Alt-Right

Tags ››› Alt-Right
  • Trolls Chuck Johnson and Mike Cernovich launching websites to harass journalists

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Daily Caller reported that “alt-right”-affliated internet trolls Chuck Johnson and Mike Cernovich will be launching websites to “go after” reporters.

    Cernovich, a noted “men’s rights” activist and a host at conspiracy outlet Infowars, has a history of pushing conspiracy theories including “Pizzagate” and the idea that an April chemical attack in Syria was a hoax. He has launched numerous harassment campaigns against media figures, including a New York Times reporter, and has been promoted by people affiliated with President Donald Trump, including Kellyanne Conway and Donald Trump Jr. Chuck Johnson, the editor of fringe outlet GotNews, has also harassed numerous journalists, and along with Cernovich has made up part of the far-right alt-media echo-chamber that has worked in tandem with fake news purveyors to spread conspiracy theories and spur harassment against reporters and other figures.

    The Daily Caller, in a May 19 article, reported that Johnson and Cernovich were “each launching websites to go after reporters.” It quoted Johnson saying, “The American press no longer behaves properly, and they need to be held to account.” Cernovich also told the outlet that his website would “perform investigative journalism on people who are making the news and breaking the news and find out if these are trustworthy people.” From the report:

    Internet provocateurs and journalists Chuck Johnson and Mike Cernovich are each launching websites to go after reporters, The Daily Caller has learned.

    Johnson, who currently runs GotNews.com, told TheDC Thursday, “The American press no longer behaves properly, and they need to be held to account.”

    “They have decided to make themselves the story, and so if anyone has information on top journalists we will make them the story,” added Johnson, an infamous internet troll with reported ties to the Trump administration.

    Johnson has been banned from Twitter for harassment and previously was a freelance contributor for The Daily Caller. He also helped launch Wesearchr, which crowd-funded for information that sometimes pertained to journalists. Some of the “bounties” on the site were for Megyn Kelly’s divorce files, or a sex tape of Gawker founder Nick Denton.

    He said the website — he won’t reveal its name — will be a fusion of Wesearchr and Got News and will be launched by July 4. Johnson added that Cernovich might be involved.

    Cernovich, who has been described as a conspiracy theorist for spreading stories about pedophilia rings and Hillary Clinton having Parkinson’s, told TheDC Thursday that he has a website in the works called “Journalism on Journalists.”

    “It would perform investigative journalism on people who are making the news and breaking the news and find out if these are trustworthy people,” Cernovich said.

    [...]

    Cernovich said journalists “have this immense amount of power and they write profiles on people and the minute you turn the camera on them they act like you are some harasser or stalker.”

    He said that there is a “double standard” and that journalists aren’t held accountable if they “ruin someone’s life with disinformation.”

  • If you appear as a guest on Tucker Carlson Tonight, there's a good chance you'll be a target of online harassment

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After appearing on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, several guests have reported that they were subject to waves of harassment, usually from “alt-right” and white supremacist trolls. Tucker Carlson has become cable news’s most favored hosts among neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and those in the “alt-right.” 

  • Did "alt-right" hoaxster and troll Jack Posobiec plant fake protest signs at a net neutrality protest?

    It wouldn't be the first time Posobiec infiltrated a protest.

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Noted "alt-right" troll and hoaxster Jack Posobiec took to Periscope on May 18 to highlight a group of supposed “protesters” at a net neutrality event in Washington, D.C. who were “holding signs calling for bans on Breitbart, Drudge, and Infowars.” Posobiec has previously been caught staging protests in attempt to characterize his political opponents as extreme.

    On May 18, Posobiec tweeted a video and link to a report about a net neutrality protest in Washington, D.C., specifically highlighting a group of masked protesters who recognized Posobiec and appeared to be “holding signs calling for bans on Breitbart, Drudge, and Infowars.” The claim was quickly picked up by right-wing outlets such as Infowars, Gateway Pundit, and Washington Free Beacon.

    Posobiec, known for pushing conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate, also has a history of arranging inflammatory chants and signage that are meant to paint progressives as extremists. In January, BuzzFeed’s Joseph Bernstein reported that a “Rape Melania” sign seen at an anti-Trump rally was “the culmination of a disinformation campaign by Posobiec and others intended to paint the anti-Trump rallies as violent and out of control,” and “according to a source, it is Posobiec himself holding the ‘Rape Melania’ sign in the photographs.” Bernstein added that Posobiec “claimed that he’d started an ‘assassinate Trump’ chant to goad protesters into copying him, with the intention of filming them.”

    UPDATE: In a conversation with Media Matters on May 19, Matt Wood, the policy director for Free Press, one of the nation's leading independent net neutrality advocacy organizations and a convener of the rally, described his interaction with the supposed protesters.

    As explained by Wood, the masked protesters who were holding signs advocating for the "banning" of right-wing sites immediately raised the alarm of rally goers who have been involved in the struggle for net neutrality. Not only were the protesters "wooden" and seemingly playing caricatures that served as "dog whistles for conservative media," as detailed by Wood, but the messages and chants they used -- especially their focus on banning conservative websites -- have nothing to do with the actual goals of net neutrality. Instead, as recounted by Wood, who both interacted with the supposed protesters and observed their interviews with The Daily Caller and Rebel Media, they offered nonsensical justifications for their signs calling for Infowars and similar right-wing sites to be banned. And they countered some who questioned their off-message signage with the following claim: "I oppose the fascists. If you don't agree, you're a fascist."

    When Wood attempted to question the protesters in order to determine who they were and to explain that their calls to ban conservative sites were not aligned with net neutrality, they mostly refused to identify themselves or their organization, although one did respond to Wood's question about "who sent" them by saying it was "a woman."

    When staffers from Media Matters who were present at the rally attempted to interview four of the other supposed protesters, they declined. Two of the protesters said they "were waiting for someone." At another point, Media Matters filmed a staffer for Rebel Media (wearing a Rebel shirt and carrying other Rebel paraphernalia) following the fake protesters and taking pictures. You can see that in the background of this first video, and in the second video we also filmed as one of the fake protesters was confronted:

    UPDATE #2: After publication, Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge, another of the rally's participants, contacted Media Matters and stated that he too approached the supposed protesters and they refused to identify themselves. When Feld asked if he could interview them, they said "we don't give interviews," and when he asked for their names the same protester said "we don't give names." Feld asked who the protesters were with, and the reply was "we don't talk to press." Below, watch video of Feld call out the "trolls" in a speech at the rally and point out that their bizarre calls for censorship of right-wing sites were not only antithetical to the goals of the net neutrality movement, but were also part of a pattern of suspicious behavior meant to discredit efforts to keep the internet open to all:

    HAROLD FELD: First, I got to point out, and I hope everybody will take a look and get some airtime to the guys with the "ban Drudge" and the "ban hate speech online." If trolls could cosplay, this would be -- God, they got it all, they've got the bandanas, they've got the angry looks, but guys, you are all confused. If you want to ban speech, you need the pro-[FCC Chairman Ajit] Pai rally. Because, when you get rid of Title II, then anyone can discriminate. God knows, I hates me all the racism on 4chan and all that stuff, but I think it's a damn good thing that nobody can cut it off, because I know everybody here, especially those who have worked in civil rights, who have worked for the betterment of people, understand that it would be like that to get big companies -- "responsible" companies -- to cut us off as hate speech or disruptive.

    But here's the funny thing: We've had, for a couple of weeks now, an ID-stealing spambot filing forged comments -- pro-Pai, forged comments -- to the FCC. If you look on your Twitter feeds, you can see Pai's staff are tweeting up a storm about our trolls over here. Where the hell is action on an actual illegal hack of the FCC? I'm telling you, what did Trump do when Putin came to hack our democracy? He said, "well, I certainly hope they found Hillary's emails," and when he's in trouble for hacking our democracy, Trump's like, "no one has been treated worse than me."

    So, I've got to say to Chairman Pai and his staff, who are real busy and deeply, deeply concerned that the trolls showed up at the wrong rally, because, of course, there is no pro-Pai rally, because nobody else likes that plan. But, word one about an actual federal crime? Word one about pro-Pai supporters hacking, according to Pai, the comments system so that people opposed to his giveaway of the internet to the companies instead of to us, letting us say what we want to say, that, he doesn't have any time to pursue? That's a crime, man. That's a hack.

  • “Alt-Right” Outlets And Fake News Purveyors Hype Fox Analyst's Claim That Obama Wiretapped The Supreme Court

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    “Alt-right” fringe outlets and fake news purveyors are hyping an unsubstantiated suggestion from Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano that the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia thought former President Barack Obama spied on the Supreme Court. Napolitano previously pushed the false claim that British intelligence spied on President Donald Trump on behalf of Obama.

  • Fake News Purveyors Promote “Alt-Right” Claims That Susan Rice And James Comey Imperiled By Supposed FBI Investigation

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Fake news purveyors are promoting dubious claims from “alt-right” figures Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec that former FBI Director James Comey dropped an FBI investigation into former national security advisor Susan Rice because it would have implicated him. They are also claiming that Rice is in legal jeopardy for unmasking aides of President Donald Trump who were caught on incidental FBI surveillance. There have been no mainstream media reports that Rice or Comey committed any wrongdoing, and both Cernovich and Posobiec have a history of pushing misinformation and conspiracy theories.

  • Why The “Alt-Right” Is Getting Scoops From The Trump White House

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The vicious “alt-right” provocateur Mike Cernovich spent the 2016 election cycle claiming that Hillary Clinton had Parkinson’s disease and that her associates were leading a child sex-trafficking ring from a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant. Now he has the ear of enough sources close to President Donald Trump that, at times, he has published legitimate scoops that have later been verified by more credible sources.

    “Big scoops by personalities who rose to prominence online by crossing the line into trolldom have short-circuited a mainstream-media bullshit detector that once spotted fake news by bylines alone,” warned BuzzFeed News’ Charlie Warzel, who has detailed several cases in which trolls linked to the racist and misogynistic “alt-right” have turned out to be unnervingly well-sourced.

    By providing people like Cernovich with this information, the administration sources have created a new state of uncertainty for journalists and news consumers who might otherwise have been able to universally reject stories from “alt-right” sources. And that creates a dismal state of affairs given the willingness of those writers to troll the public by pushing flagrantly false reports and conspiracy theories.

    The wave of more credible stories doesn’t reflect a new commitment to investigative journalism on the part of these figures so much as it reflects terribly on the sort of people in Trump’s orbit, who are feeding information to the dregs of the internet for personal or strategic reasons.

    For Warzel, the rising power of the “pro-Trump media” makes sense because “its people are in the White House,” feeding information to simpatico media figures.

    That is surely the explanation in some cases. According to Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist who frequently brags about his influence with the president and who recently gave Cernovich a regular hosting gig on his radio show, the troll’s sources are “not a secret, it’s [the president’s] sons, especially Donald Jr.”

    Trump Jr. repeatedly drew scrutiny during the 2016 election for his interactions with “alt-right” and white nationalist figures and memes. He follows Cernovich and several other “alt-right” figures on Twitter, and in April he declared that Cernovich deserved to win a Pulitzer Prize for one of his stories.

    Several other current and former members of the White House staff have similar ties to that movement.

    This seems like a plausible pathway for at least some of Cernovich’s stories. But White House staffers don’t need to be his buddy in order to use him -- they may see giving him information as a way to maintain Trump’s support with the “alt-right.”

    In short, there may be a White House strategy to feed the trolls.

    White House chief strategist Steve Bannon turned Breitbart.com into “the platform for the alt-right” during his tenure running the website, seeing the value in gaining fans within that movement. Throughout the election, the Trump campaign could count on people like Cernovich to push conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton. There is certainly value in keeping such people on the White House’s good side and being able to deploy their skill at manipulating the broader discourse.

    In this scenario, sending tips to such figures is of a piece with the White House Press Office’s decision to grant press access to a rotating cast of fringe media figures. It’s a way to reward friendly outlets while keeping the press off balance.

    Finally, there’s the possibility that the end goal of some of these stories is to feed the King Troll: President Trump himself.

    Politico reported today that because the president lacks a structure for receiving information and is willing to believe anything put in front of him, “aides sometimes slip him stories to press their advantage on policy; other times they do so to gain an edge in the seemingly endless Game of Thrones inside the West Wing.” And that can have major consequences: “A news story tucked into Trump’s hands at the right moment can torpedo an appointment or redirect the president’s entire agenda. Current and former Trump officials say Trump can react volcanically to negative press clips, especially those with damaging leaks, becoming engrossed in finding out where they originated.”

    “That is what happened in late February,” Politico continued, “when someone mischievously gave the president a printed copy of an article from GotNews.com, the website of Internet provocateur Charles C. Johnson, which accused deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh of being ‘the source behind a bunch of leaks’ in the White House.”

    Johnson’s piece about Walsh was also cited in Warzel’s article about pro-Trump media figures who had received unusually well-sourced scoops. Johnson openly repudiates many conventions of journalistic ethics and has published numerous stories that were later disproved; he’s also been banned from Twitter. As his notoriety grew, he went from published stories at prominent conservative outlets like The Daily Caller to writing for his own website.

    But President Trump is uninterested in any of this, and so when Johnson’s story passed across his desk it apparently became a “topic of heated conversation in the West Wing, setting off mini internal investigations into who had backstabbed Walsh,” Politico reported.

    In this scenario, the “alt-right” commentariat becomes a way for White House aides to generate news clips that they can give the president, because he does not discern between their work and that of a mainstream newspaper. Unlike more credible reporters, writers for these outlets have no real standards; if you give them something juicy, they will publish it.

    Either senior White House aides and people close to the president share the values of the “alt-right” racists and misogynists, or they’re willing to work with them to achieve their ends. Either way, the “alt-right” isn’t going away -- it continues to grow and metastasize and now has allies at the highest level of government.

  • The Donald Subreddit (Almost Certainly) Inspired A Trump Tweet

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    President Donald Trump’s attempt to justify firing FBI Director James Comey now includes a tweet by Trump directed at Rosie O’Donnell. The December 20, 2016, Rosie O’Donnell tweet had been posted on the Trump subreddit 20 minutes before Trump himself made the same point.

    As previously reported by Politico, Donald Trump’s team has a history of actively monitoring anonymous message boards, including “The_Donald subreddit” for talking points and strategies. These message boards have routinely been the origin of Trump conspiracy theories, including former President Obama influencing a judge’s decision to strike down Trump’s unconstitutional Muslim ban, and that Susan Rice had improperly called for “the unmasking” of Trump officials.

    The message board posters also noticed the connection, with one poster bragging that "WH Staffer read this post LOL":

    (H/T Brandon Wall)

  • Meet Jack Posobiec: The "Alt-Right" Troll With A Press Pass In White House

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT & BRENDAN KARET

    The Rebel Media’s Jack Posobiec is the latest member of a community of far-right and “alt-right” internet trolls to gain access to the White House press briefings under the guise of journalism. Posobiec has promoted emails and forged documents allegedly related to French President-elect Emmanuel Macron, the baseless “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, false pro-Trump smear campaigns, and has worked with other “alt-right” media figures and outlets. 

  • Gateway Pundit Threw A Gala For The "Alt-Right" And We Were There

    Move Over Nerd Prom; Troll Prom Is In Town.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & JARED HOLT

    On April 29, about a mile away from the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, a little over a hundred members of a group who dubiously brand themselves as purveyors of the “real news” gathered in a downtown Washington cigar lounge to revel in their success. And the success is not insignificant - leveraging social media audiences to manufacture controversies and troll, they are now providing for their followers an increasingly expanding alternative to what they see as a hopelessly biased press.

    At first glance, The Gateway Pundit's ‘80s-themed “Real News Correspondents Gala” -- billed as an alternative to the simultaneous "establishment media" dinner of the White House press corps -- was indistinguishable from a stereotypical Washington affair: The audience consisted of high-profile figures, apparent benefactors, and an insatiable crowd eager to network with anyone seemingly important. However, the standard, “What do you do?” networking question often preceded the more cultish reference to a new alternative right-wing: “How did you arrive at the movement?”

    This movement has run rampant on new-media and is rapidly expanding throughout the internet. Its members have taken to social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, Reddit, and YouTube to promote far-right nationalist politics, conspiracy-laden worldviews, and fact-flexible rants to an audience it has isolated and now dominates, shoddy journalistic practices aside, as its preferred news source. Their increasing reach over online subscribers has turned them into an asset for the White House, which has compensated members of this new media circuit -- often eager to undermine media reporting negatively on the administration -- with access to bring their paranoia straight into White House press briefings.

    The event hosted and celebrated a handful of the most prominent members of the so-called “new right fam” (a transparent attempt at rebranding after their "alt-right" identification grew toxic) including “dumbest man on the internet” Jim Hoft, self-described “guerilla journalist” and fraud-peddling performance artist James O’Keefe, Rebel Media host Gavin McInnes, the White House’s favorite rape-denying troll, Mike Cernovich, Gateway Pundit White House correspondent and troll Lucian Wintrich, and “alt-right” figure Cassandra Fairbanks, who writes for the Russian state-sponsored outlet Sputnik.

    The night took off with Hoft, who had donned a retro white headband and a pair of reflective sunglasses, welcoming guests to the shindig, giving shoutouts to a roster of speakers from the “alt-right” including McInnes and Wintrich, and presenting O’Keefe and Cernovich with awards for their “work.” The people Hoft introduced then took the floor to acknowledge that without that digital echo chamber, many in their movement would be virtually unknown. Cernovich reminisced about “Hillary’s health thing,” referring to rumors he helped push that former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was chronically ill, whose spread “only happened because of the amplification of social media.”

    But for a group that previously basked in its own isolation and claims to despise the Washington establishment media, the night was sharply punctuated by complaints that “the movement” -- shorthand many of its members now use in conversation to refer to these "alt-right" or “new right” online content creators and their acolytes -- and its message are not validated by mainstream reporting.

    “Not only do they not do the journalism,” O’Keefe told attendees as he accepted an award for his own so-called journalism, “but they’re too afraid. ... We really are the only ones left to actually do the job.” For the record, O’Keefe’s journalism has included creating misleading and doctored “undercover” videos as well as embarrassing himself while attempting sting operations targeting liberal organizations.

    In a self-aggrandizing speech, Wintrich claimed, “Many of the people in this room, we’re all the last bastions of free speech in America. We’ve had this old guard media who have been running with these stale narratives that are purely left-leaning for decades, and finally after ages we’re seeing this beautiful transition.”

    But the movement’s idea of journalism contains a clear premise: that their own right-wing bias is an advantage that allows their followers, who already think mainstream media cannot be trusted, to trust them. As described by The Washington Post when profiling Cernovich, “objectivity is less important than an impression of honesty." To gain the trust of their audiences, they actively attack and undermine mainstream media. As Wintrich admitted, he’ll “take the occasional jab at media, because” he “hate[s] them all," and “half of” his job as a White House correspondent is “fucking with people.” To members of this group, this approach validates their charade as legitimate news providers and lends authenticity to their work.

    Cernovich went so far as to suggest that many of the movement’s narratives are artificial and self-induced -- yet still journalism.

    “There’s this new form of media now which is part activism and part real journalism,” Cernovich said. “And the way I put it is if there’s nothing happening, make it happen, and a lot of people say, ‘Well, that’s not real journalism. Real journalism is observing things,’ and I don’t really believe that’s true, actually. If you can get on a microphone and say ‘Bill Clinton is a rapist’ -- if the crowd reacts, that’s news.”

    Despite the questionable journalistic premises the movement holds dear, like Cernovich’s method of provoking crowd reactions for “news,” or O’Keefe’s habit of presenting heavily edited videos as evidence or attempting to smear mainstream media, the night was full of recognition of attendees for their supposed journalistic merit. Along with presenting an award to O’Keefe, Hoft also honored Cernovich for being “one of the main individuals who helped [President] Donald Trump get across that finish line” and celebrated him as the person who “first started noticing” and “pushing” the idea that Clinton “looks a little sick.”

    This journalistic debauchery would be nothing more than bad theater if it hadn’t been legitimized by the White House by granting practitioners access to press briefings. Despite Gateway Pundit’s admission that its correspondent is “there to troll,” Wintrich was credentialed to attend White House press briefings. Cernovich was also approved for a press pass, and he used his access to cause a commotion in the briefing room by yelling at members of the press corps. He later uploaded a video of his outburst to his Periscope feed.

    The “Real News Correspondents Gala” also hosted many young people hoping to board the new-media train barreling out of the “new right” movement. One amateur media personality told us that he was there to network and make connections to expand his platform online. Media figures in attendance seemed receptive to the aspiring personalities and were eager to pose for pictures. As Cernovich gave his speech, he recounted the story a young woman in attendance told him about her college broadcast journalism professor telling her she would never make it in the industry.

    “Her dreams were killed in college, but you can live your dreams now,” Cernovich said. “Give her a hug. Tell her we love her.”

    And the movement may have good reason to entertain new media aspirants: Many prominent online personalities of the “alt-right” movement have talked publicly about expanding their media operations and hiring more people. Vanity Fair reported that “alt-right” poster boy Milo Yiannopoulos is planning to launch a new media operation “for libertarian and conservative comedians, writers, stand-up comics, intellectuals, you name it” and plans to hire 30 people. O’Keefe told the audience that his group Project Veritas would hire “dozens of full-time infiltrators who are going to work their way to the top” of progressive organizations.

    Cernovich also revealed that the movement’s leaders are considering hosting a TED talk-style conference over the summer and will continue to host happy hours and social events for their supporters.

    “Connection and community is what we have to focus more on because everybody on the internet feels isolated and alone, and then they come to an event and they go, ‘Wow, Mike. A lot of people come to your happy hours,’” Cernovich said. “Well, yeah. No shit, right? We’re popular. There’s a lot of us out there and you wouldn’t get that message if you only watched the news.”

    As its members enjoy their newfound popularity, the "new right" movement is also challenged with balancing the inflammatory rhetoric and “meme magic” that have been the foundation of its online success, against the backlash that results from deploying this rhetoric in the real world, which could threaten the long-lasting political capital and broader legitimacy they crave. That is what explains their attempts to rebrand themselves as “new right” and distance themselves from the most toxic figures of the “alt-right,” even despite their gaining notoriety and followers during the 2016 election by associating with and praising the “alt-right.”

    Online, these personalities behave like trolls, taking pleasure in triggering “social justice warriors” (the pejorative nickname given in online forums to those perceived as socially progressive) by, among other things, using inflammatory language, but claiming it’s in jest. As New York magazine’s Noreen Malone explains, the group uses irony as armor when their jokes get criticism: “If you take them seriously, they’ll claim you miss the joke.” Much of this ironic contrarianism permeates into their real life personas and makes them seem like walking memes. At the “gala,” as Mike Flynn Jr., son of Trump’s former national security advisor and one of the leading proponents of the pizzagate fake news story, generously positioned himself and his Golden Girls T-shirt into any and all pictures he was asked for, he couldn’t help but invite fellow partygoers to“trigger some snowflakes” by flashing the “OK” sign. Members of the “alt-right” have ironically appropriated the “OK” sign to represent their faction after a viral message board hoax pushed the idea that it had white nationalist connotations. The vocabulary of this “new right” group draws so much from the online forums its members frequent that it would be foreign to anyone who hasn’t spent time reading their digital output. Our female reporter was congratulated by a fellow partygoer for being “red-pilled” (someone who has been awakened to the real world) -- which he determined based simply on her being one of the few women in attendance (the male to female ratio was, by generous approximation, seven-to-three -- not counting the women on Flynn Jr.’s Golden Girls T-shirt).

    Again, all of this would seem just amusing anecdote were it not for the powerful connections that have legitimized their shoddy journalistic practices, employed in order to reach their growing audiences and leverage their support. President Donald Trump’s sons are allegedly serving as sources to Cernovich, and his media appearances have been publicized by Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president. And those connections suggest the possibility that some “new right” ideas could influence policy. But until it’s possible to assess how much of the movement’s digital output is meant as posturing to continue amassing followers that sustain their digital media enterprises, and how much represents actual positions with enough political support to make them executable, we are forced to keep taking them at their word, meant in jest or not.

    Images by Dayanita Ramesh

  • Fake News And The "Alt-Right" Are Pushing Forged Documents To Aid Marine Le Pen In France's Election

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Forged documents originating on 4chan alleging that French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron was evading taxes spread online thanks to an ecosystem that includes social media, “alt-right” outlets, and fake news purveyors. The campaign was seemingly aided by Russian-linked entities, and it subsequently reached Macron’s opponent, who aired the claim in a public debate.

    Macron is competing in a May 7 runoff against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. On May 3, hours before a scheduled debate between Macron and Le Pen, an anonymous user on 4chan posted documents purporting to show that Macron used a shell company to dodge taxes. Users on the forum responded that the documents should be sent to “independent journalists” and “the alternative media” like “Cernovic (sic), Breitbart, and so on,” and encouraged each other to “spam” the documents “on social media” such as Twitter to get “it trending.” They also said to “send it to Le Pen.” The documents soon spread on Twitter, with many of the Twitter accounts promoting them appearing to have connections to Russia, according to a Belgian researcher. The claim was promoted by “alt-right” media figures such as Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec.

    That these figures would attempt to smear Le Pen’s opponent is not surprising given that Le Pen is widely admired by much of the “alt-right” and closely tied with Russia.

    Along with Twitter, 4chan’s campaign was picked up by forums on 8chan and Reddit; “alt-right” fringe outlets The Gateway Pundit, Got News, Zero Hedge, and Daily Stormer; and fake news purveyor Before It’s News.

    The 4chan-based documents eventually reached Le Pen herself. During her debate with Macron, she said, “I hope that we will not find out that you have an offshore account in the Bahamas.” Le Pen later backed down on her claim, and Macron filed a legal complaint against her for the statement. Multiple outlets have reported that the documents were fake, with The Telegraph noting that they were “widely denounced as crude forgeries.” Additionally, following Le Pen's accusation, the French prosecutor's office has opened an investigation regarding “suspicions of fake news being spread to influence Sunday's presidential vote.”

    The case is yet another example of the way the misinformation ecosystem involving the “alt-right” and fake news purveyors amplifies fringe falsities and lies (and even Kremlin-connected conspiracy theories). The network has often succeeded in pushing those false claims into more traditional conservative and mainstream outlets and, thus, the public realm.

    Image by Dayanita Ramesh

  • Here’s What Happened When The Trump White House Gave An “Alt-Right” Troll Access To The Press Room

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Mike Cernovich is an internet troll, conspiracy theorist, and leading figure in the “alt-right’s” assemblage of modern-day white nationalists and misogynists who has drawn praise and support from President Donald Trump’s closest confidantes. Today, he used a White House press pass to berate reporters at the daily briefing for not sufficiently covering “the violence against Trump supporters.”

    Cernovich received a White House press pass last week, and he attended the briefing Friday and made a hand sign associated with white nationalists from the podium. Other “alt-right” media figures, including Rebel Media’s Lauren Southern and Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft and Lucian Wintrich, have also visited the press room during the Trump administration.

    Cernovich returned to the White House for today’s press briefing. After press secretary Sean Spicer concluded taking questions from reporters, Cernovich shouted out, “What about violence against Trump supporters at Berkeley?” Ignored by Spicer, Cernovich began yelling at members of the White House press corps, repeatedly demanding to know why they purportedly refused to cover the story. At one point a member of the press corps asked him if he was a reporter; he responded that he was.

    Once reporters stopped responding to his diatribe, Cernovich left the room. Here’s the video of the outburst, via his Periscope feed:

    The White House’s practice of admitting a provocateur to hassle members of the press corps is part of the administration's broader effort to undermine journalists by flooding press conferences and briefings with an array of pro-Trump sycophants and propagandists.

    As close White House ally Newt Gingrich suggested in November, the White House press office has the power to “rethink from the ground up the whole concept of the White House press corps, come up with a totally new grass-roots model, and not allow the traditional media to dominate and define White House press coverage.”

    Trump’s “alt-right” fans are more than willing to participate in this effort, in some cases openly acknowledging that they are seeking access to the press room so they can troll journalists.

  • After Enabling Trump, Right-Wing Media Campaign For Marine Le Pen

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    United States right-wing media figures have rallied behind “far-right populist” Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential election by endorsing her, positively comparing her to President Donald Trump, and attacking her opponent Emmanuel Macron with anti-Semitic smears and comparisons to former President Barack Obama.

  • "Trash," "Scum," And "Spy": How The “Alt-Right”/Fake News Ecosystem Targets And Smears People They Think Are Muslim

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    A misinformation ecosystem made up of “alt-right”-connected outlets and forums and websites that spread fake news is repeatedly smearing and attacking people they believe are Muslims or of Middle Eastern descent. Not only have these sites and forums suggested that such people are destroying Western countries and are inherently violent, but they have also targeted specific people, yielding threats and harassment, potential economic harm, and harm to careers.

    One of the biggest smears this loose network has pushed is a persistent questioning of the loyalty of Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent, with outlets often suggesting that they are treasonous or spies. “Alt-right” outlet Breitbart repeatedly smeared a State Department staffer named Sahar Nowrouzzadeh as someone working on behalf of an Iran lobbying group. Fake news purveyors used the misleading smear, which reportedly played a role in Nowrouzzadeh's unwanted job reassignment, to call her “an Iranian agent,” a “Muslim spy,” “treasonous scum,” “an operative for the Iranian government,” and part of a supposed “Muslim infiltration of our government.” The ecosystem also recently targeted Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota state legislator, after she voted against a bill regarding insurance payments and the family of terrorists, claiming that she was “voting in favor of terrorists,” that her vote was “a troubling sign of a dangerous loyalty," and that she was a “piece of trash” who “does not care about the safety of our citizens.” Another figure, Women’s March activist Linda Sarsour, was falsely attacked by these groups for “sending” a “signal to ISIS" and labeled a “terrorist sympathizer.” Sarsour was subsequently harassed on Twitter.

    In conjunction with personal attacks, those attacked by fake news purveyors and the “alt-right” are often accused of trying to promote or impose Sharia law. Many right-wing media figures and anti-Muslim bigots have evoked Sharia law, claiming that it is being pushed by Muslims in America to overtake the United States system of government. Fringe blog The Gateway Pundit accused Sarsour of being “pro-Sharia law with ties to Hamas,” and fake news purveyors claimed she “wants Sharia law in America.” In another instance, former National Security Council staffer Rumana Ahmed was targeted by this ecosystem after she wrote a critical piece about President Donald Trump in The Atlantic. “Alt-right” forums such as certain sections of Reddit and fake news purveyors also accused her of “believ[ing] in sharia law,” along with being a “spy” for someone who once served as an aide to former President Barack Obama.

    Fake news purveyors and "alt-right" figures have also gone after companies and figures who have been supportive of Muslim refugees, falsely linking them to disease and assault. Following an assault of a young girl in Twin Falls, ID, fringe outlets such as Breitbart, various web forums, and fake news purveyors targeted Greek yogurt company Chobani and its founder, Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant, falsely connecting them to the assault and to an increase of tuberculosis in the area. One fake news purveyor alleged that officials ignored the assault because of “a Muslim” who “makes Chobani yogurt in the Twin Cities and who has a hankering for bringing in hundreds of these barbarians as worker bees.” The company and its founder subsequently faced death threats.

    Unfortunately, these examples are part of a larger pattern within this ecosystem of dubious claims, conspiracy theories, lies and various harassment campaigns

  • It Wasn't Just Alex Jones -- Smears Against Chobani Were Also Driven By Fake News And The “Alt-Right”

    How Smears Against A Yogurt Company Illustrate The Connection Between Fake News And The “Alt-Right”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    A Greek yogurt company has filed a lawsuit against a prominent fringe conspiracy outlet influential among the "alt-right" and its founder for baselessly connecting the company and its owner to an assault on a young girl in Idaho and to the spread of tuberculosis in that area. While the lawsuit specifically targets the one outlet, the smears were also propagated by others in the increasingly close ecosystem of fake news and the “alt-right.”

    In June 2016, reports emerged claiming that Syrian refugees “gang-raped a child at knife-point” in a Twin Falls, Idaho, apartment, according to the Idaho Statesman. A country prosecutor corrected the reports, saying that although, as the newspaper put it, “an incident did occur,” the refugees were not Syrian, there was no knife, and there was no gang rape. The paper said that according to officials, two boys were “charged after authorities obtained video shot on a cellphone” of the assault. Ultimately, three boys -- a 7-year-old from Iraq and 10- and 14-year-old brothers from Eritrea -- pleaded guilty in early April to felony charges for assaulting a 5-year-old girl.

    On April 24, the yogurt company Chobani filed a lawsuit against fringe conspiracy outlet Infowars and its founder Alex Jones for defamation. The Idaho Statesman described the suit as saying that Jones used his outlet to repeatedly push “false information linking Chobani, owner Hamdi Ulukaya,” and his Twin Falls, ID, plant -- which employs a number of refugees -- to that assault. The New York Times reported that according to the prosecutor in that case, “the assault case had nothing to do with Chobani.” The lawsuit from Chobani stated that Infowars pushed videos and articles that falsely connected the company to the assault incident and to tuberculosis in the area. 

    Infowars has repeatedly launched attacks against the yogurt company. In June, the outlet republished a piece from “alt-right” outlet Breitbart connecting Chobani to the incident. In August and September, the website ramped up its attacks on Chobani, connecting the company to “a 500% increase in tuberculosis and two high profile refugee rape cases in the last two months, including the gang rape of a 5 year old girl.” (As The Daily Beast noted, the supposed connections are baseless.)

    The outlet has continued to hype a connection between the company and the assault as recently as this month. An April 11 YouTube video specifically cited in the lawsuit was titled "[Mainstream Media] Covers For Globalist's Refugee Import Program After Child Rape Case.” An Infowars Twitter account subsequently tweeted out the site’s video, saying, “Idaho Yogurt Maker Caught Importing Migrant Rapists.”

    In response to the lawsuit, Jones doubled down on his claims, suggesting that the “information” Infowars reported was “part of the public record,” and that billionaire George Soros, with his “Islamacist-owned and backed U.S. company,” was behind the lawsuit. Jones was not wrong that he was not alone in his attack on Chobani. The smear that Jones adopted and amplified had already been pushed by others in the fringe and by purveyors of fake news.

    Breitbart in late August had suggested Chobani was linked to the assault, writing that the assault “led to a look at the wider conditions that led to refugee resettlement in the state of Idaho, a situation connected to the drive for cheap labor by the local food processing industry that Chobani is a major part of.” The website also pushed the baseless insinuation that an increase of tuberculosis cases in the area was due to Chobani, writing that the number of tuberculosis cases in Twin Falls “jumped 500 percent between 2011 and 2012,” the year “Chobani opened the world’s largest yogurt factory.” Fringe outlet WorldNetDaily (WND) also attempted to link the assualt to Chobani, noting in April that the family of the assaulted girl “is still considering filing a civil suit against the families of the assailants, as well as refugee boys and possibly against the College of Southern Idaho, which places refugees from several Third World countries into the Twin Falls area. Many of them work at Chobani.”

    Fake news purveyors also pushed these claims, with Before It’s News suggesting the assault was “not getting the attention it deserves” because of “someone … who happens to be a Muslim, makes Chobani yogurt in the Twin Cities and who has a hankering for bringing in hundreds of these barbarians as worker bees.” The Angry Patriot wrote that Chobani's “headquarters in Twin Falls, Idaho has endured some problematic assimilation challenges because of Ulukaya’s globalist agenda,” noting the assault that took place. Other fake news purveyors also suggested a connection.

    Chobani has long been a target for “alt-right” media and outlets that push fake news. Fake news purveyor Freedom Daily republished a piece from Breitbart contributor Pam Geller in January 2016 that accused Ulukaya of “stealth jihad” because he encouraged more people to hire refugees. Fake news purveyor Before It’s News republished a January 2016 WND piece that originally attacked Ulukaya as “call[ing] on [the] biggest American companies to join [an] Islamic surge.”

    Anonymous “alt-right” forums, such as on 4chan and Reddit, were also complicit in pushing these claims. One such post stated, “Twin Falls Refugee Rape Special Report: Why Are The Refugees Moving In? - Breitbart CHOBANI YOGURT is owned by Turkish muslim.”

    This is not the first time Infowars has gotten into legal trouble for spreading conspiracy theories. Jones was forced to apologize for pushing the fake news conspiracy theory known as “Pizzagate,” which claimed that a Washington, D.C., restaurant named Comet Ping Pong was helping Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign traffic children, in order to avoid a lawsuit from that pizzeria.

    The Chobani case also highlights fringe and fake news purveyors’ ongoing campaign of anti-Muslim fearmongering. In the last few months, these outlets have targeted activist Linda Sarsour, smearing her as a terrorist who supports Sharia law, and former National Security Council staffer Rumana Ahmed, baselessly accusing her of being a spy.

    The smears on Chobani are emblematic of the misinformation ecosystem that features fake news propagators and “alt-right” outlets and forums. This network spreads lies and innuendo that harms people, spurs harassment, and contributes to potential economic losses. Just ask Chobani and its founder.

  • Huffington Post Explains How Aggrieved White Men Like Curt Schilling Find A Home At Breitbart

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a profile of former Red Sox pitcher turned Breitbart media personality Curt Schilling, The Huffington Post detailed how “angry white men” who confronted failure in their own lives turn to fringe, right-wing media that persuades them to blame “the political system writ large” for taking “their country” away from them. The profile also outlined how those media outlets encourage them to perceive “women, minority groups and immigrants” as the “undeserving beneficiaries of their troubles.”

    According to the piece, Curt Schilling’s descent into the fringe was marked by his embrace of outlets like Breitbart and Infowars. Though his transphobia, anti-Semitism, and conspiracy theories were ridiculed by traditional media, right-wing personalities defended him, and eventually, Breitbart rewarded his offensive commentary with a radio show.

    In an April 15 profile, The Huffington Post examined how Curt Schilling, who was once a self-identified independent who tended to campaign for “establishment” Republicans, sought validation in “unapologetically ‘politically incorrect’ magazines, radio hosts, and television shows” after his video game startup failed. The article noted that failure was a life event that left Schilling “point[ing] fingers” and blaming the Rhode Island government, which gave him a loan for the startup. Social scientists have called this phenomenon “aggrieved entitlement,” or “the belief that America is ‘their country’ and that it is being taken away from them.” In search of “validation for their worth,” the aggrieved turn to conspiracy theory and fringe media outlets that help them shift blame to others. Schilling, for example, “sought out and found answers in the angrier and more paranoid corners of political thought” and “began to shift further right.” From the article:

    After Obama was elected the nation’s first black president in 2008, social scientists and journalists noted a growing counter-phenomenon: “angry white men” who feel “they have been screwed, betrayed by the country they love, discarded like trash on the side of the information superhighway,” as sociologist Michael Kimmel wrote in his 2015 book.

    The defining characteristic of angry white men ― aside from being white and male ― is that they suffer from what Kimmel called “aggrieved entitlement”: the belief that America is “their country” and that it is being taken away from them. Although they’re angry at politicians, bureaucrats and the system writ large, the primary targets of their ire are women, minority groups and immigrants ― the people they perceive as the undeserving beneficiaries of their troubles. Seeking validation of their worth, they turned to “unapologetically ‘politically incorrect’ magazines, radio hosts, and television shows,” Kimmel wrote. And their rage only intensified when Obama was re-elected in 2012. That contest represented “the demise of the white American male voter as a dominant force in the political landscape,” Kimmel wrote. (They showed otherwise in 2016, when Trump won in part because of his strength with white men.)

    [...]

    Schilling regularly called local radio shows during his playing days to urge fans not to trust sports reporters. After [Schilling’s video game company] 38 [Studios] collapsed, he moved on to the idea that news reporters were also peddling “fake news.” Judging from the links he shared, he was reading right-wing sites further and further from the mainstream. And he was isolating himself: “I don’t seek out people I disagree with,” he said in a 2016 interview. “I don’t seek out the content they create. It’s a waste of my time.”

    Kapler, Schilling’s old sparring partner in the Boston clubhouse, noticed the shift in 2013, when Schilling posted a link to a story on InfoWars.com, the conspiracy-driven site run by Alex Jones.

    [...]

    Although Trump never brought the former pitcher on the campaign trail, Schilling became something of a faux surrogate, appearing occasionally on cable to defend the candidate’s positions ― a role he seemed to earn for no other reason than that some viewers might remember him as a ballplayer.

    In October, Schilling landed a daily morning show at Breitbart, which had grown into an online behemoth by stoking the fears of the same white voters that politicians had once used the pitcher to reach. Schilling had long believed that someone else ― Red Sox management, the media, Chafee, ESPN ― was standing in the way of his ultimate success. Breitbart was the place where that kind of belief is a founding principle.

    The site, which was practically a house organ for the Trump campaign, pushed the idea that the American system was broken, especially for white working men, and it blamed immigrants, Muslims, feminists and Obama. In the words of its former chief Steve Bannon, Breitbart was “a platform for the alt-right” ― the white nationalist and racist movements that were supporting Trump.