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  • Chronicle of a white supremacist PR crisis and the making of a hoax

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Following the deadly high school shooting that claimed 17 lives in Parkland, FL, news sites and outlets scrambled to report details about the shooter’s identity and motive in a timely manner. Some of those details were manipulated by far-right trolls in efforts to plant misinformation and sow chaos, along the way creating a PR crisis for known white supremacists. It also created a lesson for media to not take attention-seeking extremists at their word.

    The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported that Jordan Jereb, the leader of white supremacist militia Republic of Florida (ROF), claimed that suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz was affiliated with ROF. Other outlets quickly picked up the story, causing known white supremacists like The Daily Stormer’s Andrew Anglin and Traditionalist Worker Party’s Matthew Parrott to go into crisis management mode and distance themselves from ROF and the shooting.

    Jereb, who years ago flooded the Southern Poverty Law Center with “pleas for attention,” is somewhat of a joke among extremists, mocked for trying too hard, as he posts content related to the “Read Siege” meme, which refers to Siege, the collection of writings by neo-Nazi writer James Mason. As Mason’s writings have increasingly become tied to the most violent and deadly factions of white supremacism -- like the Atomwaffen division (which has been tied to several recent killings) -- “establishment” white supremacists are attempting to distance themselves from those who act on their convictions by calling them satanists and “Siegefags”. That was exactly what Anglin did after reports surfaced that Jereb had claimed the Parkland shooter was a white supremacist, claiming it was “a setup” and that the militia was infiltrated by “satanists pretending to be Nazis:”

    However, as local authorities found no evidence to back up Jereb’s claims that Cruz belonged to ROF, media outlets started updating their initial reporting on the story. Jereb took to Gab, the social media platform dubbed a “haven for white nationalists,” to recant his statements to ADL and media outlets, blaming it all on a “misunderstanding,” his need for a good night’s sleep, and "the lying jew media":

    Meanwhile, trolls bragged on 4chan message boards and other platforms about conceiving and planting the hoax in the chat platform Discord, with the purpose of mocking Jereb -- who eventually played along with the hoax -- and discrediting media outlets. The hoax narrative immediately allowed prominent white nationalists some relief:

    Trolls interpreted the events as their resounding victory over media, with Anglin claiming on The Daily Stormer that the hoax had been a way of “humiliating the media” and “blowing the credibility of the ADL:”

    I have actually seen people saying this is not good. And I’m just like. lolwut.

    Of course it is good. Humiliating the media is always good, and doing that while totally blowing the credibility of the ADL as a reliable source for information is quadruple good.

    Basically, there was a 6 hour news barrage across the entire planet based on a 4chan post because the ADL will just believe any internet rumor they hear and order the media to spam it.

    This demonstrates, fully, that Jewish ethnic activist groups such as the media and the ADL are so obsessed with blaming white identity movements for violence that they will act recklessly and in a totally deranged fashion.

    This makes the whole idea of constantly blaming white people for everything look retarded, and it will lead to any future event where they try to do this being questioned. Because before this, they were able to get away with like, “oh this one thing he posted on Facebook – he’s a Nazi” – that shit isn’t going to fly anymore.

    Beyond all of that: this shit is just fucking hilarious. This is your mainstream media, which claims that it is above reproach, not even attempting to confirm a story before they spam the entire planet with it. This was like a Sam Hyde shooter meme times six million.

    The episode illustrates the perils of media taking attention-seeking white nationalists at their word: trolls can manipulate the media to plant misinformation and sow chaos, hijack national news narratives by confusing journalists, and render audiences not steeped into troll culture unable to distinguish between fact and fiction.

  • Fringe media are furiously trying to absolve the white nationalist who allegedly killed Heather Heyer

    Trolls and anonymous message boards are pushing the story that she died from a heart attack and health issues -- and not because she was hit by a car

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    White nationalist and fringe media figures are trying to absolve Heather Heyer's alleged murderer by suggesting she died of a heart attack caused by health issues, not from a car running her over.

    On August 12, during a gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA, James Fields, a man with white nationalist sympathies, reportedly drove his car into a crowd of protesters, injuring at least 19 and killing Heyer. Fields has since been charged with second-degree murder.

    On September 5, white nationalist and anti-Semitic writer Hunter Wallace wrote on his blog Occidental Dissent that Heyer’s mom “said in an NBC interview she died of a heart attack” and he seemed to blame Heyer’s weight, rather than Fields explicitly, for her death. He wrote, “We can’t find any information about Heather Heyer’s injuries or an autopsy. She does seem to be a very large woman though. My guess is that she was at least 250 pounds lying on her back in 90 degree heat. It is reasonable to wonder if her health had something to do with her death.” Wallace added, “To my knowledge, no else has died in these incidents when protesters are in the street and get run over. It happens quite frequently.” The claim echoes what Andrew Anglin of the neo-Nazi blog The Daily Stormer (who had attacked Heyer by calling her an “overweight slob with no children”) had told The Washington Post weeks earlier, when the paper reported that “Anglin disputed authorities’ conclusions, suggesting instead that Heyer may have suffered a heart attack at the scene.”

    Other fringe and white nationalist media figures have since run with Wallace’s claim, with some implying it clears Fields of murder charges. Fake news purveyor Before It’s News republished Wallace’s blog post, and white nationalist podcast host James Allsup tweeted that Heyer’s mother and “medical personnel” “confirmed” Heyer died of a heart attack, adding that Wallace’s post “looks to be very well sourced.” A YouTube account called Rogue Rebel that claims to be “dedicated to exposing the left” posted a video claiming that “Heather heyer did not die as a result of being ran over, but from a massive heart attack.” Daily Stormer writer Andrew Auernheimer, who is also a hacker known as “weev” and who previously threatened CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski, wrote on Gab, a social media platform favored by white nationalists, that Heyer’s supposed heart attack meant “murder charges on Fields gotta be dropped, and the public has to get told it's because Heyer was a fucking fat cow.”

    Additionally, Wallace’s blog and the Rogue Rebel YouTube clip were picked up by Reddit forum “r/The_Donald” and by 4chan’s and 8chan’s “politically incorrect” message boards (commonly referred to as /pol/), forums known for helping far-right trolls and fake news purveyors spread misinformation. On Reddit, users claimed that Heyer “died of a heart attack, because she was obese and had some stress from the incident” and that the “corrupt” mainstream media were hiding it. On 4chan and 8chan users linked to websites like Infowars and VDare, urging others to “email these sources” supposed proof of the claim. They also wrote that the “info definitely needs to be made available to Fields' defense” because Fields “is only guilty of Reckless driving, that's about a 500.00 fine and no jail time.”

    This is not the first attempt by those in the far-right and fringe to distance themselves from the gathering and subsequent violence in Charlottesville. Fringe media have previously suggested that white nationalist Jason Kessler, one of the organizers of the protest, was some kind of liberal spy who set up the event to embarrass conservatives.

  • “Fuck you, faggots”: The anti-LGBTQ bigotry of white supremacists and neo-Nazis

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    During the so-called “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, last week -- where three people were killed and dozens of others were injured -- white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups attacked LGBTQ people in addition to other minority and marginalized populations, including by chanting “Fuck you, faggots.” These groups and media outlets have a long history of engaging in anti-LGBTQ extremism, including suggesting that LGBTQ people be “cured” through “rational medical treatment” and calling for arresting and trying LGBTQ activists for “treason.”

  • Neo-Nazis called on Trump to pardon Joe Arpaio. Now Trump is “seriously considering” doing it.

    Infowars and fake news purveyors also pushed Trump to pardon the former sheriff

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    President Donald Trump is reportedly considering a pardon for Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, after neo-Nazi and other fringe media that have supported Trump called for him to do so.

    Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt of court on July 31 after “defying a court order to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants.” As The New York Times noted, the order originated from a lawsuit “charging that the sheriff’s office regularly violated the rights of Latinos, stopping people based on racial profiling, detaining them based solely on the suspicion that they were in the country illegally, and turning them over to the immigration authorities.” Arpaio, like Trump, was one of the biggest propagators of the false claim that former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate was fake. According to The Arizona Republic, Arpaio “says he would welcome a presidential pardon” from Trump, although he told the paper that he was “not going to ask.”

    When news of Arpaio’s conviction was revealed, fringe media outlets decried the trial and verdict, and urged Trump to pardon the former sheriff. Jerome Corsi of conspiracy theory outlet Infowars wrote that Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions “must help Sheriff Arpaio,” calling the trial a “travesty of justice” and asking whether Trump and Sessions would “continue to stand by watching.” Additionally, Infowars host David Knight, in a video titled “Pres. Trump, Pardon Sheriff Joe: ‘Guilty’ Of Defying Sanctuary Judge,” said that Arpaio “needs to be pardoned by the Trump administration or the Trump administration will be exposed to massive hypocrisy for allowing someone to go to jail for implementing the very policies that they’re talking about now.” Andrew Anglin of the neo-Nazi blog The Daily Stormer called Arpaio’s conviction “a blatant crucifixion of a man who stood up to the Obama agenda of ‘America for everyone from anywhere as long as they are not white'” and wrote that “Trump should pardon him.” Another neo-Nazi blog, Infostormer, claimed Arpaio had “been convicted of a crime simply because he was enforcing immigration laws,” adding “regardless of what happens, Donald Trump should pardon him.”

    Some fake news purveyors joined the call for a pardon. TruthFeed called Arpaio’s conviction “absolutely ridiculous” and added, “We think Trump needs to pardon Arpaio.” After Arpaio said he was open to a pardon, TruthFeed wrote, “Hopefully, President Trump will soon have time to help his long-time supporter.” Patriots On The Right, calling Arpaio’s conviction “stupid,” urged people to “SHARE this story if you support the idea Joe Arpaio to be pardoned (sic).” World Politicus wrote that Arpaio being open to a pardon “could be good” because Arpaio had been a victim of a “witch hunt against” him and because “the judge had liberal ties.”

    Following the outcry from neo-Nazi, fringe, and pro-Trump media as well as fake news purveyors, Fox News’ Gregg Jarrett reported on August 14 that Trump told Fox News that he was “seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio” because he “has done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration. He’s a great American patriot and I hate to see what has happened to him.” Jarrett added that the pardon “could happen in the next few days, should [Trump] decide to do so.”

  • After praising Trump's statement on Charlottesville, a neo-Nazi website celebrates murder of counterprotester Heather Heyer

    Hate website The Daily Stormer says victim was "the definition of uselessness" and that "most people are glad she is dead"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    White nationalist and neo-Nazi hate website The Daily Stormer openly celebrated the murder of counterprotester Heather Heyer during the violent August 12 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, calling her a “slob” and a “burden on society” with “no value.” The website previously praised Trump’s response to the rally.

    Heyer, a 32-year-old who, according to her mother, was “determined to stand up to injustice,” was murdered when a car plowed through counterprotesters at the rally. At least 19 others were injured. According to The New York Times, the driver of the car was “charged with second-degree murder” and stood alongside white nationalist groups during the rally. One of the driver's former teachers has said that he was a Nazi sympathizer with "white supremacist views" and "a big idolatry of Adolf Hitler."

    President Donald Trump received widespread criticism for condemning “violence on many sides” in the wake of the incident rather than immediately denouncing white supremacy. An unnamed spokesperson has since issued a statement to reporters condemning “white supremacists,” though The New York Times reported that “it was not attributed directly to Mr. Trump.” The Daily Stormer, however, lauded President Trump’s comments, saying that “he didn’t attack us” and gave “no condemnation at all.” The Daily Stormer, designated a neo-Nazi hate site by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has long been a fan of President Trump, having said that a vote for him would be a vote “for the one man who actually represents our interests” and having praised his hiring of Steve Bannon.

    In his August 13 article, Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin asserted that “most people are glad [Heyer] is dead, as she is the definition of uselessness.” He also called the victim an “overweight slob with no children” and praised the driver of the car as a “hardcore player” with a “cool demeanor” who “didn’t give a fuck.”

  • "Personal Gestapo," "witness intimidation," and "a witch hunt": How pro-Trump media reacted to the Manafort raid

    ››› ››› KATHERINE HESS

    After President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was issued a search warrant regarding the Russia investigation, pro-Trump media -- including Fox personalities, fringe blogs, neo-Nazi sites, and fake news purveyors -- lashed out, stating that it was “not about Trump,” and insisted that this was a witch hunt and another attempt to undermine the 2016 presidential election. Others claimed the FBI was acting as “someone’s personal Gestapo,” and that the raid was a form of “witness intimidation.”

  • Pro-Trump trolls silent after "alt-right" ship detained in Mediterranean for apparent human trafficking

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Defend Europe, an anti-immigrant group that attempts to disrupt humanitarian search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea, recently chartered a boat that was stopped in a Cyprus port, where several members were arrested for forging documents and engaging in potential human trafficking. Since then, pro-Trump media trolls associated with the campaign have been conspicuously silent.

    The members were stopped in and deported from a sea port in the self-declared Turkish state of Northern Cyprus Thursday after spending two days in detention for document forgery and potential human trafficking of 20 Sri Lankan nationals who were aboard the C-Star, the campaign’s ship. Turkish Cypriot authorities deported nine crew members, including the ship’s captain and a German “second captain” believed to be neo-Nazi Alexander Schleyer. The authorities also transferred the director of the company that owns the ship, Sven Tomas Egerstrom, to Greek-controlled Cyprus for further questioning.

    Refugee Rights Association advocate Faika Pasha told The Associated Press that some of the Sri Lankans on board reported having paid a trafficker to be taken to Italy and confirmed that five Sri Lankans remained in Cyprus to claim asylum. (Defend Europe claims the Sri Lankans were actually bribed by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to claim they were seeking asylum.)

    Defend Europe is a campaign by anti-immigrant, “alt-right” activists to disrupt humanitarian search and rescue missions of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. The effort is the brainchild of Generation Identity, a pan-European “Identitarian” movement known for its members’ high-profile political stunts.

    Since the arrest and deportation of the C-Star’s crew members, Defend Europe has been doing some damage control on Twitter, claiming the ship was “released” and that “lies and #fakenews from NGOs have been exposed once again.” The next day, the account pinned an image of the group’s alleged goals on its feed, one of which was to “save migrants in danger of drowning and making sure they get to the nearest non-European safe port.”

    However, Generation Identity’s Austrian co-founder, Martin Sellner, has repeatedly claimed that Defend Europe’s goal is to take migrants from North Africa back to Libya -- a violation of the non-refoulement principle of the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention against sending refugees back to their county if they would be in harm’s way. In June, Sellner said, “We want to face those human trafficking ships on the sea. We want to disrupt their doings. And, of course, if you meet an account of people in distress on the sea, save them but bring them back to where they started from.” He reiterated his stance a month later, saying that Defend Europe will “do everything in our power to make sure that they go back to Africa, where they belong.”

    Since the detainment of Defend Europe members and their subsequent expulsion from Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, the movement’s right-wing media allies and pro-Trump trolls have been noticeably mum. As of this piece’s publication, Brittany Pettibone, who has actively been reporting in support of Defend Europe from Catania, Sicily, had tweeted only twice on the subject since the incident, both times promoting Defend Europe’s conspiratorial narrative that NGOs are propagating fake news and “hiding something” about their alleged collusion with international human trafficking rings.

    Even more notably, Lauren Southern, a Canadian media troll who made a name for herself denying the existence of rape culture and demonizing minorities and who has been actively involved in the Defend Europe campaign, has not tweeted a single time about the recent incident (though she has retweeted in support of Defend Europe). Online payment service Patreon recently suspended Southern’s account for violating the crowdfunding platform's terms by soliciting donations for the Defend Europe campaign; Southern has since resorted to using PayPal. PayPal previously froze Defend Europe's account, saying in a statement, “Our policy is to prevent our services being used by companies whose activities promote hatred, violence or racial intolerance."

    Peter Sweden, a previously vocal Holocaust denier who reversed himself in mid-July, has been similarly silent on the recent controversy surrounding Defend Europe. Sweden has bragged about disrupting search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean and has also been interviewed by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, taking the opportunity to fearmonger about crime in Sweden.

    Katie Hopkins, a columnist for British news site MailOnline who regularly appears on Fox News to voice her Islamophobic, anti-immigrant views, has also been silent on Twitter about the C-Star’s deportation from Cyprus. Hopkins recently tweeted a photo of herself with Sweden, which she later deleted. Her involvement with the Defend Europe campaign has been documented by the anti-extremism research and education group HOPE Not Hate.

    Tara McCarthy, who hosts a YouTube show alongside Pettibone and who has said, in a since-deleted tweet, that she hopes “zero” migrants crossing the sea to Europe “make it alive,” has also not commented on the C-Star’s seizure.

    According to HOPE Not Hate, pro-Trump propaganda outlet Breitbart, white nationalist site AltRight.com, racial nationalist organization American Renaissance, Nazi website The Daily Stormer, and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke have also voiced support for Defend Europe’s mission. As of noon on July 28, none of these outlets or individuals had responded to the latest developments.

    The silence of these pro-Trump trolls exposes their opportunism and cowardice. They engage in high-profile stunts to profit and promote themselves and then back away when the going gets tough, as prominent troll Mike Cernovich did when he attempted to deny involvement in the “Pizzagate” conspiracy. The pro-Trump trolls subscribed to the Defend Europe campaign for donations and foreign Twitter followers, but now they’re stuck in a sordid relationship with a movement that is endangering innocent lives and potentially violating international law. It remains to be seen how they will meme their way out of this one.

  • Report: GOP researcher who tried to collude with Russia for Trump campaign worked with far-right media figures

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A Republican operative who tried to get emails from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election campaign and may have worked with people associated with President Donald Trump’s campaign worked with far-right media figures Chuck Johnson, Pax Dickinson, and, possibly, Daily Stormer writer Andrew Auernheimer, along with Russian-linked “Guccifer 2.0,” according to Politico.

    Chuck Johnson, the editor of fringe outlet GotNews, has a history of encouraging harassment and is currently working with fellow far-right troll Mike Cernovich on an effort to target journalists. He is also part of the far-right alternative-media echo-chamber that has worked in tandem with fake news purveyors to spread conspiracy theories and falsehoods. Trump himself is reportedly a reader of GotNews. Dickinson, with Johnson, ran the crowdsourcing platform WeSearchr, which has helped fund far-right causes, such as neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. Auernheimer, a hacker known as “weev,” has written for Daily Stormer, recently using the site to threaten CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski. And “Guccifer 2.0,” an entity connected to Russian hackers, previously communicated with Trump adviser and Infowars host Roger Stone.

    According to a July 11 Politico report, Republican operative Peter Smith, who worked to “track down copies of Clinton’s emails” from hackers that may have been affiliated with Russia and who may have worked with people associated with Trump’s campaign, asked Johnson and Dickinson “to help him understand the workings of the internet and make contacts in Trump’s orbit.” Johnson told Politico he and Smith “stayed in touch, discussing ‘tactics and research’ regularly throughout the presidential campaign, and that Smith sought his help,” along with Dickinson’s” “tracking down Clinton’s emails.” Johnson claimed he “put the word out to a ‘hidden oppo network’ of right-leaning opposition researchers to notify them of the effort,” and that he told Smith to get in touch with Auernheimer, although he “declined to say whether Smith contacted him.” Additionally, Johnson said that Smith “had people running around Europe, had people talking to Guccifer.” From the report:

    The activists, the journalist-turned-entrepreneur Charles Johnson and his former business partner Pax Dickinson, agreed to help [GOP operative Peter] Smith’s quixotic mission, which failed to track down copies of Clinton’s emails. Johnson is a polarizing figure who was banned from Twitter in 2015 after promoting an effort to “take out” a Black Lives Matter activist but maintains ties to White House officials. Smith also reached out to “Guccifer 2.0”—an alias the U.S. intelligence community has linked to Russian state hackers—and was advised to seek the help of a white nationalist hacker who lives in Ukraine.

    [...]

    Understanding Smith’s relationships could hold the key to the question of whether or not Trump’s campaign colluded with the Kremlin: Federal investigators are probing an apparent attempt by Russian government hackers to obtain the deleted emails and provide them to former national security adviser Michael Flynn through a third party, the Journal also reported. The paper was unable to identify the Russians’ intended intermediary, but suggested it may have been Smith, who had boasted of his ties to Flynn.

    The new details of Smith’s operation, which were shared with POLITICO Magazine by Johnson and others, paint a picture of a determined but ill-equipped activist casting about far and wide in a frantic but ultimately futile quest to get ahold of Clinton’s deleted emails and publish them ahead of Election Day.

    [...]

    Johnson said he and Smith stayed in touch, discussing “tactics and research” regularly throughout the presidential campaign, and that Smith sought his help tracking down Clinton’s emails. “He wanted me to introduce to him to Bannon, to a few others, and I sort of demurred on some of that,” Johnson said. “I didn’t think his operation was as sophisticated as it needed to be and I thought it was good to keep the campaign as insulated as possible.”

    Instead, Johnson said, he put the word out to a “hidden oppo network” of right-leaning opposition researchers to notify them of the effort. Johnson declined to provide the names of any of the members of this “network,” but he praised Smith’s ambition.

    “The magnitude of what he was trying to do was kind of impressive,” Johnson said. “He had people running around Europe, had people talking to Guccifer.” (U.S. intelligence agencies have linked the materials provided by “Guccifer 2.0”—an alias that has taken credit for hacking the Democratic National Committee and communicated with Republican operatives, including Trump confidant Roger Stone—to Russian government hackers.)

    [...]

    Johnson said he also suggested that Smith get in touch with Andrew Auernheimer, a hacker who goes by the alias “Weev” and has collaborated with Johnson in the past. Auernheimer — who was released from federal prison in 2014 after having a conviction for fraud and hacking offenses vacated and subsequently moved to Ukraine — declined to say whether Smith contacted him, citing conditions of his employment that bar him from speaking to the press.

  • 5 of the most batshit, xenophobic and racist reactions Trump’s "West"-centric Warsaw speech drew

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Trump kicked off his trip to Europe on July 6 with a speech in Warsaw, Poland. In his address, Trump issued a call to “the West” to defend itself and its values. In the speech, he enumerated accomplishments of the so-called “West” in a way that was similar to the claims of other parochial politicians before him, such as Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) claim that “other categories” and “subgroup[s]” of people have not made any valuable contributions to society akin with those of “Western civilization.”

    While the dog-whistle politics of the speech were obvious to many, to Trump’s most ardent admirers the speech was worthy of praise, and seemed to confirm many xenophobic and even racist biases. Here are just five examples:

    1. Fox’s Tucker Carlson asked audiences to remember “the basics”: Western civilization “makes all good things possible”

    TUCKER CARLSON: So it’s worth remembering the basics: Western civilization is our birthright. It makes all good things possible. Undefended, it collapses, and so we’ve got to fight to preserve it. Not just with airstrikes, but with a vigorous defense of our common values. Nothing matters more than that.

    2. The Daily Stormer’s Andrew Anglin just cut to the chase and said what we were all thinking

    3. Fox’s Pete Hegseth praised Trump’s speech for encouraging “having babies and passing it on to the next generation” so that the west can "remain strong and free”

    PETE HEGSETH: What he underscored yesterday were the foundations and the fundamentals of the western civilization. [The founding fathers] would recognize what he had to say. But those very fundamentals have been forgotten by most of the leaders and countries in that room. And a message he delivered was, if we're going to save our civilization, if the west is going to remain strong and free, we have to remember the values that got us here. The values that were enshrined in the Declaration and the Constitution. It’s basic things like patriotism and productivity and borders and belief in your own country, having babies and passing it on to the next generation. These things are sort of passé or not as sophisticated as many in those rooms would view them as and therefore they’re discounted and they focus instead on things like diversity, multiculturalism, atheism. Frankly, he talked a lot about God. This is a guy that understands if you believe in something greater than yourself that informs who you are and what you are willing to fight for.

    4. Fox’s Newt Gingrich: Trump has “come down decisively on the side of those who worry about national identity”

    LAURA INGRAHAM (GUEST HOST): Newt, I was wishing that the audience was mic'd up better because the audience was going nuts. There were many parts they were cheering for Donald Trump, but in that moment, they are feeling the criticism, the brunt of the criticism they are getting now from Merkel and other European elites for not taking in more of the refugees. And they're like "we're not doing this, we're not doing what you're doing," and Donald Trump clearly gave support for their vision of protecting their own sovereignty and their own borders, and also, of course, fighting the common interests-- common enemies.

    NEWT GINGRICH: There is a huge gap between the values of the central Europeans, which includes not just Poland, but Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, a number of countries -- and the values of Germany and the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands and France. What Trump has done is come down decisively on the side of those who worry about national identity, worry about survival, have been very practical, and of course he set the stage for the meeting in Hamburg, and indicated clearly to Merkel he ain’t backing down. So, it'll be very interesting to see how that works.

    5. To 4chan’s “Politically Incorrect” message board community, Trump’s speech was the “absolute rejection of multiculturalism”

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

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

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The newest target for pro-Trump media is Heineken beer

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Outlets that have served as propaganda mouthpieces for President Donald Trump are attacking beer company Heineken for a new ad campaign that appears to include a call for common ground among people “without borders or barriers.”

    In April, Heineken released an ad as part of its “Open Your World” campaign, which showed, according to a spokesperson who spoke with NBC’s Today, that “finding common ground with each other does bring down the preconceived barriers we put up and make us more open." As part of that campaign, the company’s British beer bottles appear to have wording calling for “a world without borders or barriers” and “the belief that there’s more that unites us than divides us,” along with a link to the ad.

    In response, fake news purveyors and “alt-right”-affiliated outlets, including Infowars and The Daily Stormer, lashed out at Heineken, with some writing that the company “thinks they know exactly how to prevent jihadists from blowing people up and cutting their heads off,” arguing that the message is “insane” and “disgusting,” claiming the message was created by an “idiot,” and writing that a company selling beer that “sucks” is pushing “liberal” politics. They also demanded that the company “stop trying to be social justice warriors” and attacked the company for pushing “to erode national sovereignty and open all international borders.” Some of the outlets are additionally calling for a boycott of the company, as are some message boards on 4chan and Reddit that have previously pushed misinformation on Trump’s behalf.

    The attacks on Heineken come soon after pro-Trump media attacked singer Katy Perry for urging people to “unite” with “no barriers, no borders, … to just coexist” after the May 22 terror attack in Manchester, England. They also accused her of having a “globalist dream of a world government and a border-less society.”

  • Sweden is the gateway to the “alt-right” anti-immigrant agenda in Europe

    Fake news is their method for attracting followers to the cause

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Sweden is known as a bastion of progressive values and policies, but underneath the dominant ideology, there is a motivated, well-connected nativist movement that has existed for decades and is now re-emerging, armed with fake news.

    With a population of just under 10 million, Sweden is a small, historically ethnically homogenous country that in recent years has accepted the largest number of asylum seekers per capita of any European nation. Sweden’s white nationalists, once relegated to the fringe, have been re-energized by a global so-called populist movement and a relatively progressive immigration policy that is anathema to their agenda. And there are signs that they may be succeeding in their efforts. Xenophobic hate crimes are up, stricter immigration policies have been imposed, and Sweden Democrats, the far-right political party, with ties to neo-Nazism is, for the first time ever, polling as the second most popular party in the country. To top it off, there is evidence that the media discourse on immigration has taken a dark turn to portray migrants “as a problem,” and fake news is on the rise.

    Enter the Swedish “alt-right,” a movement that sees progressivism as having been imported into Swedish society as an experiment in cultural Marxism and views Sweden’s relatively small size and homogeneity as having contributed to a sort of "unitarian zeitgeist" of liberal thought.* The members of this movement see it as a fight to “diversify” the Swedish media landscape while promoting a decidedly racist agenda. Together, these attributes have created an environment ripe for the spread of “alt-right” ideas, and the most well-known white nationalist of the American "alt-right" has taken notice.

    Richard Spencer, president of the white nationalist “think tank” the National Policy Institute (NPI), after having been recently alienated from a movement he named, is looking for legitimacy in a country he has dubbed “the most alt-right.” According to BuzzFeed, Spencer recently began a partnership with two Swedish “alt-right” outlets, Arktos Media, a publishing house that prints white nationalist literature in English, and Red Ice, a Swedish white nationalist video and podcast platform that often features international guests. The partnership, the AltRight Corporation, which has been called an attempt at a “more ideological Breitbart,” also has its own website and, until May 23, also had its own podcast, AltRight Radio. Soundcloud has since banned the podcast for violating its hate speech policy. But this movement is not confined to the internet. For the past nine years, Sweden has hosted an “alt-right conference” which is attended by members and sympathizers from all over the world. One prominent American “alt-right” figure (whose name was not divulged) told AltRight.com’s Daniel Friberg that Sweden’s annual alt-right conference was the most “well-attended” he’d been to and, notably, the "most radical," too.*

    Migrant crime is a favorite topic of the “alt-right” in Sweden, in part because the outlets that promote this content know they’re speaking to an audience favorable to their ideological agenda, not facts. (Media Matters previously documented Breitbart's use of a racist meme to categorize stories about migrant crime in Sweden, most of which also had little basis in reality). Journalists know this is happening but remain ill-equipped to respond to it. A recent study found that eight out of 10 Swedes believe fake news is altering their “perception of basic facts.” Sweden has acknowledged the rise of “inaccurate information” and, in March, the country’s prime minister announced a plan to combat fake news ahead of Sweden’s 2018 general election. Yet, Sweden remains vulnerable to fake news and, as the education minister admits, there is “some naivety when it comes to the information society.” Often the flow of misinformation looks something like this: A Swedish or British tabloid reports on a study or crime with a sensational headline and few details or context; “alt-right” or far-right outlets cite the original source but add new details to further sensationalize the story; these outlets promote each other to amplify the story; and eventually the story makes its way to a more mainstream news outlet. Sometimes, the news that a story is false makes its way back to Swedish media, but by then, the damage is already done.

    Last year, American film producer Ami Horowitz made a deceptively edited film rife with false claims about migrant crime in Sweden. In February of this year, after having been promoted by U.K. tabloid the Daily Mail and conspiracy theorist website Infowars, he was invited for an interview with Fox’s Tucker Carlson, not once but twice, and one of the segments was later cited by President Trump as the impetus for his fact-free suggestion that something “was happening last night” in Sweden, which he couched amid discussion of terror-hit cities. The interview received so much attention that the Swedish police and embassy pushed back, one Swedish newspaper responded by fact-checking each of Horowitz’s assertions, and another criticized Trump’s complicity in the “Sweden-bashing by the hard-core American right.” But how equipped is Sweden to deal with xenophobic fake news that doesn’t reach the pedestal of the president of the United States, and, thus, does not grab international attention?

    In another, more recent example, Swedish tabloid Dagens Nyheter published a study titled, "Young Men Who Commit Shootings Often Have A Foreign Background," which found that 90 out of 100 shooting suspects had at least one foreign-born parent. Of course, these findings are concerning, but a closer look illustrates problems that are not unique to Sweden: Unemployment, lack of educational opportunities, and mental illness were all identified by experts as important contributing factors to gun violence. It is also worth noting that almost half of the individuals counted in this study were merely suspected, not convicted, of perpetrating these crimes. Of course, this context was missing from the misleadingly titled article that notorious Islamophobe Virginia Hale later wrote for Breitbart. Alex Jones’ Infowars also engaged with the story, citing the Swedish fake news purveyor and “alt-right” outlet Fria Tider (which has been called the "Breitbart of Sweden"*) in its report, with an even more misleading headline: “SWEDEN: MIGRANTS RESPONSIBLE FOR 90% OF SHOOTINGS.” Both articles used the opportunity to push debunked claims about crime in Sweden.

    Though they’re false, these claims are repeated so often that they begin to exist as facts. For example, the fact-checking website Snopes has debunked many stories on Sweden and even issued a three-part series debunking the most common misleading narratives on Swedish migrant crime. But the narratives persist. There are a few reasons for this. It’s now widely known that sensational headlines get more clicks, and the effect is especially heightened when they play on a person’s deep-seated emotions like anger and anxiety. Sweden has not become the “rape capital of Europe,” but real or imagined, Sweden’s historically liberal refugee admissions policy has created enough tension to make people vulnerable to fake news about the population. Another universal reason for the rise of fake news, as it relates to Sweden, is disaffection from mainstream outlets and increasing preference for alternative sources. A 2016 study in Sweden found half of media consumers get their news from sources other than Sweden’s traditional news sources and around 20 percent have “no confidence” in them.

    There are uniquely Swedish reasons for why the country is susceptible to fake news. These include the well-intentioned ways crime is defined and reported and the language barriers to understanding Swedish news. For instance, according to a late 2015 internal memo, Swedish police were instructed not to report externally the ethnic or national origin of suspected criminals in order not to appear racist. The decision, while admirable and also not unique to Sweden, has raised suspicion. Many far-right outlets perceived the move as an attempted cover-up, and the controversy became so big that the Swedish government responded to the contention. Another Swedish practice that has unintentionally created the illusion of increased crime is the way Sweden defines and categorizes crime and the culture around crime reporting. For example, Sweden defines sexual assault much more broadly than the U.S. and other European countries do, and records every single offense as a separate crime, even if they are committed by the same perpetrator. The country has also created a culture in which victims are encouraged to report crimes rather than stigmatized. Sweden’s open and progressive crime reporting practices, when viewed comparatively, allow fake news purveyors to speculate on a suspected criminal’s ethnic background with impunity, as well as manufacture an inflated perception of criminality.

    From the reader’s perspective, the fact that most “alt-right” outlets and fake news purveyors link to Swedish language news stories in order to validate their claims forces even the most critical reader to either know Swedish or rely on rough translations to discern the validity of the source. Knowing this, outlets can wrongly attribute or incorrectly paraphrase quotations from Swedish sources that advance their narrative without fear of retribution.

    The intersection of fake news and the “alt-right” is a particularly troubling one. It is ever-shifting, beholden neither to facts nor ideology and, in the realm of the internet, almost totally unaccountable. What we do know is that its adherents are white men who are targeting everyone else, that it’s not going away, and that we must remain vigilant. Sweden is the favorite target of the American “alt-right” as it expands to Europe, desperately looking for legitimacy, and armed with total lies. 

    *These quotations were taken from the now-deleted AltRight Radio podcast, "Eurocentric #2: Killing Captain Sweden."