Apart from anything else, the idiotic (but also tragic) attempted putsch by Trumpists on January 6 has at least provided space for some reflection on the role of local propaganda networks in spreading lies and disinformation. So too, a moment to more closely examine the various pundits in media and politics who’ve championed Cheet0 during the course of his reign.
On Tuesday, acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack opined that the failed ‘insurrection’/riot was most comparable to the Black Lives Matter movement. Moreover, he also defended his federal colleagues’ sacred right to publish lies and to promote conspiracy theories on Facebook. Thus along with NSW MP Craig Kelly:
Queensland MP Mr Christensen has also been busy posting material on his own Facebook page suggesting the US riots were not really Trump supporters but Marxists dressed up as Trump supporters. “Here’s a video from the Washington, D.C. protest this morning showing a vandal smashing a window of the US Congress. A woman is heard yelling over and over again “They’re Antifa!” and “We need to get them … it’s not us!”
The absurdity of the allegation is of course irrelevant to its intended effect, viz, to project responsibility for criminality on the part of the reactionary law-and-order brigade onto its political opposition. This is a standard discursive practice, and one which finds echoes in the responses to any number of other atrocities, whether recent or dated, both real and imagined. One of the more remarkable instances of this in the context of the Trump Army’s assault upon the Capitol is the claim that anti-fascist writer and researcher Spencer Sunshine is in fact the so-called ‘QAnon shaman’ Jacob Chansley (AKA Jake Angeli). See : I’ve Been Tracking the Far Right for Years. Then Lin Wood ‘Exposed’ Me as the QAnon Shaman, Spencer Sunshine, The Daily Beast, January 12, 2021.
While ripe for parody by cheeky brbs, such material helps justify the insouciance with which political authorities address the question of right-wing terrorism. This is especially the case when a market for it can, with sufficient investment, be manufactured. Hence, with regards this ‘boomerwaffen’ (a ‘pejorative name for the boomers and normies radicalized by cable news and AM radio, likening their potential for rightwing violence to that of Atomwaffen terrorists’):
Creating and maintaining the boomerwaffen universe requires an incredible amount of resources. Trump’s disinformation campaigns are a media spectacle involving a stunning array of political operatives, media pundits, lawyers, and influencers who day-to-day create, publish and share a cascade of lies and speculation across webspaces, cable news and radio all at once.
This alternative media network features an all star cast of Steve Bannon, Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, Rudy Giuliani, Ali Alexander, Roger Stone, One America News, Newsmax, Peter Navarro, Mike Lindell (yes, that’s the My Pillow guy), Nick Fuentes, and Ron Watkins just to name a few. This group spent the last four years building upon the networks and infrastructure of conservative [sic] media in order to serve Trump’s interests. And, it pays off by creating a panoptic enclosure of Trump Media.
For example, millions of Americans believe the storming of the Capitol was orchestrated by antifa because the Washington Times placed a false story on social media during this moment of national crisis, the Republican representative Matt Gaetz repeated the claim on the congressional floor, and other influencers tweeted it. While the Washington Times later corrected the story, it accomplished a political objective: it muddied the waters and shifted blame in the moment.
It’s an example of misinformation-at-scale, where numerous people now believe a false version of events because manipulators employed the tactic of “trading up the chain”, leveraging breaking news to accelerate algorithmic amplification. If antifa did it, how could Trump be at fault?
Social media platforms have incentivized and enabled conspiracy and extremism, but the siege of the Capitol is stark proof that we have entered a new era, long in the making. The platforms facilitated this through years of advertising abuse, extremist organizing, hidden virality of conspiracy and woefully inconsistent application of terms of service.
Along the way, social media continues to be abused by political elites and well-networked influencers. While tech companies have instituted policy changes following the hearings about foreign disinformation and bot networks, and made limited interventions to deal with white supremacists’ hate speech, pornography and conspiracy, it was never to powerful effect. The Capitol insurrectionists were not the alt-right, nor were they driven by foreign bot networks. Social media platforms were used to carry out a grand attempt at election suppression and disenfranchisement of millions by Trump and his allies.
The situation in Australia closely resembles that in the US and for similar reasons (see : Australian conservatives go to extraordinary lengths to deny the reality of rightwing extremism, Jeff Sparrow, The Guardian, January 12, 2021).
In the wake of the failed coup attempt, elements of the local political infrastructure supporting these and other cack-brained schemes have also been discussed in 9Fairfax publications. Convicted spousal abuser and serial pest Avi Yemini gets a guernsey in ‘If we need to shed blood so be it’: COVID-19 restrictions class action lawyer goes off script (Harriet Alexander, The Age, January 12, 2021) while in The Sydney Morning Herald Jenna Price reviews Ustasha fan Craig Kelly’s colossal shitposting efforts on behalf of the Hughes electorate:
As of Monday and since April Fool’s Day 2019, Kelly, who represents the southern Sydney seat of Hughes, has delivered 2130 posts on Facebook, directed at his local electorate. Of those posts, Kristensen recorded, just 16 were strictly about his local community: five scenic shots of his electorate, three notices for the Rural Fire Service, three calls for social distancing, two for flu vaccines, one weather report and one Anzac Day announcement and one delivery of flags to schools. That last one deleted, possibly because there were children in shot …
University of Newcastle researcher Kurt Sengul says Kelly’s posts are typical of far-right actors: conspiratorial, anti-science, anti-expert, evidence-free rhetoric.
“That’s typical of what we see on the far right,” says Sengul.
Specially concocted by channers and other bad-faith actors to suit the delicate tastes of boomerwaffen, Kelly’s online vituperations demonstrate a localised version of the tactic of ‘trading up the chain’ referred to above. This process is perhaps best represented by Sky New Australia’s recruitment of Lauren ‘The Great Replacement’ Southern to provide expert analysis on current affairs, but is also revealed through an examination of other sources of illiberal Liberal ideology. It should also be noted that, while Sky generates fairly desultory viewing figures, as documented by Cameron Wilson, ‘In digital, the right-wing material is 24/7’: How Sky News quietly became Australia’s biggest news channel on social media (Business Insider, November 6, 2020).
In How an anti-mask firebrand fans the right’s flames against Dan Andrews online (The Guardian, January 10, 2021), Anne Davies writes:
The libertarian [sic] anti-mask movement appears also to have gained a hold up north. Smit has been interviewed on Goodsauce News, a rightwing conservative Christian media site established by David Pellowe in July last year. Pellowe, a digital marketing strategist and conservative Christian, has previously worked on state and federal election campaigns for the Liberal National party in Queensland. However, he told the Guardian he had let his membership lapse.
While it’s not referred to in the article, along with being a minor YouTube grifter, Pellowe was also responsible for touring Southern and fellow racist Stefan Molyneux in 2018. Further — in a fact yet to really register in media reportage — ‘conservative Christian’ Pellowe hired neo-Nazis belonging to Tom Sewell’s groupuscule ‘The Lads Society’ to provide security for the Canuckistanian agitators: the Lads later helped spawn the ‘National Socialist Network’. ASIO has seemingly expressed some concern over groups like the NSN — reinforced, perhaps, by Sewell’s attempt to recruit the Christchurch killer (he declined as he was too busy making other plans) and the fact that the killer regarded former Lad Blair Cottrell as his ‘Emperor’.
Of course Pellowe, along with fellow ‘conservative Christian’ Lyle Shelton, has also previously aligned himself with the Australian franchise of the Proud Boys. Happily, the Amerikkkan Proud Boys — having followed instructions to ‘stand back and stand by’ following the Presidential election — were enthusiastic participants in their Daddy’s tantrum last week. Further: ‘The FBI on Tuesday said Washington, D.C., police arrested [Enrique Tarrio] the Miami-based leader of the far-right Proud Boys days before the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol because they had developed information showing he was among those planning to incite violence as Congress voted to certify the presidential election.’
As for Christensen, he once appeared on ‘The Convict Report’, a neo-Nazi podcast established by University of Sydney Young Liberal Clifford Jennings. Jennings later went on to star in the attempted infiltration by neo-Nazis of the New South Wales Young Nationals. Christensen was also chummy with Kane Miller, the founder of the now defunct racist gang the ‘True Blue Crew’, which proved to be a YUGE inspiration to convicted terrorist Phillip Galea in his mAd campaign against ‘Teh Left’ in Melbourne.
By the same token, Craig Kelly has been a repeat guest on Timmeh! ‘Right Wing Death Squad’ Wilms’ blog and YouTube channel ‘The Unhinged’. Sadly, just last month Wilms abandoned ‘The Cuckables’ — his video collaboration with semi-professional anti-semites Matthew Roebuck and David Hiscox of XYZ blog. Word on the virtual street is that Timmeh! didn’t want to get caught in the same police dragnet that has seen XYZ contributor and pathological anti-semite Ryan Fletcher being interviewed by police, presumably with a view to being charged with the criminal offence of serious racial and religious vilification.
In summary, over the last few years there’s developed extensive collaboration between the most reactionary/illiberal Liberal MPs and activists on the one hand and selected groups and individuals on the far-right outside of the party on the other. This mutually-supportive network finds a safe space on Facebook, YouTube and to a lesser extent Twitter, one supplemented by a more outré presence on sites like Gab (AKA Twitter-for-Nazis: Gab being most notorious for helping spawn Robert Bowers, the Tree Of Life mass murderer) and other, smaller platforms. This coalition of forces also manifests on NewsCorpse by way of Sky News, and the milieu — especially in its ostensibly ‘conservative Christian’ dimension — forms a critical base for branch-stacking by the reactionary wing of the Liberals. As such, the successful takeover of the American Republicans by Trump serves as a model for similar manouevres within the ruling Australian Coalition. This fact may explain the tortured defence leading members of the government have launched in response to the attempted putsch. But, moreover, it renders intelligible ‘conservative’ anger over the ways in which the failed coup has, if only temporarily, jeopardised the capacity of the reactionary right to utilise corporate/social media to air grievances about Cancel Culture, Cultural Marxism and Freeze Peach — and thereby to cultivate both an audience and a solid electoral bloc.
See also : The Big Takeover, Jarrod Shanahan, Hard Crackers, January 7, 2021 | Trump Loyalists’ Breach of Capitol Is Likely to Embolden Far Right Street Forces, Spencer Sunshine, Truthout, January 7, 2021 | THE TRUMP PUTSCH, Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group, January 10, 2021 | The Capitol siege was the biggest media spectacle of the Trump era, Joan Donovan, Brian Friedberg and Emily Dreyfuss, The Guardian, January 11, 2021 | “It is Only a Matter of Time Before a More Competent Trump Emerges”: An Interview With Warren Montag, Left Voice, January 11, 2021 |
The Day the Internet Came for Them: Washington Wakes Up to the Dark Reality of Online Disinformation, Nina Jankowicz, Foreign Affairs, January 12, 2021 | Republican Futures, Thomas Meaney, New Left Review (Sidecar), January 13, 2021 | Comments reveal dark underbelly of Australian politics, Osman Faruqi, The Sydney Morning Herald, January 14, 2021.