Behind the anonymous Twitter account that took down Milo Yiannopoulos

One of the mysterious men behind Reagan Battalion, an anonymous conservative Twitter account, seemed mystified recalling the events of the past 72 hours.

“We didn’t anticipate that it was going to blow up the way it did,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Late last weekend, the unidentified Republican operative and his three cohorts had posted video of Milo Yiannopoulos appearing to condone sexual relationships between “younger boys and older men.” The effect was like nothing ever before seen in the aftermath of controversial comments from the right-wing provocateur. He lost his keynote speaking slot at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He saw his lucrative book deal canceled. And he resigned as senior editor from Breitbart News.

The Reagan Battalion had managed to do something no one, thus far, had been able to pull off: make Yiannopoulos pay dearly for one of his outlandish remarks.

And the organisation had done so through a two-minute video clip that had been readily available on the internet for nearly a year.

The Reagan Battalion co-founder who spoke to Business Insider on the condition of anonymity said video of Yiannopoulos’ controversial underage sex remarks had already been viewed approximately 60,000 times before his group breathed new life into it.

The video was no secret, he said. But deployed ahead of Yiannopoulos’ highly-publicized CPAC speech, the year-old comments packed a new punch that managed to, at least temporarily, bring Yiannopoulos stumbling to the ground.

It was all the result of a tip from another anonymous Twitter account. The Regan Battalion co-founder said a user with “probably 15 followers” tipped them off to Yiannopoulos’ comments. The operator of that account was not interested in speaking to the media, said Yossi Gestetner, a spokesman for the Reagan Battalion who was hired due to the immense interest in the group after the Yiannopoulos incident.

Indeed, the events of the past several days have focused a bright spotlight on the Reagan Battalion.

The group’s Twitter account has gained thousands of new followers and been the topic of much speculation, with rumours swirling about who might be behind it. Some supporters of Yiannopoulos, for instance, suggested the Reagan Battalion was tied to Evan McMullin, the third-party presidential candidate who billed himself as a conservative alternative to Donald Trump. The Reagan Battalion group backed McMullin’s longshot bid for the presidency, but denied any formal connection to his campaign. 

Initially formed in 2016 to prevent Trump from becoming the Republican Party nominee for president, the Reagan Battalion first called itself the Stop Trump PAC, before rebranding itself after the election.

With a new name, and Trump in the White House, the group of four shifted its mission away from opposing Trump and toward pressuring politicians and conservative talking heads to sticking to conservative principles.

The co-founder who spoke to Business Insider said targeting CPAC for inviting Yiannopoulos to deliver its keynote address aligned perfectly with that mission. He said the members had no problem with Yiannopoulos. Rather, they took issue with “conservative leaders embracing him and painting him as a spokesperson for the movement.”

Gestetner added that the Reagan Battalion had additional footage of Yiannopoulos, but decided, for the moment, not to publish it. He, however, warned that if conservative leaders continued to hold Yiannopoulos up as a poster child for the movement, “the Reagan Battalion will continue to point out the challenges of doing so.”

Yiannopoulos, who said this week he will launch a new media venture in the near future, declined to comment for this story.

The group, Gestetner said, intends to use its fresh scalp to springboard into something larger. Right now, for instance, it only exists on Twitter and has only a bare-bones website.

“There are plans to expand our reach and message,” Gestetner said, adding, ‘We have had well known people reaching out to us in the last few days offering to help us take this to the next level.”

Asked if members of the Reagan Battalion would eventually unmask themselves, the organisation’s co-founder invoked internet news mogul Matt Drudge and said members would like to follow in his footsteps.

“People know his name, but not much of him or about him,” the co-founder said of Drudge. “He’s not much out there. He doesn’t run around on TV shows all day.”

“I think for the foreseeable future,” he added, “Reagan Battalion will continue to operate anonymously.”

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