ʟᴜʟᴜ 🇺🇦 Profile picture
Oct 3, 2018 126 tweets 20 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Kavanaugh and the Information Terrorists Trying to Reshape America wired.com/story/informat…
Dr. Ford received death threats over email and social media.

Among those cheering on the hate-trollers were Roger Stone, Mike Cernovich, Jack Posobiec, Cassandra Fairbanks, and conspiracist-in-chief, Alex Jones.
Since day one of DT's candidacy the focus has been on botnets & sockpuppets.

This overshadows the cadre of people who INITIATE & coordinate the flow of info & how their narratives, built over time, influence how we see politics, ourselves, and the world around us.
This operational unit of #infoterrorists is changing the way we consume news.

It gives order to the deluge of info we see.

Around it, bot armies and human amplification networks can be organized, wiped out, reconstituted, and armed for attack.
Information terrorism may sound harsh, but by definition:

Terrorism: "the unlawful use of violence, intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims"

So if the foo shits...
Some call it trolling...it's much more serious than that.

This cadre has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media who will amplify their views even after they are kicked off the platforms for threats and rules violations.
The cadre's network also exploits affiliations with increasingly mainstream partisan media outlets that will subscribe to any argument that suits their current agenda...bc yknow ratings...
2014 -Gamergate
The cadre coalesced and sharpened its edge here before throwing in with then-candidate Trump.

It has promoted toxic conspiracies like Pizzagate & QAnon & was ever-present around movements from Unite the Right to #/releasethememo.
This same information architecture was used to attack Dr Ford/exonerate Kavanaugh.

GOAL? Discredit/silence her using the same tactics they have deployed to discredit and silence others over the past few years.
As others have come forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault —including Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick—they have been similarly harassed and smeared by the same machinery and themes of the same networks of information terrorists.
Because that's what #InformationTerrorists do: attack

Ultimately, the followers—who are real people, not bots—are cultivated and activated: They don’t need be told to threaten or harass whoever the new enemy is because they already know their part in the play.
Even leaving Charlottesville aside, the conspiracies & toxic narrative this network of info terrorists promotes have inspired many armed/violent attacks & dangerous incidents.

The feedback within this network is a form of radicalization and extremism.
It may seem organized around older GOP themes—anti-"political correctness", anti-Clinton—but it has become a culture of digital violence now bleeding into real life.
Some of the younger, outsized personalities that would eventually storm the 2016 GOP Convention in Cleveland on behalf of Trump first garnered attention during the confusing 2014–15  Gamergate.
This started as a legitimate debate but then a group of resentful militant gamers set out to prove they were not misogynistic by relentlessly attacking and harassing the women & supporters. They were doxxed, threatened with rape and death, and some fled their homes.
Those in the gaming industry were taken aback by the whole thing, called for expanded inclusivity & offered rewards for info on the anonymous attackers.
The less extremist group of gamers arguing against culture change was overtaken by fringe narratives of manipulation by the "left media" & echoes from conservative blogs about the dangers of political correctness.
Over the year that followed, a group of emergent "men's rights" commentators, amplified by far-right media, would attract a sizable internet following because of Gamergate.
First was Milo Yiannopoulos, then a writer for Breitbart, and blogger Mike Cernovich. Cernovich latched on early, amplifying the theory of white-male identity politics long developed on his blog and arguing that Gamergate was a critical new front in the culture war.
Cernovich wrote frequently on the need to expose the assault on the First Amendment and about how women make damaging, false allegations against men to smear them.

Sound familiar?
Milo weighed in w articles like "Lying Greedy Promiscuous Feminist Bullies," theme of most of the "men's rights" memes & led others at Breitbart to follow suit. Infowars jumped on the bandwagon and continued to be a platform for Gamergaters to reach the masses, as did Breitbart.
Both Cerno & Milo encouraged doxxing of opponents. They were seen as leaders by their fans who ate up posts about the place of women and the "rightful status of men".
Chuck Johnson realized that it was a chance to take his marginal brand mainstream. He would go on to amplify Yiannopoulos on "the myth of tech misogyny" and Cernovich on themes like false rape allegations.
Gamergate wasn't really about gaming or even women—it was about identity, a bunker mentality that Trump would mobilize. Many analyses of the road from Gamergate to Trump have been written.
Gamergate birthed the now amplified themes of censorship, false accusations, oppressed maleness & resurgent masculinity.

It was a magnet for other fringe elements, incl white nationalists, anti-feminists, Nazis & dude-bros who use terms like "shit-posting" as a compliment.
In terms of information architecture, Gamergate was a signal event—a rally-point for the charlatans and hucksters who would become leaders because they could put words to a previously poorly defined sentiment that was more widespread than anyone wanted to think.
Milo was Twitter-banned in July 2016 ( Chuck Johnson, May 2015)

His celebrity had just reached its peak, and he swaggered into the Cleveland GOP Convention continually reassuring people he wasn't a white nationalist. He wore his twitter exile as a badge of honor.
And with this, the Gamergaters shifted into presidential campaign mode. In the months leading up to Cleveland, Milo & Cerno had found common purpose with Stone on the targeted bashing of Ted Cruz, including amplifying a "sex scandal" from the National Enquirer.
The America First Unity Rally, which was sponsored by Infowars/ cohosted by Stone, brought together many of the fringe groups that came into the mainstream behind Trump. Jones, milo, & Stone would all speak to the crowd, pushing the idea of "radicals" taking reins of the party.
During and after Cleveland, it became clear Stone liked the Gamergaters—along with Johnson as younger & outlandish devotees of his shady tactics. They were willing to cross lines, break rules, harass, intimidate, spread lies & liked that the GOP saw them as trolls, freaks, & cons
This made them a critical tactical force in Cleveland, where they collectively bullied, attacked anyone who wasn't a fervid enough supporter of DT. Stone threatened to punish delegates who wouldn't vote for DT. Johnson stalked female reporter who accused Trump/Corey of assault
New names popped up in Cleveland. Richard Spencer, Ricky Vaughn, Tim "Baked Alaska" Gionet, Andrew "Weev" Auernheimer—would congeal near the core cadre in Cleveland. The anonymous pro-Trump bot-king "MicroChip" helped amplify Stone's message of the "#clevelandsteal" beforehand.
At the convention, GOP delegates were intimidated via twitter, including by Vaughn, who targeted threats of violence to certain delegates.
Online and on the ground, the atmosphere built by the core group and these new affiliates felt wild, dangerous, and out of control. It went w the fear people closer to the DT campaign built up over the prev months—that if he wasnt given the GOP nom, there would be violence.
Also debuting at Cleveland were memetic warfare advocate Posobiec & Fairbanks, a shape-shifting activist.

2013, she was an Occupy/anti-rape activist
2015, she spent months in Ferguson w BLM
She got the attn of Russian Sputnik, for which she became a writer in 2015.
2015, Fairbanks was a fan of Bernie & engaged w his campaign.
2016, just before Cleveland, she was all about DT, using her platform to convince other Bernie supporters to come with her
The Mueller indictments would later detail, tapping into the leftist anti-establishment sentiment backing Sanders was a pillar of the 2016 Kremlin disinfo campaigns).

Fairbanks was the perfect "horseshoe"—bridging left & right anti-govt sentiments & aligning them behind DT
Collectively, this group dominated the media surrounding the GOP convention. It was the grotesque slow-motion train wreck no one could pull their eyes from—esp when they realized it was no longer the sideshow, but the main event w DT as ringmaster.
As Cleveland took down police barricades & GOP slumped homeward, the Stone cadre was full steam ahead, pivoting smoothly into promoting Wikileaks' GRU-hacked DNC materials before the Dem National convention
Stone would become a focus for the Mueller investigation for his  contacts w WL/G2. They all played a central role in amplifying WL, along w the parallel conspiracy that the hack was actually a leak from murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich (a conspiracy  amplified by Kremlin disinfo)
But the work on this complex hacking/emails narrative wasn't done. And hey—why not start some new ones about child sex trafficking while you're at it?
Sept 2016, Johnson claims he helped the teenage girl sexting w Weiner, sell her story to media. She later explained she baited Weiner to see what he would do.

The story published in the wake of Johnson's efforts became the pretext for the FBI's access to Weiner's computer—🙄
The day before the sexting story came out, Johnson published an article claiming he had obtained info from a "Soros-tied PR firm" that was launching a website, PutinTrump.org, supposedly to "spread conspiracy theories about Donald Trump's connections to Russia."
Shortly after the story was posted, WL tweeted link to the website, which was still pw-protected, along with the pw itself. Johnson: "We can take down Hillary together."
Later, in August 2017, Johnson would arrange a meeting for Putin-licking Dana Rohrabacher with Assmange in London—which Johnson would also attend, and then refuse to tell Senate investigators about.
Johnson was supposedly helping GOP operative Peter Smith make contact with hackers who might have the "missing" Clinton emails.

Summer 2016, a central group of actors was fueling conspiracies to attack HC & these were amplified by GRU information ops targeting America.
The stories Johnson helped spin on Weiner were in turn the origin of the story that the Democrats were running a child sex trafficking ring—a narrative that has become the central axis around which another far-right conspiracy now orbits.
Oct 2016, Pizzagate was started by a fake account, alleging that emails discovered on the Weiner laptop seized by the NYPD contained proof of a (potentially occult) child sex trafficking ring run by prominent Dems like John Podesta and Hillary Clinton.
This lunacy of secret code embedded in various food words, communicated via secret calls to a DC pizza parlor was heavily promoted by Infowars and other RW disinfo sites like True Pundit; by Stone, Cerno, Posobiec, Fairbanks; and by foreign botnets.
Posobiec was one of the biggest drivers of Pizzagate on social media, and his name will forever be synonymous with it. Johnson's alt-right/white nationalist fund-raising site offered a bounty for anyone who could find proof of the conspiracy.
That one anonymous tweet about Weiner's laptop culminated 6w later in an armed attack by a Pizzagate believer who, inspired by an Infowars video, drove from NC to DC with an assault rifle to raid the pizza parlor and free all the trafficking victims he was expecting to find.
Alex Jones briefly realized he had crossed a line with this one, posting an apology for pushing the Pizzagate story on Infowars.
But—his followers believed it & rallied at the WH after Jones renounced it
The Pizzagate apology disappeared from the Infowars site, and Jones went right on into the next iteration of this elaborate contrivance—QAnon—hosting the exact same set of Stone-related characters to talk about it on his show.
QAnon takes the prepared ground of sex trafficking mania and links it to the need to prove that Mueller's Russia investigation isn't real. They think Trump is saving the world from a vast Soros/Clinton/Podesta child sex trafficking ring.
What Q ppl believe:
That the mass arrest is coming any day now, when people will be rounded up in the abandoned Walmarts or maybe GITMO or whatever; and that Mueller is in on it, because the Russia investigation is just cover for the investigation of the sex traffickers...
2014, Johnson explained how he offered "bounties" to independent online researchers to solve "puzzles" that he gave them...and how QAnon works: "You get all these hobbyists and amateurs and people out there" who find one another & think they're part of a bigger mission.
It's easy to dismiss QAnon. Except that it was only nine months from its launch til ppl were such believers that they were caravaning to rallies, celebrities promote Q, DT hosted one of its promoters in the Oval Office and praised and defended celebrities who champion Q.
By January, QAnon was regular fare for Infowars, where conservative writer Jerome Corsi was a frequent QAnon explainer, having started linking everything to Q in December 2017. (Corsi has now been subpoenaed by Mueller apparently as part of his investigation into Stone.) Oopsies.
While Stone hawked QAnon, others in the group were more cautious bc Pizzagate. Cerno may have been capitalizing on the moral panic stoked by Q-fever when he targeted a Hollywood director, but both he and Posobiec claimed they weren't believers in the conspiracy.
Both Cernovich and Posobiec were drivers of another pet theory of Q conspiracists, the #ReleaseTheMemo campaign—as was Fairbanks, even though she was otherwise outspoken in her dislike for Q followers' fervor.
Even before Q was visible at Trump rallies and the media was writing about it, there was a disturbance in the Q-force.

May 2018, Infowars and the others in the Stone cadre started urgently denouncing QAnon, saying it had been "hijacked" by the deep-state.
In Sept his opus supposedly debunking QAnon debuted, outing MicroChip and someone named Dreamcatcher as the creators of QAnon. According to Micro (if any of this is to be believed), they basically just created a word salad out of the stuff Trumpets believed.
Whatever its provenance, the conspiracy took on a dark life of its own. On June 15, an armed Nevada man and apparent QAnon follower blocked traffic on a bridge near the Hoover Dam using a homemade armored vehicle, demanding the release of the "OIG report"
Now everyone is trying to distance themselves from Q.
Enter Kavanaugh...
Once information architecture is in place, it's like pipes - inject new material & it gets where it needs to go faster and faster as people get used to receiving narratives in a certain context from certain ppl.
On the far-right, in particular, there has been a concerted effort to recruit people to participate in this process. They act as human amplifiers - organic & automated, within these narrative structures.

Ex: politico.com/magazine/story…
This process of unleashing conspiracies is not just an online activity. This is about behavioral change. And often, in the case of the far-right, about different forms of #radicalization.
Always backed by hackers & coders who understand algorithms/automation it has an advantage.

A small number of important actors can drive the system as long as they have the right content to distribute—content that triggers the right *emotional response*
Through each iteration of this network, rape has been a constant theme. Rape and pedophilia are potent triggers that elicit an intense emotional response from an audience. Rape has been used to fling charges of hypocrisy—almost always involving accusations against Democrats
It has been used to highlight examples of "fake news" by pointing to the few cases where the media has promoted unsubstantiated rape allegations. It has been used in attempts to prove elite corruption by insisting that there is a secret cabal of elites who are pedophiles...
It has been used to normalize racism—referring to blacks and Muslims as serial rapists and to migrants as rapists and killers. And it has been used to justify misogyny by arguing that rape is "misunderstood."
Cernovich's manicured persona has always had an edgy and loathsome sexual aspect, studded with macho proclamations about dominance, violence, and rape—the boy-fantasy version of 50 Shades of Grey. There's a lot of talk, as Milo used to say, of rape culture being a "fantasy"."
Johnson published a blog post targeting a rape accuser - the wrong person & suggested women who stay silent haven't really been raped. 🖕

Rape isn't a myth for them if you are a Democrat.

Stone helped deflect DT assault allegations by bringing Clinton's accusers to a debate.
The intent is the same:
▪demonize the opponent
▪define identity
▪activate the base around emotional rather than rational concepts
▪build a narrative that can be used to normalize marginal/radical political views
This is the ideological landscape that has been so swiftly leveraged in the defense of Brett Kavanaugh.
The cadre and their followers knew exactly what to do when the allegations made against Kavanaugh became public. Rapid efforts by far-right to dox & troll Blasey Ford resulted in targeting of the wrong Christine Blasey Ford; Posobiec was one of those amping this misguided doxxing
Cernovich said Blasey Ford was a "far left wing activist" who had been "scrubbing" her social media profile, so her accusations were "activism."

Alex Jones made a joke of the whole thing, with Infowars saying Blasey Ford is a "leftist" whose accusations were a "political ploy."
Fairbanks: "She can't prove it… Her clothes were on… Fuck that lady." That's a particularly strong comment from a one-time anti-rape activist.

Stone: "This is a woman looking for her Anita Hill moment."
Pretty typical for this group. And then, in an interview discussing the allegations, Roger Stone cited Mark Judge's denial of Blasey Ford's account.

And ICYMI, #MarkJudge, has a long history of interaction with this core network.
Judge deleted his Twitter, YouTube accts soon after Ford's accusations were public. (Johnson also deleted his news site.) Judge's writings about hs drunkenness, sex & getting paid to take pictures of women in bikinis have been duly noted, as has a yearbook quote re hitting women.
But Judge was a prolific writer on a range of conservative "culture warrior" causes, including for The American Spectator, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Acculturated, and Splice Today, among other blogs & fits right in to the Cernovichian advocacy of "men's rights."
Judge has weighed in on just about everything: the need to "make Playboy great again" (masculinity), advising women on "graciously turning a man down" (toxic feminism), and expounding on how Melania is an archetype feminine woman raised outside the "leftist orthodoxy."
He has quibbled over the definition of sexual misconduct by asking whether Wonder Woman was raped & explored other "double standards" applied to what he sees as the increased liberation of women causing the oppression and depression of men.
And don't forget about the need for unrestrained "male passion." Plus, you know, young women in bathing suits.
Judge discussed Hollywood liberals and child rape jokes with Cernovich (Hollywood/pedophilia is a topic he frequently returns to). He wrote a piece on Gamergate linking to Yiannopoulos and calling media critic Anita Sarkeesian a “social justice warrior.”
Judge authored a positive review of alt-right backer David Horowitz's book. (Horowitz is known for his views that the real race war is being waged against white people and that the coverage of Charlottesville was "fake news.")
Judge was a generator of content for the alt-right machine, using his high school bad-boy, "real man" credentials as a springboard to comment on the whole suite of social issues that the alt-right feels is eating away at our Americanness.
This is the info that flowed through the architecture the Stone cadre popularized and mainstreamed over the past few yrs, moving it from the fringe to a central pillar of the conservative agenda, cartoonifying legit issues of conservative concern & recruiting new supporters.
The narrative was set long ago—allegations are false, why men are oppressed, ppl who stand against you are corrupt perverts & everything that is the America you know will fall apart if you don't fight for some notion of the way things were and should be again. Also be viscous.
This architecture is established & permanently in transmit mode.
Judge may seem marginal—but their role in building these networks is important when suddenly worlds they come from are involved in events like the accusations DrFord has leveled in the midst of SCOTUS confirm battle
Ed Whelan twitter thread: an odd diversionary narrative hyped as an alternate theory of the night Blasey Ford describes.

Its gist: mistaken id of perpetrator
Potential defamation issues aside, it built on the groundwork being laid by Senate Rs & WH to carefully insinuate that Ford wasn't lying, merely mistaken about who attacked her.

Whelan transformed it into a bonkers Twitterverse conspiracy theory.
An analysis of the accounts that retweeted Whelan's teaser for his conspiracy most frequently post content from right and far-right media, several of which are anchors in the far-right disinformation ecosphere (and Russian disinformation, to boot).
Posted for less than 24 hours, Whelan's mistaken-identity theory sparked a wave of blog posts and discussions on far-right sites that live on even after Whelan backed off.
It was a top-trending piece on disinformation trackers and was still being circulated on Twitter days after the source was deleted. Some 1.5 million "Fox and Friends" viewers heard all about the mistaken-identity theory live on TV. Once it's out there, you can't pull it back.
Whelan only did what the Stone cadre has done for years: push a lie, entrench it, later disavow, thus minimizing the damage all while presumably knowing that it's still there, colonizing the target population.
Whelan's conspiracy plugged into the narrative architecture that had been refined since Gamergate. They know these themes / narratives, and the "evidence" scratched the conspiracy brain, seeming like plausible open-source intelligence. It achieved exactly what it was intended to.
The narratives to defend Kavanaugh were mostly about discrediting Blasey Ford: that she was part of a secret CIA mind-control project(the CIA connection was also alluded to by Kremlin disinformation purveyors), it was Soros etc
What was the payoff for this multifront conspiracy defense? Well, Blasey Ford was asked questions that hinted at some of these conspiracies during her testimony before the Senate Judiciary committee—who was paying her bills and pulling her strings?
When it was his turn, Kavanaugh deployed this narrative by referencing spewing conspiracies in his attacks on the Dem members. He alleged the left was "willing to do anything … to blow me up," "calculated and orchestrated" against him as "revenge on behalf of the Clintons."
In the course of his tantrum, Kavanaugh stamped a lot of bingo squares: attempted rape allegations as a political tool, false allegations, Clinton, secret conspiracies. By taking the big swing, he elicited a powerful emotional response—an activated defense from a hardened base.
Radicalization is relatively simple to accomplish using social networks and other media, but de-radicalization is not. Pizzagate believers still believe. The people pushing Q disavowed it months ago—and only after that did it crest in the public imagination.
This is the system the cadre built—a network hungry for the next hit of disinformation to inflame confirmation bias, moving content so swiftly that stories can jump from rando twitter to MSM in 12 hours flat. The landscape is prepared. The participants know what to do.
When it comes to the psychology that shapes mass movements, there are two fundamental rules:
Everybody wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves
Everybody wants someone to tell them what to do so that things will turn out OK.
With that in mind, our understanding of what conspiracy theories are and why they work comes into focus.

Conspiracy theories aren't something that stupid or uneducated people fall for—*they are something that people who want to believe in something latch on to.*
Maybe it's religion, family, national identity, ethnic identity, community, or govt that used to be this structure—the system of belief, the answers to who you are and where you fit within the system.
But when those break down, conspiracies can take their place, particularly in times of rapid change or upheaval. They become the framework for making things that don't make any sense somehow understandable.
As Kavanaugh was holed up in the WH prepping his lies, Ford was off the grid, moving with a newly employed security detail, terrified by death threats, swarmed & disparaged by trolls and digital attackers whose smears and conspiracies then bleed over into the conservative media.
Gamergate became Pizzagate became QAnon became entrenched modern narrative architecture ripe for exploitation.
The cadre mobilized a mvmnt of misogyny, white nat'lism & intimidation—of angry boys who reveled in the chaos god of Stone— cultivated the narrative to make it acceptable to more conservatives. This is triggering violence &identifiable forms of extremism we can no longer ignore.
This willful radicalization is a campaign of information terror waged on fellow countrymen—the necessary domestic counterpart for hostile nation-state info warfare to be successful. It seems no accident that Stone is apparently in Mueller's sights, suggesting coordination w GRU
In a non-Trumpian America, they might have remained the fringe provocateurs they are, trolling the fact-based world for exposure and ad revenue, vitamin hucksters and doomsday preppers masquerading as political commentators.
But as the Trump Train prepared to leave the station, the conservative media was already so thoroughly riddled with conspiracists and storytellers that the fringe had ample bridges to the much-maligned MSM.
DT has amplified conspiracy, demonized "the media"—even while elevating a new ecosystem of far-right groups, like One America News' Posobiec & whatever TruNews is. This has transformed the way conservative Americans consume info, altering how they make judgments on truth/ reality
DrFord has learned how devastating this runaway narrative architecture can be. But so, now, has Kavanaugh, whose personal credibility was also being run down by the propaganda being levied in his defense. Maybe, just maybe, it was a Hail Mary that worked out for him, in the end.
It has helped inflate a sense of urgency to vote on his nomination and to make it more intensely partisan. Or, as Posobiec added at the close of the hearing, "Confirming Kavanaugh to own the libs"
The information weapons being fired in the Kavanaugh controversy are uncontrollable and adaptive.

We are beginning to see the cost of this—but now the question is:

Who will pay?
It is clear that foreign powers seeking to manipulate Americans with these asymmetric tools of info warfare must pay a price for doing so.

But what about domestic forces that use the same tools and tactics?
How do we judge those who apply disinformation against their fellow citizens to improve their odds, seeking to benefit from the ability of this architecture to spark frenzy and fear, intimidation and violence? What price should they pay for the scorched earth they leave behind?
Cognitive warfare is a dark, seductive rabbit hole. Powerful, unregulated, & right now, thanks to social media, the info domain is as lawless as the wild west, as demoralizing as the terror of WWI trench warfare & as adaptive as the guerrilla tactics in the Philippines in WWII.
There are state actors, nonstate actors, private sector and other independents—armies, mercenaries, and terrorists, all looking to master these techniques. Even small groups, like the cadre I described here, can achieve significant outcomes when the network effects kick in.
Trained and untrained operators alike are beta-testing tools /tactics on human minds, deliberately or intuitively. Information weapons are intangible. But people aim them & people are the target. It's time we take them seriously.
The immediate costs are already visible in the US. The long-term costs will be devastating. One need only look to Stalin's campaigns of internal psychological terror waged in captive nations to understand the price can be inconceivably high.
And we're all paying the price already, whether we know it or not...
.@MollyMcKew is an expert on information warfare and the narrative architect at New Media Frontier.

Open source researcher @JamesFourM helped conduct the research for this analysis.

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