On his Fox News show, Tucker Carlson spent Women’s History Month parroting some of the grossest views of YouTube’s fringe right-wing anti-feminists in a series of segments about “Men in America,” mainstreaming their misogyny on prime-time cable news. Here’s some background on the men Carlson has been promoting:
Jordan B. Peterson: An “obscure Canadian academic” before he became popular on right-wing YouTube, Peterson insists “gender and class hierarchies are ordained by nature,” as The New York Review of Books put it; considers advocates for social justice “morons”; and has speculated that “feminists avoid criticizing Islam because they unconsciously long for masculine dominance.” His YouTube videos have been described as a gateway into the “alt-right” for men suffering from depression, and he has called Nazi sympathizer and infamous anti-feminist Milo Yiannopoulos “unstoppable” and “an amazing person.”
Stefan Molyneux: This YouTuber built his reputation by bemoaning feminism and complaining about the plight of men. He has asserted that young women should “look for security” from husbands, suggesting feminism destroyed Europe, and strongly championed James Damore, the Google employee who was fired after writing a memo contending that women’s underrepresentation in the technology field is due to biological reasons. To round out his extremism, Molyneux also traffics in white supremacist tropes like false narratives about the decline of white people, considers himself a “race realist” (euphemism for white supremacy) and has invited “‘alt-right’ extremists” on his show.
Gavin McInnes: Founder of the self-described “Western chauvinist” male fraternal organization Proud Boys, McInnes uses his online platforms to spew hateful vitriol. (Designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Proud Boys are specifically anti-women, as they embrace the belief that women’s primary role in society is to “stay home and make more babies” and explicitly ban women from their meetings.) He has called Oprah Winfrey a "slut" with a "ghetto mentality" who "was turning tricks" before becoming rich, described lesbians as “sexless, depressed old chubby dykes,” asserted that women should “probably not vote,” mocked women in the workforce, and made derisive comments about women’s looks.
Paul Joseph Watson: This Alex Jones lackey spends his time on the internet trolling feminists and Islam, mansplaining “things feminists need to understand,” and pushing nonsensical conceptions of masculinity -- like the idea that soy consumption drives testosterone levels down and reduces masculinity in men.
Owen Shroyer: Also a Jones lackey, Shroyer hosts his own show on Infowars and has spewed the most asinine conspiracy theories, like claiming that Hitler is alive and the U.S. government is covering it up, or that London Mayor Sadiq Khan was somehow involved in the Austin, TX, bombings. As reported by Right Wing Watch, Shroyer also once asserted that former first lady Michelle Obama was a transgender woman with intentions of establishing a mainstream “demonic” culture in America.
Far-right activists and trolls have seized on proposals to expropriate land from South Africa’s white minority (including Dutch-descended “Afrikaners” and other people of European descent) to advance a myth of so-called white genocide. Meanwhile, they are conspicuously ignoring South Africa’s uniquely disturbing history of institutionalized racism and white supremacy.
Earlier this year, notoriously bigoted Rebel Media commentator Katie Hopkins and former Rebel Media far-right stuntwoman Lauren Southern announced separate but similar plans to travel to South Africa and report on crimes against white farmers. Their ulterior motive, a motive shared by white nationalists who have championed their projects, was to portray South Africa as a country disintegrating into warfare systematically perpetrated by “black extremists” aiming to eliminate the white minority.
— Lauren Southern (@Lauren_Southern) July 17, 2017
Katie Hopkins and Lauren Southern in Italy supporting a far-right campaign to disrupt refugee rescues in the Mediterranean
Southern apparently arrived in the country sometime in early January, based on her appearance in a January 10 promotional video shot in South Africa, which promised “the most authentic news about this area, [which] is not being reported in the international press.” Trailing by about two weeks, Katie Hopkins announced on January 24 that she, too, was traveling to the country to expose the “truths that aren’t being told” by mainstream media about the supposed “ethnic cleansing of white farmers.” Their “reporting” took the form of sensationalistic, sometimes-graphic videos that they plan to turn into full-length documentaries. Southern claimed her documentary, “Farmlands,” will be the “world’s first comprehensive documentary on South Africa.” Hopkins is expecting her yet-unnamed documentary to be released this summer.
While Hopkins’ trip appears to be at least partially funded by The Rebel (she also asked for donations in her promotional video), Southern has relied on donations primarily through Patreon and PayPal. Patreon previously found Southern to be in violation of its terms of services, and PayPal has suspended the account of Defend Europe, a group whose attempt to disrupt migrant rescues in the Mediterranean she actively supported.
Rather than expose the supposed plight of white South Africans, Southern’s and Hopkins’ nationalist tourism does more to expose the fringe network of white supremacists and far-right trolls working in concert to advance a narrative of white victimhood. While the obsession with mythical white genocide in South Africa has long sustained the interest of white supremacists worldwide, interest in the topic among a younger generation of far-right online personalities is a newer phenomenon that people like Southern and Hopkins are clamoring to exploit. (Faith Goldy, also formerly employed by The Rebel, initially planned her own trip to South Africa in January but canceled it at the last minute as a result of “outside interference” and “a failure of guaranteed security.”)
As others have written, there is little factual basis for the fear-provoking claims advanced by these activists’ videos, and tracking the incidence of farm murders isn’t actually their concern. These documentaries, which have been accurately described as “agitprop dressed up as a documentary,” are nothing more than attempts at self-promotion and bids for acceptance among the ranks of far-right trolls and white supremacist heavy hitters carrying a nostalgia for apartheid.
For her documentary, Southern interviewed Simon Roche, the leader of civil defense force Suidlanders, which promises to protect South Africa’s white minority in what the group sees as an inevitable race war. (Roche has attended the white nationalist conference hosted by Jared Taylor’s racist American Renaissance think tank and plans to attend the group’s April 2018 conference.) Southern has also encouraged donations to Suidlanders, whose website predicts an “impending civil conflict” against South Africa’s white minority and features a viral anti-refugee video purporting to show Europe under siege. The page claims,“South Africa’s present is the west’s future if it continues down its current path.” The video has been debunked as deceptive xenophobic propaganda.
A group of American Suidlanders supporters welcomed Roche for a six-month “awareness campaign” in the U.S. in 2017 (during which he also spoke with Mike Cernovich and Swedish white nationalist radio host Henrik Palmgren). In a speech to the group, Roche claimed his group is “at the heart” of a “global nationalist forum” planned for August 2018. In his interview with Palmgrem, Roche said he has been contacted by groups in countries around the world that are interested in Suidlanders’ work, naming Sweden in particular. And since his tour, Roche has appeared on Alex Jones’ conspiracy theory outlet InfoWars on at least three occasions, including as recently as last week.
Another of Southern’s videos features Dan Roodt, the founder of a group that fights “for the rights of Afrikaners and other ... people of European descent in South Africa” and co-founder and former deputy leader of the National Front, a white separatist party in South Africa.
In January 2018, Jonas Nilsson, a far-right Swedish “political scientist” and author of a “polemical pamphlet” about “how the West can regain control of its destiny,” interviewed Southern about her documentary in South Africa. Two weeks later, he published an interview with Roche in the form of a trailer for Nilsson’s documentary about South African murders (yes, Nilsson is also making a documentary). Nilsson has given interviews to far-right personalities, including Palmgren and American white nationalist YouTuber Bre Faucheux. His Patreon-crowdfunded film, which will premiere in Sweden in March, has been promoted by the violent Swedish neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement. Nilsson considers Marcus Follin, a Swedish nationalist vlogger slated to attend the April American Renaissance conference, “an old friend” and Follin has promoted Nilsson’s documentary on Twitter.
In contrast to Southern’s pseudo-documentary-style interviews and reports, Katie Hopkins’ videos about South Africa primarily take the form of on-screen reflection and acting by Hopkins herself, producing sometimes-bizarre results. In one video, she participates in an emergency drill featuring Afrikaner men dramatically shooting pistols into the distance while Hopkins is escorted into a getaway vehicle (the viewers find out it’s a drill at the end of the video). In another, standing outside in the dark for reasons never fully explained, Hopkins delivers an impassioned monologue about the white farmers’ “biblical” connection to their land and their willingness to “shed their blood” for it.
That video also featured (but did not introduce) Chris van Zyl, assistant general manager of an Afrikaner agricultural union, and Ernst Roets, the deputy CEO of AfriForum, a group that advocates on behalf of South Africa’s “minorities” and has referred to apartheid as a "so-called historical injustice." Both men have been criticized for exaggerating the plight of South Africa’s white farmers. Fact-checking organization Africa Check has questioned the murder rates provided by van Zyl's and Roet's advocacy organizations because the rate is currently not "possible to calculate," called out BBC for using a claim cited by Roets that “grossly” overstated the number of “white squatter camps” in the country, and criticized Genocide Watch's credibility for its rating of South Africa on its "Ten Stages of Genocide" scale without "provid[ing] the sources or methodology" or "events in South Africa" used as evidence for the claim.
In a February 6 video, Hopkins claimed she tried to meet with Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema, whom she accused of “inciting hatred” against white farmers. In another video posted that same day, Hopkins reports that she was detained and her passport was “marked for spreading racial hatred.”
It is perhaps unsurprising that, despite Hopkins’ and Southern’s slightly different approaches to South African “white genocide,” they made basically the same connections. Since Hopkins’ bizarre detention in the country, and her subsequent return, she has seized on Twitter updates from AfriForum national operation coordinator Marius Müller about farm murders and has begun tweeting directly at Roche’s Suidlanders. Meanwhile, Southern has tweeted a map of alleged farm murders, which seemingly drew its information from a database that far-right troll Nick Monroe created based on information from Müller, AfriForum head Ian Cameron, and other Afrikaner activists.
It’s hard to see Hopkins’, Southern’s, and other far-right commentators’ burgeoning interest in South Africa as anything less than a cynical attempt to capitalize on a global movement of white supremacy, poorly disguised as independent journalism.
UPDATE: Language in this piece has been clarified to reflect Africa Check's characterization of its fact-checks.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly quoted or retweeted Twitter accounts that have promoted far-right media trolls, fake news purveyors, conspiracy theories and a message board seen as a haven for white nationalists. This activity comes after Media Matters found last month that many of the accounts Trump had previously quoted were suspicious and that some of them were bots.
On July 27, Trump retweeted a meme from verified Twitter user @JeffTutorials calling CNN the “Fake News Network.” “Tutorials,” according to Paste Magazine, is a “16-year-old MAGA troll,” who has previously been retweeted by Trump and runs a YouTube page dedicated to the video game series Grand Theft Auto. The “Tutorials” account has promoted tweets from far-right trolls Mike Cernovich and Paul Joseph Watson along with @polNewsForever. That since-suspended Twitter account shared material from 4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board (commonly referred to as “/pol/”), a haven for white nationalists that has previously helped far-right trolls and fake news purveyors spread misinformation.
On August 15, Trump retweeted a meme of a person with the CNN Logo on its head being run over by the “Trump Train,” from the account @SLandinSoCal. The account previously retweeted far-right troll Jack Posobiec (whom Trump has also retweeted), a Facebook post from Paul Joseph Watson, and an anti-Semitic cartoon that Mike Cernovich used as part of his attacks on national security adviser H.R. McMaster.
On August 24, Trump retweeted the account @JerryTravone, which posted a meme of Trump replacing Obama with the words “The Best Eclipse Ever!” The account had previously retweeted Watson, Posobiec, and fellow far-right troll Stefan Molyneux.
On September 17, Trump retweeted a GIF from account @Fuctupmind that showed Trump hitting a golf ball at Hillary Clinton. The account previously retweeted images of Pepe, the cartoon frog affiliated with the “alt-right,” @polNewsInfinity (another account that shares material from 4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board), far-right trolls Cassandra Fairbanks, Posobiec, and Watson, and an article from fake news purveyor TruthFeed.
The same day, Trump retweeted account @DonnaWR8. The account previously retweeted articles from fake news purveyor TruthFeed and fringe pro-Trump blog The Gateway Pundit, an image of Pepe, and content from @polNewsInfinity and far-right trolls Watson and Nick Short.
Later on September 20, Trump retweeted account @RealEagleBites, which has previously tweeted articles from fringe blog Zero Hedge, fake news purveyors TruthFeed and True Pundit (which played a major role in spreading the baseless fake news Pizzagate conspiracy theory), and which has pushed conspiracy theories from far-right pro-Trump Reddit forum “r/The_Donald” (another forum known for helping far-right trolls and fake news purveyors spread misinformation.)
Right-wing and fringe media are claiming yet again that President Donald Trump was correct when he accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping in Trump Tower, now arguing that a legal wiretap targeted at former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is proof of Trump’s claim. However, said wiretap was pursuant to a warrant and targeted at Manafort, not Trump. This is at least the fifth time in six months right-wing media has attempted to validate Trump’s lie.
The YouTuber is a valuable asset to right-wing online personalities trying to push their narratives to a growing global audience of young people
Felix Kjellberg, a Swedish YouTube star who goes by the name of PewDiePie and garnered international fame through his videos about gaming and his mocking critiques of popular culture, has developed a symbiotic relationship with politically influential far-right trolls who support and promote him in an attempt to influence his content and reach his massive base of followers.
PewDiePie, who recently used a racist slur while livestreaming himself playing a video game, has YouTube’s most popular channel, with more than 57 million subscribers. His popularity had earned him a lucrative partnership with Disney, but the company dropped him earlier this year following the Wall Street Journal’s reporting that he had “posted nine videos that include anti-Semitic jokes or Nazi imagery.”
While PewDiePie’s fall from grace might have cost him a lucrative deal, his following has continued to grow; reports in February put his following at 53 million subscribers, but he has gained nearly 4 million more as of this writing. Among his followers and fans are politically influential far-right trolls, including Brittany Pettibone, Stefan Molyneux, and Infowars’ Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, and Mike Cernovich. These trolls have repeatedly defended and supported PewDiePie while helping him push the narrative that the backlash he has received for his racially insensitive remarks is the result of unfair targeting by the mainstream media and by those offended, whom they pejoratively call “social justice warriors,” or “SJWs.”
PewDiePie has attempted to distance himself from both his neo-Nazi following (a neo-Nazi publication, The Daily Stormer, once declared itself “the world’s #1 PewDiePie fansite”) and other explicitly racist elements of the self-declared “alt-right” by claiming he wants “nothing to do with that.” But he has shown no qualms in becoming closer with the freshly rebranded far-right trolls who say they’re not “alt-right.” In July, he followed conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Twitter after Jones and Infowars made public attempts to contact him for a collaboration. PewDiePie has also indicated he likes rants in which Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson defends him.
Watson has celebrated PewDiePie’s content on several occasions, once claiming he “red-pilled” -- a term popularized by message boards like 4chan and co-opted by the far-right to signify awakening someone to reality -- his followers with far-right messaging like denying the existence of the wage gap between genders. Watson also lavished praise on PewDiePie when he criticized celebrities for emphasizing the influence of man-made climate change on extreme weather events like hurricanes.
PewDiePie has found validation and justification for his antics in the trolls’ support for his hateful and offensive rhetoric, which they back under the guise of defending free speech. He's also found them to be common allies in his battle against the media, which he blames for the backlash he gets after his actions are reported. In hopes of continuing to have his grievances validated, he caters to the far-right's tastes by deviating from his regular gaming content to troll “SJWs.”
At the same time, far-right trolls lionize PewDiePie as a hero of free speech and validate his antics. To them, his worth lies in his vast reach, which they aspire to weaponize by influencing his content and using it as a gateway to introduce unsuspecting, not-yet-politicized young audiences to the far-right narratives of the “culture war.”
The trolls recognize PewDiePie's style of hiding offensive rhetoric behind layers of irony and then claiming those who object are just taking it too seriously -- because it's straight from their own playbook. New York magazine's Noreen Malone explained as much when profiling the "alt-right": "If you take them seriously, they'll claim you missed the joke." It is this playbook that has allowed trolls to push for further expanding the boundaries of what’s acceptable discourse, as Screener’s Jacob Clifton explained in an article for BuzzFeed.
In PewDiePie’s screeds against the press, the far-right trolls see a vastly influential ally in their own efforts to “destroy media” and become the primary source of cultural and political information for captive audiences. In the same way that candidate Donald Trump proved to be a valuable ally of the far-right trolls in mainstreaming the white male grievances and anti-social justice rhetoric of the troll swamps, PewDiePie’s coattails also look like a promising ride toward normalization, this time with a powerful global reach among audiences who can’t even vote yet.
Discredited conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza has revived the long-running and debunked claim that billionaire philanthropist George Soros collaborated with the Nazis as a child. The false claim comes as D’Souza has been trying to promote his latest book, which links Democrats to fascism and pushes the Soros lie. The smear, which has been invoked by other right-wing media figures in the past, has been repeatedly condemned by journalists. Nevertheless, other conservative media and GOP officials have run with D’Souza’s recycled and false charge.
Far-right media figures and outlets attacked Pope Francis after he released a message urging nation-states to give aid and protection to migrants and refugees.
On August 21, Francis released a message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in which he called on governments to offer “broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally.” According to Francis, countries should seek to integrate migrants and refugees by “granting citizenship free of financial or linguistic requirements, and by offering the possibility of special legalisation to migrants who can claim a long period of residence in the country of arrival.” He also argued that people’s dignity “obliges us to always prioritise personal safety over national security.”
The Pope is helping destroy western civilization and Christianity along with it. He is an evil fraud. https://t.co/eQ0Z5HFjDy
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) August 21, 2017
Infowars’ Jerome Corsi called Francis a “Hard-Left socialist Pope” who “ignores Spain terrorism.”
Pope Francis: Rights of Migrants Trump National Security Concerns https://t.co/2AmI5sO3mp Hard-Left socialist Pope, ignores Spain terrorism
— Jerome Corsi (@jerome_corsi) August 21, 2017
Far-right vlogger Stefan Molyneux claimed Francis “cares more about Social Justice issues than he does defending Christianity.”
The Pope cares more about Social Justice issues than he does defending Christianity. https://t.co/vJRuXnjw93
— Stefan Molyneux (@StefanMolyneux) August 21, 2017
Fake news purveyors also attacked Francis. Conservative Daily Post said Francis has a “Marxist” agenda and called him a “reckless and foolish man.” Eagle Rising claimed Francis is a “globalist” who “preaches that more rapes and murders in Western nations are a price we must pay to fulfill our obligation to receive more immigrants." TruthFeed wrote in its headline that Francis “Thinks RAPE and TERROR are Just Part of the ‘Refugee Experience.’” And in response to the pope’s message, Conservative Fighters topped its piece with the word “SERIOUSLY?”
Additionally, forums that have previously helped far-right trolls and fake news purveyors spread misinformation also went after Francis: Some users on Reddit’s “r/The_Donald” called Francis a “cuck Pope” who is a “fucking hypocrite piece of shit,” and users on 4chan’s “politically incorrect” forum (known as “/pol/”) claimed Francis is “the communist pope” and “the antipope.”
Members of the far-right alternative-media ecosystem are lashing out at Google after the company fired an employee who argued that there are biological differences at play behind gender gaps within the tech industry in an internal memo criticizing the company’s diversity initiatives. While the firing was based on the biological claims, which violated Google's code of conduct, far-right media figures latched onto his argument that Google does not entertain conservative viewpoints and used it to validate a broader narrative about supposed tech censorship.
Last week, a 10-page internal memo written by James Damore, a software engineer at Google, went viral among Google staff. The manifesto was later published in full by the technology news site Gizmodo. In it, Damore claimed that Google’s “discriminatory” biases behind its promotion of diversity in the workplace have created a “politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence.” Damore also wrote that “on average, men and women biologically differ in many ways” and that those differences may create less opportunity for women to ascend the corporate ladder for positions that “often require long, stressful hours.” Diversity is not a bad thing, he argued, but Google’s benchmarks for workplace diversity “can incentivize illegal discrimination.”
Days after the memo circulated throughout the company, Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an internal memo that Damore had violated the company’s code of conduct by “advancing harmful gender stereotypes” and that “to suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.” Business Insider later confirmed that Damore had been fired from Google for penning the memo.
Following the news of Damore’s firing, members of the right-wing alternative-media ecosystem leveraged their distribution network to spread claims that Damore’s termination proved Google seeks to suppress conservative viewpoints within its company, even though the controversy around Damore’s comments spurred form his arguments about biological superiority and not his conservative views:
Right-wing vlogger Stefan Molyneux:
Infowars Editor-at-Large Paul Joseph Watson:
The thought criminal James Damore has been ideologically cleansed for his wrongthink.
New position at the Ministry of Information now open. pic.twitter.com/HNCTMP0Qtb
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) August 8, 2017
Far-right internet troll Jack Posobiec:
James Damore: I'm worried Google has become an echo chamber where certain views are not tolerated
Google: You're fired
— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) August 8, 2017
Far-right media personality Mike Cernovich:
Google is a portal people visit for belief search results are true. Only a fool believes that now. https://t.co/sl0kkBM4t8
— Mike Cernovich 🇺🇸 (@Cernovich) August 8, 2017
"Alt-right" blogger Ashley Rae:
We all saw this coming. But some of you were optimistic reason would win out. Another sacrifice to the diversity god! https://t.co/NWFLMeXs4m
— Ashley Rae (@Communism_Kills) August 8, 2017
Alternative right-wing media outrage also inspired posts on many high-traffic fringe political blogs. Big League Politics blogger Cassandra Fairbanks wrote, “Instead of arguing using facts, logic, or reason, many women within the Google team immediately took to social media to scream about the ‘sexism.’” At the end of the article, Fairbanks asked, “When will the left learn that feelings will never outweigh facts?” Jim Hoft, owner of The Gateway Pundit and possibly the dumbest man on the internet, penned an article about Damore’s firing with the headline “Truth Is A Hate Crime.”
A Twitter account associated with 4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board (commonly referred to as “/pol/”), posted an image of a predominantly female group it claims is part of “Google’s censorship team” and claimed it “explained so much.” Media Matters is not linking to this post to protect the identity of those pictured.
In addition to lashing out at Google, Posobiec took to Periscope and encouraged his fan base to tweet the hashtag “#GoogleManifesto,” which briefly became a trending topic on Twitter. Conservative firebrand Chuck Johnson’s right-wing crowdfunding site WeSearchr launched a fundraising page to pool money to help Damore “get back on his feet and see if he can fight Google.” WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange even offered Damore a job at his website; Assange has previously accused Google of colluding with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the U.S. State Department to control the distribution of information related to foreign affairs.
Members of this media ecosystem have found a hero in Damore because they can spin his termination from Google to validate one of their key talking points: that tech companies are actively suppressing conservative voices on their platforms and censoring opinions that contradict a liberal worldview. Conservative columnist Kurt Schlichter called for an antitrust investigation into Google:
Time for an antitrust investigation.
If Google can't handle dissent inside, it'll try to suppress it outside. https://t.co/vLNhxoWTYW
— Kurt Schlichter (@KurtSchlichter) August 8, 2017
The Verge reported that Damore’s firing does not represent the first time discussions about diversity in the tech industry have served as fodder for right-wing online communities, citing outrage over Pax Dickinson’s ouster from Business Insider after a string of anti-feminist and racist tweets. It’s also worth noting that many personalities who populate the right-wing alternative-media ecosystem (such as Milo Yiannopoulos) first gained prominence in 2014 during another major tech industry controversy called “Gamergate.” Similar to the Google manifesto, the Gamergate online movement found energy when it criticized diversity efforts in the video game industry; it also spurred attacks on a female game developer’s sex life that resulted in death threats.
Media in support of President Donald Trump are calling for the ouster of Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, accusing him of being a “globalist” “traitor” who is “aligned with the enemies of Trump and America.”
Over the past month, McMaster has worked to oust some members of the National Security Council (NSC) who were previously aligned with former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Trump’s chief strategist (and former Breitbart News head) Steve Bannon. On July 21, McMaster dismissed Rich Higgins, a top NSC official who was “seen as an ally of” Bannon, after Higgins wrote a memo claiming that “globalists and Islamists” were trying to undermine Trump, according to The Atlantic. In early August, McMaster pushed out Ezra Cohen-Watnick, whom Flynn had hired for the NSC and McMaster had tried to fire earlier in the year (he was blocked by Bannon and others from doing so).
Additionally, Circa News, a pro-Trump outlet owned by the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting Group, claimed on August 3 that McMaster had sent a letter to former national security adviser Susan Rice “giving her unfettered and continuing access to classified information and waiving her ‘need-to-know’ requirement on anything she viewed or received during her tenure.” The article noted that “it is common practice for some senior government officials to be given the unfettered access to classified information, and their ‘need to know’ is waived,” but went on to note that some “White House officials” believe Rice’s clearance should have been limited. That’s in large part due to pro-Trump media’s dubious accusation that Rice is guilty of unlawfully “unmasking” Trump officials caught in surveillance, even though officials have said there is no proof Rice did anything wrong.
In response to McMaster’s ousters and the Circa report, pro-Trump media have attacked the national security adviser. Fox News host and Trump propagandist Sean Hannity asked if “H.R. McMaster need[s] to go” following the Rice report. Conspiracy theory website Infowars claimed McMaster is part of the “deep state coup rooting out patriots from White House,” and Infowars Editor Paul Joseph Watson wrote, “McMaster is an Islamist-sympathizer and a globalist. He has to go.” Breitbart, Bannon’s former outlet, also pointed to a Facebook post from an Israeli columnist accusing McMaster of being “deeply hostile to Israel and to Trump.” Pamela Geller, a Breitbart contributor and anti-Muslim extremist, wrote on her website that McMaster is “aligned with the enemies of Trump and America.” Pro-Trump website The Gateway Pundit called McMaster “a globalist” and questioned “why he is still a top Trump official.” Multiple far-right trolls, including Mike Cernovich, Jack Posobiec, Cassandra Fairbanks, and Stefan Molyneux, called for Trump to fire McMaster (with some using the hashtag “#FireMcMaster”) because McMaster “approved of Susan Rice keeping her top-secret security clearance,” because “its (sic) time for the WH to find a Natl Sec Advisor who supports the President,” and because “H.R. McMaster is a Deep State Plant who Opposes the Trump Agenda.”
Additionally, multiple fake news purveyors have targeted McMaster, with both Liberty Writers and USA Newsflash calling McMaster a “traitor” due to his Rice letter, as did TruthFeed, which additionally claimed that he may, along with Rice, be “leading a Deep State Coup.” Conservative Daily Post claimed McMaster “gave” Rice “the power to” spy “on political opponents, which is a complete violation of the Constitution,” Mad World News alleged McMaster is a “secret mole” and “a Judas in the White House,” and Right Wing News suggested that Trump “has been stabbed in the back by McMaster” because of his letter to Rice. America’s Freedom Fighters also claimed that “many are demanding to know why McMaster is still even working within the Trump administration while he wrecks (sic) this sort of havoc.”
Additionally, the think tank Alliance for Securing Democracy’s tool to track Russian-affiliated bots showed that those bots were pushing “#FireMcMaster” on Twitter within the past 48 hours. This is the same hashtag some of the far-right trolls have used against McMaster. These bots have also been spreading some of TruthFeed’s anti-McMaster articles.
All these articles drew attention on Facebook: The two Gateway Pundit articles had at least 2,700 and 310 engagements, respectively; the Liberty Writers article, 28,200; USA Newsflash, 17,600; Conservative Daily Post, 1,900; Mad World News, 5,400; Right Wing News, 316; America’s Freedom Fighters, 1,100; and the two TruthFeed articles, 612 and 1,700, respectively, according to social media analytics website BuzzSumo.
The president’s son has used Twitter to promote media trolls and conspiracy theorists
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.
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.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) April 4, 2017
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’ 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.
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.
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.
On the coattails of President Donald Trump’s successful election campaign and an anti-"political correctness" wave, an alternative right-wing media echo chamber successfully reverberated itself into virtual relevance on social media, where it now reaches millions of people every day. This new-media ecosystem exists outside of traditional newspapers and cable news networks, instead taking to social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, Reddit, and YouTube to promote its far-right nationalist politics and conspiracy-laden worldviews to an audience it has isolated and now dominates as its preferred news source.
Key players in this circular far-right alt-media echo chamber, such as online troll Mike Cernovich and Infowars’ Alex Jones, have successfully crafted a false impression of credibility. They have synthesized a “new right” echo chamber from “alt-right” ideologies and orchestrated a media machine that disseminates content across multiple media platforms with extreme efficiency.
Key voices in this ecosystem often work a redundant media circuit across allied platforms to reinforce each other’s worldviews and concepts of reality, cast doubt on mainstream media, and suggest widespread conspiracies along the way. Cernovich demonstrated this tactic as he circulated a faux scandal story that suggested Susan Rice, who served as national security adviser to former President Barack Obama, was responsible for improper unmasking of Trump officials caught in surveillance of foreign officials.
Cernovich toured the Rice story around the alternative media sphere he occupies until it eventually broke into mainstream media. On April 2, Cernovich first tweeted the “breaking news” that Rice had ordered the unmasking. Later that day, Cernovich published his full story about the explosive allegations. On April 3, Cernovich promoted the story in a livestream broadcast to his tens of thousands of Periscope followers. The same day, “alt-right” thought leader Richard Spencer publicly slammed Cernovich in his own broadcast, granting the story a direct platform into the "alt-right" fanbase. On April 4, Cernovich took his story through the alternative media circuit, appearing on Infowars and Free Domain Radio and earning shoutouts from Stefan Molyneux, Lee Stranahan, and Donald Trump Jr. After riding the wave, Cernovich continued his self-promotion in a Reddit AMA thread and a post-story interview with Rebel Media.
Members of the echo chamber attract and maintain a fan base by developing an abusive relationship with their audience members -- a process they label “redpilling.” They gaslight their audiences until readers and viewers feel unable to trust any media other than those particular outlets to deliver them “the truth.” As a result, these new-media companies have groomed rabid fan bases that turn to them as beacons of honesty in a media world that they believe is orchestrated to distract the public from this echo chamber’s version of “the truth.”
Many media outlets disregard this new-media echo chamber, continuing to speak about the movement with the same blanket terms and condescension they used before the so-called “new right” distanced itself from “alt-right” leaders. But now, months later, this far-right alternative media apparatus is encroaching on its mainstream competition online. For example, Infowars recently surpassed CNN in its number of subscribers on YouTube, which marked a major milestone in far-right alternative media's encroachment on the video site’s news ecosystem.
According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in early 2016, about half of people age 49 and under said they get their news online. And as cable news viewership declines and as Americans’ trust in news media sinks to an all-time low, alternative new-media stars have leveraged a unique opportunity to redefine right-wing media and reach mass audiences once loyal to established journalism outlets. The alternative media ecosystem has also benefited from attention from top government officials and those close to them; presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway recently elevated Cernovich on Twitter, Donald Trump Jr. pushed an Infowars conspiracy theory, and Michael Flynn Jr., the son of Trump’s former national security advisor, has promoted Infowars and conspiracy theories like “Pizzagate” sourced from the alternative media sphere.
Graphics by Sarah Wasko