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Diversity & Discrimination

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  • Racist right-wing media myths allow the racial wealth gap to persist

    Blog ››› ››› SARAH WASKO

    Wealth inequality in the U.S. has been steadily increasing along racial and ethnic lines since the Great Recession, according to a Pew study. White Americans disproportionately enjoy the economic security that wealth affords to people in this country, and right-wing media figures often blame Black people for their lack of financial means.

    In perpetuating this racist myth that Black people are somehow less capable or driven to succeed, right-wing media ignore that Black people face a myriad of barriers to building wealth: Burdened by a history of state-sponsored discrimination from slavery to Jim Crow, Black people continue to be racially discriminated against when seeking a mortgage for a home, and they regularly face racially targeted wealth extraction and policing that results in financially devastating fines and fees.

    Media Matters spoke with Anne Price, president of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, where she leads the Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Initiative that elevates the voices of experts of color in national economic debates and policymaking. She dispelled the racist right-wing media myths that link the wealth gap to behavioral pathology and deservedness.

    According to Price, many of these tropes date back to slavery, and they inform policy decisions that play a critical role in how families of all races accumulate wealth. She says, “We’re [currently] thinking more about individual choice than we are about the types of investments that can actually be made. And this idea that we will never have enough resources to do that is really becoming a dark road that we’re going down as a nation. But in fact, we do have the resources to actually address racial wealth inequality, and the idea that we can’t actually afford to do this is also really a false myth.”

    Video edited and animated by Miles Le

  • Facebook just removed six extremists from its platforms. Here's what should happen next.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Facebook just announced the removal of a notable cross-section of extremists from social networks Facebook and Instagram, including neo-Nazi sympathizer Milo Yiannopoulos, anti-Muslim bigot Laura Loomer, far-right YouTuber Paul Joseph Watson, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones (again), and white supremacist Paul Nehlen, a failed Republican congressional candidate, while also removing Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan for his record of anti-Semitic rhetoric. This move by Facebook is a step in the right direction, opening doors to making its platforms safer and inspiring some optimism that the tech company might be capable of taking responsibility for the ways its platforms have empowered extremists. But it is clear that there is more to do.

    A long record of hate

    The newly banned figures owed their influence to the massive reach they were allowed to cultivate through Facebook and Instagram, using their accounts to post content that dehumanized entire communities, promoted hateful conspiracy theories, and radicalized audiences -- all while they profited from directing people to their own websites.

    After being banned from most other social media platforms, including YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook itself, Jones found a safe haven on Instagram, where he had continued to post Infowars content that featured hate speech, promoted conspiracy theories, and amplified other extremists.

    Similarly, Laura Loomer used her private Instagram account to post content that violated the platform’s hate speech and bullying policies, consistently spewing dehumanizing anti-Muslim rhetoric.

    For his part, Yiannopoulos was banned from Twitter in 2016 for leading a racist harassment campaign against actress Leslie Jones, but the former Breitbart editor went on to use Instagram and Facebook to spread hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric and mock people of color.

    Watson, who had long been affiliated with Jones’ Infowars outlet, used Facebook and Instagram to push anti-Muslim content, masquerading his hateful rhetoric as thinly veiled irony, and regularly maligning Islam as “incompatible with western society.”

    White supremacist Nehlen -- who has publicly stated that a “race war” needs to be “kick[ed] off” in the U.S. -- had already lost his Instagram account after posting anti-Semitic memes, but he still had an active Facebook page he used to share anti-Semitic dog whistles and screenshots of neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer with tens of thousands of followers, as well as to profit from running ads on the platform.

    What comes next

    It’s a welcome but long overdue step in the right direction that Facebook has now taken definitive action against some of the most glaring examples of toxicity on its platforms -- especially considering the tech company’s record of struggling to enforce policies that are effective in curbing the reach and influence of extremists. The company’s recent attempt to ban white supremacist content from its platforms proved insufficient, as its lack of specificity allowed extremists to continue posting racist content as long as they weren’t too explicit.

    However, there are still a number of achievable measures that Facebook could take to make users safer and to convince the public of the company’s resolve to fight extremism. Shireen Mitchell, who founded Stop Online Violence Against Women and the nonprofit Digital Sisters to promote diversity in the tech industry, has explained how Facebook’s moderation policies have been weaponized to harass women of color -- especially if they’re advocating for social change. Speaking to Media Matters, Mitchell said Facebook has banned people of color and activists like herself as a result of posts that mention white people in the context of racism and white supremacy. Her experience is consistent with a Media Matters analysis of Facebook pages that showed that white supremacist content is often treated as equivalent to content from groups that actually fight oppression, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, seemingly treating white people as a protected group while ignoring the historical context of structural racism.

    Some achievable measures that could help curb extremism while protecting users who experience oppression include:

    • Commit to enforcing standards against more codified white nationalism by more effectively pairing automated and human reviews to better identify violating content. Increasing the number of people tasked with platform monitoring and staffing those positions with culturally competent individuals would help identify white supremacists’ use of the coded extremist rhetoric and insidious false equivalences that artificial intelligence seems to be missing. Doing so would also help curb the uncritical amplification of dangerous content such as video clips of violent hate crimes or the manifestos of their perpetrators.

    • Proactively limit the visibility of content when its traffic is being directed from known toxic sources like anonymous message boards 8chan and 4chan. As reported by NBC’s Ben Collins, platforms are already able to identify traffic coming from toxic sources. In light of recent crimes in which perpetrators have gone on anonymous message boards to link to their Facebook accounts and broadcast mass shootings as extremist propaganda, the platform should more actively limit the visibility and spread of content that starts receiving high influxes of traffic from extremist sites.

    • Extend anti-discrimination policies currently applied to ads to include event pages and groups. Event pages and private groups are often useful tools that help extremists organize and mobilize. Existing anti-discrimination policies should also apply to content in these pages and groups.

    • Reassess fact-checking partnership with Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller, which has ties to white supremacists and anti-Semites. The Daily Caller has a long history of publishing white supremacists, anti-Semites, and bigots; just yesterday it was revealed that The Daily Caller has fired the managing editor of the affiliated Daily Caller News Foundation (DCFN) for his connections to white supremacists. DCFN provides significant funding to the Daily Caller's fact-checking operation, Check Your Fact. Daily Caller founder Carlson constantly echoes white nationalist talking points on his Fox News show. And yet Facebook has teamed up with Check Your Fact as a fact-checker.

    • Pay attention to the cross-platform influence of highly followed users. White nationalists often use platforms like Instagram to sanitize their images with lifestyle content while spreading extremist propaganda on other platforms. As Data & Society research affiliate Becca Lewis told Media Matters, influential extremists on Instagram “will simply mimic fashion, beauty, or fitness influencers, but will espouse white supremacist propaganda elsewhere. In those cases, Instagram acts as a kind of honeypot.” Lewis suggested Facebook emulate Medium’s cross-platform moderation approach, in which users that violate Medium’s content policies on other platforms get banned on Medium.

    • Increase transparency in metrics for third-party auditors. Experts have warned about the risks of Facebook’s most recent privacy initiatives that limit Application Programming Interface (API) access to researchers (or access to the tools that allows individuals unaffiliated with Facebook to build software that uses Facebook data), hide Instagram metrics, and prioritize groups on Facebook (which would allow propaganda and extremism to propagate unchecked). As BuzzFeed’s Jane Lytvynenko pointed out, the move makes it harder for researchers and experts to audit content and metrics on the platforms. While it might save the tech company some bad press, it hinders outside researchers in their efforts to identify and scrutinize security concerns.

  • New NRA President Carolyn Meadows helped block construction of bell tower honoring Martin Luther King Jr. in 2015

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Newly elected National Rifle Association President Carolyn Meadows led an organization that blocked a proposal to construct a bell tower honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Stone Mountain, GA. The organization viewed the proposed tower as antithetical to a monument honoring the Confederacy located at the same site.

    Meadows, who sits on the NRA board of directors and was serving as the group’s second vice president, was elected president of the NRA during an April 29 meeting of NRA board members following weeks of public infighting that led to the ouster of President Oliver North. According to a report from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, following her election, Meadows declined to discuss NRA infighting but said the NRA was gearing up for the 2020 elections and focused in particular on defeating Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), who represents the district where Meadows lives. McBath ran for Congress in 2018 on a gun law reform platform following the murder of her son Jordan Davis by a man who later attempted to use the NRA-authored “Stand Your Ground” law at his criminal trial.

    In addition to her work with the NRA, Meadows is the chairman of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association (SMMA), an organization that maintains the largest memorial to the Confederacy in the United States. Stone Mountain, GA, features an enormous relief carving that depicts Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis on horseback. A 2017 article in Smithsonian magazine noted that “the monument in question is carved 42 feet deep and 400 feet above ground into a granite mountain” and “is a testament to the enduring legacy of white supremacy.”

    In 2015, the CEO of SMMA proposed constructing a tower with a replica of the Liberty Bell on top of Stone Mountain to honor King. In his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, King said, "Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia."

    Press reports from 2015 indicated that the proposal would go forward, but the bell tower has not been built. As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in January, “the park’s all-white governing board decided” that “such a monument would clash with the legislated purpose of the state-owned park as a memorial to the Confederacy.” Meadows is a member of that governing board, having served continuously since at least 2011 via appointments by former Republican Gov. Nathan Deal. According to SMMA meeting minutes, Meadows has served as the group’s chairman dating back to at least 2013.

    In addition to being the location of the largest Confederate memorial in the United States, Stone Mountain is closely associated with the Klu Klux Klan. KKK leader William Simmons “ushered in the modern era of the Ku Klux Klan, founding the Second KKK at the top of Stone Mountain on November 25, 1915,” in an event that included a cross burning and that signaled “a new era of white nationalist terrorism,” according to Smithsonian magazine. Plans for the Confederate memorial were already being made at the time of the Klan ceremony, but the project ended up being shuttered for several decades and was revived only following right-wing anger over the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision ending school segregation. The monument was eventually completed in 1972.

    The NRA -- which falsely calls itself the U.S.’s “oldest civil rights organization” -- and its media arm often use the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday to distort King’s comments and actions relating to gun ownership to portray King, a committed nonviolent activist who was felled by an assassin's bullet, as a pro-gun advocate.

    Attempts to build the King monument have recently been revived. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the idea to erect a Liberty Bell on Stone Mountain to honor King was discussed at an April 2018 event Meadows attended. After the event, Meadows was asked by a reporter about the proposal and claimed she hadn't previously heard of the idea, even though the idea of a bell tower memorial to King on the mountain made national news in 2015. And according to SMMA meeting minutes from June 16, 2015, Meadows recognized Georgia resident Mark Pozner to speak at the meeting in favor of placing a plaque honoring King at Stone Mountain because of his “I Have a Dream” speech. The minutes say, “Ms. Meadows thanked Mr. Pozner for his comments and stated the board would look at his request.” The CEO of SMMA had in fact been considering a memorial as well, and he spearheaded the 2015 effort to get a bell tower built.

  • New NRA President Carolyn Meadows chairs the board of directors for the largest Confederate monument in America

    Smithsonian magazine: “The Georgia landmark is a testament to the enduring legacy of white supremacy”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Carolyn Meadows, who is succeeding Oliver North as president of the National Rifle Association, is also the chairperson of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, an organization that maintains the largest memorial to the Confederacy in the United States.

    Meadows, who sits on the NRA board of directors and was serving as the group’s second vice president, was elected president of the NRA during an April 29 meeting of NRA board members. She will succeed North, who was ousted from the NRA amid infighting that pitted a faction led by NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre against North and Ackerman McQueen, an ad firm that is deeply enmeshed with the NRA and produces the NRA’s media operation, NRATV. LaPierre, who North said engaged in financial improprieties in his role as NRA CEO, was reportedly unanimously reelected CEO by the board.

    Meadows is listed by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association website as chairperson of the organization’s board of directors. According to her site bio, “She has been actively involved in the Republican Party since 1964 and served as Georgia’s National Chairwoman for 12 years,” and she is also a board member of the American Conservative Union, the group that hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

    Stone Mountain, GA, features an enormous relief carving that depicts Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis on horseback. A 2017 article in Smithsonian magazine notes that “the monument in question is carved 42 feet deep and 400 feet above ground into a granite mountain” and “is a testament to the enduring legacy of white supremacy.”

    Stone Mountain is also closely associated with the revival of the Ku Klux Klan. KKK leader William Simmons “ushered in the modern era of the Ku Klux Klan, founding the Second KKK at the top of Stone Mountain on November 25, 1915,” in an event that included a cross burning and signaled “a new era of white nationalist terrorism,” according to Smithsonian magazine. Plans for the memorial were already being made at the time of the Klan ceremony, but the project ended up being shuttered for several decades and was only revived following right-wing anger over the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision ending school segregation. The monument was eventually completed in 1972.

    Meadows is not the only prominent NRA official to support Confederate symbols. NRA board member Ted Nugent, who was reelected during the 2019 NRA annual meeting, has long been an outspoken defender of the Confederate flag. Previous NRA President Jim Porter, who served two years as president beginning in 2013, was also an apologist for the Confederacy, having once stated, “NRA was started 1871 right here in New York state. It was started by some Yankee generals who didn't like the way my Southern boys had the ability to shoot in what we call the 'War of Northern Aggression.'”

    The NRA often calls itself the oldest civil rights organization in America, although that isn’t true.

  • Anti-LGBTQ group Heritage Foundation has hosted four anti-trans panels so far in 2019

    Panelists included “trans-exclusionary radical feminists” and anti-trans medical professionals who pushed flawed research and advocated for conversion therapy

    Blog ››› ››› BRIANNA JANUARY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that has railed against LGBTQ equality for decades, hosted its fourth anti-transgender panel of the year on April 8. Each of the four panels focused on a different aspect of trans equality, such as comprehensive nondiscrimination measures, affirming medical care for transgender youth, trans inclusion in international policy, and trans participation in athletics. The panels also featured biased anti-trans figures -- whom Heritage characterized as subject experts -- who pushed right-wing narratives about transgender people.

    Heritage’s surge in anti-transgender events and its increased attempts to shape public discourse about trans rights come at a strategic time as Congress considers expanding federal civil rights laws to include critical protections for trans folks. The Equality Act, introduced on March 13, would add “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to existing nondiscrimination protections in “employment, housing, public accomodations,” and other areas. The measure was quickly met with opposition and fearmongering from extreme anti-LGBTQ groups and right-wing media. Heritage’s panels echoed many of the anti-trans talking points pushed by these groups and outlets.

    Heritage hosted a panel of TERFs to advocate against the Equality Act

    On January 28, the vehemently anti-LGBTQ activist Ryan T. Anderson hosted so-called "trans-exclusionary radical feminists" (TERFs) and self-proclaimed liberals in a panel focused on railing against the inclusion of gender identity in the Equality Act. TERFs refer to themselves as “gender-critical” or “radical feminists”; they generally do not associate themselves with the term TERFs, but they are anti-trans activists who have historically opposed trans-inclusive measures and denied trans identities.

    One of the panelists, adjunct lecturer at the University of California, San Francisco Hacsi Horvath, says he formerly identified as transgender. During the panel, he encouraged the audience to misgender trans folks -- an act that is considered harassment and that can stigmatize trans people, lower their self-esteem, and erase and invalidate their identities.

    Another panelist, Julia Beck, appeared on Fox’s Tucker Carlson Tonight after participating in the Heritage panel and pushed the same anti-trans points about the Equality Act. Beck was removed from Baltimore’s LGBTQ Commission in 2018 after other members became aware of her anti-trans animus.

    The two other panelists, Kara Dansky and Jennifer Chavez, are board members of the TERF organization Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), which has supported the clients of extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom in an ongoing court case that seeks to dismantle a trans-inclusive policy at a Pennsylvania high school.

    Heritage hosted a side event at the UN Commission on the Status of Women against including “gender identity” in international resolutions

    On March 20, Heritage co-hosted another anti-trans panel: a “side event” with the Permanent Observer Mission to the Holy See at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The U.N. CSW is “the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.” During the panel, participants claimed that “gender ideology” -- a “theory drummed up by hard-right religious activists, who present it as a gay- and feminist-led movement out to upend the traditional family and the natural order of society” -- is a threat to women’s rights around the world.

    One panelist, Dr. Monique Robles, who brought a veneer of credibility to the panel as a medical doctor who focuses on pediatric care, pushed the unvalidated hypothesis of rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD). The theory posits that trans teens are coming out as such due to “social contagion,” and a study promoting the concept was reevaluated and corrected following complaints about its research and methodology. The correction noted that the study only “serves to develop hypotheses” and that the concept has not been validated. Robles also seemingly praised the discredited and harmful practice of conversion therapy, remarking:

    A better treatment option would be to address the underlying mental health issues and concerns that are likely leading to these children in adolescence to identify as transgender or gender diverse. There are therapists who are taking on the role as compassionate companions and are spending time with their patients and their parents working through histories, experiences, and addressing the whole of the individual. In this form of therapy, the body, mind, and soul can be brought together in a unified manner in which they were created.

    Panelist Emilie Kao, director of Heritage's Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society, argued that including “gender identity” in international policy and in U.N. resolutions is a threat to the progress of women’s equality. She said, “If the word ‘woman’ can be redefined to mean everyone, then it will change or even erase the true meaning of woman in international human rights law, in economic development efforts, and in efforts to increase access to social protection systems.” Framing transgender rights as at odds with women’s rights is a tactic conservatives have increasingly employed that also mirrors talking points from TERFs.

    Heritage’s Anderson continued that trend, also claiming trans rights are detriments to women's equality, safety, and privacy. Another panelist, Mary Rice Hasson, a fellow at the Catholic Women’s Forum, echoed these sentiments and claimed that affirming trans identities has a “dehumanizing effect on women, where women are no longer acknowledged as persons” and that “the result is that real women are being displaced.”

    Heritage hosted a panel advocating against affirming the gender identities of transgender youth

    On March 28, Anderson hosted a third anti-trans panel, titled "The Medical Harms of Hormonal and Surgical Interventions for Gender Dysphoric Children,” featuring medical professionals who used flawed research to fearmonger about and attack trans-affirming medical care. These claims are in direct opposition to the positions of leading medical associations such as the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association, which "agree that gender-affirming care are the most effective treatment for gender dysphoria,” according to CNN.

    During the panel, “ex-trans” activist Walt Heyer, a darling of anti-LGBTQ groups and right-wing media, railed against affirming trans identities, calling it “child abuse,” “destructive,” and “damaging.” He also encouraged the use of conversion therapy for transgender people.

    Other panelists included Dr. Michael K. Laidlaw, a vocal anti-trans advocate who has also been featured in right-wing outlets, and a mother of a trans child who wished to remain anonymous, who they called “Elaine.” Elaine is also a member of a new anti-trans advocacy group for parents of trans children called The Kelsey Coalition. During the panel, Elaine criticized laws that protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy, and Laidlaw advocated against the use of puberty blockers, calling them “a chemical conversion therapy.” Puberty blockers “are medicines that prevent puberty from happening” in order to help transgender youths’ bodies “better reflect who [they] are.” Studies have shown that they are effective and safe and recommend their use on transgender youth who decide to use them with the help of medical providers.

    Heritage hosted a panel advocating against including transgender athletes in gender-segregated sports

    For its fourth anti-trans panel in 2019, Heritage co-hosted an event on April 8 with anti-LGBTQ group Concerned Women For America, which seeks to “bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy.” The panel advocated against allowing trans athletes to compete in gender-segregated sports that align with their gender identity. Heritage’s Kao hosted the panel, opening by reciting a quote that the Equality Act would be “the end of women’s sports.”

    The panel began with a video featuring panelist Bianca Stanescu’s daughter, a student athlete who lost a track meet that made headlines when two trans athletes earned top prizes. Right-wing media, including Fox News’ Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, have touted this story as a reason to not allow transgender athletes to compete in gender-segregated sports. Media Matters’ Parker Molloy previously wrote about how figures like Carlson regularly seize on local stories like this to fuel the identity politics-driven culture war, and Heritage has similarly focused on this rare incident (transgender athletes are not dominating sports on a wide scale) to justify widespread discrimination.

    Another panelist, National Review’s Madeleine Kearns, repeatedly misgendered trans athletes and showed pictures of trans athletes before and after affirming medical care to fearmonger about their physical abilities. There is ongoing debate on the standards for trans inclusion in athletics, much of which is led by the International Olympic Committee. In 2016, the IOC updated guidelines on transgender athletes, leaving “no restriction for a trans man … to compete against men” and removing “the need for women to undergo gender-reassignment surgery to compete.” IOC has several restrictions for transgender women to compete in the Olympics, including demonstrating a certain level of testosterone for at least one year, and it is continuing to fund research into this area. As Outsports noted, “Despite the guidelines, no publicly out trans athlete has competed in the Olympics. Ever.” This stands in contrast to right-wing claims that trans athletes are dominating their field due to competitive advantages.

    A third panelist, Jennifer S. Bryson, is the founder of a sports advocacy organization called Let All Play that argues against pride jerseys celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month on sports teams. Bryson criticized the pride jerseys issued by the U.S. Soccer Federation and said requiring players to wear the jerseys was “a form of coerced speech requiring players to wear a political symbol.” She went on to call transgender people “a threat to soccer itself for girls and women,” adding that “the U.S. Soccer Federation should not require players to wear a symbol of a movement that is trying to harm soccer.”

    Additionally, Concerned Women for America’s Doreen Denny announced during the panel that the organization has partnered with TERF group WoLF to lobby against the Equality Act even though they “disagree on many things.” Denny also misgendered trans athletes during the panel and at one point corrected herself to intentionally misgender a female athlete after using the correct pronoun the first time, saying, “She has taken -- he, excuse me.”

    The four 2019 panels represent an alarming spike in Heritage’s anti-trans advocacy

    Heritage’s panels are just one aspect of its work against trans equality. Heritage’s Anderson organized an anti-trans conference reportedly attended by 250 attendees at the Franciscan University of Steubenville from April 4 to 5. The conference was called “Transgender Moment: A Natural Law Response to Gender Ideology,” and it focused on so-called “corruption and flawed science driving an increase in gender ‘transitioning’ and ‘reassignments’” and compared transgender equality to the dystopian novel 1984.

    Additionally, Heritage’s Monica Burke penned an April 10 anti-trans op-ed for the Chicago Tribune, and the group’s work this year has been consistently picked up and parroted by several right-wing and evangelical media outlets. And though mainstream and queer outlets have written about Heritage’s January 28 TERF panel, the right-wing has dominated coverage of the rest of the anti-trans panels.

    Despite its record, Heritage somehow enjoys some mainstream credibility. Earlier this month, Google disbanded its Artificial Intelligence ethics board after “little over a week” because it selected Heritage President Kay Coles James as one of its board members. Google employees and others protested her inclusion because of her and Heritage’s positions against trans equality.

    Though the Heritage Foundation’s practice of hosting anti-trans advocates and pushing anti-trans narratives is not new, the frequency and breadth of its events this year are alarming. Heritage’s attempt to shape public discourse on the Equality Act and the transgender community is another example of the right’s attempt to position trans rights as counter to those of women and to fracture the LGBTQ movement by excluding trans folks from it. Such groups deploy a similar "divide and conquer" strategy to create a false dichotomy between people of faith and LGBTQ rights, despite the fact that most faith groups support LGBTQ inclusion.

  • NRATV has hosted a contributor to a white nationalist publication 32 times

    Eight of the appearances were on NRA national spokesperson Dana Loesch’s show

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association’s media operation NRATV has hosted anti-immigration activist Michael Cutler 32 times dating back to March 2018. Cutler, who worked as an agent for the now-defunct U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, has contributed a large number of articles to a white nationalist journal and has ties to other white nationalist-affiliated groups.

    The NRA has long used immigrants as a boogeyman to rile up its supporters, and Cutler has become the organization’s go-to commentator for its inflammatory media operation NRATV. Since March 2018, Cutler has made 24 appearances on NRATV program Stinchfield, a news of the day program, and eight appearances on Relentless, which is hosted by NRA national spokesperson Dana Loesch. Cutler’s most recent NRATV appearance was on April 15.

    In addition to being a frequent NRATV guest, Cutler is a contributor to white nationalist journal The Social Contract. The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that the publication “routinely publishes race-baiting articles penned by white nationalists” and that the group, The Social Contract Press, that publishes the journal was founded “by John Tanton, the racist founder and principal ideologue of the modern nativist movement.” According to SPLC, The Social Contract Press “puts an academic veneer of legitimacy over what are essentially racist arguments about the inferiority of today's immigrants.” A search of the journal’s website returns 20 articles Cutler authored, including six articles published since 2017. In 2018, Cutler wrote an anti-immigration booklet for The Social Contract, the foreword of which was authored by Social Contract Editor Wayne Lutton. Lutton is “a stalwart on the racist speaking circuit” who has ties to white nationalists and Holocaust deniers, according to SPLC.

    Cutler is also listed as a former fellow on the Center for Immigration Studies website. Like The Social Contract, CIS is a project of Tanton’s that has promoted white nationalism. Additionally, Cutler has written extensively for Californians for Population Stabilization, a group that employed a neo-Nazi and received funding from the now defunct pro-eugenics Pioneer Fund.

    During Cutler’s April 15 NRATV appearance, he and NRATV host Grant Stinchfield fearmongered about the prospect of terrorism being carried out by undocumented immigrants. The appearance was typical of NRATV’s false characterization of undocumented immigrants as a public safety threat. Here are a few more examples from some of Cutler’s other NRATV appearances:

    • During a January 3 appearance on Relentless, Loesch and Cutler discussed their false claim that nearly 8 million undocumented immigrants attempted to buy firearms at gun stores in 2018. The claim appears to have come from a since-corrected Washington Examiner column written by NRA shill Paul Bedard that grossly misinterpreted government data. During his appearance, Cutler also suggested giving driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants would spur vehicle terror attacks in the U.S.
    • While introducing Cutler during a May 17 appearance on NRATV, Stinchfield said, “I’ve gone from one crime scene to the next over and over again. I’ve seen people with their throats slit. I’ve seen people raped and murdered and tortured. I’ve seen child and children molested by illegals -- yes Americans too. They’re all animals.” Cutler responded by saying, “Thank you for having me and thank you for telling the truth to your audience.” Later in the appearance, Cutler speculated that “Iranian sleeper cells” and other terrorists could take advantage of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that protects undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children from deportation.
    • During an October 25 broadcast that featured Cutler, Stinchfield described caravans of immigrants from Central America as “giant mobs of migrants” that are attempting an “invasion” of the U.S. and claimed “very, very dangerous” migrants are being brought to the U.S. so that they can vote for Democrats. For his part, Cutler suggested Hezbollah and Hamas could be behind the migrant caravans.

    Beyond hosting Cutler, NRATV has relentlessly demonized undocumented immigrants. According to a Media Matters analysis, Stinchfield broadcast 54 segments that fearmongered about undocumented immigrants during the 2018-2019 government shutdown, which was a result of President Donald Trump’s demand that Congress fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

    NRATV also repeatedly promoted the conspiracy theory that claimed George Soros was funding migrant caravans. In October 2018, a gunman inspired by a similar conspiracy theory carried out a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. NRATV continued to promote the Soros conspiracy theory following the shooting. White nationalist talking points about immigration have also been broadcast on NRATV, including the claim that liberals are attempting to “import a new populace” from “the Third World” to replace U.S. voters.

    The extremism broadcast on NRATV, which is produced by PR firm Ackerman McQueen for the NRA, may be causing a problem at the gun organization. The Wall Street Journal reported on April 15 that the NRA is suing Ackerman McQueen for allegedly failing to turn over information about NRATV metrics and other matters. As The New York Times reported, the lawsuit appears to be connected to concerns by some members of NRA leadership about NRATV’s inflammatory broadcasts:

    Since Ackerman created NRATV in 2016, it has often been “perceived by the public as the voice of the N.R.A.,” according to the rifle association’s complaint. It has also taken on an apocalyptic tone, warning of race wars, calling for a march on the Federal Bureau of Investigation and portraying the talking trains in the children’s show “Thomas & Friends” in Ku Klux Klan hoods.

    The New York Times reported this year that two prominent N.R.A. board members were among those voicing alarm inside the association that NRATV was often straying beyond gun rights. The Times article also revealed that Ackerman had a previously undisclosed financial relationship with [NRA President Oliver North].

  • Study: As Notre Dame burned, anti-Muslim content thrived online

    On 4chan and 8chan, the number of posts with mentions of Muslims and anti-Muslim slurs spiked on April 15, and on Facebook, the top-performing post was from an anti-Muslim bigot.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Anti-Muslim content surged online as the tragic news broke on Monday of a fire engulfing Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, with far-right figures weaponizing news of the seemingly accidental fire to link it to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and to scapegoat Muslims and Islam. A Media Matters analysis found that anti-Muslim sentiment spiked on 4chan and 8chan on April 15, while the story containing the words “Muslim” or “Islam” that got the most engagements on Facebook was from an anti-Muslim bigot and claimed, “Jihadis reveled in the fire engulfing the Notre Dame Cathedral.”

    On anonymous message boards 4chan and 8chan, posts containing mentions of either “Muslim” or “Islam,” references to 9/11, or offensive anti-Muslim slurs skyrocketed on April 15 well beyond the average in the days before Notre Dame burned. On 4chan’s “politically incorrect” board, “/pol/,” the thread with the most posts containing those search terms was an April 15 discussion about the fire at Notre Dame. From April 9 to April 14, we looked at spikes in mentions of these words and found 10 high spots. The average number of mentions from those spikes was 209. But on April 15, 897 posts contained those words -- over four times the average.

    Media Matters also analyzed Spike data for Facebook posts containing the search terms “Muslim” or “Islam,” which showed that the post that earned the most interactions on April 15 came from anti-Muslim bigot Pamela Geller, who linked to a story on her site accusing Muslims of laughing at the sight of Notre Dame burning. (The story was based on a far-right hoax that baselessly claimed people who reacted with laughing emojis to a Facebook livestream of Notre Dame burning were Muslim). The post earned almost 38,000 interactions -- well over twice the 16,506 interactions of the next highest search result, a HuffPost story unrelated to the burning cathedral. Geller’s Facebook post overperformed her usual content by 15.71 times, a metric which Spike calculates “by comparing a story or post’s performance to the publisher’s historical average.”

    French prosecutors have reportedly ruled out arson as a cause for the tragic fire. This is not the first time news cycle events have triggered waves of bigotry on anonymous message boards: A study by the Anti-Defamation League found that there was a spike in posts containing racist terms on 4chan following President Donald Trump’s election.  

    Natalie Martinez provided research for this piece.

  • 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

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    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.

    Methodology

    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.