HAPPY UPDATE: Looks like this little bit of
hashtag activism despicable trollish smearing has collapsed; the hashtag is pretty much dead as of now. (5/11/17, noonish Chicago time)
On last Sunday’s episode of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver once again rallied his fans to stand up for Net Neutrality, now under threat from the Trump administration, urging them to visit Gofccyourself.com, a site that links directly to the FCC page for public comment on the proposed change.
And so some of the worst people on the Internet have launched a new Twitter campaign to smear Oliver as racist — and get him fired.
“Er, what?” you might be wondering.
Well, it turns out that Trump’s newly appointed FCC head is of Indian descent. And the FCC site has been hit with a flood of racist comments attacking him.
The Washington Free Beacon, a right-wing rag the Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf once described as a “decadent and unethical” part of the “ascendant ‘smear wing’ of the conservative movement” has decided that Oliver is personally to blame.
John Oliver’s “grassroots” activism against Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai is full of bot accounts, fake comments, and death threats against the chairman. ….
However, an analysis of comments to Pai’s Restoring Internet Freedom filing, which Oliver has dubbed “Go FCC yourself,” shows thousands of comments using fake names and bots posing as “Jesus Christ,” “Michael Jackson,” “Homer Simpson,” and “Melania Trump.”
For instance, as of Tuesday evening, there were 1,761 comments filed under the name “John Oliver,” 998 separate comments using the name “Yoni Schwartz,” and 611 comments filed using “1” as the name. …
Pai also received death threats in several submissions. …
Other comments used racial attacks against Pai, the son of Indian immigrants.
Now some of the Internet’s worst people have seized upon this article (and a similar one in the right-wing Daily Caller) as an excuse to attack Oliver as the supposed instigator of this racist harassment campaign against Pai.
— American Man (@BrentGrantUSA) May 10, 2017
— John Connor (@JohnConnor0861) May 10, 2017
So because of John Oliver making multiple accounts to push liberal agenda and attack Trump, pretty much sums up most of Twitter.#FireOliver
— True Patriot (@Common_Sense201) May 10, 2017
— ??Jacob Dillon?? (@ADudeFromNowere) May 10, 2017
I guess staying on message is harder than it seems.
Alongside all the Pepes and Deplorables, the hashtag is currently being spammed by dozens (hundreds?) of egg accounts all tweeting the same thing; it’s not clear who’s responsible for this.
The instigator and main organizer of the Twitter campaign? Alt-right “journalist” and infamous internet troll Jack Posobiec.
That last accusation from Posobiec — that Oliver was “making fun of the way foreigners talk” — is especially pungent bullshit, by the way. In the video that Posobiec links to in his Tweet as evidence, Oliver gently chides some of India’s more sensationalistic cable news channels, not by mocking how anyone talks but by pointing out the the ways in which they resemble Fox News. One of the channels he mocks? CNN India, for a misleading headline.
Posobiec, who works for Canada’s Rebel Media, was recently granted a White House press pass. Because that’s the kind of world we live in today.
Now, there are just a few teensy problems with the #FireOliver campaign.
John Oliver is not actually racist. He said nothing even vaguely racist in his Net Neutrality segment on Sunday, nor did he in any way encourage his viewers to launch racist attacks, or even personal attacks, on Pai.
There is absolutely no proof that Oliver has any connection to the troll accounts or the hate campaign, nor does he have any history of using trolls or bots.
You know who DOES have a history positively overflowing with trolls and bots?
You remember the massive leak of hacked emails from the campaign of current French President-elect Emmanuel Macron? Posobiec was the key person responsible for spreading the hacked data on social media in the West.
Sandy Garossino, writing in Canada’s National Observer, notes that Posobiec has been identified by cyber-security experts
as the origin of the first tweet linking a massive cache of Russian-hacked documents dumped onto the conspiracy website 4chan. He attached the hashtag #MacronLeaks. …
The #MacronLeaks hashtag, from the moment Posobiec tweeted it, was the primary social media propellant of the hacked Macron data, according to cyber-intelligence analysts at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab. They also concluded that bots played a significant role from the outset. Some 40 minutes later, Wikileaks tweeted the link with Posobiec’s hashtag, and the Internet erupted.
The appearance of bot activity, observed independently by both the DFRL and Belgian academic Nicolas Vanderbiest, from the first minutes after Posobiec’s tweet, strongly suggests a planned and coordinated campaign.
(For what it’s worth, Posobiec says he had nothing to do with the bots.)
As Garossino goes on to point out, Posobiec was also heavily involved in promoting the #Pizzagate nonsense as well as on last month’s #SyriaHoax campaign. Working alongside internet troll and steroid enthusiast Mike Cernovich, Posobiec helped to promote the
Russian-led social media propaganda campaign that claimed footage of children dying from Assad’s chemical weapons was a hoax.
Analysts expert in propaganda and social media at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism at The Hague identified the #SyriaHoax as “a clear example of a Russian influence campaign designed to undermine US credibility.”
Both [Posobiec and Cernovich] picked up the hashtag early and propelled it through U.S. social media … .
You may also recall the “Rape Melania”sign that appeared at an anti-Trump rally last year. Though most assumed it was the work of anti-Trump protesters, Buzzfeed later uncovered text messages proving that the sign was in fact the work of, yes, Posobiec, who was attempting to make Trump’s opponents look bad
Huh. That sounds … familiar, huh?
Oh, and one other thing about the supposed pot by Oliver to bombard FCC boss Pai with racist comments and threats: Not only is there no evidence for it, but the very idea makes no sense. Why would Oliver, whose last campaign to protect Net Neutrality was a notable success, decide this time to launch a racist harassment campaign that would only serve to make him and other supporters of Net Neutrality look bad?
And while I’m playing Colombo here, there’s one more thing about the FCC thing that seems a bit off: The FCC says that on Sunday night, the night Oliver’s show aired, it was hit with distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks intended to overload the FCC’s comment system.
The Washington Free Beacon story seems to insinuate that Oliver was behind these as well. This of course would be absurd. Oliver’s campaign depends on people being able to reach the FCC site so they can leave comments there. Why would he launch a DDoS attack that could knock the site offline, or at least make it harder to reach?
My guess is that whoever is behind the harassment campaign is also behind the DDoS attack. And that it’s not Oliver.
So is Posobiec the secret mastermind behind the harassment campaign? There’s no evidence — at least none that I know of — for this. But he’s certainly working overtime trying to blame Oliver for it, and spreading demonstrable lies about Oliver in the process.
I guess this is just what right-wing “journalism” looks like in the age of Trump.
EDITED TO ADD: I added the stuff about Posobiec and the infamous “Rape Melania” sign after being reminded of the incident by @EyesOnTheRight.