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  • Right Side Broadcasting and Nicholas Fuentes, host who participated in white supremacist rally, part ways

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Right Side Broadcasting Network and host Nicholas Fuentes, who has gained infamy for participating in the recent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, have parted ways in a "mutual decision." Fuentes hailed the rally as a “victory” that showcased “white identity” and brought attention to the “cultural genocide … against white America.”

    Right Side Broadcasting Network (RSBN) is an online outlet that found success during the 2016 campaign by providing live streams of Donald Trump’s rallies. Following Trump’s victory, as Politico Magazine noted, the Alabama-based company attempted to “transform itself from a small live-stream operation into a major and diverse digital media outlet” with the goal of becoming a “24/7 news outlet of the common man.”

    But RSBN has run into a series of problems due to "steep revenue declines" and toxic comments made by its staff. It has also struggled to find viewership for its original streaming programs. In recent months, RSBN has cut programs hosted by right-wing troll Mike Cernovich, YouTube prankster Joey Saladino (also known as “Joey Salads”), and conservative blogger Wayne Dupree. The Washington Post reported in July that its “staff of 12 is down to four” and that founder Joe Seales “said he has been propping up Right Side Broadcasting with money from his own pocket.”

    Nicholas Fuentes is a college student who had hosted the pro-Trump program America First for RSBN. In April, he falsely claimed that Muslims and immigrants are not protected under the First Amendment and called for the people who run CNN to be “arrested and deported or hanged” (the network later apologized).

    Fuentes -- who says he is “25 percent Mexican” -- posted online the day of the rally that “a tidal wave of white identity is coming.” He also tweeted that “Charlottesville was a victory if only for bringing attention to the cultural genocide being committed nationwide against white America.” He told The Boston Globe that the “blood”  of anti-racism activist Heather Heyer, killed by a neo-Nazi protester in Charlottesville, “is on the hands of the alt-left,” and he also “denied being a white nationalist or a racist, and said he rejects Nazism.”

    Network CEO Joe Seales told Media Matters in an email that “we are no longer running his show as of right after Charlottesville.” He added that the parting was “honestly a mutual decision based on both of our interests- we brought the issue up of Charlottesville being a huge distraction and not falling in line with some of our core beliefs- and ultimately all of us decided was best we ended the show. We believe Nick is very talented and wish him well.” RSBN last aired his show on August 11, according to its YouTube page

    Fuentes tweeted over the weekend that he is "officially leaving America First on @RSBNetwork to pursue my own independent venture." He added: "Much love to RSB family - they took a chance on me & went above & beyond to support my show. I wish the Seales family the best! God bless!" 

    Fuentes also recently stated that he would leave Boston University, where he's been a student, because he "didn’t feel safe" and instead would attend Auburn University. The Alabama school, however, reportedly said that Fuentes has not been admitted or even applied.

  • Fringe media lash out at “cuck” Pope Francis for message welcoming refugees

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Far-right media figures and outlets attacked Pope Francis after he released a message urging nation-states to give aid and protection to migrants and refugees.

    On August 21, Francis released a message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in which he called on governments to offer “broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally.” According to Francis, countries should seek to integrate migrants and refugees by “granting citizenship free of financial or linguistic requirements, and by offering the possibility of special legalisation to migrants who can claim a long period of residence in the country of arrival.” He also argued that people’s dignity “obliges us to always prioritise personal safety over national security.”

    Far-right figures lashed out at the pope in response. Paul Joseph Watson of the conspiracy theory outlet Infowars called Francis “an evil fraud” who “is helping destroy western civilization.”

    Infowars’ Jerome Corsi called Francis a “Hard-Left socialist Pope” who “ignores Spain terrorism.”

    Far-right vlogger Stefan Molyneux claimed Francis “cares more about Social Justice issues than he does defending Christianity.”

    Fake news purveyors also attacked Francis. Conservative Daily Post said Francis has a “Marxist” agenda and called him a “reckless and foolish man.” Eagle Rising claimed Francis is a “globalist” who “preaches that more rapes and murders in Western nations are a price we must pay to fulfill our obligation to receive more immigrants." TruthFeed wrote in its headline that Francis “Thinks RAPE and TERROR are Just Part of the ‘Refugee Experience.’” And in response to the pope’s message, Conservative Fighters topped its piece with the word “SERIOUSLY?”

    Additionally, forums that have previously helped far-right trolls and fake news purveyors spread misinformation also went after Francis: Some users on Reddit’s “r/The_Donald” called Francis a “cuck Pope” who is a “fucking hypocrite piece of shit,” and users on 4chan’s “politically incorrect” forum (known as “/pol/”) claimed Francis is “the communist pope” and “the antipope.”

  • How Fox promoted convicted criminal Joe Arpaio, who may be pardoned by Trump

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Over the past two decades, Fox News and Fox Business frequently praised and hosted Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, elevating him to national recognition. Now Arpaio, who was recently convicted of criminal contempt of court in a racial profiling case, has said that he would accept a pardon from President Donald Trump -- and Trump is reportedly considering it. Trump praised Arpaio's birther "investigation" in 2012, was endorsed by Arpaio during the campaign, and has lauded the sheriff's anti-immigrant work.

    On July 31, Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt of court after he defied “a court order to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants.” As The New York Times noted, the order originated from a lawsuit filed a decade ago “charging that the sheriff’s office regularly violated the rights of Latinos, stopping people based on racial profiling, detaining them based solely on the suspicion that they were in the country illegally, and turning them over to the immigration authorities.”

    Arpaio has a long record of employing “humiliating and inhumane” treatment of prisoners; he became infamous in 1993, after he was elected sheriff, for opening an outdoor Tent City Jail where inmates were made to live outside in tents in triple-digit Arizona heat. Additionally, Arpaio fed prisoners rotten food, instituted all-female and juvenile chain gangs, and used webcams to broadcast scenes from a jail including a feed “that showed female inmates using a toilet.” The Department of Justice (DOJ) began investigating Arpaio for illegal racial profiling in 2008 and accused him of “unconstitutional policing” in December 2011.

    Yet, over the years, Fox News Network worked to enhance Arpaio’s stature, hosting him no less than 65 times on Fox News and Fox Business from March 1999 through early September 2016, according to a search of Nexis transcripts. In July 2000, Fox host Sean Hannity gushed over Arpaio’s use of webcams in jail, and, in an earlier episode, praised Arpaio’s treatment of inmates by terming it “deterrence.” In 2014, Neil Cavuto criticized the DOJ’s investigation into Arpaio, telling him, “You've been treated more as a criminal than the criminals you're rounding up.” In 2010, Eric Bolling encouraged Arpaio to run for governor of Arizona.

    Fox has also repeatedly ignored Arpaio’s failings as sheriff. Fox News and Fox Business almost completely ignored an Associated Press report from December 2011 that Arpaio mishandled hundreds of sex-crimes cases while also giving him a platform to attack the Obama administration and claim he was a victim of a witch hunt. A year before, in 2010, Fox had hyped a claim from Arpaio’s lawyer that his client’s office was “transparent” in its operation, even though a federal judge had sanctioned Arpaio’s office “for destroying evidence in a racial-profiling case.”

    During his presidential campaign, Trump proudly touted an endorsement from Arpaio at least four times during interviews on Fox, according to Nexis transcripts. He declared Arpaio “the king of the borders” and said, “When [Arpaio] endorses you, that means you have the best border plan.” In March 2016, Trump claimed on Hannity that Arpaio “doesn’t get enough credit for the incredible job he’s doing.” After Trump won the Arizona Republican primary, he thanked Arpaio on Twitter for his help. Trump evidently thought so highly of Arpaio’s racial discrimination and other illegal acts that he reportedly considered appointing Arpaio to head the Department of Homeland Security.

    And Trump’s public admiration for Arpaio extends back to before his campaign began, dating at least to Obama’s re-election. Trump and Arpaio were in lockstep on the racist birther conspiracy theory, which alleged that Obama was not born in America and was thus ineligible to be president. While Trump’s public attacks on Obama’s legitimacy as president began months before Arpaio’s “Cold Case Posse” began scrutinizing Obama’s publicly released birth certificate, Trump repeatedly tweeted support of Arpaio’s “investigation” into Obama’s birth certificate in July 2012:

    It was Fox News that first reported that Trump was "seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio" in "a conversation with Fox News at his club in Bedminster, N.J." If indeed Arpaio is pardoned for his criminal conduct, the credit may just belong to the president's favorite news network.

  • Paid actors, a fake publicist, and retweeted bots: Trump habitually uses deceit and propaganda to shape perceptions

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump’s Twitter habits help shape the media and public narrative about his administration, which is why his record of retweeting and quote-tweeting accounts with suspicious bot or sock-puppet activity raises concerns.

    A Media Matters study of an archive of Trump’s Twitter account revealed that over the past year, Trump has on a handful of occasions propped up praise from accounts that feature suspicious bot activity or that have since been suspended or deactivated. If he’s unintentionally promoting bots, it shows gullibility and a lack of basic due diligence on his part that is terrifying in someone as powerful as the president. And if he’s promoting such tweets intentionally, that shows how shamelessly Trump resorts to propaganda in an effort to bolster his image, set narratives, distract the public from damaging news, spin stories in his favor, and provide talking points for far-right media networks with no regard for reality.

    Trump’s history of using deceit to manipulate the media and project self-advantageous messages indicates that there’s perhaps nothing accidental about his tendency to retweet bots. For three decades, starting in the 1970s, Trump infamously pretended to be a fictional publicist named John Miller and used that pseudonym to plant pro-Trump stories in the media. In June 2015, Trump paid actors to cheer for him during his announcement that he would run for president, during which he called Mexican immigrants rapists. Trump has said that he retweets for a reason and that the retweets are an endorsement “to a certain extent.” This doesn’t leave much room to question the intentionality behind his insidious strategy.

    Automated social media accounts are said to have played a role in the 2016 presidential election, an issue that the Senate is still investigating. During Trump’s campaign, his digital operations -- many aspects of which were manned by the recently reinstated head of Breitbart.com Steve Bannon’s Cambridge Analytica and Jared Kushner’s and Brad Parscale's Project Alamo -- focused on building a loyal audience that was mostly isolated from anti-Trump narratives and was predisposed to distrusting the press and any unfavorable media coverage. For this loyal audience, Trump’s retweets of praiseful bot or sock-puppet accounts reinforce what they already feel; it's like reading the positive blurbs of a book they know they like. So they enthusiastically endorse him by retweeting them, thus becoming important magnifiers in the propaganda loop.

    Even when he’s not retweeting bots, Trump has provided a platform to right-wing media trolls via his retweets, regaling them with a veneer of legitimacy that eclipses their awful records of propagating conspiracy theories, engaging in attention-grabbing stunts, and leading their followers in harassment campaigns against journalists. Others in Trump’s orbit have taken a similar approach on social media, as evidenced by Dan Scavino, Trump’s social media director, who has access to Trump’s account. Scavino has repeatedly used his own account to smear and attack Trump’s political and media opponents. In one instance, he violated the Hatch Act by engaging in political activity as a federal employee.

    While Trump’s Twitter habits provide entertaining fodder and endless material for headlines, they should also give some insight into the terrifying -- yet transparent -- ways the administration is manipulating reality. And this manipulation is consistent with the way Trump has consistently drawn on chicanery to shape perceptions about him.

  • News outlets shouldn’t sugarcoat Trump’s calls for violence and hate

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH, JOHN KERR & MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The president of the United States regularly incites violence. No news outlet should ever pretend that’s normal.

    Not only did he fail twice to clearly denounce white supremacy and violence incited by neo-Nazis, but he also claimed that “many sides” -- including the counterprotestors -- were to blame for the violence (which is a false equivalence) and that some of those who marched in the so-called “Unite The Right” rally were “fine people.” (White supremacists even praised Trump for his response.)

    We shouldn’t be surprised that he can’t condemn violence when he regularly encourages and incites it:

    Like that time he endorsed police brutality.

    Or when he tweeted this video someone made of him beating up CNN.

    Or the the time he implied that “Second Amendment people” could shoot Hillary Clinton.

    Or how about when he complained that people were “too politically correct” to hurt one another.

    Or when he told a white supporter who punched a black protester at his campaign rally that’d he look into paying his legal fees.

    Or at another rally when he told his supporters to “knock the crap out of” any protesters they saw.

    News commentators tend to suggest these comments shouldn’t be taken seriously or that he was just joking or that he was just trying to appeal to his base -- or they interview his shills, who downplay the seriousness of endorsing violence.

    This type of coverage misses the point. Using threats of violence to gain supporters is just wrong, and not something that news outlets should ever treat as a normal part of politics. We should be debating ideas -- not talking about how we’re going to clobber people we don’t like.

    Trump is telling his followers to hurt people -- those who are different from them, those who have different beliefs, and those who are just deemed to deserve it. When Trump incites violence, it makes America a more dangerous and more toxic place for all of us.

    News outlets shouldn’t sugarcoat what’s going on here.

  • Thousands of advertisers have blacklisted Breitbart. Can Sinclair really partner with the site?

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    After newly reinstated Breitbart.com chief Stephen Bannon was fired from his role as a senior adviser in the Trump administration on Friday, he returned to the website he aimed to establish as a “platform for the ‘alt-right.’” Rumors have it that Bannon will now seek to expand Breitbart's reach -- a goal that would be complicated by a number of factors, including a massive, ongoing advertiser boycott that makes the Breitbart brand toxic for potential collaborators. In recent months, more than 2,500 advertisers have reportedly bailed on the site.  

    Almost immediately after Bannon’s departure from the White House and return to Breitbart.com, reports of his rumored plans for a Breitbart.com expansion emerged. In Vanity Fair, media reporter Gabriel Sherman reported that Bannon “has media ambitions to compete with Fox News from the right,” potentially by forging a partnership with right-wing local news giant Sinclair Broadcast Group.

    Sinclair is the largest U.S. provider of local TV news, and it often delivers embarrassingly pro-Trump commentary segments without proper disclosure to unwitting audiences across the country. Breitbart functions as the extreme online id of disaffected young white men venting their child-like frustrations by trolling everyone they disagree with (especially when they’re women or people of color). A collaboration between the two would certainly be dangerous. Good thing that probably won't happen.

    Politico’s Alex Weprin laid out several issues a Breitbart.com expansion to television would face, including difficulties with attracting the type of cable news audience (read: ages 60+) that would normally tune into Fox News. Another factor that could stop Bannon in his tracks: Breitbart.com has become completely untouchable for hundreds of advertisers.

    Since November, activist group Sleeping Giants has been waging a successful social media campaign asking advertisers to disassociate themselves from Breitbart’s extremism. In June, Breitbart.com ads had reportedly shrank by “nearly 90 percent” in just three months. Reports from earlier today revealed that “nearly 2,600 advertisers have pulled advertising from the far-right website.”  

    Breitbart’s “bleeding ad revenue” is yet another in a list of numerous strategic and financial reasons (not to mention the ideological, and, above all, moral reasons) Sinclair ought to avoid the infamously toxic, hate-filled troll cesspool at all costs.

  • Poll finds Americans “mostly agree” with Black Lives Matter; Conservative outlet misreads, claims the opposite

    Media Research Center corrects error after Media Matters inquiry

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    The conservative Media Research Center criticized PBS for purportedly burying its own poll results showing that Americans disapproved of the goals of Black Lives Matter. But the poll actually showed the opposite: “50% of Americans mostly agree with the beliefs of Black Lives Matter” while “33% of Americans disagree.”

    Tim Graham, NewsBusters Executive Editor and Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis, wrote an August 20 post criticizing “Taxpayer-funded PBS” for “liberal bias” in part because it “buried” poll results on a recent NewsHour program finding that when it comes to Black Lives Matter (BLM), “50 percent disapproved, and only 33 percent approved.”

    MRC’s Twitter account also wrote: “PBS, NPR bury their own poll results showing only 33 percent approve of Black Lives Matter.”

    But the poll actually found that 50% of respondents said they “mostly agree” with BLM, while only 33% “mostly disagree.” Here’s the Marist write-up of the poll it conducted with PBS and NPR:

    For most Americans, there is only one side to what unfolded in Charlottesville.  Few residents nationwide agree with the beliefs held by groups attending the “Unite the Right” rally including the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists, or white nationalists.  Although the Alt-Right also has few adherents, more Americans are unsure about their feelings toward this group.

    In contrast, Black Lives Matter is viewed very differently than the groups on the right.  50% of Americans mostly agree with the beliefs of Black Lives Matter including a plurality of white residents, 46%.  33% of Americans disagree.

    NBC News political reporter Benjy Sarlin spotted MRC’s error and tweeted the actual results on the morning of August 20.

    Radio host Mark Levin shared the NewsBusters post on social media, writing: “Government funded media bury the facts.”

    Media Matters contacted Graham about the error today after it hadn’t been corrected in over a day. Graham subsequently fixed the post, which now has a “correction added” stating: “The original version of this article had these numbers incorrectly reversed.” NewsBusters tweeted a correction and Graham tweeted: "I made an honest mistake. I own it. I'm sorry it took so long to notice it. Correction is on the page.”

  • With Bannon gone, the far-right media trolls are ready to break up with the White House

    The anti-establishment trolls have lost their biggest White House ally and are starting to go after Pence. Prepare for the right-wing media food fight.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Stephen Bannon is no longer the White House chief strategist. His departure, in addition to furthering the narrative of a Trump administration in constant chaos, is likely to become a source of acrimony between right-wing anti-establishment outlets and online trolls and those who remain in the Trump administration.

    Bannon’s departure has prompted a shift in amongst pro-Trump outlets and far-right trolls -- like The Gateway Pundit and Mike Cernovich -- who are now reporting that the White House is being taken over by a “deep state” coup led by Vice President Mike Pence. Cernovich is a right-wing opportunistic troll who rode to prominence by supporting President Donald Trump but has recently announced “a big pivot” away from the president. In response to the news about Bannon getting fired, Cernovich took to Periscope to claim that “there’s a full-on coup” organized by Pence but that Trump doesn’t deserve any sympathy because he’s “a 71-year old man” who chose to listen to his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner instead of Bannon. Pro-Trump troll Jack Posobiec (who has also recently tried to move away from the “alt-right” movement) pushed the coup narrative as well, suggesting that the “RNC is counting impeachment votes from Congress against Trump,” adding, “They want rid of him.” Milo Yiannopoulos, a right-wing troll who was formerly employed by Breitbart.com, celebrated Bannon’s departure by launching Bannon 2020 merchandise on his online store and saying he looks forward to “having Steve back in the trenches again.” Yiannopoulos also said he wants to see “Bannon the Barbarian crush his enemies.”

    Bannon’s departure has other possible impacts for the far-right media universe. According to reports, Bannon might be returning to Breitbart, the Mercer-funded outlet he once claimed was “platform for the ‘alt-right,’” a term its current editors (much like former proud supporters of the movement) are trying to move away from. With Bannon in the White House, Breitbart behaved like any other pro-Trump outlet, showing little editorial independence and supporting Trump’s agenda (including his war on the press). But this support lasted as long as Trump’s agenda aligned with Bannon’s: Breitbart did not shy away from attacking Kushner, who is a White House senior adviser, to defend Bannon. With Bannon out, it seems like Breitbart will hold no punches in a war against a White House it now perceives as controlled by globalists.

    The right-wing media landscape is about to shift once more, putting the Bannon-loyalists, nationalist ideologues, and opportunistic trolls in a war against an establishment Republican Party faction they think is being led by Pence and, likely, Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of Fox News and owner of the Wall Street Journal. It remains to be seen whether Trump and his White House will be caught in the middle.

  • European "alt-right" ship tries to stop refugee rescue missions, fails miserably

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The campaign of Defend Europe, a European white nationalist “Identitarian” movement, to disrupt humanitarian search-and-rescue missions for migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, ended yesterday after months of problems, from its ship’s mechanical failure to the crew’s sea-sickness. Despite the group’s claims of total and undisputable success, its campaign was nothing more than a stunt, and a failed one at that.

    Here’s a list of mishaps the campaign suffered over the past four months, as reported by HuffPost UK, the U.K.-based anti-extremism research and education group HOPE Not Hate, and others:

    • In May, pro-Trump troll Lauren Southern and three Defend Europe members were detained by the Italian Coast Guard after they attempted to block a search-and-rescue ship travelling to Sicily.
    • In June, the group’s PayPal account, through which it was soliciting donations, was frozen for violating the service’s terms
    • In July, the group’s ship, C-Star, was reportedly detained by Egyptian authorities in the Suez Canal due to a “lack of documentation and papers”; this detainment delayed the ship’s effort to reach the Mediterranean Sea.
    • Shortly after, several individuals linked to Defend Europe had their Patreon accounts suspended for violating the company’s terms by soliciting donations for “activities that are likely to cause loss of life.”
    • In late July, the ship’s captain and owner were detained in Northern Cyprus, and the crew was investigated for possible human trafficking. Following a two-day detention, the Defend Europe members were then deported from the port “for alleged people-smuggling.”
    • In several countries, regional government authorities, NGOs, and citizens protesting the group’s racist activities prevented the C-Star from resupplying, docking, and refueling at ports in Italy, Tunisia, Crete, Greek Cyprus, and Malta.
    • In August, the C-Star broke down and had to be rescued by a real refugee rescue ship.

    And, as HuffPost UK noted, the "successes" the group took credit for were actually spurred by regional governments and humanitarian organizations. Specifically, the recent decline in migrant crossings of the Mediterranean Sea was spurred by Italian and Libyan Coast Guard missions, Islamic State group clashes along the Libyan coast, and the weather -- not by a motley crew of anti-refugee 20-year-olds.

    As the outlet also documented, the actual activities of members of Defend Europe amounted to little more than shouting at faraway ships, unfurling anti-immigrant banners, and interviewing each other to promote their online brands. One thing is clear from Defend Europe’s months long operation -- it was an embarrassing failure.