiracy theories about the Las Vegas shooting

    Matt Drudge and Laura Ingraham are no better than the random trolls pushing conspiracy theories online

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The horrid massacre in Las Vegas, NV, in which a shooter killed at least 58 people and injured hundreds, has turned message board users and right-wing internet trolls into do-it-yourself (DIY) sleuths attempting to solve the crime themselves. Their investigations, based on leaked photos or unconfirmed gossip, have resulted in wild conspiracy theories that would be laughable if prominent right-wing media figures -- ranging from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to Fox News’ newest prime-time host, Laura Ingraham -- weren’t amplifying the wannabe-gumshoes’ voices in an unscrupulous effort to exploit the tragedy to their political advantage.

    Previously, DIY investigative attempts of this sort have ended badly. When an attacker drove a car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville, VA, “alt-right” media personalities accused the wrong person of committing the attack. And when pro-Trump trolls pushed the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory that a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C., was a front for a ring of pedophiles, a gunman from North Carolina drove to D.C. to investigate the matter and fired shots inside the restaurant.

    For opportunistic pro-Trump trolls, the incentive to push wacky conspiracy theories is the same as their reason for committing other sophomoric, attention-grabbing stunts: to gain notoriety, grow their platform by amassing social media followers, and make an income by asking for donations in support of their efforts. Such is the case for Laura Loomer, formerly linked to the Canadian outlet The Rebel. Loomer has been one of the most prominent pusher of conspiracy theories regarding the shooting in Las Vegas and is asking for monetary support to continue her “investigative journalism.” Her journalistic portfolio includes disrupting a Shakespeare play in New York City, harassing journalists, and heckling former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the asinine Seth Rich conspiracy theory.

    Recently, Loomer has relentlessly tweeted wide-ranging and baseless speculation about the Las Vegas massacre. She has implied that the CEO of MGM Resorts, which owns the Mandalay Bay hotel from where the attacker opened gunfire on the crowds below, was somehow involved in the tragedy, has claimed MGM’s union gave its members 10 weeks of paid vacation during Clinton’s presidential campaign, and  has doggedly attempted to link the shooter to Islamic extremism, all in efforts to cast doubts over the available facts about the tragedy and push a “deep state” conspiracy theory. Kindred spirit Alex Jones enthusiastically elevated her moronic speculation by inviting her on his Infowars show.

    Conspiracy theories such as these and others about the Las Vegas tragedy are so unhinged that even alternative media troll Mike Cernovich has dismissed them, and pro-Trump media figure Scott Adams remarked on their implausibility during a Periscope session. That hasn’t stopped prominent right-wing media figures like Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, and Laura Ingraham from unscrupulously pushing the theories -- even at the risk of casting doubts on official investigative efforts and undermining the efficacy of law enforcement authorities.

    The Drudge Report propelled Loomer by headlining the site with her conspiracy theories. Drudge also featured other stories seemingly lifted from message boards like Reddit. Laura Ingraham, who will soon host her own show on Fox News, retweeted Loomer and baselessly speculated on October 4 that the shooter didn’t act alone. Ingraham continued to lean into conspiracy theories during her radio show on October 5, commenting that the “selective” leaked photos from the crime scene showed it was “perfectly laid down” and looked “like a scene from Law & Order.” Ingraham claimed that “something doesn’t add up” and chided the press for its “overwhelming lack of curiosity” and for not “asking questions.”

    It is becoming unfortunately common for attention-seeking trolls to push politicized conspiracy theories after events of national importance. They deliberately amplify these narratives in order to “muddy the conversation,” as Snopes’ Brooke Binkowski told The Guardian. And many stars of right-wing media are proving to be no better.

  • Cable news outlets continue to use slur to describe undocumented immigrants

    Fox News used "illegal immigrant" or its variations over 10 times more than other cable networks

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & DINA RADTKE

    A Media Matters study of the use of the term "illegal immigrant" or any of its variations on cable evening programming found that in the first seven months of 2017, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News described undocumented immigrants using that derogatory terminology 1,296 times, despite calls to end the practice from journalistic guidelines and linguists for its dehumanizing effects and its grammatical inaccuracy. Fox News was by far the worst offender, using the disparaging terms 1,107 times from January 1 to July 31, 2017. CNN and MSNBC used the denigrating terms 102 and 87 times, respectively, in the same time period.

  • PewDiePie is the troll that far-right trolls aspire to be

    The YouTuber is a valuable asset to right-wing online personalities trying to push their narratives to a growing global audience of young people

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Felix Kjellberg, a Swedish YouTube star who goes by the name of PewDiePie and garnered international fame through his videos about gaming and his mocking critiques of popular culture, has developed a symbiotic relationship with politically influential far-right trolls who support and promote him in an attempt to influence his content and reach his massive base of followers.

    PewDiePie, who recently used a racist slur while livestreaming himself playing a video game, has YouTube’s most popular channel, with more than 57 million subscribers. His popularity had earned him a lucrative partnership with Disney, but the company dropped him earlier this year following the Wall Street Journal’s reporting that he had “posted nine videos that include anti-Semitic jokes or Nazi imagery.”

    While PewDiePie’s fall from grace might have cost him a lucrative deal, his following has continued to grow; reports in February put his following at 53 million subscribers, but he has gained nearly 4 million more as of this writing. Among his followers and fans are politically influential far-right trolls, including Brittany Pettibone, Stefan Molyneux, and Infowars’ Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, and Mike Cernovich. These trolls have repeatedly defended and supported PewDiePie while helping him push the narrative that the backlash he has received for his racially insensitive remarks is the result of unfair targeting by the mainstream media and by those offended, whom they pejoratively call “social justice warriors,” or “SJWs.”

    PewDiePie has attempted to distance himself from both his neo-Nazi following (a neo-Nazi publication, The Daily Stormer, once declared itself “the world’s #1 PewDiePie fansite”) and other explicitly racist elements of the self-declared “alt-right” by claiming he wants “nothing to do with that.” But he has shown no qualms in becoming closer with the freshly rebranded far-right trolls who say they’re not “alt-right.” In July, he followed conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Twitter after Jones and Infowars made public attempts to contact him for a collaboration. PewDiePie has also indicated he likes rants in which Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson defends him.

    Watson has celebrated PewDiePie’s content on several occasions, once claiming he “red-pilled” -- a term popularized by message boards like 4chan and co-opted by the far-right to signify awakening someone to reality -- his followers with far-right messaging like denying the existence of the wage gap between genders. Watson also lavished praise on PewDiePie when he criticized celebrities for emphasizing the influence of man-made climate change on extreme weather events like hurricanes.

    PewDiePie has found validation and justification for his antics in the trolls’ support for his hateful and offensive rhetoric, which they back under the guise of defending free speech. He's also found them to be common allies in his battle against the media, which he blames for the backlash he gets after his actions are reported. In hopes of continuing to have his grievances validated, he caters to the far-right's tastes by deviating from his regular gaming content to troll “SJWs.”

    At the same time, far-right trolls lionize PewDiePie as a hero of free speech and validate his antics. To them, his worth lies in his vast reach, which they aspire to weaponize by influencing his content and using it as a gateway to introduce unsuspecting, not-yet-politicized young audiences to the far-right narratives of the “culture war.”

    The trolls recognize PewDiePie's style of hiding offensive rhetoric behind layers of irony and then claiming those who object are just taking it too seriously -- because it's straight from their own playbook. New York magazine's Noreen Malone explained as much when profiling the "alt-right": "If you take them seriously, they'll claim you missed the joke." It is this playbook that has allowed trolls to push for further expanding the boundaries of what’s acceptable discourse, as Screener’s Jacob Clifton explained in an article for BuzzFeed.

    In PewDiePie’s screeds against the press, the far-right trolls see a vastly influential ally in their own efforts to “destroy media” and become the primary source of cultural and political information for captive audiences. In the same way that candidate Donald Trump proved to be a valuable ally of the far-right trolls in mainstreaming the white male grievances and anti-social justice rhetoric of the troll swamps, PewDiePie’s coattails also look like a promising ride toward normalization, this time with a powerful global reach among audiences who can’t even vote yet.

  • Yes, Tucker Carlson promoted an app infested with racists, nazi sympathizers, and misogynists. Here's the proof.

    It’s been called a “haven for white nationalists” for a reason

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    After its founder appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News, social media platform Gab lashed out at Media Matters on Twitter for reminding audiences that Gab is “a haven for white nationalists:”

    On September 5, white nationalist darling Tucker Carlson hosted Andrew Torba on his show, Tucker Carlson Tonight. Torba is the founder of Gab, a social media platform that gained prominence after Twitter permanently suspended a series of accounts for “hateful conduct” and users shifted to Gab instead. For its permissive approach in the face of clearly extremist speech, Gab has been described as a “haven for white nationalists” and a “magnet for the alt-right.” Media Matters called out Carlson for continuing to play footsie with extremism under the guise of supporting free speech:

    On any given day (such as today), the posts that can be found on Gab include the following --

    Homophobic statements:

    Attempts to exonerate the white nationalist who was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer:

    Misogynistic endorsements of domestic violence from Daily Stormer’s Andrew Anglin:

    Anti-Semitic statements:

    Promotion of a pro-Nazi documentary:

    Grievances about L.L. Bean catalogs including non-white models:

    Unscientific polls about the future of the white race:

    While Carlson and Torba hide behind the free speech defense, they’re in fact not only empowering extremists, but also providing them with the unfettered tools to organize into action. That’s called enabling.

  • Breitbart: Not just bigoted, but also moronic (immigrant edition)

    Breitbart depicts DACA recipients with a photo of MS-13 members in El Salvador, adding to its record of using blatantly inaccurate shots to smear immigrants

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    In attempts to smear immigrants and paint them as ruthless criminals, Breitbart.com has repeatedly accompanied its articles with terrifying images that have nothing or absurdly little to do with the story at hand, including the news that President Donald Trump is rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. These moronic attempts to fearmonger while sacrificing accuracy further the website’s anti-immigrant message, even though simple Google image searches reveal the reality of the original photos.

    In the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind DACA -- an Obama-era policy that protected from immediate deportation hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children and granted them temporary work permits -- Breitbart chose to illustrate a story about DACA recipients with an image of MS-13 gang members taken in El Salvador.

    While Breitbart's tweet with the misleading image was deleted after it drew broad scorn for the site (Breitbart also changed it in the story), it perfectly illustrated the outlet’s tendency to make editorial decisions that show unscrupulousness and a disregard for the truth. In this instance, the site was exploiting a gang crisis in a foreign country in order to smear hundreds of thousands of immigrants who in reality had to have vetted records to gain admission to the program. Federal specifications for DACA protections clarify that applicants could not have “been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors” nor could they pose “a threat to national security or public safety.”

    And that’s not all.

    While trying to portray a “gang” that was “moving migrants” from Morocco to Spain in late August, Breitbart used an image of German soccer star Lukas Podolski flashing a peace sign while riding a Jet Ski in Brazil. Podolski is not only widely recognized among soccer fans, but he is also neither a “migrant gang member, nor being human trafficked,” as Breitbart editors had to admit in their original story after they were mocked on social media.

    On another occasion, Breitbart illustrated a story about a Mexican cartel’s mass grave with a terrifying image from Reuters of a mass grave in Iraq. The website has also used the same image to report on a story about Russia. While Breitbart’s use of the wrong image demonstrates low journalistic standards and likely speaks to an intent to provoke fear of immigrants among its readership, it might also be indicative that the Breitbart “scary mass grave” story folder contains only a single image.

    Breitbart is currently being sued for alleged copyright infringement over an image, bringing possible legal consequences to its questionable use of any old image available on the internet. At least it’s not a Nazi-era cartoon this time.

  • Jeff Sessions' statement rescinding DACA was packed with bigoted right-wing media lies

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration’s decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era immigration policy that protects around 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children from immediate deportation while allowing them to work legally. Sessions’ announcement was full of familiar anti-immigrant lies, previously spewed by nativists and right-wing media outlets.