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Conspiracy Theories

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  • Alex Jones tries and fails to pass off a publicly available document as the House GOP's secret Russia memo

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones purported to exclusively release a secret memo that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) has touted which supposedly undermines the investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign in Russia. The document that Jones displayed on air during his January 23 show has actually been publicly available on a government website since at least May 2017.

    Jones tried to do damage control later in the show, claiming that forces in the government hacked a computer in his offices to try to prevent him from releasing it, but that it wouldn’t work because “Trump already published it."

    Nunes’ memo has been the subject of widespread speculation and triggered the right-wing social media campaign #releasethememo. According to Mother Jones, “The now infamous document was prepared by Republican staffers for the House Intelligence Committee, which is chaired by Nunes, and it supposedly details how the FBI and the Justice Department improperly conducted surveillance in connection with the Trump-Russia probe.”

    The Mother Jones article added that “Conservatives looking to discredit the Russia investigation have embraced the classified memo, though they haven’t seen it, and have called for its release. But Nunes has so far insisted on keeping it secret -- even from the Justice Department.”

    During his January 23 broadcast, Jones claimed that William Binney, a former National Security Agency official, provided him with “the actual memo they’re talking about.” Jones printed out a copy of the memo and called for his producers to put it on a “document cam” to show viewers, claiming that it was “tomorrow’s news, today.”

    The document shown on screen was promptly identified as as a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court memo that is publicly available on the website of the Office of Director of National Intelligence. According to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, the document has been available online since at least May 2017.

    While presenting the document to viewers, Jones said, “I’ve got to go off air, this is the classified memo right here. I mean I told you I have sources and that I’d reverse engineered it, but I guess the decision has been made by whoever’s telling Binney to send this to us” and “Here it is ladies and gentlemen, the first look. You want to look at it? Got the whole thing.”

    ALEX JONES (HOST): I got to go off air because William Binney, former technical head of the National Security Agency, the main technical adviser obviously on the big film Snowden, who’s advised the president and the CIA director [Mike] Pompeo, he’s now advising the president, he’s going to be joining us next hour.

    He just said, “Hey, here, why don’t you just have the actual memo they’re talking about.” Now there’s another memo they’re writing about this memo. But here it is, just sent to us. I’ve got to go off air, this is the classified memo right here. I mean, I told you I have sources and that I’d reverse engineered it, but I guess the decision has been made by whoever’s telling Binney to send this to us. Document cam please. And it’s -- a lot more is coming up after the break, OK, this is happening right now.

    Can we do a document cam shot, please? Here it is ladies and gentlemen, the first look. You want to look at it? Got the whole thing. In fact, the rest of it’s coming out of the printer, guys, will you bring it to me please? The one by my office in the hall. Here it is, this is why I’m having trouble conducting the show here, broadcast.

    Jones’ botched exclusive was roundly mocked on Twitter:

    Later in his broadcast, perhaps aware of what he had done, Jones told a fantastical story about criminal elements in the government hacking a computer at his Infowars studio to try to stop him from publishing the document. Jones said, “I'm literally in [Infowars editor] Kit Daniels’ office. While we’re trying to post it, they grab control of the computer and turn it off and fry it right in front of us and then start jumping in -- they are inside our computers right now.”

    Jones then claimed that the “globalists” “can't stop us from publishing it” because “Trump already published it, ... we haven't told you yet,” giving a possible pretext for his embarrassingly inaccurate claims earlier in the show.

    ALEX JONES (HOST): Roger [Stone], let me interrupt you. I'm literally in [Infowars editor] Kit Daniels’ office. While we’re trying to post it, they grab control of the computer and turn it off and fry it right in front of us and then start jumping in -- they are inside our computers right now, but they can't stop us -- they can't stop us from publishing it because guess what, idiots? Trump already published it. It already got published, we haven't told you yet. You're fools. So, you're not going to stop anything, globalists. Understand that, Hillary Clinton, and all of you. Boy I tell you, I've never seen something like this, live time, in Kit Daniels' computer. Because I’m on air saying, “Post it.” Can you believe that? They have whole situation rooms probably still in our government criminally battling the American people right now, Roger.

    Update:

    Later in his broadcast, Jones hosted Binney, who had provided the memo to Jones. Acknowledging that the memo is indeed on the DNI website, Jones asked him if it was posted today and Binney responded, “Yeah, as far as I know. ... I just found it through another source that passed it to me.”

    Then Jones purported to use “deduction” to conclude that “it looks like president just declassified this,” to which a sheepish sounding Binney responded, “Well, somebody, yeah, somebody did, that’s for sure.” The document has actually been publicly available since last May.

    JONES: [Binney] contacted us a couple hours ago and said, “This might be helpful, here’s the actual memo they’re saying is classified and that Congress is saying they need authorization to release.” But then, when he sent it to us, we noticed that it was right there on the Office of the Director of National Intelligence website. We’re going to show that to you. So, yes, Infowars is breaking it, the media doesn't even know what to do or how to respond to this. It's simply crazy. So Mr. Binney, thank you for joining us. We’ll get into this whole conspiracy against the republic that’s clearly coming into view here and from your expertise where do you think this is going. But just briefly -- it’s incredible -- when did this get put on the National -- Director of National Intelligence website? And it’s wild that there’s no coverage of it. Was this just today and then you sent it to us?

    BINNEY: Yeah, as far as I know that's -- it's just got on the website today. And I just found it through another source that passed it to me.

    JONES: Of course. Well clearly, deduction, the president -- Pompeo’s met with you, you’re advising the president, the president has the authorization to do this, Congress has been asking for it. So it looks like president just declassified this.

    BINNEY: Well, somebody, yeah, somebody did, that’s for sure.

  • Fox News and Russian state media are promoting a conspiracy theorist's California secessionist ploy

    "New California" secessionists are led by a Sandy Hook and Agenda 21 conspiracy theorist

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News is promoting what it calls a bid by “conservatives in California so fed up with liberals running their state” to “break away” from the state and form a “New California.” What Fox didn’t mention is that the secessionist ploy is being led by a conspiracy theorist. 

    “New California” is just the latest iteration of long-running, minor secessionist movements in California that previously materialized in 2016 as the #Calexit hashtag and “Yes California” electoral campaign, but the small group leading the charge is getting some media help from interesting places. A January 17 segment of Fox & Friends discussed the current campaign and a story about it was featured on the front page of FoxNews.com the same day. Far-right troll Jack Posobiec and Russian state media are also pushing the campaign on Twitter. 

    The January 17 segment of Fox & Friends briefly featured comments by Robert Paul Preston, whom the show credited as the “founder” of “New California.” On its website, Fox News identified Preston and his group as “California conservatives.” Both the article and the segment on Fox & Friends failed to note that Preston is a conspiracy theorist and Sandy Hook truther. Preston believes in “Agenda 21,” a conspiracy theory dating to when Glenn Beck hosted a show on Fox News. "Agenda 21" believers like Preston think that the United Nations is executing a “master plan” to “remove you from your land ... take away our Constitutional Rights and depopulate our planet.” Preston also believes the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax. 

    Along with Fox News, Russia’s state-owned media company RT (formerly Russia Today) is also pushing the “New California” narrative with tweets and an article. Like Fox, the RT write-up also uncritically quotes Paul Preston in support of secession. 

    Russia-linked social media bots have driven previous iterations of American secessionist narratives. On November 4, 2017, the BBC reported that the #Calexit hashtag and narrative around the 2016 election “was artificially driven by automated bots or fake accounts,” many of which were connected to the pro-Kremlin “troll factory” known as the Internet Research Agency. Additionally, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the leader of “Yes California” lived in and ran the campaign from Russia.

  • Sean Hannity wades into message board conspiracy theory "The Storm"

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On January 9, Fox’s Sean Hannity tweeted from his account that his followers should “watch @wikileaks closely! Tick tock.” The tweet quoted another tweet that claimed that “out of nowhere, Ecuador suddenly offers to mediate a resolution for #JulianAssange,” with the hashtag “#QAnon” added to the post.

    #Qanon refers to a sprawling conspiracy theory that originated on online message boards 4chan and 8chan, alleging that President Donald Trump’s cryptic October 2017 comment about the “calm before the storm” was a hint at a master plan Trump is setting in motion to kneecap members of the “deep state.” According to New York magazine, the conspiracy theory, known as “The Storm,” “features secret cabals” and “a child sex-trafficking ring.” Additionally, those who believe in “The Storm” also believe claims that the Steele dossier is fake and “the Las Vegas massacre was most definitely an inside job connected to the Saudi-Clinton cabal.”

    Tweeting about #Qanon is not Hannity’s first contact with the fever swamps of far-right message boards. In August, Hannity promoted a conspiracy theory that originated on online message boards that the counter-protesters in Charlottesville, VA, were actually paid actors. Furthermore, in 2016, Hannity made himself the face of the Reddit-nurtured conspiracy theory that late DNC staffer Seth Rich was a Wikileaks source, causing Fox News employees to angrily vent that Hannity was embarrassing the network.