Jack Posobiec

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  • 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.

  • After emails are released, pro-Trump media launch flailing defense of Donald Trump Jr.

    Pro-Trump media figures can’t read

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Multiple pro-Trump far-right media figures falsely suggested that Donald Trump Jr.’s tweets in which he released a chain of emails about his meeting with a lawyer connected to the Kremlin somehow disproved The New York Times’ reporting on the issue.

    The Times reported on July 8 that Trump Jr. met with “a Russian lawyer who has connections to the Kremlin,” and the next day reported that Trump Jr. “was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing” to the meeting. Initially, Trump Jr. falsely told the Times that the meeting, which was set up by publicist Rob Goldstone on behalf of a Russian singer, was “primarily about an adoption program.”

    But on July 11, another Times report revealed details from email correspondence between Trump Jr. and Goldstone in which they arranged the meeting. Shortly before the Times published its July 11 report, Trump Jr. released emails between himself and Goldstone on Twitter to pre-empt the report, with the emails’ content effectively confirming he had lied to the Times earlier.

    Still, prominent pro-Trump media figures immediately jumped to Trump Jr.’s defense, absurdly suggesting that his released emails discredited the Times. Far-right troll Mike Cernovich wrote, “@DonaldJTrumpJr posted the full email, as suspected the lying NY Times fabricated another fake story!” Another far-right troll, Jack Posobiec, wrote, “NY Times story blown out of the water. Emails complete[ly] contradict their ‘anonymous sources’ yesterday.” Jim Hoft of the fringe website The Gateway Pundit wrote that Trump Jr. “beat the #FakeNews media to the punch and released the ENTIRE email chain of his conversation with Rob Goldstone on a meeting with a Russian lawyer.”

    Anyone who actually reads the emails that Trump Jr. released can see that they confirm the Times’ reporting. The emails show that Goldstone told Trump Jr. that the “Crown prosecutor of Russia” offered to “provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary … and would be very useful to your father.” Goldstone also wrote, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. replied to the email saying, “If it’s what you say I love it.” In a later email, Goldstone asked Trump Jr. about scheduling his meeting with a “Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow.”

    The response is yet another effort by pro-Trump media figures, some of whom have specifically lauded Trump Jr. in the past, to defend the president with false claims and smears against perceived opponents.

  • 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.

  • No, the Redditor who made the Trump/CNN GIF is not 15 years old

    How a lie spread from 4chan to Fox News in less than 12 hours

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A false claim posted on 4chan that a Redditor who created an anti-CNN GIF, and who was tracked down by CNN, was just 15 years old made its way to Donald Trump Jr. and on Fox News within 12 hours. According to CNN and the reporter who helped identify the Reddit user, the man is actually middle aged. The fact that the claim (made to smear CNN for attacking a teenager) was able to spread so quickly exemplifies how misinformation from fringe sources can make its way through the “alt-right”/fake news ecosystem and to outlets with a broader reach, such as Fox News.

    On July 2, President Donald Trump tweeted a video showing himself wrestling and punching a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his face. The video started as a GIF posted on the Reddit forum r/The_Donald by user HanAssholeSolo and was later turned into a video with music, which is the version Trump tweeted. The Reddit user expressed glee at his GIF being tweeted by the president. On July 4, CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reported that CNN had identified the man but was “not publishing” his name “because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology … and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again,” adding, “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”

    CNN and Kaczynski received a flurry of criticism, “simultaneously draw[ing] accusations of going soft and issuing a threat,” as The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers wrote. But among the accusations made by online trolls and figures affiliated with the “alt-right” was that CNN had threatened and blackmailed a 15-year-old. Responding to the allegation, Kaczynski tweeted, “HanAssholeSolo is a middle aged man. People claiming he’s 15 are wrong. Some are intentionally spreading this.” Business Insider previously reported that the user had "claimed to be 37 in another post."

    The claim seems to have first appeared right before midnight on July 4, when a user on the “alt-right”-affiliated 4chan forum /pol/ claimed that the “tough guys over at CNN” “doxxed a 15 year old kid.” Within an hour, in the early hours of July 5, Twitter user Kaiser Willy tweeted a photo of the 4chan user’s post, writing, “Potentially huge development in #CNNBlackmail Reddit user is believed to only be 15.” A couple of hours later, neo-Nazi and “alt-right” website The Daily Stormer pointed to Willy's tweet to push the claim, adding that CNN “must be made to taste their own medicine.”

    Shortly after 1 a.m., “alt-right” personality Rick Vaughn tweeted a photo of a 4chan post of supposed CNN advertisers, writing, “Would be a shame if we make this List of @CNN 's Advertisers a lot shorter after CNN blackmailed a 15 year-old... #CNNBlackmail.” Additionally, “alt-right”-affiliated Lucian Wintrich of The Gateway Pundit tweeted, “@CNN pushes propaganda for 1/2 a year, Trump calls them out, they threaten to doxx a 15 year old, now #CNNBlackmail is trending. Happy 4th!” Mike Cernovich, an online troll who dwells in the alternative media sphere, retweeted both Vaughn and Wintrich’s tweets. The claim then spread to Reddit’s r/The_Donald, with users highlighting the original 4chan post. Shortly after, “alt-right” figure Jack Posobiec tweeted, “I can confirm Reddit user HanAHoloSolo is 15 and is an LGBT Trump supporter.” Paul Joseph Watson of Infowars, also an “alt-right” figure, tweeted, “The poor kid that CNN threatened to dox is reportedly only 15 years old. #CNNBlackmail.”

    At around 7 a.m., fake news purveyor TruthFeed published a post, claiming, “Many are saying that the Reddit user is actually a 15-year-old kid, which looks even worse for CNN.” Not long after, Donald Trump Jr., who regularly pushes fringe claims, tweeted, “So I guess they weren't effective threatening the admin so they go after & bully a 15 y/o?”

    By 9:00 a.m., the lie had made its way to Fox News, as frequent Fox News guest Dan Bongino said CNN “out[ed] a 15-year-old” and added that CNN should find sources for its Trump/Russia stories before they “out a bunch of teenagers playing their Xbox, making giphys you don’t like.” In response, Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade said that CNN “made the kid apologize” and noted that the internet was “going to bat for the 15-year-old.”

    The evolution and dissemination of this claim shows an alarming trend: How fake news and misinformation can go from the fringe of the internet to Fox News within a short period of time. The speed with which this falsehood spread demonstrates the dangers of the “alt-right”/fake news ecosystem, which has helped 4chan to attempt to impact a foreign election campaign and which regularly pushes conspiracy theories and falsities.

    UPDATE: During Fox News’ Fox News Specialists at 5:00 p.m. on July 5, host Eric Bolling repeated the lie, claiming the person being “threatened by CNN” was “a young kid.”

  • Reporters fall into the “alt-right” trap with Julius Caesar stunt

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Ever since President Donald Trump hired then-Breitbart.com chief executive Stephen Bannon to run his presidential campaign, the press has been struggling to comprehend the “alt-right” movement that his website helped promote. While many journalists have done yeoman’s work catching up on the assortment of white nationalists, misogynists, and conspiracy theorists behind this new wave of fringe media outlets, they’ve been less effective in learning about the tactics those figures use to manipulate the press. That failing was evident over the weekend, as major news outlets reported on Friday night’s “alt-right” interruption of a performance of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

    That controversy, which triggered stories by The Associated Press, CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications, demonstrated that the news judgment of mainstream news outlets has yet to adjust to the new reality. And it is a sad reminder that the “alt-right’s” greatest strength is its ability to exploit the media for its own ends.

    Conservative criticism of the Public Theater’s production of Julius Caesar in New York’s Central Park, which debuted in late May and concluded Sunday night, hit the public consciousness on June 11 after it came under attack from Fox News. In an appearance on the weekend edition of the network’s Fox & Friends morning show, TownHall.com Political Editor Guy Benson denounced the play for placing a Trump look-alike in the titular role of the Roman leader who is assassinated onstage.

    As other conservative media figures and Trump’s own sons joined the chorus, Delta and Bank of America ended their corporate sponsorship of the production. And after a gunman targeted Republican members of Congress practicing on a baseball field last week, wounding Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), right-wing commentators linked the attack to the play.

    These arguments are foolish and made in bad faith. Caesar’s assassination is not glamorized in the production -- indeed, the message of the play is that misguided political violence will inevitably breed disastrous consequences. “Likening Shakespeare’s monarchs and politicians to real-life figures is a long-standing performance practice, seized by directors with sometimes illuminating, sometimes boneheaded results,” Slate’s Issac Butler noted after the initial complaints, pointing out that performances of Julius Caesar have featured then-President Barack Obama in the titular role without incident.

    The controversy culminated in a "protest" at Friday night’s performance, when the production was interrupted for roughly a minute when the “alt-right” online outlet Rebel Media’s Laura Loomer stormed the stage, shouting, “Do you want Trump to be assassinated?” She was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespass. Jack Posobiec, another “alt-right” figure, also interrupted the performance, yelling, “The blood of Steve Scalise is on your hands” and comparing the audience to the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels before being removed from the theater. Posobiec taped the disturbance and posted it on Twitter, where it quickly circulated.

    Why did they do it? The incident has the hallmarks of a grift: The disturbances came after “alt-right” personality Mike Cernovich offered a $1,000 bounty to anyone who successfully interrupted the performance, and Loomer is seeking to crowdfund $25,000, supposedly for her legal defense.

    It’s not unusual for protesters to use civil disobedience to garner media attention for their cause. But this "protest" had no real aim other than the aggrandizement of its participants. It had all the moral force of a pair of drunken assholes running onto the field to halt a baseball game, and deserved a similar degree of attention from the media. Instead, mainstream reporters have been transfixed by the story, generating reams of coverage that bolster the profiles of Posobiec and Loomer. For the cost of a ticket, they were able to troll the public with their nonsense claims, with mainstream outlets regurgitating their trolling at the top of their stories and burying the reasons not to believe them.

    This manipulation of the mainstream press by subversive elements who don’t play by the traditional rules of journalism should be an ongoing concern. We’ve seen the press fall for these efforts time and time again -- indeed, NBC News spent most of last week getting outmaneuvered at every turn by Infowars chief Alex Jones.

    Mainstream reporters rightfully feel compelled to cover the rising tide of fringe-right outlets because of their close ties to the president, and the manner in which their seemingly-absurd conspiracy theories have translated into harassment. Their claims about a pedophile ring operating out of a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor led to gunfire at the restaurant; Seth Rich’s family was hassled following their allegations that the murdered Democratic staffer was actually bumped off by Hillary Clinton’s campaign; their lies that the Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax turn the lives of the victims’ parents into waking nightmares.

    But the pro-Trump fringe has become adept at taking advantage of those inclinations to increase its own influence. As they come under more scrutiny, these “alt-right” figures are learning how to gin up grievances, manufacture new controversies, and troll the press to garner attention and make money.

    Reporters need to show better news judgment when they engage with the “alt-right.” When the movement’s media personalities are stirring controversies that have a real impact on people’s lives, they have earned national attention.

    But when the “alt-right” personalities are deliberately screwing with journalists to bolster their own profiles, the best thing journalists can do for their readers is refuse to play their game.

  • An “alt-right”-affiliated candidate nearly won Virginia's GOP gubernatorial primary

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate who was backed by, and affiliated with, segments of the “alt-right” media nearly won the state’s June 13 gubernatorial primary.

    Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, narrowly lost to front-runner Ed Gillespie, former chairman of Republican National Committee (RNC), by only slightly more than a percentage point.

    Stewart, who was Virginia state co-chairman of President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, heavily courted the “alt-right” during his campaign, which he announced in April 2016. While he was the co-chair, Stewart wrote multiple pieces for “alt-right”-promoting website Breitbart. Shortly after he was fired from his position in October for taking part in a protest against the RNC, Stewart gave an interview to Mike Cernovich, an “alt-right”-affiliated troll who has a history of promoting conspiracy theories. During the interview, Cernovich said that “he calls establishment Republicans ‘cucks’ because “they like to see Trump get screwed over by the media, that's what they get off on.” Stewart replied, “Yeah, I would agree.” The term “cuck,” short for “cuckservative,” is widely used within “alt-right” circles.

    In March, Stewart did a question-and-answer session on the Reddit forum “r/The_Donald,” an “alt-right”-affiliated forum that has, in tandem with other “alt-right” figures and fake news purveyors, helped spread conspiracy theories and misinformation. Stewart wrote on the forum that he is “opposing the establishment's handpicked candidate, former Bush guy, RNC chairman, and cuckservative, Ed Gillespie.” The Virginia GOP state chairman criticized Stewart, noting that the term was “used by white nationalists.” The forum “r/The_Donald” would go on to promote Stewart’s primary campaign, as did 4chan /pol/, another “alt-right”-affiliated forum.

    During his campaign, Stewart also criticized the city of Charlottesville’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, going to rallies to protest the city’s action. He also responded to his critics by tweeting, “Nothing is worse than a Yankee telling a Southerner that his monuments don't matter.” Richard Spencer, a white nationalist who originally created the term “alt-right,” subsequently led a group of “torch-wielding protesters” in the city to protest removal of the statue. Stewart was the only candidate to not directly condemn Spencer’s protest. Stewart’s stand earned him praise from “alt-right” outlets and figures: The neo-Nazi and “alt-right”-affiliated blog The Daily Stormer wrote that Stewart’s actions showed “how you win the game” and “how we go mainstream,” while Occasional Dissent, a blog run by anti-Semitic writer Hunter Wallace, claimed that Stewart was taking a “stand for Dixie.”

    After the close primary election, “alt-right” figures cheered Stewart’s near-upset. Cernovich tweeted that the result showed “GOP globalists” that they're “all going to have primary challengers.” He also said that Stewart “showed them what one man can do with his populist revolution.” Another “alt-right”-affiliated troll, Jack Posobiec, tweeted, “Gillespie outspent Stewart 5-to-1 and barely won the race. Take note, Establishment.” VDare, another “alt-right”-connected outlet which frequently publishes articles written by white nationalists, claimed Stewart’s “heroic effort” against “useless consultantcuck Ed Gillespie” showed “nationalism lives.”

  • Seven ways pro-Trump media and fake news purveyors have smeared James Comey and Robert Mueller

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Over the past month, fake news purveyors and “alt-right”-affiliated figures and outlets have been smearing former FBI Director James Comey and special counsel for the Russia probe, Robert Mueller. The two men have been smeared by this media ecosystem, which has essentially been a propaganda machine for President Donald Trump and which perceives the two investigators as a potential threat to the president. Following Comey’s firing by Trump in May, Mueller’s appointment as special counsel, and Comey’s statement that Trump fired him over the Russia probe, this ecosystem has worked to discredit both and to assist Trump. These are five smears they have pushed.

    Fake news purveyors pushed dubious “alt-right” claim that Comey was imperiled by supposed probe into Susan Rice

    “Alt-right” troll Jack Posobiec claimed Comey dropped a probe of Susan Rice (there’s no evidence any such probe existed) to avoid implicating himself. Shortly after former FBI Director James Comey was fired, Jack Posobiec, an “alt-right” troll with a history of pushing conspiracy theories and misinformation, claimed that an “FBI source” told him that “Comey dropped the Susan Rice unmasking investigation [because] it would have implicated himself.” The tweet was in reference to the dubious claim that former national security adviser Susan Rice violated the law by unmasking Trump aides caught up in surveillance of foreign officials. There has been no corroboration outside of the right-wing fringe that Rice was ever under FBI investigation.

    Fake news purveyors ran with Posobiec’s claim. Fake news purveyors ran with Posobiec’s dubious claim, with TruthFeed claiming it “does logically make sense.” Angry Patriot wrote that it “will only affirm Trump’s decision in giving [Comey] the boot,” and Conservative Daily Post and The Washington Feed published the same article claiming that it showed Comey “was an extremely corrupt individual.” The TruthFeed, Angry Patriot, and Conservative Daily Post articles received at least 1,700, 9,300, and 6,800 Facebook engagements, respectively, according to BuzzSumo, a social media analytics site.

    Fake news purveyors and “alt-right” outlets used Judicial Watch report to claim Mueller “conspired with radical Islamic groups” and should be concerning to Americans

    Judicial Watch claimed Mueller, as FBI director, “caved” to “Islamist groups.” Following Mueller’s appointment as special counsel, right-wing group Judicial Watch published a report claiming that “as FBI director, Mueller bent over backwards to please radical Islamist groups and caved into their demands.” Judicial Watch alleged that the FBI under Mueller “eliminated the valuable anti-terrorism training material and curricula after Mueller met with various Islamist organizations, including those with documented ties too (sic) terrorism.” According to Wired, the FBI had removed those materials because “they were inaccurate or over-broad” or “because they were offensive.”

    “Alt-right” outlet and fake news purveyors used Judicial Watch report to attack Mueller. “Alt-right”-affiliated outlet The Gateway Pundit used the Judicial Watch report to claim Mueller “conspired with radical Islamic groups.” Fake news purveyors joined in; Conservative Fighters and Angry Patriot wrote that it showed “the media’s glowing portrayal of Mueller” was “not true,” The Washington Feed claimed that it showed “the real picture” of Mueller, and Tell Me Now wrote that Mueller “thought it was more offensive than jihadists killing Americans” and that the report “will likely have some Americans concerned” about him being special counsel. The Gateway Pundit, Conservative Fighters, Angry Patriot, and Tell Me Now articles received at least 1,200, 9,500, 13,800, and 231 Facebook engagements, respectively, according to BuzzSumo.

    “Alt-right” outlets and fake news purveyors suggested Comey was biased against Trump because his brother worked at a law firm used by the Clinton Foundation

    Fringe blog Big League Politics suggested Comey was “protecting [Hillary] Clinton” because his brother worked at law firm connected to the Clinton Foundation. After Comey’s firing, fringe blog Big League Politics revived a claim, originating from “alt-right”-promoting outlet Breitbart, that Comey “was clearly protecting [Hillary] Clinton from … espionage and corruption charges” because his brother worked for a law firm that “does the Clinton Foundation’s taxes.”

    “Alt-right” outlet and fake news purveyors ran with charge to discredit Comey. The Gateway Pundit claimed Big League Politics showed Comey’s “ties to the Clinton Foundation and the conflicts of interest that lie there are too close to not raise red flags.” From there it was revived by fake news purveyors, with Angry Patriot writing that it showed “Comey was compromised, so it is a good thing that Donald Trump removed him from office.” TruthFeed wrote that it showed Comey’s “crooked Clinton ties” meant Trump “was 100% correct to remove this shill,” USA Politics Today wondered how “Comey [was] not removed from the Hillary Clinton email investigation,” and Conservative Patriot wrote that it showed Comey was “involved in shady activities with [the] Clinton Foundation.” The Gateway Pundit, Angry Patriot, TruthFeed, USA Politics Today, and Conservative Patriot articles received at least 24,400, 5,800, 2,100, 2,700, and 4,800 Facebook engagements, respectively, according to BuzzSumo.

    “Alt-right” and fake news-purveying outlets used 2009 Wikileaks cable to mislead about Mueller working with Russia

    The Gateway Pundit, via Wikileaks, revived a 2009 cable showing Mueller, with authorization, transported uranium to Russia. After Mueller was named special counsel, The Gateway Pundit pointed to a 2009 cable published by Wikileaks revealing that Mueller delivered a sample of highly enriched uranium -- seized from the nation of Georgia and held in U.S. custody -- to Russia, with authorization from the Georgian government, for forensic analysis. The uranium was referred to by both Wikileaks and The Gateway Pundit as “stolen,” and The Gateway Pundit used the story to suggest that Democrats should be “up in arms over Mueller’s visit to Russia” because “according to the deranged Democrats, any contact with the Russians creates a cloud of suspicion and must lead to an investigation.”

    “Alt-right” outlet and fake news purveyors claimed Mueller “has [a] connection to Russia.” Infowars, a conspiracy theorist website, wrote that the cable showed Mueller “has [a] past connection with [the] Kremlin.” Fake news purveyor USA Politics Today wrote that Mueller “is not … innocent” because he “oversaw the transfer of stolen highly enriched uranium” to Russia. And The Federalist Tribune asked, “Since Obama was president than (sic), does this mean he was acting in a treasonous manner in trying to stop the flow of stolen nuclear materials by cooperating with Russia?” The Gateway Pundit, Infowars, USA Politics Today, and The Federalist Tribune articles received at least 2,300, 206, 832, and 569 Facebook engagements, respectively, according to BuzzSumo.

    “Alt-right” and fake news purveyors used 2015 AP article to falsely claim Comey covered up for Chattanooga shooting

    Gateway Pundit spun a 2015 article on the shootings in Chattanooga, TN, to claim that “Comey colluded with Obama on radical Islamic murder of US marines.” The Gateway Pundit claimed that in 2015, “the FBI under Comey was completely baffled” about the motivation of a man who killed U.S. marines at a military recruiting center and at a naval base in Chattanooga, TN, in July of that year. The fringe website claimed, “No doubt this was the conclusion Obama wanted” and spun a November 2015 Associated Press article that quoted Comey saying, “We’re still trying to make sure we understand Abdulazeez, his motivations and associations, in a really good way.” Later, in December 2015, Comey told reporters that the shooter “was inspired by a foreign terrorist organization's propaganda.”

    Fake news purveyors run with Gateway Pundit’s claim. Fake news purveyors ran with The Gateway Pundit’s claim, with some additionally lying that the report was new. The Washington Feed called it “Comey’s sickest secret,” while USA News Flash said it was “sickening” because “the public record will never be revealed.” Freedom Daily claimed Comey did a “sickening thing” to “cover up the murder.” Red Rock Daily News claimed it showed “Comey and Obama are criminals.” The Gateway Pundit, USA News Flash, and Freedom Daily articles received at least 1,900, 12,400, and 16,800 Facebook engagements, respectively, according to BuzzSumo.

    “Alt-right”-affiliated outlet and fake news purveyors falsely claim Mueller intentionally lied about spying on antiwar groups

    “Alt-right”-affiliated outlet GotNews alleged Mueller misled Congress about spying on antiwar groups. GotNews, an “alt-right”-affiliated outlet, claimed in May that a Justice Department inspector general report showed Mueller “misled Congress in 2006 about FBI surveillance of peaceful anti-Iraq War groups.” However, as the inspector general report noted, Mueller did not know at the time the information was incorrect.

    Fake news purveyors used report to falsely claim Mueller is “a liar.” Fake news purveyors used the GotNews report to falsely claim Mueller lied to Congress. Angry Patriot and Conservative Fighters both wrongly wrote that Mueller “falsified testimony about the bureau’s surveillance on an anti-war protest in 2002” and that he is “a liar who illegally spied on Americans.” The GotNews, Angry Patriot, and Conservative Fighters articles received at least 637, 6,200, and 4,700 Facebook engagements, respectively, according to BuzzSumo.

    “Alt-right”-affiliated outlets and fake news purveyors claim Mueller is connected to Democratic organization Civis Analytics

    GotNews reported Mueller worked with law firm representing a “big Democrat group.” GotNews in June alleged that Mueller was “partnered” with a law firm, WilmerHale, that represented the “leftist analytics firm Civis Analytics,” which it also described as a “big Democrat group.” The GotNews report ignored the fact that WilmerHale also represents three Trump affiliates: former campaign manager Paul Manafort, daughter Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

    The Gateway Pundit and fake news purveyors ran with the report to question Mueller's "impartiality." The Gateway Pundit wrote that GotNews showed Mueller had “ties to a particularly dangerous DNC megadonor.” Fake news purveyors also ran with the report, with Angry Patriot and Conservative Fighters writing that “Mueller’s bipartisanship seems doubtful given that his law firm worked with the Left-wing Civis Analytics,” and a Before It's News contributor wrote that the report was “raising questions about Mueller’s impartiality in his so-called ‘Russia probe’ into President Donald J. Trump’s campaign.” The GotNews, Gateway Pundit,  Angry Patriot, and Conservative Fighters articles received at least 55, 3,200, 6,200, and 4,700 Facebook engagements, respectively, according to BuzzSumo.

    This piece has been updated.

  • RNC's false talking point about Comey came from “alt-right” trolls

    Lie that Comey said Trump didn't pressure him on Russia-related investigations came from an “alt-right” troll and then was picked up by fake news purveyors

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Republican National Committee (RNC) pushed a false talking point that originated from the “alt-right”/fake news ecosystem to try to discredit former FBI Director James Comey’s June 8 testimony to the Senate intelligence committee.

    During his testimony, Comey said that he believed President Donald Trump fired him due to the FBI’s Russia probe, saying, “I know I was fired because of something about the way I was conducting the Russia investigation was in some way putting pressure on him, in some way irritating him, and he decided to fire me because of that.” He discussed a number of other issues as well, including saying that Trump directed him to end an investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and that he wrote memos on his one-on-one interactions with the president because he feared Trump might lie about the exchanges.

    Responding to the testimony, the RNC tweeted, “#BigLeagueTruth: Comey testified under oath that @POTUS never asked him or anyone else to end any investigation. #ComeyHearing.” The tweet included a video of Comey’s previous testimony before the Senate intelligence committee -- on May 3 -- in which Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) asked him if “the attorney general or senior officials at the Department of Justice” tried to block an FBI investigation, to which Comey replied, “Not in my experience.”

    Contrary to the RNC’s implication, Comey did not contradict himself. On May 3, he was talking specifically about the Department of Justice, not the president. The RNC’s false claim was pushed early on by “alt-right” trolls Jack Posobiec and Nick Short, and was then repeated by fake news purveyors and other “alt-right” outlets before more traditional right-wing media figures and outlets, such as Fox & Friends and Rush Limbaugh, picked it up. Since then, Republican politicians such as Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have also repeated the false assertion. The false claim even impacted the stock market.

    In a statement to Media Matters, Sen. Hirono criticized the RNC for taking “a far-right conspiracy theory as fact,” and noted that she “only asked former Director Comey about pressure from officials at the Department of Justice”:

    “If you listen to the exchange, it’s clear that I only asked former Director Comey about pressure from officials at the Department of Justice, but the RNC chose to move forward and take a far-right conspiracy theory as fact. This sends a clear message that Republicans are willing to share fake news and dangerous narratives in their quest to deny Russian interference in our elections. Unfortunately, we’ve come to expect no less from the mouthpiece of an Administration that deals in alternative facts.”

    The RNC’s incorrect claim is yet another example of how the “alt-right”/fake news ecosystem has been able to amplify its misinformation out of the fringe, pushing forged documents, baseless conspiracy theories, and smear campaigns into more of the mainstream.

  • Conservative media deflect from James Comey's testimony by attacking his sexuality and gender

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Several right-wing media figures attempted to deflect from the substance of former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony about President Donald Trump’s alleged interference in the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn by attacking his gender and sexuality, saying of his written statement that “men don’t write like this” and claiming that he needed to “cowboy up” and tell someone about Trump’s actions when they happened.

  • “Alt-right” troll files civil rights complaint after the Today show mocks him

    All Jack Posobiec wants is to go watch an all-female screening of Wonder Woman

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    “Alt-right” personality Jack Posobiec has taken his trolling to the New York City human rights commission by filing a complaint against a movie theater and NBC Today show host Carson Daly. In his complaint, Posobiec -- formerly employed by The Rebel media -- alleges that the theater is discriminating against him by not allowing him to purchase a ticket to watch an all-female screening of Wonder Woman, and that during his show, Daly advocated for “the business” -- a “clear violation” of his civil rights.

    During the May 31 edition of NBC’s Today show, Daly reported on the internet backlash that Posobiec was receiving on Twitter by proposing “men only screenings of Star Wars” for “the entire first week” as a response to some theaters offering all-female screenings of Wonder Woman.

    Posobiec announced he had filed a complaint against Daly and one of the movie theaters holding such screeners. The complaint is just the latest stunt in Posobiec’s career as a far-right internet troll, which includes promoting emails and forged documents with the purpose of smearing French President Emmanuel Macron, pushing the debunked “Pizzagate” conspiracy theories, as well as screaming about the baseless Seth Rich conspiracy theory after a press conference on the White House lawn. As reported by BuzzFeed, Posobiec was also “the brainchild behind a ‘rape Melania’ sign that appeared at an anti-Trump rally in an effort to make the protesters look bad.”

    It’s tempting to discount Posobiec’s stunt as another absurd prank levied by a pro-Trump, "alt-right" internet personality with the purpose of advancing a political point. But the effects of these acts of trolling could have negative real-life consequences as they distort the true purpose of civil rights legislation and undermine legitimate institutions, like the press. His complaint could be diverting attention and resources -- a real issue when the Trump administration has vowed to defund government programs that protect civil rights -- from the serious discrimination that many people face. Other "alt-right" figures have publicly acknowledged their intent in trolling democratic institutions including the free press. Institutions protecting civil rights are clearly also not safe from becoming targets.

  • Did "alt-right" hoaxster and troll Jack Posobiec plant fake protest signs at a net neutrality protest?

    It wouldn't be the first time Posobiec infiltrated a protest.

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Noted "alt-right" troll and hoaxster Jack Posobiec took to Periscope on May 18 to highlight a group of supposed “protesters” at a net neutrality event in Washington, D.C. who were “holding signs calling for bans on Breitbart, Drudge, and Infowars.” Posobiec has previously been caught staging protests in attempt to characterize his political opponents as extreme.

    On May 18, Posobiec tweeted a video and link to a report about a net neutrality protest in Washington, D.C., specifically highlighting a group of masked protesters who recognized Posobiec and appeared to be “holding signs calling for bans on Breitbart, Drudge, and Infowars.” The claim was quickly picked up by right-wing outlets such as Infowars, Gateway Pundit, and Washington Free Beacon.

    Posobiec, known for pushing conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate, also has a history of arranging inflammatory chants and signage that are meant to paint progressives as extremists. In January, BuzzFeed’s Joseph Bernstein reported that a “Rape Melania” sign seen at an anti-Trump rally was “the culmination of a disinformation campaign by Posobiec and others intended to paint the anti-Trump rallies as violent and out of control,” and “according to a source, it is Posobiec himself holding the ‘Rape Melania’ sign in the photographs.” Bernstein added that Posobiec “claimed that he’d started an ‘assassinate Trump’ chant to goad protesters into copying him, with the intention of filming them.”

    UPDATE: In a conversation with Media Matters on May 19, Matt Wood, the policy director for Free Press, one of the nation's leading independent net neutrality advocacy organizations and a convener of the rally, described his interaction with the supposed protesters.

    As explained by Wood, the masked protesters who were holding signs advocating for the "banning" of right-wing sites immediately raised the alarm of rally goers who have been involved in the struggle for net neutrality. Not only were the protesters "wooden" and seemingly playing caricatures that served as "dog whistles for conservative media," as detailed by Wood, but the messages and chants they used -- especially their focus on banning conservative websites -- have nothing to do with the actual goals of net neutrality. Instead, as recounted by Wood, who both interacted with the supposed protesters and observed their interviews with The Daily Caller and Rebel Media, they offered nonsensical justifications for their signs calling for Infowars and similar right-wing sites to be banned. And they countered some who questioned their off-message signage with the following claim: "I oppose the fascists. If you don't agree, you're a fascist."

    When Wood attempted to question the protesters in order to determine who they were and to explain that their calls to ban conservative sites were not aligned with net neutrality, they mostly refused to identify themselves or their organization, although one did respond to Wood's question about "who sent" them by saying it was "a woman."

    When staffers from Media Matters who were present at the rally attempted to interview four of the other supposed protesters, they declined. Two of the protesters said they "were waiting for someone." At another point, Media Matters filmed a staffer for Rebel Media (wearing a Rebel shirt and carrying other Rebel paraphernalia) following the fake protesters and taking pictures. You can see that in the background of this first video, and in the second video we also filmed as one of the fake protesters was confronted:

    UPDATE #2: After publication, Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge, another of the rally's participants, contacted Media Matters and stated that he too approached the supposed protesters and they refused to identify themselves. When Feld asked if he could interview them, they said "we don't give interviews," and when he asked for their names the same protester said "we don't give names." Feld asked who the protesters were with, and the reply was "we don't talk to press." Below, watch video of Feld call out the "trolls" in a speech at the rally and point out that their bizarre calls for censorship of right-wing sites were not only antithetical to the goals of the net neutrality movement, but were also part of a pattern of suspicious behavior meant to discredit efforts to keep the internet open to all:

    HAROLD FELD: First, I got to point out, and I hope everybody will take a look and get some airtime to the guys with the "ban Drudge" and the "ban hate speech online." If trolls could cosplay, this would be -- God, they got it all, they've got the bandanas, they've got the angry looks, but guys, you are all confused. If you want to ban speech, you need the pro-[FCC Chairman Ajit] Pai rally. Because, when you get rid of Title II, then anyone can discriminate. God knows, I hates me all the racism on 4chan and all that stuff, but I think it's a damn good thing that nobody can cut it off, because I know everybody here, especially those who have worked in civil rights, who have worked for the betterment of people, understand that it would be like that to get big companies -- "responsible" companies -- to cut us off as hate speech or disruptive.

    But here's the funny thing: We've had, for a couple of weeks now, an ID-stealing spambot filing forged comments -- pro-Pai, forged comments -- to the FCC. If you look on your Twitter feeds, you can see Pai's staff are tweeting up a storm about our trolls over here. Where the hell is action on an actual illegal hack of the FCC? I'm telling you, what did Trump do when Putin came to hack our democracy? He said, "well, I certainly hope they found Hillary's emails," and when he's in trouble for hacking our democracy, Trump's like, "no one has been treated worse than me."

    So, I've got to say to Chairman Pai and his staff, who are real busy and deeply, deeply concerned that the trolls showed up at the wrong rally, because, of course, there is no pro-Pai rally, because nobody else likes that plan. But, word one about an actual federal crime? Word one about pro-Pai supporters hacking, according to Pai, the comments system so that people opposed to his giveaway of the internet to the companies instead of to us, letting us say what we want to say, that, he doesn't have any time to pursue? That's a crime, man. That's a hack.