Laura Loomer | Media Matters for America

Laura Loomer

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  • 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.

  • The far-right is using the tragic Notre Dame Cathedral fire to push conspiracy theories and bigotry

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    As a fire consumed the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, far-right figures took to social media platforms and message boards to spread misinformation and baseless claims, such as speculating that the fire was connected to terrorism or suggesting that Muslims and ISIS were linked to the tragedy.

    As reported by The New York Times, a spokesperson for the cathedral said the fire’s cause is not yet known, and prosecutors have since ruled out arson. And yet far-right narratives and speculation have already influenced automated suggestions on social media platforms like YouTube, which scrambled as the news was breaking to contain auto-generated text linking content about the cathedral fire to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

    Here are some examples of the far-right using the Notre Dame fire to spread bigotry, misinformation, conspiracy theories, and other baseless claims on tech platforms and elsewhere:

    A popular conspiracy theorist known as Partisangirl speculated that French President Emmanuel Macron had “probably set fire to Notre Dame” as a way to deal with recent protests:

    Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson spread a claim based on a since-deleted tweet that cited a Notre Dame Cathedral worker saying “the blaze was deliberately set":

    White nationalist Faith Goldy appeared to suggest that the fire was possible retaliation for the mosque shootings in New Zealand last month in which 50 Muslims were murdered:

    Jim Hoft’s The Gateway Pundit published a “flashback” to ISIS claims that the 2015 terrorist attack in a Paris concert house was “just the beginning”:

    A thread in Reddit’s pro-Trump forum “r/The_Donald” suggested Islam was to blame for the tragedy:

    Anti-Muslim extremist group leader Frank Gaffney baselessly suggested that the fire was part of a “Sharia-supremacist assault on Christianity.”

    Anti-Muslim blog Jihad Watch originally wrongly implied a Muslim woman arrested for an attempted car bombing was related to the attack (it later noted it was a separate story); the baseless suggestion was picked up by The Gateway Pundit and anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer.

    Fox guest host Mark Steyn mentioned terrorist attacks by Muslims while discussing the fire and suggested it showed the decline of Christianity in Europe.

    Loomer, fellow anti-Muslim bigot Pamela Geller, and others on social media suggested a connection between the fire and two men smiling near it, with Geller writing, “Muslims laugh as blaze destroys Notre Dame.”

    Far-right conspiracy theorists Mike Cernovich, Stefan Molyneux, and James Woods claimed the fire meant “the West has fallen,” that it showed the “general decline in IQ throughout the West,” or that it showed “the great and glorious history of Christianity … being eradicated from the face of the ‘new’ Europe.”

    TheBlaze host Glenn Beck said that if the fire “was started by Islamists, I don't think you'll find out about it.”

    Major Twitter accounts pushing the QAnon conspiracy theory also suggested the fire was set deliberately, including Educating Liberals (run by Dylan Wheeler), an account the president's son Donald Trump Jr. follows.

    Anonymous users on far-right message boards on 4chan and 8chan blamed Muslims, suggested it was a false flag, and claimed it was retaliation from “the deep state.”

  • In the past 24 hours, Alex Jones and Laura Loomer have taken to Instagram to promote white nationalism

    Blog ››› ››› NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Update (4/11/19): Since the publication of this article, Laura Loomer set her Instagram account @loomered to private and posted a message on her story. She stated that “everything [she] said is 100% true.”  

    In the past 24 hours, anti-Muslim bigot Laura Loomer and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones have posted videos on their Instagram stories that violate Instagram’s hate speech and bullying content policies. Last week, Facebook and Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) implemented a new policy supposedly banning “praise, support and representation of white nationalism and white separatism.” But according to Vice’s online magazine Motherboard, this ban applied only to explicit mentions of white nationalism and separatism, not to content that features “implicit and coded white nationalism and white separatism.” On Instagram, this policy has resulted in prominent white nationalist accounts continuing to use the platform to sanitize and promote their bigotry.

    LAURA LOOMER: I just have to say that I truly hate Ilhan Omar. I think she’s a despicable human being because how evil and deranged do you have to be to describe 9/11 as “something that some people did”? Yeah bitch, it’s something that your people did. Are you guys enjoying your first Muslim congresswoman? It’s almost as if everything I told you about this lady was completely true. She hates the Jews. She hates the gays. And she thinks that 9/11, aka an act of Islamic terrorism, is something trivial that she should just make light of -- something that we don’t need to talk about because it’s just something that some people did. Well you know what you guys, no one is going to say this on TV, because unfortunately the Muslims have totally hijacked our media institutions. And even Fox News is now putting a muzzle on their hosts and their contributors who are not allowed to speak truth about Islam. But the truth is, is that Islam is a cancer on society. Islam is a cancer on humanity, and Muslims should not be allowed to seek positions of political office in this country. It should be illegal.

    Alex Jones (@real_alexjones), who has been banned from every other major social media platform (including Facebook), has posted white nationalist, anti-LGBTQ, and conspiracy theory Infowars videos on Instagram. Yesterday, Jones posted a video on his Instagram story promoting the white nationalist campaign “It’s OK to be white” that originated on message board 4chan. In the video, a man identified as part of the “Infowars army” according to text on the video keeps asking a woman if it’s “OK to be white.” As she gets visibly upset, the person behind the camera tells her to “jump off the bridge.” This call for self-harm violated Instagram’s community guidelines, which prohibit content that encourages violence and self-injury. And when the woman reveals that her family came from Mexico, the person calls her “one of the least brown-looking Mexican people [he's] ever seen.” Another Instagram handle which seems to be affiliated with Infowars also shared this video.

    UNKNOWN: So jump off the bridge. The bridge is right there, she might as well just  jump off.

    ...

    UNKNOWN: Her family came from Mexico? That’s one of the least brown-looking Mexican people I’ve ever seen.

  • The white nationalist influencers of Instagram

    Blog ››› ››› NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Last week, Instagram and its parent company, Facebook, started implementing new content policies purporting to ban praise for white nationalism and white separatism on the social media sites. According to reporting from Motherboard, Facebook’s focuses on explicit mentions, not content which features “implicit and coded white nationalism and white separatism.” The narrow focus of Facebook’s policy has thus resulted in a failure to remove a large amount of extremist content, and while the platform has continued to fine-tune the enforcement of its policy following reports of its ineffectiveness, many extremists might still be able to skirt the rule by simply not using explicit labels while pushing white nationalist and separatist talking points.

    As it stands, Facebook and Instagram’s ban on white supremacy and separatism is a policy designed to fail. Last week, Media Matters published a noncomprehensive list of Facebook pages which are affiliated with prominent white supremacist figures and/or push white supremacist content. Of the 43 pages flagged, only three were taken down following the implementation Facebook’s new policy.

    Like Facebook, Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) has failed to remove major white nationalist accounts. Media Matters reviewed 19 Instagram handles affiliated with white nationalist media outlets and figures and extremist social media figures and found that only a few were regularly posting images, captions, and stories which explicitly praised white nationalist anti-immigrant, anti-semitic, and anti-Muslim stances.

    A majority of these handles affiliated with prominent white nationalists did not regularly post white nationalist content or even any sort of content which would violate Instagram’s community standards. Instead, these figures appear to use Instagram as a promotional platform to direct followers to external sites that contain extremist content. Many of the handles included in our analysis are affiliated with white nationalist YouTubers who appear to use Instagram to promote their YouTube shows.

    And as other tech platforms have come under increasing scrutiny for their complicity in the spread of disinformation, conspiracy theories, and extremist content, Instagram-- which has mostly evaded criticism -- has become a hub for far-right memes and videos. Many of the Instagram handles linked to white supremacy that we reviewed have seen drastic increases in followers over the past nine months, as well as video view increases.

    There are widely followed Instagram handles directly posting white nationalist content:

    Laura Loomer (@loomered), who was banned from Twitter for making anti-Muslim attacks against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), has turned to Instagram to push the same bigoted misinformation. In one post, Loomer called Omar a “hate crime hoax expert” and claimed that she had faked bomb threats made against her. In other posts, Loomer has falsely labeled Omar as “pro sharia law”; claimed that Vogue supported “terrorism and Jew hatred” because the magazine put Omar on a cover; and wrote that Omar’s “lifestyle is bankrolled by Arabs who only have a loyalty to Islam.”

    Loomer’s anti-Muslim, white nationalist Instagram content extends beyond bigoted attacks on Omar. One day after the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, where 49 people were killed by a white supremacist, Loomer published three posts downplaying the anti-Muslim terrorist attack. In the first post, while also referencing smears against Omar, Loomer stated: “The media makes so many excuses for anti-Semitism but then they want us to care about certain groups of people more than others.” In the second, Loomer came after the media again for covering the Christchurch terror attack while allegedly ignoring Christians “murdered by jihadists.” And in the third post, Loomer wrote: “How come the New Zealand mosque shooting video is available online, but pictures from inside Bataclan theatre in paris are not … ? ... Never forget these innocent people in Paris who were so selfishly murdered simply because they were Westerners.” Loomer has over 111,000 followers.

    Former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos (@milo.yiannopoulos), who has connections to white supremacists, has amassed over 406,000 followers on Instagram. Yiannopoulos, who was was banned from Twitter after leading a racist harassment campaign against actress Leslie Jones, now blends personal brand and anti-Muslim content on his Instagram handle. He posted a photo of New Zealand news anchors wearing hijabs in solidarity with Muslim victims after the Christchurch terror attack with the caption “cultural suicide.” Yiannopoulos also claimed that “mainstream Islam” in the West had turned British cities into “hotbeds of radicalization and prejudice.”

    U.K. far-right bigot Katie Hopkins (@_katie_hopkins_) uses Instagram to post videos in which she smears Muslims and immigrants to her almost 29,000 followers. In reaction to the Christchurch attack, Hopkins posted a video with the text “Must we give up our culture? Do we see the same reaction when we are the victims of Islamist attacks?” In another video, Hopkins ranted that Rep. Ilhan Omar was leading the “Islamification” of the U.S. and fearmongered that immigration was leading to a religious “voting bloc” which are “facilitated by the mosque.” And in two posts, Hopkins posted videos criticizing “demographic shifts” and “multiculturalism” in two British towns with substantial Muslim populations, both terms that fit with white supremacist narratives. In one of these posts, Hopkins asked if Muslims “control” the U.K.

    The far-right comedian Owen Benjamin (@owenbenjam) has posted a plethora of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, including posts that push the white supremacist conspiracy theory that Jews “control” the government. He also regularly posts anti-LGBT hate. Benjamin has over 61,000 followers on Instagram.

    Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones (@real_alexjones), who seems to have been banned from every other major social media platform, has recently begun using Instagram to livestream his show and post clips which feature guest appearances by other extremists, as well as white nationalist talking points.

    And the private handle for the social media personality and self-described Islamophobe “The Gay Who Strayed” (@thegaywhostrayed), with over 99,000 followers, regularly posts memes containing anti-Muslim messaging consistent with white nationalism. The accompanying text for one such anti-immigrant meme makes the white supremacist claim that “not all cultures are equal.” It also says: “When you import a third world country, it’s only a matter of time until you become a third world country.” Other posts push white nationalist talking points on “assimilation” and controlling the size of the Muslim population in Western countries.

    Some white nationalists use Instagram as an intermediary between a sanitized media brand and extremist, hateful content.

    Many of these handles seem to almost never, if ever, violate Instagram’s community standards. By avoiding posts that contain explicit hate speech, these white nationalists are able to use Instagram to reach users and direct them to content the accounts post on other platforms, compartmentalizing their extremist messaging across multiple platforms.

    Some of these figures solely use Instagram as a marketing tool to push shows and media outside of the platform. Far-right social media commentators who constantly spew white supremacist content elsewhere, like Stefan Molyneux (@stefanmolyneux) and Jesse Lee Peterson (@jesseleepeterson), both use Instagram to promote their extremist YouTube shows. The white supremacist YouTube channel Red Ice TV (@redicemedia) almost exclusively posts image promos for upcoming live shows.

    Although most posts pass community standards, some videos and descriptions push white nationalist ideas. In one video, Peterson declared July “white history month”; stated that Black and gay people “haven’t done a thing”; and thanked white people for “their” country because “no one else can do this.” One Red Ice image post previewed an episode on the white supremacist “population replacement” conspiracy theory, which stipulates that minorities and immigrants are replacing the white population of Western countries (and which was echoed by the Christchurch shooter in a manifesto titled “The Great Replacement,” which he posted online before allegedly committing the massacre).

    The white supremacist YouTube channel Goy Talk (@_goytalk.com_) also uses Instagram to advertise its show. Goy Talk’s Instagram posts have included racist and anti-semitic images, and its shows have promoted other white supremacist figures such as “Unite the Right” Charlottesville, VA, rally organizer Christopher Cantwell, Paul Nehlen, and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.

    Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News (@tuckercarlsontonight) has an active Instagram handle, posting clips and previews for the show usually a couple of times a week. However, most show clips posted on Instagram aren’t necessarily representative of Carlson’s white nationalist programming

    Others are using the platform to blend typical Instagram lifestyle posts with extremist memes and messaging.

    Four prominent white supremacists all mostly use Instagram to post photos of their daily lives, not unlike other “brand-peddling marketers” on the platform. Far-right YouTuber Lauren Southern (@laurencheriie), most recently known for amplifying the white supremacist conspiracy theory of a white genocide occuring in South Africa, almost exclusively posts selfies and photo shoots of herself to her 173,000 Instagram followers. Unite the Right marchers Nick Fuentes (@nicholasjfuentes) and James Allsup (@jamesallsup) also mostly post personal photos on Instagram, occasionally embedding general pro-President Donald Trump messaging or imagery. White separatist Brittany Pettibone (@brittpettibone), who promoted the “Defend Europe” project that intended to disrupt the life-saving work of European humanitarian groups helping refugees cross the Mediterranean, almost exclusively posts apolitical pictures of herself, friends, and her fiancé, the anti-Muslim extremist Martin Sellner, who received almost $1,700 in donations from the white supremacist charged with committing the Christchurch mosque shootings.

    Far-right hack Carl Benjamin, known as Sargon of Akkad (@sargonofakkad100), mostly just posts travel and scenery photos on Instagram, occasionally posting nondescript previews for his YouTube show, racist memes, and anti-Muslim content. And the white supremacist YouTuber Carl Robertson, who goes by the pseudonym Millennial Woes (@millennialwoes) posts pictures of himself and behind-the-scenes-style content of his show.

    Rebel Media personality Martina Markota (@martinamarkota) pots a mix of anti-LGBT jokes and racist memes with personal posts. Nazi-promoter Tim Gionet, known online as Baked Alaska (@bakedalaska), primarily uses Instagram to post joke lifestyle content associated with his brand of far-right humor. And although Gionet recently “denounced” the “alt-right,” he continues to engage with white nationalist figures on Instagram, including liking a post promoting Faith Goldy’s interview with white supremacist Jared Taylor.

    White nationalist fans are flocking to Instagram.

    Figures whose extremism gets them banned from other platforms find in Instagram a helpful tool to continue engaging their audiences, as evidenced by follower counts after bans from other networks. Just before she was banned from Twitter in late November, Laura Loomer had about 38,000 followers on Instagram. As of April, she has over 111,000 -- a 191% increase in followership over just four and a half months. Alex Jones also saw an increase in Instagram followers after his Twitter and Facebook ban, with his numbers jumping by 49%. And since Tucker Carlson began fanning the flames of debunked claims of big tech censoring conservatives one year ago, his show’s Instagram account has seen a 350% increase in followership, from 70,000 followers in March 2018 to over 315,000 followers in April 2019.

    The handles of other extremists are seeing steady but drastic increases in followership as well. In the past six months: Nick Fuentes’ Instagram followership has increased by 140%; Jesse Lee Peterson’s has increased by 57%; and Stefan Molyneux’s has increased by 29%.

  • Conservative media baselessly tie Stacey Abrams to the fringe New Black Panther Party

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is being attacked by conservative media and her opponent, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, because a group of people affiliated with the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) marched in support of Abrams while openly carrying rifles. The conservative figures promoting the story have shown no tie between the New Black Panther Party and Abrams -- the story is just yet another conservative media smear that falsely connects the fringe hate group to mainstream Democratic figures.

    Timeline

    Photos of NBPP members with campaign signs supporting Abrams were first posted to Facebook on the evening of November 3, by two pages seemingly affiliated with the fringe organization. A few hours later, users began sharing these posts to right-wing Facebook groups, including one group dedicated to Kemp’s gubernatorial bid that says it’s not affiliated with the campaign. While the NBPP photos were being spread, a video posted by a Kemp supporter on Facebook showing the NBPP members was also making rounds on right-wing groups.

    The next morning, Kemp shared one of the photos posted by the NBPP on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In all three posts, Kemp called Abrams “radical” and “TOO EXTREME” for Georgia. Other right-wing Facebook pages shared Kemp’s post while the far-right news site The Western Journal ran an ad promoting a write-up of the story. Conservative media figures Erick Erickson and NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch also shared the images. 

    Prominent conservative media run with NBPP story

    Since Kemp posted the photo, far-right and fake news sites have attacked Abrams while falsely claiming her campaign was affiliated with these NBPP members.

    Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich said that if Abrams is elected, “she’ll be the most radical governor in the country.”

    From the November 5 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

    GINGRICH: You just had Black Panthers in Atlanta, for example, carrying what looked like semi-automatic weapons, for Stacey Abrams. You want a really radical America? You can get one, and she'd be -- if she wins, she'll be the most radical governor in the country, with the possible exception of [San Francisco’s] Gavin Newsom.

    Breitbart News posted an article whose headline states that “armed Black Panthers lobby for” Abrams. The article earned just over 71,000 engagements on social media and was posted by a pro-gun Georgia Facebook page.  

    The Daily Caller criticized Abrams for attacking Kemp instead of addressing the NBPP march. In a Daily Calles write-up of the NBPP’s march, Jason Hopkins wrote that an Abrams campaign statement he received in response to questions “did not specifically address the Panthers’ march, but instead attacked Kemp.” The article amplified Kemp’s calls on Abrams to denounce the NBPP and earned over 38,000 engagements on social media. Reprints of the article by The Western Journal, BizPac Review, and The Tennessee Star earned an additional 41,000 interactions.

    On the far-right news site Big League Politics, Laura Loomer falsely stated that “armed Black Panthers” were “campaigning with Stacey Abrams.” Loomer also claimed that the NBPP’s march for Stacey Abrams was “an act of racially motivated anti-white voter intimidation.”

    Conservative media often use NBPP to smear mainstream Democratic candidates

    NBPP, which was founded in 1989, is an “anti-white and antisemitic” group, according to a report on the group’s activities published by Southern Poverty Law Center. The original Black Panther Party has condemned NBPP as a “black racist hate group,” and it has also been denounced by the NAACP.

    The group rose to national prominence in 2008 after a video went viral that showed two NBPP members at a polling site in Philadelphia, PA, one of whom was carrying a nightstick. The Department of Justice launched an investigation into the incident that ended with a default civil judgement against the armed NBPP member after the Bush administration decided to pursue civil, rather than criminal, charges against the men. Conservative media endlessly scandalized the outcome of the DOJ investigation, although a 2011 report issued by the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility found “that politics played no role in the handling of the New Black Panther Party case, which sparked a racially charged political fight,” according to The Washington Post.

    Right-wing media still often cite the 2008 incident before Election Day. In 2016, conservative media supporters of then-candidate Donald Trump raised concerns about the NBPP to defend Trump from criticism after he suggested the 2016 election would be “rigged” by voter fraud. Conservative media frequently used extraordinarily tenuous or entirely nonexistent evidence in attempts to tie NBPP to President Barack Obama -- a similar tactic to what right-wing media figures are now trying to accomplish in the Georgia gubernatorial race.

  • Sean Hannity claimed he had "never heard of" the Proud Boys. He hosted a member on his show in 2017.

    Jovi Val is a "prominent Proud Boy" who recently spoke at the second edition of the white supremacist rally, Unite the Right 2. He was also a guest on Hannity's radio show in 2017.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    In reaction to the violent incident in which pro-Trump group the Proud Boys assaulted protesters after attending an event at a Manhattan Republican club by group founder Gavin McInnes, Sean Hannity falsely claimed on the October 15 edition of his radio show that he "had never heard of" the Proud Boys. In addition to hosting McInnes 24 times on his Fox News show, Hannity also hosted "prominent Proud Boy" Jovi Val on his radio show in 2017, giving him and far-right conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer a platform to talk about "political violence."

    Val has participated in Proud Boy events and last August was a speaker at the second edition of the Unite the Right rally, a white supremacist melee organized by white nationalist Jason Kessler. The first edition of Unite the Right, held in Charlottesville, VA, resulted in the death of counterprotester Heather Hayer after a white supremacist rammed a car into a crowd.

    From the July 20, 2017, edition of Premiere Radio Network's The Sean Hannity Show:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): There was an incident that occurred while dancing at a bar, OK? A person has a Make America Great hat on their head and it falls on the floor. Then a bar patron, Emma Rodriguez, allegedly stomps on this person Val’s hat. Val told The Rebel that after he asked her to stop and he placed his hand on her shoulder to move her away, Rodriguez’s boyfriend allegedly attacked Val from behind with a beer bottle. Anyway, so this individual and Rodriguez allegedly continued the assault against Val bleeding out on the floor of the bar. Anyway, here to give us more information about all of this, Laura Loomer is a commentator for Rebel, and also joining us is Dr. Joseph Pober is with us and pro-Trump activist Jovi Val. ... All right, Jovi, you’re the person that's a victim in all of this. So tell me what happened. You have a -- so I guess the --

    JOVI VAL: I was leaving a party and then we decided to go to another bar, me and my friends, and I had the Make America Great Again hat, red with white lettering, you know, the iconic one. And I’m there for a few hours just dancing and the people that attacked me were there too and finally my hat falls on the floor and I guess she took advantage of that and started stepping on it. I gave her the benefit of the doubt -- I was like, you know, maybe she accidentally stepped on it so I gave her some time to redeem herself, and it was like, nope, she’s stomping on it, she’s scraping it against the floor, mind you there’s liquor and glass on the floor, she doesn't care, she’s so angry. And I’m just looking at her like, “What are you doing?” And then she’s like, “I hate the hat, I hate you.” And I’m like, this is not -- I’m not for this right now. This is not the time for this. So I moved her away to get my hat and I go to get my hat and then the guy sees me do that to her, he sees me move her away, and next thing you know, he puts his hands on me, he punches me right in my nose, breaks my nose, cuts my face, she hits me in the back of the head with a glass bottle and I know for sure if I did not have the hat on this would have never happened. And people are saying that, you know, “Oh, you should have just waited for her to get off your hat” and I’m just like, “No, I’m sorry, but -- “

    HANNITY: Now, how many other people, Laura, because I know you spend a lot of time on social media, and Twitter, and I know you’re been doing a lot of reporting and commentating for Rebel, but how many instances of this are happening that nobody is reporting?

    LAURA LOOMER: There's a lot of them, all across the country, but Jovi was the second friend of mine and the second Trump activist in one week here in New York City to be attacked and beaten. There were a group of Proud Boys who went to a bar in New York the same week that Jovi was attacked and they were wearing their hats and they were with a disabled individual, and a Democrat who described himself as a member of antifa took the cane away from the disabled Republican and used it to beat the other Trump supporters over the head. So, one of my friends, he had to get staples in his head because his head was cracked open because he was a victim of left-wing political violence. Another one of my friends who was there received a broken -- I don’t know if he broke his nose but he definitely had a black eye and some cuts on his face. So, the injuries are severe and Dr. Pober, after examining Jovi’s face, had said that if he had been hit a little harder Jovi’s face could have been paralyzed, he lost a significant amount of blood and it could have actually killed him. So when are we going to start classifying antifa and these violent leftist groups as terrorist organizations, when is [New York City Mayor] Bill DeBlasio going to take a stand against these hate crimes against conservatives?

    Previously:

    Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes: "I have a lot of support in the NYPD and I very much appreciate that"

    Gavin McInnes advocates using the slur "faggot"

    Fox News attacks liberals after far-right group Proud Boys assaults protesters on the streets of New York

    Member of violent men-only fraternal organization Proud Boys goes on Infowars to recruit

    Video by John Kerr. This post has been updated with additional information.

  • Pro-Trump media have a meltdown after Roseanne’s racist tweet prompts ABC to cancel her show

    Right-wing media figures call on their followers to #BoycottABC

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Following ABC’s decision to cancel the TV show Roseanne after the sitcom’s star, Roseanne Barr, tweeted a racist attack on President Barack Obama’s former advisor Valerie Jarrett, figures in the pro-Trump media universe had a meltdown and called on their followers to boycott ABC.

    It’s not the first time Barr has gone on Twitter to make racist remarks; in fact, the star often serves as an amplifier to far-right conspiracy theories, false anti-Semitic narratives, and other toxic extremist content found on message boards like 4chan. These are the figures bemoaning the network’s decision to cancel the show:

    Infowars host Alex Jones

    One America News Network correspondent and Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec

    CRTV host and Trump adviser Eric Bolling (who deleted his tweet)

    Las Vegas shooting conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer

    Gateway Pundit’s Cassandra Fairbanks

    YourVoice America host Bill Mitchell

    Lucian Wintrich, White House correspondent for Gateway Pundit

    The Federalist senior contributor Ashe Schow

    Pro-Trump troll Mike Cernovich

    Right-wing figure Ali Akbar

    Pro-Trump radio host Wayne Dupree

    Newsbusters Managing Editor Curtis Houck

    Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft

    NRA board member Ted Nugent

    Turning Point USA’s Richard Armande Mills

    Raheem Kassam, former London bureau chief for Breitbart

    Pro-Trump YouTuber Mark Dice

    Judicial Watch’s Jerry Dunleavy

    Fox News radio host Todd Starnes

    Social media network Gab, known as “a haven for white nationalists”

    Hyperpartisan site RedStateWatcher

    What are your thoughts? Please share and comment with your opinion. Is it too dangerous for Conservatives in this progressive era? Will you boycott ABC now?

    Facebook pages shared pro-Roseanne memes

    The Political Insider

    Tell Me Now

    Headline Politics

    Robertson Family Values

    I Support Donald Trump

    America’s Freedom Fighters’ pages

    Hyperpartisan page I Love My Freedom

    Yes, Barr’s tweet was controversial, but ABC has arguably been looking for any excuse to cut Barr’s pro-Trump show since it became the highest rated show on television.

    The Newly Press

  • In the wake of mass shootings at schools, conservatives blame everything but guns

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE, SANAM MALIK & NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    After nearly every school shooting, right-wing media scramble to find reasons why guns should not be blamed for gun violence.

    After 10 people were killed during a mass shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, TX, pro-gun proselytizers in the conservative media sphere insisted that gun safety laws would not have prevented the shooting and instead pointed to other aspects of American culture that they said required reform. Here are some of the excuses right-wing pundits offered for the May 18 shooting:

    In February, after the school shooting in Parkland, FL, claimed 17 lives, conservative media took the very same approach:

    • Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce claimed that talking about firearms doesn’t get to the “core issue” of “the human condition.” She and the hosts of Fox & Friends also blamed drugs, virtual reality, and video games for the shooting.
    • Radio host Michael Savage tweeted that “liberal judges and the ACLU” were to blame.
    • Fox guest Lou Palumbo blamed “the media, the entertainment industry,” and “the lack of parenting.”
    • Fox News contributor Kevin Jackson blamed “Leftist-run schools” and falsely claimed that the shooter was linked to antifa.
    • Fox News host Laura Ingraham blamed “mental illness”and “broken or damaged families” for the shooting on her show.
    • The Gateway Pundit suggested that the shooter supposedly being a registered Democrat was a factor. (He was not actually a registered Democrat; the blog was forced to correct the story.)
    • Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter blamed the FBI’s Russia probe for the shooting, tweeting, “The FBI was too busy trying to undermine the president to bother with doing it's (sic) freaking job.”
    • The Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson suggested that the shooting was related to the shooter growing up without a father.
    • Liberty One TV’s Joe Biggs (formerly of Infowars) tweeted that the FBI was “too busy chasing Trump/Russia nothing burgers” to have prevented the shooting.
    • Pamela Geller falsely claimed that the shooter was connected to antifa and Islamic terrorist groups.
    • Laura Loomer shared a fake photo of the shooter and speculated that he was a “radical leftist” with potential ties to antifa and Islamic resistance groups.
    • Infowars claimed that the “MSM” (mainstream media) was “already covering it up” that the shooter was likely a “Democratic voter” and had clothing “similar to the style worn by ISIS fighters in Syria.”

    But as others have pointed out, most of the phenomena listed above are also present in other countries that don’t experience nearly as much gun violence as the United States does.

  • Here are the conspiracy theories and hoaxes being spread about the Santa Fe shooting

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE & MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A gunman has reportedly killed at least eight students at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, TX. The shooter is reportedly in custody. Conspiracy theories about the attack are already spreading on message boards and social media.

    This post was last updated at 2:56 pm EDT and will be updated throughout May 18.

    4chan: The shooter was “identified as Ant-awan Al-Kumiyya” and has “ties” to ISIS.

    4chan: “The suspect is a White male named Paulo Deninez.”

    The person who started the thread later posted a “correction” that the name they meant to post was “Paul Denino”:

    4chan: The shooting was designed to distract from Department of Justice inspector general report about investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

    Other posts in another thread made the same allegation.

    4chan: The government takes advantage of real shootings to desensitize people before taking their rights.

    4chan: The shooting might have been designed to “shift the narrative back to gun control” and/or distract from Israel killing Gazans.

    4chan: “Jewish false flag to distract from whatever is dropping tonight.”

    8chan: The shooting might have been a false flag.

    Reddit’s r/The_Donald: The shooting might have been a false flag.

    Twitter user: A fake account for “Laguna Beach Antifa” spread a false claim that the poster’s father is a janitor at Santa Fe High School who was shot. Another fake “Laguna Beach Antifa” account had previously pushed this same image.

    8chan: The shooting “was orchestrated to distract from the clearly LIBERAL EMBARRASSMENT that was the Trump golf club shooting?”

    Reddit’s r/Conspiracy: “Student tells CNN anchor there was a fire ‘drill’ at Sante Fe, TX school minutes before shots rang out.”

    Twitter user: A since-removed tweet falsely identified “neo-nazi ring leader Samuel Hyde” as the shooter.

    Laura Loomer: Santa Fe High School had a “mass casualty drill” before the shooting. “I’m sorry, but I can’t help but notice these ‘coincidences.’”

    Twitter user and 4chan: “Deep state” is “commission[ing]” the shooter.”

    Twitter user: The school had an "active shooter drill" just over a week ago. What a (((coincidence))).”

    Twitter user: The shooting was a planned distraction from news about Democrats.

    Twitter user: The shooting could be part of a New York Times cover-up of the release of the Justice Department inspector general report release.

    4chan: The shooter was bullied by teachers, and media are covering it up.

    Twitter users: Survivor Paige Curry is a crisis actor.

    Facebook: A now-removed fake profile was created of the alleged shooter as a Clinton and antifa supporter.

    Mike Cernovich: The alleged shooter may be antifa because he wore the same outfit "which you see at every ANTIFA riot."

    Research contributed by Alex Kaplan, Cristina López G., Natalie Martinez, Grace Bennett, Dina Radtke, and Bobby Lewis. Also, h/t to Buzzfeed reporter Jane Lytvynenko for some of these.

  • Alleged Toronto attacker has confirmed links to misogynistic online communities

    While misogynistic online groups praised the attack and called for an uprising, right-wing conspiracy theorists and prominent far-right trolls blamed Islam and the alleged perpetrator’s ethnicity

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On April 23, Alek Minassian allegedly drove a van into a crowd of pedestrians in Toronto, Canada, killing 10 and injuring 15. In posts on Facebook that the social media company has confirmed as his, Minassian alluded to online message board 4chan’s women-hating “involuntary celibate” community (whose members call themselves “incels”). The "incel" community, part of the broader "men's rights" community, has cheered the attack, while right-wing conspiracy theorists and far-right trolls have blamed it on Islam.

    In his social media posts, Minassian also used the terms “Chads” and “Stacys,” which are often used by online “incel” communities to mean “attractive popular men who are sexually successful with women” and their female partners.

    In the same post, Minassian praised Elliot Rodger, who went on a killing rampage in Isla Vista, CA, in 2014 that Rodger described in a note as a “Day of Retribution” for his virginity, which he attributed to “the cruelness of women.” The incel community often celebrates and discusses Rodger, and in his post, Minassian wrote, “All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”

    The “incel” community celebrated Minassian online

    Sites linked to the “incel” community responded to Minassian’s attacks with violent memes, celebratory postings, and called for “More Trucks of Peace,” in apparent reference to the use of heavy vehicles to attack pedestrians. The most popular post had memes calling for a “Beta uprising” saying, “It’s now or never.” In the message thread, one poster complained about not having a “good enough weapon,” to which another member replied, “Get a car you cuck.”

    Far-right figures immediately connected the attack to Islam

    In the aftermath of the attack, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones scrambled to connect the attack to Islam during his live show. In a later video titled “Reporters Face Ten Years In Prison For Covering Islamic Truck Attack In Toronto,” Jones claimed that such truck attacks were “part of radical Islam” and said that the accent of the killer “sounds Islamic, sounds Middle Eastern.”

    Even after learning of the alleged killer’s ties to women-hating groups, Jones continued to link the attack to Islam during his April 24 broadcast, claiming that “he has an Islamic-sounding last name” and that “he’s a foreigner” and attributing the misogynistic aspects of the “incel” movement to Islam.

    Like Jones, prominent far-right internet trolls used the attack to smear Muslims and Islam on Twitter, mirroring conversations taking place on internet message boards Reddit and 4chan.

    Gavin McInnes, founder of the male chauvinist fraternal organization Proud Boys:

    Conspiracy theorist and online troll Laura Loomer:

    Infowars host Paul Joseph Watson:

    Leading anti-Muslim voice Pamela Geller:

    Troll account "Alba_Rising:"

    In a since-deleted Facebook post, the Canadian chapter of McInnes’ Proud Boys chimed in with anti-immigrant sentiments, stating, “The blood may be directly on the hands of the Trudeau regime for this latest terror attack.”

    Anti-Muslim and racist messaging quickly spread

    Fox News’ line of questioning suggested the attack had connections to ISIS. Immediately following a press conference in which authorities explained that the identity and motives of the attacker were still unknown, guest Howard Safir and host Maria Bartiromo discussed strategies to combat ISIS, suggesting to audiences a motive and connection that had not been confirmed by authorities.

    A Reddit thread connected the attack to Islam: “It's such a sad thing that civilized western nations are allowing this to happen. There's a reason why Islamic nations are in a constant state of tyranny or chaos”:

    A 4chan thread linked the tragedy to the QAnon conspiracy theory: A thread in the “politically incorrect” 4chan message board connected the attack to the Alex Jones-endorsed far-right conspiracy theory known as “The Storm” or QAnon. The conspiracy theory posits that President Donald Trump has a master plan to kneecap members of the “deep state” and that an intelligence officer with the highest clearance level is keeping people informed by posting anonymous messages and signing them as “Q.”

    4chan users called the attack “a government orchestrated false flag.”

    On YouTube, the channel ThePureVeritas claimed that the attacker was a “MUSLIM man.” The video is still up and has over 9,000 views.

    Hyperpartisan website Conservative Daily Post  also blamed Muslim immigrants for the attack:

    “While police have yet to reveal the motive behind the attack, the timing of the incident coupled with the cultural shift in Canada raises serious questions. … It also comes as Canada has become a hotbed for radical Islamic terrorism. Canada has not only allowed tens of thousands of Muslim migrants to assimilate to the nation, there has also been a dramatic uptick in crime against civilians. … [Trudeau’s] allowing Sharia Law to overtake Canada, and now innocent civilians aren’t even safe to walk down the street any longer.”

    Natalie Martinez and Alex Kaplan contributed research to this piece.

  • Right-wing media figures are blaming everything but guns for the Parkland shooting

    ››› ››› SANAM MALIK & NATALIE MARTINEZ

    On February 14, 17 people were killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. Right-wing media figures rushed to blame the shooting on “leftist” public schools, the FBI and its Russia probe, and on debunked connections between the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, and antifa and Islamic terrorist groups.

  • Right-wing trolls try to smear protesters as pedophiles by planting a sign referencing a reportedly disbanded organization

    This isn’t the first time right-wing troll Mike Cernovich and his allies have attempted to manipulate their followers into believing false narratives

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Last night, far-right troll Mike Cernovich spoke at Columbia University in New York City about the rise of alternative media, drawing protesters who oppose his far-right views and past dalliances with white supremacists and the “alt-right.” Later, on Twitter, Cernovich and his troll allies tried to smear the protestors by circulating a picture of a sign that they alleged the protestors were carrying, which featured a logo for a practically defunct pro-pedophilia organization. Many reporters pointed out the sign was likely a plant --  an attention-seeking tactic these right-wing trolls have used in the past to start false narratives, manipulate their audiences, and smear those who oppose them.

    The sign in the picture said “no white supremacy, no pedo bashing, no Mike Cernovich” and displayed logos of “antifa” and NAMBLA, which supposedly stands for the North American Man/Boy Love Association. Reporters who have attempted to contact NAMBLA in the past say either that it doesn’t exist anymore or that it has “only a handful of people ostensibly still involved.” Gothamist reporter Jake Offenhartz, who actually took the picture that Cernovich tweeted, mentioned in his original tweet that the sign was an “alt-right” plant. (Twitter apparently took down the photo in Cernovich’s tweet for infringing Offenhartz’s copyright.) An organizer of the protest later told Offenhartz that someone gave the sign to the protesters who held it for a short moment before they realized what it said and ran off the miscreant. Different reporters on Twitter agreed with Offenhartz’s skepticism regarding the authenticity of the sign

    But the damage had been done. Right-wing trolls including Jack Posobiec, Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson, MAGA Meetups Executive Director Will Chamberlain, Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, and conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer joined Cernovich in tweeting about the sign, and the narrative quickly reached the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., who liked Cernovich’s tweet. Trump’s love for far-right internet trolls is well-documented.

    Pedophilia (or “pedo”) isn’t a new focus for these right-wing trolls, who, along with leading conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, pushed the false “Pizzagate” narrative during the 2016 election, claiming that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her campaign staff operated a child abuse ring from a popular family pizza parlor in Washington, D.C. While Cernovich often presents himself as a warrior against pedophilia on his platforms, he doesn’t seem to mind it as much when it comes from his ally Milo Yiannopoulos, who has defended adult-minor sexual liaisons in the past. Only last week, Cernovich appeared as a guest on Yiannopoulos’ podcast.

    Far-right media and trolls have attempted to discredit protesters by linking them to NAMBLA in the past. MAGA (“Make America Great Again”) trolls have also taken a page from this tired playbook and have planted other incendiary fake signs among real protesters before: They reportedly planted a disgusting “rape Melania” sign at a protest in front of the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., and he was caught distributing fake flyers thanking lawmakers for protecting “ritual Satanic porn videos” and attributing the flyers to the organizers of the Women’s March.

    The strategy of right-wing trolls like Cernovich and his allies is transparent: They make a living out of creating content for their platforms, so it’s beneficial to manipulate their followers into believing false narratives to keep them engaged and outraged. In their need to create a demon for the audience to virulently oppose, they portray protesters and dissidents as monsters who sympathize with horrid things like pedophilia. It makes for compelling targets, which is what made the false “Pizzagate” narrative such a successful conspiracy theory, eventually inspiring a man to self-investigate the matter and open fire at the family restaurant.

    Cernovich, who has been trying to pivot toward becoming “more of a journalistic guy,” has also admitted that his approach to the craft isn’t necessarily based on facts but more on eliciting reactions and getting attention. While speaking at a Gateway Pundit gala celebrating the trolls during the White House Correspondents Dinner weekend in May, Cernovich said: “There’s this new form of media now which is part activism and part real journalism. And the way I put it is if there’s nothing happening, make it happen, and a lot of people say, ‘Well, that’s not real journalism. Real journalism is observing things,’ and I don’t really believe that’s true, actually. If you can get on a microphone and say ‘Bill Clinton is a rapist’ -- if the crowd reacts, that’s news.”

    The right-wing trolls also have another purpose for pulling the stunt at Columbia University protest:  It gives them an opportunity to try to discredit the mainstream media. If media outlets don’t fall for the stunt and refuse to cover it, the trolls can portray them as sympathetic to pedophilia. If outlets do cover the stunt uncritically -- as pro-Trump outlets like Infowars do  -- these trolls can also claim victory. In fact, Cernovich is already doing exactly that.