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Cristina López G.

Author ››› Cristina López G.
  • The Joe Rogan Experience disproportionately hosts men

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

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

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

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

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

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


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

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

  • What to know about ADOS, a group targeting Black progressives


    American Descendents of Slavery (ADOS) is an obscure pro-reparations group that has been attacking prominent Black progressives who also support reparations. There is evidence that ADOS is actually advancing a right-wing agenda, and while it calls itself progressive, it pushes anti-immigrant views. Supporters of ADOS have carried out harassment campaigns against political activist, rapper, and reparations supporter Talib Kweli and against progressive radio host Mark Thompson. Thompson is in favor of reparations, but he criticized ADOS on MSNBC and got into an altercation with an ADOS supporter who was harassing him and now ADOS supporters are attempting to get him fired from his job at Sirius XM.

  • Fox keeps pushing the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that motivated the Tree of Life shooter

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Before setting out to allegedly perpetrate what’s believed to have been the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history, the Tree of Life synagogue shooter went on Gab to write a post in which he blamed Jewish people in the U.S. “for bringing in an invasion of nonwhite immigrants.” In the past 24 hours, Fox has peddled the same talking point twice during its prime-time programming, showing that the network is not above promoting the same baseless, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that have motivated violent extremists.

    On the April 10 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity hosted conspiracy theory-monger Glenn Beck, who said the migrant caravans were “directly” funded by “George Soros and others” (George Soros is Jewish). Beck then directly addressed President Donald Trump -- a common practice at Fox -- saying the caravans are “an assault on the republic” and that “we can’t fight the enemy if we won’t call them by name.”

    And while fearmongering about immigration during the April 10 edition of his show, Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs claimed “left-wing money, a lot of groups” and “the United Nations” (which the Tree of Life shooter also mentioned) were behind caravans of migrants headed for the U.S. border.

    Though Dobbs didn’t specifically mention Jewish people, he has peddled the conspiracy theory of Jewish groups funding migrant caravans enough times that “left-wing money” has become a dog whistle for his intended audience. Dobbs and others at Fox News repeatedly peddled this conspiracy theory in 2018 with little repercussion. After Judicial Watch’s Chris Farrell claimed on Dobbs’ show that the “Soros-occupied State Department” was helping fund a group of migrants traveling to the United States, people widely criticized the show, with Variety noting that “citations like that are typically meant to allude to Jews,” and Fox condemned the statement, banning Farrell from the network. But soon after, Dobbs showed the hollowness of Fox’s attempt to curtail anti-Semitism on its airwaves; as Dobbs tried to wrap up a segment in another episode, one of his guests said criticizing Soros was not anti-Semitic. Dobbs laughed, adding, “I’m certainly glad that I didn’t just break away there.”

    Additionally, Dobbs’ baseless comments about migrants have been celebrated in the past by conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, whose site Infowars pushed the conspiracy theory that the United Nations and George Soros is behind the “migrant caravan invasion.”

    After the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre and even after Soros himself was directly targeted with a pipe bomb, right-wing media figures continued their attacks on him. Dobbs posted a tweet, which he later deleted, saying, “Fake News--Fake Bombs.”

    Many journalists and media figures noticed yesterday’s episode of blatant anti-Semitism and its connections to the Tree of Life massacre. But to Fox, it’s business as usual.

  • When conservatives claim censorship, they're often just showcasing their tech ignorance

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Allegations that social media companies are biased against conservatives and censoring right-wing content have become a common narrative on right-wing media and, ironically, recurrent content on the same social media platforms the narrative targets. These claims are just another iteration of the long-term right-wing effort to brand most of the mainstream press as biased against conservatives in an attempt to “work the refs” and get favorable treatment, this time applied to tech giants.

    But many of the episodes used to push allegations of censorship or bias can actually be explained through technical arguments in which political motivations play no role. And that showcases, at best, a preoccupying level of digital illiteracy among those making the allegations and, at worst, the inherent bad faith of these claims.

    As explained previously by Media Matters’ Parker Molloy, this playbook has been working for conservatives for over half a century, at least since “Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater gave reporters covering his campaign pins that read ‘Eastern Liberal Press.’” The strategy of putting the onus of proving neutrality on the mainstream press worked -- media have since over-represented conservatives, engaged in false equivalences, offered platforms to far-right hacks in the name of balance, and prioritized negative coverage of Democratic politicians -- and the same playbook is now being applied to tech giants.

    This, too, seems to be working: These platforms have groveled in response to accusations of bias by tapping extremist figures and far-right grifters as advisers or by having their leadership appear on right-wing propaganda shows to appease right-wing audiences.

    Moreover, in what seem like efforts to avoid accusations of right-wing content censorship, tech platforms have let racism proliferate undeterred, making social media both an unsafe space for members of vulnerable communities and a valuable tool for dangerous far-right radicalization and recruitment.

    But many of the episodes that have been used to help right-wing media built a useful narrative can actually be explained by technical reasons unrelated to bias or censorship, including anti-spam policies used on tech platforms to combat inauthentic behavior or digital illiteracy on the part of users. What follows is a noncomprehensive list of examples:

    • A conservative site complained of bias because autocomplete search results on Google didn’t show the lack of new indictments stemming from the Trump-Russia investigation, ignoring the platform’s autocomplete policies against character denigration.

      As Media Matters’ Parker Molloy pointed out on Twitter, right-wing site Washington Free Beacon accused Google of bias against President Donald Trump because its search bar autocomplete results didn’t point users to the news that there had been no new indictments related to the special counsel investigation on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Google search liaison Danny Sullivan directly addressed the complaint, explaining that to avoid character denigration, the platform’s autocomplete policies specifically avoid offering predictions that contain “indictment” next to a person’s name. Sullivan had to reiterate his explanation after Washington Free Beacon promoted its article again without clarifying political bias was not playing a role in the autocomplete results.
    • Those alleging that a temporary loss of Twitter followers was indicative of the platform’s bias against anti-abortion movie Unplanned failed to understand Twitter’s “ban evasion” mechanisms. On April 1, a number of right-wing media figures and politicians accused Twitter of deliberately censoring anti-abortion movie Unplanned after the Twitter account for the movie lost followers temporarily. As explained by NBC’s Ben Collins, Twitter responded that the temporary loss of followers wasn’t about the Unplanned account itself, but came because an account linked to the Unplanned account had violated Twitter rules, triggering the platform’s automated “ban evasion” mechanisms, which aim to limit users banned from the platform from coming back by using alternative accounts. As Collins pointed out, Twitter’s ban evasion systems identify accounts that could be linked in different ways, including by shared IP or email addresses. Shortly after, Twitter manually overturned the automated system and restored the Unplanned movie account, noting that follower counts can take time to replenish.

    • Conservatives incorrectly interpreted temporary account activity limitations meant to stave off inauthentic, spammy activity as censorship. Platforms are known to limit the number of comments or likes single accounts can make in a determined period of time to stave off spam, automated behavior, and inauthentic activity; authentic accounts managed by real people can be affected by these limitations whenever their behavior matches automation patterns. Reportedly, different limits apply to different accounts depending on how old they are. Yet Donald Trump Jr. and White House social media director Dan Scavino have claimed they’re being censored when this has allegedly happened to them.

    • There have been accusations of “#censorship” based on “a crazy drop in new followers,” but there are unrelated reasons for altered follower counts. Trump Jr. has also claimed that drops in followers or stagnant follower counts amount to “#censorship.” However, Instagram has experienced glitches that have affected follower counts for many accounts, and the platform’s policies that aim to reduce inauthentic activity have in the past caused account purges that result in diminished follower counts for users displaying automated behavior. President Donald Trump made a similar accusation against Twitter, claiming to have lost followers. As Mashable pointed out, users across the political spectrum lose followers as a result of purges, or removals of “inactive accounts and fake profiles.” In fact, a Twitter purge in the summer of 2018 cost former President Barack Obama more followers than Fox’s Sean Hannity.

    • A Republican lawmaker complained that a Google search mainly returned negative results about unpopular Republican legislation, saying it was evidence of bias, but in fact it was likely reflective of an overwhelming amount of criticism. During a December 11 hearing before Congress, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) cited “a firsthand experience” to ask Google CEO Sundar Pichai why the first few pages of results he found on Google about the Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act showed so much negative criticism. Chabot also questioned why the majority of results of Google searches for the Republican tax cuts criticized them as favoring the rich. As Pichai explained, search results are not based on political ideology. What Chabot seemed to not understand was that Google search returns are actually based on rankings (a site that is ranked high appears higher on search results) that depend on factors like domain authority, which is calculated by the number and reliability of sites that link to it, among other things. Which is to say, negative results are evidence that sites with high domain authority are referring to the search term in negative ways -- something that has more to do with the substance of the search term than the search engine itself.

    • Another legislator complained to Google that an iPhone displayed negative language about him, implying it was evidence of Google’s bias, but the phone was manufactured by Apple. During the same December hearing in which Google’s Pichai testified, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) -- whose extremist record includes explicit endorsements of white supremacists -- complained that his 7-year-old granddaughter had been exposed to negative language about him on her iPhone. King said, "And I’m not going to say into the record what kind of language was used around that picture of her grandfather, but I’d ask you: How does that show up on a 7-year-old’s iPhone, who’s playing a kids game?” As Pichar said, Google does not manufacture iPhones; Apple does. Moreover, even if the hardware in question had been a Google-manufactured Android, King’s complaint displayed his own digital illiteracy more than any possible tech platform bias directed against him.

    • A congressman alleged that Google is biased because it showed negative information from his Wikipedia page in its search results, while his own staff’s edits to his page were not approved by Wikipedia editors. While questioning Google’s Pichai during the December hearing, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) took issue with Google’s search results displaying details from his Wikipedia page when his name is searched, because the “liberal editors around the world” of the free encyclopedia “put up a bunch of garbage” about him, while the “proper, honest” edits his own chief of staff made to Gohmert’s page were not approved. As Motherboard’s reporting on this matter has explained, what’s displayed on Google’s knowledge panels isn’t evidence of bias, but of the tech giant’s “cynical, damaging, and unfair over-reliance on Wikipedia’s volunteer editors.”

    • PragerU alleged that removal of far-right content on platforms was based on “deliberate censorship of conservative ideas,” but an expert found “plausible, non-ideologically motivated explanations” for the removal. After online propaganda machine PragerU accused platforms of “deliberate censorship of conservative ideas” for removing PragerU videos (and then reinstating them after admitting a mistake), an expert “reviewed several of the videos” and found explanations for their removal that had little to do with political bias. As Data & Society’s Francesca Tripodi explained, some videos contained language that could have been picked up by platforms’ automated systems and then -- when reviewed by third-party moderators that are sometimes outsourced to the Philippines -- the reviewers placed more importance on the specific language than on the political substance of the video. Tripodi also pointed out that the platforms’ lack of process transparency could have contributed to right-wing cries of censorship and bias.

    • Right-wing outlets affected by a Facebook purge claimed it was evidence of anti-right-wing bias. In fact, it was evidence of spammy behavior. Right-wing outlets claimed that the removal of right-wing content pages showed Facebook was biased against the right. Yet Facebook explained in an October 11 blog post that the reasoning behind the removal of over 800 pages and accounts was based on user violations of the platform’s rules against spam and “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” According to Gizmodo’s report at the time, Facebook pointed out that while the spammy behavior the platform targeted for removal seemed financially motivated, the pages were “at least using political content to drive traffic to their ad-supported websites.” Prominent amplification networks of right-wing content were affected by the purge -- but it was because the pages were in violation of the platform’s guidelines regarding “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” which had nothing to do with the pages’ political alignment.

    • An allegation that Facebook “deboosts” right-wing content was not supported by hard evidence. A Media Matters study found right-wing political pages and left-wing political pages on Facebook have about the same amount of interactions. Donald Trump Jr. has devoted media appearances and columns to pushing generalized claims of censorship from Big Tech. In a March 17 column published by The Hill, Trump Jr. pointed to Facebook documents published by serial bullshitter James O’Keefe to allege that the site targeted conservative posts for “deboost”-ing. A new Media Matters study of content from 395 Facebook pages that regularly post about American political news between July 2, 2018, and March 17, 2019, shows that not only did left-leaning and right-leaning pages have roughly the same engagement numbers, but -- between January 14 and March 17, the weeks leading up to this new wave of conservative censorship claims -- right-leaning pages on average actually received more interactions than left-leaning pages.

    Alex Kaplan and Natalie Martinez contributed research for this piece.

  • Facebook said its ban on white supremacy would start this week, but it's still the same cesspool

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In the inaugural week of its enforcement, Facebook’s new policy against white supremacy and white separatism is already proving to be hollow, as evidenced by the platform’s claim that a video in which a white supremacist fearmongers about immigrants “replacing” white people is not a violation.

    On March 27, Facebook announced that beginning this week it would “not tolerate praise or support for white nationalism and white separatism.” Further reporting clarified that the platform’s ban would focus narrowly on content featuring “explicit” praise or support of white supremacy or separatism, suggesting that content featuring the implicit, coded ways in which white supremacy maligns, criminalizes, and erases people of color and immigrants would remain available on the site.

    Media Matters compiled a noncomprehensive list of pages that do exactly that, sharing examples of posts that displayed extremist messages. We also included the personal pages of prominent white supremacists who, despite not calling themselves white supremacists or white separatists explicitly on the site, use Facebook to promote white supremacist messages. Out of 28 pages listed, only two are now unavailable following Facebook’s enforcement of the policy: a page called The Alt-Right and a racist meme page called Saltine Social Club (Facebook does not specify why these pages are now unavailable). Out of the 15 pages for white supremacist personalities or brands we listed, only former Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke’s is unavailable as of this writing. The pages that seemingly were deemed not explicit enough to violate Facebook’s new policy include claims that “multiculturalism is genocide,” criticism of race mixing, and celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s killer.

    As reported by HuffPost, Facebook said that a video posted by white nationalist Faith Goldy on her page -- in which she complains that people of color and Jewish people are “replacing” white people through immigration -- did not break the platform's rules against “the promotion or praise” of white supremacy and white separatism. (The white supremacist tropes that Jewish people are plotting to replace white people through immigration, and that a “great replacement” brought on by immigrants of color threatens the existence of white people, have been listed as motivation by two mass killers recently.)

    Facebook’s hesitance to enforce its own policies on content like Goldy’s demonstrates that the platform will hide behind a narrow focus on literal wording to skirt its responsibility to users maligned and oppressed by extremist rhetoric. The narrow scope of enforcement also raises the question of whether Facebook leadership is familiar with the ways in which white supremacists operate on digital platforms -- hiding behind layers of irony, using vague wording and appropriating harmless symbols to uphold plausible deniability, and pushing “shitposting,” or the inside joke-laden, coded language that speaks of old racism in new ways. If so, then it seems the site’s leaders are simply unwilling to anger white supremacists and isolate the customer base of users who crave their content.

    The question shouldn’t be whether Facebook’s policy of banning white supremacy and white separatism is a good or a bad decision, but whether it's effective. And in its current literalist interpretation which takes white supremacists at their word and ignores the voices of those oppressed by their messaging, it's simply not.

  • Facebook says it is banning white nationalism. Here are some places it can start.

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    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Facebook has announced it will ban “praise, support and representation of white nationalism and white separatism” on Facebook and Instagram. As reported by Motherboard, the ban will focus narrowly on “explicit” phrasing because Facebook says “implicit and coded white nationalism and white separatism” are “harder to detect and remove.” We’ve compiled a noncomprehensive list of pages and accounts that push white supremacy or belong to known white supremacists. Will the extremism they push be explicit enough for Facebook?

    • White Lives Matter Movement: Posts on this page have urged followers to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s killer on King’s birthday, claimed that diversity is “code word for white genocide,” and suggested that white privilege is a “myth” that Black people (referred to derisively as “bleccs”) hold against white people “in contempt for their lack of personal initiative.”

    Prominent white supremacists on Facebook

    Natalie Martinez contributed research to this report.

  • How an Austrian Identitarian leader with a financial link to the New Zealand shooter profits from YouTube

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On March 27, Austria’s chancellor confirmed that the man who allegedly shot and killed at least 50 Muslims in a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, made a donation to the Austrian Identitarian Movement. According to Reuters, the movement’s leader Martin Sellner received roughly $1,690 last year from a man with the same name as the suspect, which prompted Austrian law enforcement to raid Sellner’s house on March 25. Sellner is a prolific YouTuber with a wide-reaching digital presence who asks for monetary support for his anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant messaging and collects donations through his YouTube videos and via Paypal and Bitcoin.

    The alleged Christchurch shooter was clearly steeped in the far-right internet culture, which is known for disseminating anti-immigrant memes, videos, and conspiracy theories on various platforms, including anonymous message boards and YouTube. Sellner, who has over 91,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel, gained notoriety beyond Austria for promoting anti-immigrant stunts meant to grab attention online, like the failed “Defend Europe” mission in which his group planned to disrupt search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea and force stranded refugees back to North Africa.

    After Sellner’s anti-Muslim activism led the U.K. to refuse him entry into the country, Fox’s Tucker Carlson passionately defended him, his romantic partner Brittany Pettibone, and others who were refused entry on similar grounds, claiming the U.K.’s actions were evidence that the country “hates itself, its heritage, [and] its own people.”

    Like its American copycat Identity Evropa (which recently rebranded as the American Identity Movement after chat logs displaying its users’ extremism were made public), Sellner’s group is a white supremacist organization focused on sanitizing its image to maintain mainstream appeal. Aided by glossy media coverage and a wide-reaching network of YouTube influencers, Sellner has been able to get donations by spreading anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim messaging to a global far-right audience.

    On a March 26 YouTube livestream, Sellner addressed the Christchurch shooter’s donation and claimed that media coverage was smearing him unfairly despite his group’s claimed opposition to violence. While addressing the matter, Sellner collected donations using YouTube’s “super chats” feature, which has allowed other extremists to also profit from the content they upload to the platform. (Super chats allow viewers to pay to have their comments featured prominently in a bar at the top of the chat.)

    On his YouTube channel, Sellner asks for financial support from his audience by linking to the donations sections of his personal website, in which he writes (in German) that his political work is financed by these donations and that in gratitude for such support, he feels it is his obligation to continue his commitment to his ideas. These ideas include his fearmongering about “demographic replacement” of Europeans and the “rapid Islamization” of Europe, pushing “the great replacement” as a “very important term” to describe that “all populations are being completely replaced within a few decades by massive immigration.” (Before he perpetrated the Christchurch massacre, the alleged shooter posted a manifesto online that he titled “The Great Replacement.”) On a YouTube video where he appears with Pettibone, Sellner has also suggested that eating croissants and drinking coffee is a way to mock Islam.

    In 2016, Sellner admitted that he had started creating English language content to “create a network of information” by reaching English-speaking audiences; in the same video, he complained that his involvement in hanging an anti-Muslim banner that read “Islamization kills” led to him and others being charged with hate speech. In a conversation with the New York Times, Sellner acknowledged that he had pointed the New Zealand shooter to his English-language YouTube videos after receiving praise for his work.

    While Sellner claims that his movement is nonviolent, his anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim messaging reaches far-right audiences around the globe, including violent extremists. And the donations he gets from spreading this message allows him to continue producing more work. As The Daily Beast’s Kelly Weil explained, “A bright line connects the fascist movement’s leaders, and the murderers who keep putting the movement’s ideas into practice.” The content they put out on social media platforms is that bright line.

  • Talia Lavin could teach Laura Ingraham a lot about journalism

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Ordinarily, it would not be considered newsworthy that a private university hired a journalist with extensive experience covering the far-right to teach an undergraduate journalism course based on her expertise. But because said journalist is right-wing outrage target Talia Lavin, Fox News aired multiple segments about New York University hiring Lavin (who formerly worked at Media Matters). In one segment, Fox host Laura Ingraham even referred to Lavin as a “journo-terrorist.”

    Lavin is no stranger to right-wing outrage. About a year ago, she made a mistake while working as a fact-checker for The New Yorker, misidentifying the tattoo on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer and veteran as white supremacist imagery when in fact it was a symbol from his platoon while deployed in Afghanistan. Lavin corrected the error within minutes, apologized, and deleted the tweet she had written about it “so as not to spread misinformation.” Despite the quick correction and apology, ICE’s official Twitter account posted a clarification about the tattoo in question and a press statement that called out Lavin by name. After that, the entire right-wing media ecosystem followed suit.

    They found Lavin an irresistible target for far-right audiences: a Jewish, progressive female journalist who had publicly made a mistake. She resigned from her job after making the error, but that didn’t stop right-wing media from giving the events wall-to-wall coverage. What ensued was anti-Semitic and misogynistic harassment targeting Lavin online for weeks, with her pictures posted to anonymous message boards and her Twitter mentions flooded with violent threats and insults. Nazi sympathizer Milo Yiannopoulos even bragged about harassing her with a coded neo-Nazi symbol.

    All of which explains why right-wing media jumped at a new opportunity to feed the many anti-Semitic, misogynistic trolls in their audience, using Lavin’s upcoming teaching position at New York University’s journalism school. Fox News aired multiple segments with the news of Lavin’s hiring, with Ingraham focusing on it during prime time. The hypocrisy of Ingraham’s outrage over Lavin was underscored by an earlier segment in which Ingraham painted conservatives as martyrs of liberal attacks against free speech on college campuses.

    With its history of airing blunders, inaccuracies, sycophantic propaganda, and downright stupidity, Fox News is hardly the best messenger to promote journalistic integrity and best practices in reporting. And unlike Lavin, Fox repeatedly refuses to apologize. The network’s record of catering to the far-right and fostering extremism shows the hollowness of its concern about who is teaching a journalism course on covering the far-right. And as someone who has actually worked closely with Lavin in covering extremism, I can confidently attest that the mistake she made -- which right-wing media continue to hypocritically weaponize against her -- hardly tarnishes her journalistic talent, her wide-reaching knowledge of the far-right and its insidious mechanisms, or her relentlessness in the face of the harassment that right-wing media continue to incite. In short, many at Fox News, including Ingraham, should take Lavin's class.

  • To attempt to make sense of QAnon, Politico turned to Pizzagate conspiracy theorists

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In what seemed like an attempt to demonstrate the rise of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement within the right-wing establishment, Politico tweeted out a video about QAnon “true believers” filmed at the most recent Conservative Political Action Conference. Unfortunately, the outlet missed an opportunity to truly explain the oversized impact that weaponized misinformation can have over entire political movements by relying on two notorious far-right conspiracy theorists for their expertise.

    The 8chan-originated conspiracy theory that developed around anonymous posts signed by “Q,” an anonymous poster claiming to hold a high security clearance, holds that there is a behind-the-scenes scenario in which President Donald Trump is kneecapping a ring of powerful pedophiles connected to “the deep state.” The theory -- and the movement of followers it has inspired -- deserves media coverage and expert analysis to explain its influence on right-wing politics. But Politico interviewed far-right conspiracy theorists Jack Posobiec and Mike Cernovich to make sense of QAnon, taking their opinions at face value, ignoring their own involvement in uncritically amplifying the conspiracy theory during its early stages, and downplaying their involvement in promoting the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory by noting just that they have been criticized for pushing the theory, rather than stating what they did to promote it.

    Similar to QAnon, “Pizzagate” is a conspiracy theory that smeared powerful Democratic figures -- in Pizzagate’s case by accusing them of hiding a child trafficking network behind a Washington, D.C., pizzeria. It turned dangerous (as QAnon could) after a man claiming he wanted to “self-investigate” opened fire with a rifle inside the restaurant. Before that, Cernovich had told his audience that “Pizzagate is real” and Posobiec had livestreamed from the D.C. restaurant, speculating that “they have a big secret to hide.”

    Because Posobiec and Cernovich are grifters focused on sustaining their careers (which include publishing books and making films attacking the media), and they have recently made efforts to sanitize their public images and pivot away from the bigoted slurs, misogyny, conspiracy theories, and alliances with extremists that allowed them to grow their platforms during the rise of the MAGA internet. Politico’s decision to feature them talking about a conspiracy theory they played a role in creating -- without mentioning that connection to the audience -- helps them continue rebranding without any accountability.

    QAnon is misinformation being weaponized for political purposes, and it absolutely merits the attention and coverage of political media. But outlets can and must seek the expertise of real journalists and social media experts who understand the conspiratorial right without having been an unrepentant part of it. Don't just give a platform to two known grifters with long histories of weaponizing misinformation themselves.