Tag: conspiracy theory
Conspiracy Theorists Defame Religious Charities That Aid Migrants

Conspiracy Theorists Defame Religious Charities That Aid Migrants

Right-wing media figures have ramped up their attacks on charities and NGOs that help resettle refugees and assist asylum-seekers as part of a broader campaign to demonize migrants and the Biden administration’s immigration policies. These types of broadsides go back years, but have increased recently as fearmongering about immigration becomes a central plank in Republicans’ 2024 electoral strategy.

Non-governmental organizations and charities, like Catholic Charities and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, have long assisted the federal government in welcoming refugees and other new arrivals to the United States and easing their transition. At its best, this system facilitates the smooth integration of people into communities ready to accept them, as was the case in mass resettlement of Ukrainian refugees following Russia’s invasion of their country two years ago.

This largely decentralized system has its weaknesses, though, primarily stemming from a lack of strong coordination at the federal level. Xenophobic and opportunistic politicians have been able to fill that vacuum and manufacture a crisis, exemplified by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to bus tens of thousands of migrants to cities like New York, Chicago, and Denver with the apparent goal of creating a crisis in Democrat-led cities in order to score political points.

That manufactured crisis has created an opportunity for right-wing media outlets to attack the organizations tasked with helping refugees and asylum-seekers. Recently, some right-wing figures have promoted a conspiracy theory claiming that these NGOs and charities are engaged in what amounts to an extortion racket, fueling migration in the hopes of inflating federal spending on the issue and capturing the additional money.

In reality, the money that comes from the federal government that these groups spend has been specifically allocated by Congress. Without providing any evidence, right-wing figures make wild assertions that migrant organizations are enriching themselves at the expense of the American public. Todd Bensman, a senior fellow at anti-immigrant think tank the Center for Immigration Studies, has also pushed this myth. (CIS is part of the Tanton network, a constellation of xenophobic organizations funded by John Tanton, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center refers to as “the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement.”)

In February alone, right-wing figures have attacked charities and NGOs that provide direct services to immigrants over a dozen times. It’s notable that this messaging is largely the same whether it’s coming from fringe sources, like Infowars, or conservative outlets which are ostensibly more respectable, like Fox. The narrative has also appeared on CNN, pushed by a former NYPD officer.

  • On February 1, a correspondent for conspiracy theory site Infowars described a new facility opened by Mission: Border Hope, a Methodist church, as a place where “the migrants are being bussed and processed and then distributed across the country.” The correspondent, Chase Geiser, then said the organization was “one example of sort of a mysterious NGO that’s involved in this giant industry of distributing migrants all across our country." [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 2/1/24]
  • The next day, Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade pushed the myth that resettlement organizations are getting rich off of serving migrants. He claimed that “Catholic charities are making a ton of money,” providing migrants with “school supplies” and overcrowding American public schools. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/2/24]
  • Former NYPD officer and current CNN analyst John Miller peddled a separate falsehood, blaming a resettlement charity for supposedly helping migrants flee from law enforcement following an altercation in New York City. “Yesterday we learned that they went to a Catholic charity that helps migrants, they got four bus tickets under false names and got on a bus headed for Calexico through St. Louis,” Miller said. All of the suspects later showed up for their court date. [CNN, This Morning, 2/2/24]
  • On the podcast of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, guest Liz Yore said, “The only way that we can do something is to cut off the funding to these NGOs.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 2/2/24]
  • Kilmeade returned to the topic on February 5, claiming, “The other thing that bothers a lot of people is the amount of money that goes to the NGOs, Catholic Charities, and others making a ton.” He repeated that falsehood at least one other time that morning, saying, “Let's talk about the NGOs, Catholic charities. They get huge money to house and provide accommodations to illegal aliens who are trying to get into this country.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/5/24; 2/5/24]
    • On The Charlie Kirk Show, former Trump adviser Stephen Miller portrayed social structures to assist new arrivals as nodes in a vast conspiracy. “To understand [immigration], you have to understand the money,” Miller said. “You have to follow the money. You have to follow the NGOs. You have to follow the corporations. You have to follow the Chamber of Commerce. You have to follow all the people who profit off of unchecked immigration.” [Salem Media Group, The Charlie Kirk Show, 2/5/24]
    • Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, referred to “funding for NGOs” as a “poison pill” that should be removed from a border militarization bill that was already a wishlist of right-wing priorities. [Fox News, America Reports, 2/7/24]
    • Charlie Kirk suggested that liberal philanthropist George Soros was personally shaking down Arizona for supposed resettlement funding it had received from the federal government. “Makes you wonder, what is George Soros doing in Arizona if it's true, and sounds like it was,” Kirk said. “Maybe he's, you know, meeting with a lot of the NGOs that he's funding on the border. Maybe he's getting an update about pouring money into the state.” [Salem Media Group, The Charlie Kirk Show,2/12/24]
    • On War Room, guest Jackie Toboroff baselessly suggested resettlement organizations were arming migrants. “We don't even know where they're getting their weapons,” Toboroff said, referring to migrants. “Are our politicians giving them to these illegal aliens? Is it the NGOs?” Toboroff did not cite any evidence to back up the claim that migrants are “sitting on stockpiles of weapons and drugs.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 2/13/24]
    • Blogger Peachy Keenan said on Fox News, “Catholic charities spend billions of dollars, taxpayer money that the federal government gives them, to fly people over to Central America and sort of get them into this country, and they set them up. And we are paying for it.” [Fox News, Fox News at Night, 2/21/24]
    • On War Room, Bannon said in reference to the refugee resettlement organization HIAS: “They got the Hebrew group that used to get the poor Jews out of the Russia with the pogroms, and Poland with the pogroms, and now they're there to exacerbate the invasion on our southern border.” Bannon then said, “These NGOs are demons” and “anti-American.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 2/26/24]
    • Retired NYPD officer and Fox News contributor Paul Mauro echoed the line Bensman and others had pushed. “If you look down deep enough, the NGOs and the faith-based institutions that are running the buses and running the sponsorships, they can't let this go because the money is coming from the American taxpayer,” Mauro said. [Fox News, America Reports, 2/26/24]
    • Fox News’ Rachel Campos-Duffy similarly cast resettlement groups as malevolent actors in a broader conspiracy. “They are part of the journey all the way into Latin America, all the way into where they fly everyone out into the cities,” Campos-Duff said. She added: “[NGOs] sound like they’re a charity because they’re associated with Catholic relief services or Lutheran relief services. But the real way to understand them is to see them as a shadow government, a shadow bureaucracy, even a shadow political party, they are able to operate in secrecy and do what the government can’t do with no oversight.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/27/24]

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Far-Right Media Still Pushing Super Bowl Conspiracy Theories

Far-Right Media Still Pushing Super Bowl Conspiracy Theories

Following months of right-wing attacks on singer Taylor Swift and Kansas City Chiefs player Travis Kelce, far-right social media accounts continued to push baseless conspiracy theories about the singer — as well as the game itself — during and after the 2024 Super Bowl.

  • Right-wing media figures relentlessly attacked Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce leading up to the Super Bowl, eventually drawing criticism from some right-wing peers
    • Swift’s relationship with Kelce has been drawing right-wing ire for months. In September, Kelce’s appearances in advertising campaigns for Pfizer and Bud Light spurred anti-vax and anti-LGBTQ attacks against the couple. [Media Matters, 9/27/23]
    • Prior to the Superbowl, right-wing figures claimed Swift was a Democratic operative or part of a “psyop.” They also claimed that the game would be rigged for Kelce’s team to win and that a Chiefs victory would strengthen Swift’s potential endorsement of President Joe Biden. [Media Matters, 2/1/24]

    • Even some right-wing media figures started begging fellow conservatives to stop attacking Swift. Some figures recognized the absurdity of such theories, asking their colleagues and peers to focus on more important issues heading into the 2024 election cycle. The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro said, “Guys, not everything you don’t like is a conspiracy.” [Media Matters, 2/2/24]
  • QAnon figures and far-right accounts accused Swift’s Super Bowl guest Ice Spice of being a “satanist” and “summoning demons”
    • QAnon account Shadow of Ezra claimed that Ice Spice, who came to the game with Swift, was “seen making hand gestures associated with Satanic symbolism while wearing an upside-down cross.” The account also said the Super Bowl was “nothing but a major Satanic ritual.” [Twitter/X, 2/11/24; Media Matters, 7/17/23]
    • QAnon influencer Brian Cates said Ice Spice threw “up the devil sign with both hands and then does the double-hand collar lift to hold up the upside down cross to make sure attention is drawn to it.” [Twitter/X, 2/11/24; Media Matters, 5/18/23]
    • QAnon influencer John Sabal (aka “QAnon John”) called Swift an “alcoholic harlot who likes to hang out with Satanists,” asking if “that thing next to her” was “summoning demons” with an “upside down cross.” [Gab, 2/11/24; Media Matters, 9/27/23]
    • QAnon influencerMJTruth posted a video of Ice Spice and Taylor Swift at the football game titled “A satanist performing a satanic ritual, while the drunken harlot gets hammered.” [Rumble, 2/11/24; Media Matters, 7/28/23]
    • Right-wing Twitter account For America posted, “With Chiefs down 3 how many more demons will Ice Spice summon?!?” [Twitter/X, 2/11/24]
    • Anti-vaccine figure Erin Elizabeth posted on Twitter, “Ice Spice who accompanied Taylor Swift to tonight's game throwing up satanic symbols while wearing an upside down cross.” [Twitter/X, 2/11/24; Media Matters, 11/22/22]
    • Right-wing account End Wokeness said Ice Spice was showing “demonic hand gestures on the big screen” with an “upside down cross” and “not even hiding it.” [Twitter/X, 2/11/24]
    • Former Fox News producer Kyle Becker accused Ice Spice of “demon summoning,” sharing a video of her touching her necklace. [Twitter/X, 2/11/24]
    • Real America’s Voice’s Ben Bergquam claimed that Swift was in “all black chugging while her friend Ice Spice wearing an upside down cross signs to the devil.” Bergquam called this “spiritual warfare” and asked God to “rebuke the evil and witchcraft of this generation.” [Twitter/X, 2/11/24]
  • Other far-right figures claimed that the Super Bowl was “rigged” and the NFL is a “scam”
    • QAnon influencer Sun Tzu called the NFL a “scam” because it had announced “the address of the stadium in Las Vegas after Kansas City won the Super Bowl,” which was “333.” According to SunTzusWar, “Who has ever announced the address of the stadium of the Super Bowl? Just saying.” [Twitter/X, 2/11/24; Media Matters, 12/12/23]
    • “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander called the Super Bowl “totally fake & rigged,” adding, “Notice no grass stains.” [Telegram, 2/11/24]
      • The Biden Twitter/X page posted a Dark Brandon meme, and QAnon John said it was “signaling to everyone that the Super Bowl was RIGGED in their favor.” He also called it “direct comms.” [Gab, 2/11/24; Jezebel, 2/12/24]
      • QAnon personality Woke Societies posted, “Tell me the nfl isn’t rigged.” [Telegram, 2/11/24; Media Matters, 4/18/22]
  • QAnon figures have continued the trend of labeling Swift a “psyop”
      • QAnon John posted screenshots of Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama congratulating the Chiefs and “Taylor Swift’s boyfriend” with the caption “PSYOP CONFIRMED.” [Gab, 2/12/24]
      • QAnon influencer Jordan Sather: “There’s more aliens featured during this game than Taylor Swift. Subliminal soft disclosure be strong. Prepping our minds for something later this year? Psyop me harder baby.” [Telegram, 2/11/24; The Hill, 6/15/21]
      • A user on the QAnon forum TheDonald posted a picture of Taylor Swift with the caption “totally not a psyop.” [Patriots.win, 2/11/24; Media Matters, 12/12/23]

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Michael Flynn

Mike Flynn Says He's Been An Alex Jones Conspiracy Fanboy Since 2008

Retired Gen. Mike Flynn appeared on the December 27, 2023, edition of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ show to praise the host, saying that when he “had first seen him in 2008 and 2009” he had said, “That guy's absolutely right on the money.” In the years since, Flynn has served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and White House national security adviser, and could potentially return to government under a second Trump administration.

Jones is one of the country’s leading conspiracy theorists. He has pushed false claims about a variety of tragedies, including the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School; the Boston Marathon bombing; and 9/11. In November, Jones aired a report questioning the Holocaust death toll.

The families of the Sandy Hook shooting victims successfully sued Jones for his lies about the tragedy.

Despite Jones’ long history of toxicity, right-wing media figures and Republican politicians — including former President Donald Trump — have embraced him over the years.

Among Jones’ admirers is Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI before being pardoned by Trump. Prior to that, Flynn also served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency under then-President Barack Obama, but was fired in 2014.

Trump has suggested that Flynn will be involved in his potential second administration, telling him at an event last year: “We’re going to bring you back.”

Flynn has also acted as a far-right media commentator and has repeatedly made toxic remarks. In 2021, he warned his audience that “we're being marched” to Nazi death camps but that, unlike Holocaust victims, he “would never get on that train.” He also seemed to call for a Myanmar-style coup in the United States (which he later denied); encouraged Trump to invoke martial law in order to redo the 2020 election; and tweeted that “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” Flynn also previously supported the QAnon movement.

Along with Clay Clark, Flynn co-founded the pro-Trump ReAwaken America tour. Those events, which feature Eric Trump and other Trump allies, have repeatedly featured Hitler-promoting antisemites. (The tour has dropped those speakers after facing criticism.)

On the December 27, 2023, edition of The Alex Jones Show, Flynn appeared in-studio for a significant amount of time and praised his host. Clark also appeared on the program as a guest.

During a commentary about trusting the right people, Flynn spoke directly to Jones’ audience: “Alex has been bashed over the head for the better part of really 30 years, and I told Alex a couple of years ago when we met that I had first seen him in 2008 and 2009. I said, ‘That guy's absolutely right on the money.’ And here we are sitting here today in 2023, we're talking about the same issues — although they have exacerbated. So we have to really dig in. Do the research, listen to the right people.”

Shortly after Flynn’s endorsement, Jones characteristically argued that government-aligned entities are planning to stage false flags in order to spark a civil war: “They're going to stage false flags — unless we expose them and stop them — to blame us and trigger this. And they're going to make moves that they believe will elicit a civil war. This isn't coming. It's here. They are going to try this.”

Following Jones’ “false flags” warning, Flynn replied: “This is absolutely right.”

During the show, as Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights Executive Director Devin Burghart noted, Flynn also invoked violent imagery to prepare viewers for bloody conflict.

MIKE FLYNN: I don't raise my voice that much, but when I do, it means that we are moving to — as Alex just said — we're moving towards the sound of the guns here, folks. And the sound of the guns is freedom. We are going to move towards freedom.

In a December 2018 Washington Post profile about Flynn, a Defense Intelligence Agency officer said that when Flynn was leading the agency, he “started doing weird things, like bring[ing] his unsecured BlackBerry into the secure space.” Flynn “became unabashed about his beliefs,” the officer said, “In meetings, he sounded like he was reading Breitbart and Alex Jones and random bloggers, alt-right stuff, and he’d just say, ‘Well, I heard this . . .’ ”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

GOP's Debate Streaming Site Features 'Lizard People' Conspiracy Theory

GOP's Debate Streaming Site Features 'Lizard People' Conspiracy Theory

Rumble, an extreme right-wing video-sharing platform that has been the official streaming site of the 2024 Republican presidential primary debates, on December 4 listed as one of its “editor picks” a video featuring a conspiracy theory about supposed “lizard people” controlling the world.

The lizard people conspiracy theory, also known as the reptilian conspiracy theory, was popularized by infamous conspiracy theorist David Icke. Business Insider highlighted the likely antisemitic background of the concept, noting that Icke’s written commentary about the conspiracy theory is “clearly evocative of the centuries-old blood-libel conspiracy theory, which alleged that a cabal of Jews were controlling the world and drinking the blood of Christian children.” The lizard people conspiracy theory has also been tied to multiple violent incidents, including a man who killed his brother with a sword in 2019 and a man who exploded his recreational vehicle in downtown Nashville in 2020.

Rumble’s “editor picks” section is apparently curated to highlight specific videos available on the platform. A video titled “Lizard Climate Scam ReeEEeE Stream 12-03-23” was featured in Rumble’s “editor picks” section on December 4. The video was posted by “TheSaltyCracker,” who has amplified conspiracy theories and harmful rhetoric before. The thumbnail features an image of King Charles III with a long cartoon tongue sticking out, seemingly a reference to the conspiracy theory about lizard people.

During the video, “TheSaltyCracker” criticized attendees of COP28, the United Nations' annual climate summit, saying that “you just saw all these lizard people fly in to Munich, Germany, on private jets screaming about … climate change. They don’t care about climate change. It’s a scam.”

“THESALTYCRACKER”: But look the hell around. These people lied about everything. Lied about everything. They tell you about the polar bears, the polar ice. They say, “No, go out there and take a bunch of experimental vaccines. Everything's going to be totally fine.” Nope. I’m good. I’m good. Also, don't worry about all the stabbings. I’m worried about all the stabbings. There’s a lot of stabbings popping off lately. I’ve worried about a wide open border. “No, there’s no such thing as an open border.”

These fucking people are lying about everything. Everything they tell you to not be worried about, be worried about. Everything they tell you to be worried about, it’s a fucking scam. It’s a total scam. You just saw all these lizard people fly in to Munich, Germany, on private jets screaming about [unintelligible] climate change. They don’t care about climate change. It’s a scam. It’s a straight up scam.

He also criticized King Charles III for calling for action to address climate change in a speech at the summit, claiming that he has “tiny lizard balls.”

“TheSaltyCracker” also attacked former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) for her criticism of former President Donald Trump, claiming that “every single apparatus of lizard person fucking monstrosities are throwing everything that they got against Donald Trump.”

THESALTYCRACKER”: By the way, you were on the receiving end of this, you dumb cow, you Miss Piggy-looking son of a bitch. We told you. We don’t give a fuck. We don’t care who hates Donald Trump. We don’t care who likes Donald Trump. We just understand that every single apparatus of lizard person fucking monstrosities are throwing everything that they got against Donald Trump. Everything. Everything. This corrupt fucking judicial system, the kid-fuckers in Hollywood, the dipshits on the sports ball fields, everybody. Everything’s against my dude, everything.

He also claimed that Cheney was “the fucking spawn of a lizard person war criminal,” referring to her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Rumble has previously featured videos as “editor picks” that were dedicated to the QAnon conspiracy theory, 9/11 trutherism, and a claim that an August mass shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, was a false flag.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.