- President Donald Trump retweeted a number of far-right activists and figures on Saturday morning in a rage over Facebook’s recent efforts to clamp down on hate speech.
- Facebook banned Alex Jones, Infowars, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer, and Paul Nehlen, as well as Louis Farrakhan.
- Figures like Farrakhan and Jones are fairly well-known, but some of the people on Trump’s radar have received less mainstream attention despite having massive platforms.
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President Donald Trump spent a good portion of his Saturday morning retweeting provocative far-right figures and activists, some of whom have recently been banned from Facebook for their incendiary and often conspiratorial views.
Prior to his retweet-spree, Trump had raged over the move in a tweet on Friday, stating, “I am continuing to monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms. This is the United States of America – and we have what’s known as FREEDOM OF SPEECH! We are monitoring and watching, closely!!”
Facebook banned Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer, and Paul Nehlen, citing their policy against “individuals or organisations that promote or engage in violence and hate.” InfoWars, Jones’ online network, was also banned.
Additionally, the social media platform banned Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the religious group Nation of Islam who has espoused anti-Semitic, misogynistic, and homophobic views. Farrakhan is not associated with the far-right, and has been linked to Democratic politicians, but is widely viewed as an extremist in his own right.
Figures like Farrakhan and Jones are fairly well known and have received significant media coverage over the years. Here are the controversial figures on Trump’s radar you might not know that have massive followings and growing influence.
Paul Joseph Watson
Paul Joseph Watson, who goes by @PrisonPlanet on Twitter, was retweeted by Trump early in the day on Saturday.
A British national, Watson has portrayed himself as an intellectual, even as he’s built a reputation for embracing and promoting conspiracy theories via his YouTube page and work for InfoWars.
During the 2016 election, Watson shared an outlandish video suggesting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had serious health problems. The caption for the video, which was viewed over 7 million times, says: “Hillary’s bizarre behaviour and strange seizures: Is she having a breakdown or does she actually have brain damage?”
Beyond going after Clinton, Watson has spread conspiracy theories on former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, and once suggested the FBI was involved in the Oklahoma City bombing.
Watson has also promoted blatantly xenophobic and Islamophobic viewpoints. “The left’s contention that Muslims who live in the west don’t celebrate Islamic terror attacks is a monumental lie and is proven so after virtually every single jihadist outrage,” Watson wrote in a 2017 article.
He has a massive platform, with roughly 970,000 people following his verified Twitter account and roughly 1.6 million subscribers on YouTube, where his videos have been viewed over 380 million times.
Laura Loomer is a pro-Trump, far-right activist who’s been banned from Facebook and Twitter.
Given she’s no longer on Twitter, she was not among those retweeted by Trump on Sunday, but she’s got deep ties to many far-right figures and groups.
She worked for the right-wing sting group Project Veritas during the 2016 election, and has also been seen associating with the Proud Boys – a misogynistic, far-right group which has been accused of committing acts of politically-charged violence. She left Project Veritas for Rebel Media, a far-right website known for its anti-Muslim messaging with 1.2 million YouTube subscribers.
Loomer is also closely linked to former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, who’s been caught up in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference. Stone has referred to Loomer as “his favourite freedom fighter,” and the two spent this past Thanksgiving together.
Meanwhile, Sean Hannity of Fox News, another close associate of Trump, has had Loomer on his show. Hannity hosts the most-watched cable news show on any network in the country, with an average of over three million viewers in April alone.
Loomer’s last appearance on Hannity’s show was in 2017, according to a company spokesperson.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) June 20, 2017
Loomer, who is Jewish, has described herself as a “nationalist” and has unabashedly espoused anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant views.
At an “anti-sharia” rally in 2017, she said, “I’m a nationalist; a lot of the people here are probably nationalists, because we respect our country, we want to preserve our country, and we don’t want our American patriotism, our Americanism in general, our heritage in general, to be overridden by migrants who refuse to assimilate.”
Loomer has built a reputation for dramatic protests and recently made headlines when she handcuffed herself to Twitter’s New York City headquarters in November after she was banned from the platform.
She also in 2017 stormed the stage of a Shakespeare in the Park production of “Julius Caesar” in New York, shouting, “”Stop the normalization of political violence against the right!”
The self-proclaimed journalist had been kicked off of Twitter for tweeting that Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who’s among the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, was “anti Jewish” and that her religion promoted homophobia and the abuse of women. Loomer, who also has a penchant for spreading conspiracy theories, had previously claimed Omar was a “jihadi” with “connections to terrorist organisations.”
Loomer has a close relationship with InfoWars, often appearing as a guest. In a recent segment for the conspiracy site, she claimed the Facebook ban had “ruined” her life.
The far-right activist has perpetually sought to portray herself as a persecuted individual and is raising money off of being banned from Facebook.
Though Lauren Southern was not banned from Facebook and – like Watson – is not a US citizen, she was retweeted by Trump on Saturday.
Southern, a Canadian national, is a far-right YouTube star who’s promoted the idea that “white genocide” is occurring.
Southern gained a lot of attention via her work for Rebel Media, but cut ties with the Canada-based website in March 2017 to go “independent.”Southern has been seen at White House press briefings in the Trump era.
Southern is a white identitarian, embracing a philosophy that Europe should remain white and retain its “culture” by opposing immigration. She has referred to Black Lives Matter as an “ethnic terrorist organisation,” is an anti-feminist who’s denied the existence of rape culture, and believes a large percentage of Muslims are “quite radical.”
Southern is also purveyor of the “Great Replacement” theory, which is a right-wing conspiracy theory that white Europeans face extinction due to rising immigration rates. The racist, xenophobic conspiracy theory was prominent in the writings of the suspect in the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, earlier this year.
In 2017, Southern joined a group of young far-right activists known as Generation Identity that targeted boats rescuing refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
Southern, who’s claimed she’s not a white nationalist, has also been cited by a neo-Nazi website as a defending Richard Spencer – a prominent white supremacist and one of the leaders of the deadly neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.
What does it mean?
While the removal of these figures from Facebook denies them access to a massive audience, their cause has been taken up by no less an influential figure than the president of the United States.
Watson, Loomer, and Southern are all very popular personalities to Trump’s base and their reach on YouTube – owned by Google – remains enormous.
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