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Diversity & Discrimination

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  • Five times in one week cable news couldn't get a Republican to go on TV to talk about Trump

    ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Several times over the past week, cable news hosts reported that Republicans had rejected invitations to appear on their shows to defend or discuss President Donald Trump and his reaction to the August 12 violence in Charlottesville, VA. The president failed to initially condemn the white supremacists and neo-Nazis responsible for the violence, and later in the week he insisted that there were “very fine people on both sides.”  

  • 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.

  • Why is Tucker Carlson so reluctant to condemn white supremacists?

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    White supremacists and neo-Nazis marched on Charlottesville, VA, last weekend. Support for the town’s statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee was their rallying point, though the underlying rationale was a toxic mixture of racism and anti-Semitism. The protesters were met by a coalition of progressives, religious leaders, and the antifa movement; violence erupted, and Heather Heyer was killed when an alleged neo-Nazi crashed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters. Since then, journalists and activists have spent hours on cable news discussing the validity of removing Confederate statues from the public square, the appropriateness of President Donald Trump’s response to the tragic incident, and whether “left-wing violence” is a dangerous phenomenon. But the throughline of the coverage has been the fervent, universal denunciation of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis as advocates of a violent, racist ideology that has no place in public life.

    But one curious exception stands out from this trend: Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, one of the most popular cable news programs in the country. Over the past four nights, Tucker Carlson has seemed unusually loath to offer harsh words for the protesters and their ideology, instead focusing his criticism on progressives who responded by seeking to remove more Confederate statues or curtail the speech of extremists. Carlson is a skilled polemicist, but he has devoted no monologues to railing against the bigotry of white supremacy, no analysis of the aims or history of their growing movement. He is a talented debater who uses his program to brutally dispatch guests who lack his skill, but hasn’t brought a neo-Nazi onto his program for the explicit purpose of exposing their hatred.

    Carlson’s hesitancy to offer a fervent condemnation of the protesters and his preference for using the issue to criticize the left mirrors Trump’s reaction. And like that of the president, Carlson’s rise has been applauded by the very same racists who marched on Charlottesville. White supremacists love Carlson because he uses his program to push issues they care about -- namely condemnations of immigrants and Muslims and the promotion of “European culture” -- to a massive audience. As neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin of the website Daily Stormer put it, “Tucker Carlson is literally our greatest ally.” (The website urged its readers to attend the Charlottesville rally in order to “end Jewish influence in America.”)

    To be clear, it’s not that Carlson has refused to criticize white supremacists altogether this week, it’s just that his criticisms are brief, perfunctory statements he uses to set up his attacks on the left. He’ll say he doesn’t like that white supremacists put “race at the center of their worldview,” before accusing the left of having a similar obsession with race. He will agree with a guest that KKK rhetoric is “awful” and “hateful,” using that admission to set up a critique of arguments for restricting “hate speech.” He will clear his throat by saying of white nationalist groups, “I’m not a part of them and don’t like them” before ripping the left for curtailing their speech. And that’s about as far as Carlson has been willing to go over the past four days. Such reticence to employ harsh language is unusual for Carlson; over the same period, for example, he’s described Google as “authoritarian” and “un-American,” and accused progressive activists of engaging in the “textbook definition of racism.”

    Carlson doesn’t seem to view the weekend’s violent eruption as the result of a racist ideology. Instead, he had described the events as “chaos” featuring a “lunatic hell-bent” on murder who was inadvertently aided politicians who wouldn’t let law enforcement do their jobs. “What country was this?” he asked on his first program after the protests. “Where were the authorities? What happened to the police? Is this America?” Carlson had a very different take after the terrorist attack Thursday in Barcelona, Spain. He quickly blamed “radical Islam” and increased Muslim immigration. “If your population changes, your society is going to change for good and bad, probably, but this is one of the downsides,” he said, adding that Western European leaders who refuse to “draw that obvious conclusion” are “paralyzed by guilt and self-hatred.”

    Meanwhile, the Fox host has devoted substantial time on each night this week to what he apparently considers a far greater threat: efforts by liberal activists to tear down historical statues. Carlson has devoted little attention to the fact that the Charlottesville protesters rallied in support of the Lee statue. But he has painted the activist movement rising in the wake of that atrocity as ignorant of history and ideologically committed to abolishing our collective understanding of the past. And he’s warned those activists are dangerous, claiming that “if a crowd of people with strong political views can destroy a statue, why can't they set your house on fire? I mean, in other words, why doesn't this stuff accelerate into something really dangerous? Why wouldn't it?” That is more concern than he has demonstrated about the white supremacists with “strong political views” who already have blood on their hands.

    On Wednesday he championed the free speech rights of white supremacists, warning against “the prospect of big companies using their power to enforce ideological conformity” by refusing them access to their platforms. He even said his guest’s contention that the protesters were “camping about with tiki torches like the right did and rambling on about Jews” because their speech rights had been denied was “exactly right.”

    It would be easy to write off Carlson’s lack of interest and explain it away, except for the fact that Tucker is a star among the very collection of deplorables he has been so uninterested in criticizing.

    Yes, the issues of who is publicly venerated by our society and whether speech rights are absolute are complex, important ones on which people of good faith may disagree.

    Yes, Carlson could argue that the virulence of white supremacist ideology should go without saying, or that many other shows are already providing that service and he wanted to do something different.

    But surely a program that found several minutes this week to berate Weekly Standard editor at large Bill Kristol could also manage to find some time to more forcefully condemn neo-Nazis in the wake of the weekend’s events.

    Carlson has the biggest platform on cable news. More than three million people tune in to his show every night. Some of them are prominent white supremacists and neo-Nazis. It seems unlikely that Carlson is unaware of this fact. If he wanted to, he could use his power to confront and condemn their behavior, in a longshot even attempt to use his rhetorical skills to move them away from racism. Instead, he followed up a violent white nationalist conflagration with days of programming that they must have loved.

  • Pro-Trump media conspiracy theory: The white supremacist who organized Charlottesville rally is really a liberal spy 

    Fringe outlets and fake news purveyors claim Charlottesville was staged to make conservatives look bad 

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Hyperpartisan media outlets, fake news purveyors, and fringe right-wing media figures are promoting a conspiracy theory that suggests that one of the white supremacist organizers of the rally in Charlottesville, VA, was really a “liberal double agent” who staged the rallies in order to “depict conservatives as white supremacists.”

    On the weekend of August 11, white supremacists and neo-Nazis gathered in Charlottesville for an “alt-right” “Unite The Right” rally protesting the city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Throughout the weekend, the neo-Nazi and white supremacist crowd carried torches and weapons and shouted racist and anti-Semitic slogans. The rally turned deadly on Saturday when a man drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a woman.

    Jason Kessler, a white supremacist who has previously written for and appeared in right-wing and far-right media outlets, was one of the main organizers of the gathering. But pro-Trump media and fake news purveyors are now spinning a sentence from a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) profile of Kessler to question whether Kessler is really a “liberal double agent.”

    After pro-Trump outlet The Gateway Pundit drew attention to the SPLC report, which noted that “rumors abound on white nationalist forums that Kessler’s ideological pedigree before 2016 was less than pure and seem to point to involvement in the Occupy movement and past support for President Obama,” fringe right-wing media figures and hyperpartisan fake news purveyors quickly jumped on the claim. Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, who is also a host at the conspiracy theory outlet Infowars, tweeted the Gateway Pundit article, writing, “Oops ! Charlottesville “White Supremacist" was an Obama Supporter/Occupy protestor (sic) #fishy #falseflag #SorosOp.” Fake news purveyor Conservative Daily Post suggested the rally was organized by the left to “shatter Trump’s base and depict conservatives as white supremacists.”

    This conspiracy theory picked up more steam after Breitbart also highlighted the mention from the SPLC report on rumors about Kessler’s past political leanings and his role in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Discredited author Dinesh D’Souza tweeted the Breitbart article, asking, “Could it be that the organizer of the #Charlottesville rally is a left-wing fascist pretending to be a right-winger?” He additionally tweeted, “The whole rally may have been staged to feed the mainstream media’s big lie that racism & fascism are on the right.” Fake news purveyor Right Wing News questioned if Kessler was “a plant and this whole thing a set up to pit Americans against each other.” Fake news purveyor YourNewsWire claimed that Kessler may be “a plant, inserted into the Trump Movement to find a way to take it down,” and argued he was possibly a “deep state operative.” And fake news purveyor Freedom Daily posited that Kessler was either so fed up with eight years of Obama that he “sw[ore] off an entire race … or he’s a liberal double agent.”

    Users on online forums popular among the “alt-right” also jumped on the conspiracy theory. People on Reddit’s “r/The_Donald” and 4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board (commonly referred to as /pol/) that have helped spread conspiracy theories previously wondered if Kessler was “planted by Soros/deep state,” claimed that Kessler was a “PLANT/OBAMA SHILL” who helped create a “professional staged event,” and wrote that the Charlottesville events were “all false flag protests.” One Reddit user even claimed he was the reason the SPLC report had spread to begin with.

    The spread of this conspiracy theory among far-right figures, forums, and fake news purveyors is yet another example of how the fringe as an ecosystem spreads dubious claims, conspiracy theories, and lies, while simultaneously attacking perceived enemies.