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  • #Doughnutgate: Online conspiracy theorists target Oregon donut shop with Pizzagate-like claims

    The hashtags #donutgate and #doughnutgate are being used to claim Oregon’s Voodoo Doughnuts is tied to child trafficking; the unsubstantiated claims were originated on a YouTube video that credited QAnon pusher Isaac Kappy

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A rising far-right conspiracy theory claims that a popular donut shop in Portland, OR, Voodoo Doughnuts, is a front for child trafficking. As of this writing, a YouTube video featuring the claim has more than 63,000 views, while the hashtag #donutgate appears to be gaining traction on Twitter. The allegation is an echoand an offshoot of Pizzagate, a conspiracy theory President Donald Trump supporters popularized during the 2016 election cycle, which baselessly claimed Democratic politicians operated a pedophilia ring from Washington, D.C. pizzeria Comet Ping Pong.

    On August 4, a man named Michael Whelan, known on Twitter as VeganMikey went on Nathan Stolpman’s YouTube channel Lift the Veil to share an incident after, according to him, he “was made aware of people that were participating in sexual abuse and trafficking of children in the city of Portland, OR.” Stolpman claimed the incident was connected to the owner of Portland’s Voodoo Doughnuts and that they were going to “be linking this to Comet Pizza as well.”

    Whelan said he had been “eyewitness to children taken back” at a party at the home of Tres Shannon, the owner of Voodoo Donuts, where “there was abuse of children going on.” Whelan also claimed people within the alleged ring “had worked at Comet,” linking his allegations to Pizzagate.

    In the video, both Whelan and Stolpman credited Isaac Kappy for talking about pedophilia rings as an inspiration for others to go public with similar allegations. Whelan also directly addressed Kappy asking him to “help the people on the ground level of this happening.” Kappy is a minor actor and QAnon enthusiast who was among the conspiracy theorists claiming on videos that Hollywood celebrities like Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg were involved in pedophilia rings. As a result, searches on YouTube last week for Hanks and Spielberg were momentarily dominated by videos of the wild conspiracy theories. Kappy’s allegations were too extreme even for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who hosted Kappy on Infowars and asked him to restrain his wide-ranging accusations by avoiding “getting into names,” a precaution possibly linked to the defamation lawsuits Jones is currently battling for his own conspiracy theories.

    Kappy promoted the Lift the Veil video to his followers during a Periscope session in which he also gave oxygen to the wild QAnon-related absurd claim that John F. Kennedy Jr. is, in fact, alive and behind the anonymous Q posts, saying “that would be the jaw-dropper of the century” if Kennedy Jr. was alive.

    The claims about Voodoo donuts have reached Reddit, where users have shared Stolpman’s video within a QAnon subreddit. On the online message board 4chan -- from where many hoaxes and harassment campaigns often originate -- users appear to be actively organizing a campaign against the donut shop focused on distributing flyers containing the unsubstantiated claims.

    Such campaigns can have dangerous real-life consequences. Despite the fact there is no evidence to substantiate Pizzagate, a man inspired by the wild conspiracy theory showed up at the restaurant to self-investigate and opened fire.

    One YouTube video linked Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) to the conspiracy theory while a website peddling in Pizzagate tried to link evangelist Franklin Graham to the supposed crime ring.

    The claims regarding Voodoo Doughnuts earlier appeared on YouTube in late 2016 and early 2017, when multiple uploaded videos focused on the allegations. One recurring allegation was that designs on certain doughnuts were secret references to changelings and pedophilia:

    The allegations were also made on a dating forum in early December 2016, with the poster citing “Patriot News.”

    This time around, these allegations have received much wider attention following Kappy’s endorsement. An analysis on the hashtag tracker Keyhole shows that tweets containing #doughnutgate are now gaining traction and its impressions have reached more than 826,477 users; tweets for #donutgate have reached an additional 186.623 users. According to Keyhole, the major related hashtags that appear next to #doughnutgate are #pizzagate and #pedogate.

    Media Matters reached out to Voodoo Doughnuts and will be updating this piece if the donut shop responds.

  • Periscope is still hosting video where Alex Jones pantomimed shooting Robert Mueller

    Jones also said Mueller had let people rape children in front of him

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Periscope, a video streaming service owned by Twitter, continues to host a video in which conspiracy theorist Alex Jones pantomimes shooting special counsel Robert Mueller while alleging Mueller is involved in covering up pedophilia.

    During his July 23 broadcast, Jones held his finger like a pistol while ranting about Mueller, claiming, in part, “That's a demon I will take down, or I'll die trying” and telling the special counsel, “It's not a joke. It's not a game. It's the real world. Politically. You're going to get it, or I'm going to die trying, bitch. Get ready.” Jones also said Mueller had let people rape children in front of him:

    ALEX JONES (HOST): That's the thing, is like, once it's [special counsel Robert] Mueller, everyone's so scared of Mueller, they'd let Mueller rape kids in front of people, which he did. I mean, Mueller covered up for a decade for [Jeffrey] Epstein kidnapping kids, flying them on sex planes, some kids as young as seven years old reportedly, with big perverts raping them to frame people. I mean, Mueller is a monster, man. God, imagine -- he's even above the pedophiles, though. The word is he doesn't have sex with kids, he just controls it all. Can you imagine being a monster like that? God.

    People say, "Well, God, aren't you scared of him?" I'm scared of not manning up. I'm constantly in fear that I'm not being a real man, and I'm not doing what it takes, and I'm not telling the truth. And so, call it whatever you want, I look at that guy, and he's a sack of crap. That's a demon I will take down, or I'll die trying. So that's it. It's going to happen, we're going to walk out in the square, politically, at high noon, and he's going to find out whether he makes a move man, make the move first, and then it's going to happen. It's not a joke. It's not a game. It's the real world. Politically. You're going to get it, or I'm going to die trying, bitch. Get ready. We're going to bang heads. We're going to bang heads.

    In recent days, several broadcasting platforms including YouTube, Apple’s iTunes, and Facebook have banned Jones for violating their content policies. Twitter and Periscope, however, have not taken action against Jones.

    According to Vox, Jones’ Mueller rant “set off a round of debate in recent weeks about whether Infowars should be granted carte blanche on big social media outlets” and Facebook’s statement on its ban of Jones “almost certainly is in response.” The Mueller video was also one of five videos pulled by Apple before the company decided to delete Jones’ entire iTunes library.

    The video is, however, still viewable on Jones’ Periscope page, and Jones' tweet with the video is still live on Twitter as well. Periscope’s community guidelines prohibit content that “directly or indirectly threatens or encourages any form of physical violence against an individual or any group of people.”

  • MailChimp confirms that it terminated accounts of Alex Jones and Infowars

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    Update: In a statement to Media Matters, MailChimp confirmed it has removed the accounts for Infowars, citing "hateful content":

    MailChimp doesn’t generally comment on individual users or accounts, but we’ll make an exception today. MailChimp notified Infowars that their accounts have been terminated for violating our Terms of Service, which make it clear that we don’t allow people to use our platform to disseminate hateful content.

    We take our responsibility to our customers and employees seriously. The decision to terminate this account was thoughtfully considered and is in line with our company’s values.

    After Stitcher, Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube all removed Alex Jones and Infowars, Alex Jones aired a shot of a document during a live stream showing that MailChimp removed him "effective immediately" because his account "is in violation of our Terms of Use."

    Full video

    Jones has regularly used his show to push conspiracy theories targeting survivors of tragedies, including 9/11 and the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Jones has repeatedly used his platform to push for violence and allege that domestic right-wing terrorism in America, such as in Oklahoma City, is actually part of a secret government plot.

  • AZ Senate candidate Joe Arpaio comes to Alex Jones’ defense

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is running as a Republican for a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona, told his campaign to “stand up” for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones after several social media companies banned Jones from their platforms.

    Dustin Stockton, a senior Arpaio strategist, wrote on Twitter that Arpaio has directed the campaign to look into purchasing advertising on Jones’ Infowars outlet “to help provide resources as they fight for free speech”:

    In July 2017, Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt of court over his refusal to comply with a court order that said he could no longer direct the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office to engage in racially discriminatory practices against Latinos. He faced up to six months in jail, but he received a pardon from President Donald Trump before he was sentenced.

    Shortly before the pardon was officially announced in August 2017, Arpaio appeared on Jones’ show and credited Infowars with bringing his case to Trump’s attention, saying, “I want to thank you, Alex, and your staff, Jerry Corsi, Roger Stone, for bringing this story out and reaching the president. I supported him from, what, two years ago at the same forum that he did yesterday and I’m with him and I’m with him to the end.”

    Jones hosted Arpaio again in January and called on his listeners to donate to and volunteer for Arpaio’s campaign while pushing a conspiracy theory that “illegals” will try to steal the election from Arpaio.

    Arpaio is facing U.S. Rep. Martha McSally and former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward in a primary contest later this month to determine the Republican nominee for an election to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake. In addition to Jones, Arpaio’s right-wing media allies include Frederick Smith, a senior executive at Sinclair Broadcast Group.

    Update: Arpaio also sent an August 6 email to supporters that asked for campaign contributions so he can purchase advertising with Jones. He wrote, in part: "I've instructed my campaign to reach out to Jones and purchase some advertising. ... If you donate now, you'll be supporting both Sheriff Arpaio and free speech."

  • Alex Jones says Infowars platform bans are first step in globalist plot to carry out violent false flag attacks against CNN and MSNBC

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Hours after YouTube banned him, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones repeatedly claimed that globalists and the media will orchestrate mass casualty attacks at CNN and MSNBC which will then be blamed on Jones and President Donald Trump.

    This irresponsible and unfounded claim gives anyone who wants to carry out violence against members of the media a preconceived cover for their actions.

    Over the last two days Jones and his Infowars outlet have been banned from YouTube and Facebook for violating content policies while Apple and Spotify have removed some of Jones’ content from their platforms, citing similar reasons.

    Jones made the “false flag” claims while guest hosting the August 6 edition of Infowars program War Room. At the top of the show, Jones said “false flag” attacks would be staged against CNN and MSNBC in order to cause civil unrest, or even a civil war, and that the motivation behind the Infowars platform bans is that “they don’t want me on air on big viral platforms so that I can respond when they do it”:

    ALEX JONES (HOST): But here’s the big issue: They are coming for you, they are now going to launch their operations, they are going to launch their civil unrest, they are going to launch their calls for civil war, which they’re now doing, they’re going to launch their events. And then they’re going to persecute Infowars, lie about Infowars, build us up as this villain, keep hyping that I’m going to send people to people’s houses to shoot people. I’ve been saying for years, and I never said it, but for years I’ve been saying, “No, don’t go out and self-investigate stuff with firearms,” because they’re going to set you up, they’re going to set somebody else up. But they’re gearing it all up to stage the false flags against MSNBC, CNN, you name it. To stage false flags against universities, to stage false flags against antifa, to make the villains the good guys and they don’t want me on air on big viral platforms so that I can respond when they do it. So they’re strangling us and absolutely banning us 100 percent ahead of staging massive events as we’ve been predicting into the late summer, early fall to create so much civil unrest they can implement the 25th Amendment and stampede enough cowards inside.

    Later in the show, Jones said that “the next step in their censorship plan” would be that “they’re going to stage false flag terror attacks, they’re going to stage events against the media.” Jones said that the media itself would be involved in plotting the attacks, claiming, “They’re going to say that Trump criticizing their lies is going to cause the violence and they’re going to directly, though, pin the probably mass shooting and bombing attacks on Infowars”:

    ALEX JONES (HOST): What’s the next step in their censorship plan? Well, I can tell you. They’re going to stage false flag terror attacks, they’re going to stage events against the media. And we told you this was coming. They’re going to say that Trump criticizing their lies is going to cause the violence and they’re going to directly, though, pin the probably mass shooting and bombing attacks on Infowars. Now, I’d already been getting this chatter. I could see CNN and others hyping it up that I’m going to cause violence, that Trump’s going to cause violence. I could see [CNN’s] Brian Stelter yesterday -- and let’s make sure we have that clip for the next segment where plays the segment off C-SPAN and says, “Oh, everybody’s coming to try to get me,” whole thing sounds staged -- this is all they have left now is to say our speech is bad and that we have to be taken down.

    Jones later compared himself to a victim of the Holocaust, claiming, “They always censor someone like the Jews in the Nazi Germany or the Quakers in Nazi Germany before they absolutely rob them and then kill them.” He went on to say that false flag attacks will target CNN, MSNBC, Google, and Facebook and that the perpetrator -- on orders from their globalist superiors -- will “say they did it for internet freedom and sell the idea that see Trump was wrong, Alex [Jones] was wrong, we do have to censor, it’s their fault.” Jones also sold the false flag attacks as an attempt to cause Trump-backed candidates to lose their 2018 midterm election races:

    ALEX JONES (HOST): That’s what’s critical here is that they always censor someone like the Jews in the Nazi Germany or the Quakers in Nazi Germany before they absolutely rob them and then kill them. So people are pissed; they see what’s happening. And the intel I got was they’re going to build this to build anger at CNN, MSNBC, Google, Facebook, they’re going to pick a campus, or some side group, or some live event and they’re going to have people they’ve wound up they’re protecting attack it. They’re going to then say they did it for internet freedom and sell the idea that see Trump was wrong, Alex [Jones] was wrong, we do have to censor, it’s their fault. And they’ve got their folks then ready to activate as soon as that happens to go shoot up the next congressional baseball game. So it’s happening, they’re moving, they’re not going to let Trump win the midterms.

    On August 5, shortly before his YouTube account was deactivated, Jones posted a video where he claimed that a recent death threat made against CNN’s Brian Stelter and Don Lemon on C-SPAN was a “false flag.”

  • “The Empire strikes back”: Right-wing media defend Alex Jones after Infowars is banned from several major platforms

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS & ZACHARY PLEAT

    After Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, and iTunes all removed conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and Infowars pages from their platforms, several right-wing media figures leapt to the extremist’s defense. Jones’ defenders responded by criticizing and threatening “the entire rotten tech machine” and invoking a wide range of comparisons to support him, including Star Wars, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, reality TV star Kylie Jenner, and the Holocaust.

  • Alex Jones: Phone call with threat to shoot CNN’s Brian Stelter and Don Lemon is a false flag

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones called a death threat against CNN’s Brian Stelter and Don Lemon that was phoned into C-SPAN a “false flag” during a video posted on August 5 to Jones’ YouTube channel. The video was one of the last posts uploaded to Jones' channel before YouTube terminated his account on August 6.

    On August 3, a person identified as “Don from State College, PA,” called into C-SPAN to falsely claim that Stelter and Lemon had called all Trump supporters racist. The man ended his call by saying, “They started the war. If I see ’em, I’m going to shoot ’em. Bye.” Stelter covered the threat on his show Reliable Sources on August 5.

    Jones reacted to Stelter’s coverage by calling the death threat a “false flag” and “phony as a three-dollar bill.” According to Jones, the call “sound[ed] completely fake” and was part of a plot to “hype everything up and get it ready for civil war.” Jones also called Stelter a “little monster hunchback” and “ugly twisted lying filth”:

    Jones has used his YouTube channel to heap abuse upon Stelter in recent months, including posting videos (since removed when his account was terminated) with the titles “Brian Stelter And Michael Wolff Are The True Faces Of Evil,” “Alex Jones Challenges CNN's Brian Stelter To Fight For $1,000,000!,” and “Internet on Fire Comparing Subway Spokesmen Jared Fogle With Brian Stelter.” (Fogle is serving a 15-year prison sentence for possessing child pornography and having sex with minors.) During a January broadcast of The Alex Jones Show, Jones went on a bizarre rant where he claimed Stelter “runs your kids, he runs the schools, he runs the banks” and drinks children's blood. During the rant, Jones addressed Stelter: “You will pay. Yeah, you don’t think I see your face, scum? You don’t think I don’t see you, Stelter? I see you, you understand me?”

    On the evening of August 5, it was reported that Apple had banned Jones from its iTunes platform for violations of its content policies. Facebook followed suit on August 6, removing the four primary pages where Jones shared content. Last month, YouTube deleted four videos Jones posted and banned him from livestreaming for three months because of content violations. On August 6, YouTube removed Jones' channel from its platform.

  • Alex Jones: "If it wasn't for Julian Assange, you can say, clearly, that the president wouldn't have been elected"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Jones, while launching a petition for Trump to pardon Assange, said that Trump would not have won without Assange's election activities.

    From the July 31 edition of Genesis Communications Network's The Alex Jones Show:

    ALEX JONES (HOST): He engaged in regular journalistic activity and did a wonderful job, being advised by top journalism professors around the world, and that he was very, very fair about what he did, and that you need to send a message that he's a hero. Now, I know they claim that he's a Russian agent with no evidence, and all the rest of that garbage, even though they release stuff on Russia and Israel as well. And China. But it doesn't matter, it's the right thing to do. 

    ...

    We need the president to pardon Julian Assange. We've got another Change.org petition that's got a lot of signatures, dealing with shadow banning. And all of this just draws attention, all of this just chips away at what they're doing. 

    But, if it wasn't for Julian Assange, you can say, clearly, that the president wouldn't have been elected. And you said in a speech, I don't care who got her illegal server, it's illegal, it's about what she did that's wrong, don't change the subject. Go back to that instinct, sir. But you told Assange release it, you said release more stuff, and he's in the crosshairs, and he needs to be pardoned if he's brought back to the United States. 

    If you signal you're going to pardon him -- there's no real charges in England, there's only this bail jumping thing -- he will be released. The fake sex charges that two women connected to the CIA he picked up at a bar who went back to his hotel room and had sex with Assange, and then later they decided maybe that one of them didn't give them permission? Oldest trick in the book, folks. That's all been dropped. He wouldn't be the first man let his you-know-what get him in trouble.

    I'm in the same boat as Assange and Trump and others that are willing to tell the truth,  so we need the president to do this, but I need you first to go sign the petition at Infowars.com.

    Previously:

    Joe Arpaio thanks conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for getting his story to Donald Trump, who is reportedly poised to pardon the former sheriff

    ​Alex Jones: "I personally pushed [Roger] Stone" to bring up a pardon for Dinesh D'Souza to President Trump

    The staggering corruption of Dinesh D’Souza’s pardon

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

    Proud Boys member: “But you know, if you want to get involved there is no better time than now”

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    During the July 17 edition of Infowars’ The Alex Jones Show, Alex Jones hosted Ethan Nordean, a member of Proud Boys who goes by the alias “Rufio Panman.” As reported by The Guardian, Nordean garnered viral fame after a fight between him and a counterprotester at a right-wing rally was caught on video, earning him his organization’s designation of “Proud Boy of the Week.” Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes also amplified the violent encounter on his Twitter account:

    Proud Boys is a self-described “Western chauvinist” men-only fraternal organization. While McInnes has included a disclaimer (“We are not a violent group”) on the organization’s website attempting to distance the group from the violence its members somehow keep involving themselves in, violence is in reality ingrained into the group’s ethos. To earn a low-level membership (or “second degree”), prospective members have to subject themselves to continuous punches by other Proud Boys while naming five breakfast cereals. The highest membership level, the fourth degree, is earned only if the member has engaged in violence with anti-fascists. McInnes has also attempted to add “clarification” around what that entails, but his hedging is at odds with his record of glorifying violence. He’s on the record saying he “cannot recommend violence enough. It is a really effective way to solve problems.”

    On its site, Proud Boys also displays its affiliation with the violent organization Fraternal Order of the Alt Knights (FOAK), which, essentially operates like a “fight club” and which Proud Boys refers to as its “military arm.” As recently as June 22, McInnes introduced his CRTV show CRTV Tonight with a bizarre montage glorifying violence and fighting in which he claimed, “What's the matter with fighting? Fighting solves everything. The war on fighting is the same as the war on masculinity.”

    Nordean used his appearance with Jones to recruit for an upcoming rally, saying "As long as there’s 50 to 100 of us, we can take on a thousand of them ... [I]f you want to get involved there is no better time than now.”

    ETHAN NORDEAN: We do have the up-and-coming rally in Portland August 4.

    ALEX JONES (HOST): Yeah. That's August 4. Tell the folks about that.

    NORDEAN: Well, obviously we’re eager to get back, because of the failure of the protection of the citizens that the city showed down in Portland. It was a complete failure on their part, complete lack of leadership, and people's lives were put at risk. And thank God that the Proud Boys showed up in numbers and protect those people. I don't know what would have happened if we weren't there, but it wouldn't have been good.

    JONES: And maybe we should show the police marching antifa up against the demonstration and the prayer vigil -- let's show that footage if we can -- and then what transpired out of that. Because this was -- first they have a rally a few months ago, women and children get beaten up. So you guys come out, you still kick their ass, but the police stand down. So you’re saying three is the trifecta, it's the charm, have a really huge group come out and once and for all let antifa know this is still America.

    NORDEAN: Yeah. Well, it doesn’t take -- as long as there’s 50 to 100 of us, we can take on a thousand of them, that's fine. But if you want to get involved, there is no better time than now. Get involved, find your local chapter, hit him up. We'll be in Portland August 4.

    JONES: And, again tell folks about the rally, why you're doing it again?

    NORDEAN: Well, we're going to see how the city reacts, and we'll see if they step up their leadership and actually provide security and protection against these antifa thugs. We're also going to take another stand against antifa because of their violence that they've portrayed against the people of Portland and really up and down the West Coast.