Screenshot of Wide Awake Media website

Molly Butler/Media Matters 

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How one conspiracy theory website used X to sell climate denier merchandise through this summer’s climate-driven disasters

Wide Awake Media’s misinformation has spread from Telegram to Elon Musk’s X

Wide Awake Media, an anti-vax clothing website and Telegram channel turned misinformation powerhouse, is using climate change denial to sell merchandise and spread conspiracy theories on Elon Musk’s X (formerly Twitter) as the country faces deadly climate disasters. 

    • Wide Awake Media started off as a Telegram channel using its following to sell anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown merchandise before shifting its focus to climate change denial and rapidly gaining a large following on X, promoting its products on that platform as well. The creator of the accounts sells T-shirts and hoodies promoting conspiracy theories and climate change denial on a Shopify website and uses the fundraising platform Buy Me A Coffee to collect donations.
    • The account has grown its reach on X exponentially in recent months and now boasts over 195,000 followers on the platform — gaining more than 180,000 since April. The account, which joined Twitter in May 2022 and previously focused on anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown content during the COVID-19 pandemic, now frequently shares articles and video clips highlighting infamous conspiracy theorists and climate deniers with ties to the fossil fuel industry. [Social Blade, 9/18/23]
    • The account has used climate-denying posts on Twitter to promote its merchandise in threaded replies. One shirt, previously pinned with a 15% discount code, features text designed to resemble a beer label and advertises “The Climate Scam MADE WITH 100% FAKE SCIENCE.” [Twitter/X, 8/2/23]
  • Pinned tweet promoting a t-shirt with "climate scam" on it
    • Wide Awake Media appears to be violating the terms of service for crowdfunding platform Buy Me A Coffee by spreading harmful conspiracies and misinformation. Buy Me A Coffee does not explicitly mention climate change misinformation as restricted or prohibited content; however, according to its terms, it does restrict “visual or audio content that contains harmful misinformation like Holocaust denial, political conspiracies, pandemic-related conspiracies and other medical falsehoods.” Wide Awake Media appears to be violating these terms with the conspiracy theory content it produces and its donors amplify. [Buy Me A Coffee, accessed 9/18/23]
    • In May, Buy Me A Coffee suspended the accounts of several Q-Anon figures who were using it to make money. The suspensions came after Media Matters revealed that at least 27 Q-anon figures were violating Buy Me A Coffee's terms of service and that they made a total of over $195,000 before Buy Me a Coffee’s “5% transaction fee. [Media Matters, 5/12/23]
    • ​​​​​​Until March, Wide Awake Media regularly posted anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine content in its Telegram channel. Prior to March, the bulk of its merchandise on Shopify centered around these themes as well. [Wide Awake Clothing, accessed 2/1/23; Telegram, 9/15/22, 9/19/22]  
    • The account announced its pivot to climate denial on X, saying “the ‘powers that be’ are going to start pushing this climate nonsense HARD.” Wide Awake Media is apparently a one-person operation. The creator, whose identity is unknown, acknowledged the shift in a March 31 post, writing: “If you're wondering why I've been posting a lot of ‘climate change’ related content lately, it's because the ‘powers that be’ are going to start pushing this climate nonsense HARD in the coming months and years. ... It's imperative that we wake up as many people as we can before the climate tyranny goes fully operational.” [Twitter/X, 3/31/23]
    • Wide Awake Media also launched a new website in May and moved away from Telegram in July. The website is dedicated to sharing conspiracy theory articles, interviews, documentaries, and videos. In July, the creator announced that they would be rolling back their use of Telegram due to having “neglected other areas of my life that need urgent attention.” Instead, Wide Awake Media seems to have focused its attention on X. [Wide Awake Media, accessed 9/19/23; Telegram, 7/10/23]

    The account seems to be using climate denial — and Musk’s X platform — to grow its audience and push a wider array of conspiracy theory-related merchandise. According to Social Blade, Wide Awake Media’s X account gained over 27,000 followers in the month of July alone. [Social Blade, 8/2/23]

  • Wide Awake Media turned its anti-vax grift on Telegram into climate denial grift on X

  • People around the world suffered and died from heat-related illnesses this summer, and devastating wildfires and flooding have killed thousands. Meanwhile, Wide Awake Media has helped drive the increasingly popular “ClimateScamhashtag on X, and a significant number of the clothing website’s summer designs push climate denial.

    • In the past few months, 81% of people around the world have been impacted by extreme heat as catastrophic climate change-driven disasters swept the globe. In the U.S., heat-related deaths climbed in the Southwest — where Phoenix, Arizona, saw high temperatures over 110 degrees for 31 days straight — while drought conditions and winds from Hurricane Dora fueled devastating wildfires in Maui, Hawaii. [Axios, 8/2/23]
    • On X, Wide Awake Media amplified a video of climate denier and Heartland Institute co-founder Joseph Bast calling global warming “the mother of all environmental scare tactics.” “Groups on the left understood that if you can control energy, you can control human beings. … And that is no less than what the environmental movement wants to do, and has been trying to do now going on 30 years [with] the global warming debate.” [Twitter/X, 8/18/23]
    • The account said the “climate crisis” is a “totalitarian power grab.” “In the same way that ‘Covid’ was merely a totalitarian power grab, and had nothing to do with a virus, the ‘climate crisis’ is also a totalitarian power grab, and has nothing to do with saving the planet. The purpose of both scams is to frighten the global population into surrendering national sovereignty, representative democracy, economic prosperity and individual freedoms to unelected globalist bodies like the WEF, UN and WHO—in line with UN Agenda 2030, and Klaus Schwab's ‘Great Reset’.” [Twitter/X, 8/14/23]
    • Wide Awake Media falsely claimed that “rising temperatures are the cause of increased atmospheric CO2, not the other way around.” “MUST-WATCH: Contrary to propaganda spouted by climate alarmists, rising temperatures are the CAUSE of increased atmospheric CO2, not the other way around, and the temperature of the Earth is regulated by solar activity. The climate has always changed, long before humans got here, and it will continue to change long after we're gone, but globalist bodies like the UN and WEF want us to believe that humans are causing it, as a pretext to exert absolute totalitarian control over the entire planet.” [Twitter/X, 8/13/23]
    • The account amplified a clip of Alex Newman, a right-wing conspiracy theorist who quoted Adolf Hitler during a presentation for Moms for Liberty in 2021. “The notion that CO2 is pollution is absolutely preposterous. ... The idea that that is going to destroy the planet or change the temperature of the Earth is totally ludicrous.” [Twitter/X, 8/11/23]
    • It called climate change a “non-existent” crisis created to implement “the tyrannical Net Zero policies being foisted upon us all.” “Professor Norman Fenton, on the tyrannical Net Zero policies being foisted upon us all, under the guise of solving the non-existent ‘global boiling crisis’. ‘They're saying that all but three UK airports need to close by 2030, and no flying at all by 2050. No shipping at all by 2050. Road use is to be restricted by 60% of today's level. Food, heating and energy also restricted by 60% of today's level, by 2050.’” [Twitter/X, 8/1/23]
    • The account cited Ian Plimer, an Australian professor who has been the director of several mining companies and was on the board of two others. “Geologist, Professor Ian Plimer, absolutely demolishes the ‘human-induced climate catastrophe’ narrative, in under a minute: ‘No one has ever shown that human emissions of carbon dioxide drive global warming. It’s never been shown scientifically. … So it’s obvious: carbon dioxide does not and cannot drive global warming.’” [Twitter/X, 7/31/23]
    • Wide Awake Media accused U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres of “fear mongering” during a recent press conference addressing extreme heat. “Unelected globalist and Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, dials the #ClimateScam fear mongering up to 11. … By ‘dramatic, immediate climate action’, he means surrendering national sovereignty, representative democracy, economic prosperity and individual freedom to unelected globalist bodies like the UN and WEF.” [Twitter/X, 7/28/23]
    • The account downplayed the effects of extreme heat on wildfires. “Calabria, Southern Italy: A blatant arsonist was captured on police drone footage, amid widespread wildfires on the country's biggest islands, Sicily and Sardinia—which the mainstream media are predictably blaming on ‘human-induced climate change’." [Twitter/X, 7/28/23]
    • It promoted an interview with Patrick Moore, a climate denier who falsely claims he co-founded Greenpeace: “Greenpeace co-founder, Dr. Patrick Moore, thoroughly demolishes the man-made global warming lie, in just one minute.” [Twitter/X, 7/20/23; DeSmog, accessed 9/18/23]
    • The account cheered on a clip of climate denier Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) claiming that climate change isn’t real because it was warm millions of years ago. “Climate grifter extraordinaire, John Kerry, gets absolutely mauled by Rep. Scott Perry for peddling the #ClimateScam, before being called out as the grifter he is, right to his face.” [Twitter/X, 7/19/23]
    • Wide Awake Media promoted another video of Plimer in a post calling climate change “a myth.” “Geologist, Professor Ian Plimer, utterly obliterates the human-induced “climate catastrophe” myth, in just two minutes: “In the complete history of planet Earth, we have had millions of climate changes, and not one of these we can identify was driven by a change in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.” [Twitter, 7/18/23]
    • The account is still using its platform — now substantially larger, thanks, in part, to its pivot to climate denial — to amplify vaccine misinformation and sell those products as well. Conspiracy theories related to a supposed one-world government instituted by the World Economic Forum and the United Nations are also prominently featured on the account. [Twitter/X, 8/7/23, 9/14/23, 9/16/23]

    As governments struggled to keep people safe during this summer’s extreme heat and wildfires, well-established climate contrarians are profiting off of telling their audiences that extreme heat is no big deal. But the rise of Wide Awake Media, a seemingly scrappy operation offering little original content besides t-shirts, proves that becoming a climate denial influencer is easier than ever.