Author Page | Media Matters for America

Cristina López G.

Author ››› Cristina López G.
  • NPR adopted white supremacist Jason Kessler's false equivalence frame

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    NPR’s Morning Edition gave a gift to white supremacists, in the manner in which the show paired an interview with the white supremacist organizer of the Unite the Right rally alongside an interview with a Black Lives Matter activist.

    On its August 10 edition, NPR’s Morning Edition interviewed Jason Kessler, the white supremacist organizer of the upcoming second edition of the Unite the Right rally -- the gathering of racists that, on its first edition last year in Charlottesville, VA, resulted in the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer after a white supremacist drove a car into a crowd. While NPR’s Noel King effectively highlighted the bigotry of Kessler’s views and pushed back on his baseless claims of censorship and underrepresentation, the show adopted Kessler’s absurd frame as it immediately followed up his interview by bringing on Hawk Newsome, the president of Black Lives Matter New York, to comment on the rally.

    The bizarre juxtaposition is particularly evident from NPR's segment titles:

    During his appearance on NPR, Kessler -- who has secured permits from the National Park Service for the rally in Washington, D.C., this Sunday -- asserted he was “not a white supremacist” and that he was a “human and civil rights advocate focusing on the underrepresented Caucasian demographic.” For the past year, Kessler and other white supremacists have been entangled in a debate about the best way to present their bigoted views, focusing on whitewashing their racism by asserting themselves as a “positive, mainstream movement” which “primarily focus[es] on whites, who are uniquely denied the right to guard their survival and advocate their interests.” Kessler pushed this narrative on the show, seeking legitimacy by claiming white people aren’t “allowed to organize into political organizations” to push their interests and then drew a false equivalence of Unite the Right to Black Lives Matter or the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, and what he seeks to accomplish by organizing his rally.

    JASON KESSLER: I’m not a white supremacist, I’m not even a white nationalist. I consider myself a civil and human rights advocate focusing on the underrepresented Caucasian demographic.

    NOEL KING (HOST): The underrepresented Caucasian demographic. In what ways are white people in America underrepresented?

    KESSLER: Well, because they’re the only group that is not allowed to organize into political organizations and lobbies and talk explicitly about what interests are important to them as a people. You have Blacks, who are able to organize with Black Lives Matter or the NAACP, you have Jews who have the ADL, Muslims have CAIR.

    Immediately after airing Kessler’s interview, NPR brought on Hawk Newsome of Black Lives Matter, and asked him why he declined Kessler’s invitation to speak at the racist rally. Newsome condemned Kessler and underscored his refusal to be tokenized by white supremacists.

    NPR played into the white supremacist tactics of false equivalence by featuring Newsome’s interview right after Kessler’s. While it’s crucial to include voices of color, seek the perspectives of those affected directly by white supremacy, and provide coverage to the activists protesting the Unite the Right rally, NPR failed to offer forceful pushback to Kessler’s absurd claim that white supremacists are equivalent to groups legitimately fighting for equality, seemingly delegating that responsibility to Newsome. It’s also debatable whether audiences benefited from listening to Kessler citing Charles Murray’s debunked writings as scientific evidence of some races being superior to others, or whether white supremacists deserve a mainstream platform in the first place.

    What’s undeniable is that NPR committed “journalistic malpractice” by presenting Black Lives Matter as the “other side” of white supremacy.

  • #Doughnutgate: Online conspiracy theorists target Oregon donut shop with Pizzagate-like claims

    The hashtags #donutgate and #doughnutgate are being used to claim Oregon’s Voodoo Doughnuts is tied to child trafficking; the unsubstantiated claims were originated on a YouTube video that credited QAnon pusher Isaac Kappy

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A rising far-right conspiracy theory claims that a popular donut shop in Portland, OR, Voodoo Doughnuts, is a front for child trafficking. As of this writing, a YouTube video featuring the claim has more than 63,000 views, while the hashtag #donutgate appears to be gaining traction on Twitter. The allegation is an echoand an offshoot of Pizzagate, a conspiracy theory President Donald Trump supporters popularized during the 2016 election cycle, which baselessly claimed Democratic politicians operated a pedophilia ring from Washington, D.C. pizzeria Comet Ping Pong.

    On August 4, a man named Michael Whelan, known on Twitter as VeganMikey went on Nathan Stolpman’s YouTube channel Lift the Veil to share an incident after, according to him, he “was made aware of people that were participating in sexual abuse and trafficking of children in the city of Portland, OR.” Stolpman claimed the incident was connected to the owner of Portland’s Voodoo Doughnuts and that they were going to “be linking this to Comet Pizza as well.”

    Whelan said he had been “eyewitness to children taken back” at a party at the home of Tres Shannon, the owner of Voodoo Donuts, where “there was abuse of children going on.” Whelan also claimed people within the alleged ring “had worked at Comet,” linking his allegations to Pizzagate.

    In the video, both Whelan and Stolpman credited Isaac Kappy for talking about pedophilia rings as an inspiration for others to go public with similar allegations. Whelan also directly addressed Kappy asking him to “help the people on the ground level of this happening.” Kappy is a minor actor and QAnon enthusiast who was among the conspiracy theorists claiming on videos that Hollywood celebrities like Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg were involved in pedophilia rings. As a result, searches on YouTube last week for Hanks and Spielberg were momentarily dominated by videos of the wild conspiracy theories. Kappy’s allegations were too extreme even for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who hosted Kappy on Infowars and asked him to restrain his wide-ranging accusations by avoiding “getting into names,” a precaution possibly linked to the defamation lawsuits Jones is currently battling for his own conspiracy theories.

    Kappy promoted the Lift the Veil video to his followers during a Periscope session in which he also gave oxygen to the wild QAnon-related absurd claim that John F. Kennedy Jr. is, in fact, alive and behind the anonymous Q posts, saying “that would be the jaw-dropper of the century” if Kennedy Jr. was alive.

    The claims about Voodoo donuts have reached Reddit, where users have shared Stolpman’s video within a QAnon subreddit. On the online message board 4chan -- from where many hoaxes and harassment campaigns often originate -- users appear to be actively organizing a campaign against the donut shop focused on distributing flyers containing the unsubstantiated claims.

    Such campaigns can have dangerous real-life consequences. Despite the fact there is no evidence to substantiate Pizzagate, a man inspired by the wild conspiracy theory showed up at the restaurant to self-investigate and opened fire.

    One YouTube video linked Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) to the conspiracy theory while a website peddling in Pizzagate tried to link evangelist Franklin Graham to the supposed crime ring.

    The claims regarding Voodoo Doughnuts earlier appeared on YouTube in late 2016 and early 2017, when multiple uploaded videos focused on the allegations. One recurring allegation was that designs on certain doughnuts were secret references to changelings and pedophilia:

    The allegations were also made on a dating forum in early December 2016, with the poster citing “Patriot News.”

    This time around, these allegations have received much wider attention following Kappy’s endorsement. An analysis on the hashtag tracker Keyhole shows that tweets containing #doughnutgate are now gaining traction and its impressions have reached more than 826,477 users; tweets for #donutgate have reached an additional 186.623 users. According to Keyhole, the major related hashtags that appear next to #doughnutgate are #pizzagate and #pedogate.

    Media Matters reached out to Voodoo Doughnuts and will be updating this piece if the donut shop responds.

  • A list of the right-wing amplifiers of the QAnon conspiracy theory

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. , NATALIE MARTINEZ, TALIA LAVIN & ALEX KAPLAN

    While the unhinged conspiracy theory known as “QAnon,” or “The Storm,” has been gaining traction online among President Donald Trump’s supporters since October 2017, it was Tuesday night when it finally jumped to the mainstream in the form of shirts and signs that were prominently visible at a Trump campaign rally in Tampa, FL. Supporters of QAnon believe “a high-level government insider with Q clearance” is anonymously posting clues informing the public of Trump’s master plan to undermine the “deep state” and dismantle pedophilia rings supposedly linked to powerful celebrities and politicians.

    While the theory has its murky origins on 4chan and 8chan -- message boards best known for serving as the source of hoaxes and organized harassment campaigns -- many prominent right-wing figures, websites, and social media accounts have helped amplify QAnon. And the consequences of its unfettered growth could be dangerous. A man is facing terrorism charges in Arizona for using an armored vehicle to stop traffic on a bridge near the Hoover Dam with demands and letters clearly inspired by QAanon. Similarly, “Pizzagate,” a pedophilia-focused conspiracy theory fueled by Trump supporters during the 2016 presidential election, inspired a man to open fire inside a Washington, D.C., pizzeria.

    Below is a growing list of right-wing media figures, politicians, websites, and social media accounts that have carelessly amplified QAnon by either evangelizing its tenets to their followers or neutrally presenting the conspiracy theory through their influential platforms without clarifying to their audiences that the whole thing is a baseless canard.

    Amplifiers include:

    Right-wing media figures

    Alex Jones, founder of conspiracy theory site Infowars

    Jones went all in on QAnon, even claiming “the White House directly asked” Infowars correspondent Jerome Corsi to be on the “8chan beat” covering QAnon. After QAnon followers began criticizing Corsi and Jones’ opportunistic hijacking of the conspiracy theory, Jones attempted to backpedal his initial enthusiasm, justifying his distancing by claiming that the identity of the anonymous poster who goes by Q had been “compromised.”

    Mike Tokes, co-founder of NewRightUS

    Rodney Howard-Browne, right-wing Christian preacher and evangelist

    James Woods, actor

    Roseanne Barr, actress

    As documented by The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer, Barr was among QAnon’s early high-profile supporters. Barr often tweets about the conspiracy theory and has also focused on its pedophilia-related offshoot known as “Pedogate” (derived from Pizzagate) and she recently asked a skeptical follower “what exactly” about Q “is doofus”?

    Roger Stone, notorious right-wing dirty trickster

    Stone promoted a QAnon video on his Facebook page.

    Curt Schilling, former baseball player and Breitbart podcast host

    Schilling has repeatedly tweeted about QAnon, claiming to be “proud” to provide a platform to amplify the conspiracy theory, which he did during his Breitbart show, The Curt Schilling Podcast.

    Jerome Corsi, Infowars correspondent and prominent “birther” conspiracy theorist

    Corsi repeatedly amplified QAnon, both from his platform at Infowars and from his Twitter account. Infowars claimed that Corsi was “working directly” with the moderators of 8chan’s The Storm forum.

    Sean Hannity, Fox News host

    On January 9, Fox’s Sean Hannity tweeted from his account that his followers should “watch @wikileaks closely! Tick tock.” The tweet quoted another tweet that claimed that “out of nowhere, Ecuador suddenly offers to mediate a resolution for #JulianAssange,” with the hashtag “#QAnon.”

    Bill Mitchell, Trump sycophant and host of Your Voice America

    Jack Posobiec, One America News Network correspondent and prominent pusher of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory

    While Posobiec has referred to the conspiracy theory in neutral terms, it isn’t clear if his hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers know how he feels about it. Is he serious about the conspiracy theory or just trying to surf its popularity while remaining neutral to claim plausible deniability when inevitably, the consequences become dangerous?

    Liz Crokin, pro-Trump troll and conspiracy theorist

    Pro-Trump troll and self-appointed “citizen journalist” Liz Crokin has expanded on the QAnon conspiracy theory to speculate that “The Storm” includes a crackdown on elite pedophiles. Crokin has gone on to accuse model Chrissy Teigen and her husband, singer John Legend, of pedophilia. Recently, she also claimed John F. Kennedy Jr. had faked his death and is behind the Q posts.

    Charlie Kirk, executive director of Turning Point USA

    On a now-deleted tweet, Kirk spread bogus statistics that seemingly originated in the QAnon universe.

    Mike Cernovich, pro-Trump troll and notorious Pizzagate pusher

    Like Posobiec, Cernovich has made neutral mentions of the conspiracy theory on his Twitter account without clarifying to his followers that it’s baseless.

    Political figures

    Eric Trump, son of President Trump

    Eric Trump liked a tweet of a slogan linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory.

    The official Twitter account for the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee

    On July 4, a Twitter account that identifies itself as belonging to the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee of Florida tweeted out (and later deleted) a YouTube explanatory video of QAnon.

    Paul Nehlen, candidate in the Republican primary for Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district

    Social media accounts

    Facebook

    RT America

    Conservative Post

    The American Patriot

    National Conservative News Network Canada

    YouTube: Channels extensively covering Q

    The following are channels YouTube has allowed to proliferate that cover and interpret every post Q signs (ordered by number of subscribers):

    Websites

    YourNewsWire

    Fake news site YourNewsWire took the QAnon pedophile conspiracy theory to Facebook with baseless accusations targeting celebrities Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.

    The Blacksphere

    Freedom Outpost

    The Trump Times

    The Deplorable Army

    Neon Nettle

    From an archived version of a since-deleted post that appeared on Neon Nettle, a fake news site that has also pushed the conspiracy theory on Twitter:

    WorldTruth.TV

    Neon Revolt

    The site features a tag devoted to QAnon-related content.

    Exopolitics.org

  • Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes and a men's rights activist spent an entire show attacking Black women

    Tommy Sotomayor is a men’s rights activist with a record of making anti-Semitic comments, including on David Duke’s show

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Gavin McInnes, the founder of the violent, fraternal men-only organization Proud Boys, devoted the July 16 episode of his CRTV show Get Off My Lawn to criticizing Black women, starting with Beyoncé. McInnes, whose misogyny is well-documented, also brought on Black men’s rights activist Tommy Sotomayor to avoid sounding “too white” in his critique. Sotomayor has built an online punditry career by bashing Black women and Jewish people.

    McInnes kicked off the discussion by falsely claiming that the targeted harassment campaign that far-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos led on Twitter against actress Leslie Jones was evidence of “Black women potentially being “double protected” in America. According to McInnes, the fact that Yiannopoulos was permanently banned from Twitter as a consequence showed that the platform was being deferential to Jones because she’s Black and a woman. McInnes’ revisionist history conveniently ignores the fact that Black women tend to be targets of online harassment at higher rates than white social media users.

    Sotomayor, whose real name is Thomas Jerome Harris, has built his internet presence around making inflammatory attacks against women, the Black community, and Jewish people. Sotomayor once said that then-President Barack Obama “shouldn’t try to ban guns, he should ban niggas.” The video was embraced and amplified by then-CNN pundit Harry Houck, who has a long history of repeatedly suggesting African-Americans are prone to criminality and are to blame for the police violence of which they are victims. Sotomayor also once referred to Black Lives Matter protesters as the “retarded kids in the class.” He hosted former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke on now-deleted YouTube livestreams, and appeared on Duke’s podcast to discuss “the destruction of the black community due to the cultural pollution that is being spewed out by the Jewish media elite.” One of Sotomayor’s discussions with Duke was even featured on the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.

    Sotomayor is also a recognized men’s rights activist whose anti-feminist punditry has been amplified by the misogynistic website A Voice For Men. In a since-deleted YouTube video, Sotomayor once took issue with a toilet paper ad that gave a “poignant salute” to single mothers on Father’s Day, claiming it showed that Hollywood was taking “aim, just like everyone else, at the American male.” An archived page of several of his now-deleted videos shows pejorative language and critical commentary about Black people.

    On his website, Sotomayor lists a number of YouTube channels as his own. He once explained that he has many channels because YouTube users keep flagging his content and “every video I put up, they take it down.” Sotomayor’s comment demonstrates just another way extremists circumvent YouTube’s weak attempts at dealing with hate speech.

    On McInnes’ Get Off My Lawn, Sotomayor enthusiastically enabled McInnes as he bashed Black women, agreeing with him that they are prone to violence and calling them “irresponsible being[s]” who are raising children with “100 percent autonomy” and making them violent as well.

    In an attempt to demonize Black mothers, Sotomayor shared an anecdote of a woman who had put a “sew-in weave” in her child’s hair, claiming “a normal person, a white woman” called his show saying that if she had “bleached” her 4-year-old’s hair, the school would’ve sent child protective services to her house. “It goes back to, again, no father,” Sotomayor claimed. “If a father’s there, he’s not even going to let his child dress up in this whore’s outfit.”

    Sotomayor also complained that President Donald Trump hasn’t done enough in terms of “cutting off the welfare,” claiming it is financially incentivizing people to have “children … in bad situations.” He bizarrely suggested that aiding single mothers and “all these rape cases that are coming up” were evidence of the way men are being mistreated in America.

    TOMMY SOTOMAYOR: I promise you, if you take away the financial benefit from having children -- it’s the same thing with all of these rape cases that are coming up and I know I’m opening up a different can of worms -- but when you see how men are being treated in the United States, there’s no wonder why Bruce Jenner decided to put on a dress and tuck his wang.

    This is not the first time Sotomayor has been a willing participant in the online crusades of far-right white men to victim-blame Blacks or attack women. During a guest appearance on “intellectual dark webrenegade Dave Rubin’s YouTube show in April 2017, Sotomayor blamed single mothers for not picking “the correct person to have the kid with” and complained that “the only person that’s being held responsible is the guy.” He said he was bothered by the fact men could be held responsible to help financially with the kids they had with women who claim, “It’s my body. I can do what I want to with it. But once I do it, I need help.” Rubin, a dramatically unsuccessful comedian, joined Sotomayor in complaining about the double standards that limit white comedians from making jokes about anything “remotely politically incorrect.”

    Sotomayor also joined one of YouTube’s professional misogynists, Stefan Molyneux, for some “man talk.” Molyneux has built a reputation out of bemoaning feminism and complaining about the plight of men (and promoting eugenics and scientific racism). During the discussion, Sotomayor complained that a man on trial for killing his wife couldn’t say “she was verbally abusive to me” as a defense but that “there are women who’ve gotten away” by saying the same thing.

    Sotomayor and the far-right media personalities he's joining are enjoying mutually beneficial relationships: Sotomayor gets additional venues to spread his hateful rhetoric, and the white men he's collaborating with get cover as they push racist and misogynist attacks on their shows. 

  • Member of violent men-only fraternal organization Proud Boys goes on Infowars to recruit

    Proud Boys member: “But you know, if you want to get involved there is no better time than now”

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    During the July 17 edition of Infowars’ The Alex Jones Show, Alex Jones hosted Ethan Nordean, a member of Proud Boys who goes by the alias “Rufio Panman.” As reported by The Guardian, Nordean garnered viral fame after a fight between him and a counterprotester at a right-wing rally was caught on video, earning him his organization’s designation of “Proud Boy of the Week.” Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes also amplified the violent encounter on his Twitter account:

    Proud Boys is a self-described “Western chauvinist” men-only fraternal organization. While McInnes has included a disclaimer (“We are not a violent group”) on the organization’s website attempting to distance the group from the violence its members somehow keep involving themselves in, violence is in reality ingrained into the group’s ethos. To earn a low-level membership (or “second degree”), prospective members have to subject themselves to continuous punches by other Proud Boys while naming five breakfast cereals. The highest membership level, the fourth degree, is earned only if the member has engaged in violence with anti-fascists. McInnes has also attempted to add “clarification” around what that entails, but his hedging is at odds with his record of glorifying violence. He’s on the record saying he “cannot recommend violence enough. It is a really effective way to solve problems.”

    On its site, Proud Boys also displays its affiliation with the violent organization Fraternal Order of the Alt Knights (FOAK), which, essentially operates like a “fight club” and which Proud Boys refers to as its “military arm.” As recently as June 22, McInnes introduced his CRTV show CRTV Tonight with a bizarre montage glorifying violence and fighting in which he claimed, “What's the matter with fighting? Fighting solves everything. The war on fighting is the same as the war on masculinity.”

    Nordean used his appearance with Jones to recruit for an upcoming rally, saying "As long as there’s 50 to 100 of us, we can take on a thousand of them ... [I]f you want to get involved there is no better time than now.”

    ETHAN NORDEAN: We do have the up-and-coming rally in Portland August 4.

    ALEX JONES (HOST): Yeah. That's August 4. Tell the folks about that.

    NORDEAN: Well, obviously we’re eager to get back, because of the failure of the protection of the citizens that the city showed down in Portland. It was a complete failure on their part, complete lack of leadership, and people's lives were put at risk. And thank God that the Proud Boys showed up in numbers and protect those people. I don't know what would have happened if we weren't there, but it wouldn't have been good.

    JONES: And maybe we should show the police marching antifa up against the demonstration and the prayer vigil -- let's show that footage if we can -- and then what transpired out of that. Because this was -- first they have a rally a few months ago, women and children get beaten up. So you guys come out, you still kick their ass, but the police stand down. So you’re saying three is the trifecta, it's the charm, have a really huge group come out and once and for all let antifa know this is still America.

    NORDEAN: Yeah. Well, it doesn’t take -- as long as there’s 50 to 100 of us, we can take on a thousand of them, that's fine. But if you want to get involved, there is no better time than now. Get involved, find your local chapter, hit him up. We'll be in Portland August 4.

    JONES: And, again tell folks about the rally, why you're doing it again?

    NORDEAN: Well, we're going to see how the city reacts, and we'll see if they step up their leadership and actually provide security and protection against these antifa thugs. We're also going to take another stand against antifa because of their violence that they've portrayed against the people of Portland and really up and down the West Coast.

  • This far-right online campaign has found an ally in the Trump administration

    By lobbying on behalf of the British anti-Muslim troll Tommy Robinson, the Trump administration is carrying water for the international far-right

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After months of relentless online (and occasional offline) hysteria, the far-right campaign #FreeTommy has found an ally in the administration of President Donald Trump. According to reports, Sam Brownback, U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom, lobbied Britain’s ambassador to the United States on behalf of the British anti-Muslim troll known as Tommy Robinson. Robinson is imprisoned in the United Kingdom after pleading guilty for contempt of court for disrupting a trial.

    As documented by Hope not hate, an organization that combats far-right extremism, Robinson was arrested for “breach of the peace” while he livestreamed about an ongoing case outside Leeds Crown Court in Britain. By livestreaming and sharing information regarding the case, Robinson violated restrictions on reporting about the case, a common legal practice in the U.K. to ensure that members of the jury aren’t influenced by media pressure or outside information. He pleaded guilty, and his legal representative said Robinson had “deep regret” for what he had done, but many in the online far-right ecosystem have painted him as a free speech martyr through the #FreeTommy online campaign and its offline, sometimes-violent demonstrations.

    By lobbying for his freedom, the administration is putting its weight behind a troll whose prominence derives from his extremist anti-Muslim rhetoric. Robinson, whose actual name Hope not hate reports as Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, is the co-founder of the anti-Muslim English Defense League (EDL), which he built “into the premier street protest group within the far right.” While addressing an EDL audience in 2011, he blamed “every single Muslim watching this video on YouTube” for theJuly 7, 2005, bombings in London, saying, “You got away with killing and maiming British citizens.” A 2013 guest appearance on Fox’s now-defunct show The O’Reilly Factor shows how American right-wing media helped elevate his extremist rhetoric; Robinson claimed on the air that “Islam is not a religion of peace. It never has been, and it never will be.”

    Robinson was once refused entry into the U.S., but he still traveled to the country in 2013 on a friend’s passport. The stunt got him banned from the country. Twitter has also permanently banned Robinson from its platform for reportedly violating its “hateful conduct” policy.

    Before the Trump administration picked up Robinson’s case, the #FreeTommy campaign found acolytes among the American MAGA universe and far-right conspiracy theorists. Alex Jones of conspiracy theory outlet Infowars (which has hosted Robinson as a guest on different occasions) has mischaracterized Robinson as a “political prisoner”; Lucian Wintrich, White House correspondent for the right-wing site The Gateway Pundit, which struggles with getting things right, warned that what happened to Robinson was “what is coming to the United States,” a take similar to that of opportunistic right-wing troll Mike Cernovich. The president’s son Donald Trump Jr. once again displayed his well-documented love for the far-right internet trolls by commenting on Robinson’s situation. Fox host Tucker Carlson hosted anti-Muslim troll Katie Hopkins on his show to advocate for Robinson:

    The developments surrounding the #FreeTommy campaign are illustrative of two notable points: American right-wing media and their prominent online personalities provide a built-in amplification network for the messaging of the international far-right, and the Trump administration is extremely susceptible to its narratives.

    Robinson’s rhetoric reportedly inspired a man to commit an anti-Muslim terror attack in Finsbury Park, London, that left one person dead and 10 others wounded in June 2017.

  • A GOP Twitter account is helping spread the baseless internet conspiracy theory QAnon

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    An account that identifies itself as the “official Twitter account for the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee” spread the 8chan-originated baseless conspiracy theory called QAnon by tweeting out on July 4th a YouTube explanatory video. While not verified by Twitter, the account is linked on the official website for the Florida county GOP.

    Supporters of the QAnon (also known as "The Storm") conspiracy theory baselessly believe that President Donald Trump’s cryptic October 2017 comment alluding to a “calm before the storm” was in reality a hint at a master plan he has set in motion to kneecap members of the “deep state” while dismantling pedophilia rings supposedly tied to powerful celebrities and politicians. Anonymous posts on anonymous internet forum 8chan signed by “Q,” who claims to be “a high-level government insider with Q clearance,” set “The Storm” in motion. Trump supporters claim the posts are clues informing the public of Trump’s plan, shared on the message board to circumvent what they believe is mainstream media’s anti-Trump agenda.

    Prominent right-wing media figures are increasingly using their public platforms to add fuel to the fire and legitimize the anonymous posts. Breitbart's Curt Schilling amplified QAnon on his podcast, both celebrity Trump supporter Roseanne Barr and Fox’s Sean Hannity pushed the bogus claims on Twitter, while conspiracy theorist site Infowars tasked Jerome Corsi with the QAnon beat, only to backpedal when QAnon supporters started attacking Corsi after he criticized “Q.” Turning Point USA’s executive director and Donald Trump Jr. confidante Charlie Kirk also spread bogus statistics seemingly originated in the QAnon universe on a now-deleted tweet.

    8chan, when not the source of this wild conspiracy theory, is best-known as an online message board connected to hoaxes and organized harassment campaigns.

    These conspiracy theories matter. “Pizzagate,” a similar pedophilia-focused conspiracy theory fueled by far-right media during the 2016 presidential election inspired a shooter to open fire inside a Washington, DC, family restaurant. Not only can the same happen again, it has already started. A man is facing terrorism charges in Arizona for just recently using an armored vehicle to stop traffic on a bridge near the Hoover Dam. His demands and his letters have both been linked to the Qanon conspiracy theory. And now that conspiracy theory has been endorsed by an element of the Republican party.

    UPDATE: The Twitter account of Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee has deleted its QAnon tweet.

  • Despite YouTube’s vows to “do better,” white supremacist David Duke keeps going on livestreams

    YouTube’s restrictions are not enough to discourage extremists from using the platform to spread white supremacy

    Blog ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

     As evidenced by a recent appearance former Klu Klux Klan’s leader David Duke made on a YouTube livestream, the company’s measures to deal with content produced by extremists are seemingly not enough to dissuade white supremacists from using the platform to evangelize and make money. While YouTube has put other appearances by Duke behind a warning explaining that users have flagged the content as inappropriate, the June 27 livestream has no such label.

    On June 27, Jean Francois Gariepy hosted a livestream -- which, as of this writing, has over 22,800 views -- on his channel featuring Duke and known neo-Nazi Mark Collett. According to The Daily Beast, Gariepy has called in the past for “a white ethnostate” and featured other extremists like Richard Spencer on his YouTube channel. Collett, a neo-Nazi who was recently elevated by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) on Twitter, has repeatedly collaborated with Duke and expressed his admiration for Adolf Hitler. The livestream included the Youtube feature Super Chat, through which users can pay for their messages to stand out during a live chat, allowing Gariepy to earn money from users paying to highlight racist slogans like “it’s OK to be white.” During the livestream, Collett bragged about the success of his channel despite YouTube’s restrictions on his “most successful video,” an anti-Semitic tirade titled “The Jewish role in the refugee crisis.” Though his anti-Semitic video displays a warning from YouTube that users have flagged the content, it is still easily accessible after a click.

    Duke complained that his appearance on a June 19 livestream on Gariepy’s channel had been restricted, but Gariepy claimed that YouTube didn’t delete the video meant the platform was “admitting that there was no hate speech in there.”

    DAVID DUKE: I’m still kind of recovering from our last show. I’m really kind of angry at YouTube and it’s just amazing to think that this broadcast -- there was no hatred in it, it was very decent, it was just criticizing some aspects of racism in a different way, and it had a 95 percent positive rating, it had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of comments and they were overwhelmingly positive, and they even blocked out the ratings, they blocked out being able to comment, they blocked out being able to share directly, which really hurts a video, and they also wouldn’t put the numbers -- I think you’ve had about 40,000 views now, only you can see that, the average person cannot see that around the world. It’s just -- it’s amazing. That is very powerful propaganda, right? Because they don’t want people to know and people to see that there’s a lot of support for an idea when 95 percent of the watchers say this is great. They know that when people see that, that it makes people also tend to understand it’s OK, it’s alright to like it, psychologically, and that’s what they always do on the other side. So it’s OK to like this interview, and it’s OK to be white.

    JEAN FRANCOIS GARIEPY: Absolutely. And by choosing to censor in that way and not delete the video, they’re essentially admitting, YouTube is admitting, that there was no hate speech in there. There was not a single sentence that could be interpreted as hate speech. However, as we’ve seen many times in the past, the subject of Zionism, of the involvement of Jewish people in certain industries, has always been a subject that YouTube tries to hide, tries to hide any form of encouragement and any form of social sharing. It is sad. We’ve documented right here on the show, the “Frame Game” reports the kind of advocacy groups that are behind that kind of censorship. They are advocacy groups that are tracking our activities. They are organized and financed for the purpose of reporting these videos as hate speech when in fact they are not.

    On the June 19 appearance that YouTube placed behind a warning, Duke claimed Washington, D.C., is “occupied by the Zionists.” He also went on to say that Jewish people “control most of the media conglomerates” and control “Hollywood, which dishes out horrific hate propaganda, the destructive propaganda against our people, against our heritage, against true values of humanity, the true human values.”

    After issuing an apology to advertisers for placing their brands over toxic content and allowing extremist content creators to make money, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki had reiterated her promises, saying, “We can, and we will, do better.” Yet Duke’s repeated appearances on Gariepy’s thriving channel clearly demonstrate that the mechanisms the platform has put in place to identify and combat extremism are not enough to deter content creators who profit from spreading toxic messaging.

  • Townhall senior columnist amplifies white nationalist tropes to troll followers

    Kurt Schlichter made multiple tweets with just the phrase "14." "14" is a common neo-Nazi phrase.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Media Matters

    Twice over the weekend, Townhall senior columnist and Rebel Media host Kurt Schlichter tweeted "14" at Twitter users with whom he appeared to be having political disagreements. “14” is a common white nationalist trope that refers to the slogan coined by white supremacist David Lane: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

    Schlichter is not the only right-wing media figure to use rhetoric linked to white nationalism in order to troll progressives. Milo Yiannopoulos, the far-right troll with Nazi sympathies struggling to stay relevant, recently sent a Jewish reporter $14.88, another code tied to white supremacy (the digital money transfer company Venmo kicked him off the platform, and PayPal did as well).  Similarly, a Department of Homeland Security February press release recently raised questions among journalists for echoing the trope.

    By willingly associating with tropes so tightly tied to white nationalism, whether in jest or intentionally, Schlichter is revealing either that he has white nationalist sympathies, or he is comfortable with carrying water for white nationalists in order to “trigger the libs.” As New York magazine laid out, “ironic” trolling using white supremacist tropes has provided cover to genuine acts of hate and violence. 

  • Far-right online message board users celebrate Annapolis newsroom shooting

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    A shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper building in Annapolis, MD, caused multiple injuries and fatalities. Even before anyone knew details about the shooting, message boards known for their far-right vitriol reacted gleefully, echoing the anti-journalist rhetoric President Donald Trump has made so prominent.

    On the “politically incorrect” boards in 4chan and 8chan, users immediately set out to comment on the breaking news, some dismissing it as a “false flag” meant to distract from Trump “winning all week,” or warning of “a parade of crisis actors” was forthcoming, echoing the narrative pro-Trump media pushed to dismiss survivors of the Parkland, FL, school shooting and their calls to reduce gun violence afterward. More disturbingly, a significant amount of users celebrated and encouraged the violent incident, celebrating what they saw as an attack on journalists.

    These disturbing reactions mirror the sentiment Nazi-sympathizer Milo Yiannopoulos expressed when he called for “vigilante squads” to shoot journalists in response to media reporting he disliked. In response to the Annapolis shooting, Yiannopoulos tried to blame his violent comments on the journalists he had made them to and who had then reported it, taking no responsibility for the impact his comments could have on his far-right followers. Media outlets and journalists are a common target of pro-Trump trolls, who have turned “brick a journo” (which refers to throwing bricks at journalists) into a recurring pattern to threaten journalists with violence by tweeting pictures of bricks at them.