Below is an archived edition of Ctrl Alt Right Delete, a weekly email newsletter. This edition was published on 08/13/2017. Members of Factual Democracy Project have access to past editions. Subscribe to Ctrl Alt Right Delete.
I write the newsletter Thursday or Friday every week. It’s hard to balance breaking news with broader trends. Generally my rule is to stay the course and not change the newsletter too much if something happens between then and Sunday so that I can offer a more well rounded analysis. Obviously today I’m making a different choice. Because what happened Charlottesville was horrific and more than likely it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
A few immediate thoughts:
- White Nationalists and Neo-Nazis are a Trump constituency. His campaign treated them as MVP supporters from the start. Trump repeatedly retweeted them and so did Junior. Trump refused to reject David Duke’s endorsement. Trump hired and employs Steve Bannon, Steve Miller, Jeff Sessions, and Seb freaking Gorka. At this point no one should be shocked that the Trump White House refuses to condemn Nazis and white supremacists. Nor should they be shocked that the Nazis and white supremacists are quite happy with the same response the rest of America is appalled by.
- Speaking of the Frog Squad’s response, it’s important to remember that they have a playbook, and everyone from the online Nazis to the White House is sticking to the script. It allows them to get a lot bolder in their actions each time. Trump’s refusal to condemn their behavior gives them cover and serves as tacit approval of their actions. Meanwhile right wing media and social media go into overdrive with conspiracy theories intended to confuse the public to the point where the facts of what happened are called into question. A few evergreen pieces worth reading today:
- Generally I’ve steered clear of calls for action in this newsletter. There are so many organizations that do it better and I don’t think that’s what most of you read this for. But right now we have the momentum. We’re also dangerously close to losing it to the right wing noise machine yet again. I’ve seen it happen over and over again because by now the other side has optimized their response down to a science. Here are four actions we all need to take:
- Attend a solidarity vigil in your area. Here’s a growing list of them via Indivisible. Then attend another, and another. Don’t let this get erased.
- Keep the pressure on Republican electeds to back up their words of condemnation. They own this and if they’re not pressured to act their words will become the thoughts and prayersof 2017.
- Fellow white readers, we’re not doing enough. I include myself in this. Most all of us have things we let slide, people in our lives that we give a pass or refuse to engage with because it’s just easier. But this is only going to get worse and with each incident violence to preserve white supremacy becomes even more normalized. We need to build a bigger coalition, and frankly we need to draw a moral line in the sand with folks we know aren’t going to get there. Those folks aren’t people who don’t know any better. They’re enablers and collaborators of white supremacy.
Again, this is my immediate reaction and I recognize not nearly enough. I’ll have more next week. In the meantime I’d highly suggest following these black women on Twitter. Their work and their thinking have helped me better understand what’s happening in America, and frankly to see an America I had the privilege of ignoring for so long: Heather McGhee, Sabrina Hersi Issa, Jessica Byrd, Alicia Garza, Charlene Carruthers, Bree Newsome, Shireen Mitchell.
Urgent Fundraising Update (That’s Actually Urgent)
Here’s the deal. The Kickstarter ends in 8 days. Right now it’s at 35% pledged, which is not where we need to be. If you’re planning to back Factual Democracy Project, now is the time to step up and make your pledge.
Twice this week people have asked me if I think I’ll hit the goal. My response: that all depends on you. We’ve received strong organizational support, but honestly individual contributions are low. And if they don’t pick up we aren’t going to make it.
America is at a crisis point, one that most people still don’t grasp. Extremism is all around us and with each passing day it becomes more and more normalized. Our social media feeds have been weaponized to further fan the flames of hate. Helping others make sense of all this is my passion. Because I know that you can’t fight an enemy you don’t understand, and last November we all saw firsthand what happens when you underestimate the power and influence of extremism online.
We win by exposing the frogs, by shining a light on their tactics and their alliances. We win by fighting back not just harder but smarter. That’s what I do each week in this newsletter, and why I’m trying to reach an even bigger audience with these calls. All I need to make this work is you.
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James Damore and the Frogs
The Frog Squad are crushing hard on fired Googler James Damore. Within hours of his firing, Wesearchr, one of the crowd funding sites I wrote about last week, hosted a campaign to raise $60,000 for Damore.
“Sympathetic” right-wingers have created a crowdfunding campaign seeking to raise $60,000 “for the financial and potentially legal assistance of [the] former senior Google engineer.” The funds will further be used to support Damore while he reviews his legal case against the company and explores new employment.
It snowballed from there. The Frogs are organizing #MarchonGoogle, a series of protests starting next week at Google offices across the country. They’ve also been hard at work doxxing Googlers and putting their personal information online. Google became so concerned for their employees’ safety that they were forced to cancel a company-wide meeting in which Google intended to facilitate an open dialog about what had happened.
Though Damore currently declines to identify as a frog himself, he isn’t rebuffing their advances. His first media interview was with alt-right YouTube star Stefan Molyneux, whom New York Magazine aptly describes as “a men’s-rights blogger and accused cult leader with, uh, unorthodox views on race”
James Damore is a pitch-perfect martyr for the Frog Squad. He checks off a lot of boxes: white male, tech savvy, fired for having the (in their minds) perfectly reasonable opinion that women are inferior to men. The Frogs love to cast themselves in the role of victim; helpless white men oppressed by social justice warriors who hold all the power over them. It’s no wonder alt-right social media and right-wing news have been obsessed with Damore all week.
It’s no secret that Silicon Valley has an alt-right problem. Peter Thiel and Palmer Luckey are probably the most high profile examples, but various threads of alt-right thinking and tactics have spread via the tech community, everything from #Gamergate down to neoreactionaries. Anecdotally, I can tell you that my readers who work in the tech industry often tell me they’re interested in my newsletter because they’ve had at least one co-worker who identifies with the so-called alt-right and they want to understand what the hell Pepe is.
Expect to see this obsession continue for awhile and for the #MarchonGoogle protests to get more press than they might any other month. Damore has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. Russian influence networks are pushing it, and given that it’s August recess, there isn’t much happening in Congress for the Frogs to fixate on.
Trump Chicken’s debut outside the White House was a moment of pure joy for me this week. Taran Singh Brar’s creation made for a great visual, even if the President wasn’t at the White House to see it.
Rather than bristle at the Trump Chicken, the Frog Squad has decided to co-opt it. Several reddit threads on /r/The_Donald were devoted to rebranding the Trump Chicken as an alt-right symbol. Trump supporters posed in front of the chicken with their #MAGA hats and memes depicting Trump chicken as an alt-right symbol were numerous.
This is one of the alt-right’s most frequent tactics. They don’t create internet culture nearly as often as they steal it, colonize it for their own purposes. The alt-right’s most known mascot was deliberately stolen and repurposed as Olivia Nuzzi reported last year:
The campaign to reclaim Pepe from normies was an effort to prevent this sort of death, but it also had the effect of desensitizing swaths of the Internet to racist, but mostly anti-Semitic, ideas supported by the so-called alt-right movement.
It began in late 2015 on /r9k/, a controversial 4chan board where, as on any message board, it can be difficult to discern how serious commenters are being or if they’re just fucking around entirely. Nevertheless, /r9k/ has been tied to Elliot Rodger—the UC Santa Barbara shooter who killed six people in 2014—who found fans there, and GamerGate. There, Pepe transformed from harmless cartoon to big green monster.
“We basically mixed Pepe in with Nazi propaganda, etc. We built that association,” @JaredTSwift said.
I’ve also previously covered the alt-right’s theft of Trash Dove, created by artist Syd Weiler that was briefly and wildly popular on Facebook before the Frogs swooped in and ruined it for the rest of us. Trump Chicken, Trash Dove, and Pepe were all artist creations colonized by the alt-right. Pepe creator Matt Furie has been the most aggressive at trying to take back his creation first through a campaign with the Anti-Defamation League, then by killing Pepe in his comic, and most recently via a Kickstarter campaign to write a new comic book “reclaiming his status as a universal symbol for peace, love, and acceptance.”
For all the chatter about how the so-called alt-right are creating their own culture, what they’re actually doing is a hostile takeover of Internet culture. I doubt they’ll ever have another success as big as Pepe, but I also expect them to keep doing this because it keeps working.
- How a fake story about Angela Merkel led to a far-right cluster on Reddit (Digital Forensics Research Lab)
- Inside the partisan political fight for your Facebook news feed (Buzzfeed)
- I found Nicole Mincey, Trump’s biggest Twitter fan. She isn’t a bot, but she has a ton of secrets. (The Daily Beast)
- Mike Cernovich pivots from Pizzagate to not-so-fake news (New York Magazine)
- Fake news has swept through Kenya. Now, voters must decide what to believe. (Huffington Post)
- Airbnb deactivates accounts they think are linked to a white supremacist rally (Teen Vogue)
- #FireMcMaster, explained (Digital Forensics Research Lab)
This week I talked fake news with Salon, Campaigns & Elections, and Atlanta Journal Constitution. I’m continually amazed by just how much interest there is around this topic but it’s heartening to see a growing awareness.
Thanks and appreciation to Nicole Belle for copy-editing each edition of Ctrl Alt Right Delete. That’s all for this week.