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"There Will Be Blood': New Indictment Exposes Capitol Rioters' Lust For Violence -- And Lying

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Most of the attention to the conspiracy prosecutions in the January 6 insurrection has been directed at the largest known (and overlapping) plots to besiege the Capitol involving the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. But a fresh indictment handed down this week by a grand jury makes clear that there were multiple conspiracies unfolding that day.

According to the indictment, a trio of extremist Trump supporters from California traveled to Washington, in their own words, to “violently remove traitors” and “replace them with able bodied Patriots.” Embroiled with the mob on the Capitol’s western entrance, one of them tazed Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone into unconsciousness, while another encouraged the mob to climb in through broken windows; once inside, the trio trashed congressional offices.

And then, two days later, two of them appeared on Infowars’ “War Room” program with Owen Schroyer and claimed that they tried to prevent “antifa” activists disguised as Trump supporters from breaking windows, and insisted they were only there for peaceful protest. That interview, however, proved to be disastrous for them, after the apparent ringleader used the real name of one of her coconspirators, enabling investigators to identify and charge him.

The three people charged in the conspiracy all knew each other online before January 6, met up at the Stop the Steal rally before the siege and then traveled together to the Capitol, split apart somewhat while participating in the exterior attack, and then joined back up once inside the building. From there, the three of them ransacked at least one congressional office. They are:

  • Gina Bisignano, a beauty-salon owner from Beverly Hills who can be seen in photos from her participation in the Capitol siege wearing a Louis Vuitton sweater. Her name was redacted from the indictment and remains under court seal because she has entered into a cooperation agreement with prosecutors, but has been confirmed by multiple journalists.
  • Daniel Rodriguez, a 38-year-old from Panorama City whose arrest in March primarily arose from his assaults on police officers at barricades, most notoriously his electroshock-device attack on Fanone. Rodriquez has subsequently attempted to claim that his confession to the FBI upon his arrest was obtained under duress.
  • Edward Badalian, a 26-year-old resident of North Hills, a suburban neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. It was Badalian who, according to the indictment, sounded the most bloodthirsty of the trio, telling them beforehand in a Telegram thread: "We need to violently remove traitors and if they are in key positions rapidly replace them with able bodied Patriots.”

Badalian had not been previously identified or charged. Both Bisignano and Rodriguez were already under indictment for their actions on January 6, charged with obstructing Congress and a variety of other assault- and vandalism-related charges. Bisignano was granted conditional release back to her Beverly Hills home. Rodriguez, who was arrested in March after a HuffPost investigation revealed his identity as Fanone’s attacker, has remained in jail since.

Bisignano had already achieved viral notoriety even before the insurrection after a video released in December 2020 showed her spewing homophobic epithets and COVID denialism. Her business subsequently experienced an appropriately harsh backlash on social media. As Marcy Wheeler has reported, Bisignano has been working out a plea bargain with prosecutors that is part of a cooperation agreement, which was confirmed in this week’s indictment.

The three of them apparently met on a Telegram channel called “Patriots 45 MAGA Gang,” where they shared Trump-related conspiracy theories and agreed that action needed to be taken to prevent Trump from being unseated as president. “We gotta go handle this shit in DC so the crooked politicians don’t have an army of thugs threatening violence to back their malevolent cabal ways,” wrote Badalian in one thread.

“We are taking this shit back,” Badalian wrote in another thread. “Yeah, absolutely, yes,” Rodriguez replied.

In other conversations, Rodriguez told his cohorts that he would “assassinate Joe Biden” if he got the chance and “would rather die than live under a Biden administration.” On December 29, Rodriguez posted: “Congress can hang. I’ll do it. Please let us get these people dear God.”

The trio gathered weapons and gear—a stun gun, pepper spray, gas masks and walkie-talkies—in the weeks before January 6. Badalian and Rodriguez traveled together from California, and "joined a caravan" in Kentucky on Jan. 5 headed to the “Stop the Steal” event, setting up caravan communications with a radio app on cellphones. Bisignano flew out

When they arrived in Washington, Rodriguez texted his cohorts on Telegram: “There will be blood. Welcome to the revolution.”

All three, the evidence shows, played leading roles in assaulting police at the Capitol barricades, as well as in assisting the mob’s entry into the building through broken windows.

Ironically, two days after the Capitol siege, two of them went on the conspiracist Infowars program “War Room” with Owen Shroyer and claimed that “antifa” was responsible for heightening the violence and breaking windows. Badalian—using the nom de plume “Turbo”—and Bisignano, who just went by “Gina,” both used Bisignano’s video to show that members of the crowd had claimed that rioters wearing Trump gear and breaking windows were actually “antifa” activists in disguise, and they had tried to prevent them from attacking the Capitol.

During the interview, Bisignano accidentally blew Badalian’s cover by referring to him as “Ed.” (Both men then went to Bisignano’s home two days later, helped her destroy evidence, and warned her not to use their real names again.) That clue apparently helped investigators identify him eventually, and it is mentioned in the indictment.

But the episode also provides a window into how Alex Jones’ Infowars conspiracy mill is nothing more than a platform for people to go on air and just brazenly lie to the world. Because that is what both “Turbo” and “Gina” proceeded to do.

Badalian told Schroyer that the people smashing windows in the Capitol made him angry because “that’s like a symbol of America to me.” He thought their ranks had been “infiltrated.” When he grabbed the man, others asked him why he had, and he said he told them: “We’re not here to smash the building! We’re not here to destroy the property! We’re here for the traitors!”

He then claimed that it became “a wild situation after antifa escalated—with the cops.”

Bisignano claimed that she began taking footage from her perch on the same arched window then “so that we would have proof that they were breaking windows and being violent.” She said “it was obvious they were not Trump supporters even though it said Trump on his helmet.”

“To me, it was like, ‘We don’t want this. We don’t want violence,” Bisignano told Shroyer. “And they were like, ‘No, we gotta break the window.’ And I said, ‘No, this is not a good look for us.’”

She also claimed she had urged everyone to go home. “I even said, ‘Guys, we gotta go, Trump’s said all Patriots need to go home.’ And some of the people left, and some people are like, ‘We don’t believe it. We don’t believe Trump really tweeted that.’ I was just like, it’s not worth risking your life. Violence isn’t the answer. I was just begging them to stop.”

She concluded: “We were clearly there for a peaceful march. And a lot of the people that infiltrated that crowd obviously were not there for that.”

The reality of the trio’s vitriolic violence on January 6, however, is laid bare in their respective indictments. Bisignano in particular played a leading role in whipping the mob into a frenzy, her mindset evident in texts she sent—one, from the Ellipse, urging another person to “roll in force” to the Capitol, while another sent from the Capitol steps exulting that “the battle has begun.”

She and Rodriguez battled with police at entryways, during which Rodrguez hurled a flagpole and discharged a fire extinguisher at officers. Bisignano told the police: “Liberty or death, gentlemen!"

Once on the window ledge, Bisignano can be seen encouraging another insurrectionist bashing the window that had been previously hammered by the man Badalian had pulled away in the Infowars video. She yelled encouragement to other rioters: “Hold the line, gentlemen! Don’t surrender! Fight for Trump!” and “Push forward, Patriots! If you are gonna die, let it be on Capitol Hill!”

After the window was broken, she climbed through the opening and into the Capitol, followed by Rodriguez and Badalian.

Badalian’s claim that antifa was responsible for the January 6 violence is also belied by a text he had sent earlier in the day, as they were marching toward the Capitol: "We don't want to fight antifa lol we want to arrest traitors," he said.

Their supposed reverence for the Capitol is similarly belied by the actions they took once inside. The trio found themselves in a congressional office suite, so after Rodriguez announced they should look for “intel,” he and Bisignano began rifling through bags and papers. Rodriguez eventually made off with an emergency escape hood he found in the office.

Proud Boys Show Up For Anti-Vax Rallies In New York And Los Angeles

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The Proud Boys continued to deploy their post-January 6 strategy—that is, focusing their organizing around local right-wing protests and attaching their neofascist presence by providing "security"—this week by showing up to anti-vaccination marches in New York City and Los Angeles. They also turned up at a local school board meeting in a suburban Illinois village to intimidate officials over LGBTQ-friendly books in their school library.

Their presence, as always, was intended to send a message of intimidation. But in the wake of Friday's verdict of acquittal for Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse, after which exultant Proud Boys fantasized online about "stacking bodies like cordwood," the silence with which they were mostly met this weekend felt particularly ominous.

The march in New York, which called itself the Worldwide Freedom Rally, attracted several hundred marchers, with a large contingent of Proud Boys in their black-and-gold garb and carrying various anti-vaccine and pro-Trump banners. Some of them could be seen flashing the white-nationalist "OK" symbol. At one point, a contingent of Proud Boys stopped to pose for photos in front of Donald Trump's hotel in Manhattan.

Another video showed Proud Boys entering New York subways through an unlocked emergency exit, thereby evading fares. A Proud Boys group from Miami boasted afterward on Twitter that the exit door had been held open for them by New York Police Department officers: "It's a good thing that the New York City Police open the door for us, so we don't have to pay the subway tolls," he said, adding "not only do we live rent-free in antifas head we also ride free in New York City subways courtesy of the blue."

The march in Los Angeles also was an anti-vaccine-mandate protest, though the Proud Boys' presence, while noticeable, was not as dominant. Among them were at least one January 6 insurrectionist and a videographer who was present among the rioters that day.

Marchers carried Gadsden "Don't Tread On Me" flags, "Fuck Biden" banners, and other so-called Patriot Movement and Proud Boys symbols, along with signs with slogans like "No Vaxx" and "No Jabs 4 Jobs," as well as others demanding "End Child Porn" and "Stop Human Trafficking," both references to QAnon conspiracy theories. One, an apparent reference to Rittenhouse, read "Support Our Heroes."

These local COVID-denialist rallies are only one of the multiple ways that Proud Boys are insinuating themselves, following the same blueprint. Others have been showing up increasingly to school board meetings to intimidate local officials discussing racial education, LGBTQ-friendly library offerings, and vaccine mandates and masking measures.

In the Illinois village of Downers Grove last week, a group of Proud Boys showed up to a school board meeting at which a discussion over whether the book Gender Queer, a graphic novel exploring the world of a nonbinary teenager, should be permitted to remain on the shelves of the high-school library. The roughly ten Proud Boys in attendance heckled students who defended the book, holding up signs reading "No Porn."

Among them were Edgar "Remy Del Toro" Delatorre, who was present at the January 6 insurrection, and Proud Boy Brian Kraemer, who was charged in 2020 after police said he "brandished a hunting knife and held it in a threatening manner" at a march in Joliet. Kraemer was charged with misdemeanor counts of reckless conduct and disorderly conduct in that case, after police said he "aggressively" pulled his vehicle into a crowd of protesters, then pulled the knife and began yelling obscenities.

On a Proud Boys channel, Kraemer — who lives in Lenox, about 30 miles from Downers Grove—had urged other Telegram users to join him at the meeting. "I will be speaking against child porn in my kids [sic] school. The left is planning to show up strong," he wrote.

One student told the Sun-Times that a man he identified as Kramer began harassing him after he addressed the board. He said Kraemer repeatedly told him, "You're a pedophile. You promote pedophilia," and threatened to call police. He said Kraemer later accosted him in the parking lot.

This is part of a repeated pattern manifesting the Proud Boys' current strategy for recruitment and organizing. They already had marched and engaged in street violence in Los Angeles as part of an anti-transgender protest outside a local spa. Earlier this month in Beloit, Wisconsin, their plans to protest a local school masking policy led to the local district shutting down all schools that day out of "security concerns."

Proud Boys also showed up at a meeting of the Portland Public School board in Oregon in late October at which a vaccine mandate was being discussed.

And in New Hanover County, North Carolina, a group of ten Proud Boys—all of them masked—turned up at a meeting to discuss mask mandates and stood threateningly in the back of the meeting room, arms crossed. One of them, who identified himself as "Johnny Ringo," chastised the board for failing to open the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance.

Afterward, the Cape Fear Proud Boys who had attended the meeting explained that their presence was part of a larger strategy to "ramp up the pressure."

"If our presence escalates that pressure and makes it to the point where we become a distraction to conducting business, and they just change the mask mandate so we go away, that's a win," said one of the members.

Neo-Fascists Celebrate Rittenhouse Verdict As Their License To Kill

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The exultation on right-wing social media following Kyle Rittenhouse's acquittal has been sickeningly predictable: Mainstream conservatives loudly valorize Rittenhouse as a "hero," while more extremist voices, applying the same logic, demand that more Americans follow his footsteps—urging the likeminded to take to the street now to begin using guns to "be like Kyle." They have even appropriated his name for their future plans, voiced in numerous celebratory threads: Any leftist protester shot by a right-wing "patriot" henceforth will have been "Rittenhoused."

As we forecasted, the acquittal is now a beacon-like green light granting permission to violent right-wing extremists to openly wage the kind of "civil war" against "the left"—which ranges from liberal Democrats like Joe Biden to the "antifa" bogeyman they have concocted—that they have been fantasizing about for the past decade. In the words of Charlie Kirk's interlocutor, it's the signal that now they "get to use the guns."

The bloodlust has been palpable. Online trolls celebrated that "it's Open Season on pedo-commies" and boasted that the verdict means "there's nothing you can do about it." A neo-Nazi channel on Twitter urged readers to "let this win fuel your rage." A fan of pseudo-journalist Andy Ngo commented in a retweet: "Every one of these anarchist criminal thugs should be shot in the street like the worthless dogs they are."

Far-right maven Ann Coulter posted a meme showing a gantlet of comic-book superheroes bowing to Rittenhouse. On Facebook, Ben Shapiro framed any future violence as being left-wing: "The Left accepting the verdict in a peaceable manner remains the sizable elephant in the room."

The white-nationalist site VDare also extolled Rittenhouse's heroism:

This much is true: Kyle Rittenhouse is the hero we've been waiting for throughout the turbulent summer of 2020, where a Black Lives Matter/Antifa/Bolshevik revolution has our country on the brink of total chaos.

Matt Walsh of the Daily Wire blamed the media for there even having been a trial:

The verdict is right and just but Kyle Rittenhouse never should have been on trial at all. Now the media will go to work, like the demons they are, to ensure that Kenosha burns because they did not get their blood sacrifice.

Walsh then added:

I hope Rittenhouse bankrupts all of you dirtbags in media who smeared him as a white supremacist. I hope he ruins your life. I want you to suffer. It's what you deserve. It's justice.

Idaho legislator Tammy Nichols, a Republican, posted a meme featuring the Gadsden-flag "Don't Tread On Me" design, but with a graphic of Rittenhouse firing from a seated position as he did in Kenosha.

The Gun Owners of America (GOA)—a gun-rights extremist group headed by far-right militia figure Larry Pratt—joined in the celebration by announcing it was giving Rittenhouse a new gun.

Alert: GOA will be awarding Kyle Rittenhouse with an AR-15 for his defense of gun rights in America. Join us in saying THANK YOU to Kyle Rittenhouse for being a warrior for gun rights and self defense rights across the country!

Other "Patriot" Movement extremists saw the verdict as vindication for vigilantism and militia organizing. The "Washougal Moms," a militia-friendly group from eastern Washington state, opined:

Today the jury and legal system has reaffirmed our rights as citizens. The second amendment in all aspects, to form a well regulated militia, the right to bear arms in self defense, and against enemies both foreign and domestic!

Kurt Schlichter, the former Red Sox pitcher turned right-wing troll, taunted MSNBC's Mehdi Hasan, who had expressed concern about the double racial standard that the verdict reflects, on Twitter.

Your pain delights me. Kyle Rittenhouse killed two leftist catspaws and bisected the bicep of another and there's nothing you can do about it.

A white-nationalist Twitter account called "Based Teutonic" celebrated the verdict by posting a fantasy that Rittenhouse would now embark on an action-hero-like mission—with the help of Judge Bruce Schroeder, who oversaw the trial in markedly biased fashion.

About to exit court room
Judge yells from behind:
Rittenhouse turns around
You forgot this
Tosses him his AR15
Credits roll, Eye of the Tiger plays

"Based Teutonic" wasn't alone in celebrating Schroeder's role in the verdict. On Telegram, a commenter in a Proud Boys channel observed:

Kyle's case shows how important is to have your guys in power on a local level. One vaguely conservative boomer judge made all of the difference in a monumental trial.

Other Proud Boys were more focused on their long-anticipated civil war. "There's still a chance for this country," wrote one. Another wrote: "The left wont stop until their bodies get stacked up like cord wood."

The Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights monitored a number of far-right chat forums (particularly Telegram) following the verdict, and found an outpouring of extremist bile, much of it anticipating the ability to inflict lethal violence on "leftists," as well as Black "parasites" and, of course, Jewish people. A user called The Western Chauvinist commented: "The parasites are planning multiple 'protests' across the United States."

One user calling himself "Proud Boy To Fascist Pipeline" replied to one of these comments mocking Black leaders protesting the verdict as "parasites": "Your 17 year olds are already armed and terrorizing our neighborhoods, n----er."

Fittingly, Charlie Kirk fans—following the example of his Idaho audience member—were focused on the violence: "Arm up and tell them f**cking bring it!" one replied to predictions of leftist protests after the verdict. "Shoot these phukers," commented another.

Nick Fuentes' "Groypers" were also unbridled in their anticipation of gunning down their opponents. "The most American thing you can do is Killing Commies," opined one on the white-nationalist forum Gab.Another Gab user exulted with a meme showing Joaquin Phoenix as The Joker, dancing: "When you find out it's officially Open Season on pedo-commies." Mocking "wannabe street thugs upset with the verdict," another Gab user replied, "you're gonna get Rittenhouse'd. Bitch."

"Getting Rittenhoused" became a popular way of threatening leftists. After Ngo posted a handful of tweets from leftists angry about the verdict, hundreds of his fans piled on, making threats of violence against them. "Someone will Rittenhouse them too," one responded. Another replied: "I came here to say that!"

Anti-Semitism also was a common theme. Right-wing troll Keith Woods, who has 23,500 followers on Twitter, declared after the verdict: "Huge L for the Jews." His followers piled on; one responded with a GIF meme of Gollum and the text, "Curse you goyim." Another replied, "hopefully they take an L in Charlottesville trial too. WHITE BOY WINTER!"

White nationalist Eric Striker was more explicitly antisemitic, as well as strategic, in his commentary:

Beating the Jews to the narrative as incidents unfold is more important than anything that happens in court.
Once you frame a story with the facts (and the facts have to be 100% accurate) and disseminate it with an effective propaganda network, Jews will struggle to challenge it once it's cemented.

Notorious white nationalist and anti-Semite Mike "Enoch" Peinovich put out a statement through his National Justice Party: "This victory for Kyle Rittenhouse over the cosmopolitan elite forces that plague the nation isn't only a victory for the young man himself, it's a victory for justice and for all White people who take a stand," Peinovich said.

On Telegram, a white nationalist commented: "The victory of Kyle Rittenhouse over the jewish forces that plague the nation isn't just a victory for the man himself, it's a victory for justice, and for the masses of disenfranchised White people which populate the globe.

The neo-Nazi group White Lives Matter had this advice for its white-supremacist followers:

Don't let this one victory lull you back to sleep. That's what they want. They know small "victories" can placate the angry masses more than anything else. Instead let this win fuel your rage. Never forget the simple fact that this clear-cut self-defense should never have gone to trial in the first place. Muslim, Hispanic, and African invaders have raped millions of our women, WHITE women. Their time of terrorizing our People with 0 consequences is coming to an end. The Rittenhouse verdict is a single tick in the scoreboard on our side. Our enemy doesn't have a scoreboard big enough for their victories. Fight harder, stronger, fiercer, and with the same remorse they have shown us. None. Get going, White man.

"This might be interpreted across the far right as a type of permission slip to do this kind of thing or to seek out altercations in this way, believing that there is a potential that they won't face serious consequences for it," Jared Holt of the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council told NPR. "I worry that that might end up being interpreted by some people as a proof of concept of this idea that you can actually go out and seek a 'self-defense situation,' and you'll be cheered as a hero for it."

White Nationalists And Republicans Drive Anti-Semitism With COVID Conspiracies

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

In many ways, anti-Semitism and conspiracism are twins with common origins: The original conspiracy theory is the "blood libel" (claiming Jews use the blood of Gentile babies for matzoh) that arose in medieval times, and the ur-conspiracy theory of the 20th century is the "Protocols of the Seven Elders of Zion" hoax claiming a cabal of Jews secretly run the world. Where conspiracism thrives, so does anti-Semitism.

So it's unsurprising to see that the COVID denialist conspiracy theories flourishing online are also driving people to anti-Semitism. The most recent examples include public officials—all conservative Republicans—ranging from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to Arizona State Sen. Wendy Rogers, promoting anti-Semitic tropes while embracing conspiracy theories related to the pandemic. At the same time, overt white nationalists like Nick Fuentes have gone all-in promoting anti-vaccination propaganda that is likewise deeply anti-Semitic.

A paid spokesperson for DeSantis named Christina Pushaw fired out a tweet this week suggesting that the Jewish Rothschild family—whose name has been woven into antisemitic conspiracism since the era of the "Protocols" in the 1920s — was part of a plot to draw European nations into the "Green Pass" vaccination system. Pushaw suggested that a business visit by a member of the Rothschild family with the prime minister of Georgia (which recently joined the "Green Pass" system) was evidence of this plot, writing ironically: "No weird conspiracy stuff here!"

Pushaw later denied any antisemitic intent, claiming that she was instead criticizing the Georgia prime minister "for intentionally fueling conspiracy theories to troll Green Pass opponents."

Rogers, an Arizona legislator already notorious for promoting QAnon conspiracy-cult nonsense and defending Donald Trump's phony claims of a stolen election, also fired off a tweet this week saying: "Retweet if you are a pure blood."

This is a reference to the spreading meme among COVID denialists identifying people who are unvaccinated as "pure bloods"—a la the eugenicist belief in racial purity through one's bloodlines, which is now best known in popular culture through J.K. Rowling's fantasy Harry Potter books, in which the villainous devotees of the evil Lord Voldemort identify using similar terms. Many anti-health-measure conspiracists believe the COVID vaccines permanently taint recipients' blood.

Rogers is no stranger to antisemitism. She frequently makes reference to antisemitic theories that liberal financier George Soros, a Jewish man, is the "puppet master" secretly manipulating mainstream Democrats and leftists—including a recent tweet referring to "Soros puppets."

Overt white nationalists also have adopted the anti-vaccination cause as a recruitment tool. Far-right "Groyper" leader Nick Fuentes—who has "jokingly" denied the Holocaust and compared Jews burnt in concentration camps to cookies in an oven, and recently opined: "I don't see Jews as Europeans and I don't see them as part of Western civilization, particularly because they are not Christians"—in particular has seized on the issue.

Fuentes recently held anti-vaccine rallies in the New York City area, including an event in Staten Island at which he railed: "I'm wearing this bulletproof vest here today, because they're gonna have to kill me before I get this vaccine!"

The next day, Fuentes attempted to latch onto a similar rally in downtown Manhattan, but found that even the anti-vaccine crowd had disowned him: "It's unfortunate that we had to separate from this crowd over there," Fuentes told the group of "Groypers" who had turned out to participate. "It's very troubling because it seems like the people over there, like a lot of people in the city, they hate us more than they hate the vaccine."

The role of right-wing media in whitewashing the role of these extremists in the spread of COVID denialism also became apparent as a result of Fuentes' participation: Fox News originally reported that white nationalists were part of the rally, and included an Anti-Defamation League description of Fuentes' America First organization. But the network then entirely scrubbed that information from later versions of the story when Fuentes and his cohorts complained loudly on social media.

"Fox News using ADL talking points about me and AF," Fuentes wrote on Telegram. "Scum."

A report last month from Hope Not Hate found that COVID denialism was acting as a recruitment gateway to broader antisemitic beliefs. It found that content posted with the hashtags #rothschildfamily, #synagogueofsatan and #soros was viewed 25.1 million times on TikTok in half a year—and was similarly widespread at Facebook and Twitter.

The report found that the now-defunct 4chan site, particularly its /pol/ section, contained the most antisemitic slurs of any platform. However, the encrypted chat site Telegram is now becoming the site with the most voluminous and vicious antisemitism, with numerous antisemitic channels, some boasting tens of thousands of members.

The report explained:

While conspiracy thinking fuels extremism of all kinds, in particular it can function as a slip road towards antisemitism and Holocaust denial, especially as far-right activists are actively attempting to exploit these networks. While conspiracy ideologies have always formed part of the social and political backdrop, the recent fever pitch has posed challenges to social cohesion and a heightened threat to Jewish people and other minoritised communities.

The report's authors also observed a close connection between the amount of antisemitism on a platform and how lightly or loosely it is moderated: the less restrictive the moderation, the greater and louder the antisemitism.

This is now a problem on every social media platform. Jewish creators on TikTok have complained that they face a deluge of antisemitism on the platform, and they are often targeted by groups who mass-report their accounts in order to get them temporarily banned.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a breeding ground for far-right extremism and conspiracism since its outbreak in early 2020, particularly serving as a recruitment and organizing nexus for extremists, as well as a fundraising pretext for the many scam operators working within that sphere. And social media, particularly Facebook, have been notoriously ineffective at reeling in the problem.

The Hope Not Hate report recommends, among other steps, that social media companies simply ban antisemitism across all their platforms entirely. "While explicitly disallowing antisemitism in a platform's community guidelines does not mean that it will vanish from the platform, it is a useful first step to tackle the issue," the report concludes, noting that "antisemites change the nature, style and extremeness of their antisemitism depending on the guidelines of the platform they are operating on. Specifically banning antisemitism, and other forms of racism, will allow for more robust enforcement against antisemites and result in less overt and extreme forms of antisemitism being seen by Jewish users of the platform, thereby reducing the harm they will experience as users."

Rittenhouse's Preordained Acquittal Will Inflame More Right-Wing Violence

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

We may have an answer for the right-wing "civil war" devotee who asked Charlie Kirk the other week: "When do we get to start using the guns?" Judging from the way the trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is proceeding—and from the way right-wing pundits and politicians are responding—this week, the answer is: The day teenager Kyle Rittenhouse is inevitably acquitted for murdering two men at a Black Lives Matter protest last summer.

Rittenhouse's acquittal is largely a foregone conclusion. And not because the evidence points to his innocence—Rittenhouse did, after all, kill a mentally ill man whose only acts of aggression included shouting at him, flinging a plastic bag with his personal effects in them, and reaching for his gun. On the other hand, the prosecution's case has been a mixed bag at best—but more because the judge in the case, Bruce Schroeder, has placed his thumb so heavily on the scales of justice here, often in plain view. More broadly, however, right-wing political figures and extremists discussing the matter on social media are not merely defending Rittenhouse but valorizing him, holding up his murderous acts as heroic vigilantism, and demanding that other like-minded "patriots" follow in his footsteps.

It's a recipe for an outbreak of eliminationist violence directed at "the left"—who these right-wing ideologues define broadly as "antifa," Black Lives Matter, socialists, anti-police protesters, and for that matter merely liberal Democrats who support President Joe Biden. The day when the jury declares Rittenhouse innocent will become a beacon for the radical right, a giant flashing green light signaling permission to begin "using their guns," telling them their long-awaited day to "begin killing these people" without consequence or compunction has finally arrived.

We know this because that is not only what they have been telling themselves in the runup to the trial, but it's what they and their Republican enablers are now shouting from the rooftops. Leading the parade on Twitter was Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance of Ohio, who posted a video ranting about the trial and denouncing the prosecutor for even filing charges against Rittenhouse:

"Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for us as patriots to stand up. Because if you don't fight back against the lawlessness, if we don't defend this young boy who defended his community when no one else was doing it, it may very well be your baby boy that they come for. It'll be your children whose life they try to destroy when no one else is defending their communities."

Vance repeatedly described Rittenhouse as someone who was "defending his community," even though he did not live in Kenosha, but in Illinois. He also repeatedly described the prosecutor as a "lawless thug" who was "trying to destroy his life."

The trial itself, Vance contended, represented a societal sickness: "We leave our boys without fathers. We let the wolves set fire to their communities. And when human nature tells them to go and defend what no one else is defending, we bring the full weight of the state and the global monopolists against them."

Tucker Carlson, who had adamantly defended Rittenhouse immediately after the shootings, continued in the same vein, blaming the violence on the "radicals" who were "burning down cities" and extolling the virtues of vigilantism as a natural consequence. He also claimed the Rittenhouse has "already won his case," then observed that "if you take a step back from the Rittenhouse story, you see something else entirely, you see violent insanity completely out of control in the middle of an American city. And the question is how did that happen in our country and why did nobody stop it?"

"The question, then, is how exactly are we surprised when a 17-year-old lifeguard from Illinois decides to step in?" Carlson concluded, sounding ominously like Charlie Kirk's interlocutor. "They hate it when you say that, but it's an entirely fair question. When legitimate authority refuses to do its duty, its sworn duty, others will fill the vacuum. That is always true. It's a physics principle."

And it has been from the outset. At far-right Proud Boys rallies rallies that followed the Kenosha shootings, participants began showing up wearing T-shirts declaring "Kyle Rittenhouse Did Nothing Wrong," and extolling his murders: "The Tree of Liberty Must Be Refreshed From Time to Time With the Blood of Commies," read the back of one.

Far-right Twitter maven and Gateway Pundit writer Cassandra Fairbanks retweeted an admirer's post after Rittenhouse's arrest: "I don't give a fuck anymore. I gone full Cassandra. Kill all the idiots violently terrorizing our towns. If the white suprematist [cq] do it then they're more useful than elected officials."

"Yeah," responded Fairbanks, "I'm literally just sitting here like … maybe some people will think twice about rioting tomorrow."

The primary source of their permission for violence is the eliminationist narrative the right has concocted about antifa and Black Lives Matter, concocted out of ideological and racial hysteria and conspiracy theories, depicting them as a demonic threat to the American republic. This narrative has become extraordinarily widespread, as well as deeply imbedded into the nation's political discourse, thanks largely to its constant repetition both by leading Republicans—notably Donald Trump—as well as "mainstream" right-wing media like Fox News.

We saw during jury selection for the federal civil lawsuit trial against the lethal 2017 "Unite the Right" rally organizers in Charlottesville that this wildly distorted view of "the left" has spread deeply enough to affect jury pools as well as court proceedings. In the Rittenhouse trial, it's become clear that not only the jury may be affected, but so is the judge overseeing the proceedings, Bruce Schroeder.

Schroeder, as Will Bunch explored on Twitter and at the Philadelphia Inquirer, has a troubling history of pushing "law and order" politics in his courtroom, as well as indulging in dubious courtroom behavior and head-scratching rulings. He already had informed attorneys in the case that they could not describe the three men as "victims," but would permit defense attorneys to describe them as "looters," "rioters," or "arsonists," even though none of the three were ever accused of those crimes.

This week, Schroeder also:

  • Called on the court to applaud a defense witness, who was there to testify that Rittenhouse was justified in taking two lives, for being a veteran. Schroeder, noting that it was Veterans Day, asked if anyone in the court was a veteran; when witness John Black said he was, Schroeder called for the court to applaud him. Jurors joined in on the applause.
  • Rejected video of Rittenhouse shooting one of his victims, claiming the using Apple's zoom functions might distort the image. "iPads, which are made by Apple, have artificial intelligence in them that allow things to be viewed through three-dimensions and logarithms," defense attorneys insisted. "It uses artificial intelligence, or their logarithms, to create what they believe is happening. So this isn't actually enhanced video, this is Apple's iPad programming creating what it thinks is there, not what necessarily is there." Schroeder agreed.
  • Kept forgetting to silence his phone, whose ringtone is the Lee Greenwood song "God Bless the USA." The song is the anthem of the tea party/"Patriot" right, and is used at Trump rallies as his entrance theme.
  • Refused to permit prosecutors to ask defense witness Drew Hernandez, a pseudo-journalist who specializes in filming and posting misleadingly edited videos about antifascists and anti-police protesters, about his work for former Trump adviser Steve Bannon's Real America's Voice network. Hernandez also was present at the January 6 insurrection inside the Capitol, before which he had spoken at the "Stop the Steal" rally, telling the crowd: "We punch back, we fight back. Because we will not go down without a fight. We will not go down without bloodshed. If they want a second civil war, then they got one. I will fight to the very last breath." Schroeder ruled that the jury could not learn about his background because "this is not a political trial."
  • Tried to make a joke to the court, after the jury had filed out, about the lunch that had been ordered that day: "I hope the Asian food isn't coming … isn't on one of those boats from Long Beach Harbor." (The joke went over the heads of everyone who wasn't a regular viewer of Fox News, which has repeatedly run stories about supply chain issues for Asian goods coming in to Long Beach—issues that in fact are primarily the result of Donald Trump's trade wars with China and other nations.)

Most legal observers have observed that the trial's outcome is a foregone conclusion, and many believe the primary blame lies with Schroeder and his handling of the proceedings—particularly how he has intervened at every juncture when the prosecutor has trapped Rittenhouse in a lie. Some observers describe this style as "pro-defense"—which is consistent with the judge's record—but family members of the victims surrounding the Kenosha unrest are outraged.

"It seems like he's aiming to let this man out of this courthouse scot-free and we're not going to let that happen," Justin Blake, the uncle of Jacob Blake, whose shooting by a police officer sparked the Kenosha protests, told The Washington Post. "If it happens, we're not going to be quiet about it."

Right-wing extremists are already stepping up their threatening behavior, and doing so with apparent confidence that they will face no consequences for doing so. A militia group called the Kenosha Strong Patriots posted the name, photo, and home address of Rittenhouse's chief prosecutor on Telegram. A participant disingenuously claimed: "This is absolutely not an encouragement to violence. Just would be nice to see a peaceful protest outside his home like the left does every time they don't like something."

Greg Sargent of The Washington Post observes that the embrace of Rittenhouse's vigilantism is occurring in the context of a general absorption of a violent ethos into the fabric of the Republican Party, which includes their ongoing valorization of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection and Congressman Paul Gosar's recent anime video portraying a fantasy in which he kills his Democratic colleague.

Carlson's Fox News colleague, Greg Gutfeld, similarly chimed in that "all Rittenhouse did was to fill the void that the government left open."

"Those two people should never ever should have been out on the streets and it forced citizens to become the police," Gutfeld said.

Other right-wing pundits valorized Rittenhouse as a youth role model. As Kristen Doerer reports at Flux, one of these is Ed Martin, president of Phyllis Schlafly Eagles, who devoted an extended rant on his podcast to defending the teenager.

"And my point here in setting that up is Kyle Rittenhouse was a completely—his conduct was completely consistent with what Americans should do," Martin wrote. "Stand up for the property, stand up for their towns, stand up for what's happening. He is a hero—that's true. Kyle Rittenhouse is a hero. Kyle Rittenhouse should be regarded as someone who did the right things."

Moreover, his example is worthy of emulation, Martin opined: "He stepped up in a way that was, frankly, it was much more, it was much more worthy of praise than the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of Americans that sat home and watched cities burn."

These themes have been the right's primary argument in support of Rittenhouse's murders since he was arrested. Moreover, the undercurrent in all of these arguments is to create permission for right-wing "patriots" ginned up on right-wing propaganda to act out their shared violent fantasies.

Hacked Oath Keepers Data Reveals Pervasive Violent Extremism In GOP

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The recent exposure of the Oath Keepers' membership through hacked data revealed a great deal about their spread—both within the ranks of law enforcement and among elected officials. But the underlying story contained therein goes beyond the relative handful of examples at hand: Namely, how deeply right-wing extremist ideology, particularly the far-right patriot movement, has penetrated mainstream American society at multiple levels.

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At Idaho Event, Far Rightist Asks 'When Do We Kill These People?'

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The politics of eliminationism—in which ordinary democratic discourse is replaced by the constant drumbeat of demonization that depicts one's political opponents as inhuman objects fit only for extermination—has been growing steadily in America for well over a decade, reaching a fever pitch during Donald Trump's tenure in the White House.
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Idaho Republicans Back Brazenly Anti-Semitic School Board Candidate

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Most of us are old enough to remember when Republicans eager to court the evangelical Christian vote would recoil in (not entirely genuine) horror at any hint of antisemitism in any political candidate, particularly on a GOP slate. But for the new post-insurrection Trumpian Republican Party, it seems not only to be no problem, it's practically an asset.

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Oath Keepers Conspiracy Trial Delayed By Massive Stack Of Evidence

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The federal judge overseeing the Oath Keepers conspiracy case in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection ordered their trial delayed this week, primarily because of the overwhelming amount of evidence still being produced in their cases. Though the delay was expected, its reasons are stark reminders that January 6 will be one of the most complex prosecutions in history and that the investigation remains very active as more evidence piles up. There are likely some very big shoes still to drop.

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Black 'American' Flags Hoisted By Far Right Signal ‘No Quarter’ For Liberals

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Far-right extremists over the years have adopted a number of flag designs as their representative banners. First it was the yellow "Don't Tread On Me" Gadsden flag flown by the Patriot movement and tea party. The alt-right came up with its Naziesque "Kekistan" banner. In the past few years, the prominent use of flags by belligerent far-right Trump fans, particularly those in "Trump Trains" or participating in right-wing invasions of urban liberal centers, has ranged from basic Trump or MAGA banners to "Blue Lives Matter" flags to their most recent "Fuck Biden" iterations.

Now, amid far-right protests against COVID-related vaccine and mask mandates, far-right extremists are unfurling their latest symbol: An all-black American flag, with stars and stripes mainly visible through variations in material and shading. "No quarter shall be given" is the black flag's traditional message—and in the context of the building drumbeat of right-wing "civil war" talk, a deeply ominous one. People flying them are essentially signaling that they're prepared to kill their liberal neighbors.

The black flags have been showing up at various right-wing protests, such as last weekend's "Health Freedom Rally" in Spokane, Washington—really a low-turnout affair mainly comprised of anti-vaccination protesters standing on a street corner, waving flags. One of these was a black American flag. Another one turned up when the protest moved to Riverfront Park.

The same flags have been showing up on people's home flag displays as well, as Michelle Davis of Living Blue Texas observed in a post headlined, "Are Your Republican Neighbors Planning On Killing You?" Primarily, videos of people erecting these flags on the fronts of their homes are being widely shared on social media, particularly TikTok and Facebook; Davis reported finding hundreds of them.

Black flags have a particular historical meaning for Americans: They first appeared on Civil War battlegrounds, carried by some Confederate Army units, and symbolizing the intent of the soldiers to neither seek any quarter nor give any—essentially, the opposite of the white flag of surrender, signifying that enemy combatants are to be killed rather than taken prisoner. It's a vow to massacre their enemies.

Its use in the Civil War primarily appears to have been featured in some of the heinous massacres of Black Union soldiers in the war, notably at the Battle of the Crater and at Fort Pillow. Both battles are considered Confederate atrocities.

The people posting the "black flag" videos on TikTok appear primarily to use two different pieces of music as accompaniment: The first, "Raise the Colors," is a gloomy sea shanty from Pirates of the Caribbean 2; the second, the song God We Need You Now by country rapper Struggle Jennings and cowriter Caitlynne Curtis, features QAnon-derived lyrics that threaten retribution for the people who "desecrate" the "values of our country and our God":

We've been dancing with the devil way too long
I know it's fun but get ready to pay your dues
Oh God, come back home
This crazy world is filled with liars and abusers
We need you now before we're too far gone
I hope one day they finally see the truth
God, we need you now

Davis noted that the same right-wing channels where the black flag-raisings are being posted are similarly rife with "patriots" advising their cohorts to prepare for a civil war. "Who are their enemies? Pretty much any non-Conservative. You know, Democrats, Liberals, LGBTQ, BIPOC, and the vaccinated," she notes. "So, we're the enemy, and they're openly professing to want to execute us."

Their primary grievance appears currently to revolve around COVID restrictions, with a number of military members talking about their imminent discharges for refusing to be vaccinated.

"The biggest message they have been sending out is, 'it's time' or 'the time is now'," Davis notes. "They primarily use Tik Tok as a recruiting tool and let others know their willingness to commit violence. Then they tell people to message them or where to find them on Telegram."

Some of the people posting videos of black flag hangings appear to be police officers, including one from Pea Ridge, Arkansas, who takes pains to carefully fold and unfold both his ordinary American flag and his all-black version. Several "black flag" groups have already formed on Facebook, and some Twitter accounts, such as the Michigan-based "Great Lakes Black Flag Coalition" ("Our mission is to unite Liberty minded organizations, communities and individuals for the purpose of promoting and restoring Freedom") specifically reference the symbol.

American far-right extremists have fantasized about embarking on a "second civil war" for several decades now, but the idea began building in intensity during the tea party years, when militia groups like the "Three Percenters"—whose name references its members' desire to embark on a "second American Revolution"—began attracting significant numbers of participants. It began gaining real traction during Donald Trump's tenure as president, mainly through the growth of such phenomena as the "Boogaloo" movement, which is specifically focused on preparing for a civil war.

Trump himself encouraged this narrative by threatening to unleash a civil war if Congress dared to impeach him, which sparked a wave of fevered preparations among his "patriot" fans in the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, Three Percenters and similar far-right groups. When it became apparent late in the 2020 campaign that he was likely headed for defeat at the polls, the civil-war discussions became intense, particularly among militia groups and white nationalists who were engaged in street-brawling protests, and "Boogaloo" activists tried leveraging street protests as opportunities for violence. Terrorism experts warned even then that fanatical Trump supporters were likely to engage in acts of mass violence.

This same, faux-patriotic worldview is what eventually inspired the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, which was the apotheosis of the GOP's two-decades-and-longer descent into right-wing authoritarianism, fueled by eliminationist hate talk, reality-bereft conspiracist sedition, anti-democratic rhetoric and politics, and the full-throated embrace under Trump of the politics of intimidation and thuggery. There was a reason the insurrectionists believed they were all partaking of a "1776 moment": they envisioned themselves as heroic patriots saving America from the commies.

If anyone believes the radicalized American right's drive to push the nation into bloody civil strife was somehow expiated or exhausted that day, they only need check the presence of black American flags the next time there is a right-wing protest in their town. Or maybe they can just check the front porches in their neighborhoods.

How A Militia Extremist Planned To Take Down Amazon And Start Civil War

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The arrest and conviction of a Texas militiaman who planned to bomb an Amazon data center to "kill about 70 percent of the Internet" is more than just another case that makes us grateful that the FBI takes these matters seriously. It also offers a window into the mindset of far-right terrorists—how they think, what motivates them, and what their plans for attacking and undermining American society look like.

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Neo-Nazi Fugitive Organizing Fascist ‘Fight Clubs’ From Europe

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The clubs organize in small local groups, recruiting young white men eager for violence in such dark corners of the internet as the encrypted-chat app Telegram, promising them an outlet in "active clubs" where they can fight and train with weapons. But these are not just fight clubs: They are also fascist gangs who indoctrinate members into neo-Nazi ideology.

The "active clubs," as Karim Zidan at Right Wing Watch and Tess Owens at Vice reported this week, are spreading both nationally and internationally and forming alliances with preexisting fascist groups such as Patriot Front, though in small numbers.

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Texas Court Slams Fraudster Alex Jones With Massive Default Judgment

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Conspiracy meister Alex Jones has been trying to stave off Judgment Day for a very long time. Ever since the parents of the murdered Sandy Hook Elementary students who were harassed by Jones' rabid followers filed a lawsuit to hold him accountable for his lies about their deaths, he has been playing a delay game: refusing to turn over documents in discovery, failing to respond to court orders to do so, biding his time in hopes of stretching out the proceedings in a vain attempt to avoid the inevitable reckoning.

The game came to a crashing halt this week when the judge overseeing the case, Maya Guerra Gamble of Texas' 459th District Court in Travis County, pulled the plug on Jones' obstruction tactics by declaring a default judgment in two of the central Sandy Hook lawsuits—meaning that the matter has been summarily decided and that Jones lost. With his fate now in the hands of a jury that will decide the size of the settlement he owes the plaintiffs, Jones' day of reckoning is now upon him.

Gamble issued the default judgments in filings that were unsealed this week in the two lawsuits filed by Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, parents of 6-year-old Sandy Hook victim Noah Pozner; and Scarlett Lewis, whose 6-year-old son Jesse was killed in the horrific Dec. 14, 2012, massacre by a deranged lone gunman in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 26 people dead, 20 of them young children.

Jones has a long history of declaring any mass casualty event—from the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing to the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the 2017 Las Vegas massacre to the Jan. 6 insurrection—"false flags" masterminded by nefarious "globalists" with the intention of taking Americans' freedoms away. He did so in the Sandy Hook case with particular zeal, claiming that the event was a "hoax," the victims were all "crisis actors" who did not really exist, and that the parents were all participants in a plot to take away Americans' gun rights.

The result was a flood of harassment directed at the grieving parents. Pozner told reporters he had to go into hiding. "It turned into what seemed like Alex Jones had some sort of vendetta against me, because I was hurting his business. I was crippling his YouTube channel," he told PBS. Pozner said Jones kept repeating his and Noah's names, calling on his listeners to "investigate" Pozner.

The lawsuits began arriving on Jones' doorstep in 2018, along with similar lawsuits brought against other "Sandy Hook hoaxers" with lesser reach than Jones' millions of followers. In all, nine families have filed suits. He already had been ordered to pay legal fees of $100,000, and was sanctioned by another judge in a lawsuit filed by six other families of Sandy Hook victims for failing to respond to court orders for documents—a pattern he followed in all of these cases.

Jones' continued refusal to hand over discovery documents in the Pozner and Lewis lawsuits finally provoked Gamble's rulings, the sweeping nature of which are considered unusual in the judiciary. Gamble defenestrated Jones and his website's parent company, Free Speech Systems, for having "intentionally disobeyed" the court's requests for documents related to this and other lawsuits filed against him, and for showing "flagrant bad faith and callous disregard" in not turning them over.

Gamble explained her reasoning in ordering default judgments, writing that they were appropriate because "an escalating series of judicial admonishments, monetary penalties, and non-dispositive sanctions have all been ineffective at deterring the abuse," which Jones' unwillingness to turn over documents in the case inflicted.

She also wrote that Jones showed a "general bad faith approach to litigation" that was supported by "Mr. Jones' public threats and Mr. Jones' professed belief that these proceedings are 'show trials.' "

"The Court finds that Defendants' failure to comply … is greatly aggravated by [their] consistent pattern of discovery abuse throughout similar cases pending before this Court," the judge's filings read. "The Court finds that Defendants' discovery conduct in this case is the result of flagrant bad faith and callous disregard for the responsibilities of discovery under the rules."

The next step in the case entails calling a jury to consider the damages in the cases. Both families are seeking millions of dollars from Jones.

Jones complained bitterly about the rulings in a public statement with his attorney. "It takes no account of the tens of thousands of documents produced by the defendants, the hours spent sitting for depositions and the various sworn statements filed in these cases," the statement read. "We are distressed by what we regard as a blatant abuse of discretion by the trial court. We are determined to see that these cases are heard on the merits."

He concluded: "It is not overstatement to say the first amendment was crucified today."

"Mr. Jones was given ample opportunity to take these lawsuits seriously and obey the rule of law," Mark Bankston, an attorney for the families, told The Washington Post. "He chose not to do so, and now he will face the consequences for that decision."

Lawyer Bill Ogden with Farrar & Ball, the law firm representing the Pozner/De La Rosa and Lewis families, remarked to HuffPost that default judgments such as Gamble's are so rare that they have a kind of mythical status.

"We learn about death penalty sanctions in law school as more of a theory, and it's almost unheard of to have them handed down in a case like this," said Ogden. "However, the Sandy Hook cases are unique. It is extremely rare that a party (Alex Jones and Infowars) is ordered by the Court to comply with discovery, is sanctioned for failing to obey with the Court's multiple Order(s), and then continues to blatantly disregard the Court's authority by continuously refusing to comply."

Other Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists have already faced similar consequences in court. Leonard Pozner won an earlier lawsuit in Wisconsin against an author who published a book claiming that the massacre was a hoax, with the judge ordering $450,000 in damages. Another "hoax" conspiracist, 73-year-old Wolfgang Halbig of Lake City, Florida, was arrested in 2020 and charged with harassing the Pozners and other Sandy Hook families.

One follower of Jones' Infowars program, 57-year-old Lucy Richards of Florida, was arrested and convicted in 2017 of threatening the Pozners. Richards left menacing voice mails and emails with Pozner, saying in one: "You gonna die … Death is coming to you real soon and there's nothing you can do about it." She received a five-month prison sentence.

Leonard Pozner himself has reflected on the vicious toll that conspiracism takes on both individuals and communities. "Unimpeded conspiracy theories distort truth and erase history," he told The Washington Post. "They dehumanize victims."

Pozner later told PBS: "These ideas are not harmless. So, spreading hate, vilifying people, there's someone that will read it and possibly take action, and really take it to heart. I've seen that happen. I've seen that happen in my life."

Trump-Friendly Prosecutor Signals Potential Trouble For Insurrection Cases

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The federal government's prosecution of the January 6 Capitol insurrectionists continues to roll along with hardly any change in direction or pace: Participants in the attack continue to be arrested as investigators accumulate more evidence, while judges continue to keep major players, particularly members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, under lock and key.

However, one bright red flag was raised by Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel—who has assiduously tracked and reported on the imposingly complex prosecutions from January 6—this week in the conspiracy case being assembled by prosecutors against the Proud Boys: It now emerges that one of the lead prosecutors in that case is Jocelyn Ballantine, the same DOJ prosecutor who engaged in dubious behavior around former Trump official Michael Flynn's prosecution, such as submitting altered documents. Could a botch job be around the corner?

Ballantine, as Wheeler details, engaged in a pattern of misconduct in handling the Flynn case that could easily result in a federal judge dismissing the case. And as the Proud Boys' attorneys made clear in their filings this week demanding that key players in the insurrection, including leaders Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean, be granted pretrial release, their primary strategy appears to be aimed at obtaining exactly that kind of summary dismissal of the charges.

Wheeler points to three specific acts by Ballantine in the Flynn matter that raise concerns:

  • On Sept. 23, she provided three documents that were altered to Sidney Powell, one of which Trump used six days later in a packaged debate attack on Joe Biden.
  • On Sept. 24, she submitted an FBI interview report that redacted information—references to Brandon Van Grack—that was material to the proceedings before Judge Emmet Sullivan.
  • On Oct. 26, she claimed that lawyers for Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe had checked their clients' notes to confirm there were no other alterations to documents submitted to the docket; both lawyers refused to review the documents.

Having a prosecutor on the Proud Boys prosecution team (let alone overseeing it) with a dubious conduct history poses serious risks for their success, and indeed for the broader prosecution: "Given Ballantine's past actions, it risks sabotaging the entire January 6 investigation," Wheeler observes.

The possibility of a bungled federal prosecution in the Proud Boys case raises the specter of a similar botch job in a major case involving right-wing extremists: Namely in 2018, when prosecutorial misconduct involving evidence sharing forced the federal judge overseeing the case against rancher Cliven Bundy for his 2014 armed standoff with federal authorities to order all charges dismissed—one of several cases of misconduct involving that U.S. Attorney's office. That dismissal, with prejudice, was upheld on appeal.

The attorneys for Biggs and Nordean, meanwhile, made a fresh appeal for their clients' pretrial release to home confinement, claiming the men posed neither a serious flight risk nor any threat to public safety in the interim. The attorneys presented clips from a video shot on January 6 in Washington, D..C., by fellow Proud Boys member Eddie Block, claiming they demonstrated that the group actually intended to hold their "big event" afterward at The Ellipse, not at the Capitol.

"There's no conspiracy," defense attorney John Hull said. "… So, [with] no conspiracy, about 80% of the whole case falls apart."

Prosecutors noted that Block's statements in the clips are contravened by the men's demonstrated actions that day, which included Nordean and Biggs tearing down a police barrier. They also reminded the judge of encrypted texts the men shared that day preparing for insurrection on January 6.

Prosecutors warned that the defendants' release would mean "there's no way to police" any other potential planning the men might participate in with other Proud Boys members: "That's a significant, prospective danger to the community," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough said.

In other January 6-related developments:

  • Accountability arrived for the Capitol Police officers who behaved as congenial hosts to the insurrectionists on January 6. The agency announced it had taken disciplinary action against six officers following an internal investigation.

There were 38 internal investigations involving officer behavior on January 6, with 26 different officers identified, Capitol Police reported. There was no wrongdoing found in 20 of the cases.

Three of the six officers were disciplined for "conduct unbecoming;" another for improper remarks; one for improper dissemination of information; and one for "failure to comply with directives."

"The six sustained cases should not diminish the heroic efforts of the United States Capitol Police officers. On January 6, the bravery and courage exhibited by the vast majority of our employees was inspiring," the release said.

  • FBI agents arrested a woman from Allentown, Pennsylvania, who had filled her social-media pages with QAnon conspiracy theories and demands for an "Army of Patriots" to seize control of the government, prior to invading the Capitol with other right-wing extremists on January 6.

Prosecutors detailed Kelly O'Brien's prolific rants on social media leading up to January 6. One dated November 26, 2020, asserted: "We do not riot. We fight. We are an Army of Patriots. You will know us when you see us. There will be no ambiguity. Prepare yourself."

On Dec. 19, 2020, O'Brien posted: "WE ARE IN A BATTLE between GOOD and evil. Make no mistake about that. Elders are cheering us on and believe that WE ARE GOING TO BE THE GREATEST GENERATION in their lifetime. And they lived through WWII. Are you going to fight or are you weak. Let us know now. WE NEED PATRIOTS! WE NEED FREEDOM FIGHTERS! Now!"

The day after Christmas, another used posted: "You can vote your way into socialism but you have to shoot your way out of it!" O'Brien responded: "We might have to."

After the insurrection, on January 8, amid a discussion of Trump's refusal to concede to Joe Biden, O'Brien asserted that "Everything is happening according to Q plan. So scared."

  • A former FBI special agent remarked on MSNBC that the insurrectionists' targets were chosen not by movement leaders or members, but rather by elected politicians like Donald Trump and Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley.

"It's our political leaders that are doing this more than domestic extremists," Clint Watts, a Joint Terrorism Task Force veteran, said. "What you see right there President Trump told them they were going to the Capitol that day. They didn't pick the Capitol, he said it, his organizers they promoted it, his fellow congressmen in the GOP, they promoted it.

"It was Josh Hawley out there fist-bumping the crowd, right? Before it went in," he added. "That's the thing we look for to see, hey, where are they tipping to. For the most part, the groups aren't picking the targets. It's the elected leaders."

FBI Warrant Reveals Jan. 6 ‘Seditious Conspiracy’ Probe Of Oath Keepers

Reprinted with permission from Daily KosCon

The right-wing gaslighting emanating from Tucker Carlson's realm and Congressional Republicans about the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has suggested that because federal prosecutors haven't yet charged any of the 600-plus people arrested with terrorism or insurrection, those terms don't describe the attack on Congress. But that claim now sounds hollow, after a search warrant this week revealed the FBI is currently pursuing a "seditious conspiracy" investigation against the insurrection's key players.

The investigation's direction was revealed when the FBI seized the phone of an attorney who serves as general counsel for the Oath Keepers—a "Patriot" organization that played a leading role in the Capitol siege—and their founder/president, Stewart Rhodes, around whom investigators have been circling for months. The Oath Keepers attorney, Kellye SoRelle of Texas, told HuffPost's Ryan Reilly that her phone was "kind of a repository of truth." Via email she told Reilly, "I have so much information in there, [it's] nuts."

The FBI's warrant, according to Mother Jones, sought evidence related to potential violations of nine criminal statutes, including "seditious conspiracy." The other violations are all crimes for which the January 6 defendants have already been charged, including destruction of government property, trespassing, destruction of evidence, false statements, and obstruction of Congress.

As Marcy Wheeler has pointed out repeatedly at her blog Emptywheel, the latter charge has been federal prosecutors' chief means of charging the insurrectionists because a conviction carries the same 20-year federal prison sentence as sedition, which is a harder charge to prove. Moreover, it carries a terrorism enhancement that can be applied at sentencing, just as sedition does.

If you don't mention obstruction — and your sources don't explain that obstruction will get you to precisely where you'd get with a sedition charge, but with a lot more flexibility to distinguish between defendants and a far lower bar of proof (unless and until judges decide it has been misapplied) — then your sources are not describing what is going on with the investigation.

This is why the insistence that the January 6 siege was not "terrorism" or an "insurrection" because the words don't appear in charging documents utterly misapprehends how the federal government prosecutes crimes of domestic terrorism.

Eric Halladay and Racheal Hanna explained how this works at Lawfare Blog: "Because there is no specific crime of domestic terrorism, federal prosecutors may use an array of charges when pursuing domestic terrorists," they write.

These include some 57 different offenses that can be charged as terrorism, including a number of which the insurrectionists have been accused, such as malicious destruction of property and willful depredation of federal property. But the primary tool that prosecutors use is a terrorism enhancement that can be applied during sentencing:

The enhancement can be applied to federal crimes of terrorism … but, importantly, it can also be applied to non-terrorism offenses where the offense was intended to influence government conduct by intimidation or coercion or was intended to promote a federal crime of terrorism with the intention of intimidating or coercing a civilian population.

As Wheeler notes, "charging January 6 rioters with obstruction provides DOJ a really elegant way of holding people accountable, while providing the flexibility to distinguish between different levels of seriousness (until such time as some judge overturns this application of 18 USC 1512)."

The federal judges overseeing the case, in fact, have recently raised the issue of whether obstruction of Congress is the right charge in these cases. During this week's hearing before District Judge Amit Mehta for charges against the Oath Keepers, the judge questioned prosecutors about the applicability of that particular law in this case, as New York Times legal correspondent Alan Feuer reported on Twitter.

Mehta pointed out that the law, 18 USC 1512, was originally passed as part of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was primarily corporate reform legislation. The law, he said, seemed primarily designed to stop obstructive acts like document shredding and witness tampering. Prosecutors replied that the statute's use of the word "corruptly" fits the actions of the insurrectionists. Eventually, Mehta appeared to agree, though the issue of appropriateness remains in the air.

As Feuer observed: "Judge Mehta is now the second federal judge to wonder if the [government's] 1512 obstruction charge, designed to punish crimes like witness tampering [and] document destruction, is a good fit for the [January 6] riot. Judge Randolph Moss had very similar concerns at a hearing last month."

Wheeler observes that this may be why investigators are now examining potential "seditious conspiracy" charges in the Oath Keepers case: "I've said that if DOJ's use of 1512 fails, they'll charge the most serious culprits with seditious conspiracy. This may be the first sign of that," she tweeted.

SoRelle complained about the FBI's seizure of her phone to reporters. "[T]hey have all my clients and my comms," she told Mother Jones. "[It's] unethical as shit on their part."

On Twitter, SoRelle has claimed that she's under attack by the "deep state" because of her involvement with Mike Lindell.

As Mother Jones notes, the reference to sedition charges in the SoRelle warrant does not mean anyone will face sedition charges, but it is an official acknowledgment that the FBI is investigating the possibility that sedition was committed. And as Reilly notes: "Executing a search warrant against a lawyer triggers protocols within the Justice Department, and the move to seize SoRelle's phone would have required approval from high-ranking officials at the DOJ."

SoRelle messaged Reilly that she had met with two law enforcement officials at her home and then went to a "Krogers/Starbucks," where they chatted for several hours.

"I have so much stuff in there," she wrote. "They either think I am the mastermind, or they wanted a free dig through everything―either way, it is unethical."

Trumpist Platform GETTR Delivers Terrorism, Furry Porn, And A Massive Security Breach

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

If there's anything that right-wing chat platforms promising uncensored "free speech" like Gab and Parler have proven, it's that such predicates ensure the platforms will quickly be inundated with the worst people in the world—bigots spewing death threats, hatemongers, disinformation artists, conspiracy theorists, vile misogynists, and terrorists of all stripes. The kind of clients that will doom such networks to permanent deplatforming.

The same fate has predictably befallen GETTR, Donald Trump acolyte Jason Miller's social-media app launched last month to right-wing hurrahs. After stumbling through multiple hacks indicating the site's cybersecurity was paltry, it is now besieged by Islamic State terrorists posting propaganda—including memes urging Trump's execution and graphic beheading videos, Politico reports.

Islamic State "has been very quick to exploit GETTR," Moustafa Ayad, executive director for Africa, the Middle East, and Asia at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told Politico's Mark Scott and Tina Nyugen. "On Facebook, there was on one of these accounts that I follow that is known to be Islamic State, which said 'Oh, Trump announced his new platform. Inshallah, all the mujahideen will exploit that platform,'" he added. "The next day, there were at least 15 accounts on GETTR that were Islamic State."

Islamic State celebrated their successful infiltration of the pro-Trump platform: "We will come at you with slaying and explosions you worshippers of the cross," wrote one pro-ISIS account. "How great is freedom of expression."

Miller dismissed the flood of ISIS sympathizers as "keyboard warriors hiding in caves and eating dirt cookies." He also claimed that GETTR's content moderation was effective.

"ISIS is trying to attack the MAGA movement because President Trump wiped them off the face of the earth, destroying the Caliphate in less than 18 months, and the only ISIS members still alive are keyboard warriors hiding in caves and eating dirt cookies," Miller said in a statement. "Buried beneath a misleading and inflammatory headline, however, even Politico acknowledges GETTR has a robust and proactive moderation system that removes prohibited content, maximizing both cutting-edge A.I. technology and human moderation."

In fact, Politico reported that four days after it had submitted its queries to GETTR about the Islamic State posts, "many of these accounts and videos are still up."

When Miller launched GETTR early in July, it was advertised as "a non-bias social network for people all over the world" and boasted that it was "the marketplace of ideas." (It also shortly emerged that Miller had obtained seed money for the venture from rogue Chinese investor Guo Wengui.) Trump himself declined to sign up.

However, a number of prominent Republicans—nearly all of them from the pro-Trump camp—did. These included House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York, as well as Congressmen Jim Jordan of Ohio, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Lee Zeldin of New York, James Lankford of Oklahoma, ex-Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Many of these figures shortly had reason to regret doing so: Over the weekend of its initial launch, a hacker successfully compromised a number of official GETTR accounts—including those belonging to Taylor Greene, Pompeo, Bannon, and Miller. The hacker told reporters it had taken him only about 20 minutes to successfully break in.

Hackers leveraged GETTR's API to scrape the email addresses of more than 85,000 users, including usernames, names and birthdays.

"When threat actors are able to extract sensitive information due to neglectful API implementations, the consequence is equivalent to a data breach and should be handled accordingly by the firm [and] examined by regulators," Alon Gal, the co-founder of cybersecurity firm Hudson Rock who reported the dataset, told TechCrunch.

Miller scoffed. "You know you're shaking things up when they come after you," he told Insider. "The problem was detected and sealed in a matter of minutes, and all the intruder was able to accomplish was to change a few user names. The situation has been rectified and we've already had more than half a million users sign up for our exciting new platform!"

The problems continued to mount, however. GETTR was also flooded with porn featuring Sonic the Hedgehog and hundreds of other accounts featuring hentai, furry porn, and stock photos of pudgy men in their underwear.

Casey Newton at The Verge notes that these right-wing "free speech" apps almost appear to be set up with the intention to make them fail. "Apps like Parler and GETTR offered their conservative users an attractive mirage: a free-speech paradise where they could say the things they couldn't say elsewhere," he writes. "It never seemed to occur to anyone that such a move would only select for the worst social media customers on earth, quickly turning the founders' dreams to ash."

Miller's claims notwithstanding, GETTR's content moderation is clearly unable to handle the kind of content it is guaranteed to attract. As Newton observes: "Most people will only spend so long in a virtual space in which they are surrounded by the worst of humanity."

Moreover, these social-media apps appear to be a kind of con job not intended necessarily to enrich its founders but to promote a right-wing narrative that is itself part of a larger grift.

As Ryan Broderick at Garbage Day put it:

I'm also beginning to wonder if all these apps are their own grift in a way. Loudly launch a site no one will ever use, claim it's a free speech sanctuary for Republicans, do the rounds on all the right-wing news outlets, and wait for it to fill up with the worst people on Earth, refuse to moderate it, wait for Apple to ban it from the App Store, and then go back to the right-wing news outlets and screech about liberal cancel culture impacting your ability to share hentai with white nationalist flat earthers or whatever.