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Loving The Fringe To Own The Libs, Part 2

The Media Research Center finds even more right-wing extremists to try and mainstream into conservative "victims" of "censorship" by "big tech" -- all while hiding their extremism.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 1/13/2022


Embracing right-wing extremists to own the libs -- for the ostensible purpose of being able to claim that conservatives are being "censored" by social media -- is a tradition with the Media Research Center's "Free Speech America" operation. The MRC is continuing to hype extremists to add to its right-wing victimization narrative while hiding their extreme beliefs.

In a Jan. 8, 2021, post sounding alarms that "The Blaze journalist Elijah Schaffer, who has put his own physical safety at risk to report on riots throughout 2020 has been shockingly deplatformed for unknown reasons," Alexander Hall also wrote: "Activist Brandon Straka’s WalkAway foundation was also reportedly purged from Facebook. Schaffer commented in response: 'The Purge is not only here, it’s going to get worse. We’ve been predicting this for a while now. Get ready.'"

Four days later, the MRC's Corinne Weaver gave Straka the full victim treatment:

Facebook purged the WalkAway Campaign, a conservative movement, in the overall censorship fiasco that started with the complete shutdown of President Donald Trump from all tech platforms, according to the campaign’s founder.

Brandon Straka, the founder of the WalkAway campaign, tweeted on Jan. 8, “FACEBOOK has removed the #WalkAway Campaign and has BANNED ME and EVERY MEMBER of my team!!! Over half a million people in #WalkAway with hundreds of thousands of testimonial videos and stories is GONE.” The tweet included two screenshots: one purportedly from Facebook informing Straka that “Your account was disabled,” and one email purportedly from Facebook that stated, “Pages that are hateful, threatening, or obscene are not allowed.”

The platform explained, “A Facebook Page is a distinct presence used solely for business or promotional purposes.” The company warned Straka, “Continued misuse of Facebook’s features could result in the permanent loss of your account.”

Well, that victimhood may have been a bit premature. A couple weeks later, Straka was arrested for his alleged role in the Capitol riot, on charges of impeding law enforcement officers during civil disorder, knowingly entering restricted grounds and engaging in disorderly conduct with intent to disturb a hearing before Congress:

Straka, 44, who describes himself as a "former liberal," was a scheduled speaker at a Jan. 5 "Stop the Steal" rally at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. The FBI received multiple tips about his presence at the deadly siege the next day, according to a federal affidavit, including a tip from a woman who claimed to be a relative of Straka's.

Special Agent Jeremy Desor detailed a series of tweets and videos Straka made during and after the attack. They have since been deleted.

In one tweet, he called on "patriots at the Capitol" to "hold the line!" according to the affidavit.

The affidavit says a video posted to YouTube by a witness shows Straka at the Capitol doors saying: "We're going in. They're saying we're going in. We're going in."

At one point, the crowd was challenged by a Capitol Police officer with a shield. Straka told them, "Take it away from him," according to the affidavit.

The clip ends with Straka at the top of the stairs, the document says.

Unsurprisingly, neither the MRC's NewsBusters operation nor its "news" division, CNSNews.com, have told their readers that a man the MRC defended just a few short weeks about had been arrested -- just like it refused for months to tell its readers that another person it has portrayed as a victim, Marjorie Taylor Greene, was a far-right QAnon conspiracy theorist and hater.

That happened again in a March 23 post by Alexander Hall:

Facebook has obliterated GOP gubernatorial candidate Amanda Chase’s state Senate page as a critical Virginia election approaches.

“Facebook appears to have permanently removed State Sen. Amanda Chase’s official state Senate page, according to email communications provided by the campaign,” Virginia Business reported March 22. “After multiple unsuccessful attempts by her campaign to get her public page reinstated as recently as last week, Chase, R-Chesterfield, said Sunday that she is considering a national class action lawsuit against the social media giant on behalf of herself and others whose pages were restricted because of content related to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.”

Chase reportedly condemned Facebook for “[adopting] un-American policies” and speculated: “This is all a target on conservative Republicans. This has lit a fire under me. I will put Facebook out of business.” Censoring Chase’s official campaign page was no small case of deplatforming. Chase stated that she had “144,000 followers on the public page, where she frequently posted live videos and photos from events,” according to Virginia Business.

[...]

Facebook responded to inquiry from the MRC by explaining "We’ve removed Senator Chase’s Page for repeatedly violating our Community Standards and placed her profile in a feature block meaning she will lose the ability to post on Facebook during this time.” How long this punishment is expected to last remains unclear.

but Hall censored the fact that in that Virginia Business article, it's noted that a Facebook official "explained in an email to Chase’s campaign that Facebook restricts and disables pages that are tied to violent groups, including U.S.-based militias and QAnon followers, and limits other content that includes 'praise and support of the storming of the U.S. Capitol, calls to bring weapons to locations across the U.S. — not just in Washington but anywhere in the U.S. — including protests, incitement or encouragement of the events at the Capitol, including videos and photos from the protestors.'"

Meanwhile, an actual news outlet reported that in December 2020, Chase declared that Donald Trump should hang on to power by declaring martial law, and that her original suspension was driven in part because she "praised rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as 'patriots' while also suggesting that left-wing 'antifa or BLM agents of destruction' were really to blame." As the MRC surely knows, Antifa and Black Lives Matter played no role in the riot, meaning that Chase was lying.

Is this the kind of extremist activist the MRC really wants as governor of Virginia? Apparently so. Of course, it's not "meddling" to remove false and inflammatory content -- it's a private company enforcing its terms of service, which is something the MRC doesn't believe private companies have a right to do.

Hall also repeated the lie that Trump was removed from social media for calling for peace after the Jan. 6 riot (that he instigated), stating that "Multiple Big Tech platforms cracked down on Trump’s account following the former president’s call for peace amid political unrest in D.C., which saw rioters storm the U.S. Capitol building Jan. 6."

Meanwhile, Chase wasn't done being offensive, later declaring that ex-police officer Derek Chauvin's guilty conviction in the death of George Floyd "makes me sick."

Another failed far-right candidate

A June 17 post by Hall beat the victimization drum hard for another extremist:

First liberal corporations attacked conservative speech, but now they are destabilizing the finances of those they disagree with, as former Senate candidate Lauren Witzke has reportedly discovered.

American bank Wells Fargo has reportedly shut down the bank account of Lauren Witzke, a 2020 Delaware Senate GOP candidate and outspoken activist. An account purporting to represent Witzke claimed via Telegram that her bank account had been shut down, leaving her penniless in Florida: “Wells Fargo has shut down my bank account, taking all of my money and leaving me with a zero balance.” The Witzke account torched Wells Fargo for leaving her in the lurch and causing her to rely on the charity of her friends:
“When I called Wells Fargo told me that it was a ‘business decision’ and that they have the right to close my account at any time. Had I not been surrounded by friends in Florida, I would be completely stranded. Use this as a warning and get your money out of Wells Fargo if you are a conservative. This is so evil.”

Hall did quote Wells Fargo denying any political motivations for ceasing its relationship with Witzke, but he doesn't concede that the bank, as any private business in America, has the right to choose who it does business with. Meanwhile, Hall censored all mention of Witzke's far-right extremism, just as it did when Marjorie Taylor Greene similarly ran as a Republican candidate.

Hall didn't tell his readers that Witzke has a history of promoting QAnon conspiracy theories, and she praised the right-wing thugs in the Proud Boys for providing security at a pre-election rally. She has also appeared twice on an online show hosted by Rick Wiles, a promoter of anti-Semitism that even the MRC's Tim Graham agrees is toxic and the MRC's "news" division, CNSNews.com, has denounced.

Hall also touted Michelle Malkin's defense of Witzke, calling her a "conservative firebrand," but censored the fact that Malkin is also a far-right extremist who flirts with white nationalism and anti-Semitism and pushes anti-vaxxer conspiracy theories, showing that she may not be the best character witness for Witzke.

Despite the fact that Wells Fargo is not a "big tech" company and didn't involve censorship, a July 7 post by Casey Ryan weirdly listed the incident as among the MRC's idea of the "WORST Censorship" in June.

The fringe parade continues

In June, Dan Gainor found a fringe doctor who matched that description -- and, thus, the increasingly bogus narrative -- perfectly:

Google has opened a new front in the online censorship fight — restricting access to documents created in Google Docs.

Google Docs restricted Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, the first doctor to advocate for alternative COVID-19 treatments, from sharing six different documents. Users received a terms of service note when the doctor tried to share the documents with them. “We're sorry. You can't access this item because it is in violation of our Terms of Service,” went the Google alert. It was unclear what rule was broken.

He wasn’t surprised by the restriction, noting, “I called out the globalist elite” for how they handled the pandemic.

[...]

Zelenko made news in 2020 when he recommended alternate treatments for COVID-19, including the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and antibiotics. He sent a letter to the White House about his experience treating patients and was also contacted by the Trump administration.

Former President Donald Trump gave support to the doctor’s efforts last May, according to The Times of Israel. The president even took hydroxychloroquine and a zinc supplement. He explained, “I got a letter from a doctor the other day, from Westchester, New York,” who appeared to be Zelenko. “Trump did not name the doctor, but it matches the description of Jewish physician Vladimir ‘Zev’ Zelenko.”

But as ConWebWatch documented -- and Gainor deliberately omits -- Zelenko's claims about hydroxychloroquine were poorly documented to the point that they are effectively worthless as medical research, and no legitimate medical research has backed up Zelenko's original claims. Gainor also didn't mention that despite Trump's promotion of hydroxychloroquine, he was not treated with that drug when he himself fell ill with COVID -- he was treated with the then-experimental drug remdesivir.

Alexander Hall wrote the next day:

Christian author and radio host Eric Metaxas currently still has a YouTube channel, but the outspoken conservative said videos of his radio show have been removed from the platform.

YouTube purges are often outrageous, but are no surprise to conservative commentators. Metaxas tweeted that YouTube purged content from his channel June 1: “FINALLY... Youtube decided that because we violated their ‘community standards’ my show has been entirely kicked off their platform. In related news, the [Chinese Communist Party] CCP and the North Korean govt don't like our videos.”

Hall didn't mention that Metaxas has been moving further to the far right over the past couple years, using racist language to demean Joe Biden and has pushed bogus election conspiracies. YouTube has pointed out that it "removed content that violated our policies on COVID-19 medical misinformation and presidential election integrity"; Hall didn't explain why a private business is not allowed to enforce its terms of service on users.

Kayla Sargent ranted in a June 21 post:

YouTube has reportedly struck down yet another video of a school board meeting for violating its policies on misinformation.

The platform reportedly took down a video from the Shawnee Mission School Board in Kansas City, Kansas for “spreading medical misinformation and violating YouTube's community guidelines,” according to NPR. “School board president Heather Ousley says having the broadcast taken down was a surprise.”

One person, who NPR identified as Kansas State Senator Mike Thompson (R), said “I'm about six feet tall. Saying that this mask is going to block the virus is like saying, I can't walk through a doorway 6,000 feet tall and 2,000 feet wide.” YouTube did not respond to a request from MRC Free Speech America to confirm the video’s removal. NPR went on to say that Thomphson’s statement “just isn't true,” but provided no evidence for the claim.

Sargent provided no evidence that Thompson's claim is medically accurate. She also omitted the fact that, according to a news report, parents at that meeting made discredited claims that masks cause hypoxia -- a dangerous decrease in oxygen levels -- and that they are ineffective at stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

Hall grumbled on July 23:

History is, well, history. Facebook allegedly purged British historian/filmmaker Tom Rowsell and his wife without warning. Celebrating history apparently has consequences.

It’s not just a fight for free speech anymore. Big Tech has now appeared to target the very ability of honest academics to earn a living online. “My wife and I both just had our [F]acebook pages deleted without warning, or reason given nor is there an option to appeal,” Rowsell said via his Patreon account. “There was nothing on there that went against their community standards. The page had no strikes at all. They have given up all pretence of reason, and are just unpersoning people without reason.”

Rowsell’s channel, Survive the Jive, named for rejecting the loss of history amid a technological age, has approximately 139,000 subscribers. He described his channel in the description of his introductory video as a project that focuses on the “religions of ancient Europe” and examines the “linguistics, genetics, anthropology and other disciplines in order to gain insights into ancient peoples.”

He explained to MRC Free Speech America: “The page was very helpful for me to raise awareness of my video content and was therefore part of my business.” He then clarified: “It had no community strikes or objectionable content on it.”

Again, Hall is censoring (!) crucial context. Rowsell is a far-right activist who has been involved in the UK branch of Generation Identity, a far-right youth movement that anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim (the French division of the group was banned in the country for inciting violence). Rowsell attended a recent Generation Identity UK conference and invited two neo-Nazi skinheads to join him.

So he's not the benign history professor Hall portrayed him as. Anyone surprised that Hall censored the truth (again)?

Corrupt state official

The MRC also hides issues with state officials who claim to be for "free speech" (much the same as it does for foreign authoritarian leaders). Kayla Sargent touted in a Jan. 13 post:

Despite Big Tech’s efforts to silence conservatives on Parler, one state’s Attorney General will not stand for it.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) has demanded answers from several Big Tech companies about the suppression of the free speech-oriented platform Parler.

Paxton has “issued civil investigative demands (CIDs) to Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Web Services, and Apple, asking the companies for their policies and practices regarding content moderation and, more specifically, for information related to Parler, a social media application recently terminated or blocked by Google, Amazon, and Apple,” according to a Jan. 13 press release.

“For years, these Big Tech companies have silenced voices in the social media sphere and shut down competing companies and platforms. It has only grown worse in recent months. And just last week, this discriminatory action included the unprecedented step of removing and blocking President Donald Trump from online media platforms,” said the release.

Paxton’s investigation followed the recent purge of Parler from Apple and Google’s app stores, Amazon went so far as to remove the website from its web hosting servers.

Sargent didn't mention that Paxton appears to be less than law-abiding, given that he's under investigation by the FBI and that his lieutenants in the attorney general's office are the ones who turned him in. The Associated Press reported a couple months before Sargent's post that "Seven senior lawyers in Paxton’s office reported him to the FBI in late September, accusing him of abusing his office, bribery and other crimes."

Perhaps the MRC has become inured to political sleaze after four years of defending Donald Trump no matter what. But pretending Paxton is pure as the driven snow because he parrots the MRC victimization narrative does not make the MRC look good.

Discredited COVID misinformer

The MRC loves misinformation about COVID and its vaccines, so it's no surprise that it has embraced longtime COVID misinformer Alex Berenson -- even invoking his status as a former New York Times reporter in a bizarre attempt to build his credibility (even though the MRC has a blogger devoted almost exclusively to trying to discredit the Times). So it was inevitable that he would be folded into the MRC's "censorship" victimization narrative -- despite the fact that the Atlantic has documented how Berenson has been wrong about much of the pandemic, going so far as to call him "the Secretariat of being wrong."

In June 2020, Hall hyped that Amazon briefly banned sale of a book Berenson wrote on the pandemic, making sure to call him a "former New York Times reporter." In December, Kayla Sargent gave Berenson full entry in the MRC's victimhood pantheon:

Conservatives have long bemoaned the lack of viewpoint diversity in the discussion surrounding COVID-19, but for one Wall Street Journal columnist, the issue is personal.

Former New York Times reporter and author Alex Berenson claimed in a recent article for The Wall Street Journal that Amazon “has twice tried to suppress” several booklets that he wrote about COVID-19.

“Like the scientists who wrote the Great Barrington Declaration, I simply believe many measures to control the coronavirus have been damaging, counterproductive and unsupported by science,” wrote Berenson.

The Great Barrington Declaration pushed "herd immunity" on COVID to Americans -- something most virus experts disagree with -- and it was so poorly vetted that the declaration includes fake names.

Joseph Vazquez touted Berenson echoing the MRC's victimhood narrative on Fox Business in a March post:

Author and former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson joined Fox Business to sound the alarm on the amount of power that Big Tech wields over the flow of information.

Berenson slammed Big Tech companies like Facebook for wanting it “both ways.” Specifically, if Big Tech companies were utilities, they would not be held liable for “every bit of speech” across their platforms, but at the same time that would mean they “can’t censor anything,” Berenson said. Regarding opinions and factually inaccurate information, Berenson asked on the March 25 edition of Mornings with Maria: “Do we want these companies in the business of deciding what’s factually accurate, what isn’t? Do we want them fact-checking, which Facebook increasingly does?” He continued: “Do we want [Big Tech] — you know — destroying large groups that come together for causes that some people may not like, or many people may not like? I think that’s a really bad idea.”

Berenson said that the Big Tech behemoths needed to decide: “Are they publishers, where they’re responsible for everything, or are they utilities where essentially they’re not responsible for anything, unless it’s clearly illegal?”

It sounds like Berenson simply wants to get away with pushing misinformation -- not that Vazquez will tell his readers that misinformation is what he's known for.

When Twitter banned Berenson for his repeated COVID misinformation, Gabriela Periseau devoted an Aug. 30 post to inducting him into the "censorship" hall of fame, while also taking the dishonest MRC dodge by admitting only that he served up "alleged misinformation":

Former New York Times journalist and author, Alex Berenson, said in a recent statement that he “expected this day was coming.” Twitter “suspended” his account for alleged misinformation.

Fox News reported that Twitter “permanently suspended” Berenson, for his alleged “repeated violations of [Twitter’s] COVID-19 misinformation rules.” Twitter has temporarily restricted Berenson’s account on multiple occasions for his outspoken criticism of how the COVID-19 pandemic has been handled. In “the tweet that did it,” as Berenson described it, he claimed that the controversial COVID-19 vaccines should not be thought of as vaccines but rather as “therapeutic[s].”

Berenson posted a purported picture of his final tweet in his online Substack newsletter, Unreported Truths. “[The COVID-19 vaccine] doesn’t stop infection or transmission,” read the tweet. He added, “[d]on’t think of it as a vaccine. Think of it - at best - as a therapeutic with a limited window of efficacy and terrible side effect profile that must be dosed IN ADVANCE OF ILLNESS. And we want to mandate it?”

Pariseau did not mention Berenson's long history of pushing COVID misinformation.

The next day, Hall returned to promote Fox News' Tucker Carlson encouraging Berenson to sue Twitter over his suspension (for, yes, "alleged misinformation"), adding that "Berenson has good reason to criticize Big Tech for being too quick to censor when stories are still developing." Like Pariseau, Hall didn't mention that much of what Berenson wrote in this "developing" story has been wrong; instead, Hall dishonestly framed the issue by claiming that "Twitter has temporarily restricted Berenson’s account on multiple occasions for his outspoken criticism of how the COVID-19 pandemic has been handled." Hall also oddly failed to mention that Carlson offered to fund a possible Berenson lawsuit against Twitter.

Needless to say, Berenson's suspension is such an alleged coup for the MRC's victimhood narrative that it made the list of August's "WORST Censorship," Like his MRC co-workers, author Casey Ryan made sure to identify Berenson as a "former New York Times journalist" and declined to mention Berenson's long history of misinformation.

Dave Portnoy, from vile to victim

The MRC used to understand that Barstool Sports and its founder Dave Portnoy were terrible, and it even called them out as such.

In October 2017, Jay Maxson cheered ESPN ending a partnership with Barstool Sports, "one of several vulgar media catering to left-wingers," which occurred after "revelations of Barstool's 2014 misogynistic trashing of ESPN's Samantha Ponder (see photograph) came to light." Maxson also noted a YouTube video by Portnoy that "viciously attacked Ponder," adding, "No self-respecting media organization would go within a hundred miles of people like this." In 2019, Maxson criticized a Barstool Sports writer for trying to "excuse away the recent arrest of [New England Patriots] team owner Robert Kraft on the charge of soliciting sex."

However, the MRC didn't heed Maxson's advice about not getting close to Portnoy. An April 2020 post by Jonas Wells touted how "Barstool Sports President, Dave Portnoy" -- no mention of the vile misogyny that goes on with him and his site -- "kept his opinion short and to the point," attacking sportswriter Jemele Hill as "absolutely idiotic" for pointing out that Kraft flying a planeload a N95 masks from China at the start of the pandemic had more to do with his being a buddy of Donald Trump than any magnamious motives.

In September 2020, as a way to attack "The View" co-host Sunny Hostin for the offense of criticizing right-wing-friendly podcaster Joe Rogan, Kristine Marsh hyped criticism of Portnoy Hostin had made a few months earlier, noting after an interview Portnoy conducted with Trump that "over a dozen women, Barstool Sports reporters refused to sit down with HBO because they feared rape threats, he’s been on video using the n-word and, so, it’s not surprising to me that Trump would sit down with someone with that kind of reputation." Marsh linked to a Fox News article on Portnoy's response, in which he narrowly complained that Hostin told a "flat lie" because he "never made a rape threat." In Marsh's post, however, there was no reference to rape threats, only a statement that Portnoy "pushed back on saying she lied about him."

Portnoy got sanitized further in a December 2020 post by Joseph Vazquez, who gushed that Portnoy "exemplified the Christmas spirit by raising millions of dollars to help small businesses suffering under state-imposed lockdowns. The “ Barstool Fund ” has amassed a whopping $6,687,624 with 60,929 supporters so far. The funds have already helped 19 small businesses." Vazquez made not mention of the skeeviness of Portnoy or his website.

From there, it was a short trip to full victimhood, as he ultimately met the MRC threshold of getting briefly suspended by Twitter. Autumn Johnson sympathetically wrote in a June 18 post:

Dave Portnoy, the founder of Barstool Sports, was inexplicably suspended from Twitter on Friday.

@BFFsPod, the Twitter account for the weekly podcast hosted by Portnoy and TikTok star, Josh Richards, tweeted screenshot of Portnoy's account with the message "Account suspended."

The account tweeted out the screenshot along with the newly trending hashtag, #FREEPORTNOY. The podcast added that “you’ll want to tune into next week’s episode.”

Although Twitter appeared to provide no reason as to why Portnoy was suspended, The Daily Wire reported that some users speculated that he was targeted after he threatened to “drop my nuts on your head” during a debate on Penn National Gaming stock.

However, the platform’s terms of service allow it to suspend accounts for little to no reason.

Johnson didn't explain why she didn't find that remark offensive. Instead, she continued to portray Portnoy as a peach of a guy, highlighting how "Portnoy talked with Ben Shapiro of The Daily Wire about why he is willing to engage with critics on social media."

Believe it or not, the MRC went even farther than that by giving Portnoy a pass on his personal sleaziness. When Business Insider published an account of numerous women who described humiliating and violent sexual encounters with Portnoy, Tierin-Rose Mandelburg used her Nov. 17 video podcast to not only declare that Portnoy was a victim of a "hit piece," shes completely refused to pass judgment on Portnoy despite the disturbing details in the article because he's allegedly a real "American":

Beleive it or not, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy was just censored. Portnoy doesn't come off as politically right or left, but he does come off as American and supports the idea of saying whatever you want. That's a concept the left doesn't like. Now. I'm not going to sit here a defend Dave Portnoy. He's had his slew of sexual misconduct allegations that you could look at and and believe or not on your own time.

Having washed her hands of moral judgment of Portnoy -- even though moral judgment is kinda the MRC's thing -- Mandelburg complained that Twitter temporarily locked Portnoy out of his account, allegedly because he posted a conversation between him and Business Insider editors when the refused to appear on Portnoy's podcast. She offered no proof this is what happened, but declared that "Insider is clearly leftist and so is Twitter, so it makes sense."

That's the level of "media research" the MRC has descended to these days -- all for the benefit of anyone who can help advance its right-wing agenda, no matter how sleazy.

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