Below is an archived edition of Ctrl Alt Right Delete, a weekly email newsletter. This edition was published on 10/15/2017. Members of Factual Democracy Project have access to past editions. Subscribe to Ctrl Alt Right Delete

Return to Charlottesville

Last Saturday night, 40-50 tiki-torch-bearing white nationalists led by Richard Spencer, once again marched in Charlottesville, Virginia. From HuffPost:

The rally in early August was purportedly organized to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate soldier Robert E. Lee from downtown Charlottesville. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) declared a state of emergency after the white supremacists clashed violently with counter protesters, injuring at least 35 people and killing 32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer.

On Saturday, white nationalist leader Richard Spencer led a group holding torches to the park and livestreamed the rally from his Twitter account. The images were reminiscent of the group’s previous rally in the city, when they held tiki torches and chanted “Blood and soil” as they marched.

The marchers went through a laundry list of chants including, notably, “Russia is our friend.” and “Harry Potter isn’t real,” David Neiwert, writing for SPLC, has a guide to the chants and what they mean.

The city of Charlottesville, having had enough of the Frog Squad Tiki Torch Brigade’s frequent visits, have filed a lawsuit to put an end to the rallies. Details from TPM:

Relying on an obscure provision of the Virginia Constitution, the plaintiffs asked the court to recognize that there is no “protection under the law” for armed men who stated their intention to commit violence to flood the streets of a city, nor for unauthorized militia groups to take on the role of “peacekeepers.”

Virginia law specifies that “in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.”

Here’s what I found particularly interesting about the suit. Also from TPM:

The suit describes in detail the heavy weaponry that white nationalists brought to the rally, including semiautomatic AR-15 assault rifles, body armor and Kevlar helmets, as well as the way group leaders issued commands to their subordinates to smash their shields into clergy members and other counter-demonstrators.

“The Alt-Right Defendants did not come to Charlottesville merely to espouse their controversial ideas in a public park,” the complaint reads. “They came to coerce and terrorize.”

I have no idea whether or not this lawsuit has any merit, but it does acknowledge that Spencer and his fellow neo-Nazis’ intent isn’t to protest. Their goal is to intimidate. We see that whether they’re marching in rallies while armed to the teeth or when their troll armies strategically attack women and people of color on Twitter. The Frogs love to whine about how their free speech is in danger, while at the same time doing everything in their power to keep anyone who isn’t them from speaking out.

White nationalists have been making less news lately but their continued efforts to radicalize more Americans via Trump have continued. Newsweek reports how neo-nazis now use Trump’s one-man NFL protest campaign to recruit folks to their cause.


All Your Facebook Are Belong to Us

Lots of news on social media weaponization this week. Russian propaganda from Facebook was shared on Pinterest and Russian operatives also used PokemonGo. Russia might have even bought ads on Bing. As the laundry list of platforms Russia weaponized grows ever longer, it’s helpful to think less about individual tactics and more about the overall strategy at work. Nick Confessore has an analysis in The New York Times that does a good job of getting at the bigger weaponization picture. Hostile actors aren’t just weaponizing social media, but our own culture of outrage against us:

Yet their use of borrowed ideas and arguments from Americans, which were already resonating among conservatives and liberals, demonstrated a deft understanding of the political terrain. The Russians also paid Facebook to promote their posts in the feeds of American Facebook users, helping them test what content would circulate most widely, and among which audiences.

“This is cultural hacking,” said Jonathan Albright, research director at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. “They are using systems that were already set up by these platforms to increase engagement. They’re feeding outrage — and it’s easy to do, because outrage and emotion is how people share.”

The anger at Facebook continues, especially after Sheryl Sandberg’s maddening PR-disguised-as-an-interview Facebook Live event where, among other things, she refused to say whether or not Russia and Donald Trump were targeting the same users. I’m angry too, especially since Facebook (and Twitter) recently took downthousands of posts, meaning that researchers can no longer study them. Tech companies have a lot to answer for, and they seem in no rush to offer anything beyond constant but empty promises of “transparency.


ICYMI

Want even more links? Be sure to like the Ctrl Alt Right Delete Facebook page. I post articles there all week. A lot of what doesn’t make it here will get posted over there.


Blatant Self Promotion

I’m quoted in a ThinkProgress piece about an elaborate Russian propaganda website and social media presence targeting Black Americans.

What do Milwaukee, DC, and London have in common? You can come hear me speak/meet me in each city this month!

Washington DC: October 18 6:30 PMHacks/Hackers Meetup: Fighting Fake News. “Our next Hacks/Hackersmeetup will focus on technological and editorial efforts to track and combat the rising tide of fake news stories circulating on the web.”

Milwaukee WI: October 21 9:30 AMAmerican Constitution Society, National Lawyer Convening. Engaging the Media to Advance the Goals of ACS (and Your Career). Must be registered for the conference to attend.

London: I’ll be facilitating a session on Weaponized Disinformation and Elections with Sam Jeffers at MozFest(October 27-29). I’ll also be attending MisinfoCon Europe on October 25.

That’s all for this week. Thank you to the wonderful Nicole Belle for copy editing!