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Laura Loomer

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  • How right-wing media are elevating conspiracy theories about the Las Vegas shooting

    Matt Drudge and Laura Ingraham are no better than the random trolls pushing conspiracy theories online

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The horrid massacre in Las Vegas, NV, in which a shooter killed at least 58 people and injured hundreds, has turned message board users and right-wing internet trolls into do-it-yourself (DIY) sleuths attempting to solve the crime themselves. Their investigations, based on leaked photos or unconfirmed gossip, have resulted in wild conspiracy theories that would be laughable if prominent right-wing media figures -- ranging from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to Fox News’ newest prime-time host, Laura Ingraham -- weren’t amplifying the wannabe-gumshoes’ voices in an unscrupulous effort to exploit the tragedy to their political advantage.

    Previously, DIY investigative attempts of this sort have ended badly. When an attacker drove a car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville, VA, “alt-right” media personalities accused the wrong person of committing the attack. And when pro-Trump trolls pushed the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory that a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C., was a front for a ring of pedophiles, a gunman from North Carolina drove to D.C. to investigate the matter and fired shots inside the restaurant.

    For opportunistic pro-Trump trolls, the incentive to push wacky conspiracy theories is the same as their reason for committing other sophomoric, attention-grabbing stunts: to gain notoriety, grow their platform by amassing social media followers, and make an income by asking for donations in support of their efforts. Such is the case for Laura Loomer, formerly linked to the Canadian outlet The Rebel. Loomer has been one of the most prominent pusher of conspiracy theories regarding the shooting in Las Vegas and is asking for monetary support to continue her “investigative journalism.” Her journalistic portfolio includes disrupting a Shakespeare play in New York City, harassing journalists, and heckling former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the asinine Seth Rich conspiracy theory.

    Recently, Loomer has relentlessly tweeted wide-ranging and baseless speculation about the Las Vegas massacre. She has implied that the CEO of MGM Resorts, which owns the Mandalay Bay hotel from where the attacker opened gunfire on the crowds below, was somehow involved in the tragedy, has claimed MGM’s union gave its members 10 weeks of paid vacation during Clinton’s presidential campaign, and  has doggedly attempted to link the shooter to Islamic extremism, all in efforts to cast doubts over the available facts about the tragedy and push a “deep state” conspiracy theory. Kindred spirit Alex Jones enthusiastically elevated her moronic speculation by inviting her on his Infowars show.

    Conspiracy theories such as these and others about the Las Vegas tragedy are so unhinged that even alternative media troll Mike Cernovich has dismissed them, and pro-Trump media figure Scott Adams remarked on their implausibility during a Periscope session. That hasn’t stopped prominent right-wing media figures like Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, and Laura Ingraham from unscrupulously pushing the theories -- even at the risk of casting doubts on official investigative efforts and undermining the efficacy of law enforcement authorities.

    The Drudge Report propelled Loomer by headlining the site with her conspiracy theories. Drudge also featured other stories seemingly lifted from message boards like Reddit. Laura Ingraham, who will soon host her own show on Fox News, retweeted Loomer and baselessly speculated on October 4 that the shooter didn’t act alone. Ingraham continued to lean into conspiracy theories during her radio show on October 5, commenting that the “selective” leaked photos from the crime scene showed it was “perfectly laid down” and looked “like a scene from Law & Order.” Ingraham claimed that “something doesn’t add up” and chided the press for its “overwhelming lack of curiosity” and for not “asking questions.”

    It is becoming unfortunately common for attention-seeking trolls to push politicized conspiracy theories after events of national importance. They deliberately amplify these narratives in order to “muddy the conversation,” as Snopes’ Brooke Binkowski told The Guardian. And many stars of right-wing media are proving to be no better.

  • The conspiracy theories being spread about the Las Vegas massacre

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After a mass shooting in Las Vegas, NV, left at least 58 people dead and more than 500 injured, far-right media, fake news purveyors, and fringe sources including 4chan and 8chan engaged in and spread many conspiracy theories about the shooting including that the gunman may have had an accomplice and was connected to ISIS, antifa, and/or former President Barack Obama.

  • Fox Business hosts far-right troll who yelled Seth Rich conspiracies at a Hillary Clinton book signing

    Fox Business cut away from video before Seth Rich attacks the network was forced to retract

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Fox Business host Liz MacDonald invited far-right, Seth Rich conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer on to the network to promote her ambush video attacking Hillary Clinton at a book signing event. MacDonald hosted Loomer, who has pushed the conspiracy theory that Clinton was involved in the murder of a Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer, even after the network’s sister company, Fox News, was forced to retract a Seth Rich conspiracy story.

    MacDonald introduced her September 14 segment with Loomer by highlighting footage from Loomer criticizing Clinton during a book signing where she attacked the former presidential candidate over emails and relief money to Haiti. But the video abruptly stops before the footage shows Loomer asking Hillary Clinton “What happened to Seth Rich?,” referring to the debunked conspiracy theory that Fox was forced to retract. From the September 14 edition of Fox Business’ Risk & Reward with Deirdre Bolton:

    LIZ MACDONALD (HOST): Conservative activist Laura Loomer confronted Hillary Clinton about the missing emails at her book signing.

    [VIDEO BEGINS]

    LAURA LOOMER: Hi, it's so great to see you.

    HILLARY CLINTON: Well, it's great for you to be here.

    LOOMER: Thanks for having me.

    CLINTON: Thank you for coming.

    LOOMER: Thanks for having me. So, the American people would really like to know what happened to your 33,000 emails? What happened in Benghazi?

    CLINTON: Go read the book, you want to find --

    LOOMER: What happened to the millions of dollars that was supposed to go to the people in Haiti?

    CLINTON: You know what? I'm so sorry you believe things that are untrue.

    [VIDEO ENDS]

    MACDONALD: Laura Loomer, from Rebel Media. Laura took those -- the footage right there, is with me now. What was it like to confront Hillary Clinton?

    LOOMER: You know, it's always a good time. I've done it a couple times in the past before, which is why I was surprised that she hasn't recognized me. But, you know, it's -- it's definitely an adrenaline rush because this is probably the most hated woman in America and, you know, to be asking her questions that so many --

    MACDONALD: To some. Not to everybody. She got 55 million people who voted for her.

    LOOMER: Yeah, to many, but to ask her questions that one, the mainstream media refused to ask her, and two, that so many Americans want answers about, it was great that I was able to do that.

    Fox News heavily promoted the Seth Rich conspiracy theory and even after the network conceded that the story was completely false, personalities like Sean Hannity continued. Hannity promoted the story after Fox retractions and media criticism and even pushed the conspiracy theory after Seth Rich’s family demanded he stop his disgraceful campaign.

    Loomer also has a long history of promoting Seth Rich conspiracy theories on Twitter, claiming Seth Rich was murdered for “testifying against Hillary.

  • From meme wars to death threats: How far-right internet culture turns into political action

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Members of online forum boards dedicated to President Donald Trump and far-right ideologies have called for the “next meme war,” this time against CNN. The call to arms is retaliation for allegations that the cable network blackmailed a Reddit user into publicly apologizing for creating a pro-Trump GIF that depicted Trump tackling a man who had a CNN logo superimposed on his face, and removing his hateful posts on these message boards.

    This declaration of a meme war is the latest example of these online community members banding together in highly organized troupes to create and distribute memes attacking their given targets across multiple social media platforms, often times shaping public perception and influencing American political narratives and actions.

    Users of Reddit and 4chan, two message board communities that have long expressed their hatred for one another, were united in their outrage over a CNN report, published on July 4, that detailed the origin of a GIF depicting Trump tackling a man who had a CNN logo superimposed on his face. The meme was edited into a video with music and eventually tweeted by Trump with a hashtag calling CNN a “fraud.” CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski, who wrote the story, discovered that the meme’s creator was a middle-aged man with a history of posting “racist and anti-Semitic imagery” through his Reddit account. The man called CNN to confirm his identity after he had issued a detailed apology on Reddit and deleted his previous posts.

    Reddit and 4chan members didn’t find the man’s history of hateful posts problematic. Rather, they latched onto one section of the article in which CNN explained that it had decided not to publish the man’s name, “because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again.” The article also stated, “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.” Members of meme-heavy subreddits perceived that sentence as blackmail and accused CNN of attempting to dox and blackmail one of its critics.

    On July 5, CNN responded to the blackmail allegations with a written statement that said, “Any assertion that the network blackmailed or coerced [the user] is false.”

    But CNN’s statement came too late; multiple posts on 4chan and Reddit had already called for a full-scale “meme war” against the network. During the 2016 presidential election, factions of Trump voters used memes to attack and discredit others’ preferred candidate. Among these factions, highly organized pro-Trump meme war “units” found tremendous success and were able to create and spread numerous trends on social media.

    A post on 4chan explained what the latest meme war, titled “Operation: Autism Storm,” would entail. The operation’s primary focus, according to the post, would be to produce “as many anti-CNN memes as possible and spreading it” to high traffic websites beyond the fringe. The call to arms also urged participants to “discredit every journalist at CNN,” and to target CNN’s advertisers to stop them from advertising on the network.

    In the days after the article was published and 4chan and Reddit users called for meme warfare, “#CNNBlackmail” was a top trending topic on Twitter. The contingent of pro-Trump internet wizards also overran numerous boards on Reddit and 4chan with images attacking CNN’s credibility. Infowars editor-at-large Paul Joseph Watson suggested that CNN may have reunited “the alt-right & the new right in a common cause” after a prior rift among the “alt-right” factions.


    Source: Reddit.com/r/The_Donald

    This potent group of like-minded internet campaigners repeatedly proved their ability to organize and operate extremely effective smear campaigns during the 2016 election. According to an entry on Encyclopedia Dramatica, one of the most notable moments in “The Great Meme War” was the group’s viral portrayal of former presidential candidate Jeb Bush as a weak and sad “stinking turtle-lover with a guacamole fetish.” This characterization of “low energy” Bush cast him as a man unable to withstand what meme creators referred to as “high-energy” Trump. The Encyclopedia Dramatica entry also credited the same organized effort to push “a stream of new and fearsome dank memes,” featuring “Pepe the Frog” after the Anti-Defamation League classified the character as a hate symbol.

    Fringe far-right media figures have also noticed the potency of these groups, and have used their platforms to encourage their followers to participate in the effort to spread the anti-CNN memes to larger audiences. Infowars’ Alex Jones has even launched an anti-CNN meme contest, promising a $20,000 reward for the “best meme” he receives. Alternative right-wing media figures such as online personality KimDotcom, Infowars contributor and internet troll Mike Cernovich, and even the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. have used their platforms to spread anti-CNN rhetoric and images alongside those leading the online meme brigades.

    Meme wars can often have real-life consequences, a phenomena known within these communities as “meme magic.” During the 2016 election, these meme-makers effectively shaped Bush’s public image, and now they are provoking people to harass CNN journalists. Rebel Media’s Laura Loomer, who gained notoriety for interrupting Shakespeare play Julius Ceasar in New York City, ambushed CNN host Chris Cuomo about the controversial article while he was walking down the street. Other CNN staffers told The Daily Beast they feared for their safety after receiving a flood of threatening phone calls and messages and the reporter who discovered the Reddit user’s anti-Semitic posts wrote in Politico that he received a barrage of death threats. Cernovich even hyped a supposed protest “planned to be held” outside of Kaczynski’s home in New York.

    Users’ motivations for participating in the new meme war against CNN may vary from pure entertainment to deep ideological bias, but their participation will ultimately reignite a pack of internet trolls capable of smearing and bullying any target in its crosshairs. This group had been mostly dormant after it declared Trump’s election a victory, but the latest meme war against CNN proves that its ability to spread vitriol online is alive and well.