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Jared Holt

Author ››› Jared Holt
  • Far-right alternative-media figures think the “Google Manifesto” proves them right

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Members of the far-right alternative-media ecosystem are lashing out at Google after the company fired an employee who argued that there are biological differences at play behind gender gaps within the tech industry in an internal memo criticizing the company’s diversity initiatives. While the firing was based on the biological claims, which violated Google's code of conduct, far-right media figures latched onto his argument that Google does not entertain conservative viewpoints and used it to validate a broader narrative about supposed tech censorship.

    Last week, a 10-page internal memo written by James Damore, a software engineer at Google, went viral among Google staff. The manifesto was later published in full by the technology news site Gizmodo. In it, Damore claimed that Google’s “discriminatory” biases behind its promotion of diversity in the workplace have created a “politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence.” Damore also wrote that “on average, men and women biologically differ in many ways” and that those differences may create less opportunity for women to ascend the corporate ladder for positions that “often require long, stressful hours.” Diversity is not a bad thing, he argued, but Google’s benchmarks for workplace diversity “can incentivize illegal discrimination.”

    Days after the memo circulated throughout the company, Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an internal memo that Damore had violated the company’s code of conduct by “advancing harmful gender stereotypes” and that “to suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.” Business Insider later confirmed that Damore had been fired from Google for penning the memo.

    Following the news of Damore’s firing, members of the right-wing alternative-media ecosystem leveraged their distribution network to spread claims that Damore’s termination proved Google seeks to suppress conservative viewpoints within its company, even though the controversy around Damore’s comments spurred form his arguments about biological superiority and not his conservative views:

    Right-wing vlogger Stefan Molyneux:

    Infowars Editor-at-Large Paul Joseph Watson:

    Far-right internet troll Jack Posobiec:

    Far-right media personality Mike Cernovich:

    "Alt-right" blogger Ashley Rae:

    Alternative right-wing media outrage also inspired posts on many high-traffic fringe political blogs. Big League Politics blogger Cassandra Fairbanks wrote, “Instead of arguing using facts, logic, or reason, many women within the Google team immediately took to social media to scream about the ‘sexism.’” At the end of the article, Fairbanks asked, “When will the left learn that feelings will never outweigh facts?” Jim Hoft, owner of The Gateway Pundit and possibly the dumbest man on the internet, penned an article about Damore’s firing with the headline “Truth Is A Hate Crime.”

    A Twitter account associated with 4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board (commonly referred to as “/pol/”), posted an image of a predominantly female group it claims is part of “Google’s censorship team” and claimed it “explained so much.” Media Matters is not linking to this post to protect the identity of those pictured.

    In addition to lashing out at Google, Posobiec took to Periscope and encouraged his fan base to tweet the hashtag “#GoogleManifesto,” which briefly became a trending topic on Twitter. Conservative firebrand Chuck Johnson’s right-wing crowdfunding site WeSearchr launched a fundraising page to pool money to help Damore “get back on his feet and see if he can fight Google.” WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange even offered Damore a job at his website; Assange has previously accused Google of colluding with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the U.S. State Department to control the distribution of information related to foreign affairs.

    Members of this media ecosystem have found a hero in Damore because they can spin his termination from Google to validate one of their key talking points: that tech companies are actively suppressing conservative voices on their platforms and censoring opinions that contradict a liberal worldview. Conservative columnist Kurt Schlichter called for an antitrust investigation into Google:

    The Verge reported that Damore’s firing does not represent the first time discussions about diversity in the tech industry have served as fodder for right-wing online communities, citing outrage over Pax Dickinson’s ouster from Business Insider after a string of anti-feminist and racist tweets. It’s also worth noting that many personalities who populate the right-wing alternative-media ecosystem (such as Milo Yiannopoulos) first gained prominence in 2014 during another major tech industry controversy called “Gamergate.” Similar to the Google manifesto, the Gamergate online movement found energy when it criticized diversity efforts in the video game industry; it also spurred attacks on a female game developer’s sex life that resulted in death threats.

    The Google manifesto and reaction provide another example of the lengths to which members of this media ecosystem will go to manufacture validation for their fringe worldview and smear its critics.

  • Pro-Trump internet personalities throw tantrums after ADL identifies their hateful rhetoric

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Pro-Trump internet trolls claimed that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was a "terrorist organization" and compared the group to Nazis after ADL identified some of the biggest online personalities of the “alt-right” and “alt-lite” movements and called them out for spreading hateful rhetoric.

    The ADL recently published a list of “alt-right” and “alt-lite” figures, identifying key players in both the white supremacist “alt-right” and the fringe right-wing media landscape of media trolls and smear merchants it inspired, which the ADL called the “alt-lite.” It included internet troll and Infowars contributor Mike Cernovich; smear merchant Jack Posobiec, who once received a temporary White House press pass; disgraced Breitbart provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos; The Gateway Pundit’s Lucian Wintrich; and Rebel Media’s Gavin McInnes, using the “alt-lite” banner to describe their prior affiliation and promotion of “alt-right” figures and ideologies. In a Periscope live stream, Cernovich responded to the list’s publication by urging his followers to spread the hashtag “#ADLTerror” on Twitter. Cernovich also called ADL “a terrorist organization” that had “targeted” him and his family for “murder and assassination” by including his name in the list.

    Soon after Cernovich launched the hashtag, other alternative media personalities who were also mentioned in the ADL’s list rallied to attack the organization. Posobiec compared ADL’s members to Nazis and claimed the “death list” was being used to target Trump supporters; Wintrich called the ADL a “liberal terrorist organization” whose “only qualifier” to label people a hate group leader was support for Trump; Yiannopoulos accused the ADL of trying to get pro-Trump media figures like himself “hurt or killed by painting targets on our backs”; McInnes threatened to “sue the living shit out of everyone even remotely involved” with the list if he was attacked following its publication.

    Allies and supporters of those on the ADL’s list also joined in on the attack. The Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft accused the ADL of publishing “a murder hit list” and stated that his website would take “further action” against the organization if it did not remove Wintrich’s name. Rebel Media’s Laura Loomer decried the ADL’s decision to publish a “hit list,” asking why the organization is “encouraging violent leftists to attack members of the right.” And “Ali,” a rising star among pro-Trump media personalities, also promoted the hashtag. Fans of these personalities created memes and videos and spread them on social media to show their support.

    While BuzzFeed technology reporter Charlie Warzel pointed out that the ADL didn't necessarily provide full evidence of the actions that earned these trolls a spot on the list, the ADL was right to include them based on their habits of engaging in hateful rhetoric and online harassment. The organization correctly identified them for using their platforms to spread vitriol and honestly documented their efforts to sanitize their movement’s prior affiliation with “alt-right” circles and differentiate itself from white nationalism.

    Warzel also correctly noted that these trolls are "more of a media arm than an ideological group of any kind." These individuals do not spread hate in the traditional way that has been the modus operandi of the “alt-right” figures also included in the ADL’s list. Rather than organizing community events and advocating for any specific policies, these figures have built a potent anti-liberal media apparatus that can be -- and often is -- mobilized to harass and smear any chosen target-of-the-day.

    Over the past several months, these right-wing media personalities and pro-Trump internet trolls have fueled and engaged in harassment and doxing campaigns against a variety of people. They misquoted pop star Ariana Grande after a terrorist attack at her concert in Manchester, smearing her as “anti-American.” CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski’s family received dozens of threatening phone calls following an article he wrote about the origin of an anti-CNN meme Trump tweeted. And the internet trolls falsely accused popular online satirist Vic Berger of being a part of an online cohort of pedophiles. They were also key proponents of the “Great Meme War” with CNN, during which social media sites were flooded with high volumes of anti-CNN memes and numerous CNN employees were doxed and harassed.

    Though these alternative media figures and internet trolls are now rebranding away from the “alt-right” leaders who once inspired them, they still deserve to be on the ADL list and should remain there until they cease using their platforms to incite harassment and encourage extremist rhetoric.

  • Jack Posobiec showed up at a net neutrality press conference and exposed himself as a fraud

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Internet troll Jack Posobiec appeared at a congressional press conference on net neutrality and demanded that the Democratic senators speaking at the event publicly say whether they disavowed “satanic” internet pornography. Although Posobiec failed to draw comments from the elected officials, the self-proclaimed “journalist” succeeded in displaying his deceptive “reporting” tactics.

    On July 12, Posobiec waltzed through a crowd including members of the press, distributing flyers that thanked the assembled Democratic senators for “protecting our quality violent porn content” and featured screenshots of Google searches for violent, “satanic,” and rape videos featured on popular porn website RedTube. The flyers also contained logos and imagery that suggested the organizers of January’s Women’s March endorsed the sentiment of the handout.

    In a pair of live streams posted to Posobiec’s Periscope profile, the former Rebel Media reporter can be seen lurking around the press conference, handing out flyers and conversing with attendees. One audience member asked him to confirm that the flyers were sarcastic, to which he responded, “Of course.” After the speeches concluded, Posobiec heckled Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and later claimed to have “triggered” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) to call him a “liar” and quote the Ninth Commandment at him. Posobiec was immediately mocked online.

    Posobiec’s stunt is another example of the extreme lengths he is willing to go to deceive his audience and troll news media. In June, Posobiec and fellow right-wing troll Laura Loomer interrupted a performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in New York City that depicted a character resembling President Donald Trump being assassinated (in line with the plot of the play). Posobiec screamed at members of the audience, calling them “Nazis” who are “inciting terrorists” and have “the blood of [Rep.] Steve Scalise” on their hands, referring to a shooting that injured a congressman.

    It’s also been reported that Posobiec was the source of a “Rape Melania” sign at an anti-Trump rally, and he has claimed he incited an “assassinate Trump” chant in a group of protestors so he could film them. The media troll, who was briefly given temporary White House press credentials, was also a major proponent of the debunked “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory and was removed from a Washington, D.C., restaurant after he filmed a child’s birthday party during the peak of the hysteria surrounding the theory’s allegations that an underground sex ring was being operated beneath a pizza parlor.

    Posobiec’s latest attempted stunt failed, but he remains an active disinformation smear merchant who occasionally succeeds at duping media into regurgitating his fabricated controversies, such as in the instance of the “Rape Melania sign” (which became a trending topic on Twitter) and the Shakespeare play disruption (which made national news). Reporters should view Posobiec as the fraudulent liar that he is and dismiss any temptation to consider him a credible source.

  • Donald Trump Jr. loves far right internet trolls -- and they love him back

    The president’s son has used Twitter to promote media trolls and conspiracy theorists

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Donald Trump Jr., son of President Donald Trump, frequently uses his prominence on Twitter and proximity to the White House to promote right-wing media trolls who defend his father and smear mainstream media.

    Key voices in the incestuous right-wing alternative media ecosystem have found an ally in the younger Trump, who often retweets and favorites tweets from the echo chamber’s loudest voices, and who is rumored to serve as a White House source to at least one far-right personality. Like the far-right trolls he expresses admiration for, Trump spends his time on Twitter spreading debunked conspiracy theories, smearing mainstream media outlets, promoting bogus “alt-right” videos, and amplifying messages with white nationalist undertones. Trump’s behavior, in effect, validates the larger alternative media ecosystem and attempts to bring the fringe worldview into the mainstream.

    Mike Cernovich

    Trump has repeatedly indicated an affinity for right-wing troll and Infowars contributor Mike Cernovich. Cernovich gained notoriety during the 2016 election for promoting fake conspiracy theories such as the “Pizzagate” narrative, accusing Democratic officials of operating a child sex trafficking ring in the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizzeria. Infowars’ Alex Jones told his audience that the president’s "sons, especially Donald Jr.," are Cernovich’s sources on White House affairs. And earlier this year, Trump claimed that “in a long gone time of unbiased journalism” Cernovich would “win the Pulitzer” prize for his faux scandal story that alleged Susan Rice, who served as national security adviser to then-President Barack Obama, was responsible for improper unmasking of Trump associates caught in surveillance of foreign officials.

    Stefan Molyneux

    The younger Trump also frequently retweets Stefan Molyneaux, a prominent far-right blogger who promotes right-wing trolls and conspiracy theories about “globalism.” Trump closely follows Molyneaux, boosting many of his tweets and favoriting one that featured a depiction of CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski in a Nazi uniform.

    Infowars’ Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson

    Infowars’ top conspiracy peddlers, Paul Joseph Watson and Alex Jones, also have Trump’s attention. During the 2016 election, Trump shared an Infowars article that falsely accused Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton of wearing an earpiece during the first presidential debate. Trump has also liked tweets from Watson and recently attacked CNN while Infowars was pushing a “meme war” against the network.

    4chan

    While he was sharing anti-CNN memes, Trump also favorited a tweet from a Twitter account connected to the internet cesspool known as 4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board (/pol/). The tweet contained a list of companies that advertise on CNN and encouraged people to tweet at the companies and ask them to stop advertising on the network. Alongside far-right ideologies, the board often features anti-Semitic, racist, sexist, homophobic, and white nationalist content.

    Jack Posobiec

    Trump also promotes right-wing troll Jack Posobiec on Twitter. Posobiec’s publicity stunts and bogus talking points have duped mainstream media sources and public officials. On July 8, Trump shared a video Posobiec posted that depicted protesters setting fires in Germany in response to the G-20 summit. Posobiec is a media troll who got “temporary White House credentials” to attend the press briefings. He is responsible for peddling hacked emails that were likely sourced from Russia, spreading the “Pizzagate” conspiracy, and orchestrating smear campaigns against people who opposed the senior Trump.

    Trump’s affinity for these far-right media personalities and his active promotion of their half-baked theories about the day’s news validates the alternative media ecosystem to its audience and furthers the far-right’s attempt to delegitimize longstanding journalistic institutions. By emulating and affirming these fringe figures, Trump furthers his father’s disdain for the press and stokes public distrust of legitimate news outlets.

  • From meme wars to death threats: How far-right internet culture turns into political action

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Members of online forum boards dedicated to President Donald Trump and far-right ideologies have called for the “next meme war,” this time against CNN. The call to arms is retaliation for allegations that the cable network blackmailed a Reddit user into publicly apologizing for creating a pro-Trump GIF that depicted Trump tackling a man who had a CNN logo superimposed on his face, and removing his hateful posts on these message boards.

    This declaration of a meme war is the latest example of these online community members banding together in highly organized troupes to create and distribute memes attacking their given targets across multiple social media platforms, often times shaping public perception and influencing American political narratives and actions.

    Users of Reddit and 4chan, two message board communities that have long expressed their hatred for one another, were united in their outrage over a CNN report, published on July 4, that detailed the origin of a GIF depicting Trump tackling a man who had a CNN logo superimposed on his face. The meme was edited into a video with music and eventually tweeted by Trump with a hashtag calling CNN a “fraud.” CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski, who wrote the story, discovered that the meme’s creator was a middle-aged man with a history of posting “racist and anti-Semitic imagery” through his Reddit account. The man called CNN to confirm his identity after he had issued a detailed apology on Reddit and deleted his previous posts.

    Reddit and 4chan members didn’t find the man’s history of hateful posts problematic. Rather, they latched onto one section of the article in which CNN explained that it had decided not to publish the man’s name, “because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again.” The article also stated, “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.” Members of meme-heavy subreddits perceived that sentence as blackmail and accused CNN of attempting to dox and blackmail one of its critics.

    On July 5, CNN responded to the blackmail allegations with a written statement that said, “Any assertion that the network blackmailed or coerced [the user] is false.”

    But CNN’s statement came too late; multiple posts on 4chan and Reddit had already called for a full-scale “meme war” against the network. During the 2016 presidential election, factions of Trump voters used memes to attack and discredit others’ preferred candidate. Among these factions, highly organized pro-Trump meme war “units” found tremendous success and were able to create and spread numerous trends on social media.

    A post on 4chan explained what the latest meme war, titled “Operation: Autism Storm,” would entail. The operation’s primary focus, according to the post, would be to produce “as many anti-CNN memes as possible and spreading it” to high traffic websites beyond the fringe. The call to arms also urged participants to “discredit every journalist at CNN,” and to target CNN’s advertisers to stop them from advertising on the network.

    In the days after the article was published and 4chan and Reddit users called for meme warfare, “#CNNBlackmail” was a top trending topic on Twitter. The contingent of pro-Trump internet wizards also overran numerous boards on Reddit and 4chan with images attacking CNN’s credibility. Infowars editor-at-large Paul Joseph Watson suggested that CNN may have reunited “the alt-right & the new right in a common cause” after a prior rift among the “alt-right” factions.


    Source: Reddit.com/r/The_Donald

    This potent group of like-minded internet campaigners repeatedly proved their ability to organize and operate extremely effective smear campaigns during the 2016 election. According to an entry on Encyclopedia Dramatica, one of the most notable moments in “The Great Meme War” was the group’s viral portrayal of former presidential candidate Jeb Bush as a weak and sad “stinking turtle-lover with a guacamole fetish.” This characterization of “low energy” Bush cast him as a man unable to withstand what meme creators referred to as “high-energy” Trump. The Encyclopedia Dramatica entry also credited the same organized effort to push “a stream of new and fearsome dank memes,” featuring “Pepe the Frog” after the Anti-Defamation League classified the character as a hate symbol.

    Fringe far-right media figures have also noticed the potency of these groups, and have used their platforms to encourage their followers to participate in the effort to spread the anti-CNN memes to larger audiences. Infowars’ Alex Jones has even launched an anti-CNN meme contest, promising a $20,000 reward for the “best meme” he receives. Alternative right-wing media figures such as online personality KimDotcom, Infowars contributor and internet troll Mike Cernovich, and even the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. have used their platforms to spread anti-CNN rhetoric and images alongside those leading the online meme brigades.

    Meme wars can often have real-life consequences, a phenomena known within these communities as “meme magic.” During the 2016 election, these meme-makers effectively shaped Bush’s public image, and now they are provoking people to harass CNN journalists. Rebel Media’s Laura Loomer, who gained notoriety for interrupting Shakespeare play Julius Ceasar in New York City, ambushed CNN host Chris Cuomo about the controversial article while he was walking down the street. Other CNN staffers told The Daily Beast they feared for their safety after receiving a flood of threatening phone calls and messages and the reporter who discovered the Reddit user’s anti-Semitic posts wrote in Politico that he received a barrage of death threats. Cernovich even hyped a supposed protest “planned to be held” outside of Kaczynski’s home in New York.

    Users’ motivations for participating in the new meme war against CNN may vary from pure entertainment to deep ideological bias, but their participation will ultimately reignite a pack of internet trolls capable of smearing and bullying any target in its crosshairs. This group had been mostly dormant after it declared Trump’s election a victory, but the latest meme war against CNN proves that its ability to spread vitriol online is alive and well.

  • After London terror attack, right-wing media react with predictable Islamophobia

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Right-wing media personalities launched Islamophobic attacks following the June 3 attack in London that left seven people dead and injured dozens, such as calling for the internment of Muslims in "World War II-style internment camps," suggesting the United States “close down the mosques” and claiming the U.K. “let in too many Muslim immigrants.”

  • Conservatives Deflect From Trump's Cover-Up By Calling Comey A Criminal

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & JARED HOLT

    President Donald Trump’s conservative media allies are attacking former FBI Director James Comey and accusing him of wrongdoing for writing and keeping a memo about a February meeting with Trump. The memo reportedly revealed that Trump asked Comey to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Mike Flynn. Despite the outrage aimed at Comey by conservative media figures for not divulging the memo earlier, experts have explained that doing so could have interfered with the FBI’s investigation.

  • How A Fox Affiliate And Contributor Fueled Fringe Conspiracy Theories About Murdered DNC Staffer

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    A Washington, D.C., Fox News affiliate’s shoddy reporting purposefully validated right-wing conspiracy theories about the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich when the station published unproven claims that Rich directly communicated with WikiLeaks regarding the leaked committee emails published on that site. Following the publication of the Fox 5 DC story, Fox News hosts Bret Baier and Sean Hannity further fueled the conspiracy theories when they retweeted new conspiracies about the Rich story, including a false claim that a Washington Post report on Trump sharing classified information with Russia was published to drown out Fox 5's story. 

    In a May 15 article and subsequent newscast, Fox 5 DC’s Marina Marraco quoted Rod Wheeler, a private investigator once hired to assist the Rich family’s search for Rich’s killer, who claimed that “a source inside the police department” told him that the department was “‘told to stand down on this case.’” Wheeler also said it was “confirmed” that Rich had links to WikiLeaks. Alex Griswold, a reporter for right-wing publication the Washington Free Beacon, pointed out that Fox 5’s story was “entirely hearsay” and chided the news station for failing to disclose that Wheeler is a vocal Trump supporter and a paid Fox News analyst.

    The article was updated on May 16 to include a note that the station had spoken to D.C. police since publication and was told that Wheeler’s claim was false. The Rich family issued a statement saying family members had seen “no facts” and “no evidence” to suggest Rich had worked with WikiLeaks. It also noted that a “third party” paid Wheeler for his investigative work and that he was “contractually … barred from speaking to press.” But the updates came too late to prevent the unsubstantiated claims published in Fox 5 DC’s report from becoming fuel for the right-wing conspiracy theory machine. (Marraco’s article even acknowledged that the claims she was publishing “could prove these theorists right.”)

    By the next morning, fringe right-wing media and conspiracy theory websites had run full speed with the false allegations made in the Fox 5 DC article. Breitbart.com ran an article on its home page claiming that Fox’s shoddily sourced article may prove that the hack of DNC emails was “an inside job.” The Drudge Report ran a screaming banner on its site claiming Rich “had contact” with WikiLeaks and linked to the Fox 5 DC article:

    The Gateway Pundit published a “BREAKING” piece about the conspiracy theory linking to the Fox 5 DC article. Fringe conspiracy theory sites World News Daily and ZeroHedge also regurgitated the Fox 5 DC article to claim a conspiracy theory. The baseless speculation quickly jumped to more established outlets, as FoxNews.com made it the lead morning story on its website, and Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Circa News and Fox News’ Fox & Friends also promoted the story:

    Some conspiracy theorists, including InfoWars' Paul Joseph Watson, even spread claims that The Washington Post’s report about President Donald Trump sharing highly classified information with Russian officials was printed to drown out the “bombshell news” story reported by the Fox affiliate. Fox News hosts Bret Baier and Sean Hannity retweeted this false claim. But Washington Post political reporter Dave Weigel set the record straight, noting that the Washington Post story went up before the Fox 5 story was published.

    This isn’t the first local news station to lend legitimacy to a fringe conspiracy theory that resembled fake news. In January, a CBS Atlanta affiliate ran a segment promoting the debunked “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory that a Washington pizza parlor was the headquarters of a child sex-trafficking ring involving the Clinton family.

    Update:

    White House credentialed "alt-right" troll Jack Posobiec posted video in which he asks President Trump for comment on the conspiracy theories surrounding Rich's murder in a video uploaded to Twitter May 16: