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Infowars

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  • Right-wing media’s meltdown about Beto O’Rourke's abortion comment is as opportunistic as it is obvious

    Conservatives are relying on anti-abortion fearmongering for the 2020 elections. Right-wing media aren’t being subtle about helping that effort.

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Right-wing media haven’t been subtle about manufacturing controversy over inaccurate characterizations of abortions undertaken later in pregnancy. But the messaging strategy fueling this latest meltdown -- over comments Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke made about abortion -- is as opportunistic as it is obvious. President Donald Trump has centered anti-abortion fearmongering in his 2020 election messaging, and as this latest outrage demonstrates, right-wing media will continue to be in lockstep.

    During a March 18 event, O’Rourke was asked by a staffer from the far-right conspiracy outlet Infowars (which is currently banned from YouTube and other platforms) whether he supports later abortion access. In particular, the staffer asked O’Rourke if he would “protect the lives of third-trimester babies because there’s really not a medical necessity for abortion,” echoing inaccurate right-wing talking points about the necessity of abortions later in pregnancy. O’Rourke responded that he supported abortion access broadly and that it “should be a decision that the woman makes,” adding that he trusted people to make their own decisions. Although innocuous, O’Rourke’s comments sparked an outcry from right-wing and anti-abortion media outlets, which pointed to the moment as the latest example of so-called Democratic extremism on abortion.

    National Review accused O’Rourke of refusing to address “the morality of third-trimester abortion” and argued that his answer was “reflective of the Democratic presidential field, which comprises lawmakers who maintain a blanket opposition to abortion restrictions regardless of gestational age.” Townhall argued that O’Rourke’s support for abortion “past the point of fetal viability” is unpopular and that he was “not the only one in his party defending abortion up until birth.” On social media, right-wing and anti-abortion figures similarly attacked O’Rourke and other Democrats as “despicable,” “ghoulish,” and extreme. Although many criticisms focused on casting Democrats as “the party of late-term abortion in 2020,” some anti-abortion groups like the Susan B. Anthony List took this rhetoric further, alleging that O’Rourke and other Democrats support “abortion up until birth.”

    Cries of Democratic “extremism” have been building in the right-wing echo chamber since earlier this year, when abortion rights measures in New York and Virginia sparked widespread conservative outrage. Fox News, and right-wing media more broadly, spent weeks whipping audiences into a frenzy over various inaccurate depictions of later abortion -- alleging that Democrats supporting these measures were endorsing “infanticide” or so-called abortions “up to birth.” In reality, neither of these characterizations accurately reflects abortion procedures or the specific circumstances faced by those patients needing an abortion later in pregnancy. Similarly, although right-wing media often claim that supporting abortion rights is harmful for Democrats electorally and that polling supports this allegation, clear and accurately phrased polling actually demonstrates the opposite. In particular, support for abortions later in pregnancy increases when people are given context about the medical or logistical circumstances necessitating later abortions.

    Nevertheless, Trump and the Republican Party have already adopted right-wing media talking points about abortion as a core part of their 2020 messaging strategy. Anti-abortion misinformation and allegations of Democratic extremism have transitioned from Fox News fodder, to Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address, to various speeches at the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference, and statements from White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

    Right-wing media and conservative politicians aren’t being subtle about using anti-abortion misinformation as a cudgel to stoke outrage -- because they don’t have to be. Especially when other media outlets have already demonstrated that they will uncritically parrot inaccurate framing and talking points borne of the right-wing outrage machine. Anti-abortion fearmongering isn’t going anywhere as coverage around the 2020 election ramps up. Already, conservative media are trying to spark a secondary round of coverage over O’Rourke’s comments. It’s only a matter of time before right-wing media gin up another candidate-based controversy to attack abortion access and those who support it, no matter what the consequences may be.

  • Instagram is the new home for Alex Jones and Infowars

    Since December, Alex Jones has used Instagram to post Infowars videos featuring hate speech, conspiracy theories, and extremist figures who are banned from the platform.

    Blog ››› ››› NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Melissa Joskow / MMFA

    Update (3/22/19): Six posts and one IGTV video featuring Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes have been removed from the @real_alexjones account since this article was published. They appear to have been removed by Instagram for violating their community guidelines.

    Update (3/20/19): Since the publication of this article, three videos containing anti-LGBTQ speech and three videos containing white nationalist content have been removed from the @real_alexjones account. They appear to have been removed by Alex Jones, not Instagram.

    Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been using Instagram to regularly post Infowars videos that often include hate speech, conspiracy theories, and appearances from other extremist figures banned by the platform. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, is the only major social media platform that still permits Jones’ use after he and several other Infowars-affiliated accounts were banned from Facebook, YouTube, Apple, and Spotify in August 2018. In the wake of those bans, Jones has made Instagram his new home on social media.

    Jones’ Instagram account, @real_alexjones, gained over 100,000 followers in the months following his Facebook ban. And since December, Jones has been posting short clips, longer IGTV episodes, and live broadcasts of the widely banned conspiracy theory outlet Infowars. Most of the descriptions attached to these Instagram posts also contain links to Infowars’ site.

    Jones’ Instagram following has grown significantly in the months since his ban from other tech platforms.

    Jones’ number of followers has continued to increase over the past few months. The first bump in his follower count came between Jones’ temporary suspension from Facebook, starting on July 27, and his permanent ban, issued on August 8. Jones’ Instagram handle had over 199,000 followers the week of July 29; the following week, he had over 209,000.

    Between August 2018 and February 2019, Jones’ follower count steadily increased until February 28, when Jones saw a bigger increase, of more than 10,000 followers. This bump came one day after Jones appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast The Joe Rogan Experience.

    As of March 19, Jones had about 314,000 followers -- a 57 percent increase in followers since Jones’ Facebook ban seven months ago.

    Since December, Jones has been regularly posting Infowars videos on Instagram -- some featuring conspiracy theories, hate speech, and extremist figures.

    Before the wave of tech platform bans, Jones’ Instagram account posted somewhat infrequently. The handle @real_alexjones had been active since 2015 and its content primarily consisted of memes and GIFs, often promoting conservatives, mocking liberals, announcing future guests on the show, and self-parodying Jones’ persona and show. Jones’ Instagram content essentially served as a sanitized profile for promoting some of the more comedic and mainstream-conservative elements of Infowars’ show, and leaving out his far-right conspiracy theories and explicitly bigoted coverage.

    But a couple months after Infowars was banned from Facebook and other tech platforms, Jones started publishing Infowars clips and livestreams and extreme, hateful content to Instagram. Since Jones began regularly posting content on December 13, his handle has earned over 5.7 million video views.

    Jones posted multiple videos containing derogatory language targeting transgender, nonbinary, and queer people.

    A March 6 post by Jones featured an Infowars clip of white nationalist and VDare writer Faith Goldy recapping events at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference. In the clip, Goldy uses an anti-trans slur, pushes a conspiracy about a “trans lobby” influencing CPAC, and derogatorily refers to trans people as “men” dressed in “ostentatious ball gowns.”

    FAITH GOLDY: We actually have a very apparent-to-the-naked-eye trans lobby now, full of transvestites, transgenders, call them what you want, that were on the ground at CPAC. We’re talking about discernible men dressed in things like ostentatious ball gowns, etc. And so, you know, the conservative -- the so-called conservative, read neoconservative -- movement that is just grasping at the heels of Donald Trump are OK with everyone. No matter where they come from, no matter what they think or how they live their lives. They pass no judgement unless you believe in America First.

    In another post from Jones on March 1, Infowars host Owen Shroyer referred to gay people as “mentally ill” and biologically “abnormal.”

    OWEN SHROYER: Whosever (sic) raising this girl is mentally ill. And that’s not because they’re gay. They’re mentally ill -- it’s a totally separate thing. They have become radicalized by their sexuality or whatever, and I guess they don’t feel normal in society. I mean, OK, yeah, biologically, you’re supposed to be with the opposite sex. So, sorry, biology says you’re abnormal. But society doesn’t. But see, they can’t accept that. They want their biology to be normal. That’s why they want to erase the science of biology. So what you have here is two radical, sexualized whatevers who are now using their daughter as a political pawn to make their abnormal behavior normal. To normalize that into society, folks. And I’m telling you, because of the politically correct culture, we are letting mentally ill people dictate our society now. 

    And on January 2, Jones posted a clip from Infowars show Prison Planet of Paul Joseph Watson calling Louis C.K.’s attacks against nonbinary people during a stand-up routine “the truth.”

    PAUL JOSEPH WATSON: Louis C.K. offended a bunch of whiny millennial imbeciles by attacking nonbinary people. “He punched down.” Oh wait, he didn’t attack anyone. He merely told the truth and was funny.

    Other posts by Jones pushed white nationalist anti-immigrant talking points.

    One post from March 8 featured anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant extremist Katie Hopkins describing immigrants “snaking their way” through Europe and pushing out “white Christians” and “Christian culture.”

    KATIE HOPKINS: It’s one of the things that’s not spoken about, because migration to us is about caravans of people at the border or migrants coming across the Med. You know, snaking their way through the countryside. But there’s a quiet migration underway, one that no one is talking about. And that is the exodus of Jews from places like Paris and Germany. And the movement of people like myself, Christian -- white Christians or Christian Brits, Christian culture really, looking for a new place to call home. So I’ve just spent a few months from France, from Israel, in Germany, and in the North of England, where people are looking for their Judeo-Christian heritage. They’re looking for a new place to start afresh.

    On December 14, Jones posted an Infowars clip claiming that “globalists” (a term with anti-Semitic connotations) in the U.N. are “flooding nations with millions of foreigners who have no intention to assimilate and who are not held accountable for their criminal actions.” This white supremacist talking point -- that migrant caravans are evidence of a Jewish plot to replace white people -- was embraced by the shooter who went into a synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, and killed 11 Jewish people last October.

    NARRATOR: The United Nations Global Compact for Migration was adopted on Monday by 164 governments at an international conference in Marrakech, Morocco. The historic event was described by U.N. chief António Guterres as the creation of a roadmap to “prevent suffering and chaos.” More double speak from the failing globalist agenda. Flooding nations with millions of foreigners who have no intention to assimilate and who are not held accountable for their criminal actions is perhaps the most potent recipe for suffering and chaos the world has ever known. 

    A post from January 10 pushed the white nationalist conspiracy theory that a white genocide is occurring in South Africa. The video featured an interview with Simon Roche, a member of a white nationalist South African group. The video description claimed there was an “Anti-White Liberal Indoctrination In South Africa” that has led to the “#persecution of #whitefarmers.”

    In a video posted January 7, kickboxer Emory Andrew Tate III went on an anti-immigrant tirade, saying he supports “openly divisionist” countries and criticizing the mayor of London for being Muslim.

    EMORY ANDREW TATE III: They’re upset with it because Russia is a country that understands -- they have no problem in being openly nationalist. If you go to Moscow, they will have apartment -- let's say for apartments, you can rent apartments. I’ve been there. And some of the apartments say, “We only rent to Russians. We only speak Russian, we only rent to Russians.” They’re openly divisionist. They’re openly like, “This is our country, it’s our rules. This is how we play by the rules. If you don’t like it, get out.”

    TATE: Absolutely, they won’t collapse. You cannot go to Russia and tell them how to be. This is the problem with, is -- I don’t have a problem with Muslims specifically --

    TATE: Absolutely, the mayor of London is a Muslim. When will the mayor of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia be a white Christian? Never. It will never happen.

    Jones’ account has also featured videos promoting extremists who have been banned from Instagram.

    Gavin McInnes, founder of violent gang the Proud Boys, has appeared in at least eight posts from Jones’ handle and one IGTV video since McInnes was banned from Instagram in October, along with other accounts affiliated with the Proud Boys. Some of these videos posted by Jones have promoted the Proud Boys. One post comedically assembled clips from an Infowars episode in which McInnes “initiated” Jones into the Proud Boys gang by punching him repeatedly while Jones listed cereal names.

    In another post, which has been deleted or removed, McInnes defended Proud Boys members who were arrested after attacking a group of protesters while yelling anti-queer slurs. McInnes claimed the Proud Boys were “defending themselves” -- a claim that was debunked by surveillance footage soon after McInnes’ appearance.

    GAVIN MCINNES: I appreciate your support. And it is time to fight. But you know, when your friends are facing years in prison for defending themselves, you get to the point where you think, “I fought the law and the law won.”

    Jones also posted an Infowars clip featuring British anti-Muslim bigot Tommy Robinson on March 7 -- one week after Robinson was banned from the platform for violating hate speech content policies. In this clip, Robinson claimed that far-left groups, media outlets, and “Muslim organizations” were all conspiring together to bring him down.

    Jones uses Instagram to rehash conspiracy theories and spread disinformation.

    On March 8, Jones shared video of a congressional hearing in which Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) expressed opposition to mandating flu vaccines. The post described the video as “Infections From Vaccines In 3 States While 30 States Push Mandatory Vaccines.” Jones posted the video one day after Facebook announced it would ramp up efforts to reduce the spread of vaccine misinformation.

    In a post from March 6, Jones mocked a video of Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt speaking at a panel on the rise of global anti-Semitism. While Greenblatt was explaining that conspiracy theories targeting George Soros are rooted in anti-Semitism, Jones interjected, calling Soros “that poor baby” and repeating the false smear that he was “a Nazi.”

    Jones is not the only Infowars-affiliated account on Instagram.

    In addition to @real_alexjones, other Instagram handles which appear to be affiliated with Infowars have been active on the platform. These include @redpilledtv, @thenewswars, and @warroomshow. An account purporting to be Infowars personality Paul Joseph Watson (@pauljosephwatson) regularly posts videos of his Infowars program Prison Planet. Watson has not been banned from any major platform despite his employment with Infowars, and he recently announced he is launching a new project to “generate the next generation of YouTubers.”

    Charts by Melissa Joskow.

  • Far-right figures push conspiracy theory blaming Obama for mass journalism layoffs

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Far-right figures on social media, message boards, and fringe websites have been pushing a conspiracy theory that claims former President Barack Obama is behind the recent mass layoffs at media outlets. These figures include conservative actor James Woods and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

    The conspiracy theory seems to have started on Gab, a social media platform favored by white nationalists, where a user falsely claimed that the Obama administration had been funding journalists to push its propaganda via the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act and that the layoffs were due to the funding drying up. In fact, Obama signed the measure as part of a defense authorization bill, and it specifically aimed to fight foreign propaganda. The new conspiracy theory builds off of previous far-right hysteria that the 2016 law would target “alternative media.”

    The recent media layoffs -- which have hit numerous news outlets including HuffPost, BuzzFeed, McClatchy, and Vice Media -- are due to multiple factors, including their dependence on Facebook for page clicks (which decreased after Facebook made changes to its news feed) and struggles with ad revenue. Far-right trolls on 4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board known as “/pol/” have helped coordinate a harassment campaign against those journalists based on a false claim that reporters in the past had flippantly urged working-class Americans to start new careers in tech. The 4chan campaign targeted journalists on social media with messages telling them to “learn to code” -- language that was repeated by some users pushing the new conspiracy theory.

    Here’s how the false claim spread from Gab through the right-wing fever swamps:

    QAnon believer Amber Merkel on Gab:

    QAnon believer Neon Revolt on Gab:

    Twitter account @outlawjw, which has also pushed the QAnon conspiracy theory, tweeted the false claim from Gab:

    Reddit forum “r/The_Donald”:

    4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board known as “/pol/”:

    8chan’s "/pol/":

    Far-right website DC Whispers:

    Actor James Woods:

    Neon Revolt touted the important role Gab played in amplifying the conspiracy theory:

    Fake news site NewsPunch (formerly known as YourNewsWire):

    Conspiracy theory outlet Infowars posted on its website a video featuring Alex Jones pushing the false claim, and the video then spread on Facebook and YouTube:

    The false claim continued to spread online, such as on conspiracy theory site Natural News:

  • Right-wing media’s extreme abortion rhetoric could mean more people get hurt

    Anti-abortion harassment and violence are real and rising threats

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Right-wing media’s self-created scandal around recent efforts by state Democratic lawmakers to protect abortion access is already producing anti-abortion threats. Given past incidents in which inaccurate and extremist rhetoric about abortion inspired anti-abortion violence and harassment, these right-wing outlets and figures are creating a dangerous environment for pro-choice advocates and fueling further discontent -- with potentially deadly consequences.

    On January 22, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the Reproductive Health Act, changing a pre-Roe v. Wade state law that criminalized abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy to now allow abortions “when the fetus is not viable” or when there is a risk to the health of the pregnant person. Legislators in Virginia also introduced (and have since tabled) a bill in January that would eliminate some restrictions on abortion care, including reducing the number of doctors required to consent for a patient’s third-trimester abortion from three to one -- removing a medically unnecessary barrier to access.

    Right-wing media responded to the measures with an avalanche of inaccurate coverage and extreme rhetoric, including saying that abortions later in pregnancy are “murders” and that Democrats were endorsing “infanticide.” According to a Media Matters analysis, Fox News alone used the word “infanticide” at least 35 times during discussion of these state measures between January 24 and noon on January 31. To be clear, the claim that these measures promote “infanticide” has no basis in reality. Abortions that take place later in pregnancy are extremely rare and often performed for medical necessity or due to access barriers created by anti-choice politicians. Right-wing media’s characterization of these abortion procedures as happening “at birth” -- or in some cases, allegedly after -- is simply wrong; according to medical professionals, such a scenario “does not occur.”

    Right-wing media’s continued use of aggressive and false language to describe these measures has already provoked harassment from abortion opponents. The sponsor of the Virginia bill, Del. Kathy Tran (D), told The Washington Post about threats she has already received for supporting the removal of abortion restrictions:

    Tran said she and her family have received death threats through telephone messages, email and social media, leading to extra police protection for her and her family, and difficult discussions with her elementary-school-aged children.

    “It’s a very tough conversation to have with your little ones about how they need to be safe and watch out for themselves, and that it’s okay to ask for help,” said Tran, who lives in West Springfield. “I love my kids dearly. They are my world, and their safety is my number-one priority.”

    Tran also had to postpone a town hall meeting on February 2 because of “security and safety concerns,” including those posed by a protest organized by the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List. In addition, ThinkProgress posted audio of a threat the Democratic Party of Virginia had received because of the bill, as well as audio of a racist tirade against Tran, telling her to “go back to Vietnam.” The party’s communications director told ThinkProgress that “the party has also had to take additional security precautions” as a result of these threats and attacks on its members. From ThinkProgress:

    On Friday, the Democratic Party of Virginia shared with ThinkProgress audio of a death threat it had received.

    In the recording, an unidentified caller incorrectly claims the party is proposing to legalize murder and then quotes a Stephen King novel to threaten the lives of the Virginia Democrats. “Redrum, redrum, soon we will come,” the caller says, a reference to The Shining and the word “murder” spelled backwards.

    Anti-abortion violence and harassment are real and ongoing threats in the United States. Eleven people have died as a result of anti-abortion violence since 1993. Numerous others have been injured, and still more have found themselves and even their families targeted with personalized harassment from abortion opponents. And the trend has intensified in recent years, showing little sign of abating. According to a report by the National Abortion Federation, rates of anti-abortion clinic protests in 2017 were already at the highest levels seen since the organization began tracking such incidents in 1977, and 2017 included “the first attempted bombing in many years.” In 2018, there were numerous incidents of violence or threats against clinics reported in New Jersey, Utah, Texas, Pennsylvania, California, Washington, Massachusetts, and elsewhere.

    Beyond right-wing media’s fixation on spreading inaccurate information about abortion, some outlets have also helped fan the flames of resentment against abortion providers, patients, and clinics. In 2009, an anti-abortion extremist murdered abortion provider Dr. George Tiller while he was attending church with his family. Before Tiller's assassination, former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly had openly bullied Tiller on his program numerous times. According to Rolling Stone, “O’Reilly had waged an unflagging war against Tiller that did just about everything short of urging his followers to murder him.” O’Reilly repeatedly called the doctor “Tiller the baby killer” and said there was a “special place in hell for this guy.” At one point, O’Reilly said, “And if I could get my hands on Tiller – well, you know. Can't be vigilantes. Can't do that. It's just a figure of speech. But despicable? Oh, my God. Oh, it doesn't get worse. Does it get worse? No." After Tiller’s assassination, O’Reilly claimed he only “reported accurately” on Tiller and wasn’t responsible for the provider’s murder.

    In 2015, an anti-abortion extremist who killed three and injured nine at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood reportedly offered the phrase “no more baby parts” as an explanation for his actions. His comment seemingly referred to an oft-repeated right-wing media talking point based on deceptive undercover videos from the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress. The New Republic reported on the admitted shooter’s penchant for right-wing media such as Fox News and Infowars, saying it shaped his paranoid and conspiratorial views about abortion and Planned Parenthood and may have influenced his actions.

    Right-wing media have also frequently used extreme language about abortion, attacking pro-choice advocates as “ghoulish, “sick,” and “aspiring baby killer[s]” and calling for violence by abortion opponents if “you believe [abortion] is murder.”

    During President Donald Trump’s administration, right-wing media rhetoric rarely remains in its echo chamber. In fact, Trump recently seized on the deluge of manufactured right-wing outrage around these state measures to bolster his inaccurate claim that Democrats want to “rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month" of pregnancy. This sort of inaccurate and extreme rhetoric will reportedly feature in the State of the Union address as well. Anti-abortion extremists have already found ample support and employment in the Trump administration -- a trend that is sure to continue as these groups inexplicably line up to support the administration’s policies. Whether spread on Fox News or in the president’s State of the Union address, inaccurate and sensationalized rhetoric will continue to dominate the conversation about abortion. And abortion providers, patients, clinics, and advocates could continue to suffer the consequences.

  • Tucker Carlson's descent into white supremacy: A timeline

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    Since the early days of his tenure as a Fox prime-time host, Tucker Carlson’s unabashed championing of white grievances earned him the accolades of neo-Nazis, who praised him as a “one man gas chamber” and complimented the way he “lampshad[ed] Jews on national television.” While Carlson claims to have nothing in common with neo-Nazis and white supremacists, he constantly echoes their talking points on his show and was very reluctant to condemn white supremacists following their deadly 2017 demonstration in Charlottesville, VA. In fact, Carlson’s racist roots can be traced back more than a decade.

    Here’s a timeline of the public devolution of Tucker Carlson’s thinly veiled racism into full-throated white supremacy (this list will be continually updated):

  • The 15 most ridiculous things media said about climate change in 2018

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    1. Fox host Lou Dobbs says that climate change is a UN plot “to take over the world”

    On the December 4 episode of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs claimed that the United Nations would “like to take over the world” and it see[s] the perfect opportunity in global warming.” Dobbs then said, “There is great, great debate over whether there is that quote-unquote 'warming'" -- a claim that is, of course, objectively false. Dobbs has peddled inane theories about climate change in the past, calling human-caused global warming a “largely Democratic belief” and suggesting that the sun may be more responsible for global warming than humans.

    2. CNN commentator Rick Santorum says that that climate scientists are “driven by the money”

    On the November 25 episode of CNN’s State of the Union, CNN commentator and former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum praised the efforts of the Trump administration to try to bury the release of the National Climate Assessment, claiming that the scientists who wrote it are “driven by the money.” Despite this claim being completely false and widely mocked on social media, Santorum repeated it on CNN just two days later. Santorum failed to note, however, that he himself has received copious amounts of money from the fossil-fuel industry throughout his career.

    3. Infowars host suggests John Kerry broke up a hurricane with an energy beam shot from Antarctica

    Perhaps the leader in promoting absurd conspiracy theories, Infowars waded into the topic of climate change in the wake of Hurricane Lane hitting Hawaii in August. On the August 23 episode of Infowars’ War Room, host Owen Shroyer proposed the idea that John Kerry shot an energy beam from Antarctica that split the hurricane in two. He said, “Why is John Kerry going down to Antarctica just a week after the election to discuss climate change and then you have energy beams coming out of Antarctica splitting hurricanes? Yeah, what is John Kerry doing down there? That’s awfully suspicious to me.” Kerry later poked fun at the comments on Twitter.

    4. Fox commentator Tammy Bruce calls climate change a “malleable issue” for “the left” as they can “blame everything on it”

    On the September 14 episode of Fox Business Network's Varney & Co., Fox News commentator Tammy Bruce said that climate change is “great” for “the left” because people on the left can “blame everything on it.” She continued, “And this is of course the goal, is it's not even about the nature of the weather itself but the blaming of humanity, of the nature of what we're doing, that we're the problem. And of course that gives you an excuse then to control what people do, to control business, and to control industry.”

    5. Former Daily Caller contributor Ian Miles Cheong says that climate change is a neo-Marxist hoax invented to dismantle capitalism

    On October 9, gamergate supporter and writer Ian Miles Cheong tweeted, “Climate change is a hoax invented by neo-Marxists within the scientific community to destabilize the world economy and dismantle what they call ‘systems of oppression’ and what the rest of us call capitalism.” Cheong followed up with, “To clarify, I’m talking about man-made climate change and the fear mongering surrounding it.” (As if we needed further clarification on this tin-foil-hat take.)

    6. During cold weather spell, Fox & Friends host urges Trump to take credit for solving global warming

    A brutal winter storm in early January left at least 22 people dead on the East Coast, and Fox & Friends used that storm to praise its favorite viewer, President Donald Trump. On the January 7 episode of Fox & Friends Weekend, co-host Pete Hegseth said, “I think President Trump should take credit for solving global warming. Look at how cold it is, that is just another accomplishment that we need to put on the list. Global warming, done. President Trump eradicated it.”

    7. Former Rep. Allen West says God has climate change “under control”

    Former Republican Rep. Allen West, a senior fellow at the right-wing Media Research Center, has an interesting theory about climate change. On October 4 West stated on CRTV, “God couldn't get the weather right, it's man-made climate change. I remember when people asked me about climate change, I said yeah, winter, spring, summer, and fall. They said no, man-made climate-- I said no, no -- so, you know, there's a creator that's got this under control. But what they're doing is they’re delegitimizing, they're undermining the sovereignty of the creator.”

    8. Conservative host Mark Levin likens climate change to Marxism

    On the February 13 episode of LevinTV Tonight on CRTV, Mark Levin laments that because climate change has been “pushed out as a scientific fact,” it's assumed that …“there’s something wrong with” those who dare question it. Levin also calls climate change a “no growth, anti-capitalism movement” that has been “exported to the United States like Marxism itself.” Levin has a history of making idiotic statements denying climate change.

    9. According to radio host Rush Limbaugh, the Hurricane Florence forecast was “all to heighten the belief in climate change”

    What’s a list of ridiculous climate change claims without right-wing media’s most prolific offender, Rush Limbaugh? On the September 11 episode of The Rush Limbaugh Show, as Hurricane Florence was headed for the Carolinas, he claimed, “The forecast and the destruction potential doom and gloom is all to heighten the belief in climate change.”

    10. Fox’s Sean Hannity says that “they do lie to us repeatedly about global warming”

    Sean Hannity, never one to shy away from denying climate change, did it again in 2018 when discussing a winter storm. On the March 6 episode of his radio program, The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity said, “They do lie to us repeatedly about global warming.” He continued: “They just call it global whatever -- climate change, because this way, it's generic. And if it's hot or too hot, they can say it's climate change. If it's cold, or too cold, they can say it's climate change. But it didn't work out when they said ‘global cooling’ or ‘global warming,’ so they had to fix it.”

    11. CNN commentator says there is a “climate change industrial complex”

    Stephen Moore, a CNN commentator and self-described “economist,” is part of CNN's recent climate-denier problem. On the November 26 edition of CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront, Moore tried to discredit the National Climate Assessment by saying, “We have created a climate change industrial complex in this country, with billions and billions and billions of dollars at stake. A lot of people are getting really, really, really rich off the climate change issue.” Moore repeated these claims the next day, again on Burnett’s show. Like Santorum, Moore has been the beneficiary of money from fossil fuel companies, which have funded some of the groups he's worked for.

    12. Commentator Mark Steyn says that that climate change is a form of class war

    On the November 29 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight, commentator Mark Steyn said that climate change “is actually a form of class war.” He continued: “In macro terms it’s a way of the developed world denying the developing world any chance to live the kind of lives that people in the developed world live.” He also stated, “It’s an elite thing. Nobody takes it seriously.” Although Steyn has been attacking the climate consensus for at least the last decade, he has no actual background in climate science.

    13. Breitbart’s James Delingpole claims that the “great global warming scare” was launched by “dirty tricks”

    In June 1988, NASA scientist James Hansen gave now-famous testimony to the Senate in which he described humans’ contributions to global warming. On the 30th anniversary of that landmark testimony, Breitbart writer and notorious climate denier James Delingpole penned an article lambasting it, claiming that Hansen used “dirty tricks” to help launch the “great global warming scare.” Delingpole wrote: “But – like the scare itself – the claims were dishonest, hysterical, misleading, unscientific, needlessly alarmist, and cynically stage-managed.” Some of the “dirty tricks” that Delingpole mentioned include the committee chairman scheduling the testimony on the hottest day in June and opening all of the windows in the room. Delingpole, of course, didn’t mention that the evidence of human-induced global warming existed long before Hansen’s testimony. He also predictably failed to note the incredible accuracy of Hansen’s global warming claims.

    14. Columnist Cal Thomas doesn’t think climate change is “settled science”

    Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas criticized the National Climate Assessment in an opinion piece that was published in a number of papers and websites, including the Chicago Tribune. Thomas claimed that climate change is not “settled science” and criticized “scare tactics by leftists who want even more government control over our lives.” To back up his claims, Thomas cited Climate Depot, a website dedicated to denying global warming, and quoted its founder, the industry-funded fraudster Marc Morano. He also cited Patrick Michaels, a climate denier who has received funding from various fossil fuel companies. Finally, Thomas misattributed a quote that called the report a “pile of crap,” saying it came from Princeton oceanographer John P. Dunne when in fact it came from John Dunn of the climate-denier group Heartland Institute. It speaks volumes that a number of newspapers chose to publish Thomas’ column despite its multiple inaccuracies (though some later corrected the quote attribution).

    15. Conservative author Ann Coulter cites white nationalism as a reason to pretend to “believe in global warming”

    On April 25, Coulter tweeted: “I'm fine with pretending to believe in global warming if we can save our language, culture & borders. #MacronCode.” Coulter, a virulent racist who has long supported Trump’s dehumanizing immigration policies, has made ridiculous claims about climate change before, and once stated that global warming deniers are considered equivalent to Holocaust deniers. Her April tweet, sent on the day that French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the U.S. Congress, points to a disturbing trend in which some white nationalists take climate change seriously only because the changing climate will lead to the northward migration of refugees from the Global South.

  • Where is the media outrage over the violence and harassment abortion providers face on a daily basis?

    Media fixated on a protest at Tucker Carlson's house should look at how often they cover (or don't cover) anti-abortion violence and harassment

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A memo to media and any would-be think piece writers: If you’re mad about protesters bothering Fox News host Tucker Carlson at home, then it’s worth asking whether you've expended the same energy over the harassment abortion providers face on a daily basis.

    According to CBS News, approximately “20 protesters gathered in front of Carlson's home” on November 7:

    Carlson's wife said she heard "loud banging and pounding on her front door," the police report says. When officers arrived, they found politically-charged signs left on cars in the driveway, a sign on the front door and the anarchy symbol spray painted on the driveway. [CBS News, 11/8/18]

    Carlson told The Washington Post that the gathering “wasn’t a protest. It was a threat.” Although he was not home at the time, Carlson claimed, “They weren’t protesting anything specific that I had said. They weren’t asking me to change anything. … They were threatening me and my family and telling me to leave my own neighborhood in the city that I grew up in.”

    There are many things that Carlson has said in his capacity as a mouthpiece for white nationalism, xenophobia, racism, and sexism that are more than worthy of objection. He also regularly uses his platform on Fox News to bully, mock, and enable harassment of his guests. And the details of the protest -- as described in ThinkProgress by someone who was actually there -- vastly contradict Carlson’s claims. Yet there is now a veritable catalogue of think pieces about the lack of “civility” shown by those who protested Carlson. If media want to have a real conversation about “civility” and harassment, then it should be impossible to omit this fact: Abortion providers, patients, and clinics face everything that Carlson claimed and more, but this kind of regular, persistent, and, in some cases, daily harassment doesn’t garner the same kind of media attention as incidents like the protest at Carlson’s home.

    Eleven people have died as a result of anti-abortion violence since 1993. Numerous others have been injured, and still more have found themselves and even their families targeted for personalized harassment from abortion opponents. This trend of violence and harassment against abortion providers, patients, and clinics has increased in recent years, and it shows little sign of abating. According to a report by the National Abortion Federation, rates of anti-abortion clinic protests in 2017 were already at the highest levels seen since the organization began tracking such incidents in 1977. In 2018, there have been numerous incidents of violence or threats against clinics reported in Illinois, New Jersey, Utah, Texas, Pennsylvania, California, Washington, Massachusetts, and more.

    In North Carolina, abortion provider Calla Hales has painstakingly documented the frequent anti-abortion protests and harassment directed at her clinics in the state -- including attacks on her personally. As but a few examples of the type of harassment Hales and her patients face, protesters have:

    Followed Hales, and taken photos and video of her car:

    Taken photos and videos of patients entering the clinic, and persisted in trying to “counsel” them even after being asked to stop:

    Deceptively dressed themselves as law enforcement to give patients the false perception that they can direct traffic, or stop their cars on the way into the clinic:

    Used amplification systems to not only harass patients, but also to target clinic staff, physicians, and their families by publicizing their names:

    If all of that wasn’t enough, hundreds of protesters regularly gather outside of Hales’ clinics -- blocking traffic, harassing patients, and generally making the process of accessing legal and necessary heath care more complicated than it should ever be:

    Hales has frequently noted that despite her efforts to document the continuing harassment faced by herself, her staff, and the clinic's patients, many people are still unaware of the sheer magnitude of the problem. In particular, Hales contrasted the disparate reactions to the protest at Carlson’s home and the lack of regular attention surrounding the ongoing and more severe harassment she and many other providers face:

    As reported by The Charlotte Observer, the protesters regularly harassing Hales’ clinic recently acquired a nearby property and are preparing to use it as a base of operations to intensify their harassment. Imagine the media outrage if a group of protesters did even a fraction of these incidents to a right-wing media figure. How many op-eds would be written calling for “civility” if a group of protesters purchased the property next to Carlson’s home and set up speakers to yell at him and his family on a daily basis?

    Unfortunately, Hales’ experience is not uncommon for abortion providers, patients, and clinics across the country. The anti-abortion group Operation Save America regularly circulates flyers with photos and home addresses of abortion providers, often with incendiary language. Just last week, radical anti-abortion group Army of God published a new manifesto from Eric Rudolph (who bombed an abortion clinic in 1997) calling for more violence against abortion providers. The organization’s website currently celebrates the release of Rachelle “Shelly” Shannon -- an anti-choice extremist who attempted to assassinate abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in 1993, and was also convicted for “six firebombings and two acid attacks at abortion clinics in California, Oregon and Nevada.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Peifer told NPR: “She has counseled people to commit similar acts — even more violent acts than she did. … And there's been nothing to indicate that she's changed her mind in that regard.”

    Right-wing media argue that these anti-abortion extremists are acting in isolation. Yet in many instances, these media personalities -- Carlson included -- have fostered or encouraged anti-abortion harassment. Before being ousted from Fox News after public reports that he sexually harassed multiple colleagues, Bill O’Reilly spent years not only spreading misinformation about abortion, but also openly bullying abortion providers like Tiller. Prior to Tiller’s assassination by anti-abortion extremist Scott Roeder, O’Reilly called the doctor “Tiller the baby killer,” and insisted that there was a “special place in hell” for him. After a deadly shooting attack at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015, O’Reilly defended his previous attacks on Tiller, claiming that his comments were accurate. After this attack, The New Republic reported on how the admitted shooter’s penchant for right-wing media such as Fox News and Infowars shaped his paranoid and conspiratorial views about abortion and Planned Parenthood. On this year’s anniversary of Tiller’s assassination, Infowars live streamed an anti-abortion protest in front of a Texas Planned Parenthood clinic. The conspiracy theory-pushing outlet then repeated the stunt in November -- just days after caterwauling about the “unhinged” protesters that “terrorized” Carlson’s home.

    Harassment, threats, and violence of any kind are unacceptable. Last weekend, thousands of protesters gathered outside Hales’ clinics. Although some media outlets have reported on the epidemic of harassment faced by providers like Hales, those who saved their outrage for the protest at Carlson's home have little excuse for not reporting on the harassment facing patients, providers, and clinics on a daily basis. 

  • NRATV host Dan Bongino used doctored Infowars video of Jim Acosta in White House press briefing

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    One day after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders shared a deceptively edited video of an exchange between CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta and President Donald Trump, NRATV host Dan Bongino highlighted that same misleading video to attack Acosta.

    Acosta’s White House press pass was revoked following a contentious exchange during a November 7 briefing, when a White House intern attempted to take the microphone from Acosta while he was asking the president a question. During the interaction, “Acosta’s hand appeared to briefly brush” the intern’s arm, but Sanders later accused the reporter of “placing his hands on a young woman.” To bolster her accusation, Sanders then shared a deceptively edited video that originated from Paul Joseph Watson, editor at large of conspiracy theory website Infowars.com. The Washington Post noted that the video “appeared to have been altered to make [Acosta’s] actions at a news conference look more aggressive toward a White House intern.” 

    Bongino used that same deceptively edited footage for his coverage of the event on the November 8 edition of NRATV’s We Stand, despite multiple reports debunking the edited footage:

    DAN BONGINO (HOST): Acosta is claiming right now that he didn’t put his hands on this woman. This is a White House intern who has to move the mic -- folks, I worked in the White House for a long time, this is how this works. They walk the mic around. Jim Acosta -- now I don’t wanna overdramatize this, Denise was right before the show -- he didn’t attack her, it’s not a karate chop, he wasn’t trying to -- I sincerely doubt he was trying to hurt the woman, I would not even venture to go that far. But can we all acknowledge this is grossly inappropriate behavior? This is the president of the United States, he answered your question, move on. You don't put your mitts on the woman. It’s disgusting, you know I was very upset about this on Twitter yesterday. Have some dignity, Jim. Apologize and move on. This is the president of the United States, this young lady didn’t ask for this. She works for a living too, you know. Give up the microphone. Pathetic.    

    While admitting that Acosta didn’t “karate chop” the intern and wasn’t “trying to hurt” her, Bongino played the edited clip during the segment while calling Acosta “pathetic” and alleging that the CNN journalist put his “mitts on the woman.”

    Bongino is no stranger to Infowars, having appeared on the network multiple times from 2013 until 2016 with host Alex Jones, who was the chief architect of the conspiracty theory that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax 

  • Seeking revenge for Alex Jones, far-right trolls unleash harassment on verified Twitter users

    A harassment campaign organized on far-right sites targeted journalists and activists with malicious abuse

    Blog ››› ››› TALIA LAVIN


    Sarah Wasko/Media Matters

    On Wednesday, Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey reiterated the importance of journalists’ presence on the platform when he tweeted, “We can’t be a useful service without the integrity journalists bring.” Some journalists, many of whom have faced relentless harassment on the platform, met Dorsey’s proclamation with jaded skepticism, and for good reason. Following President Donald Trump’s frequent attacks against the press, journalists have become a target for online harassment by the far-right favorites, egged on by prominent figures like Fox’s Sean Hannity, whom Dorsey gave a rare interview to this week. And when the consequences of the anti-press sentiment on the right have turned deadly, far-right message boards users have reacted in celebration.

    In fact, at the time Dorsey was underscoring the vital role of the press on Twitter, a coordinated harassment campaign -- seemingly originating from the anonymous message board 4chan and the white supremacist-friendly  Twitter alternative Gab.ai -- was targeting users, including dozens of journalists, who have been verified by Twitter.

    The campaign, organized under the hashtag #VerifiedHate, can be traced back to multiple internet spats that have unfolded in recent days. The first was a determined, bad-faith campaign to force The New York Times to fire newly hired editorial board member Sarah Jeong who had written a number of tweets appearing to denigrate white people. The manufactured outrage over Jeong was dominated by right-wing figures and championed by Fox’s Tucker Carlson, who insisted on taking her flippant tweets as deadly earnest “reverse racism.” However, the campaign culminated in frustration as the Times retained Jeong, despite issuing a somewhat equivocal statement. The second episode was Alex Jones getting banned from several tech platforms including Apple, YouTube, Facebook, Stitcher, and MailChimp, which was viewed by right-wing media as evidence of double standards and anti-conservative bias among tech companies.

    Faced with the combination of their failure to get a woman of color fired and their ire at tech companies, anonymous social-media users started a campaign to harass verified Twitter users who have in the past sent tweets containing jokes about white people.

    The campaign -- targeting particularly those of Jewish descent -- can be traced back to Gab, which harbors infamous white supremacist trolls like Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin. Four days ago, a Gab user posted a collage of verified Twitter users who the person claimed were showing their “white hatred”:

    The #VerifiedHate hashtag was also promoted by Gab founder and CEO Andrew Torba, a defender of white supremacist rhetoric who has appeared on Infowars to attack tech platforms:

    The idea spread to 4chan, where users called the push to harass journalists and activists “Twittercaust” or the “Night of the Blue Checkmarks,” saying it was an effort “to prove … once and for all that the Journalists, media personalities and celebrities are all a part of a massive anti white (sic) conspiracy!!!”

    The trolls also revealed it was a coordinated action, with some 4chan members claiming they were using multiple accounts to push the hashtag:
     

     

    4chan users posted examples of their coordinated Twitter harassment on the message board, demonstrating ways in which individual tweets could circumvent the platform’s hateful conduct policy that prohibits the usage of slurs:

    The trolls particularly singled out individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish descent who had referenced their own whiteness and Jewishness on Twitter:

    One locus of the #VerifiedHate campaign was BuzzFeed journalist Joe Bernstein, who received significant volumes of harassment, including one user who sent him an image of a gun:

    On Twitter, the account @meme_america began to promote lists of users  whom trolls could harass in the #VerifiedHate campaign and focused on specific journalists like VICE’s Justin Ling, who was subjected to vile comments:

    Multiple 4chan users expressed affinity for Alex Jones, and one claimed that, though Twitter hasn't banned Jones yet, the platform has removed other conservative voices and “probably will remove more”:

     


     

    #VerifiedHate is an example of an open campaign cooked up by right-wing trolls to harass and intimidate verified Twitter users, specifically journalists. If Dorsey really needs journalists to maintain the integrity of his platform, perhaps he should work to suppress campaigns that subject them to threats, intimidation, and harassment and make the social media platform safer to use for everyone.

  • QAnon conspiracy theorist uses appearance with Alex Jones to make accusations about Seth Green

    In a bizarre exchange, Isaac Kappy and Alex Jones sparred over whether “chicken” is slang for pedophilia

    Blog ››› ››› TALIA LAVIN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In a more-than-usually bizarre segment on Tuesday, Infowars’ Alex Jones hosted Isaac Kappy, a minor actor whose recent spate of Periscope and YouTube videos accusing prominent Hollywood figures of pedophilia have made waves in the conspiracy-minded community.

    Liberally utilizing the hashtag #QAnon, which is affiliated with a sprawling pro-Trump conspiracy theory, Kappy has spread baseless accusations that actors including Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and Seth Green are pedophiles. This slate of denunciations proved so popular that for a brief time this week, Kappy’s videos and other QAnon-affiliated broadcasts dominated the YouTube search results for the celebrities. During a segment on the July 31 edition of The Alex Jones Show, Jones set the stage for Kappy to spread his baseless recrimination of Hollywood figures, repeatedly asking leading questions about “Aleister Crowley” rituals and “Hollywood parties.”

    Jones -- who has devoted airtime to amplifying QAnon theories on multiple shows -- sparred with Kappy in a series of bizarre segments. Kappy claimed that actor Seth Green is sexually interested in children, based in part on an alleged dinner in which Green, the creator of the show Robot Chicken, told him, “We need to have a talk about chicken.”

    Kappy claimed “chicken” is “a pedophile code word for very young child”; Jones responded incredulously, repeatedly asking whether Green and other Hollywood figures had subjected Kappy to practical-joke “Sacha Baron Cohen”-style tactics used to dupe celebrities and politicians. Kappy insisted that he had seen evidence of a broad child-sex ring that pervaded Hollywood, but he was unable to provide substantiating evidence, despite naming Green and his wife directly.

    However, Jones, who is being sued in a defamation lawsuit brought by parents of two children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, asked Kappy to restrain himself and avoid “ getting into names.” At one point, Kappy insisted Jones was “gaslighting” him by asking him to substantiate his claims.

    The grim sparring was a strange sideshow in the business of broadcasting conspiracy theories to a huge audience, one that Kappy has just entered via unhinged Periscope streams. The notion that broadly liberal segments of society, such as Hollywood and the media, are engaged in baroque cover-ups of pedophilia is a cornerstone of the QAnon conspiracy theory -- which holds that President Donald Trump is working behind the scenes to kneecap members of the “deep state” and crack down on pedophilia rings connected to powerful politicians and liberal celebrities. The claim has flourished for months in online message boards, despite just recently coming to mainstream attention. The recklessness of Kappy’s claims is a powerful illustration of just how far some conspiracy theorists are willing to go in pursuit of infamy -- and a chilling portent of the lengths to which conspiracy theory adherents might be willing to go to stop the horrors they imagine.