Tag: january 6 insurrection
Lachlan Murdoch Suing Tiny Australian News Site Over 'Defamation'

Lachlan Murdoch Suing Tiny Australian News Site Over 'Defamation'

Sydney (AFP) - A high-stakes defamation battle between News Corp co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch and small Australian news outlet Crikey will go to trial beginning March 27 in Sydney.

Rupert Murdoch's eldest son -- who is also chief executive of Fox News parent Fox Corporation -- is suing Crikey over an opinion piece that linked his family's media empire to the January 6, 2021 storming of the US Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.

The media scion's lawyers claimed their client was defamed over a dozen times in the article, which accused "the Murdochs and their slew of poisonous Fox News commentators" of being "unindicted co-conspirators" in the Capitol riot.

On Friday, Murdoch's barrister -- top defamation litigator Sue Chrysanthou -- pushed in the preliminary hearing for the earliest possible trial date, arguing Crikey had been "directing ridicule and hatred" towards her client.

Crikey was "publicly claiming martyrdom", she told the largely administrative case management hearing, pointing to the outlet running billboard advertisements about the case and fundraising online for its defense.

In the past month, Crikey's GoFundMe campaign has raised nearly S$333,000, and garnered support from two former Australian Prime Ministers, Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull.

"Lachlan Murdoch owns boats that are worth more than Crikey," Turnbull commented alongside his $3,400 donation.

A Very Public Fight

The legal scuffle over the opinion piece burst into international headlines last month, when Crikey ran an advertisement in The New York Times daring Murdoch to sue.

The often pugilistic website said it welcomed the opportunity to "test this important issue of freedom of public interest journalism in a courtroom".

Murdoch filed his lawsuit the next day.

The tussle pits an upstart website, with subscriber numbers in the low tens of thousands, against one of the world's largest media empires.

Defamation expert David Rolph from the University of Sydney told AFP that Murdoch's case could be the first test of recent attempts to reform Australia's notoriously tough defamation laws.

Australia has gained a reputation as "the defamation capital of the world" after a slew of lawsuits launched by high-profile figures, including actors and politicians.

Crikey's defense, filed with the Federal Court Tuesday, denied it defamed Murdoch and flagged it would lean on two new defenses created by the reforms.

"One is a serious harm threshold... the plaintiff now has to prove that they not only suffered some harm to reputation, but that it was serious harm to reputation," Rolph explained.

Crikey will also seek to argue that the opinion piece, by writer Bernard Keane, was in the public interest.

"I suppose the difficulty here is that defense is entirely untested. This will be a test case of that," Rolph said.

'Fundamental Public Importance'

In a statement issued Thursday, Crikey chief executive Will Hayward said his company was fighting the case because "there is an issue of fundamental public importance at stake".

"We think it is important in an open, well-functioning society that the rich and powerful can be critiqued."

While Murdoch has stayed quiet since launching the case, his statement of claim accused Crikey of using the legal saga to drive subscriptions.

He has asked the court to permanently ban Crikey from publishing anything suggesting he "illegally conspired with Donald Trump" around the events of January 6.

The case will be heard by Justice Wigney, who has overseen several closely-watched defamation trials -- including actor Geoffrey Rush's successful suit against another Australian media outlet.

Wigney said Friday that before the trial begins, he would seek to have the parties enter mediation where "cool commercial minds may prevail".

Chris Stirewalt’s Select Panel Testimony

What Chris Stirewalt’s Testimony Revealed About His Former Fox Colleagues

Chris Stirewalt, who as Fox News’ politics editor helped lead the network’s decision desk during the 2020 election cycle, told the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection on Monday that it was evident almost immediately that President Donald Trump had lost his reelection bid.

Stirewalt’s testimony implicitly made the case that his former Fox colleagues spent months either lying to their viewers or revealing their own ignorance by trumpeting the former president’s election fraud conspiracy theories. But Fox is a GOP propaganda outlet that has little interest in informing its viewers, so the network ultimately sided with the fraudsters and fired Stirewalt for being correct about the election.

Monday’s hearing focused on how Trump’s “Big Lie” that the 2020 election had been rigged against him ended up fueling rioters, who sought to subvert the results by attacking the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. The committee aired video clips of several former Trump administration and campaign officials who said that they had told Trump his “rigged election” claims were false.

Stirewalt explained that the collapse of Trump’s early lead in several states, which he seized upon as evidence of election fraud, is actually a well-known process known as the “red mirage” that “happens every time” because absentee ballots are usually counted later in the tabulation process, and more Democrats vote by mail than Republicans. He added that he and some of his colleagues had “gone to pains” before the election to stress to Fox viewers that this would happen “because the Trump campaign and the president had made it clear that they were going to try to exploit this anomaly.”

He further explained that as of November 7, 2020, when Fox and other networks called the presidential race for Joe Biden, Trump’s chances of winning were “none” and the odds of winning the Powerball were greater than the election being reversed.

Stirewalt did not directly address the role his network played after the election. But his remarks amounted to a condemnation of a wide swath of his former colleagues, including hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Maria Bartiromo, for their roles in bolstering Trump’s election fraud lies.

Fox questioned the election results or pushed conspiracy theories about it at least 774 times in the two weeks after Stirewalt’s decision desk called the race for Biden. In subsequent weeks, as Trump lashed out at Fox for being insufficiently supportive of his lies, and urged his followers to switch to its fringe-right competitors, the network’s claims became wilder, with hosts describing increasingly baroque methods by which some shadowy cabal had rigged the election.

Trump was watching Fox and its competitors during this period, and he tweeted in response to their election fraud reports dozens of times. He and his supporters also promoted those lies on the same networks, a fact the committee underlined by airing clips of Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, doing so on Fox.

The Fox hosts’ refusal to clearly state that Trump had lost and that the “red mirage” had inevitably faded — as Stirewalt did in his testimony — helped bolster the feverish state of the Trumpist right in the days following the election, which culminated in the January 6 coup attempt.

While those who touted Trump’s election lies almost universally still have their jobs at the network, Stirewalt does not. He took the blame for Fox correctly calling the state of Arizona for Biden and was dismissed during a purge of Fox’s so-called “real journalists.” Their replacements, in many cases, were Republican political operatives and Trump administration apparatchiks; that’s what Fox executives want from their “news” personnel these days.

“No one ever gets fired from Fox for publishing a story that isn't true,” a network staffer bemoaned in 2017. As Stirewalt discovered, Fox staffers who tell the truth about Republicans risk their jobs.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Marjorie Taylor Greene Facing Questions Under Oath Over January 6 Role

Marjorie Taylor Greene Facing Questions Under Oath Over January 6 Role

On Friday, April 22, when Georgia Republican Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene becomes the first member of Congress to be interrogated before a court that must decide if her support for Donald Trump’s attempted coup on January 6, 2021, disqualifies her candidacy for federal office, Greene will likely do what she’s always done since the insurrection. She will lie.

“I have to go to court on Friday and actually be questioned about something I’ve never been charged with and something I was completely against,” Greene told Fox News Channel’s pro-Trump host, Tucker Carlson, on April 18.

That Greene would deny that she ever supported the riot that sought to block Congress from ratifying the 2020 Electoral College votes that certified Joe Biden’s presidential election victory is contradicted by her public actions and statements on and after January 6, according to the factual documentation in a lawsuit that is seeking to disqualify her candidacy under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which bars anyone from holding a federal or state elected office if they have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”

“Representative Greene promoted the demonstration ahead of time, declaring that it was ‘our 1776 moment’ on an interview the day before. Furthermore, the planners of the January 6 demonstration report that she met with them beforehand,” said the lawsuit seeking to bar Greene’s candidacy filed by Free Speech for People, a progressive public interest law firm. “The stated goal of the organizers was to pressure Vice President Pence into disregarding the electoral votes from several states and declaring Trump the winner of the 2020 election.

“The likelihood of violence during the implementation of this plan was plain to bystanders and probably more so to those intimately involved,” the legal complaint continued. “Before the demonstration, violent groups announced they were going to attend it. Plans for violence—and specifically occupying the Capitol to prevent the certification vote or violently influence its outcome—were so prevalent that one reporter has remarked that “[a]nyone with a Twitter account and an hour of time to kill could have warned about the potential for violence on Jan. 6—and many did.” Furthermore, the insurrection was in part motivated by a desire to prevent the certification in order to send false electoral slates to Congress—an effort Greene endorsed and promoted.”

Greene, whose belligerence defending Trump and attacking Democrats is well known, is among a handful of federal and state lawmakers whose 2022 candidacies have been challenged under the Constitution – which she swore to uphold when taking office days before the uprising. But Greene, like Trump, has pretended nothing happened and called her critics criminals.

“This is how far it’s going, these leftists, these progressives who would rather want – they’d rather have the judge or bureaucrats making decisions instead of voters, they want to hand that over to them and not let the people in my district to even have the right to vote for me,” she told Carlson. “But no, the Republican Party needs to fight harder, Tucker. You know, there is something that I have learned, and I think this is really important. You know, if you can challenge any representative's candidacy or elected office holder, then I bet you we could round up some Republican voters who didn't like [Vice-President] Kamala Harris funding rioters, criminal rioters out of jail, or [Reps.] Ilhan Omar or Cori Bush or Maxine Waters inciting riots.”

Factually, no Democratic woman officeholder Greene mentioned incited the January 6 riot. But her attack on her political opponents – accusing them and the FBI of igniting the insurrection – and her denial of any involvement in the failed coup has become a common refrain among the 2022 candidates challenged by Free Speech for People.

“It is absurd to claim that a sitting member of the United States Congress advocated for the overthrown of the United States government,” said Arizona attorney Alexander Kolodin, who represents Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), whose public support of the insurrection is also well-known, during an April 20 state court hearing in Phoenix where the group’s lawsuit challenging the candidacy of Gosar and two other pro-insurrection candidates was heard.

“In fact, there are not even any specific allegations as to Congressman Gosar to that effect,” Kolodin continued. “In fact, he’s [Gosar] not alleged to have called for violence except in some speech before that Capitol riot where he said, ‘A civil war is coming. We just haven’t started shooting yet.’”

Like the suit against Greene, Free Speech for People’s lawsuit extensively documented Gosar’s pro-insurrection actions. But the legal challenge drew a cold reception from Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury, who repeatedly said that the group’s legal team had misread the Arizona law they claimed allowed candidates to be removed from the ballot.

A forthcoming ruling raising procedural issues would delay hearing the 14th Amendment case, although Arizona’s primary is not until August. In contrast, the group’s legal action against Greene has taken a different course from its lawsuit against North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who also faces a Republican primary in mid-May. On March 10, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Myers ruled that Cawthorn’s candidacy could not be challenged because his support of the insurrection was absolved by an 1872 federal law granting amnesty to former Confederates – southern supporters of the Civil War. That ruling has been appealed.

In the short run, however, it is notable that Free Speech for People’s legal team, suing on behalf of a handful of voters in each state, will accomplish on Friday what the U.S. House’s Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol has failed to do thus far: interrogate a member of Congress about her role in the riot.

Given the propaganda and serial lying by Greene about the insurrection – first denying Trump’s 2020 loss, then encouraging the attempted coup, then accusing her political opponents of inciting the violence that ensued, then denying her involvement in any of these events – the media coverage of Friday’s hearing is likely to be intense and circus-like, and possibly obscure the constitutional questions raised under the 14th Amendment’s Section Three.

“An ‘insurrection’ or ‘rebellion’ under the Disqualification Clause includes actions against the United States with the intent to overthrow the government of the United States or obstruct an essential constitutional function,” the complaint against Greene said. “The events of January 6, 2021, amounted to an insurrection or a rebellion under Section Three: a violent, coordinated effort to storm the Capitol to prevent the Vice President of the United States and the United States Congress from fulfilling their constitutional roles by certifying President Biden’s victory, and to illegally extend then-President Trump’s tenure in office, including by illegally introducing illegitimate electors as ‘alternate slates’ for Congress to vote on.”

Whether Greene is ineligible to be a 2022 candidate for federal office is not the only issue at stake, according to Free Speech for People’s “14 Point 3 Campaign.” Their candidate challenges are seeking to defend the laws, rules, and guardrails governing American democracy – starting with the foundational charter, the U.S. Constitution. Their biggest target is not lawmakers like Greene or Gosar in this year’s elections, but Trump and his plans for 2024.

“Trump is preparing to run for president again in 2024, holding rallies across the country to activate his base… However, Trump’s incitement of the January 6th insurrection makes him ineligible for any future run for office,” the organization said. “Free Speech For People… urge[s] Secretaries of State and chief election officials across the country to follow the mandate of Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment and bar insurrectionists from any future ballot.”

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.


Mapping Extremist Networks Shows Capitol Rioters Weren’t ‘Ordinary People'

One of the broad narratives about the January 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection that emerged from demographic assessments of the people subsequently arrested for placing the building and the police guarding it under siege was the general sense that, while organizations like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys played central roles in the attack, the vast majority of the insurrectionists were just “ordinary citizens” who had no real extremist affiliations but were just swept up in the Trumpian hysteria. It turns out that may not be quite right.

Radicalization expert Michael Jensen compiled a network map of all the people arrested for January 6 crimes—which he originally thought would confirm the “J6 defendants are just ‘ordinary’ people with few links to extremists” conventional wisdom—and found as it kept piling up that he “no longer finds this narrative convincing.” As Marcy Wheeler adroitly observes: “I think people have lost sight of how important organized far right networks were to the riot.”

Extremist Group Movementsimages.dailykos.com

Jensen, the principal investigator for the Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States (PIRUS) project at the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), compiled the network map from “several thousand pages of court documents and countless social media posts.” He found a total of 244 defendants with extremist connections, and created a visualization of those ties—as well as those between rioters—with the map.

“That’s approximately 30 percent of all defendants. While that’s not a majority, a 30 percent rate of affiliation with extremism/extremist beliefs among a collective of apparently “ordinary” individuals is an astounding number,” Jensen writes on Twitter.

Indeed, while 30 percent still is not a majority, it is not a small minority either. He continues:

Of these 244 defendants, 108 were members of at least one extremist organization. 136 self-identified as members of extremist movements or publicly praised extremist groups and their beliefs. These defendants form nearly 700 dyadic relationships to extremist groups/movements and other defendants with extremist affiliations. These aren’t ordinary relationships—or, at least, they shouldn’t be.

Moreover, the “ordinary people” argument misses what the visualization shows—that J6 involved a number of influential defendants who acted as bridges in a larger network, facilitating the flow harmful ideas from one movement to another. Sure, the J6 defendants are “ordinary” in the sense that most of them have families, neighbors, and jobs, but who really believes that those are the things that distinguish extremists from everyone else?Jensen points to the work of another expert at American University’s Polarization and Extremism Research & Innovation Lab, Cynthia Miller-Idriss, in coming to terms with the reality that far-right extremism has been mainstreamed, and how that has happened, primarily through online radicalization—how “people radicalize in a vast and ever-expanding online ecosystem, a process that often involves no contact with particular organizations”:

Jensen points to the work of another expert at American University’s Polarization and Extremism Research & Innovation Lab, Cynthia Miller-Idriss, in coming to terms with the reality that far-right extremism has been mainstreamed, and how that has happened, primarily through online radicalization—how “people radicalize in a vast and ever-expanding online ecosystem, a process that often involves no contact with particular organizations”:

As ordinary individuals encounter these ideas, whether through custom-tailored propaganda or through more grassroots efforts amplified by social media, they assemble them into their own personalized belief systems. This is a far cry from more traditional models of radicalization in which people gradually adopt an identifiable group’s ideological framework—such as fascism or neo-Nazism—that calls for violent solutions against a common enemy. These more coherent processes involve initiation rites, manifestos, leaders, and a chain of command that guide beliefs and actions. Those elements are largely absent from today’s patchwork, choose-your-own-adventure mode of radicalization.

Miller-Idriss’s point is that “Extremism has gone mainstream; so must the interventions needed to address it.” And as Jensen observes, it’s likely that the “ordinary people” narrative surrounding J6 only makes this problem worse.

“It depicts aligning with extremist groups, even if indirectly, and/or adopting their beliefs and attempting to violently end democracy as something “ordinary” people do,” he writes. “It’s not.”

Heidi Beirich, the longtime intelligence director at the Southern Poverty Law Center now with the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, explains that this radicalization has been openly encouraged by Republican officeholders and a broad array of right-wing pundits, who have promoted white-nationalist and other far-right conspiracy theories into the mainstream of public discourse, ranging from the racist “Great Replacement” theory claiming that liberals are deliberately seeking to displace white voters with a tide of nonwhite immigration and civil rights, to the contradictory claims that “leftists” and “antifa” were actually responsible for the January 6 violence and that the rioters simultaneously righteous “patriots” seeking to defend the nation from a communist takeover.

Beirich cites a recent University of Chicago Project on Security and Threats report identifying an active American insurrectionist movement comprising some 21 million people. These radicalized Trump followers believe that “Use of force is justified to restore Donald J. Trump to the presidency” and that “The 2020 election was stolen, and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.” About 63 percent of them believe in the Great Replacement theory, while 54 percent subscribe to far-right QAnon conspiracism.

It also notes that this insurrectionist movement is made up of “mainly highly competent, middle-aged American professionals,” leading the researchers to warn that their continuing radicalization “does not bode well for the 2022 midterm elections, or for that matter, the 2024 Presidential election.”

Marcy Wheeler notes that Jensen’s map reveals how massive an influence QAnon networks were in fueling the insurrection. She observes “how much more effective QAnon was at getting bodies where they needed them than the militias (the Proud Boys were busy moving other bodies around). Note how many QAnoners there are here.”

Moreover, as she explains, the map gives weight to the reportage this week by TheNew York Times’ Alan Feuer, revealing the key role that a Roger Stone minion and QAnon influencer named Jason Sullivan had in fomenting the January 6 violence:

More recently, Mr. Sullivan has taken an active role in promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory, which holds that prominent liberals belong to a cult of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. At a public appearance last year with Ms. Powell and Mr. Flynn, Mr. Sullivan called Hillary Clinton a “godawful woman” and then made a gesture suggesting she should be hanged.

On the conference call ahead of Jan. 6, Mr. Sullivan told his listeners that he was an expert at making things go viral online, but that it was not enough to simply spread the message that the election had been stolen.

“There has to be a multiple-front strategy, and that multiple-front strategy, I do think, is descend on the Capitol, without question,” he said. “Make those people feel it inside.”

As Wheeler says: “If someone can be shown to have triggered the QAnoners, it is an important detail. FBI was investigating this within weeks after the riot.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos