Alt-right and pro-Trump trolls | Media Matters for America

Alt-right and pro-Trump trolls

Tags ››› Alt-right and pro-Trump trolls
  • Pro-Trump sycophants launch another smear of Christine Blasey Ford, trying to tie her to Fusion GPS

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ & ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fringe conservatives are trying to undermine California professor Christine Blasey Ford’s account that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her by pointing to work her brother has done for a firm with connections to the Russia investigation. Right-wing websites and social media personalities are suggesting they’ve uncovered evidence of a potential conspiracy by noting that Ralph Blasey worked at a law firm that has done legal work for Fusion GPS, the private research firm that conservatives have attacked for its role in the probe. But Blasey’s work for that firm ended in 2004 -- six years before Fusion GPS was even founded -- according to the LinkedIn.com profile the critics are citing.

    The right-wing smear machine is engaged in a feverish effort to discredit Ford by any means necessary. That endeavor has included targeting the unflattering student reviews of a different Christine Ford in order to smear Kavanaugh’s accuser as “dark, mad, scary and troubled,” and misreading court documents to suggest that she holds a grudge against Kavanaugh because his mother presided over the foreclosure of her parents’ home in 1996.

    Another attack turns on the year-long conservative campaign against Fusion GPS, which in 2016 retained the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who compiled a dossier of reports on then-candidate Donald Trump’s ties to Russia. Republicans have sought to discredit the dossier, which contains salacious claims that have not been debunked, in order to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

    Now the fringe right is suggesting that Ford is not credible because her brother was once a litigation partner for Baker Hostetler, a law firm that retained Fusion GPS in 2016 to produce separate research. But according to the very LinkedIn.com profile they cite, Ralph Blasey worked for the firm between 1989 and 2004. Fusion GPS was not even founded until 2010.

    Even if Ralph Blasey had still been working there in 2016, that wouldn't mean he would be connected to Fusion GPS -- Baker Hostetler is a massive firm employing nearly a thousand lawyers, including a former chief counsel to the Republican National Committee and a former national political director for Trump’s presidential campaign. And of course, none of this has any bearing on Christine Blasey Ford's story.

    At times, those promoting the story have noted that Blasey left the firm long before it retained Fusion GPS, but they nonetheless suggested that the connection shows evidence of “enemy action in progress.”

    Here are some of the outlets and media personalities trying to discredit Ford by linking her to Fusion GPS.

    YourNewsWire, which has been one of the most heavily trafficked fake news sites in the United States:

    True Pundit, a major fake news site run by a disgruntled former journalist:

    Lionel Lebron, a YouTube conspiracy theorist best known for pushing “the QAnon conspiracy theory, which claims that top Democrats are part of a global pedophile cult.” He met with Trump in the Oval Office last month:

    Jacob Wohl, who writes for Gateway Pundit, a website that consistently pushes hoaxes and conspiracy theories, and has also contributed to YourNewsWire:

    Ann Vandersteel, president of the pro-Trump podcast company YourVoice America:

    And the extreme anti-abortion group Operation Rescue:

    The story was also shared on Tea Party, a private Facebook group with nearly 95,000 members that regularly circulates conspiracy theories and was moderated by several Republican political candidates until Media Matters exposed their role in the group last month.

    Radio stations in Texas, Illinois, and Ohio also pushed the story.

  • 4chan trolls celebrated Eric Trump's anti-Semitic dog whistle that Bob Woodward wrote his book for "extra shekels"

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Users on 4chan’s “/pol/,” a far-right forum known for bigotry and anti-Semitism, lauded Eric Trump’s recent remarks that The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward was seeking “three extra shekels,” taking it as an anti-Semitic dog whistle and claiming it showed Trump visited the forum.

    During Eric Trump’s July 12 appearance on Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy commented on press attention around Woodward’s new book, Fear: Trump in the White House. Eric Trump responded, “You can write a sensational nonsense book -- CNN will definitely have you on there, because they love to trash the president -- it will mean you sell three extra books, you make three extra shekels. I mean, at the behest of the American people, at the behest of our country and a president that’s doing a phenomenal job by every quantifiable metric, I mean -- is that really where we are?”

    In response, some journalists noted that the word “shekels” was an anti-Semitic dig and that it has been used by neo-Nazis.

    On 4chan’s “/pol/” message board, users lauded Eric Trump’s remarks. They wrote that Trump “named the Jew,” which is which is an anti-Semitic call to action to single out Jewish people and point out they are Jewish, while claiming they control economics and politics domestically and around the globe (Woodward is also not Jewish). They also posted a caricature of a Jewish man crying and added, “[that feeling when] I didn't get the shekels” and wrote, “A FUCKING AMERICAN NAMED THE JEWS. HE FUCKING DID IN TV.” Users also claimed that the comment showed that “it was pretty god damn obvious that [Eric Trump] lurks around here” and that he “spends way to (sic) much time on /pol/ and slipped up.” They also said it was proof that the Trumps “lurk POL daily.”

    4chan has pushed pro-Trump narratives and conspiracy theories regularly in recent years, including referring to President Donald Trump as “God emperor Trump.” And there are signs that the Trump camp has reciprocated in the past. Then-candidate Trump tweeted a racist image that had been “floating around” on 4chan. The Trump campaign’s attacks on Chicago protestors also directly echoed a 4chan thread. Trump also tweeted a meme showing a Star of David over Hillary Clinton and dollar bills that first spread on 8chan, a more extreme version of 4chan. At one point, Donald Trump Jr. also followed 4chan-linked account @polNewsForever on Twitter, which has since been suspended.

  • Trump ally Eric Bolling goes on The Alex Jones Show

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Eric Bolling joined conspiracy theorist Alex Jones as a guest on the September 12 edition of his Infowars show. Bolling is a former Fox News host who was fired for reportedly sending an “unsolicited photo of male genitalia” to co-workers.

    Despite his alleged sexual misconduct and his history of bigotry and conspiracy theorizing, Bolling was given a show on Fox host Mark Levin’s CRTV, home of like-minded bigot and misogynist Gavin McInnes. Bolling, who is close to President Donald Trump, has made promotional appearances on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and other mainstream news shows.

    Infowars was recently removed from several digital platforms including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter for violating community guidelines. On the same episode that featured Bolling, Jones also hosted Roosh Valizadeh. Valizadeh, known online as Roosh, is a misogynist who wrote nine books that have been banned from Amazon and gained fame online as a “pickup artist” by pushing suggestions including that women should fund sex workers’ services for frustrated “incels” (involuntary celibates) to prevent them from killing people.

    Bolling’s appearance on Infowars was devoted to debating Jones about the circumstances surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks:

    Bolling has a close relationship with Trump, something he has often reminded audiences of, boasting about the longevity of their relationship, publicizing the instances in which Trump has called his cell phone, and using the connection to promote his business ventures (his CRTV show and his book, which Trump tweeted about). He has periodically visited the White House, both in an official capacity as an advisor to Trump on the administration’s anti-opioid initiative and in a social capacity during French President Emmanuel Macron’s official visit. And he has also leveraged his “high level” access for scoops and on-site appearances for his CRTV show.

    Bolling currently uses the limited reach of his program to shill for Trump and provide a platform to the president’s hype people, but for years at Fox, he promoted extremist conspiracy theories including the claim that former President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States.

    More recently, Bolling endorsed far-right Arizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward, who lost her race. Ward has been an administrator of a racist Facebook group that promoted conspiracy theories, and she associated with “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist and date rape denialist Mike Cernovich during her campaign.

  • White supremacists are thrilled with Tucker Carlson’s war on diversity

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & MADELINE PELTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    During the September 7 edition of his Fox show, Tucker Carlson questioned whether diversity is a strength, suggesting that it weakens institutions “such as marriage or military units.”

    After widespread criticism of Carlson's racism, Carlson attempted a defense first via Twitter before then doubling down on his attacks on diversity during a September 10 segment, claiming the slogan “E Pluribus Unum” encompasses the idea that “differences mean less.”

    Sleeping Giants, “a campaign to make bigotry and sexism less profitable,” called for advertisers to “reconsider” their support for Carlson’s show in direct response to his war against diversity.

    Since Sleeping Giants released its open letter to advertisers, white supremacists have been running defense for Carlson’s argument. (Carlson claims to have nothing in common with such people despite repeating their talking points during prime time on his Fox News show.)

    Lana Lokteff, who has railed against interracial relationships and has hosted white supremacists on her explicitly racist YouTube channel, Red Ice TV, defended Carlson on Twitter:

    @Alba_Rising, a Twitter account that periodically posts extremist content, accused those criticizing Carlson of wanting “to destroy whites” and reacted to the Sleeping Giants letter by promoting its own letter from a nonexistent organization, encouraging advertisers of Carlson’s show to stand “strong against the threats” that it characterized as “antiwhite.”

    Neo-Nazi outlet The Daily Stormer slammed Carlson’s critics, adding that “racist” means a “white guy who thinks he has a right to exist,” and that critics should explain “why we are flooding our country with all of these third world hordes.” The article, penned by neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin, ended with warm praise for “this gigantic man” who “showed up and put a wrench in the gears of the white genocide machine” above a photo of President Donald Trump.

    Faith Goldy -- formerly a host for The Rebel Media who was fired for appearing in a neo-Nazi podcast after attending the 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, VA, and who has repeatedly pushed white supremacist slogans online -- defended Carlson’s racism as an opportunity to plug her mayoral ambitions.

    American Renaissance, white nationalist Jared Taylor’s racist think tank, republished a post from Mediaite to promote Carlson’s first segment attacking diversity.

    The Twitter account of white nationalist website VDare retweeted far-right white nationalist sympathizer Ann Coulter defending Carlson.

    The Twitter account associated with Jazzhands McFeels, co-host of the white supremacist podcast Fash the Nation, retweeted far-right YouTuber and serial misogynist Stefan Molyneux’s defense of Carlson.

    “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, a troll with past links to the “alt-right” who, as reported by Right Wing Watch, worked with “alt-right” figure Vox Day to publish his latest book, bemoaned the backlash against Carlson.

    White nationalist YouTuber Nick Fuentes, host of America First with Nicholas J. Fuentes, devoted his September 10 livestream to supporting Carlson, calling diversity “no good,” claiming Carlson was just asking questions, and accusing his critics of censorship. Fuentes complained, “Why are you not allowed to talk about the browning of America? Why are you not allowed to talk about white identity or white pride?” and asserted that the “problem with multiracial democracy” is that “you can never bring up the flaws with certain groups of people.”

  • Video: Fox News' Tucker Carlson echoes white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR

    Tucker Carlson's 8 p.m. show on Fox News is the third most popular cable news show in the country, and he's quickly made use of his rising popularity to turn white nationalist narratives into prime-time stories. Carlson's brand has drawn a following of notable white supremacists, anti-Semites, and misogynists, making him a media figurehead among the “alt-right.”

    His show has also grabbed the attention of the president. In August, President Donald Trump responded to a fearmongering Carlson segment on “white oppression” in South Africa, stating that he had ordered Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to investigate the issue.

    Here is Carlson using language that echoes notable far-right figures:

    The figures in this video:

    Lana Lokteff: Lokteff runs the white supremacist internet media company Red Ice TV with her husband, Henrik Palmgren. Red Ice TV has hosted extremist Richard Spencer and featured Holocaust denier Kevin MacDonald discussing the “JQ” (Jewish Question). Lokteff and Palmgren took part in the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA. The Daily Beast recently reported that “Red Ice regularly promotes hate against immigrants and Jews, riling up its listeners with claims that white people are ... facing extinction at hands of minority groups.”

    Jared Taylor: Taylor is the head of the white nationalist American Renaissance group. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Taylor “believes black people are genetically predisposed to lower IQs” than white people and that Black people “are sexually promiscuous because of hyperactive sex drives.” Taylor has appeared on talk shows to attack the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

    Richard Spencer: Spencer coined the term “alt-right” and has described the movement as “an ideology around identity, European identity.” The Anti-Defamation League described Spencer as “a symbol of a new generation of intellectual white supremacists” who “runs a variety of ventures that promote racist ideology.” Spencer was one of the leading forces behind the violent white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, VA, in 2017.

    Christopher Cantwell: Cantwell is known as the “Crying Nazi” because of his appearance in a Vice documentary about the Charlottesville rally. The self-described white nationalist used pepper spray on counterprotestors during the event and has since been barred from entering Virginia for five years.

    David Duke: Duke is a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard. The Anti-Defamation League describes Duke as “perhaps America's most well-known racist and anti-Semite.” It says he “promotes anti-Semitic and white supremacist views as the leader of the white supremacist European American Unity and Rights Organization, as a writer of anti-Semitic tracts, and, in recent years, as an international figure who has promoted his anti-Jewish ideology in Europe and the Middle East, devoting particular attention to Russia and the Ukraine.”

    Brian Culpepper: Culpepper is a longtime member of the neo-Nazi group National Socialist Movement, acting as the group's public relations officer for a number of years. He was one of the speakers at a 2017 “White Lives Matter” rally in Tennessee.

    Mike Enoch: Enoch’s real name is Mike Peinovich. He is the founder of the racist and anti-Semitic website The Right Stuff. He hosts an anti-Semitic podcast called The Daily Shoah. He has said that the core principle of the “alt-right” is “ethno-nationalism, meaning that nations should be as ethnically and racially homogeneous as possible.” He is pictured here giving a Nazi salute.

  • The Daily Caller has published white supremacists, anti-Semites, and bigots. Here are the ones we know about.

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A former deputy editor for The Daily Caller severed ties with the conservative news site in light of the revelation that he had also written for a white supremacist website under a pseudonym, The Atlantic’s Rosie Gray reported Wednesday. Scott Greer, who stepped down from his editorial role earlier this year to write a book, said he would no longer contribute to the Caller after Gray presented him with evidence he had been “writing as ‘Michael McGregor’ for Radix, the online publication founded by the ‘alt-right’ leader Richard Spencer, who wants to turn America into a white ethno-state.”

    The difference between Greer’s writing under his own name and at Radix appears to be one of degree, not of kind. At the Caller, Greer had defended the Confederate battle flag and referenced other white nationalist tropes, the Southern Policy Law Center reported last year in a piece documenting Greer’s ties to white nationalists. And his book No Campus for White Men: The Transformation of Higher Education into Hateful Indoctrination was favorably reviewed by white nationalist websites. As “Michael McGregor” at Radix, Gray reported, Greer “expressed racist antiblack views and anti-Semitism” and “disparaged other groups including feminists, immigrants, Christian Zionists, and the pro-life movement.”

    The Caller’s leadership is reportedly shocked at the news that the publication employed someone with ties to white nationalists. Just last month, Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey Ingersoll had defended Greer from such allegations. But in light of The Atlantic’s reporting, the website’s co-founder and publisher Neil Patel said in a statement to Gray: “We won’t publish him, anyone in these circles, or anyone who thinks like them. People who associate with these losers have no business writing for our company.”

    But as Gray notes, the Greer story shows that “members of an underground white-nationalist scene—emboldened by the rise of Donald Trump during the 2016 election—were able to operate relatively undetected in conservative institutions.” And the Caller has been ground zero for that phenomenon, publishing at least half a dozen writers with such ties over the last few years, in some cases cutting ties with the writer under scrutiny, in others ignoring the controversy. Notably, the Caller was co-founded by Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host whose show is beloved by neo-Nazis and white nationalists because he promotes their talking points against racial diversity and immigration and in favor of white anxiety.

    Below are the writers with white nationalist sympathies and ties that we know about. Some were hiding in plain sight, publishing bigoted commentary at the Caller itself. But Greer’s pseudonymous work for a white-supremacist website suggests there may be others who have yet to arise.

    Peter Brimelow 

    Brimelow wrote four op-eds for the Caller in 2017. He is a “zealous promoter of white-identity politics” whose anti-immigrant website VDare.com is “popular with the alt-right” and, by Brimelow’s own admission, publishes white nationalist writers, according to The Washington Post. Brimelow was a guest at the home of Larry Kudlow, President Donald Trump’s chief economic advisor, in August. His first piece for the Caller, in March 2017, defended Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) racist remark that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

    Jason Kessler

    The Caller contracted with Kessler in spring of 2017 “to contribute reportage,” and he produced three pieces for the site. The Caller suspended its relationship with him in May 2017 after ProPublica reported that Kessler “is supportive of white supremacist groups” and had “praised fascist and racist organizations.” Kessler subsequently organized the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, which featured white supremacists and neo-Nazis. The site removed Kessler’s author page and all his pieces shortly after Media Matters reached out for comment about his relationship with the site.

    Ian Smith 

    Smith wrote dozens of op-ed pieces for the Caller between 2014 and 2017, many of which call for harsher restrictions on immigration. Following Trump’s election, he joined the Department of Homeland Security, where he attended White House meetings on immigration policy, before resigning last month “after he was confronted about his ties to white nationalist groups.” Smith had also written for National Review and The Hill “during the period he was in communication with white-supremacist groups,” the Post reported.

    Milo Yiannopoulos 

    In November 2017, the Caller published what it described as the “first installment in [a] new weekly column” from Yiannapoulos, a notorious troll who worked with the “alt-right” to smuggle white nationalist ideas into Breitbart.com articles. Following an outcry, Yiannopoulos and the Daily Caller’s opinion editor, Robert Mariani, were fired.

    Moses Apostaticus

    In August 2016, the Caller published a piece by the pseudonymous writer Moses Apostaticus titled “The Alt-Right: Young White Men Sick of Being Hated,” in which he criticized the idea that “white men being as proud of their race and identity as black men or white women is profoundly disturbing.” He contributed more than 20 op-eds to the website over the next eight months, under headlines like “Go Home, Barry Soetoro” and “Donald Trump Is America’s Julius Caesar.” In May, Vox.com’s Jane Coaston pointed out Apostaticus’ history of anti-Semitic commentary.

    Ilana Mercer 

    The Caller published roughly 30 pieces from Mercer between December 2016 and November 2017. Her first piece, “The Curious Case of America’s Waning Whites,” argued that white birth rates are declining due in part to “systemic racial demonization” of poor whites. And her last, “Why Hatred of Whites is Here To Stay,” pushed the myth that white South Africans are experiencing genocide. The SPLC previously reported on Mercer’s writing for the Caller.

    Ian Miles Cheong

    A former Daily Caller contributor who last wrote for the site in May, Cheong “appeared on an alt-right podcast two months ago alongside hosts from the white supremacist podcast network The Right Stuff during which he told the hosts that he supported both nationalism and socialism,” according to Right Wing Watch.

  • Right-wing media exploit the death of an NFL player-turned-soldier to rebuke Colin Kaepernick

    Pat Tillman, however, was a critic of the Iraq War and his family has asked that his death not be politicized

    Blog ››› ››› TALIA LAVIN


    Melissa Joskow/Media Matters

    When Nike announced Sunday that Colin Kaepernick -- the former San Francisco 49ers player who initiated a peaceful protest for racial justice and against police brutality during the national anthem and ignited a firestorm of controversy -- was the new face of its “Just Do It” ad campaign, conservatives initiated a vicious backlash against the company. Social media lit up with videos of disgruntled customers burning their sneakers and cutting the company’s iconic swoosh logo out of their shorts and socks.

    But another motif quickly began to emerge out of the backlash against Nike.

    The company’s ad features a close-up shot of Kaepernick in black and white, with the slogan “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” (Kaepernick’s protest, which spread to other players in the NFL, is widely believed to have led to his exclusion from NFL rosters after the 2016 season; he is suing over alleged collusion between team owners to prevent him from being signed.) Overnight, conservatives began to use the slogan to rebuke Kaepernick -- by comparing him to Pat Tillman, a former NFL player who quit the league to enlist in the U.S. Army after 9/11 and was killed in Afghanistan in 2004.  

    Tweets lauding Tillman at Kaepernick’s expense received thousands of likes and were shared by conservative provocateurs including TPUSA’s Charlie Kirk, Fox News’ Stephen Miller, and the conservative YouTuber who goes by keemstar.

    Similar tweets were issued by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and Rep.  Doug Collins (R-GA):

     

    Similar memes on Facebook garnered tens of thousands of shares:

    Fox News also participated in the Kaepernick-Tillman comparison, airing commentary on the subject on its live-streaming “Fox News Update” program on Facebook:

    The NFL protests have become a hot-button issue in the midterms, most recently surfacing in dueling videos from the campaigns of Democratic nominee for Texas Senate seat Beto O’Rourke and his opponent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). The comparison between Tillman and Kaepernick fits into a broader conservative pattern of positioning peaceful civilian protest as a rebuke to the sacrifice of soldiers and veterans.

    But it also fundamentally misrepresents Pat Tillman.

    Tillman left professional sports to enlist in the military in 2002. By 2003, after participating in the invasion of Iraq, according to family members and friends, Tillman had become a critic of the war and of President George W. Bush. According to former comrades-in-arms, he described the war in Iraq as “fucking illegal.” He planned to meet with anti-war author Noam Chomsky upon his return in 2004 -- but never made it, gunned down by friendly fire. The fact that Tillman had been killed by others in his platoon was not revealed to his family until five weeks after his funeral. The circumstances of his death -- and an elaborate cover-up involving changing stories, burned body armor, and medical examiner’s reports that conflicted with soldiers’ testimony -- was the subject of lengthy inquiry by Congress.

    In addition, Tillman’s family has directly asked the public not to politicize Pat’s death.

    When President Donald Trump shared a tweet directed against the protesting NFL players that featured Tillman’s name and face, Tillman’s widow, Marie, released a statement to CNN asking that her husband’s service not be “politicized in a way that divides us.”

    Defying the wishes of Tillman’s widow to score points against a Nike ad campaign seems, however, to not be beneath the dignity of right-wing commentators.

  • Radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh ran with a false far-right claim about the Jacksonville shooter

    “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich and serially inaccurate site Gateway Pundit were among the first to push the bogus claim

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Radio stations and talk hosts around the country, including syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh, ran with a false far-right claim that the Jacksonville, FL, mass shooter was a Reddit user with a history of critical posts against President Donald Trump.

    On August 26, a man opened fire during a video game tournament in Jacksonville, FL, killing two people and injuring 10 others before turning the gun on himself. After the shooting, far-right conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich baselessly tweeted that the shooter “was a member of the Resistance who referred to Trump supporters as ‘trumptards’” citing what he claimed was his Reddit history. Ian Miles Cheong, formerly a self-described contributor for The Daily Caller who was involved (as was Cernovich) in the misogynistic online movement known as Gamergate, tweeted an image of anti-Trump comments posted by a Reddit account named “Ravenchamps,” which he claimed belonged to the shooter.

    Gateway Pundit, a serially inaccurate far-right site that consistently gets things wrong during breaking news events (and is now facing lawsuits for it), subsequently elevated both tweets and pushed the story. Conspiracy theory outlet Infowars also picked up the claim, along with fake news-churning sites like YourNewsWire, Neon Nettle, and True Pundit. The claim was also turned into memes and put on Facebook, where thousands of users shared the posts.

    The claim turned out to be false, as the user “Ravenchamps” -- whose name is Pavel -- subsequently clarified on Reddit that he was not the shooter, sharing the harassment he was receiving as a consequence of the far-right’s irresponsible claim. Pavel, who is from Minnesota, told BuzzFeed that he was “call[ing] out the idiots” who blamed him for the shooting and told NBC News, “There are a lot of idiots on the internet who come to conclusions over no factual evidence.”

    The baseless claim that “Ravenchamps” was the shooter jumped to multiple radio stations, a medium with a history of pushing false stories that originated online (including some from fake news sites in places like Africa and Macedonia). The radio shows pushing the bogus claim include:

    • The nationally syndicated The Rush Limbaugh Show, where host Rush Limbaugh claimed that “you might not hear very much about this Jacksonville shooting ... because it appears the shooter was part of the Trump resistance. Limbaugh said that the shooter was apparently “very, anti-Trump” on a Reddit thread. Limbaugh claimed as a result the “drive-bys [media] are not going to want to want to make a vast, vast move on this guy” because “people that hate Trump are supposed to hate guns”;

    • Maryland talk station WCBM-AM’s Morning Show With Sean and Frank, where hosts said the alleged shooter’s Reddit page was “littered with anti-Trump garbage” and, in a later segment, reiterated that he was “part of the Trump resistance”;

    • Nebraska talk station KFAM-AM’s Chris Baker, who asserted that “according to all reports,” the alleged shooter was a “Trump resistor” based on his “Reddit page; and

    • The Steve Kane Show on Florida talk station WSBR-AM, where the host shamefully lauded Cernovich as “awesome” and read his tweet about the Reddit account. He added that it showed the shooter was “another liberal, just like the guy that shot up the baseball team,” referring to the 2017 shooting at the Republican congressional baseball practice.

  • Fox & Friends hosts a QAnon conspiracy theorist who has claimed the Parkland mass shooting was fake

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Fox & Friends provided a platform to a man who has repeatedly pushed the QAnon conspiracy theory, including sharing a post that claimed the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, was “fake” and that student survivors of the shooting are “actors.”

    During the August 24 edition of Fox & Friends, the show hosted Jason Fyk, who was identified as an entrepreneur, along with Fyk’s attorney to discuss Fyk’s lawsuit against Facebook for “unlawfully silencing people … for its own financial gain.” During the interview, co-host Steve Doocy praised Fyk for using Facebook to build a business and pursuing “the American dream,” while Fyk compared himself to YouTube personalities Diamond and Silk, citing the duo’s false Facebook censorship claims.

    The show -- which President Donald Trump consistently watches -- did not disclose that Fyk has appeared multiple times on Infowars, the far-right conspiracy theory outlet that has been banned from multiple tech platforms for violating their hate speech and harassment policies. On his own Facebook profile, Fyk has also repeatedly promoted posts from “Q,” the supposed figure behind the QAnon conspiracy theory who claims that Trump has a master plan to dismantle child trafficking rings supposedly linked to powerful politicians and celebrities and defeat his perceived enemies and the “deep state.” (Three conspiracy theorists reportedly spread the conspiracy theory for financial gain.) In March, Fyk posted an image of a “Q” post calling the Parkland mass shooting “FAKE” and a “distraction” that was “organized & designed to DISTRACT” and that it featured “ACTORS [who] are ACTING.”

    Fyk also discussed QAnon in January while appearing on Infowars (which fully embraced the conspiracy theory early on), with an Infowars host saying to Fyk, “What do you think of these latest QAnon posts hot off the press? ‘Chuck Schumer will live in fear from today forward.’ This is turning out to be a really good day.” Fyk responded that it was “definitely a win for the right.”

    Trump himself may have also tweeted in response to Fyk's appearance when he claimed social media platforms were "silencing millions of people."

  • With Trump’s South Africa tweet, Tucker Carlson has turned a white nationalist narrative into White House policy

    White nationalists reacted in elation as the white-grievance narrative they’ve been pushing grabbed the president’s attention. This is how it happened.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & TALIA LAVIN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Inspired by Tucker Carlson’s coverage on Fox News, President Donald Trump has taken interest in the narrative of white oppression in South Africa that white supremacists have spent months using misleading statistics to build.

    During the August 22 edition of his show, Carlson devoted a segment to fearmongering about land reform in South Africa, presenting the South African issue -- in which the government is attempting to address the Apartheid-influenced concentration of land ownership by whites -- as the “definition of racism.”

    Trump continued his live-tweeting Fox News by promoting the segment on Carlson’s show and adding that he had directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to look into the issue:

    While Carlson presented his segment as an “exclusive investigation,” he was merely lifting a narrative that has been brewing in this country -- in the far-right corners of the internet -- for the better part of 2018. Pioneered by the Apartheid-minimizing organization AfriForum -- which has successfully leveraged its relationships with the international far-right to put its agenda on the map -- what’s presented as a crusade against land reform that the organization claims is linked to violence against white farmers has been embraced by white supremacists abroad and at home as evidence of white genocide.

    Carlson had already given a platform to AfriForum back in May, during a visit its leaders Kallie Kriel and Ernst Roets made to the U.S. During the trip, they also met with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the U.S. Agency for International Development, and conservative and libertarian think tanks. While hosting Roets, Carlson lectured, "This is not what Nelson Mandela wanted." As reported by Michael Bueckert at the time, AfriForum’s tour of America was “met with outrage and mockery” back in South Africa, with government authorities, academics, and journalists issuing condemnations of what they saw as an effort to “mobilise the international community against their own country.” The outrage in their country wasn’t baseless, as experts have pointed out that while some white South African farmers have been killed, AfriForum and its supporters base their narrative of white targeting on problematic statistical methodology and mischaracterizations of the current state of crime and violence in South Africa.

    Carlson wasn’t the only right-wing figure elevating the issue on August 22. Earlier in the day, Alex Jones, who sees in Tucker Carlson an ally in his fight against the globalists, devoted one of his unhinged tirades on his conspiracy theory outlet Infowars to what he framed as whites being “wiped out” in South Africa while claiming that Black South Africans think “the more barbarous the better.”

    Both Carlson and Jones’ comments are evidence that the narrative, which had been brewing for months, had reached boiling point. Days before, Drudge Report tweeted about the issue, while bigoted radio host Michael Savage lobbied for signatures in support of white South African farmers (Savage is now accusing Carlson of pushing his talking points without giving credit). The day before, Newsbusters -- the Media Research Center project that has promoted white nationalist propaganda in the past -- bemoaned the lack of American media coverage of South African land ownership issues.

    As early as January, in a now-archived thread, users of 8chan (an anonymous message board known for its popularity among “alt-right” supporters and connections to harassment campaigns and hoaxes) had portrayed events in South Africa as a “race war” while using racist slurs against Black South Africans.

    Lauren Southern, a prominent far-right troll who gained prominence on YouTube, seized on the narrative by going to South Africa in January to shoot a documentary aimed at raising the voices of those advancing the idea of white oppression connected to land ownership reforms. Following Southern, notoriously bigoted Rebel Media commentator Katie Hopkins announced her own project to expose the supposed “ethnic cleansing of white farmers.” As reported by Media Matters in March, both of their projects did more to amplify the interests of white supremacists in advancing a narrative of victimhood than actually show any plight of white South Africans. Southern’s documentary revealed her ties to white nationalist-affiliated Afrikaner activists like Simon Roche. Roche leads Suidlanders, a group that aims to protect the South African white minority against what it claims is an inevitable race war. He has links to American white supremacist Jared Taylor, whose conference he’s attended in the past, and has benefited from Southern encouraging donations to his group.

    As the site Angry White Men accurately described in February, Southern’s project was “agitprop dressed up as a documentary.” But it successfully inserted South Africa as a convenient talking point for far-right figures attempting to find a case study for their argument that white people are under siege, with no regard for historical context. By February 28, the #whitegenocide hashtag had been trending for two days on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate tracker, a tool that maps out trending topics among far-right Twitter users. Prominent far-right trolls, like former Gateway Pundit White House reporter Lucian Wintrich also helped popularize the narrative.

    By March, prominent American white nationalist figures, including Occidental Dissent’s Brad Griffin, The Right Stuff’s Mike Peinovich, American Renaissance’s Jared Taylor, and League of the South’s Michael Hill, were using their platforms to promote Suidlanders’ cause and crusade for white South Africans. On social media, extremists were resorting to hoaxes in their efforts to illustrate the South African narrative in the most gruesome light. In a now-deleted tweet, Proud Boy Kyle Chapman posted a horrifying picture claiming it depicted a child brutalized for being white in South Africa. The picture turned out to be a 4chan hoax unconnected to South African politics, but it got attention on Twitter.

    Reports on the rising interest in South African land politics and violence were met with criticism from far-right media figures, who unfairly accused researchers covering the issue of supporting brutal murders.

    After Tucker Carlson hosted AfriForum in May, bigoted Proud Boys founder and violence instigator Gavin McInnes devoted an episode of his CRTV show Get Off My Lawn to the supposed plight of white people in South Africa. He hosted Willem Petzer, a white South African who makes appearances on far-right media to frame anecdotal incidents of violence as oppression of whites. McInnes opened the show with a monologue in which he characterized former South African President Nelson Mandela as “a terrorist" and claimed that current South African land politics are not related to "Blacks trying to get their land back -- they never had that land" but instead are "ethnic cleansing" efforts against whites.

    It came as no surprise then that Carlson -- who has used his platform to champion white nationalist causes, has notably abstained from criticizing white supremacists, has neo-Nazis fawning all over him, and is referred to lovingly as “our guy” by some extremists on 4chan -- would seize upon the narrative and present it without appropriate context. What’s more worrisome is that the president of the United States, who oversees the most powerful foreign policy operation in the world, would prefer to get policy advice from Fox News.

    Actual experts on the issue debunked the narrative pushed by Carlson and Trump. The former U.S. ambassador to South Africa was among the many who condemned the racist undercurrents and factual inaccuracies of Trump’s statement:

    As Laura Seay -- a political scientist researching governance in central Africa -- explained, the claim of “white genocide” comes from “exaggerate[d] isolated stories.”

    Africa analyst Lauren P. Blanchard cited a Guardian report showing that research points to a current 20-year low in “murders of farmers in South Africa:”

    Michael Bueckert, who’s written extensively about the topic, also added context to Carlson’s segment and Trump’s tweet:

    Along with celebrating the role Carlson was playing in carrying white supremacist narratives all the way up to the White House, White supremacist Mike Peinovich called the moment “very big”:

    Infowars’ go-to white nationalist, Nick Fuentes, praised Trump’s acknowledgement:

    The “alt-right” group Identity Evropa framed the issue as “a warning to people of European heritage all around the world:”

    Right Wing Watch’s Jared Holt showcased the reactions of other white nationalists celebrating Trump:

    Madeline Peltz provided research for this piece.

  • Mike Cernovich's far-right conspiracy theories, bigotry, and association with white supremacists

    An abundance of tweets, blog posts, and on-air appearances -- many of which he has now deleted -- reveal the conspiracy theories, rape denial, and “alt-right” shilling that brought Cernovich fame

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. , BRENDAN KARET & JOHN KERR


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Far-right grifter and “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich is putting his star power behind Republican Kelli Ward by joining her on a bus tour before the Arizona primary on August 28. Ward, who is competing for the GOP nomination to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate, described Cernovich in her announcement of the bus tour as “a social media personality and the author of several books examining political and social trends,” forgivingly glossing over Cernovich’s record of peddling disgusting conspiracy theories, shilling for the “alt-right,” dismissing date rape, and endorsing misogyny.

    Questioned about the decision, Ward hilariously claimed to not know what Cernovich’s views are. Ward, along with her husband, is an administrator of a Facebook group that traffics in some of the same conspiracy theories that Cernovich pushes. Ward has also been an ally of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and Cernovich has done frequent work with Jones’ Infowars in recent years.

    Despite running with Cernovich’s crowd for years, Ward can try to get away with claiming to not know who he is perhaps because of his attempts to scrub a lot of his caustic record from his online portfolio. However, an abundance of deleted tweets, blog posts, and videos reveal him for the unhinged conspiracy theorist, rape denier, and “alt-right” shill that he became famous for being.

    Cernovich repeatedly pushed the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory

    Cernovich has pushed conspiracy theories about pedophilia, Satanism, “spirit cooking,” and more

    Cernovich pushed forged documents and propaganda

    Cernovich spread a conspiracy theory about murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich

    Cernovich falsely claimed a Roy Moore accuser forged his signature in a yearbook

    Cernovich pushed conspiracy theories about mass shootings

    Cernovich has made journalists a target of many attacks

    Cernovich has repeatedly pushed bigotry, and shilled for white supremacists and the “alt-right”

    Cernovich repeatedly pushed rape denial and misogyny

    Cernovich repeatedly pushed the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory

    During the 2016 presidential election, some supporters of President Donald Trump baselessly claimed Democrats and powerful celebrities were tied to a pedophilia ring hiding in a Washington, D.C., pizzeria. As a consequence, a man went to the restaurant to “self-investigate” and opened fire inside.

    Cernovich said, “Pizzagate is real. There are pedophiles at the highest level of media, Hollywood, and in government.”

    Cernovich has attempted to scrub his wide-ranging “Pizzagate” record to obscure his role in propagating it. But since-deleted tweets show evidence of his responsibility.

    In one video, Cernovich said, “If you want to have the real power, they force you to rape children and they record it. And that does two things. One is you are now blackmailed forever. ... And then two is only someone depraved enough to rape a child is going to be allowed in the shadow government.”

    Cernovich has pushed conspiracy theories about pedophilia, Satanism, “spirit cooking,” and more

    In a video that can still be found on far-right misogynist Stefan Molyneux’s YouTube channel, Cernovich claimed John Podesta, chairman of the campaign of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, was involved in “spirit cooking” rituals, during which he claimed participants mixed “semen with breast milk” to drink.

    Besides pushing the baseless claims on his website, Cernovich also suggested that then-candidate Donald Trump should have addressed the conspiracy theory during one of his rallies and accused the Clinton family of “100 percent” being connected to pedophile rings. On another occasion, he also suggested a visit to Haiti was evidence that the Clintons were trafficking children.

    Cernovich also accused former President Barack Obama of giving children to human traffickers.

    Cernovich also claimed to have heard that Obama’s children are not actually his children.

    In another video, Cernovich said, “We have to purge the satanists from the FBI,” noting that he thought former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe was a satanist, while he was unsure about former FBI special agent Peter Strzok.

    As reported by The New Yorker, Cernovich was “among the first” to falsely claim that Hillary Clinton “had a grave neurological condition.”

    Cernovich has also tried to smear all of his protesters and critics as pedophiles. And while he has avoided to outright endorse it, he is one of the far-right figures who amplified the QAnon conspiracy theory on their social media platforms.

    Cernovich pushed forged documents and propaganda

    Cernovich promoted a forged document that accused Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) of sexually harassing a former staffer, then quickly walked back the claim when the document was reported to police as a forgery.

    He also promoted forged documents about Emanuel Macron before he was elected president of France.

    Cernovich has also reportedly help spread pro-Assad propaganda. Cernovich declared that he was “not buying” that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad carried out chemical attacks against Syrians.

    Cernovich spread a conspiracy theory about murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich

    Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered in Washington, D.C., on July 10, 2016. On August 9, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange brought up Rich unprompted on a Dutch TV program, implying (but refusing to confirm) that Rich was his source for the DNC emails Wikileaks made public before the presidential election. Cernovich promoted the interview while questioning point-blank if Rich was Assange’s source.

    Following Cernovich’s tweet, Fox’s Sean Hannity picked up the baseless story.

    Cernovich falsely claimed a Roy Moore accuser forged his signature in a yearbook

    Cernovich falsely claimed that Beverly Young Nelson, who has reported that former Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16, admitted that she forged Moore’s signature in her high school yearbook. Nelson actually said she added some notes next to the signature but that it was Moore’s signature. In fact, Cernovich cast doubt on all of the reports made against Moore.

    Cernovich pushed conspiracy theories about mass shootings

    In a since-deleted blog post, Cernovich claimed that “there was more than one shooter at Pulse in Orlando,” referring to the 2016 mass shotting at Pulse nightclub in Florida. Cernovich wrote, “As you follow the story, look for” certain “evidence.” He added, “If we don’t see all of this, then there was a second shooter.”

    He also attempted to blame a mass shooting in New Mexico on anti-fascist protesters and made similar comments following a series of bombings in Austin, TX.

    After a suicide bomber killed 22 people, including children, who were leaving an Ariana Grande concert in England, Cernovich attacked the pop star for liberal and “anti-American” statements that she made while reacting to a tray of donuts years prior.

    Cernovich has made journalists a target of many attacks

    Cernovich lashed out at a HuffPost journalist for reporting on a notorious anti-Muslim social media account. He also once planned a website to harass journalists and since then has set out to get some journalists fired by weaponizing fake outrage over past tweets taken out of context, unleashing his followers on harassment campaigns against targeted journalists on the way. He has said, “Most people in journalism are pedophiles.”

    After Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, Cernovich told Alex Jones that it was “a total set up.”

    He also implied on Twitter that Jacobs may have had the assault coming.

    Cernovich has repeatedly pushed bigotry, and shilled for white supremacists and the “alt-right”

    Before rebranding away from the term when it became unpopular, Cernovich was among the main online proponents of the “alt-right,” rallying against diversity and going on the record to represent the movement’s views while declaring himself to be “alt-right friendly.” He also used to promote some of its figures, including “Baked Alaska” (who is white supremacist and serial-self owner Tim Gionet), Nazi sympathizer Milo Yiannopoulos (whose handle was @Nero before he got permanently banned from Twitter), and white supremacist Ricky Vaughn.

    One of his tweets supportive of the “alt-right” even gave credence to the idea of “white genocide,” a common white supremacist trope.

    In one video, Cernovich trivially used the n-word:

    He also complained about “thugs” attacking “me and my kind,” and he admitted that he was “happy” that a white supporter of Black Lives Matter was stabbed to death, saying he wouldn’t be stabbed because “I’m a … man.”

    During one of his broadcasts to his followers, Cernovich repeatedly used a homophobic slur.

    He has said, “Anywhere Muslims go, they’re blowing things up.” He also said that Muslims in America may want to “kill all women.” In another video, Cernovich warned transgender Americans that if refugees in Germany “find out about you, they’ll rape you and kill you.”

    Cernovich called the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) “anti-America” and said that it is “extorting Jews.” He also replied “exactly” when Alex Jones said ADL has “always been the group that feeds on the Jews working with the Nazis.”

    Cernovich repeatedly pushed rape denial and misogyny

    Cernovich has tried to hide his misogynistic musings, which the self-declared former “total hottie” used to post on his site Danger and Play. That site was a blog “about how to pick up women” and featured posts like “Misogyny Gets You Laid.”

    One of his posts featured statements that minimized rape, including, “If you believe in rape culture, I understand a lot about you: you’re a gullible fool who believes feminists.” In a now-archived post, Cernovich denied the existence of date rape:

    Additionally, in a post offering advice on “how to choke a woman” he claimed, “Women only want to have consensual sex with men they know could rape them,” and confessed to having “choked women unconscious” on occasion. He also advocated for choking women “when standing around,” saying to do it when she “acts up.” He’s on the record offering similar advice:

    Cernovich once presented consent as a burden, saying, “If you as a man read a signal wrong, you’re a rapist.” In one video, Cernovich complained, “If your son, or you, … has sex with your girlfriend while she is sleeping … that’s technically rape.”

    He has also said that “there is probably 10 men enslaved to every one woman enslaved.”

    Similarly, in a now-deleted article titled “When In Doubt, Whip It Out,” Cernovich wrote about exposing himself to a date who refused his sexual advances, saying she “wasn’t freaked out” by him masturbating in the backseat of her car and suggesting his readers to not “settle for the make out. If possible, at least pull out your dick. If you can get her to touch it, even better.”

    A 2016 Mediaite report rounded up a sample of Cernovich’s misogynistic tweets, which included “Have you guys ever tried ‘raping’ a girl without using force? Try it. It’s basically impossible. Date rape does not exist,” as well as “Not being a slut is the only proven way to avoid AIDS. If you love black women, slut shame them.” Mediaite additionally noted Cernovich had tweeted and deleted: “A whore will let her friend ruin your life with a false rape case. So why should I care when women are raped?”

  • Fox & Friends sanitizes anti-government extremists

    The Three Percenters is an armed anti-government militia; Fox & Friends called its members “pro-gun demonstrators”

    Blog ››› ››› TALIA LAVIN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In Fox & Friends’ ongoing quest to smear anti-fascists protesters as a collection of violent extremists, a Monday morning segment of the show glossed over the history and activities of the group anti-fascists had turned out to protest against. Over the weekend in Seattle, WA, heavily armed members of far-right groups Patriot Prayer and the anti-government militia group Three Percenters protested, along with several men wearing the insignia of the violence-prone, men-only organization Proud Boys. Rally-goers were protesting a gun-control initiative that, if passed, would raise the age for buying semi-automatic rifles to 21.

    As the show aired clips of counter-protestors shouting “Nazis go home,” Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade described the Three Percenters, Patriot Prayer, and Proud Boys as “pro-gun demonstrators.” “Where is the outrage from Democrats?” he asked, seemingly indignant at the idea that these far-right groups could be cast as extremists. The Three Percenters and the Proud Boys had strong presences at the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, which culminated in deadly violence.

    The Three Percenters is named after the historically inaccurate claim that only 3 percent of American colonists fought against the British government during the American revolution. It is a loosely organized group that insists it is not a militia but aligns with the goals and practices of the American militia movement. Over the past few years, the group's members have developed a reputation for providing heavily armed security to white supremacist groups. The Three Percenters have also engaged in their own political activities in alignment with right-wing and extremist groups. A Three Percenters rally in 2015 protested refugee resettlement in Idaho, decrying “radical Islam”; some group members also showed up at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge standoff with the aim of serving as a "buffer" between the anti-government Bundy clan and law enforcement. In 2017, a man claiming to hold the Three Percenters ideology was arrested for a bomb plot explicitly meant to emulate the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. While a popular Facebook page for the Three Percenters features dozens of explicitly anti-immigrant memes, the group has also organized offline armed operations to go after immigrants near the U.S. border.

    So when Kilmeade asks, smirking, if they are “Nazis or pro-gun demonstrators” -- there may be more to the question than what the sanitizing frame of Fox News allows.

  • In drawing equivalencies between white supremacists and antifa, media outlets obscure ideologies -- and impacts

    White supremacists commit murders in pursuit of genocidal policies. Antifa throws punches. They're not the same, and media outlets should make that clear.

    Blog ››› ››› TALIA LAVIN


    Melissa Joskow/Media Matters

    Last weekend marked the sequel to 2017’s violent right-wing rally in Charlottesville, VA, that left one counterprotester dead and many injured. Unite the Right 2, as the anniversary event was dubbed, was poorly attended by a small coterie of white supremacists. The media focused a significant amount of their coverage of the event on a sensationalized version of the threat posed by the  loose, decentralized group of anti-fascist activists collectively known as “antifa.”

    “Antifa clashes with police and journalists in Charlottesville and DC,” Vox declared. The Washington Post told its readers that “antifa protesters” had “harassed the press.” The headline of a piece in that paper’s opinion section asserted that “black-clad antifa again [gave] peaceful protesters a bad name.”

    CNN personalities also weighed in with their disapproval on social media:

    It’s easy to understand why the “black bloc” -- anti-fascist protesters who wear black masks when confronting racist groups -- attracts alarmist headlines, as images of masked ranks are both exotic and easy to otherize. And right-wing media have seized on this trend. As Media Matters’ Grace Bennett noted, Fox & Friends’ coverage of Unite the Right 2 entirely obscured the white supremacist intent of the event, instead sowing fear about an “antifa mob,” while The Daily Caller decried “violent antifa protests.” But according to experts on extremism and those who cover fascist and anti-fascist groups’ clashes on the ground, media fearmongering about antifa protesters obscures both the ideology and the real impacts of anti-fascist groups’ opponents -- the violent racists.

    A look at Washington Post and Vox coverage of antifa at Unite the Right 2 indicated that the most serious reported incident of antifa protesters confronting the press they described was when activists cut a local news reporter’s microphone cord, after expressing a desire not to be recorded.

    “Reporters covering protests should also come aware that most black bloc activists do not want to be photographed, for fear of being doxxed by the far right, or identified by law enforcement,” Kelly Weill, a Daily Beast reporter who covers the far-right and its opponents and was present at the rally, told Media Matters. “[Journalists] should take into account the implications a photograph might have for its subject, and why that subject might object. When anti-fascists come into conflict with journalists, it’s in reaction to being filmed. They aren’t hunting the media, unlike their opponents who regularly dox and threaten journalists in attempt to silence them.”

    Weill said the activists’ fear of being targeted by law enforcement is legitimate. She pointed, as an example, to a case in which the government charged hundreds who participated in a protest rally at Donald Trump’s inauguration with felony and misdemeanor charges after some of them were caught on camera at the protest.

    “I've found people can usually tell whether you're making a good faith effort to listen to them, and they respond accordingly,” Weill said. She said she thought the relations between the journalists and antifa protesters “were fairly smooth” when factoring in “the nature of the event -- more than 1,000 journalists, protesters, and police [were] at an emotionally charged white supremacist rally where police occasionally shoved media and protesters together in densely packed kettles.”

    Even though last year’s Charlottesville rally was violent -- it ended with a white supremacist driving a car into a crowd and killing counterprotester Heather Heyer -- fearmongering headlines about antifa led to a narrative of false equivalency. And that narrative quickly reached the upper echelons of the conservative movement, most notably the president, who felt empowered to place the “blame on both sides.”

    Despite near-universal shock at the president’s equivocation, media outlets have failed to correct their role in pushing that narrative, continuing to sensationalize the threat posed by antifa and thus downplay the inherent violence of white supremacist activity.

    “Antifa is a subject that’s worthy of exploration. It’s not a subject that’s worthy of exaggeration or hyper-sensationalism,” Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Center on Extremism, told Media Matters. “There have been a number of serious incidents where they really assaulted people over the years. … But white supremacists have committed hundreds of murders over the last 10 years -- aggravated assaults, kidnappings, and terrorist attacks. There’s no comparison.”

    Both Weill and Pitcavage pointed out that media outlets have fundamentally misunderstood the nature of antifa -- a decentralized group which, as its name suggests, primarily emerges to oppose organized fascism when it arises, as opposed to operating proactively.

    “I think most media fundamentally misunderstands anti-fascism, in part because the right presents ‘antifa’ as a unified gang or a kind of catch-all bogeyman that describes everyone from anarchists to moderate liberal Sen. Tim Kaine,” Weill said. “A significant chunk of center-left media has adopted this incorrect characterization, either out of lack of fact-checking or this pundit-style drive to present all conflicts as a clash of two equally valid ideologies. Some research would clarify that ‘antifa,’ as it's commonly understood (as a gang or a central organized group) isn't a real thing.” Weill also pointed out that not all anti-fascists endorse engaging in physical brawls with far-right groups; others focus on online activities and rhetorically countering fascism within their towns and cities.

    “White supremacist violence tends to be both worse and more extensive in general,” Pitcavage noted. According to ADL statistics, white supremacist actions are on the rise in the U.S. Incidents of distribution of white supremacist propaganda -- whether in the form of flyers, overpass banners, or posters -- increased sharply between 2017 and 2018. The ADL also identified 18 murders linked to white supremacy in 2017 alone.

    Portland, Oregon has been a particular locus of physical clashes between right-wing protesters and anti-fascist counterprotesters; last weekend, far-right groups Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer demonstrated in the city, sparking clashes between themselves, antifa, and the police. The tense standoff resulted in police turning on counterprotesters, dangerously wounding one anti-fascist activist, which prompted an outcry from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) over use of excessive force by police. The incident, which happened precisely a week before Unite the Right 2, underscored both the legitimate wariness anti-fascists have toward law enforcement and the fundamentally reactive nature of anti-fascist activism. While the Proud Boys arrived in Portland from all over the U.S., with many bused in from Vancouver, WA, the anti-fascists were nearly all local activists, chanting slogans like “Keep Nazis out of Portland.”

    There are many who might sympathize with the protestors’ urge to keep avowed racist groups out of their hometown -- and it’s arguably the potential for newsworthy clashes that draws far-right activists to liberal enclaves in the first place. But media framing often places antifa and white supremacists on equal footing in terms of the danger they pose -- a false equivalence that fundamentally misrepresents the goals and tactics of white supremacists.

    “White supremacists, no matter how they cloak their views, call for genocidal policies, and have committed a rash of attacks and murders. Anti-fascists want them out of their communities,” Weill said. “It's telling that fascists persistently hold rallies in communities where they are not wanted, but that anti-fascists only mobilize in direct opposition to fascist policies. ... The two camps are not comparable, and equivocating them erases all the violence fascists promote and the structural power they hold.”

    Weill pointed out that media outlets often not only equivocate, but also erase the motivations behind anti-fascist activism. Prior to Unite the Right 2, NPR aired a widely criticized interview with white supremacist Jason Kessler, the organizer of both Unite the Right rallies. In contrast, NPR did not conduct any interview with a self-identified member of any anti-fascist movement, as Vox did last year.

    “We're frequently treated to humanizing profiles on neo-Nazis (whose ideologies are widely known before the interviewer starts recording), but few on anti-fascists (whose views are often misunderstood),” Weill noted in an email.

    As white supremacist violence -- and antifa’s mobilization in opposition -- continues to roil the country, media outlets should be meticulous about not drawing false equivalencies between the two sides, whose goals, impacts, and tactics are vastly different. They should also attempt to ascertain the goals of anti-fascist protest and clarify them for audiences. Otherwise, media outlets mislead their readers in service of sensationalized images that obscure necessary truths about white supremacist violence.