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

Alt-right and pro-Trump trolls

Tags ››› Alt-right and pro-Trump trolls
  • Facebook took advice from a far-right figure who blamed gay marriage for hurricanes

    Twitter consulted with a right-wing operative with links to extremism

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In efforts to appease fits of manufactured conservative rage over the moderation of hateful content on social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter have relied on the advice of anti-LGBTQ extremists and far-right grifters “to help them figure out who should be banned and what’s considered unacceptable.”

    As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Facebook sought out the advice of right-wing groups including extremists like the virulently anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council (FRC) and its president, Tony Perkins. Perkins has compared same-sex marriage to incest, blamed marriage equality and abortion for a destructive hurricane, and called pedophilia a “homosexual problem.” He is clearly not equipped to be an arbitrator on content that oppresses, harassed, and erases minorities. Perkins, along with FRC, has actively opposed LGBTQ equality around the world, supporting a law in Uganda that could have punished “repeat offenders” of same-sex sexual activity with the death penalty, and collaborating with a hate group that worked to pass Russia’s “gay propaganda” law. Domestically, Perkins also called for the State Department to stop supporting LGBTQ rights after President Donald Trump was elected.

    Moreover, FRC senior fellow Ken Blackwell has used his Facebook page to regularly push out links from right-wing propaganda sites that have a history of promoting anti-Muslim fake news and conspiracy theories. Blackwell also took part in what was seemingly a promotional campaign with Liftable Media, which owns right-wing propaganda sites like The Western Journal and relies on right-wing media figures to draw online traffic to its pages. And he has shared misleading memes and content from Russia’s Internet Research Agency, the company behind the 2016 presidential election interference on Facebook. Blackwell is also on the board of the NRA, and once blamed the mass shooting at UCSB by a men's rights supporter on marriage equality.

    The Journal’s article also reports that the Heritage Foundation, which has a long history of climate denial and gets funding from fossil fuel companies, has recently “forged a relationship with Facebook.” On Facebook, Heritage Foundation’s media arm, The Daily Signal, has put out anti-science garbage like “Why climate change is fake news,” contributing to Facebook’s climate-denial problem. In 2013, Heritage came under fire for hiring a researcher who wrote that Hispanic immigrants may never "reach IQ parity with whites."  (The researcher later resigned following outrage.)

    Twitter has also sought the advice of right-wing grifters and anti-abortion advocates. According to the Journal, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has been in contact with Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, and Norquist has used that access to successfully lobby for conservatives who had trouble getting anti-abortion ads on Twitter. Anti-abortion groups have a habit of claiming censorship in order to bully social media platforms into allowing them to run “inflammatory” content.

    Dorsey also privately sought the advice of Ali Akbar, a right-wing personality with a prominent Twitter presence, when dealing with the question of whether to remove conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from the platform. (After a murky process filled with half-measures to address Jones’ many policy violations, Twitter and its streaming service Periscope finally removed Jones.) Akbar’s history of promoting hateful content on Twitter and Periscope makes him a poor choice for a consultant on hateful content. He once hosted Matt Colligan (“Millennial Matt”) -- a participant in the 2017 “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA -- for a Periscope video in which Colligan waved a flag that had a Nazi swastika. Akbar, who has claimed his talks with Dorsey have been going on for months, was recently briefly suspended from Twitter, seemingly after a tweet in which he accused media of egging on a “civil war in America” and urged his followers to buy guns and ammo. His account was reinstated within a couple of days.

    These examples show tech platforms’ tendency of caving to conservative whims in order to appease manufactured rage over baseless claims of censorship and bias. Evidence shows that right-wing pages drastically outnumber left-wing pages on Facebook, and under Facebook’s algorithm changes, conservative meme pages outperform all other political news pages. Across platforms, right-wing sources dominate topics like immigration coverage, showing the cries of censorship are nothing more than a tactic. And judging by tech companies’ willingness to cater to these tantrums, the tactic appears to be working.

  • Turning Point USA advisory council member pushes QAnon smear

    Turning Point USA leaders keep pushing QAnon conspiracy theories

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    A member of Turning Point USA’s advisory council, Joel Fischer, pushed a baseless claim about Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) originating from believers of the QAnon conspiracy theory. The claim had been circulating among far-right accounts and figures for a week prior to Fischer pushing it out.

    The smear goes back at least to December 9, when Twitter account @BSpinctor wrote in a since-deleted tweet, “BREAKING: According to congressional sources Representative Adam Schiff used tax payer (sic) money to reach a sexual harassment settlement with a 19 year old made in 2013. As to date there are dozens of settlements being hidden from the American people….developing.”

    The account’s avatar had an image of “Q,” the central figure of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Later that afternoon, another QAnon account, @WeAreOne_Q, tweeted the same claim, adding, “Congress has a ‘hush fund’ & WE THE PEOPLE demand the users be revealed. #QAnon #WWG1WGA.” The tweet went viral, getting tens of thousands of likes and retweets.

    Over the following week, the claim continued to spread on Twitter, along with Facebook, 4chan, the subreddit "r/The_Donald," a QAnon YouTube page, and by conspiracy theorist Liz Crokin on Gab. One Twitter account pushed a video of @BSpinctor’s tweet that received thousands of retweets, including from Breitbart columnist AWR Hawkins. The @WeAreOne_Q tweet and claim was also shared by conspiracy theorist Jacob Wohl and his father.

    Fischer, a member of Turning Point USA’s advisory council, repeated the same claim in a tweet on December 17, writing: “According to congressional sources Representative you @AdamSchiff used tax payer (sic) money to reach a sexual harassment settlement with a 19 year old male in 2013. Congress has a 'hush fund' & WE THE PEOPLE demand the users be revealed. #FullOfSchiff.”

    The day before his tweet accusing Schiff of sexual harassment, Fischer also tweeted that CNN anchor Jake Tapper should question Schiff about the accusations.

    Earlier this month, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk falsely alleged in a tweet that protesters in France had chanted “We want Trump,” something President Donald Trump retweeted despite the false claim originating from a video uploaded by a QAnon-supporting Twitter account.

    Kirk also pushed a false human trafficking statistic from QAnon supporters in July.

  • What happens when the No. 1 cable news channel is steeped in white nationalist rhetoric?

    Tucker Carlson's advertisers are sponsoring fascism

    Blog ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Tucker Carlson is attempting to stay the course amid an advertiser exodus from his Fox News program because of his racist commentary. Carlson had been a mouthpiece for white supremacy, and since being promoted to a prime-time slot on Fox, he has elevated fringe “alt-right” grievances into mainstream media.

    But what are the consequences of airing unfettered, explicit white supremacy five nights a week on the top rated cable news channel in the U.S.? They’re that Fox News viewers, including the president, are exposed to extremist ideology that, thanks to the veneer of respectability a top-rated show carries, has become part of the acceptable spectrum of political discourse -- but that actually puts marginalized communities under direct threat of material harm.

    Unchecked white nationalism on Fox News facilitates radicalization

    In the absence of any identifiable editorial standards at Fox News, naked white nationalist rhetoric has metastasized. Carlson has interpreted this state of affairs as a blanket mandate to host a program centered around the idea that there is a crisis of discrimination against white men in America. Since his show launched on Fox News in November 2016, it has filtered story after story through the lens of white grievance, including claiming that reports of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh exposed “race hatred”, warning about the imaginary threat of white “genocide,” and spending a bewildering amount of time attacking the value of diversity. These segments track with both the rhetoric and smear campaigns cooked up online by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and men’s rights activists. Every night, he speaks on behalf of a fringe online community that endorses white nationalism and amplifies this message to an audience that would likely not have been exposed to it elsewhere. This sets off the invisible process of radicalization: avowed racists and neo-Nazis spew hatred online, Carlson picks it up, sanitizes it, and uses it to bolster the Trump agenda. This process projects explicit white supremacy (as opposed to Fox’s long-term peddling of implicit white supremacy) into the homes of Fox’s audience, blending seamlessly into the network’s long-established brand of conservative media.

    Arie Kruglanski, a research psychologist at the University of Maryland, broke the radicalization process down into three parts in The Washington Post. The first step capitalizes on the drive to live a meaningful life, which white supremacy fulfills by imbuing people’s identity (“gender, religion or race”) with superiority. Carlson trafficks in these toxic white identity politics and validates the fantasy that dominate groups are actually the ones being persecuted. The second element of radicalization is what Kruglanski calls “the narrative.” He says this narrative -- “usually that there is an enemy attacking your group, and the radical must fight to gain or maintain respect, honor or glory” -- gives its believers “permission to use violence.” The constant barrage of coverage about a migrant caravaninvasion” is just one recent example of how Fox’s narrative creates an enemy to fuel racial resentment. Carlson’s show was no exception in that regard. The third piece, Kruglanski says, is forming a “community, or the network of people who validate the narrative and the violence.” Fox helps in this goal broadly across the network by sowing distrust of other outlets by raving about “fake news” and a subversive liberal agenda in mainstream media. In other words, Fox News foments an “us against the world” mentality in its viewers. Carlson specifically builds community among racists by centering “alt-right” issues and talking points in his commentary. They know they’re in this together with him because many of the stories he covers come directly from their online community. Stories about “white genocide” in South Africa and attacks against Georgetown University associate professor Christine Fair bubbled up in white supremacists’ circles online, and their adherents recognize that Carlson is playing their game.

    Imagine a man, not unlike Charlottesville murderer James Fields, who is angry and captivated by the white supremacist ideology that he finds on YouTube, Twitter, and Gab. He sees Carlson take up those same issues and feels validated by seeing them presented with the glossy veneer that cable television provides. He hears his “alt-right” peers reciprocate this praise on their podcast networks. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which a man like this experiences a destabilizing event, whether personal or political, and is moved to take violent action targeting those he perceives to be the enemy of white men.

    Carlson’s show shifts the Overton window toward fascism

    The Overton window is a concept in political science that describes the range of ideas considered acceptable within the mainstream body politic. The consequences of white nationalist viewpoints airing on national television extend beyond the individuals who are radicalized as a result -- the entire spectrum of political discourse is shifted toward normalized fascism. With the rise of authoritarian leaders like Donald Trump, extreme right-wing ideas pull the Overton window to the right, such that what was previously considered to be far-right suddenly looks like the middle ground. The white supremacist rhetoric of Carlson’s show suddenly seems tempered, opening up space in mainstream conservative media for dog whistles about demographic change, white “genocide,” and the end of Western civilization. Fascists turn the oppressors into the oppressed as justification for reactionary attacks on women, immigrants, people of color, and anti-racist activists.

    At the same time, Carlson has appropriated leftist ideas about challenging corporate power and American imperialism and used them to persuade people of his worldview. He claimed he agreed with Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) criticism of Amazon’s use of tax breaks to build additional headquarters in New York and Virginia. He’s encouraged an end to the United States’ never-ending presence in the Middle East, warned against instigating conflict with Iran, and mocked national security adviser John Bolton’s bloodthirstiness to his face. He has said that the Democratic Party panders to corporate interests (it does) and has criticized tax cuts for corporations. And of course, he claims he’s a champion of free speech. It’s not hard to see why taking these positions is popular. But Carlson is playing a shell game. An excellent review of Carlson’s book “Ship of Fools” in Current Affairs explores how this combination of criticizing unfettered state and corporate power combined with ethno-nationalism is “destructive and inhumane” because “it has a kernel of accuracy, it will easily tempt readers toward accepting an alarmingly xenophobic, white nationalist worldview.”

    Carlson won’t cover poverty and other issues important to the left unless he’s using them as a bludgeon to demonize immigrants. In a white supremacist framework, the distinction between poor immigrants and poor citizens is of paramount importance. Tucker wants to convince his audience that immigrants cause poverty, violence, declining wages, and disappearing jobs. Carlson agonizes in his book about the loss of a “European, Christian and English-speaking” majority in America. He lays the blame for capitalism’s harm at the feet of women, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, and people of color. It’s effective because it identifies legitimate systemic problems that are robbing people of their liberty and weaponizes those issues against the marginalized population. This is populism predicated upon racism, better known as national socialism.

    White nationalist rhetoric poses a threat to the well-being of vulnerable populations

    The normalization of white nationalism on Fox News, spearheaded by Carlson, encourages violence against members of marginalized communities who are deemed persona non grata. The goal is to dehumanize those who oppose racism and authoritarianism or whose very existence is in conflict with white America. In a world where all human beings are not considered full human beings, there are no restraints on how poorly they can be treated. In the words of The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer, “The cruelty is the point.” Migrant children have repeatedly faced down the full force of American imperialism; they’ve been tear-gassed and forcibly separated from their parents. Transgender people are the targets of the Department of Justice, which seeks to legally erase them from existence. Who benefits from erasing transgender identities except for those who seek to perform cruelty? What is the point of ending temporary protected status for Haitian migrants and exposing Vietnam war refugees to deportation except to follow through on the white nationalist project of ethnic cleansing, sending those deemed undesirable back to their “shithole” countries? Carlson is the mouthpiece for this agenda.

    Incidents of right-wing violence are increasing and it’s killing people. According to the FBI, hate crime incidents rose 17 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year, and almost three-fifths were driven by race or ethnicity. There’s a clear through line from the escalated rhetoric on immigration to the massacre of 11 Jewish people in a Pittsburgh, PA, synagogue and the tear-gassing of children on the border. White male terrorism is validated by a toxic online ecosystem of racism and extremism that migrates from the dark corners of the internet into mainstream conservative media, and the main conduit of this filth is Tucker Carlson. The lives of women of color, immigrants, disabled people, and refugees are threatened when white nationalism infects the most popular cable news channel on the planet; the consequences of this programming extend beyond the internal politics of media into a direct threat to the lives of vulnerable people.

    Without advertisers, Carlson would have a harder time spewing his hatred. The segment where he said immigration makes the U.S. “dirtier” caught the attention of advertisers this time -- but it happens on a nightly basis, almost always without consequence. It is a moral imperative that Carlson be held responsible for spreading white supremacist ideology that radicalizes a mainstream audience, moves the Overton window toward fascism, and puts marginalized groups in harm’s way. Advertisers and media buyers have the ability to make this change; it’s clear Fox News won’t hold him responsible. After all, the network has completely abdicated editorial control when it comes to other ethical crises. Without action from the companies that sponsor this hate, the undemocratic threat Tucker Carlson poses to political discourse in this country will continue unabated, and his targets will continue to suffer.

  • Yes, The New York Times dropped the ball on covering the rise of right-wing extremism

    Mainstream media failed to cover the rise of the far right because they're afraid of right-wing media

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The original headline for Thursday’s episode of New York Times podcast The Daily inadvertently pointed out something many journalists of color have know for a while: The Times (and other mainstream outlets) dropped the ball in covering the rise of right-wing extremism, and they did so seemingly out of fear of right-wing media and conservatives.

    The Daily originally headlined Thursday’s episode “The Rise of Right-Wing Extremism and How We Missed It.” In a lack of self-awareness, the podcast didn’t mean the “we,” as referring to the Times, as the episode was not an exercise of self-exploration to grapple with the paper’s role in failing to alert audiences to the threat from right-wing extremists. It was, instead, a discussion of a piece that Janet Reitman published in The New York Times Magazine on November 3, which detailed the ways in which U.S. law enforcement missed the rising threat.

    Following backlash on Twitter -- in which many journalists of color and racial justice activists pointed out that non-white communities certainly did not miss the rise of white supremacist violence -- the Times quietly changed the episode’s headline.

    But the paper did miss the rise of right-wing extremism.

    Take, for example, the way it covered right-wing extremism during Barack Obama’s presidency -- or rather, the way it didn’t cover it. A 2009 report on the resurgence and radicalization of right-wing extremists that the Department of Homeland Security distributed across government and law enforcement agencies -- which was prominently discussed during The Daily’s latest episode and in Reitman’s piece -- got almost no attention from news side of the Times in 2009.

    Right-wing media had responded to the report by fabricating a narrative that the Obama administration was targeting conservatives over political differences, effectively ignoring the insidious threat of white supremacist radicalization. Fox News’ Sean Hannity falsely claimed DHS was defining right-wing extremists as “people that maybe think we're not controlling our borders, people that have pro-life bumper stickers.” Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh asserted that the April 14 publication of the report had been timed to distract from April 15 anti-tax protests taking place around the country, sounding a lot like present-day right-wing media claiming right-wing violence is a “false flag” meant to distract. Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin called the report a “piece of crap” and claimed it was “a sweeping indictment of conservatives.” Then-CNN host Lou Dobbs and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough also joined in to attack the report.

    For its part, the Times either didn’t take the contents of the report seriously (evidence of a serious blindspot) or it cowered in fear of the hysterics fueled by right-wing media’s mischaracterization of the report.  The paper mentioned the report in only a handful of op-ed columns, by Charles Blow, Paul Krugman, and Frank Rich.

    What the paper did cover was then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s apology to veteran groups over the document, which had noted that returning veterans struggling to reintegrate at home could ‘lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone-wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.’” A 2009 Times blog also focused on reactions to the report and Napolitano’s apology rather than its substance.

    When it comes to covering radicalization and terrorism, mainstream media in general have either largely ignored right-wing extremism, or failed to contextualize its systematic threat when it manifests itself violently. But what do get plenty of coverage are attacks committed by Muslim individuals. President Donald Trump has helped fuel that bias, baselessly accusing media of not reporting terrorist attacks carried out by Muslims and putting out a list of attacks that omitted mentions of right-wing terrorism.

    Ensuring newsrooms better represent surrounding demographics could help address blind spots in mainstream media on issues including poisoned waterclimate change, and right-wing extremism that disproportionately affect non-white communities.

    But cowering to right-wing media pressure? Only growing a backbone can fix that.

  • A white supremacist YouTuber praised Fox's Tucker Carlson for mentioning "white genocide"

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & JASON CAMPBELL

    White supremacist YouTuber Mark Collett commended Fox’s Tucker Carlson for discussing the white supremacist talking point of “white genocide” on his prime-time show. The shoutout came during the December 5 edition of Collett’s weekly YouTube livestream called This Week on the Alt-Right. During the episode, Collett also took credit for his own role in mainstreaming the term.

    Collet is a British neo-Nazi whose racist content thrives on YouTube and whose extremism has been amplified by American far-right figures, including Fox’s Laura Ingraham and white supremacist darling Rep. Steve King (R-IA). YouTube allows Collett to monetize his extremist content and profit from spreading white supremacist propaganda, and his December 5 livestream was no exception. The Super Chat feature allowed viewers to pay for their messages to be featured more prominently in the live chat.

    White supremacists often push the false narrative of “white genocide” to propagandize about what they claim are fatal threats against white people, like immigration or demographic change. On his prime-time Fox show, Carlson often echoes white supremacist talking points and has become increasingly explicit in championing white grievances, earning accolades among white supremacists along the way.  

    On the October 1 edition of his Fox show Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson specifically fearmongered to his audience about the threat of white genocide by pushing a literal interpretation of an angry tweet written by a Georgetown University professor protesting the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

  • The far-right continues to spread the conspiracy theory that inspired the synagogue shooter

    The notion that Jews are behind a nefarious plot to engineer a migrant invasion is still circulating in right-wing media

    Blog ››› ››› TALIA LAVIN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In the month since a far-right gunman massacred 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh, PA, synagogue, seemingly driven by a conspiracy theory that Jews were orchestrating an invasion of the United States by migrants, this deadly false narrative has continued to spread as a talking point on right-wing platforms.

    The alleged gunman, Robert Bowers, used social media site Gab (a “haven for white nationalists”) to post a derogatory statement about Jewish refugee-resettlement organization HIAS. He accused the organization of bringing “invaders” into the U.S. before unleashing his deadly attack against those worshipping inside the Tree of Life synagogue. And when he was captured, he claimed Jews were “committing genocide” of his people. Since the deadly incident, rhetoric accusing Jews of committing so-called “white genocide” by supporting immigration into the United States seems to continue to proliferate unchecked.

    This week, a Twitter account called @InvasionPlot cropped up and began posting photos and names of Jewish scholars, journalists, student activists, and public officials, among others, and highlighting the individuals’ pro-immigrant and pro-refugee views. The Twitter bio says “this didn’t happen by accident,” and the account garnered thousands of followers before it was suspended.

    Sociologist Philip N. Cohen noted that after he was targeted by the account, his mentions were swamped with neo-Nazis and anti-Semites:

    The Twitter account’s emergence is far from an isolated incident. The false narrative that Jews are orchestrating an invasion of migrants to alter demographics is tightly linked to sensationalized news coverage of a caravan of migrants and asylum-seekers currently situated in Tijuana, Mexico. On the white supremacist message board Stormfront, a user postulated that immigration is a Jewish plot to murder “innocent White Children.”

    Posts on Gab, the forum the alleged synagogue shooter used, continue to assert that the migrant caravan is controlled by Jews and that Jews are orchestrating an “invasion of Europe” by Muslim immigrants.

    But the conspiracy theory has not remained confined to the extremist right, or to the fringes of the internet. On Gab, users have attempted to pin the purported plot behind the caravan on Jewish philanthropist George Soros.

    Similarly, on right-wing media, the same tactic has continued to spread, with President Donald Trump elevating this anti-Semitic conspiracy theory in October. On November 13, Ami Horowitz, a guest on Fox’s Tucker Carlson Tonight, speculated that “Soros is part” of the carvan, noting that this whole thing cost millions and millions of dollars.”

    And on November 16, NRATV correspondent Chuck Holton laid out the conspiracy theory in stark terms: “It didn’t take a whole lot ... to find a pretty direct link between George Soros money and the people in the caravan getting fed.”

    Despite clear evidence that this very conspiracy theory already inspired a massacre, the false notion that Jews are orchestrating an “invasion” of the United States doesn’t seem to be disappearing from right-wing media -- and it may inspire violence again.

  • White supremacists directly linked to pro-Trump media figure Jack Posobiec. Here’s what you need to know about him.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Jack Posobiec, a conspiracy theorist and consummate pro-Trump media figure who often boasts of his access to the White House and other MAGA celebrities, worked as recently as 2017 with white supremacists who advocate for violence. Posobiec has a long record of extremism and ratfucking: He was an outspoken advocate of the “alt-right,” published a book with the help of an “alt-right” figure, and pushed all kinds of smears and misinformation for political gain.

    Posobiec reportedly had links to Jeffrey and Edward Clark, two white supremacist brothers. Jeffrey Clark was arrested by federal authorities in Washington, D.C., for gun charges after relatives contacted authorities about his support for last month’s mass shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue. As reported by HuffPost, Posobiec teamed up with the brothers in 2017 to film documentary footage; a source provided an image of Posobiec alongside the brothers. HuffPost also reported that anti-fascist researcher Laura Sennett said Jeffrey Clark had told her Posobiec both knew of his Nazi beliefs and was sympathetic to them.

    Posobiec is currently a host for One America News Network, a right-wing news outlet that specializes in sycophantic coverage of President Donald Trump and conspiracy theories. He previously worked for far-right Canadian outlet Rebel Media. Posobiec achieved his standing in the MAGA media universe by embracing the “alt-right”​ and its public figures during the 2016 presidential election and, like many other grifters, eventually rebranding as a member of the “New Right” after the extremism of the “alt-right” made associating with it too toxic.

    Despite his continued efforts to sanitize his role in spreading the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, Posobiec repeatedly broadcast to his social media followers and to Infowars audiences the baseless claim that a D.C. pizza restaurant served as a front for a child trafficking ring, showed up at the pizza parlor himself to “investigate,” and then claimed that the arrest of a gunman who also showed up at the pizzeria was a “false flag.”

    Posobiec’s ratfucking record includes spreading forged documents tied to Russia purporting to be then-French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s emails; planting a “Rape Melania” sign at an anti-Trump protest to smear activists; and doxxing one of the women who reported that she was sexually assaulted as a minor by defeated Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. Leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, Posobiec was an administrator in a racist Facebook group that promoted Republican candidates and pushed far-right conspiracy theories.

    He has built his brand by promoting attention-grabbing stunts that masquerade as activism, such as disrupting a theater presentation of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that he deemed to promote political violence, filing a civil rights lawsuit over all-female screenings of Wonder Woman, and trolling a congressional press conference on net neutrality to demand that Democratic senators disavow “satanic” internet pornography. He also gleefully participated in an online harassment campaign that resulted in CNN journalist Andrew Kaczynski receiving death threats.

    Posobiec has ridden every controversy and subsequent media coverage to increase his visibility and online followers. He’s used that branding for political access and promotion of his personal business endeavors, which include his self-congratulatory book about the movement that took Trump to victory, and his most recent book, published with the help of with “alt-right” figure Theodore Beale, who writes under the pseudonym Vox Day. Posobiec promoted this book by linking to Vox Day’s website, a depository of white supremacist grievances.

    Posobiec’s clout in the MAGA social universe has risen high enough to earn him a retweet from Trump himself (when Posobiec wrote an accusatory tweet aimed at the media for focusing too much on the 2017 white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA) and allow him access to the White House. He used temporary White House press credentials in May 2017 to push the debunked conspiracy theory that former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered for leaking DNC emails.

    In his role as OANN correspondent, Posobiec regularly showcases his access to pro-Trump celebrities (including Donald Trump Jr.) and his presence at White House and Trump Hotel social functions. Meanwhile, he’s used his OANN platform to hype smears from the defendant in the Seth Rich lawsuit, as well amplify the wild conspiracy theory known as QAnon, giving virulent far-right troll Microchip a platform and taking his word at face value that he is the anonymous poster known as Q. Microchip is an anonymous and prolific user of Gab -- the social media site known for being “haven for white supremacists” -- where he constantly posts white supremacist grievances and anti-Semitic and racial slurs and invites followers to “fuck shit up” legally by pushing and spreading the misinformation campaign QAnon.

    It is clear that Posobiec’s history of extremism, peddling of conspiracy theories, and ties to white supremacists are not a problem for the network that employs him, nor for the pro-Trump universe that has enabled his professional career. In that universe, misinformation and extremism are not deal breakers. They’re assets.

  • Here is the right-wing misinformation going around on Election Day

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    As Election Day gets underway in the 2018 midterm elections, right-wing misinformation and hoaxes are targeting voters on social media platforms -- including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube -- and via text messages. The right-wing misinformation campaigns include hoaxes about Democrats burning flags, lies about a gubernatorial candidate buying votes, and followers of the conspiracy theory QAnon fearmongering about violent anti-fascist groups targeting voters.

    Here are some examples:

    Alex Jones promoted conspiracy theories about noncitizen and dead Democratic voters on Bitchute. During a broadcast published November 6 on Bitchute, a YouTube alternative, Jones said that polling indicates a “major red wave” and claimed without evidence that “they have caught people from Texas to Maryland, Democrats organizing illegal aliens to have mailed to their address absentee ballots in the name of dead people still on the rolls,” asking, “Will the Democrats be able to steal another election?”

    In Florida, some voters got a text from someone impersonating a campaign staffer for Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum. The text made misleading and false claims about Gillum’s campaign promises, including that he will "raise taxes on anyone making over $25,000 a year." As the Tampa Bay Times reported, Democrats have not proposed adding a state income tax (Florida does not current have one), and Gillum particularly has “repeatedly said that he wouldn’t propose” one. The text also mischaracterized Gillum’s position that “there is a racial element to the application” of Florida’s “stand your ground” law, falsely claiming he called it “a racist ideology.”

    A member of Facebook group Drain The Swamp claimed that a report showed 1.7 million California voters were not registered.

    A Twitter account posted a hoax video showing Democrats burning flags to celebrate a “blue wave.” From The Daily Beast:

    One fake video that’s getting circulation on both Facebook and Twitter today purports to show CNN anchor Don Lemon laughing as Democrats burn flags in a celebration of the “blue wave.”

    Twitter pulled the video from its site around 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, although it’s still on Facebook.

    The video, which claims to be a scene from CNN’s “Reliable Sources” comes complete with a CNN-style chyron: "Dems celebrate 'Blue Wave' Burning Flags on Election Day." The original version of the video has was viewed nearly 55,000 views on Twitter since being posted Monday, with the tweet promoting it retweeted nearly 5,000 times.

    The video appears to have been first posted by Twitter user “@RealDanJordan,” who said it was a reason to vote for Republican candidates.

    The same Twitter account pushed memes telling men to skip voting in order to help Democrats.

    A user of the neighborhood social network Nextdoor posted false voter information.

    Trolls claiming to be from the Russian Internet Research Agency have been spamming reporters offering to give an inside scoop on their operations.​

    Users of different social media platforms are attempting to revive a false claim from 2016 that billionaire philanthropist George Soros owns a specific brand of voting machines.

    A member of Facebook group Brian Kemp For Georgia Governor claimed without any proof that Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is “buying votes.”​

    A 4chan account encouraged fellow users to post on Twitter a meme falsely claiming people can vote by text.​

    Conspiracy theorist “Q” encouraged supporters to be vigilant about voter fraud at the polls. On the anonymous message board 8chan, the anonymous poster known as “Q” encouraged supporters of the absurd “deep state” conspiracy theory to be vigilant about voter fraud at the polls. The conspiracy theorist pushed vague allegations of widespread voter fraud across the U.S. and stated that during the election, “uniformed and non-uniformed personnel will be stationed across the country in an effort to safeguard the public.”

    A QAnon-themed YouTube channel posted a video echoing Q’s voter fraud conspiracy theories. As of this writing, the video had more than 43,300 views.

    A pro-Trump Facebook page spread similar claims that fearmongered about election fraud. The page posted a screenshot from the original 8chan post that had been taken from that YouTube video:

    In a QAnon Facebook group, one user claimed that voting machines in Pennsylvania were switching votes for non-Democratic candidates into votes for Democratic candidates.

    Natalie Martinez, Timothy Johnson, and Melissa Ryan contributed research to this piece.​

  • After Florida misogynistic killings, online incels call shooter “legend” and complain he “only killed two”

    Incels praise Tallahassee shooter by downloading his online footprint of misogyny and claim “there’s no stopping” hate-inspired rampages

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Scott Beierle, a man with an online footprint of far-right misogyny and a police record of groping women, opened fire at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, FL, on November 2, killing two women before shooting himself. As reported by Buzzfeed, in his online videos, Beierle had openly praised Elliot Rodger, who went on a misogyny-fueled killing rampage in 2014 and has become a hero for the women-hating “incel” (involuntary celibate) community online. This is the fourth incident of violence connected to far-right extremism in the U.S. in just the past two weeks.

    In reaction to the shooting and reports of Beierle’s record of misogyny, members of the anonymous online forum incels.is -- a new domain established after the forum reportedly got suspended for violating its past registrar’s anti-abuse policies -- shared and gleefully consumed the content of Beierle’s YouTube videos; and at least one person claimed he downloaded Beierle’s video presumably as a contingency in case social media platforms took it down. The same poster claimed to have found the shooter’s website and promised to post it to the forum.

    Another poster claimed that comments on the shooter’s YouTube videos that denounced his misogyny are the sort of thing that radicalize white men.

    In their comments about the shooter's rants in which he condemned white women who date Black men, some posters underscored the intersection between misogyny and white supremacy: One claimed that Beierle’s “views on race mixing are not wrong,” and another questioned how many white incels would follow the shooter’s example in response to interracial couples. As shown in the screenshot, one poster is already using a picture of Beierle as the profile's avatar.

    A member of the forum characterized the shooter as a “legend,” while another complained that he "only killed 2" women:

    Another thread warned readers that nothing will stop sexually frustrated men from going on rampages. The thread featured “an open letter to cucks” (the far-right’s go-to insult against those perceived as weak for embracing political correctness) supposedly explaining “why you can’t do shit about people going ER,” using incel shorthand for Elliot Rodger.

    The poster warned “cucks” and “foids” (a dehumanizing term incels apply to women) that they will “NEVER, EVER, EVER” stop men who are frustrated sexually from seeing “blackpill content online” and getting inspired to go on killing rampages. “Blackpill content” refers to messaging telling men who consider themselves involuntary celibate that the world is stacked against them and there “can be no personal solutions to systemic problems.”

    Replies to the open letter looked like battle cries: “We’ll get down every one of you,” one user wrote; another, who bragged about having an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle, posted, “Come and take me”:

    Other posters called on other incels to build "muscular physiques" that make them strong enough to "hurt others":

    A member of the forum speculated about whether an account that had posted “going ER” on November 2 in a similar forum for incels, Truecels.org, belonged to the shooter. Truecels includes a board called “hall of heroes” that honors -- among others -- Rodger, terrorist Timothy McVeigh, and Yamaguchi Otoya, a far-right assassin who killed the leader of the Japanese socialist party in 1960. Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes recently honored Yamaguchi Otoya by re-enacting the violent murder at the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York City.

    Accounts in these forums are anonymous, so anyone with an account can participate on different message threads. Members can also participate on Discord and Telegram chats after some vetting from the community. In the Truecels forum, posters also questioned whether the shooter had an account, expressing concern that screenshots of his profile could inspire a feminist “to stage a crisis to make it look like incels are violent … right before an election:”

    In just the past two weeks, four far-right extremists have gone on violent, hate-fueled attacks around the U.S. On October 24, 51-year-old Gregory Bush attempted to enter a predominantly Black church in Jeffersontown, KY, before heading to a Kroger grocery store where he shot two Black people, the first in the store and the second in the parking lot. Two days later, a man with a long record of posting right-wing content and threats online mailed explosive devices to prominent Democratic figures and the cable news network CNN. On October 27, a man who posted virulently anti-Semitic messages on the website Gab, known as a “haven for white nationalists,” went on a murderous rampage in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA.

    Given the violent posts about women, racial and ethnic minorities, and religious groups that can be easily found in online forums, and the common thread of far-right content posting among attackers, it’s not far-fetched to think that the next far-right violent attack might be brewing online. On mainstream social media platforms like Twitter, extremism is not particularly difficult to find: The incels forum links to its an official Twitter account, and accounts that post anti-Semitic and white supremacist content fly under the radar undisturbed. And yet, right-wing media figures refuse to either connect the dots between far-right rhetoric and the extremism it inspires or take responsibility for mainstreaming and empowering extremists.