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Cristina López G.

Author ››› Cristina López G.
  • Steve King has been racist for years, and right-wing media have defended him every step of the way

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

    Despite his extremism, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has drawn on-air praise from right-wing media figures for years, with terms like “true warrior,” “great mentor,” and “hero.” Fox News figure Tucker Carlson once defended King’s white supremacy by stating, “Everything you said I think is defensible and probably right," while Laura Ingraham has said she understood “his point.”

  • Tomi Lahren pushed a 4chan lie about Elizabeth Warren, and Fox News hasn't done a thing about it

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren slandered a sitting senator and a 2020 presidential hopeful by accusing her of racism and amplified a hoax that originated from anonymous message boards. In the days since, Fox News has done nothing to hold Lahren accountable.

    Four days after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announced that she was launching an exploratory committee to run for president in 2020, Lahren shared with her 1.2 million followers on Twitter the slanderous accusation that Warren had a racist ornament in her kitchen:

    The screenshot of Warren’s kitchen is from a live Instagram Q&A session she did on New Year’s Eve. Lahren was amplifying and spreading a hoax that previously was spread in the anonymous message board 4chan and “r/The_Donald” subreddit on Reddit, in which a vase was misconstrued to be a racist figurine of a Black child eating a watermelon. As documented by Right Wing Watch, Lahren deleted her tweet but did not apologize or provide clarification to her massive audience. Fox News not only failed to acknowledge the slander, but Lahren’s Fox Nation shows, First Thoughts and Final Thoughts, continued to stream as scheduled on Fox’s online platform. The network also continued to book Lahren on its cable morning program, Fox & Friends.

    Lahren’s Twitter feed is a constant stream of inaccuracies, falsehoods, and vitriol. She once apparently echoed the idiotic conspiracy theory that white supremacist Jason Kessler (who organized the 2017 racist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA) was a tool of the left. She tweeted that watching immigrants getting tear-gassed at the border was the highlight of her Thanksgiving weekend. And just this week, Lahren baselessly claimed that the remittances that undocumented immigrants send to their home countries are used to fund “cartel and criminal organizations.” Fox News kept her on air and even gave her a hosting gig on Fox Nation.

    The network ignoring its host amplifying a easily-debunked hoax from 4chan shows the garbage that the network finds acceptable. The network also recently gave a pass to Rep. Steve King (R-IA), after King embraced white supremacy in an interview with The New York Times. Fox covered the story for a mere 42 seconds, framing its coverage as King “fighting back against a New York Times article” (a reference to King’s statement in response to the Times article).

    What Fox does find unacceptable, however, is cursing. The day after Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) said “impeach the motherfucker” in reference to President Donald Trump, the network gave 52 minutes of coverage to her comment -- 74 times more than it gave to King’s white supremacy.

  • Facebook took advice from a far-right figure who blamed gay marriage for hurricanes

    Twitter consulted with a right-wing operative with links to extremism

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In efforts to appease fits of manufactured conservative rage over the moderation of hateful content on social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter have relied on the advice of anti-LGBTQ extremists and far-right grifters “to help them figure out who should be banned and what’s considered unacceptable.”

    As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Facebook sought out the advice of right-wing groups including extremists like the virulently anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council (FRC) and its president, Tony Perkins. Perkins has compared same-sex marriage to incest, blamed marriage equality and abortion for a destructive hurricane, and called pedophilia a “homosexual problem.” He is clearly not equipped to be an arbitrator on content that oppresses, harassed, and erases minorities. Perkins, along with FRC, has actively opposed LGBTQ equality around the world, supporting a law in Uganda that could have punished “repeat offenders” of same-sex sexual activity with the death penalty, and collaborating with a hate group that worked to pass Russia’s “gay propaganda” law. Domestically, Perkins also called for the State Department to stop supporting LGBTQ rights after President Donald Trump was elected.

    Moreover, FRC senior fellow Ken Blackwell has used his Facebook page to regularly push out links from right-wing propaganda sites that have a history of promoting anti-Muslim fake news and conspiracy theories. Blackwell also took part in what was seemingly a promotional campaign with Liftable Media, which owns right-wing propaganda sites like The Western Journal and relies on right-wing media figures to draw online traffic to its pages. And he has shared misleading memes and content from Russia’s Internet Research Agency, the company behind the 2016 presidential election interference on Facebook. Blackwell is also on the board of the NRA, and once blamed the mass shooting at UCSB by a men's rights supporter on marriage equality.

    The Journal’s article also reports that the Heritage Foundation, which has a long history of climate denial and gets funding from fossil fuel companies, has recently “forged a relationship with Facebook.” On Facebook, Heritage Foundation’s media arm, The Daily Signal, has put out anti-science garbage like “Why climate change is fake news,” contributing to Facebook’s climate-denial problem. In 2013, Heritage came under fire for hiring a researcher who wrote that Hispanic immigrants may never "reach IQ parity with whites."  (The researcher later resigned following outrage.)

    Twitter has also sought the advice of right-wing grifters and anti-abortion advocates. According to the Journal, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has been in contact with Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, and Norquist has used that access to successfully lobby for conservatives who had trouble getting anti-abortion ads on Twitter. Anti-abortion groups have a habit of claiming censorship in order to bully social media platforms into allowing them to run “inflammatory” content.

    Dorsey also privately sought the advice of Ali Akbar, a right-wing personality with a prominent Twitter presence, when dealing with the question of whether to remove conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from the platform. (After a murky process filled with half-measures to address Jones’ many policy violations, Twitter and its streaming service Periscope finally removed Jones.) Akbar’s history of promoting hateful content on Twitter and Periscope makes him a poor choice for a consultant on hateful content. He once hosted Matt Colligan (“Millennial Matt”) -- a participant in the 2017 “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA -- for a Periscope video in which Colligan waved a flag that had a Nazi swastika. Akbar, who has claimed his talks with Dorsey have been going on for months, was recently briefly suspended from Twitter, seemingly after a tweet in which he accused media of egging on a “civil war in America” and urged his followers to buy guns and ammo. His account was reinstated within a couple of days.

    These examples show tech platforms’ tendency of caving to conservative whims in order to appease manufactured rage over baseless claims of censorship and bias. Evidence shows that right-wing pages drastically outnumber left-wing pages on Facebook, and under Facebook’s algorithm changes, conservative meme pages outperform all other political news pages. Across platforms, right-wing sources dominate topics like immigration coverage, showing the cries of censorship are nothing more than a tactic. And judging by tech companies’ willingness to cater to these tantrums, the tactic appears to be working.

  • Yes, The New York Times dropped the ball on covering the rise of right-wing extremism

    Mainstream media failed to cover the rise of the far right because they're afraid of right-wing media

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The original headline for Thursday’s episode of New York Times podcast The Daily inadvertently pointed out something many journalists of color have know for a while: The Times (and other mainstream outlets) dropped the ball in covering the rise of right-wing extremism, and they did so seemingly out of fear of right-wing media and conservatives.

    The Daily originally headlined Thursday’s episode “The Rise of Right-Wing Extremism and How We Missed It.” In a lack of self-awareness, the podcast didn’t mean the “we,” as referring to the Times, as the episode was not an exercise of self-exploration to grapple with the paper’s role in failing to alert audiences to the threat from right-wing extremists. It was, instead, a discussion of a piece that Janet Reitman published in The New York Times Magazine on November 3, which detailed the ways in which U.S. law enforcement missed the rising threat.

    Following backlash on Twitter -- in which many journalists of color and racial justice activists pointed out that non-white communities certainly did not miss the rise of white supremacist violence -- the Times quietly changed the episode’s headline.

    But the paper did miss the rise of right-wing extremism.

    Take, for example, the way it covered right-wing extremism during Barack Obama’s presidency -- or rather, the way it didn’t cover it. A 2009 report on the resurgence and radicalization of right-wing extremists that the Department of Homeland Security distributed across government and law enforcement agencies -- which was prominently discussed during The Daily’s latest episode and in Reitman’s piece -- got almost no attention from news side of the Times in 2009.

    Right-wing media had responded to the report by fabricating a narrative that the Obama administration was targeting conservatives over political differences, effectively ignoring the insidious threat of white supremacist radicalization. Fox News’ Sean Hannity falsely claimed DHS was defining right-wing extremists as “people that maybe think we're not controlling our borders, people that have pro-life bumper stickers.” Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh asserted that the April 14 publication of the report had been timed to distract from April 15 anti-tax protests taking place around the country, sounding a lot like present-day right-wing media claiming right-wing violence is a “false flag” meant to distract. Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin called the report a “piece of crap” and claimed it was “a sweeping indictment of conservatives.” Then-CNN host Lou Dobbs and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough also joined in to attack the report.

    For its part, the Times either didn’t take the contents of the report seriously (evidence of a serious blindspot) or it cowered in fear of the hysterics fueled by right-wing media’s mischaracterization of the report.  The paper mentioned the report in only a handful of op-ed columns, by Charles Blow, Paul Krugman, and Frank Rich.

    What the paper did cover was then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s apology to veteran groups over the document, which had noted that returning veterans struggling to reintegrate at home could ‘lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone-wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.’” A 2009 Times blog also focused on reactions to the report and Napolitano’s apology rather than its substance.

    When it comes to covering radicalization and terrorism, mainstream media in general have either largely ignored right-wing extremism, or failed to contextualize its systematic threat when it manifests itself violently. But what do get plenty of coverage are attacks committed by Muslim individuals. President Donald Trump has helped fuel that bias, baselessly accusing media of not reporting terrorist attacks carried out by Muslims and putting out a list of attacks that omitted mentions of right-wing terrorism.

    Ensuring newsrooms better represent surrounding demographics could help address blind spots in mainstream media on issues including poisoned waterclimate change, and right-wing extremism that disproportionately affect non-white communities.

    But cowering to right-wing media pressure? Only growing a backbone can fix that.

  • A white supremacist YouTuber praised Fox's Tucker Carlson for mentioning "white genocide"

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & JASON CAMPBELL

    White supremacist YouTuber Mark Collett commended Fox’s Tucker Carlson for discussing the white supremacist talking point of “white genocide” on his prime-time show. The shoutout came during the December 5 edition of Collett’s weekly YouTube livestream called This Week on the Alt-Right. During the episode, Collett also took credit for his own role in mainstreaming the term.

    Collet is a British neo-Nazi whose racist content thrives on YouTube and whose extremism has been amplified by American far-right figures, including Fox’s Laura Ingraham and white supremacist darling Rep. Steve King (R-IA). YouTube allows Collett to monetize his extremist content and profit from spreading white supremacist propaganda, and his December 5 livestream was no exception. The Super Chat feature allowed viewers to pay for their messages to be featured more prominently in the live chat.

    White supremacists often push the false narrative of “white genocide” to propagandize about what they claim are fatal threats against white people, like immigration or demographic change. On his prime-time Fox show, Carlson often echoes white supremacist talking points and has become increasingly explicit in championing white grievances, earning accolades among white supremacists along the way.  

    On the October 1 edition of his Fox show Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson specifically fearmongered to his audience about the threat of white genocide by pushing a literal interpretation of an angry tweet written by a Georgetown University professor protesting the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

  • White supremacists directly linked to pro-Trump media figure Jack Posobiec. Here’s what you need to know about him.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Jack Posobiec, a conspiracy theorist and consummate pro-Trump media figure who often boasts of his access to the White House and other MAGA celebrities, worked as recently as 2017 with white supremacists who advocate for violence. Posobiec has a long record of extremism and ratfucking: He was an outspoken advocate of the “alt-right,” published a book with the help of an “alt-right” figure, and pushed all kinds of smears and misinformation for political gain.

    Posobiec reportedly had links to Jeffrey and Edward Clark, two white supremacist brothers. Jeffrey Clark was arrested by federal authorities in Washington, D.C., for gun charges after relatives contacted authorities about his support for last month’s mass shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue. As reported by HuffPost, Posobiec teamed up with the brothers in 2017 to film documentary footage; a source provided an image of Posobiec alongside the brothers. HuffPost also reported that anti-fascist researcher Laura Sennett said Jeffrey Clark had told her Posobiec both knew of his Nazi beliefs and was sympathetic to them.

    Posobiec is currently a host for One America News Network, a right-wing news outlet that specializes in sycophantic coverage of President Donald Trump and conspiracy theories. He previously worked for far-right Canadian outlet Rebel Media. Posobiec achieved his standing in the MAGA media universe by embracing the “alt-right”​ and its public figures during the 2016 presidential election and, like many other grifters, eventually rebranding as a member of the “New Right” after the extremism of the “alt-right” made associating with it too toxic.

    Despite his continued efforts to sanitize his role in spreading the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, Posobiec repeatedly broadcast to his social media followers and to Infowars audiences the baseless claim that a D.C. pizza restaurant served as a front for a child trafficking ring, showed up at the pizza parlor himself to “investigate,” and then claimed that the arrest of a gunman who also showed up at the pizzeria was a “false flag.”

    Posobiec’s ratfucking record includes spreading forged documents tied to Russia purporting to be then-French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s emails; planting a “Rape Melania” sign at an anti-Trump protest to smear activists; and doxxing one of the women who reported that she was sexually assaulted as a minor by defeated Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. Leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, Posobiec was an administrator in a racist Facebook group that promoted Republican candidates and pushed far-right conspiracy theories.

    He has built his brand by promoting attention-grabbing stunts that masquerade as activism, such as disrupting a theater presentation of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that he deemed to promote political violence, filing a civil rights lawsuit over all-female screenings of Wonder Woman, and trolling a congressional press conference on net neutrality to demand that Democratic senators disavow “satanic” internet pornography. He also gleefully participated in an online harassment campaign that resulted in CNN journalist Andrew Kaczynski receiving death threats.

    Posobiec has ridden every controversy and subsequent media coverage to increase his visibility and online followers. He’s used that branding for political access and promotion of his personal business endeavors, which include his self-congratulatory book about the movement that took Trump to victory, and his most recent book, published with the help of with “alt-right” figure Theodore Beale, who writes under the pseudonym Vox Day. Posobiec promoted this book by linking to Vox Day’s website, a depository of white supremacist grievances.

    Posobiec’s clout in the MAGA social universe has risen high enough to earn him a retweet from Trump himself (when Posobiec wrote an accusatory tweet aimed at the media for focusing too much on the 2017 white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA) and allow him access to the White House. He used temporary White House press credentials in May 2017 to push the debunked conspiracy theory that former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered for leaking DNC emails.

    In his role as OANN correspondent, Posobiec regularly showcases his access to pro-Trump celebrities (including Donald Trump Jr.) and his presence at White House and Trump Hotel social functions. Meanwhile, he’s used his OANN platform to hype smears from the defendant in the Seth Rich lawsuit, as well amplify the wild conspiracy theory known as QAnon, giving virulent far-right troll Microchip a platform and taking his word at face value that he is the anonymous poster known as Q. Microchip is an anonymous and prolific user of Gab -- the social media site known for being “haven for white supremacists” -- where he constantly posts white supremacist grievances and anti-Semitic and racial slurs and invites followers to “fuck shit up” legally by pushing and spreading the misinformation campaign QAnon.

    It is clear that Posobiec’s history of extremism, peddling of conspiracy theories, and ties to white supremacists are not a problem for the network that employs him, nor for the pro-Trump universe that has enabled his professional career. In that universe, misinformation and extremism are not deal breakers. They’re assets.

  • After Florida misogynistic killings, online incels call shooter “legend” and complain he “only killed two”

    Incels praise Tallahassee shooter by downloading his online footprint of misogyny and claim “there’s no stopping” hate-inspired rampages

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Scott Beierle, a man with an online footprint of far-right misogyny and a police record of groping women, opened fire at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, FL, on November 2, killing two women before shooting himself. As reported by Buzzfeed, in his online videos, Beierle had openly praised Elliot Rodger, who went on a misogyny-fueled killing rampage in 2014 and has become a hero for the women-hating “incel” (involuntary celibate) community online. This is the fourth incident of violence connected to far-right extremism in the U.S. in just the past two weeks.

    In reaction to the shooting and reports of Beierle’s record of misogyny, members of the anonymous online forum incels.is -- a new domain established after the forum reportedly got suspended for violating its past registrar’s anti-abuse policies -- shared and gleefully consumed the content of Beierle’s YouTube videos; and at least one person claimed he downloaded Beierle’s video presumably as a contingency in case social media platforms took it down. The same poster claimed to have found the shooter’s website and promised to post it to the forum.

    Another poster claimed that comments on the shooter’s YouTube videos that denounced his misogyny are the sort of thing that radicalize white men.

    In their comments about the shooter's rants in which he condemned white women who date Black men, some posters underscored the intersection between misogyny and white supremacy: One claimed that Beierle’s “views on race mixing are not wrong,” and another questioned how many white incels would follow the shooter’s example in response to interracial couples. As shown in the screenshot, one poster is already using a picture of Beierle as the profile's avatar.

    A member of the forum characterized the shooter as a “legend,” while another complained that he "only killed 2" women:

    Another thread warned readers that nothing will stop sexually frustrated men from going on rampages. The thread featured “an open letter to cucks” (the far-right’s go-to insult against those perceived as weak for embracing political correctness) supposedly explaining “why you can’t do shit about people going ER,” using incel shorthand for Elliot Rodger.

    The poster warned “cucks” and “foids” (a dehumanizing term incels apply to women) that they will “NEVER, EVER, EVER” stop men who are frustrated sexually from seeing “blackpill content online” and getting inspired to go on killing rampages. “Blackpill content” refers to messaging telling men who consider themselves involuntary celibate that the world is stacked against them and there “can be no personal solutions to systemic problems.”

    Replies to the open letter looked like battle cries: “We’ll get down every one of you,” one user wrote; another, who bragged about having an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle, posted, “Come and take me”:

    Other posters called on other incels to build "muscular physiques" that make them strong enough to "hurt others":

    A member of the forum speculated about whether an account that had posted “going ER” on November 2 in a similar forum for incels, Truecels.org, belonged to the shooter. Truecels includes a board called “hall of heroes” that honors -- among others -- Rodger, terrorist Timothy McVeigh, and Yamaguchi Otoya, a far-right assassin who killed the leader of the Japanese socialist party in 1960. Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes recently honored Yamaguchi Otoya by re-enacting the violent murder at the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York City.

    Accounts in these forums are anonymous, so anyone with an account can participate on different message threads. Members can also participate on Discord and Telegram chats after some vetting from the community. In the Truecels forum, posters also questioned whether the shooter had an account, expressing concern that screenshots of his profile could inspire a feminist “to stage a crisis to make it look like incels are violent … right before an election:”

    In just the past two weeks, four far-right extremists have gone on violent, hate-fueled attacks around the U.S. On October 24, 51-year-old Gregory Bush attempted to enter a predominantly Black church in Jeffersontown, KY, before heading to a Kroger grocery store where he shot two Black people, the first in the store and the second in the parking lot. Two days later, a man with a long record of posting right-wing content and threats online mailed explosive devices to prominent Democratic figures and the cable news network CNN. On October 27, a man who posted virulently anti-Semitic messages on the website Gab, known as a “haven for white nationalists,” went on a murderous rampage in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA.

    Given the violent posts about women, racial and ethnic minorities, and religious groups that can be easily found in online forums, and the common thread of far-right content posting among attackers, it’s not far-fetched to think that the next far-right violent attack might be brewing online. On mainstream social media platforms like Twitter, extremism is not particularly difficult to find: The incels forum links to its an official Twitter account, and accounts that post anti-Semitic and white supremacist content fly under the radar undisturbed. And yet, right-wing media figures refuse to either connect the dots between far-right rhetoric and the extremism it inspires or take responsibility for mainstreaming and empowering extremists.

  • As Rep. Steve King takes heat for ties to neo-Nazis, white supremacist media urge racists to support him

    White nationalist YouTubers and podcast hosts are going to bat for Rep. Steve King (R-IA), the Republican elected official 4chan racists call “our guy”

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters
     

    As the Republican Party and corporate donors are forced to grapple with what has been perfectly apparent for a while -- the fact that Rep. Steve King (R-IA) unapologetically embraces white supremacy -- white supremacist media are stepping up to bat for him.

    A week before midterm elections, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) condemned King’s “recent comments, actions, and retweets,” breaking the long trend of indifference the GOP had applied to King’s well-documented extremism. Corporate donors Land O’Lakes and Purina Pet Care also withdrew their financial support of King in the wake of a horrific anti-Semitic massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, that put an even brighter spotlight on King's white supremacist rhetoric.

    While it’s not a secret that white nationalists openly support King, his sympathy for them has only recently come under fire from GOP leadership. This sudden change of heart prompted users of the anonymous message board 4chan’s “politically incorrect” forum (known as “/pol/”) to gin up support for him, calling for “meme magic” to help King against the “media onslaught” supposedly trying to kick him out of Congress.

    In the October 30 edition of his show America First, white nationalist YouTuber Nick Fuentes took a break from an anti-Semitic rant to praise King for “talking about white genocide,” saying, “He retweets some of our guys, and he goes over to Austria, I believe it was, and he rubbed shoulders with some of our guys. I mean, he basically gets it, he knows what's going on.”

    On the October 20 edition of Third Rail, a podcast of white supremacist website The Right Stuff, the host known online as Borzoi declared, “We know about Steve King. We know what he’s all about. We’ve got Steve King’s back.”

    Later on the show, in the context of a discussion mentioning The Camp of the Saints -- a “stunningly racist” anti-immigrant novel popular with right-wing media -- Borzoi mentioned King’s tweet that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” as a reference to the white supremacist conspiracy theory “the great replacement.”

    King’s white supremacy rhetoric often comes in the form of dog whistles that his racist supporters hear loud and clear, as evidenced by an October 30 thread on /pol/. The since-archived thread celebrated King’s tweet which mentioned “the diversity” among the dogs present in his pheasant hunt, writing, “We had English Setters, Brittanys, German Shorthairs, and black, yellow, chocolate & white Labradors all assimilated into a fine working team.” “Steve King is a white nationalist and shitlibs HATE him for it,” wrote the user who started the celebratory thread, while another poster praised the “great line” of “comparing dog breeds to different races.”

    Like Fox’s Tucker Carlson, King has also earned 4chan’s affectionate title of “our guy.” An October 23 thread put forward a list of reasons why King fit /pol/’s definition of “/ourguy/,” which included “Neo Nazi” and “likes the confederacy.” Responding to the original post, another user wrote, “Of course he’s our guy.”

    It’s not hard to see why /pol/ would consider King to be on their side. In addition to his repeated dog whistles, he’s quote tweeted neo-Nazi Mark Collett, whose YouTube channel features incendiary anti-Semitic commentary that includes videos titled “The Jewish Question Answered in 4 minutes” and “The Holocaust: An Instrument of White Guilt.” After receiving backlash for his infamous “somebody else’s babies” quote, King doubled down on the statement. The phrase and similar derivatives have become a battle cry among his supporters on 4chan, where users post it on King-related threads as a reference to “white genocide” conspiracy theories.

    King also endorsed openly anti-Semitic white nationalist Faith Goldy in her unsuccessful mayoral bid for Toronto. He defended his endorsement in a media appearance, saying he had talked to Goldy “a number of times” and “took her through a lot of philosophy.” In the same appearance, King bemoaned that white nationalist “is a derogatory term today. I wouldn’t have thought so maybe a year, or two, or three ago.” Before that, King gave an interview to a far-right Austrian outlet about “his belief in the superiority of European culture over others,” his fear of “falling fertility rates in the West,” and “his belief that Europe and America are threatened by Muslim and Latino immigration.”

    King reacted to the latest backlash on Twitter by posting recent endorsements of Republican congressmen and supporters and celebrating President Donald Trump’s intentions of ending birthright citizenship. King’s response to Trump’s statements echoed his fellow white supremacists on social media, leaving few outside of GOP leadership to wonder why former Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke refers to him as the “Future King of America.”

    Madeline Peltz provided research for this piece.

  • White supremacists and the far-right are thrilled with Trump’s plan to try to end birthright citizenship

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    For extremists and MAGA internet trolls, ending birthright citizenship as enshrined in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution is a campaign promise that President Donald Trump must deliver. After Trump told Axios that he’s considering using an executive order to eliminate the right to citizenship for those born to noncitizen parents on U.S. soil, white supremacists and pro-Trump trolls celebrated online, while some acknowledged that the timing of the announcement -- one week before midterms -- and the fact that any executive order on the issue would undoubtedly go to the courts likely made it an electoral strategy rather than a policy goal.

    White nationalist Cameron Padgett:

    White supremacist author and Fox regular Ann Coulter, who referred to children born in the U.S. to noncitizen parents with a slur:

    Host for the white supremacist podcast Fash the Nation, known online as Jazzhands McFeels:

    Scott Presler, staffer for the anti-Muslim group Act For America and pro-Trump activist:

    “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec:

    Other Trump sycophants on right-wing media also went on Twitter to defend the president’s attack on the 14th Amendment, with some referring to the children of noncitizens born in the U.S. with a demeaning slur:

    The white nationalist publication VDare called Trump’s statement a “big moment” for the outlet, consistent with the group’s first attack in 2001 on American babies born to immigrant parents in U.S. territory:

    Neo-Nazi publication The Daily Stormer called Trump’s statement to Axios “an October Surprise DOUBLE SIZE for y’all Jews” while celebrating that Trump had suggested to Fox’s Laura Ingraham that the U.S. build tent cities for migrants seeking asylum: “Trump announced O P E N A I R C O N C E N T R A T I O N C A M P S for the wetback human garbage invading OUR COUNTRY!”

    On a discussion thread in Stormfront, a message board for white supremacists, users characterized “stopping birthright” as essential and speculated that Trump had waited until there is a “conservative majority in the supreme court” to go after the 14th Amendment:

    Similarly, a user on the anonymous message board 4chan praised Trump’s timing, alluding to “the supreme court which Trump just secured” and saying that the caravan of migrants seeking asylum made for “the perfect time for the optics”:

    On the anonymous forum 8chan, a thread praising “God Emporer (sic)” Trump celebrated the news, claiming “/pol/” (the “politically incorrect” board on chan) “was always right” in supporting him. The poster also mentioned Trump’s assertion that “it doesn’t take an act of Congress” to end birthright citizenship, writing, “see midterms for reversal of this if we lose,” a reminder of the overwhelming support for the Republican Party among anonymous online extremists.

    Talia Lavin contributed research to this piece.

  • Breaking down Gab: What you need to know about the social media platform that is a "haven for white nationalists"

    The Pittsburgh synagogue gunman posted anti-Semitic messages on Gab. Gab is full of neo-Nazis and extremists.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    In the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history, a mass shooting on October 27 left 11 dead in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. Reporters unearthed violently anti-Semitic messages the shooter had posted on the platform Gab, using an account that has since been deleted. Legacy media and companies that enabled Gab to sustain itself online are starting to grapple with the prominence of hate speech on the site, but for Gab, extremism has always been a feature, not a bug.

    While activists had alerted some companies working with Gab that the site was transparently violating terms of service, it took a fatal mass shooting for payment processors Paypal and Stripe and cloud host Joyent to drop Gab. The site’s CTO has reportedly resigned, Gab was temporarily inaccessible, and its founder Andrew Torba is “working around the clock” for the site to remain online. Torba asked for prayers for his plight and in a particularly tone-deaf post characterized the site as being "under attack."

    Trolling and harassment have been part of Torba’s business model since Gab’s founding in 2016. Torba himself was sacked from the alumni network of a startup accelerator he was a part of after he engaged in pro-Trump online harassment of a Latino, and he was photographed next to Milo Yiannopoulos, a Nazi sympathizer who was booted off of Twitter after organizing racist harassment of Black actress Leslie Jones.

    Gab was born in reaction to social media platforms that ban hate speech, extremism, and harassment, explicitly meant to provide a haven to those whose extremist content had gotten them banned from other platforms, specifically Twitter. Since the beginning, Torba and Gab’s chief communications officer, Utsav Sanduja, claimed that free speech came above anything else, and that they included harassment under free speech, telling Mic in March 2017: “Political incorrectness is a First Amendment right. ... We support freedom of speech and reject the politically correct definitions of what constitutes 'harassment.' [Social-justice warriors] do not get to define the verbiage, lexicon, culture or societal politics of the internet. Gab ... will repeal this politically correct, censorship culture.”

    They knew extremism was what motivated users to go on their site. So much that, as Sanduja acknowledged in 2017, they were looking into removing the downvoting feature (a feature similar to reddit’s in which users can “upvote” or “downvote” posts so that posts can jump above others and get more prominently featured) because it was enabling targeted harassment and driving women away from the site. (During the email exchanges with Mic, Sanduja addressed journalist Melanie Ehrenkranz in a sexist manner.)

    Extremists embraced the platform as an opportunity, and white nationalist darling Tucker Carlson hosted Torba during his prime-time show on Fox to promote Gab, failing to mention the extremism that had already festered on the site.

    After Twitter enforced new rules in December 2017 that resulted in a purge of several “alt-right” accounts filled with hate speech, users on Gab welcomed Twitter refugees warmly.

    Prominent white nationalist Christopher Cantwell -- dubbed the “crying Nazi” following his teary reactions to the 2017 Charlottesville, VA, Unite the Right rally -- posted a message for newcomers with an anti-Semitic greeting, compelling them to not “worry about the racism” on the site, while recognizing that “it can be a little weird at first”:

    The racism that Cantwell called “a little weird” was rampant and uncensored on the site, until neo-Nazi Andrew Auernheimer (best known online as weev) became the first person to be banned from Gab. weev, who has now migrated to guest appearances on racist shows on YouTube, was banned after Asia Registry, which used to host Gab, threatened to boot the site over a post in which weev wrote: “Jews have cornered the whole Internet. … And I think the only way we’ll have any freedom of speech here is if someone teaches them a lesson.”

    Instead of acknowledging that extremism was a problem in the site, Torba claimed weev was among users posting extremism to “break the guidelines on purpose”; the idea was that they were trying to goad leadership into banning them to show they would break their commitment to free speech. A Gab user protesting weev's ban noted that the hashtag “gas the kikes” “is a constant statement on here and people are not getting banned.”

    After white nationalist Paul Nehlen -- who ran as a Republican in a 2017 attempt to unseat Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) -- became the second person to be banned, it became clear that Gab’s application of its own rules was arbitrary. Despite obvious guideline violations, it wasn’t Nehlen’s often violent posts or his blatant white supremacy that got him sacked from the site. It was the politics over his revealing the true identity of the white supremacist known online as Ricky Vaughn, to which Gab’s leadership reacted inconsistently. First, Torba shrugged off what was being called a doxxing (revealing someone’s contact information to enable their harassment), only acting to remove Nehlen from the platform after the overwhelming support for Vaughn among Gab users made supporting Nehlen’s presence on the site untenable.

    Nehlen doxxing one of his critics was consistent with other doxxing operations -- in which trolls organize to spread the contact information of a person they want to make the target of harassment -- going on undisturbed at Gab in ways identical to on anonymous message boards 4chan and 8chan. For example, after Judge William Young ruled in favor of upholding current Massachusetts gun regulations that ban assault weapons, pro-gun trolls on Gab set their sight on Young and doxxed him in retaliation. Another instance of organized harassment on Gab was an “operation” in which trolls targeted progressive voices on Twitter, instructing each other to use Twitter reporting mechanisms against a list of progressive accounts in what they felt was retaliation for their own banning from Twitter in the first place. Torba not only tolerated such operations, he encouraged them, calling followers to engage in fraudulent mass reporting on Twitter in the name of causing chaos.

    For those of us tracking extremism on the site, the ways in which it served as an alternate universe where public opinion was supplanted by hate speech, became obvious. On any given day, activism took the form of white supremacy and users would fearmonger about diversity. Under the site’s “groups” feature, extremists openly organized under explicitly racist categories.

    More specifically, Gab offered racist interpretations of current events daily. After HuffPost reported that an anti-abortion activist was in fact a white nationalist, posters on Gab reacted with a shrug, complaining that “ethnonationalism” was “socially controversial,” and saying they hoped mainstream media reports like that would help “more people become white nationalist or identitarian.” On April 20, posters openly celebrated Adolf Hitler’s birthday, as evidenced by the site’s popular topics that day, and the reactions to the verdict that declared Bill Cosby guilty of assault were an intersection of racism and misogyny. On International Women’s Day, a sample of Gab takes included complaints that women had abandoned their “one job” of raising the next generation by joining the workforce, as well as statements like, “Women only belong in one place, and that’s in my basement shackled to the radiator; only to occasionally be let out so they can make me a sandwich.”

    The site’s extremist content often went beyond hateful words and into explicit exaltations of violence. Before he was banned, Nehlen prompted a discussion of a caravan of Central American immigrants in 2017 that included talk of armed militias, killing “every last one” and using them as “target practice.”

    Neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin openly called for shooting Middle Eastern refugees and blamed Jewish people for waging “a psychological war” to push for the right of refugees to come to the U.S.: “All it would take to stop this is a few bullets.” And that wasn’t the first time Anglin had posted about shooting up Jewish people, but Gab leadership told a journalist asking for a reaction that he hadn’t crossed a line.

    Another post that did not raise to the level of crossing a line for Gab was Anglin’s slur-laced, homophobic endorsement of corrective rape for lesbians.

    However, even for someone as toxic as Anglin, unregulated speech on Gab was seemingly starting to get too toxic. In March, he complained that the trolling and abuse he was subjected to by fellow posters on Gab was made more burdensome by the site’s lack of a block button. Anglin felt that Gab’s mute button wasn’t enough.

    Gab’s Sanduja responded to Anglin, seemingly taunting him to leave the site if he didn’t like it. Anglin claimed he used to encourage “people to use this site” but that posters replying to “every post” he made by “promoting terrorism” and “posting gay porn” was causing him to stop. Sanduja responded to Anglin’s tantrum and his troll supporters by exchanging slurs with them. After a user seemingly insulted his ethnicity by alluding to a type of visa foreign workers with specialty occupations use, writing “typical H1B monkey,” Sanduja responded, “You’re welcome for the free speech, Stormfag” (in reference to Anglin’s site the Daily Stormer).

    Gab’s leadership has always downplayed evidence of the extremism that festered on the site, potentially to avoid scaring away investors; leaders once told Daily Beast’s Kelly Weill that they thought “some of Gab’s Nazis are actually fake Nazis, who are just trying to make Gab look bad.” Neither Torba nor Sanduja offered proof of this claim, relying instead on the conspiracy theory that progressive organizations were supporting fake Gab accounts that post extremism to give the site a bad image, a theory that echoes somewhat the “false flag” reaction the far-right has faced with instances of right-wing extremism.

    This mindset explains why financial pressures have been the only incentives that have made Gab’s leaders act against extremism on their site. Torba has always framed pressure from his third-party providers to regulate Gab’s content as “censorship” to free speech, going on like-minded Alex Jones’ Infowars outlet repeatedly to complain. He’s apparently aware of the ways violent neo-Nazi groups like the Atomwaffen Division use Gab and has done nothing.

    Back in August, Gab’s hosting provider, Microsoft Azure, gave the site 48 hours to remove two virulently anti-Semitic posts made by defeated neo-Nazi congressional candidate Patrick Little (who also ran as a Republican in a primary and is verified by Gab on the site). Little was suggesting raising Jewish people “as livestock,” and vowing to attack Holocaust memorials in the U.S. with a sledge hammer. After Azure’s pressure, the site removed the posts in contention, but before the site was taken offline, Little was still on Gab, where he reacted to the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting by urging his followers to blame the victims.

    In an email statement to its users a full day after the synagogue shooting, Gab disavowed and condemned “all acts of terrorism and violence” but also condemned the press by saying, “We refused to be defined by the media’s narratives about Gab and our community.” In the statement, Gab’s leadership continued to take no responsibility for the extremism the platform has enabled since its inception by saying, “Criminals and criminal behavior exist on every social media platform.”