Special Relationship

24 02 19


by Melissa Ryan

This is one of those weeks where several things are likely interesting to CARD readers. That’s right kids, it’s time for another edition of #MAGATrends!

Twitter removed a tweet from Iran’s Supreme Leader this week. This is the first known example of the platform taking action against a world leader. The tweet in question reminded followers about the 1989 Fatwa against author Salman Rushdie saying that it still was in existence and was “solid and irrevocable”. The debate around whether Twitter should punish world leaders who violate the rules has been ongoing, with Twitter releasing a vague blog post about it just over a year ago.

For most Americans that debate centers primarily around President Trump, whose tweets frequently inspire his followers to abuse the targets of Trump’s ire. I find myself both wanting Twitter to remove some of Trump’s tweets that are clearly meant to get the far-right harassment machine going and also troubled at the idea of any company run by Jack Dorsey making such consequential decisions.

Actor Jussie Smollett has been arrested and is accused of filing a false police report and staging the attack against him. The Frog Squad, who have all along maintained the attack was a false flag, and possibly organized by Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, are in full celebration mode, egged on by President Trump on Twitter. Mostly because the narrative now fits what they’ve been saying all along anyway.

Keep in mind that the right claims pretty much every news event a false flag operation these days. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Hasson. Vice reports that, Hasson,A self-avowed “white nationalist” and lieutenant in the United States Coast Guard allegedly stockpiled guns and ammunition and had a lengthy “hit list” that included prominent Democrats, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, newly elected Reps. Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and reporters from CNN and MSNBC.” Like so many others before him, Hasson was probably radicalized online.

Violence from the far right in America is increasing and as I’ve said many times before that increase is a feature rather than a bug. There’s a lot of research about how radicalized content spreads online, but not much about how being exposed to this content online affects a person or what the threshold for radicalization is.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that extremist violence is an obvious threat to the safety of Americans, most media instead focused on the Jussie Smollett story.

Donald Trump, Tragic Hero. The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner has an interesting interview with Victor Davis Hanson a “classicist and military historian” who also supports Donald Trump. Hanson has written an entire book making the argument that President Trump is a “classically tragic hero, whom America needs but will never fully appreciate.” It’s probably the best illustration I’ve seen outside of /r/the_donald of how Trump’s base view their guy and his place in American history and lore.

You see examples of this in pro-Trump memes a lot. Trump is often portrayed in images as a mythical/biblical figure or a military hero. Their nickname for him is God Emperor or GEOTUS. Some of the memes can be written off as mere sh*tposting but the narrative as Trump the tragic hero really does seem to have taken hold on the right. The White House has also leaned into this myth with Sarah Sanders recently making the claim that God wanted Donald Trump elected.

Trump supporters don’t have a monopoly on canonizing their favorite politicians, the iconography around Barack Obama, especially in 2008 being the most comparable example. But it’s an interesting exercise to think through the story of Trump as a hero’s journey and how that resonates with his base.

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State of Hate 2019: 6 of 10 Most Influential Far-Right Social Media Figures in the English-Speaking World Based in North America

A new report from HOPE not hate shows that the US and UK far right maintain their own ‘special relationship’.

By Simon Murdoch

A HOPE not hate analysis has revealed that a majority of the most influential members of the far-right online are US and Canada-based. This finding comes as part of our newest, annual ‘State of Hate’ report, which looks back at 2018 and makes predictions for the year ahead. Though focused on the UK, the report reflects the fact that the far right are increasingly cooperating across borders in response to what they see as a shared threat. The US and UK far right, in particular, continue to maintain their own ‘special relationship’.

Most notably, the past year saw the rising profile of British anti-muslim activist Tommy Robinson, who enjoyed considerable US support and whose UK supporters cheered loudly in support of Trump at rallies (themselves sometimes US-funded and featuring high-profile American speakers).

Beyond this, the radicalizing niches of the online far right remain hotspots for transatlantic interaction. From the misogynist, anti-feminist ‘manosphere’ wherein US and UK activists co-organized the 2018 meeting of the international ‘Men’s Rights Activist’ community in London, to the extreme, esoteric world of affiliated nazi-satanists (yep, you read that right) who are found in the US, UK, Europe and elsewhere.

Closer to the mainstream, despite successful social media bans – most notably of Alex Jones – many extreme users with large followings remain online. Compared to last year, this years list contains more Britons than before, though with one of these being US-based, as noted this makes North America the key exporter. Our investigation of the aforementioned manosphere also reveals how the UK appears to come in as a consistent second in terms of web traffic after the US to these communities.

The State of Hate provides an authoritative, exhaustive understanding of the far right threat in the UK. Yet, in our increasingly globalized world where the far right in all nations are pitching ‘The People’ against minorities and a conspiratorially-presented elite, its analyses and predictions are essential to understanding and tackling the far-right threat wherever it is found.

You can download the report in full here or visit our hub page to read the report online.

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  • Big news from across the pond. The United Kingdom House of Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee just released their final report to the public on disinformation and fake news. There’s a lot of unpack, especially in regards to Facebook. The Verge’s Casey Newton has a good rundown of what you need to know from it.
  • Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual Year in Hate and Extremism report is out. Per the report “The number of hate groups operating across America rose to a record high – 1,020 – in 2018 as President Trump continued to fan the flames of white resentment over immigration and the country’s changing demographics. It was the fourth straight year of hate group growth – a 30 percent increase roughly coinciding with Trump’s campaign and presidency – following three consecutive years of decline near the end of the Obama administration.”



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