Good morning Austin:
I had not intended to write about Alex Jones in today’s First Reading.
I have a story in today’s Statesman about a child custody trial involving Jones and his ex-wife that I’ll be covering for the next two weeks, so I figured I would leave it alone. But then on Saturday, I was following Taylor Goldstein’s excellent coverage of the rally at the Capitol demanding that President Trump release his tax returns – one of a coordinated set of rallies across the country timed to Tax Day – when this happened.
But, of course, there is no such thing as a random man.
Not in Austin, Texas.
Not in the hometown of Alex Jones.
The Clinton rape campaign was actually the brainchild of Roger Stone.
From Stone’s book, The Making of the President 2016:
Since the best message is a simple message, the Bill Clinton “RAPE” t-shirt was born from my fertile mind. Modeled after the “HOPE” posters from Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, the Clinton “RAPE” shirt became reality when I baited the press in Cleveland. It was an immediate hit.
Soon after it was printed, the shirt started showing up at Clinton rallies. This wasn’t an accident.
Alex Jones offered $1,000 to anyone who could get on TV wearing the shirt and $5,000 to anyone who wore the shirt to a Clinton rally and could be heard shouting “Bill Clinton is a rapist!” Jones paid out more than $125,000!
The game was on.
The T-shirt began appearing everywhere.
Here were the rules of the game from Infowars in early October.
Alex Jones reveals an exciting new contest paying thousands for exposing rapist Bill Clinton.
The protests are part of a contest announced Friday on the Alex Jones Show offering payouts to anyone who can do one of the following while on local or national television:
a) $1k for visual: Wear Infowars “Bill Clinton Rape” shirt on television for at least 5 seconds
b) $5k for visual/audio: Anyone who can be vocally heard saying “Bill Clinton is a rapist” while wearing the shirt or displaying similar imagery.
In order to qualify, participants must follow the contest rules as well as any applicable laws – both local and federal.
The contest will continue through the election, or until $100,000 in prizes have been given out. Prizes to be awarded at Infowars’ discretion.
Entries can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of course, the offer has ended, but when I saw the man who had seized the mic Saturday to chant, Bill Clinton is a rapist, it all made sense.
It was Mike Cernovich, the man who Andrew Marantz wrote about in October in the New Yorker in a piece headlined, Trolls for Trump: Meet Mike Cernovich, the meme mastermind of the alt-right.
In late August, Hillary Clinton announced that she would soon give a speech, in Reno, Nevada, linking Donald J. Trump to what has become known as the alt-right—a loose online affiliation of white nationalists, neo-monarchists, masculinists, conspiracists, belligerent nihilists, and social-media trolls. The alt-right has no consistent ideology; it is a label, like “snob” or “hipster,” that is often disavowed by people who exemplify it. The term typically applies to conservatives and reactionaries who are active on the Internet and too anti-establishment to feel at home in the Republican Party. Bizarrely, this category includes the Republican nominee for President. It also includes extremist commentators, long belittled or ignored by the media, whom mainstream pundits are now starting to take seriously.
The afternoon before Clinton’s speech, Mike Cernovich, a thick-chested white man in his late thirties, sitting on a veranda in Southern California, opened the live-streaming app Periscope on his iPad and filmed a video called “How to fight back against Sick Hillary and the #ClintonNewsNetwork.” By “Clinton News Network,” he meant CNN and other corporate media outlets. The word “sick” described Clinton morally and physically: Cernovich was among the first to insinuate publicly that Clinton had a grave neurological condition, and that the media was covering it up. By “fight back,” he meant, basically, tweeting. Internet activism is sometimes derided as “slacktivism”—a fair characterization when an online campaign tries to, say, cure AIDS or end child labor. When the goal is to seed social media with misinformation, though, online organizing can be shockingly effective.
“Tomorrow, everybody’s going to be Googling the alt-right,” Cernovich said. He has an adenoidal tenor and a lisp, but when he is indignant he can be an impassioned orator. “The narrative is being written, and you’d better get off your fucking asses and write your own.” His feed filled with real-time comments. (@beelman_matt: “PC is for PUSSIES”; @ciswhitemale: “Mike is a bosss.”)
Cernovich wore a plaid shirt, partially unbuttoned to display his chest hair. Visible behind him were a swimming pool, trimmed boxwoods, and a mountain glowing in the afternoon sun. (@CanadaUncuck: “nice pool.”) Cernovich often blogs about fitness, and he publishes self-help books for men. He also writes about how to build a personal brand online; his maxims include “Conflict is attention” and “Attention is influence.” Although he doesn’t appear on Fox News or syndicated radio shows, he is an expert at using social media to drive alt-right ideas into the heart of American political discourse.
In their shared allegiance to Trump, Jones and Cernovich became allies, and Cernovich a frequent guest on Infowars.
Cernovich came to Austin for a long weekend, beginning with an appearance on Infowars on Friday.
Then he made his impromptu splash at the tax rally.
And then Easter Sunday brunch with Alex Jones.
If you click below you can watch a little of Jones and the Cernoviches at the Corner Restaurant at the J.W. Marriott downtown.
As to the small disturbance he created at the tax protest, Cernovich tried very hard to coax someone into taking a swing at him and eventually succeeded.
From Joe Biggs, formerly of Infowars, who was with Cernovich Saturday.
But, more on this later.
Because what really interested me was something that Jones and Cernovich said, almost in passing, on Friday’s show, which was noticed by Media Matters for America, which listens to even more Alex Jones than I do.
ALEX JONES: This is out of The Hill, Obama reportedly spending a month in French Polynesia, where there is no criminal extradition to the United States and it’s funny they just brought that to me because the word is Trump tried to get them just to back off, go into absentia like Napoleon and just stop it. But they won’t stop. They know the deep state — it came out in the news, they said they were planning to overthrow Trump. So little birdies have told me and then Trump came out on air two days ago on Fox Business and said she’s guilty, Hillary, and she should be criminally gone after. So Cernovich, just briefly, because I want to go to these calls and hear what you have to say to the callers because they have been patient, what are little birdies telling you?
MIKE CERNOVICH: I’ve heard the same thing and that’s another story that I’m — there’s a lot of stories that I’m sitting on because some of the stuff that I know, and that you know too, we get called conspiracy theorists and lied about all the time, even though our news is important, so yeah there’s a lot of really funny business going on with Obama, but if we said it right now on air we would be so attacked and it wouldn’t even be worth it. But there are some real shady things going on with Obama right now. And where’s Michelle Obama?
JONES: He openly funded the Arab Spring.
JONES: Think of how ballsy it was six years ago with Google and Facebook and they all went to that big hotel north of London where they had Bilderberg the next year, this was in the news later, and organized the Arab Spring and the overthrow of all these secular governments and blowing up churches and he actually — his family laundered the money in and it all came out in court. It’s like you got to actually hand it to him. He actually tried an Islamic Jihad takeover with [Angela] Merkel, opening the borders, bringing them all in. I used to hear people like [David] Horowitz say that 15 years ago, I thought he was crazy.
CERNOVICH: And he’s completely abandoned his daughter who is making her rounds through the New York party scene.
JONES: Shaking her ass on TV.
CERNOVICH: And the drugs and everything. Remember when Jenna Bush went out and drank a little bit of beer, I think actually in Austin, Texas.
JONES: It was the end of the world.
CERNOVICH: It was a big story. Obama’s basically an absentee father, abandoned — a lot of sad things going on there.
JONES: The word is those aren’t even his kids.
CERNOVICH: I’ve heard that too.
This is Alex Jones on the Friday before the Monday his custody trial begins.
His lawyers intend to argue that he is a “performance artist.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t, in some general sense, believe what he is saying, though it doesn’t mean that he does.
But it does suggest some of the ruffles and flourishes are an act.
So, for example, in this last exchange with Cernovich on Friday’s show, let’s say that, in the realm of performance art, his bit about former President Obama hiding out on an unextradictable island because President Trump now intends to lock him up right next to Guilty, formerly Crooked, Hillary, is within the bounds of artistic license.
From Infowars, April 12, 2017: Trump: “Guilty” Hillary Was “Saved” By FBI Head: POTUS says Hillary would be going to trial if it were not for Comey
But then Jones, on the eve of his own child custody trial, goes one step further and talks about how Malia Obama is “shaking her ass” in New York, and, having gone that far, decides to go one step further.
JONES: The word is those aren’t even his kids.
CERNOVICH: I’ve heard that too.
Well, I suppose there is only one way to settle this. We need to see the Obama girls’ birth certificates.
Maybe President Trump can set his birther private investigators loose on this.
By the way, the idea that the Obama children are not Barack and Michelle’s is not new. Google it. The proof positive is that they can’t be his natural-born children because Michelle Obama is a proven transsexual.
Anyway, before I was aware of these comments by Jones and Cernovich on Friday’s show, I went over to a 5 p.m. happy hour gathering Sunday that Cernovich had tweeted an invitation to at the Marriott street-side bar at 2nd and Congress so I could get a first-hand, blow-by-blow account of his encounter at the anti-Trump tax rally on Saturday.
I introduced myself. We talked. I took a few photos. All very cordial.
And I’ll tell you what he told me about what happened at the rally at the end of First Reading.
Then I went the couple of blocks to Gus’s Fried Chicken to get something to eat and get started on writing First Reading, which I still thought would be about Cernovich and his Saturday encounter.
But I had seen some mention of there being a segment on 60 Minutes about Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where on Dec. 14, 2012, a young gunman killed 20 six- and seven-year-old children and 6 educators.I wasn’t sure whether I had that right, and why that would be, or whether I just had too much Alex Jones on my mind.
I checked and indeed, there had been a report that had just aired: 60 Minutes returns to Newtown – 4 years later, Scott Pelley returns to Newtown, Connecticut, and speaks with families who may never move on, but are finding ways to move forward.
Anyone who knows anything about Alex Jones knows that his suggestion that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax was probably his worst hour. I had missed 60 Minutes but realized I’d better watch it online right away, which I did.
There was no mention of Alex Jones, but, after watching it, it was hard not to think about Alex Jones and Sandy Hook on the eve of his child custody trial. Jones has insisted that he did not really say what people think he said about Sandy Hook.
Here is his final statement on Sandy Hook from November.
Here is a transcribed excerpt courtesy of Media Matters for America.
By all means listen to the whole thing. And imagine you are a Sandy Hook parent.
ALEX JONES: I do want to reach out to the victims of criminal crime out there, whether it be a baseball bat, a car, a gun, a knife. I want to reach out to my listeners as well and just clarify where I stand on the reported tragedy at Sandy Hook that took place at that elementary school.
For the last three or four years, it’s been mainstream media’s number-one attack against me to say that I said there was never anyone that actually died there. I’ve hosted debates against both sides, and I’ve been criticized by both sides — people that say that no one died there and people who say that the official story is exactly as we’ve been told. And I’ve always said that I’m not sure about what really happened, that there’s a lot of anomalies and there has been a cover-up of whatever did happen there.
There’s a few clips Hillary used in her campaign of me out of context saying I can see how people that look at all this evidence say no kids died there and this whole thing is a giant hoax, but at the same time there is some evidence that people died there. They take that out of context and misrepresent it. That’s why they’re the deceptive corporate media. But for those who do have an attention span for, say, 10 minutes or so, I will present to you the questions. And I’m going to be quite frank, I don’t know what really happened. I know there are real mass shootings. I know people lose children. I’m a father. It hurts my heart. So I don’t know what the truth is. All I know is the official story of Sandy Hook has more holes in it than Swiss cheese.
This is a tragedy. I wish it never would have happened. But quite frankly, I wish that the official story was true because that’s a lot less scary than them staging something like this. But when you think about how they staged [weapons of mass destruction] to kill over a million Iraqis, when you think about all the other hoaxes, all the other lies, all the other rigging, and the way they’re freaking out about it and trying to cover up every level of it, it just makes me ask what really happened there?
A Florida woman has been charged with making death threats against the parent of a child killed in the Sandy Hook school massacre because she thought the attack was a hoax, federal authorities announced Wednesday.
Lucy Richards, 57, of Tampa was arrested Monday after a grand jury indictment on four felony counts of transmitting threats, the U.S. Justice Department said in a statement.
The threats were made Jan. 10, according to authorities, and included messages that said, “you gonna die, death is coming to you real soon,” and “LOOK BEHIND YOU IT IS DEATH.”
Another threat said, “there’s nothing you can do about it,” according to court documents.
The indictment said the threats were made in Palm Beach County to a person identified only by the initials “L.P.” Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Schall wouldn’t say how the threats were delivered or provide more details, nor would she provide details about why federal authorities said Richards thought the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax.
The messages quoted in the indictment match a series of voicemails released online in January and this week by Lenny Pozner and others who have sought to debunk conspiracy theories surrounding Sandy Hook and other mass slayings. Pozner’s 6-year-old son, Noah, was in his first-grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School when he was killed.
A friend of Pozner confirmed that Pozner was the target of the threats detailed in the indictment released Wednesday.
The friend responded on Pozner’s behalf to emails and other messages sent to Pozner, saying the family had been told by federal prosecutors not to talk to the media about the case. He spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of fear of retaliation by people who believe the shootings did not take place.
A year ago, Pozner and his ex-wife called on Florida Atlantic University to fire a professor that the couple said taunted them with blog posts about the Sandy Hook massacre being staged.
“The heartache of burying a child is a sorrow we would not wish upon anyone. Yet to our horror, we havefound that there are some in this society who lack empathy for the suffering of others. Among them are the conspiracy theorists that deny our tragedy was real. They seek us out and accuse us of being government agents who are faking our grief and lying about our loss,” they wrote in an opinion piece published by the Sun Sentinel.
The professor was fired in January, and he is now suing FAU for violating his constitutional rights.
Others linked to the Sandy Hook massacre also have reported harassment by conspiracy theorists who argue the event was staged to erode support for the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.
A New York City man accused of approaching the sister of slain Sandy Hook teacher Victoria Soto and angrily claiming the massacre hadn’t happened was sentenced to two years of probation in April as part of a plea deal. A teacher in the Newtown School District told a court in September that he had brought a weapon to school because he feared for his safety after receiving what he said were threats from conspiracy theorists. A Connecticut man was charged in September for allegedly phoning in a threat to the new Sandy Hook Elementary School, which opened this fall to replace the school demolished after shootings.
From Barbara Demick in the Los Angeles Times in February.
If there is anything worse than losing a child, it is losing a child and having people taunt you over the loss.
That is what happened to the family of Noah Pozner, a 6-year-old with tousled brown hair and lollipop-red lips, the youngest of the 26 children and staff members gunned down in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
In the years since the massacre that shook the country and opened new anxiety over gun violence, the family has received hate-filled calls and violent emails from people who say they know the shooting was a hoax. Photos of their son — some with pornographic and anti-Semitic content — have been distributed on websites.
These outlandish theories, which hold that the Newtown school shooting was a staged mass murder engineered by gun control advocates, have lived until now in the dark corners of the Internet.
But they have gained fresh momentum in the last several months, residents here say, at a time when conspiracy theorists across the country have attained the status of celebrities, and the nation as a whole is engaged in a contentious debate over the nature of truth.
President Trump and his national security advisor, Michael T. Flynn, have been open enthusiasts of Alex Jones’ Infowars, a Web-based radio and video network that has relentlessly pushed the theory that Sandy Hook was staged by Democrats to advance a gun control agenda.
An unabashed Trump supporter during the campaign, Jones says he received a personal call of thanks from the president-elect days after the election.
Although Trump has not spoken publicly about Sandy Hook, many residents here say he is nurturing the culture of exaggeration and paranoia on which conspiracy theorists thrive.
“Maybe it has nothing to do with Donald Trump, but somehow these hate creeps have been less shy about their beliefs,” said Noah’s father, Lenny Pozner, an information technology specialist. “They’ve been emboldened.”
Mark Fenster, a law professor at the University of Florida and author of a book about conspiracy theories in American politics, said the Sandy Hook hoax theory was a response to a Democratic-controlled White House of a kind that often shows up in political extremist circles.
“Conspiracy theories are pervasive in American politics and they target whoever is in power,” Fenster said. “I think it won’t be long before the Alex Joneses of this world are saying that Trump is part of some conspiracy.’’
The town of Newtown is drafting an official letter to the White House demanding that Trump sever his ties to Jones.
“Jones repeatedly tells his listeners and viewers that he has your ears and your respect. He brags about how you called him after your victory in November. Emboldened by your victory, he continues to hurt the memories of those lost, the ability of those left behind to heal,” reads an excerpt of the letter that was shared recently with the news media.
Family members who lost children at Sandy Hook say they find themselves twice victimized.
As pleasing as Gus’s Fried Chicken is, after watching 60 Minutes and thinking about Sandy Hook, I was feeling a bit queasy.
And then I stumbled upon what Jones and Cernovich had said about Obama and his daughters.
I had just talked to Cernovich without asking about it because, when I had talked to him, I didn’t know anything about it.
I walked back over to the Marriott hoping he’d still be there, but Cernovich, his wife and baby were gone.
I had written about Cernovich in a First Reading just before the election: Sid Miller and the C-word: On the cowboy commissioner’s posse in the alt-right manosphere
Cernovich’s blog is called Danger and Play.
From that New Yorker profile:
Nowadays, the blog is mostly a platform for pro-Trump spin, but at first it was about how to pick up women. Its name comes from Nietzsche. (“The true man wants two things: danger and play. For that reason he wants woman, as the most dangerous plaything.”) Early posts included “Misogyny Gets You Laid” and “When Should You Compliment a Woman?” (Answer: “During or after sex.”)
Early in Shauna’s relationship with Mike (Shauna is his second wife), she read Danger and Play, including such posts as “How to Cheat on Your Girlfriend.” She said, “I would come home from work crying—‘How can you write such rude things?’ He’d go, ‘You don’t understand, babe, this is just how guys talk.’ ” (Advice from the blog: “Always call your girl ‘babe,’ ” to avoid mixing up names.) Shauna, who has stopped working, continued, “I was still upset, though, and he eventually deleted some older posts.”
“I rewrote some of the wording,” Mike insisted. “I never disavow things I’ve said.” Throughout our September conversations, he referred to his more misogynist remarks as “locker-room talk.”
His political analysis was nearly as crass as his dating advice. In March, he tweeted, “Hillary’s face looks like melting candle wax. Imagine what her brain looks like.” Next, he tweeted a picture of Clinton winking, which he interpreted as “a mild stroke.” By August, he was declaring that she had both a seizure disorder and Parkinson’s disease.
“There are a million things wrong with Hillary,” Cernovich told me. “She’s a documented liar. She’s massively corrupt. She wants to let in more so-called refugees, which makes her an existential threat to the West.” (He calls the Syrian refugee crisis a “media lie.”) “But I was looking at the conversation online—what was getting through to people and what wasn’t—and none of that was sticking. It’s too complex. I thought that the health stuff would be more visceral, more resonant from a persuasion standpoint, and so I pushed that.”
Cernovich says that during college, at the University of Illinois, he was socialized to be submissive. “I was friends with a lot of girls who had crushes on me, but I was too polite to f*ck them,” he said. After his divorce, he reinvented himself as an alpha male. His self-published 2015 book, “Gorilla Mindset,” is a manual for men who want to “unleash the animal” within them. The book is filed under Gender Studies in the Amazon Kindle store. Until recently, it was the top seller in that category, ahead of “We Should All Be Feminists,” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
On his blog, Cernovich developed a theory of white-male identity politics: men were oppressed by feminism, and political correctness prevented the discussion of obvious truths, such as the criminal proclivities of certain ethnic groups. His opponents were beta males, losers, or “cucks”—alt-right slang for “cuckolds.” “To beat a person, you lower his or her social status,” he wrote on Danger and Play. “Logic is pointless.”
Although he disdained electoral politics (“No thinking man buys into this two-party political system”), he was in an ideal position to foresee Trump’s rise. In July, 2015, he tweeted, “I said if a Republican acted like me and ran for office, it’d be a movement. Donald Trump has proven me right. People are tired of pussies.” Politics is a blood sport, but, during the primaries, Jeb Bush and the rest of Trump’s “cuckservative” opponents preferred to be genteel. “What are Trump’s policies? I don’t particularly care,” Cernovich wrote on Danger and Play. And, in another post: “If Trump offends you, it’s because you live in a cucked world where no one speaks their minds.”
Here is Cernovich’s account of what happened at the tax rally.
He was in Austin, had been told about it and showed up.
I went there to Periscope it.
But, at some point, between speakers, the podium and microphone were momentarily left untended.
I’m not going to go take a microphone away from somebody forcefully. I waited until (the last speaker) walked away from it and there was a 30-second opportunity and I took it. People were upset but that’s the nature of the game.
As he was being gently maneuvered, Cernovich can be heard loudly protesting that he is being assaulted and denied his rights.
That was just me having fun. That was more satirical and ironic.
But, he said:
I was punched on the walk out. Joe Biggs has that on tape. We were waking with the police and a guy took a shot at me.
Biggs: You can see the guy run up to him
Cernovich: He missed my head and knocked my phone out of my hand.
Cernovich: He took a shot. I took a shot.
And then Joe Biggs took a shot.
Cernovich will do Infowars today.
Roger Stone, who is coming to Austin tonight and will be in and around town through Friday, will be doing the show Wednesday.
Paul Joseph Watson, another key Infowarrior, is in from London.
My guess is they are all gathering in Austin in an act of loyalty and camaraderie to help fill in for A.J. while he is tied up in court, though no one has told me that.
As Cernovich tweeted ahead of his visit: