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Tag: conspiracy theories

Why Fox News Has Mostly Ignored Carlson’s NSA ‘Surveillance’ Complaints

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Tucker Carlson's week-old claim that the National Security Agency is illegally "monitoring" his "electronic communications and is planning to leak them in an attempt to take this show off the air" finally made it to another Fox program when he gave an interview to Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo on Wednesday. The Fox star's incendiary allegation last Monday night had brought widespread news coverage, a rare denial from the NSA, and demands for investigations from congressional Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). But one party remained notably silent about the host's description of a government plot to destroy his show until this morning: Fox.

Carlson's colleagues and bosses don't seem to buy his NSA claims. No other Fox News or Fox Business program had mentioned his allegations since he first offered them last Monday, even as Carlson returned to the topic the following three nights. That is significant because Carlson is the face of the network and his program's "reporting" often becomes grist for shows up and down the Fox lineup. Meanwhile, reporters asking Fox to comment on Carlson's claims have come up empty. That silence is particularly extraordinary given that Carlson is alleging that the Biden administration is illegally targeting the network's employee in order to destroy its 8 p.m. broadcast. If the Fox brass believed that was happening, they'd presumably shout it from the rooftops.

But Fox is right to tread carefully because its biggest star is a huge liar and has historically proven particularly dishonest in describing his own supposed persecution. Indeed, Carlson's dark and fraudulent tales of oppression by powerful enemies mirrors the network's effort to recast its viewers as targeted victims in an endless culture war.

It's unclear what, if anything, actually happened to Carlson. It's impossible to rule out the possibility that Carlson's communications were collected illegally given the dubious record of U.S. intelligence agencies -- though you'd expect a network with higher standards to demand more vetting and confirmation than a single unnamed source. Experts have also pointed to the possibility that Carlson was communicating with a legal foreign NSA target and his communications were swept up in the agency's routine surveillance of that person. (Earlier this year, for example, Carlson had interviewed the president of El Salvador.) Or Carlson's "whistleblower" could be wrong, or lying, or a figment of his imagination.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Axios reported Wednesday evening that "Tucker Carlson was talking to U.S.-based Kremlin intermediaries about setting up an interview with Vladimir Putin shortly before the Fox News host accused the National Security Agency of spying on him." As Axios notes, many possible scenarios could explain and justify the NSA's surveillance of Kremlin associates who interacted with Carlson.]

It's hard to assess Carlson's claim because he often offers grandiose, conspiracy-minded claims about the forces arrayed against him that subsequently fall apart under scrutiny or die away.

If you're like me, you've endured the frustration of having a package delayed. If you're like Carlson, you've vented that frustration on your nationally televised cable news show by suggesting that nefarious forces at UPS may have seized your delivery as part of a plot to elect Joe Biden president. Just days before the 2020 election, Carlson claimed on-air that a cache of documents about Biden's family that his staff had sent across the country to him had mysteriously vanished. When UPS subsequently tracked down the thumb drive in question, which had been separated from its packaging in a facility, Carlson's response was to tell his audience, "Someone, for some reason, opened our package and removed a flash drive containing documents that were damaging to the Biden family." Strangely, Carlson never reported on the supposedly election-shifting documents in question.

Some people don't enjoy being reported on. Carlson is the sort of person who responds to reporting about him he doesn't like by lying about it on his show, resulting in a stream of abuse and threats directed at the journalists conducting it. In July 2020, Carlson claimed that The New York Times was about to do "a story on the location of my family's house" and suggested that the article would reveal his address and endanger his family -- claims he knew were false. He called out the two freelance journalists involved in the story by name; one told The Washington Post's Erik Wemple that he subsequently received "thousands" of abusive emails, while the other may have experienced an attempted home invasion.

Carlson himself had previously claimed to have been the victim of a similar attack. He told the Post in November 2018 that his wife was home alone when violent protestors arrived at their Washington, D.C., home after dark. The protesters, he claimed, were "threatening me and my family" and one "started throwing himself against the front door and actually cracked the front door."

I wrote on Twitter at the time that the activities described were "way over the line" and "unacceptable." They also don't appear to have actually happened. Local police told CNN they observed no damage to Carlson's door. Wemple found it undamagedwhen he went by the following afternoon. And my friend and former colleague Alan Pyke was reporting from the protest for Think Progress and described it as a roughly 10-minute event in which "a small group knocked on Carlson's door, shook a tambourine, and chanted slogans aimed at his chosen career hyping hateful speech aimed at racial minorities and political opponents, then left." (I still think protests at people's homes are generally a bad idea.)

Carlson's claim that the NSA is "monitoring" him as part of a plot to destroy his program came days after the New York Times reported that he is a major source for DC journalists -- a report which in turn was published amid a media firestorm over his suggestion that the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was a false flag effort planned by "FBI operatives."

‘Tucker Must Go’: Carlson Endorses Neo-Nazi Conspiracy Theory On Air

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, called on Friday morning for the firing of Fox News host Tucker Carlson, after Carlson embraced the white nationalist "replacement" conspiracy theory on Thursday night.

"Now, I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term 'replacement,' if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World," Carlson said during an appearance on Fox News Primetime. "But they become hysterical because that's what's happening actually. Let's just say it: That's true."

The so-called "great replacement" theory posits that white people are being systematically "replaced" by people of color through mass immigration. The Guardian explained that under this theory, "replacement has been orchestrated by a shadowy group as part of their grand plan to rule the world … . This group is often overtly identified as being Jews, but sometimes the antisemitism is more implicit."

The theory has also been linked to far-right terrorists who committed mass shootings in both New Zealand and El Paso, Texas, in 2019. The white nationalist groups who marched in 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, were also heard chantingboth "You will not replace us" and the variant "Jews will not replace us."

In addition, Fox News personalities (including Carlson) have promoted the conspiracy theory for years, casting immigration as a "purposeful repopulation of America" and helping to propel the idea further into the mainstream of public discourse.

Carlson's own escalated rhetoric Thursday night also appeared to tap directly into the calls for direct action that motivated previous attackers. In a twisted logical pirouette, he declared that his opposition to immigration was a "voting rights" issue on the grounds that any new citizens in the country would mean "every time they import a new voter, I become disenfranchised as a current voter." (Meanwhile, he has also supported conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and the new wave of restrictions on voting rights.)

"Why should I sit back and take that?" he said. "The power that I have as an American guaranteed at birth is one man, one vote, and they are diluting it. No, they are not allowed to do it. Why are we putting up with this?"

TikTok Promoting Far-Right Conspiracy Theories To Unwitting Young Users

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

A number of seemingly harmless conspiracy theory TikTok accounts appear to be peddling dangerous misinformation to their unknowing audience. Even worse, TikTok's recommendation algorithm appears to encourage users to follow accounts that push similar extremist misinformation.

While these accounts may look benign or silly on the surface, a deeper dive reveals a darker truth: They're also disseminating far-right conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy TikTok, also known as "ConspiracyTok," is a community that regularly discusses conspiracy theories. Because of the massive size of the community and popularity of the content, discussion topics widely vary. Some accounts are dedicated to documenting alleged proof of extraterrestrial life; others solely post flat earth conspiracy theories.

Research published in 2014 by the University of Chicago found that about "half of the American public consistently endorses at least one conspiracy theory." Conspiracy theories have been (and most likely always will be) popular, but not every conspiracy theory is built the same -- and some have the potential to present material harm to their subscribers.

TikTok Encouraging Users Onto Far-Right Accounts

Beyond the innate popularity of conspiracy theories, TikTok's account recommendation algorithm (which is tailored to the "interests" or "connections" of an individual user) makes it easier for users to be pulled into a world of radical content. In one instance, when a user follows a seemingly harmless flat earth account, they get prompts to follow a slew of accounts pushing anti-vaxx misinformation, QAnon-related theories, COVID-19 denial, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. This pattern repeats when further following TikTok's account recommendations.

The Camouflage

A user curious about conspiracy theories runs the risk of inadvertently getting sucked into a far more malicious rabbit hole, which is why seemingly harmless conspiracy theory accounts posting far-right conspiracy narratives is uniquely dangerous.

For example, "Conscious Content" is an account with over 11,300 followers and an innocuous bio that reads, "Learn and inspire!" Some of its first videos are about Atlantis, TV show predictions, and the "amazing intelligence of mushrooms." However, a closer examination of the profile reveals that the creator also reposts clips in support of far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and believes that Jeffrey Epstein was an Israeli spy.

This is not an isolated example, and in fact seems to be a pattern among other popular conspiracy theory accounts.

Another user, "jeff.speaks.facts" has over 157,500 followers and over 2.3 million likes. Their bio reads "Jesus is Lord and Savior" and the account appears to push conspiracy theories about celebrities. Yet again, a slightly closer look reveals that they have pushed the wildly anti-Semitic Rothschild conspiracy theory and received over 24,800 likes on that single video.

Similarly, "we.are.the.cure," an account with over 31,900 followers, frames itself as a spirituality account -- pushing conspiracy theories through a religious lense. However, mixed in is a video pushing the Rothschild conspiracy theory with a picture of what appears to be the devil above the name. The caption of the video encourages users to tag someone who "doesn't know this." The account also uploaded a 12-part video series about the Illuminati and its "secret plans for the world."

Some Dangerous Conspiracy Theories On ConspiracyTok

Some accounts that appear to focus on niche conspiracy theories or spiritual enlightenment are also posting dangerous COVID-19 misinformation and QAnon conspiracy theories, deceiving unsuspecting followers.

Misinformation about adrenochrome (a substance QAnon followers believe is harvested from the blood of children and then consumed by "global elites") appears to be a popular piece of misinformation circulating in conspiracy theory communities.

  • "ConspiracyRebels" has a profile picture of a triangle and eye, commonly associated with the Illuminati, and many of the account's latest posts are about ancient aliens. Yet, just days earlier the same account posted a videopurporting to show "Adrenochrome" with the caption, "They Are Lying To Us."
  • "Jabarr," another conspiracy theory account with over 17,200 followers and bio reading "Knowledge is Power. Knowledge is truth" also posts about adrenochrome.
  • "Deep Down The Rabbit Hole," an account that claims to focus on "health" and "spirituality" and has over 7,500 followers posted a video about adrenochrome. The account also uses the QAnon-affiliated hashtags "#thestormisuponus," "#deepstate," and "#cannibalism."
  • Infinite.energy, an account with over 127,500 followers and over 1.6 million likes, presents itself as a spirituality account, posting videos about "creating your own reality" and "how to manifest." A deeper dive shows that the account has promoted conspiracy theories about the New World Order and has used the hashtag "Q."

COVID-19 misinformation widely circulating on TikTok is a documented problem, and an issue that the platform has promised to aggressively combat. Yet, harmful anti-vaccination and COVID-19 misinformation routinely circulate in conspiracy theory spaces.

  • "This shot will rearrange your DNA. They've planned this for one hundred years, it is the mark of the beast," says ember_inside_me1, a conspiracy theory account with the Illuminati eye icon as their profile picture. The account has over 27,500 followers.
  • One account called "TruthSeeker1111" with the bio "Truths, yoga, self inquiry" seems to be a spirituality and enlightenment account. Yet, the account is also peppered with anti-vaccination and COVID-19 denial videos.
  • Another conspiracy theory account, "Opened Eyes," claims to "aid spiritual growth" in other users and has over 15,500 followers. Many of their posts preach enlightenment, but scattered in their feed is a variety of COVID-19 misinformation. "You probably won't be getting the vaccine…right? Educate people why…" reads overlaid text.

TikTok Is Failing Its Young Users

By not diligently moderating extremist content on its own platform, TikTok is allowing for the rapid spread of far-right misinformation to an audience of young users. All of the extremist content identified in this report is supposedly prohibited by TikTok, but remains widely circulated.

Arizona GOP Hires Conspiracy Theorist To Conduct Third 2020 Election ‘Audit’

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Arizona Senate President Karen Fann announced that she has hired Cyber Ninjas, a firm led by a Donald Trump supporter who was active in pushing "Stop the Steal" conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election, to conduct an audit of the state's election results.

This is the third audit to be conducted in the state as Republicans continue to push the lie that the election was stolen from Trump due to mass voter fraud — a lie that's been debunked multiple times by the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and two previous audits of Arizona's ballots.

Fann said the third audit will consist of a full hand recount of 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County, the most populous county in the state and formerly a Republican stronghold.

Fann had first announced that Allied Security Operations, a firm with a history of pursuing false claims of election fraud, would do the audit, but later said she hadn't decided.

Now she's officially announced that Cyber Ninjas will lead the audit, to be conducted with along with three other firms.

The Arizona Mirror reported on the long history of statements on social media posted by Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan pushing pro-Trump conspiracy theories about election fraud.

According to the report, posts on Logan's now-deleted Twitter account included claims that Venezuela rigged voting machines in the United States to steal the election from Trump and hashtags like "#StopTheSteal," the motto of the rally that preceded the attack by supporters of Trump on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

A joint report issued by the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security officially debunked the claim that voting machines were rigged in March, and lawyers and officials tied to Trump, as well as right-wing cable networks, are now being sued by voting machine companies for promoting the lie.

What's more, a previous audit Fann ordered found "no hacking or vote switching occurred in the 2020 election."

Democrats responded angrily to Fann's announcement of the firms that will conduct the recount.

"What are we doing other than just undermining the past election and voter confidence?" state Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios told USA Today.

Even Republicans in the state had previously said the audit is unnecessary.

"It's really not a necessary process. So, it's not something I believe that needs to be done or that it should be done," former Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell said last month, adding that a hand recount is prone to human error.

Ultimately, it's unclear what Arizona Republicans want to accomplish with the audit. The election is over; Joe Biden won and is serving as president of the United States.

In addition to challenging the 2020 election results, GOP lawmakers in Arizona are introducing voter suppression laws based on the same false claims of fraud.

Nearly two dozen Republican bills are aimed at making it harder to vote by mail, tightening voter ID requirements, and even giving the state Legislature the ability to ignore the will of the voters and choose presidential electors for the Electoral College.

Arizona Republican state Rep. John Kavanagh defended the bills in March, saying, "There's a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats value as many people as possible voting, and they're willing to risk fraud. Republicans are more concerned about fraud, so we don't mind putting security measures in that won't let everybody vote — but everybody shouldn't be voting."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

#EndorseThis: Trevor Noah Breaks Down 'Biggest and Best' Conspiracy Theories

According to Trevor Noah, "No one does conspiracy theories like the United States." With the former guy still spewing spew election conspiracies as QAnon dominates the Republican Party, his observation seems sickeningly apt.

America is infested with so many conspiracy theories, in fact, that it's hard to keep track of all of them. That's why Noah is here to give us an in-depth breakdown of the "biggest and best, from Jeffrey Epstein to QAnon."

It's well worth the time -- you can laugh and learn.

Conspiracy Theories: Born in America | The Daily Social Distancing Show www.youtube.com

Trump Lawyer Who Urged Executing Pence Seeks GOP Chair

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Lin Wood, the far-right, pro-Trump attorney who lost multiple lawsuits attempting to overturn the 2020 election, has announced he is running to be chair of the South Carolina Republican Party, the Post and Courier reported on Monday.

"My decision to run for the office was heavily influenced by my well known desire to reform local and state political parties and return power to the people," Wood told the paper. "Here, I want to return power and control of the South Carolina Republican Party to the members of the party."

Wood is now well-known for filing lie-filled legal challenges alleging voter fraud in the 2020 election, with zero evidence to back them up.

Back in November, a federal judge eviscerated Wood for a lawsuit he filed that sought to block certification of President Joe Biden's victory in Georgia, with the judge telling Wood that his suit had "no basis in fact or in law."

Wood's effort to steal the 2020 election has taken a toll on both his personal and professional life.

He is currently facing the possible loss of his law license in Georgia after he refused to undergo a mental health evaluation from the Georgia State Bar Association, which is looking into possible disciplinary action against Wood.

The Lawyers Club of Atlanta kicked Wood out of their club after Wood said in a January 1 tweet that Mike Pence should "face execution by firing squad."

"He is a coward and will sing like a bird and confess ALL," Wood said in the tweet, which has since been deleted, as Twitter permanently booted him from the platform for another tweet, which falsely stated that the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was "staged" by antifa.

The social media outlet Parler — which has become the platform of choice for white supremacists who were either kicked off Twitter or are boycotting it — also removed a post from Wood in which he also called for Pence to be executed.

"Get the firing squads ready. Pence goes FIRST," Wood wrote the day after the Capitol riot that saw a pro-Trump mob attacking the Capitol as Congress attempted to certify Biden's victory.

In an ironic twist of fate, Wood is under investigation himself for possible voter fraud, after he said he voted in Georgia in the 2020 election in Georgia despite being a resident of South Carolina.

It's unclear what kind of chance Wood has in the race for South Carolina GOP chair.

Trump back in February endorsed Drew McKissick, the current state party chair.

If Wood wins, he would be part of a nationwide trend of Republican state parties being dominated by pro-Trump, right-wing conspiracy theorists.

The Arizona Republican Party, for example, is currently run by Kelli Ward — a far-right conspiracy theorist. With Ward at the helm, the Arizona GOP advocated to overturn Biden's victory in the state, using violent rhetoric back in December that asked supporters if they were "willing to give [their] life for this fight."

The chair of the Wyoming Republican Party, Frank Eathorne, advocated in January for his state to secede over Trump's loss.

Many of the Republican House and Senate members who voted to impeach or convict Trump for inciting the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol have been censured by their state Republican parties. Eathorne even seemed to advocate for getting rid of one of its own members, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY). because she voted to impeach Trump and believes the GOP should move on from the twice-impeached former leader.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

On Bannon’s Show, 'MyPillow Guy’ Promises Supreme Court Will Void 2020 Election

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

MyPillow founder and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell appeared on former top Trump White House advisor Steve Bannon's streaming TV show promising he has information that will convince the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate the 2020 presidential election and return Donald Trump to the Oval Office.

"What I'm talking about Steve is what I've been doing since January," Lindell said on Real America's Voice. "All the evidence I have – everything is going to go before the Supreme Court and the election of 2020 is going bye-bye."

"It was an attack by other countries, communism coming in, I don't know what they're going to do after they pull it down but –" Lindell rambled.

"Hang on," Bannon pleaded repeatedly, but Lindell kept going.

"Donald Trump will be back in office in August," he declared.

Dominion Voting Systems has filed a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Lindell.

Watch:

Trump’s Propaganda Channel Confronts Biden’s New Reality

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Ask not for whom the world's tiniest violin plays — it plays for Fox News. Three months ago the network's hosts enjoyed unprecedented political power and privileged access to President Donald Trump, the subject of their propaganda. Now its employees are reduced to whining about President Joe Biden not calling on their correspondent during Thursday's press conference, as their lies on behalf of his predecessor's effort to steal the election draw a $1.6 billion lawsuit.

Fox's pity party launched roughly two minutes after the press conference concluded and remained a regular facet of the network's coverage of the event into Friday morning. Eleven different programs have combined to mention how Biden did not call on Fox White House correspondent Peter Doocy at least 24 times as of 10 a.m. ET, according to a Media Matters review. (Only two programs didn't mention the supposed snub during this time frame.) If you tuned into Fox during the network's 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 7 p.m., 9 p.m., or 10 p.m. hours on Thursday, or the 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 8 a.m., or 9 a.m. hours on Friday, you heard about it.

While the complaint is featured on "news" and "opinion" programs alike, their arguments are contradictory.

The "news"-side staffers claim that Doocy had reasonable questions that deserved a public response.

Doocy himself paged through a binder which he said included important questions "nobody else asked about" during an on-air appearance shortly after the press conference ended.

Fox anchor Dana Perino commented that if she were still working at the White House, as she did as President George W. Bush's press secretary, "I would have told the president to call on Peter Doocy," who she said had "good questions."

"Why make Peter Doocy a story, right? Just take his question and move on," she added, as her network geared up to make him a story.

Anchor Martha MacCallum likewise highlighted Doocy's "excellent questions, all ready to go," and lamented that he "was not given an opportunity to ask them," perhaps because other reporters had asked too many follow-ups.

Meanwhile, the network's right-wing "opinion" commentators are saying that a Fox News question would have sandbagged Biden in a way the supposedly "liberal" press refuses to do.

Jesse Watters called Biden "chicken" for not calling on Doocy at the end of a rant about how the reporters who did ask questions are "activists" who want Biden to "nuke the filibuster so we can drive home socialism."

Sean Hannity's complaint that Doocy didn't get to ask a question led to his observation that "none of the other reporters even dared to ask about the wind knocking Joe Biden down three times climbing up Air Force One" or "his struggles cognitively."

Even Trump himself got into the act, contrasting Doocy's plight with the "easy questions" Biden supposedly fielded from other reporters in an interview with Laura Ingraham.

"Mr. President, where was their Jim Acosta," Ingraham asked, referring to CNN's White House correspondent during the Trump years. "They would have Acosta in your face every day."

It goes without saying that normal news outlets do not do this.

Biden called on 10 reporters on Wednesday, meaning that many other journalists did not have the opportunity to ask him their questions. The president didn't call on The New York Times correspondent either, and somehow today's paper is not filled with complaints about it.

But of course, Fox isn't a normal news outlet.

The network spent four years operating as an extension of the Trump White House, allowing its commentators to moonlight as presidential advisers while its "news side" provided disgusting propaganda in support of his administration's most corrupt and authoritarian actions.

In the wake of Trump's defeat, top network executive Lachlan Murdoch openly described Fox's role as the "loyal opposition" to Biden's presidency. The network has subsequently purged insufficiently ideological "news"-side employees and filled up airtime with additional hours of right-wing commentary.

It's good that after years of hiding behind its "Fair and Balanced" tagline, Fox is now openly admitting that it operates as a right-wing propaganda network. But that makes the network's complaints about not getting privileged access all the more pathetic.

Meanwhile, reality is catching up to Fox.

As Doocy's daddy's morning show Fox & Friends was featuring complaints about him not getting to ask a question, news broke that Dominion Voting Systems had filed a $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox. Dominion argued that the network, in repeatedly airing inaccurate claims that the company's voting machines had altered votes to rig the election for Biden, "sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process."

Fox's Dominion lies were part of the network's all-encompassing effort to support Trump's attempt to steal the election with fabricated claims of voter fraud.

Claims on Fox News that cast doubt or pushed conspiracy theories about Biden's victory

It's too soon to say whether Dominion will prevail. Fox said in a statement it would "vigorously defend against this baseless lawsuit in court."

But it isn't the first time the network's overzealous Trump support has landed it in hot water. After Fox personalities repeatedly promoted false conspiracy theories about the death of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich in a ghoulish attempt to defend Trump over Russian interference in the 2016 election, Rich's family sued.

After first claiming that the network would be vindicated in court, Fox eventually settled for a reported seven-figure sum, coming to terms shortly before scheduled depositions of Fox executives and stars.

Now the bill for Fox's lies and propaganda that helped spur an insurrection may have come due. And rather than face up to that reality, the network is busy complaining that the Biden administration is being very mean and unfair to Peter Doocy by not calling on him at a press conference.