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

Alt-right and pro-Trump trolls

Tags ››› Alt-right and pro-Trump trolls
  • To attempt to make sense of QAnon, Politico turned to Pizzagate conspiracy theorists

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In what seemed like an attempt to demonstrate the rise of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement within the right-wing establishment, Politico tweeted out a video about QAnon “true believers” filmed at the most recent Conservative Political Action Conference. Unfortunately, the outlet missed an opportunity to truly explain the oversized impact that weaponized misinformation can have over entire political movements by relying on two notorious far-right conspiracy theorists for their expertise.

    The 8chan-originated conspiracy theory that developed around anonymous posts signed by “Q,” an anonymous poster claiming to hold a high security clearance, holds that there is a behind-the-scenes scenario in which President Donald Trump is kneecapping a ring of powerful pedophiles connected to “the deep state.” The theory -- and the movement of followers it has inspired -- deserves media coverage and expert analysis to explain its influence on right-wing politics. But Politico interviewed far-right conspiracy theorists Jack Posobiec and Mike Cernovich to make sense of QAnon, taking their opinions at face value, ignoring their own involvement in uncritically amplifying the conspiracy theory during its early stages, and downplaying their involvement in promoting the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory by noting just that they have been criticized for pushing the theory, rather than stating what they did to promote it.

    Similar to QAnon, “Pizzagate” is a conspiracy theory that smeared powerful Democratic figures -- in Pizzagate’s case by accusing them of hiding a child trafficking network behind a Washington, D.C., pizzeria. It turned dangerous (as QAnon could) after a man claiming he wanted to “self-investigate” opened fire with a rifle inside the restaurant. Before that, Cernovich had told his audience that “Pizzagate is real” and Posobiec had livestreamed from the D.C. restaurant, speculating that “they have a big secret to hide.”

    Because Posobiec and Cernovich are grifters focused on sustaining their careers (which include publishing books and making films attacking the media), and they have recently made efforts to sanitize their public images and pivot away from the bigoted slurs, misogyny, conspiracy theories, and alliances with extremists that allowed them to grow their platforms during the rise of the MAGA internet. Politico’s decision to feature them talking about a conspiracy theory they played a role in creating -- without mentioning that connection to the audience -- helps them continue rebranding without any accountability.

    QAnon is misinformation being weaponized for political purposes, and it absolutely merits the attention and coverage of political media. But outlets can and must seek the expertise of real journalists and social media experts who understand the conspiratorial right without having been an unrepentant part of it. Don't just give a platform to two known grifters with long histories of weaponizing misinformation themselves.

  • Actor James Woods is a main conduit for content from the far-right fever swamps to millions on Twitter

    Woods has a history of using his Twitter account to amplify far-right message board narratives, conspiracy theories, and hoaxes

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melisa Joskow / Media Matters

    James Woods, a far-right Hollywood actor with a large Twitter following, has increasingly become a megaphone for content from the internet fever swamps, amplifying it by pushing it to his followers -- a role that has been noted by journalists, social media analysts, and far-right users themselves.

    Woods, whose verified Twitter account has more than 2 million followers, is a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, and his criticism of the left regularly receives positive coverage from conservative media publications. Some right-wing outlets have even characterized Woods as a potential California gubernatorial candidate and championed him as a possible Academy Awards host. His tweets have been retweeted by Fox News host Laura Ingraham and Donald Trump Jr.

    When Woods was briefly suspended by Twitter in September after posting a meme from 4chan that falsely claimed Democrats were urging men not to vote in the midterm elections, the right-wing media ecosystem rushed to his defense. Trump Jr. said Woods was “a strong conservative voice,” and Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell called him “one of the top conservatives” on Twitter. Woods later claimed Twitter told him it would delete his offending tweet and let him back on the following month.

    Yet Woods has continued to use his wide reach on Twitter to regularly share smears, hoaxes, conspiracy theories, and other content that can be traced back to anonymous message boards that are popular with far-right users, like 4chan’s “/pol/,” 8chan’s “/qresearch/,” “The_Donald” subreddit (a forum on Reddit for Trump fans), and to white nationalist hotspot Gab. Just this year, Woods has played a crucial role in amplifying the following far-right narratives:

    • In January, while Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was recovering from surgery and missed oral arguments at the Supreme Court, followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory baselessly speculated that Ginsburg was incapacitated or had died. Later that month, with the false claim and hoaxes supporting it spreading on social media, Woods started repeatedly pushing the conspiracy theory and the hashtag #WheresRuth. A SCOTUSBlog analysis found Woods to be one of the most followed accounts that pushed the conspiracy theory, while The Washington Post noted Woods “helped get the hashtag #WheresRuth trending on Twitter.”

    • In January, soon after Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) announced her presidential campaign, “The_Donald” subreddit and 4chan’s “/pol/” relentlessly smeared Harris by claiming she used an extramarital affair with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown to boost her political career. As far-right message board users were creating memes and misogynistic nicknames attacking Harris, Woods tweeted multiple hashtags such as #HorizontalHarris, #HeelsUpHarris, #WillieWanker, and #FreeWillie to push the smear to his Twitter audience.

    • In January, a Gab account falsely claimed that former President Barack Obama was behind recent mass layoffs from media outlets due to a 2016 law he signed. The Gab post was picked up by message boards and far-right social media accounts, and Woods tweeted an article pushing the conspiracy theory days later. A Gab user cheered Woods’ tweet, noting it went “to his nearly 2 MILLION followers" and suggesting he was the tipping point in getting the claim to spread broadly.

    • At the end of January and beginning of February, far-right message boards pushed a conspiracy theory that actor Jussie Smollett had coordinated with Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Harris in staging what he said was an anti-queer and racist attack on himself to help pass the anti-lynching legislation they had introduced. Smollett has since been indicted for filing a false police report, but there is no evidence that the senators were involved. The conspiracy theory became popular in far-right circles, and Woods tweeted an article pushing the false claim on February 22. An analysis from Storyful found that “Woods’ tweet prompted thousands of users to engage with the theory.”

    Woods’ amplification of fever swamp content has extended to multiple other cases as well:

    • He has repeatedly tweeted screenshots of 8chan posts from “Q,” the central figure of QAnon, and once tweeted and deleted a post simply saying “Q” that QAnon supporters interpreted as an endorsement. He also pushed a hoax about Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) that was popularized by a QAnon account.

  • White supremacist YouTube channel Red Ice TV loves Tucker Carlson

    Red Ice TV’s Henrik Palmgren: “Tucker Carlson does good work over at Fox News”

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & JOHN KERR

    Perhaps because of his noticeable descent into white supremacy, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson gets a lot of love from white supremacists, including the founders of Red Ice TV, a YouTube channel that boasts over 300,000 subscribers despite containing explicitly racist content like discussions of the “JQ” (Jewish Question) and criticism of interracial relationships.

    Red Ice TV founders Lana Lokteff and her husband, Henrik Palmgren, have often mentioned Carlson during their shows, specifically to praise his staunch opposition to diversity. They also celebrated when Carlson tweeted out (and later deleted) a link to their site in an attempt to criticize people who call out racism.

    The Red Ice TV founders aren’t the only white supremacists who adore Carlson; others have labeled him their “favorite commentator,” credited him for being their “only voice to a large extent,” actively fantasized about a Carlson presidential run, and rallied behind him in the face of backlash. Clearly, the white nationalist dog whistles in Carlson’s rhetoric have not gone unnoticed by extremists.

  • White supremacists rally behind Tucker Carlson: "Heil Tucker"

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & ALEX KAPLAN

    Multiple white supremacist media figures, extremist outlets, men’s rights activists, and users of far-right anonymous message board 4chan rallied behind Fox News host Tucker Carlson after Media Matters unearthed audio of him making multiple sexist and racist remarks on a shock jock radio show between 2006 and 2011. According to his extremist fan base, Carlson was just saying “true things about women,” for which they declared, “Heil Tucker.”

  • Leaked chat messages show members of white supremacist group Identity Evropa are obsessed with Tucker Carlson

    Chats show extremists claim Carlson has “done more for” white supremacists than they “could ever hope to.”

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A trove of leaked chat messages reportedly from members of white supremacist group Identity Evropa shows the group’s appreciation for Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Members praised segments from Tucker Carlson Tonight and fantasized about the idea of him running for president someday.

    On March 6, the nonprofit media organization Unicorn Riot released chat logs from a Discord server reportedly used by members of Identity Evropa, a group attempting to sanitize white supremacy by rebranding its racist beliefs as pro-white “identitarianism.” The chat server’s name, “Nice Respectable People Group,” reflects Identity Evropa’s focus on “optics,” a strategy of intentionally rebranding away from obvious extremism to avoid the negative press that supposedly keeps their ideas from appealing to the mainstream.

    Media Matters reviewed hundreds of chat messages containing mentions of Carlson -- who extremists refer to with familiarity as “Tuck” or “Tucker” -- and can confirm that the white supremacists routinely turn on Fox News to watch him deliver messages aligned with their extremist cause. They see Carlson’s prime-time audience as an effective opportunity to rebrand themselves and get positive media coverage for their extremism.

    Users in the leaked chats shared a Media Matters video that shows how closely Carlson’s rhetoric aligns with that of white supremacists like American Renaissance’s Jared Taylor (a point extremists have made as well), with users asking, “Where’s the lie?” and calling the video a “red-pill compilation” (the phrase “red-pilling,” a reference to the movie The Matrix, is far-right shorthand for radicalizing).

    The leaked chats clearly show the admiration that some of the Discord server users have for Carlson. They include users praising the Fox host, claiming that he’s the sole reason they tune in to cable, and calling him “a lone voice of reason in the media.” Borrowing language from anonymous message board 4chan, white supremacists call Carlson “our guy” (users of 4chan have anointed white supremacist Rep. Steve King (R-IA) with the same title -- and they call far-right actress Roseanne Barr “our girl”).

    The chats show many users praising Carlson for his subtlety in delivering extremist talking points as a strategic way of remaining on the airwaves, explicitly crediting Carlson with “normalizing 80% of [Identity Evropa’s] talking points,” and pointing out that figures like Carlson and Nazi sympathizer Ann Coulter “know exactly what they’re doing” to “nudge people further to the right.” It is clear is that Carlson’s fearmongering about changing demographics comes across to these extremists as an explicitly white supremacist talking point.

    Members of Identity Evropa praise the Fox host for “doing divine work” that has “done more for” white supremacists than they “could ever hope to” do, while crediting Carlson’s rhetoric with moving the Overton Window, a measure of what’s considered acceptable public discourse, closer to extremism. In fact, they suggest staying within the limits of Carlson’s rhetoric to be effective with mainstream conservatives, calling it “the edge of the acceptable” and claiming that “acceptable … moves toward us daily.”

    The messages also show that white supremacists consider Carlson to be an effective mouthpiece for their messages and pet narratives. They view him as an essential part of the informational “food chain” that funnels their interests to President Donald Trump, who they believe is “being exposed” to their issues through Carlson’s show. And they’re not wrong about that. Last year, a segment on Carlson’s show pushing a white nationalist narrative about South African farmers inspired a presidential tweet, exciting white supremacists around the globe. A leaked chat message shows that members of Identity Evropa actively organized an online campaign to boost Carlson’s South Africa segment using sock accounts -- online accounts with false identities -- and turn the segment into a tool for recruiting on social media.

    Because they deem Carlson’s show to be a valuable platform for the white supremacist movement, some chats show users rallying to get Carlson’s eyes on stories they consider important, or discussing getting their leader, Patrick Casey, on Tucker Carlson Tonight. But to these white supremacists, Carlson is more than a useful mouthpiece, and his show is more than a valuable platform. They look at him as a thought leader and an influential thinker. A user of Identity Evropa’s Discord server promoted Carlson’s Twitter account as one of numerous “serious accounts comprising of European and American Identitarian and reactionary thought leaders.” Another user suggested Carlson’s latest book Ship of Fools as a blueprint for the group’s actions.

    Additionally, Carlson’s Fox show provides his audience with a reason to build communities centered around extremism. The Identity Evropa chats show a user promoting a Carlson-themed Facebook group that was also promoted by The Daily Shoah or TDS, a fascist podcast whose hosts also admire Carlson.

    The leaked chats show that Identity Evropa’s conversations about Carlson are often centered around positively discussing segments of his Fox show -- such as pushing a segment in which Carlson elevated white nationalist outlet VDare as “laying the groundwork for a White Identity politics apologetics” -- and promoting links to his Twitter videos and YouTube clips, creating an incentive for Fox News to continue profiting from extremism.

    Identity Evropa’s conversations about Carlson also reflect a degree of sycophancy that includes wishful thinking about a joint Carlson-Coulter appearance at the group’s national conference and active fantasizing about having Carlson in a presidential ticket.

  • White supremacist behind Charlottesville Unite the Right rally blames fellow racists for failure of his extremist crusade

    Jason Kessler says he won’t be organizing a Unite the Right 3 rally because of “the alt-right’s obsession with Jews” and suggests Covington Catholic episode is “a perfect example of what white identity activism should be”

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Jason Kessler, the white supremacist behind the 2017 and 2018 extremist Unite the Right rallies in Charlottesville, VA, and Washington, D.C., announced he won’t be organizing a third iteration of his racist event. Kessler’s first rally in 2017 resulted in the murder of counterprotester Heather Heyer and injuries to dozens of other counterprotesters, and the second one was sparsely attended. While making the announcement, Kessler blamed “the alt-right’s obsession with Jews” for bad publicity surrounding his events, claiming that his motivation to go ahead with the second rally in 2018 was “to not back down to a heckler's veto.”

    In a February 26 Periscope session, Kessler said his decision to not organize the event a third time came down to him thinking that it is not “helpful to have a pro-white movement which is really just about anti-Jew activism.”

    Kessler also said his intentions for arranging the first Unite the Right rally “were noble,” but he hinted at the real reasons for his backpedaling on organizing public events as he bemoaned, “Every time I lowered myself to the alt-right’s level and started using that kind of sensationalistic rhetoric, I got slapped for it and I was made to look like a fool.”

    According to Kessler, there’s nothing wrong “with trying to make sure that white people get a fair shake” but instead of holding public rallies, he said white supremacists should endorse what he called “the Covington strategy.” Kessler was referring to the professional public relations campaign launched by students of Covington Catholic High School and members of their families to turn them into the victims of a tense encounter with a Native American activist.

    The encounter and its fallout -- which Kessler called “a perfect example of what white identity activism should be” -- has now been embraced by neo-Nazis, who have turned it into a 4chan meme rallying for white supremacy with the slogan “Stand Your Ground.” In the same vein, Kessler praised the effectiveness of white supremacist memes like the “it’s OK to be white” catchphrase that originated from 4chan, suggesting the dog-whistle racism in meme format as the way forward for white identity causes. (White nationalists like Richard Spencer and white supremacist darling Tucker Carlson have also praised and elevated the “it’s OK to be white” campaign.)

    Far from distancing himself from the toxicity of his “white identity” movement, Kessler’s Periscope video was another example of the “optics” strategy used by similar groups like Identity Evropa. In this strategy, extremists use sanitized language that substitutes explicit racism for pro-white “identitarianism,” thus allowing them to operate in the mainstream while opposing social justice initiatives and promoting white supremacist grievances. After all, Kessler clearly continues to believe in the premise that inspired his first rally: “My original purpose was to advocate for white people because I felt like we were being unfairly discriminated [against]. There’s one set of rules for white people and one for everybody else.”

  • Right-wing trolls attack Brie Larson and target Captain Marvel with negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

    4chan users called for a boycott of the film after Larson spoke out about the importance of representation

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Media Matters / Melissa Joskow

    Weeks before its release, the superhero movie Captain Marvel has already been targeted with negative reviews on the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes after users on 4chan called for a boycott and attacks on the woman-fronted and -directed film.

    On February 12, Entertainment Tonight posted an article in which actor Brie Larson, who portrays the film’s superhero, said: “I had a meeting with Marvel and what we discussed is they wanted to make a big feminist movie.” The next day, The Hollywood Reporter posted a profile of Larson in which she discussed the movie’s significance for women -- in addition to it being the first Marvel movie led by a woman, it is also the first to be directed by a woman. Larson also said in an interview published on February 11 that the movie critic community “appeared to be overwhelmingly white male” and that she wanted the film’s press tour to be “more inclusive” for film critics of color and women.

    Some in far-right circles have responded by lashing out online at Larson, calling her an “idiot” and saying that a “big feminist movie” “sounds awful.” Right-wing writer Courtney Kirchoff wrote articles calling Larson a “rude, sexist, racist bigot” and an “insufferable sexist bitch” on the website of BlazeTV host Steven Crowder, who is part of YouTube’s far-right community and who has hosted conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on his show and vice versa. On Reddit’s “r/MensRights” subreddit, a user promoted a YouTube video calling Larson an “NPC superhero” -- a reference to a meme about people who supposedly parrot left-wing views without thinking for themselves.

    Users on on 4chan’s “/pol/” message board have been particularly angry, calling the movie “Captain SJW” -- short for “social justice warrior,” a far-right term criticizing those who support liberal causes such as feminism, racial justice, and LGBTQ rights. They also wrote that her “career needs to be destroyed for what she said about white men” and called for the movie to be boycotted. Some users also specifically urged others to “tank” the film’s ratings and “downvote” it on review sites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb, along with pushing users to start Twitter campaigns like #BoycottBrie and #BoycottMsMarvel:

    On February 18, another 4chan message board, "/tv/," had a thread in which a user asked, "#BoycottCaptainMarvel raids when?"

    Thousands of reviewers flocked to Rotten Tomatoes to tank the film’s pre-rating, which measures what percentage of people want to see it. The film's score dropped from 90 percent on February 11 to 59 percent as of the publication of this article.

    On February 19, some 4chan posters suggested message board users had played a role:

    This would not be the first time far-right trolls tried to impact reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. In 2017, some on the far-right took credit for tanking the rating for Star Wars: The Last Jedi because they were angry about the film’s “feminist agenda.”

  • The founder of this extremist armed militia had a front-row seat to Trump’s rally

    Stewart Rhodes and his Oath Keepers embrace white supremacist talking points and have provided security to far-right extremists while endorsing the use of “lethal force” against left-wing protesters

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and members of his far-right armed militia were spotted in the front row at President Donald Trump’s February 11 rally in El Paso, TX. Rhodes has advocated for training armed militias to do Trump’s bidding, embraced white supremacist conspiracy theories, endorsed using “lethal force” against left-wing protesters, and called on armed Oath Keepers to stand guard outside of schools and to spot unauthorized crossings at the U.S. southern border.

    Rhodes founded Oath Keepers “in the direct aftermath of the election of the nation’s first black president,” Barack Obama, in reaction to the baseless claim that the federal government was hellbent on destroying liberties protected by the Constitution. The militia holds radical anti-government beliefs and is made up of “current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders” claiming to uphold the oath they made to “support and defend the Constitution.”

    In reality, the group and its founder openly espouse radical beliefs. Some of these include calling transgender rights “nuts,” dismissing the racist use of blackface as “nonsense,” and claiming Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is using identity politics focused on “anyone not white” to “weaponize them against their own nation.” In the Obama years, the group promoted conspiracy theories such as "mass, forced internment into concentration camps" and claimed that they were operation to "prevent dictatorship" in the United States. In 2015, Rhodes reportedly said that Sen. John McCain "should be hung by the neck until dead"; Rhodes also was one of the far-right figures pushing the Jade Helm conspiracy theory. Rhodes also reportedly claimed that the Obama administration was using Ferguson riots and the Ebola virus to "spark a race war."

    Rhodes has repeatedly pushed baseless claims of massive voter fraud by undocumented immigrants and directed his armed militia to combat it. In the days leading up to the 2016 presidential election, he announced “Operation Sabot 2016,” and asked fellow Oath Keepers to “go out into public on election day, dressed to blend in with the public … with video, still camera, and notepad in hand, to look for and document suspected criminal vote fraud or intimidation activities.” While he asked that they not bring guns, the Oath Keepers are closely associated with open carry protests, including the open carrying of firearms during protests against police brutality in Ferguson, MO, in which armed members looked down from rooftops.

    After the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, Rhodes called on Oath Keepers to “post up armed outside your local school” and some members obliged.

    On December 5, Rhodes went on Alex Jones’ Infowars outlet to push the white supremacist talking point that a caravan of immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border was evidence of “globalists” (a term with anti-Semitic connotations) executing what he described as “the latest tactic or assault in an ongoing war on the West to flood us with Third World people and then overwhelm us and kill our countries.” He called for the Justice Department to indict “all these NGOs that are assisting these illegal aliens coming into the United States.” A similar white supremacist conspiracy theory that migrant caravans are the result of a Jewish plot to replace white people was embraced by the shooter who went into a synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, and killed 11 Jewish people in October.

    Two days after Infowars posted Rhodes’ appearance, his group issued a “call to action” on Twitter, asking members to head to the southern border “to conduct surveillance and to spot and report any suspected illegal infiltration of the U.S.”

    Rhodes has also talked about forming an armed militia to do whatever Trump wants. During one of his frequent guest appearances on Infowars, Rhodes announced the launch of “a new program called Spartan training groups.” Rhodes said that the program is for “the average American” to learn combat skills to be available if “called out by the president of the United States to serve as a militia of the United States to secure the schools, protect our borders, or whatever else he asks them to do.”

    He also talked about the group’s involvement in providing security for far-right rallies and advocated for armed militias to recruit retired police for their nationwide concealed carry privileges as a “final line of lethal force” against anti-fascist protesters in any jurisdiction. Rhodes alluded to working alongside other violent extremist groups such as Patriot Prayer -- the group responsible for a cache of firearms found on a Portland, OR, rooftop in preparation for a protest last summer -- and the self-identified gang Proud Boys.

    In another appearance on Infowars, Rhodes hinted at the Oath Keepers murdering anti-Trump protesters, saying that left-wing protesters were coming close to “forcing” militias like his to have “no choice” but to “kill them.”

  • Right-wing trolls are sharing a hoax version of the Green New Deal

    The hoax has spread enough to reach Google's search suggestions, and people are falling for it

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Far-right trolls are attacking the Green New Deal by sharing a fake version of the proposal that includes a suggestion to use recycled urine.

    The Green New Deal is a comprehensive plan to fight climate change that has been championed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). She and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a nonbinding resolution on February 7 that outlines policies for the U.S. to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions within 10 years, including transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy and revamping transportation, agriculture, buildings, and other infrastructure.

    As the Twitter account Unfakery pointed out, right-wing trolls are parodying the contents of the Green New Deal in an attempt to fool people into believing it actually includes a proposal to recycle urine.

    Google’s search engine also picked up the disinformation: The hoax currently comes up as a suggestion when one types in “recycling urine.” (Media Matters searched for the term via an incognito browser.)

    Here’s how far-right trolls spread the hoax:

    YouTube conspiracy theorist Mark Dice posted the hoax on both Twitter and Facebook and admitted that he made up the language, urging his followers to “spread it around,” make it “go viral,” and “don’t give away the joke.”

    A YouTube user posted a video about the Green New Deal that mentioned Dice’s hoax as if it were a real point in the proposal. Dice wrote a comment under the video saying that he created the hoax as “satire,” again urging people to spread it:

    Reddit forum “r/The_Donald”:

    4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board known as “/pol/” (an earlier 4chan thread also pushed the hoax, but it has since been deleted):

    Reddit’s “r/The_Donald”:

    Far-right troll and One America News Network host Jack Posobiec (who later wrote that it was “obvious satire”):

    Even though Posobiec noted that it wasn’t real, other far-right trolls continued to spread the hoax, including on /pol/:

  • On abortion and women in the workforce, Tucker Carlson sounds a lot like white supremacists

    Blog ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After a state legislator in Virginia proposed a bill to remove barriers to abortion access, right-wing media went on the attack. Fox News and other outlets have blatantly lied about the bill (which has since been tabled), calling it legalized “infanticide” and levying other false and misleading accusations, all as part of a campaign to delegitimize attempts to protect or expand abortion access. Fox host Tucker Carlson, himself a booster of anti-choice extremists, argued that “the investor class” pushes abortion on regular people because its members want women to “stop breeding” and join the workforce, adding that “pro-choice means pro-corporate.”

    TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): In other words, abortion boosts markets. It frees women from the tiresome demands of motherhood and allows them to fulfill their higher duty, which is to corporations. Childless women make more dutiful, obedient workers. They can work longer hours. They take less time off. They are loyal to company first. This is all great for GDP. Chelsea Clinton and the rest of the investor class strongly approve of it. Stop breeding and get to work. That’s how they feel.

    So this is the real reason our elites so enthusiastically support abortion. It doesn’t set you free; it won’t make you happier. But it will make companies more profitable and that’s what matters most to them. Pro-choice means pro-corporate. Whatever else he’s done, [Virginia Gov.] Ralph Northam has made that clear.

    His argument that liberal elites want women to have access to abortion so they can enter the workforce is false, sexist, and paternalistic -- and it overlaps with the rhetoric of racist extremists in the “alt-right” world online. Carlson’s misogynistic view that women should not have control over their own bodies also tracks with his efforts to mainstream white supremacist talking points, as there are clear connections between racism, anti-choice activism, and virulent misogyny. There’s significant overlap between Carlson’s rhetoric and the views expressed by white nationalist online media personalities, who, in turn, love Carlson for his on-air racism.

    After President Donald Trump lied about abortion and made a hollow appeal to women in the workforce in his State of the Union speech, Richard Spencer, a white nationalist credited with coining the phrase “alt-right,” lamented that increased employment meant fewer children will “be born and cared for.”

    Faith Goldy, an “alt-right” online personality who in 2018 ran a failed mayoral campaign in Toronto and earned Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) endorsement, quoted Trump’s comments on working women, then added, “Meantime, US birth rate has hit an all-time low” quipping sarcastically that it’s probably “unrelated.”

    White nationalist YouTube personality and men’s rights activist Stefan Molyneux claimed it’s “very sad” that more are women working -- which Carlson said is the result of abortion access -- because it leaves them “little time for play and connection” with children at home.

    Carlson also said that abortion proponents want women to “stop breeding,” which dovetails with a dog whistle meant to stoke fear of demographic change in America. Molyneux echoed this sentiment on Twitter earlier this month, saying that immigrants and their children are dependant on welfare funded by white people and this is driving down white birthrates.

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

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

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

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

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

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

    QAnon believer Amber Merkel on Gab:

    QAnon believer Neon Revolt on Gab:

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

    Reddit forum “r/The_Donald”:

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

    8chan’s "/pol/":

    Far-right website DC Whispers:

    Actor James Woods:

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

    Fake news site NewsPunch (formerly known as YourNewsWire):

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

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

  • PragerU YouTube video features bigoted conspiracy theorist Owen Benjamin

    Benjamin says racial and homophobic slurs are “hilarious” and got kicked off of Twitter after going on a weird rant about the genitals of a Parkland shooting survivor

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    PragerU, the online operation peppering the internet with viral far-right propaganda, featured bigoted Owen Benjamin in its latest video. Benjamin was kicked off of Twitter permanently in 2018 following a bizarre rant about Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg’s genitals.

    In his February 4 video, Benjamin attempted to dissuade PragerU’s audience from arguing with leftists by calling “raising kids without a gender identity” “a form of child abuse” and by baselessly claiming white people are being demonized “for the world’s problems.”

    Benjamin is a right-wing comedian whose brand of “criminally unfunny” comedy includes using the N-word and homophobic slurs and calling it “hilarious.” He’s also a conspiracy theorist who has claimed to hundreds of thousands of viewers on his YouTube channel that the moon landing never happened.

    PragerU has a history of using its massive, wide-reaching platform to push misinformation and extremism. It has blamed racial disparities on "black culture," and on Columbus Day, it featured a video that showed a racist depiction of indigenous people as cannibals wielding salt-and-pepper shakers. On Facebook, the PragerU Brasil page has posted a Russia Today article to its over 14,000 followers falsely claiming that the American Psychological Association had stated it was “bad to be a man.” PragerU’s founder, Dennis Prager, has waged a dangerous, yearslong campaign against basic facts about AIDS, once calling heterosexual AIDS an “entirely manufactured” myth.

    And yet, PragerU’s propaganda and misinformation are being inserted directly into schools, as the company provides “content directly to teachers and students” and is “developing relationships with educators ‘in college, high school, middle school and homeschools.’”

    (H/t to @eyesontheright and @jaredlholt.)

  • Newsmax host elevates far-right conspiracy theory accusing two Democratic presidential candidates of staging a hate crime

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Editor’s note (2/21): Following the publication of this post, Smollett was arrested on February 21 by Chicago police “on suspicion of filing a false report about” the alleged assault.

    Newsmax TV and Rebel Media host John Cardillo amplified a far-right conspiracy theory that originated from message boards and social media accounts and accuses Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) of staging the alleged anti-queer and racist attack against actor Jussie Smollett. The conspiracy theory contends that the senators' intent in drawing attention to a case like Smollet's was to help pass their proposed anti-lynching legislation. The baseless claim connects with the far-right narrative that Smollett's alleged attack -- which reportedly included the attackers wrapping a rope around the Empire star’s neck -- was a hoax in efforts to minimize the importance of anti-lynching legislation.

    Harris and Booker, both of whom recently announced their 2020 presidential candidacies, introduced the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018 with Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) last summer. The bill, which unanimously passed in the Senate, would classify lynching as a federal hate crime. Earlier attempts to pass anti-lynching legislation in Congress failed repeatedly during the 19th and 20th centuries when the act of racial terrorism was widespread across the country. Both Harris and Booker have called the attack on Smollett a “modern-day lynching.”

    Here’s how the conspiracy theory bubbled up from the fever swamps to Cardillo’s Twitter feed:

    Twitter account @hankentwhistle:

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

    YouTube:

    Reddit’s “r/conspiracy” forum:

    4chan’s /pol/:

    Reddit’s “r/The_Donald”:

    Voat, a Reddit clone populated mostly by alt-right trolls:

    Gab:

    Multiple Twitter accounts:

    Newsmax TV host John Cardillo:

  • Sexist right-wing smear against Kamala Harris moves from the fever swamps to Fox

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox’s Tomi Lahren embraced and amplified a sexist smear against Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) by accusing her of “using an extramarital affair to boost her political career.” The misogynistic smear has been gaining traction among anonymous message board users and right-wing influencers on Twitter.

    Lahren devoted the January 29 edition of her show Final Thoughts on Fox Nation to alleging that all of Harris’ professional accomplishments by claiming they were due to a past relationship, and calling the Democrats who support the #MeToo movement hypocritical. Newt Gingrich had made a similar allusion just the day before on Fox & Friends.

    As when Lahren spread a 4chan smear about Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), this misogynist smear about Harris was ripped from right-wing digital influencers and anonymous accounts in the fever swamps of the internet.

    The sexist narrative started gaining traction in Reddit’s “r/The_Donald” subreddit (a forum devoted to President Donald Trump) closely following Harris’ announcement of her intention to run for president. Reacting to Harris’ announcement, users of the subreddit upvoted misogynistic memes and awful smears of a sexual nature (screenshots may not be safe for work).

    In a January 26 San Francisco Chronicle column, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown addressed the press’s interest in his relationship with Harris. Brown stated that they had dated more than 20 years ago and that he had appointed her to political posts. Brown also wrote that Harris was the only one among “a host of other politicians” he had helped who “sent word” later that she would indict him if he “so much as jaywalked” while she was in office. Fox News spun Brown’s column in a sensationalistic article that amassed over 99,000 total interactions on Facebook; it then went viral on Reddit and inspired racist slur-laden posts on the anonymous message board 4chan.

    On the same day, popular right-wing Facebook pages also spread the narrative with click-bait headlines and misogynistic memes, and right-wing amplifiers picked up on the narrative.

    The Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft accused Harris of launching “her political career in bedroom.” On his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh compared Harris to an adult entertainer. A host for conspiracy theory outlet Infowars went on a rant filled with demeaning accusations sexualizing Harris, saying she “basically sucked and ducked her way to the top.” (This show still livestreams on Facebook despite the platform’s supposed commitment to combating hateful speech from Infowars.)

    On Twitter, far-right users including  YouTube conspiracy theorist Mark Dice and actor James Woods joined the attack against Harris while pushing misogynistic hashtags. Woods, particularly, has been a major driving force in pushing the offensive #HorizontalHarris hashtag, which right-wing crank Dinesh D’Souza has also amplified.

    The barrage of crude memes attacking Harris is a clear reminder of the misogynistic double standard that applies to women who run for president. 

    Alex Kaplan contributed research to this piece.

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

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

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

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