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WATCH: Racists Run Amok In Trump Family’s Favorite ‘Student’ Group

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Turning Point USA is often associated with the time its members wore diapers in an attempt at “triggering” liberals, but this should not be the only public failure the group is remembered for. The conservative organization, which focuses on increasing right-wing political influence on college campuses, has a long history of involvement in racist incidents that are now permanently linked to its name.

TPUSA’s founder and executive director, Charlie Kirk, has repeatedly denied that his organization is racist, yet the incidents of blatant bigotry involving members of TPUSA keep happening, even as leaks show white nationalists plotting to infiltrate it. Kirk, the right-wing “boy wonder” who has used Fox News to turn fear-mongering about left-wing ideology on college campuses into a profitable grift, has also successfully leveraged his “perfectly incoherent” sycophancy for the Trump administration into a cozy relationship with the president’s family — a relationship seemingly unaffected by TPUSA’s pattern of racism.

Here are incidents of racism involving TPUSA:

  • Former TPUSA National Field Director Crystal Clanton sent text messages to another TPUSA employee that said, “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE. Like fuck them all . . . I hate blacks. End of story.” Kirk had previously said about Clanton: “Turning Point needs more Crystals; so does America.”
  • After firing Clanton when her racist text message became public, Kirk hired Shialee Grooman and Troy Meeker. HuffPost reported that Grooman had written several anti-gay and racist tweets that included the n-word and Meeker had also tweeted an anti-Black slur. HuffPost also reported that former TPUSA Midwest regional manager Timon Prax was pushed out because of his record of using “bigoted language in tweets and texts,” including racist jokes and messages that “made fun of black people and referred to them as slaves.”
  • A former TPUSA field director recalled watching speakers at one of the organization’s annual student summits who “spoke badly about black women having all these babies out of wedlock. It was really offensive.” Speaking to The New Yorker in 2017, the former employee said that “looking back, I think it was racist.”
  • TPUSA defended Florida Atlantic University professor and TPUSA chapter faculty adviser Marshall DeRosa after The Nation reported his ties to white nationalist group League of the South.
  • In her resignation letter addressed to TPUSA field director Frankie O’Laughlin and regional manager Alana Mastrangelo following the group’s disastrous diaper protestfar-right Infowars personality Kaitlin Bennett pointed out that O’Laughlin had “liked” tweets from white supremacist YouTuber James Allsup.
  • Kirk’s own Twitter feed has featured anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim tweets, and he once tweeted a flawed statistic that minimized police brutality against black people: “Fact: A police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male, than an unarmed black man is to be killed by a police officer.”
  • At a December 2017 TPUSA conference, attendee Juan Pablo Andrade was recorded telling several other conference attendees, “The only thing the Nazis didn’t get right is they didn’t keep fucking going!”
  • Members of the TPUSA chapter at Florida International University shared “racist memes and rape jokes” in the group’s chat messages. According to the Miami New Times, a prominent chapter member had to tell other TPUSA members to “avoid using the n word and don’t reference Richard Spencer too much and don’t Jew hate … all the time.”
  • TPUSA Director of Urban Engagement Brandon Tatum told anti-Semitic YouTuber Bryan “Hotep Jesus” Sharpe that Sharpe was banned from TPUSA events because of “the optics of the anti-Semitic rhetoric.” Tatum summarized TPUSA’s position as being “between a rock and a hard place” because while “personally, none of us have a problem with you — we want you here. It’s the optics. The media.”
  • TPUSA originally listed Gab, a white supremacist-friendly social media platform, as a sponsor for its 2018 Student Action Summit but “quietly dropped the company” shortly before the event.
  • TPUSA’s Iowa State University chapter reportedly invited white nationalist YouTuber Nick Fuentes to speak on campus.
  • Speaking at the December 11 launch of Turning Point UK, then-TPUSA Communications Director Candace Owens said, “If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine. … I have no problems with nationalism.”
  • TPUSA Chief Creative Officer Benny Johnson kicked off a TPUSA event by saying, “Oh my God, I’ve never seen so many white people in one room. This is incredible!”
  • Most recently Riley Grisar, president of TPUSA’s University of Nevada chapter, praised white supremacy, saying, “We’re going to rule the country! White power!” and using the n-word in a video uncovered by the anti-fascist website It’s Going Down News. Watch the video:

 

 

 

Parkland Survivor And His Family Targeted By Online Trolls

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

 

As a “graduation present” for Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg, trolls on 4chan and 8chan shared his contact information — including his home address and multiple phone numbers connected to his family — and called for his harassment. A day later, a prank call claiming there was a hostage situation in his house led to an armed police team being deployed there. The practice, known as “swatting,” is a harassment tool online trolls use to attack their victims, and it has proved fatal on at least one occasion.

The now-archived 4chan thread is a response to Hogg teasing the announcement of the activism “Road to Change” bus tour, a gun violence prevention tour he and some of his fellow Parkland shooting survivors just kicked off. In a June 3 post, a troll references Hogg having a “surprise for us” adding a link to the announcement of the bus tour, and posts contact information that includes home address and phone numbers linked to the Hogg family, saying it’s a “graduation present.”

After the post and subsequent replies were apparently deleted from 4chan, trolls took to 8chan (a message board launched in response to perceived censorship on 4chan that has since became more anarchic) to continue the “doxxing,” or the publication of a victim’s contact information with malicious intent. In the 8chan thread, trolls complained that 4chan (which they refer to as “cuckchan”) had deleted the original post, plotted to send “large usps boxes” to the Hoggs’ home address, and schemed about “looking into” a patent under Hogg’s father’s name. After the news broke that Hogg had been swatted, at least one troll on the thread also complained that “unfortunately he survived.”

The doxxing and subsequent targeted harassment of Hogg follow months of right-wing media attacking and floating absurd conspiracy theories about him in reaction to his gun violence prevention activism. Online, trolls are mirroring the attacks that right-wing media figures and the gun lobby are waging on Parkland shooting survivors, or vice versa.

And in taking to message boards like 4chan and 8chan to plot hits on their victims, they’re continuing what is becoming a terrifying pattern: During the 2016 presidential campaign, 8chan launched a harassment campaign against journalist David Cay Johnston after he published an excerpt from President Donald Trump’s 2005 tax documents. After a judge upheld existing regulations to assault weapons, trolls shared his contact information on 8chan in clear efforts to target him for harassment. After he profiled an anti-Muslim Twitter crusader, a HuffPost reporter got doxxed on 4chan, followed by numerous colleagues. In 2014, 4chan trolls organized“Operation Lollipop,” an effort to infiltrate feminist Twitter and sow dissent. These message boards have proven to be ideal hubs for far-right trolls to organize harassment campaigns aimed at silencing, threatening, and hurting those they oppose politically, with little to no consequences.

Media Matters confirmed the veracity of the address and has edited the images from the message boards to blur all sensitive information.

Header image by Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Alex Jones Declares War On Steve Bannon

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Leading conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars website are positioning themselves to capture Breitbart.com’s readership if the website doesn’t fire its Trump-scorned chairman Steve Bannon.

On January 3, President Donald Trump publicly dissociated himself from Bannon following reporting that Michael Wolff’s newly released book quotes Bannon as saying that the actions of the Trump presidential campaign were “treasonous.” The president slammed Bannon in a statement, accusing his former chief advisor of “leaking false information to the media” during Bannon’s time in the White House, and saying he had “lost his mind.”

This new controversy could exacerbate financial questions that continue to swirl around the Breitbart operation. A 2017 ad boycott rooted in disgust over the site’s extremism caused the outlet to lose nearly 2,600 advertisers. And now, following the presidential disavowal, Bannon’s biggest patrons, billionaires Rebekah Mercer and her father Robert Mercer, are reportedly uncomfortable with supporting his ventures and are reportedly looking into ousting Bannon from the website. Rebekah Mercer publicly rebuked Bannon the day after Trump’s statement was released. Matt Drudge, a major narrative driver in the conservative media apparatus whose contempt for Bannon predated the presidential spat, supported ousting Bannon.

Breitbart’s coverage of this schism failed to provide meaningful pushback or provide any defense of the disgraced chairman. The site’s readers, for the most part, sided with Trump, expressing their repeated support with comments that Infowars compiled and published such as, “I didn’t vote for Bannon,” and “Bannon blew any credibility he had by backing Moore.” Infowars quickly compiled and published the comments.

Infowars and Jones are currently exploiting the commotion to position themselves to fill the void Breitbart’s weakening and Bannon’s fall from grace might create. Now, nearly a year and a half after Infowars reporter and host Roger Stone bragged that he advised candidate Trump to hire Bannon, Jones is focusing his rage on the beleaguered Breitbart chairman, claiming he “stabbed the president and America in the back” and accusing him of being “at the heart of the attempt to take [Trump] down.” During other comments in the January 4 broadcast of The Alex Jones Show, Jones lobbed insults at Bannon (saying “Mr. Dandruff” has “big giant red swollen eyeballs that look like an owl on PCP that you poured 14 bottles of scotch on top of” and is a “pile of feces”) and suggested he be investigated for espionage. On Twitter, he attacked Bannon’s initial lack of response to Trump’s rebuke and praised Trump’s anti-Bannon statement.

The MAGA base has come to expect specific things from its news content, which Breitbart provided in relentless streams: a strong anti-establishment stance that included targeting the media and both major political parties, and a penchant for “triggering the libs,” a phrase used to ridicule progressive stances on cultural and social issues. Those are the elements that Trump weaponized to help him achieve victory.

After Trump took the White House, and following a year of reported chaos within the administration, the audience’s ethos now also includes unapologetic Trump loyalty, a defense mechanism that serves as a validation of their electoral choice. If Breitbart’s readers ultimately side with Trump and flee the website, Alex Jones’ Infowars seems like a prime candidate to pick up the disgruntled MAGA crowd by providing those readers the fix they’re looking for.

The fact is that Infowars has fewer constraints than Breitbart because it’s a financially independent outlet reportedly grossing close to $10 million a year — not from advertisers, but from selling nootropic supplements and other merchandise. And this relative independence will only incentivize Jones to push forward on the path of  bigotryhomophobia, and lies by pushing even more conspiracy theories and Trump propaganda that captivate the MAGA audience.

Header image by Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Far Right Plots To Silence Liberals On Twitter

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

In October, a notorious right-wing troll quietly launched an “operation” aimed at suspending progressive voices from Twitter. The plan was to use the platform’s mechanisms for reporting abuse in order to silence those he perceived as attempting to censor right-wing voices. With Twitter’s cooperation, and by taking out-of-context tweets that could have been made in sarcasm, the project has now become another successful entry in the playbook online trolls are using to silence progressives.

On December 6, a user on Gab — a social media platform resembling Twitter which has been dubbed a “haven for white nationalists” — commented in a “live topic” dedicated to Roy Moore (a tool similar to Twitter’s trending topics) and reminded fellow Gabbers of “project Titty Twister:”

A notorious right-wing, pro-Trump troll, known online as “Microchip,” launched Operation “Titty Twister” in late October, and called on his followers to report a list of progressive accounts to Twitter, which they claimed were “responsible for all bans and lockouts of Right wingers on Twitter.” Microchip planned to use Twitter’s blanket enforcement of anti-harassment policies to get those accounts suspended or banned:

Around the same time as Microchip’s call to arms, Gab founder Andrew Torba also encouraged his followers to engage in fraudulently mass-reporting accounts on Twitter to “cause chaos:”

The strategy seems to have intensified after Twitter announced major policy changes in late November and moved to suspend or remove verified badges from the profiles of users who had posted white supremacist rhetoric and other hateful speech. Though it is unclear how many accounts have been banned or suspended as a result of this far-right troll operation, Twitter did lock the account of Buzzfeed writer Katie Notopoulos for 10 days over a six-year-old sarcastic tweet. Other far-right trolls, like Mike Cernovich and Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson, are now targeting comedian Michael Ian Black for tasteless jokes he made years ago.

The fact that far-right trolls have succeeded in manipulating Twitter has undoubtedly emboldened them, as it signifies to them that their disinformation strategies work. And the problem will continue for Twitter especially because the social media platform has applied the same one-size-fits-all metric in the application of its anti-harassment policies. As Notopoulos noted while recounting her locked account saga:

Twitter is getting played. They’re trying to crack down on the worst of Twitter by applying the rules to everyone, seemingly without much context. But by doing that, they’re allowing those in bad faith to use Twitter’s reporting system and tools against those operating in good faith. Twitter’s current system relies on a level playing field. But as anyone who understands the internet knows all too well, the trolls are always one step ahead.

 

How Right-Wing Media Are Elevating Conspiracy Theories About The Las Vegas Shooting

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

 

The horrid massacre in Las Vegas, NV, in which a shooter killed at least 58 people and injured hundreds, has turned message board users and right-wing internet trolls into do-it-yourself (DIY) sleuths attempting to solve the crime themselves. Their investigations, based on leaked photos or unconfirmed gossip, have resulted in wild conspiracy theories that would be laughable if prominent right-wing media figures — ranging from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to Fox News’ newest prime-time host, Laura Ingraham — weren’t amplifying the wannabe-gumshoes’ voices in an unscrupulous effort to exploit the tragedy to their political advantage.

Previously, DIY investigative attempts of this sort have ended badly. When an attacker drove a car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville, VA, “alt-right” media personalities accused the wrong person of committing the attack. And when pro-Trump trolls pushed the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory that a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C., was a front for a ring of pedophiles, a gunman from North Carolina drove to D.C. to investigate the matter and fired shots inside the restaurant.

For opportunistic pro-Trump trolls, the incentive to push wacky conspiracy theories is the same as their reason for committing other sophomoric, attention-grabbing stunts: to gain notoriety, grow their platform by amassing social media followers, and make an income by asking for donations in support of their efforts. Such is the case for Laura Loomer, formerly linked to the Canadian outlet The Rebel. Loomer has been one of the most prominent pusher of conspiracy theories regarding the shooting in Las Vegas and is asking for monetary support to continue her “investigative journalism.” Her journalistic portfolio includes disrupting a Shakespeare play in New York City, harassing journalists, and heckling former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the asinine Seth Rich conspiracy theory.

Recently, Loomer has relentlessly tweeted wide-ranging and baseless speculation about the Las Vegas massacre. She has implied that the CEO of MGM Resorts, which owns the Mandalay Bay hotel from where the attacker opened gunfire on the crowds below, was somehow involved in the tragedy, has claimed MGM’s union gave its members 10 weeks of paid vacation during Clinton’s presidential campaign, and  has doggedly attempted to link the shooter to Islamic extremism, all in efforts to cast doubts over the available facts about the tragedy and push a “deep state” conspiracy theory. Kindred spirit Alex Jones enthusiastically elevated her moronic speculation by inviting her on his Infowars show.

Conspiracy theories such as these and others about the Las Vegas tragedy are so unhinged that even alternative media troll Mike Cernovich has dismissed them, and pro-Trump media figure Scott Adamsremarked on their implausibility during a Periscope session. That hasn’t stopped prominent right-wing media figures like Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, and Laura Ingraham from unscrupulously pushing the theories — even at the risk of casting doubts on official investigative efforts and undermining the efficacy of law enforcement authorities.

The Drudge Report propelled Loomer by headlining the site with her conspiracy theories. Drudge also featured other stories seemingly lifted from message boards like Reddit. Laura Ingraham, who will soon host her own show on Fox News, retweeted Loomer and baselessly speculated on October 4 that the shooter didn’t act alone. Ingraham continued to lean into conspiracy theories during her radio show on October 5, commenting that the “selective” leaked photos from the crime scene showed it was “perfectly laid down” and looked “like a scene from Law & Order.” Ingraham claimed that “something doesn’t add up” and chided the press for its “overwhelming lack of curiosity” and for not “asking questions.”

It is becoming unfortunately common for attention-seeking trolls to push politicized conspiracy theories after events of national importance. They deliberately amplify these narratives in order to “muddy the conversation,” as Snopes’ Brooke Binkowski told The Guardian. And many stars of right-wing media are proving to be no better.

Header image by Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Flint, Standing Rock Prove The Impact Of Environmental Issues On Communities Of Color

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.

In 2016, major environmental crises that disproportionately affect people of color — such as the Flint water crisis and the fight over the location of the Dakota Access Pipeline — were undercovered by the national media for long periods, despite being reported by local and state media early on. The national media’s failure to spotlight these environmental issues as they arise effectively shuts the people in danger out of the national conversation, resulting in delayed political action, and worsening conditions.

In early 2016, Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency in the majority black city of Flint over the dangerous levels of lead in the drinking water — more than a year after concerns about the water were initially raised. While some local and state media aggressively covered the story from the beginning, national media outlets were almost universally late to the story, and even when their coverage picked up, it was often relegated to a subplot of the presidential campaign. One notable exception was MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who provided far more Flint coverage prior to Snyder’s state of emergency declaration than every other network combined. Flint resident Connor Coyne explained that when national media did cover the story, they failed to provide the full context of the tragedy by ignoring the many elements that triggered it. In particular, national outlets did not highlight the role of state-appointed “emergency managers” who made arbitrary decisions based on budgetary concerns, including the catastrophic decision to draw Flint’s water from the Flint River instead of Lake Huron (via the Detroit water system).

This crisis, despite media’s waning attention, continues to affect Flint residents every day, meaning serious hardships for a population that’s more than 50 percent black, with 40.1 percent living under the poverty line. Additionally, according to media reports, approximately 1,000 undocumented immigrants continued to drink poisoned water for considerably longer time than the rest of the population due in part to a lack of information about the crisis available in their language. Even after news broke, a lack of proper identification barred them from getting adequate filtration systems or bottled water.

At Standing Rock, ND, like in Flint, an ongoing environmental crisis failed to get media attention until it began to escalate beyond the people of color it disproportionately affected. Since June, Native water protectors and their allies have protested against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), an oil pipeline which would threaten to contaminate the Missouri River, the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation’s primary water source. Several tribes came together to demand that the pipeline be rejected, as it had been when the (mostly white) residents of Bismarck, ND, raised similar concerns. The tribes’ calls for another route option for the pipeline went “criminally undercovered” by the national press until September, when security forces and protesters started clashing violently.

CNN’s Brian Stelter wondered whether election coverage had crowded out stories about Standing Rock, saying, “It received sort of on-and-off attention from the national media,” and, oftentimes, coverage “seemed to fall off the national news media’s radar.” Coverage of this story was mostly driven by the social media accounts of activists on the ground, online outlets, and public media, while cable news networks combined spent less than an hour in the week between October 26 and November 3 covering the escalating violence of law enforcement against the demonstrators. Amy Goodman, a veteran journalist who consistently covered the events at Standing Rock, even at the risk of going to prison, told Al Jazeera that the lack of coverage of the issues at Standing Rock went “in lockstep with a lack of coverage of climate change. Add to it a group of people who are marginalised by the corporate media, native Americans, and you have a combination that vanishes them.”

The reality reflected by these stories is that people of color are often disproportionately affected by environmental hazards, and their stories are often disproportionately affected.

In a future in which the Environmental Protection Agency could be led by Scott Pruitt — a denier of climate science who has opposed efforts to reduce air and water pollution and combat climate change — these disparities will only get worse. More so than ever, media have a responsibility to prioritize coverage of climate crises and amplify the voices of those affected the most, which hasn’t happened in the past.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has reported that more than three-quarters of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. African-Americans are also particularly at risk from climate impacts like rising sea levels, food insecurity, and heat-related deaths, and the black community is three times more likely than whites to die from asthma-related causes. Similarly, Latinos are 60 percent more likely than whites to go to the hospital for asthma and 40 percent more likely to die from asthma than white people. New Hispanic immigrants are particularly “vulnerable to changes in climate” due to “low wages, unstable work, language barriers, and inadequate housing,” all of which are “critical obstacles to managing climate risk.”

Leading environmental justice scholar Robert D. Bullard has found that “government is disproportionately slower to respond to disasters when communities of color are involved.” But media have the power to pressure governments into action with investigative journalism. According to a Poynter analysis on media’s failure to cover Flint, “a well-placed FOIA,” a “well-trained reporter covering local health or the environment,” or “an aggressive news organization” that could have “invested in independent water testing” could have been decisive in forcing authorities to act much sooner. Providing incomplete, late, and inconsistent coverage of environmental crises of this type, which disproportionately harm people of color, has real life consequences. And as Aura Bogado — who covers justice for Grist — told Media Matters, the self-reflection media must undertake is not limited to their coverage decisions; the diversity of their newsrooms may be a factor as well:

“When it comes to reporting on environmental crises, which disproportionately burden people of color, we’re somehow supposed to rely on all-white (or nearly all-white) newsrooms to report stories about communities they know very little about. That doesn’t mean that white reporters can’t properly write stories about people of color – but it’s rare.”

Media have many opportunities — and the obligation — to correct course. Media have a role to play in identifying at-risk communities, launching early reporting on environmental challenges that affect these communities, and holding local authorities accountable before crises reach Flint’s or Standing Rock’s magnitude.

While the dangers in Flint and Standing Rock eventually became major stories this year, they were not the only ones worthy of attention, and there are other environmental crises hurting communities of color that still need the support of media to amplify a harsh reality. Media could apply the lessons left by scant coverage of the Dakota Access Pipeline and Flint to empower these communities and bring attention to the many other ongoing situations of disproportionate impact that desperately need attention — and change. As Bullard suggests, every instance of environmental injustice is unique, but media coverage should be driven by the question of “how to provide equal protection to disenfranchised communities and make sure their voices are heard.”

IMAGE: Media Matters/Dayanita Ramesh

The White House Press Briefing Room Might Become A Hostile Place For Hispanic Journalists

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters. 

President-elect Donald Trump is considering Laura Ingraham, a Fox News contributor and conservative radio talk show host, as a possible choice for White House press secretary. If he picks her, it would be Ingraham’s job to brief the White House press corps on behalf of the Trump administration, and the attacks she’s launched against Hispanic journalists and Spanish-language media would make the White House briefing room a very hostile place for Hispanic journalists.

On November 13, The Hill reported that Ingraham was “under serious consideration” to be the press secretary of Trump’s White House, an indication that the contempt Trump showed for the press during his campaign will percolate into his administration, since Ingraham has her own history of railing against journalists whose reporting she doesn’t agree with.

During her crusade against “biased,” “post-American” journalism, Ingraham has singled out Hispanic media specifically, taking offense that Telemundo and Univision are “Hispanic-centric” networks which “revile the American experience” and have a “toxic” impact. The networks are extremely valuable for many Spanish-speakers who rely on them to better “navigate America,” but Ingraham has accused them of “teaching illegals how to avoid deportation” and of preventing people from learning English.

Ingraham has also taken issue with Hispanic journalists merely for speaking Spanish, once criticizing Telemundo anchor José Díaz-Balart for translating for a Spanish-speaking guest and mocking his accent by saying it was “so herky-jerky.” Ingraham has been critical of multilingualism in the United States, extending her mockery on Twitter to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) for his command of Spanish and criticizing retail workers who speak English with an accent, saying, “You can’t understand them. Sometimes you think you’re in a foreign country.” Any member of the press corp who sounds similar could be subjected to the same level of mockery and disdain from a press secretary Ingraham.

Covering the Trump campaign was especially challenging for Hispanic media, since the president-elect showed particular animosity toward the main Spanish-language networks and consistently ignored requests from Spanish-language print outlets seeking access — an approach in line with his “English-only” strategy of seeking electoral victory by courting primarily white voters. Picking Ingraham as press secretary would demonstrate that Trump has little interest in diverging from this campaign strategy while governing.