An activist journalist tried to take down Quillette; it backfired
On May 15th, far right twitter troll Eoin Lenihan shared a noxious thread denigrating the hard-working journalists of the world as violent, thuggish vandals and rioters. The keyboard cretin would defame and demean the most vulnerable of our society, lumping them in with the Molotov-cocktail wielding, University campus dwelling, hair-trigger censures. A truer crime had never been committed.
The only problem—that didn’t happen.
If you had read the Columbia Journalism Review article written on June 12th by Jared Holt, however, you’d have never known. In fact, Holt, in his very first paragraph, presents Lenihan as a “far right social media user” with “no known association with any previously known organization that researches extremism.” On CJR’s official Twitter Feed, Lenihan is called an “established far-right troll.”
From this, you’d have never known that Dr. Eoin Lenihan had won a contract to work with the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change as an expert combatting far-right extremism. Nor would you have known that he currently works with the Centre for the Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). In communications with The Post Millennial, Lenihan reveals that Holt never asked any questions pertaining to the academic, occupational, or experiential background that would have qualified him to speak on or research in to the issue of online extremism.
So, how did Lenihan get involved in researching Antifa? That was another question Holt conspicuously failed to ask, according to the communications. Lenihan’s journey began after speaking with Dr. Udo Baron, another extremism expert who works with Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz – the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Germany—at a counter-extremism conference in Berlin. In a casual post-conference conversation, Dr. Baron had noted the lack of sources and insight into the far left, which prompted Lenihan to begin establishing a data set from which further information could be derived. He never set out to create a link between Antifa and journalists. The information which was published on his Twitter and later in Quillette was, as Lenihan described to The Post Millennial, a consequence of the creation of his data set.
According to Lenihan, it is standard practice, in any online demographic research, to establish 15-20 seed accounts from which to ascertain a wider demographic. In this case, Lenihan primarily utilized 16 self-identifying large Antifa collectives as his seed from which to pull nearly 60,000 Antifa or Antifa associated accounts. As extremism research often seeks to weed out those accounts with the most influence and interactions, Lenihan condensed the pool of accounts into a core of 962 with overlapping connections. Surprisingly, 22 of those 962 were found to be verified, with 15 being journalists. In his Quillette article, Lenihan wrote that this did not necessarily reflect or suggest an immediate assumption that these journalists were associated with Antifa. After all, journalists routinely have to follow a diverse array of accounts to keep tabs on various sources and stories. Lenihan wanted to note these journalists for further study, and began a preliminary assessment of some of the journalist’s work covering antifascist violence. Lenihan then noted that it was disturbing that some of the journalists with the most pronounced associations with the Antifa seed accounts had the most pro-Antifa coverage. This is not just a claim—he gives evidence of this.
But Holt’s article demonstrated a clear lack of understanding to Lenihan’s explanation of his methodology, and, based on the communications released to The Post Millennial, no attempt to rectify his lack of understanding.
In his CJR article, Holt claims Lenihan told him that his “methodology consisted of labelling twitter users as “highly connected” to Antifa if they had “8 or more connections” on Twitter to accounts either run by antifascist activists or by a lecturer at Dartmouth university.” The first problem is that he fails to mention that the “lecturer at Dartmouth” is Mark Bray, the author of the Antifascist handbook. Initially, Holt had failed basic fact-checking, and claimed Mark Bray was a Professor from Hong Kong. The second issue is that Lenihan’s methodology was not based on “eight” connections to any antifascist accounts, but eight connections to the seed pool of 16, or an eighth degree range. In short—those in the eighth degree range do not simply have “eight” Antifa connections on Twitter. They have eight connections to the initial, carefully selected seeds and within that dataset they are in the top 1.65% of most connected (to those seeds) out of 60,000 accounts. One hell of a connection.
But this story is about more than simply about one man’s research into the radical left, and the influence—in some cases, admitted influence—that might have in the media. After all, that’s not new. Political influence in the media is absolutely everywhere. Jared Holt himself does similar activity, instead keeping an eye on the radical right at Right Wing Watch. This is good and necessary work.
This story is about a lie. A lie about Eoin Lenihan that was told and promoted without any regard for truth that was very much within reach. Eoin Lenihan is not a “far right” keyboard warrior, as CJR is advertising. He has dedicated much of his life to quite the opposite. Holt makes a broad spectrum of suggestive claims which Lenihan evidences through released communications were never investigated or interrogated. Absolutely no follow ups were provided to the vague, seven initial questions Holt provided.
The few comments Holt did explicitly request from Lenihan were not included, despite Holt telling him in plain language that they would be.
In his responses to Holt, Lenihan noted that his study was not seeking to make a relation between journalists and Antifa—but was instead attempting to categorize Antifa accounts on Twitter. Holt never mentions this, and instead presents Lenihan’s research as targeting journalists exclusively.
Holt also declines to include Lenihan’s response to likely the singular most important personal question he asked, that regarding Lenihan’s Twitter suspension, instead choosing to craft his own narrative. After reporter Andy Ngo brought attention to Lenihan’s thread, Lenihan became inundated with threats, and reports against his account, and was eventually suspended as a result. That Lenihan used to operate a parody Twitter account which was suspended is irrelevant, as his personal Twitter predates that other account. Therefore, it does not violate Twitter’s policies on creating new accounts to avoid suspensions.
It appears that Lenihan’s only transgression was that old satire account. Bearing a resemblance to Godfrey Elfwick or Titania McGrath, he called it ProgDad, and it spoofed woke culture. It was legitimately funny, even receiving praise from Joe Rogan’s podcast. This is the only evidence that the Columbia Review of Journalism has to connect Lenihan to the “alt-right.” That’s it.
Lenihan’s research was not conclusively submitted to the Twitter commentariat for review, though. His work is currently undergoing the peer review process with Social Networks, another detail Holt failed to acquire despite its accessibility, choosing instead to lead people to believe it was deliberately withheld. Lenihan had begun to conclude and release some details about his findings only because of an upcoming talk he was giving on online counter-terrorism at a major European research University. The name of the University is known but being withheld by The Post Millennial to protect the peace of the event.
Ultimately, all of the details that were needed, were available. Lenihan was an open book, and honestly answered all of the questions posed to him.
Yet another woke record store has decided to ban British pop icon Morrissey from its shelves. This time, the Glasgow Evening Times reports that Glasgow’s “Monorail Music said it would continue to sell records by the Smiths but ‘like many of our colleagues’ would not be selling the singer’s 13th studio album, ‘I am not a dog on a chain.’”
This follows last year’s indie music store ban on Morrissey’s last album, “California Son.” Cardiff’s Spillers, which calls itself “the oldest record shop in the world,” declined to carry the record in retaliation for Morrissey’s political views. These views include support for Brexit, saying that the word “racist” is meaningless because it’s used so liberally, and that crime in London cannot be properly dealt with if the perpetrators are viewed as victims.
Morrissey responded to the last round of smears and bans by saying, “I straighten up, and my position is one of hope. The march backwards is over, and life has begun again. With voice extended to breaking point, I call for the prosperity of free speech; the eradication of totalitarian control; I call for diversity of opinion; I call for the total abolition of the abattoir; I call for peace, above all; I call for civil society; I call for a so-far unknowable end to brutalities; ‘No’ to Soviet Britain.”
Of course, the bans and smears don’t work. These kinds of actions will not stop Morrissey’s fans from buying the new album. The Guardian has consistently tried to smear Morrissey, and in response, Morrissey wore a t-shirt reading “Fuck The Guardian.” Fans know that Morrissey being able to speak his mind means that they are free to speak theirs, to hold opposing views, and to still listen to the new tracks Morrissey releases with consistent quality year after year.
Bookshops and record stores are not required to carry anything that they don’t wish to, obviously, but there is something sinister in the refusal to carry selections by such a popular, long-standing pop star, whose music on last year’s “California Son” was not political, and who lifts other artists through collaboration, simply because he’s not afraid to speak his mind.
Writer Fiona Dodwell responded to the ridiculous ban by tweeting: “How about businesses stock and store products and let customers choose what they want? This achieves nothing, Morrissey will still sell albums—with or without your company “banning” his records. People simply go elsewhere (and learn where NOT to shop next time!)”
How many pop stars have heterodox views but don’t say them out of fear of retaliation? Probably plenty, they just don’t say it, because they don’t want their work to suffer the same fate of being banned by distributors.
Morrissey has made his entire career out of being an iconoclast who “will not change and will not be nice.” So much the better for his fans, who strive to lead lives according to their own value systems, and not those imposed by a hypocritical society hell-bent on squashing free thought and individuality while claiming to uphold those very qualities they persistently deride.
When the new album drops on March 20, it will be interesting to see which other shops signal their virtue by refusing to carry it, and which ones instead cater to consumers and offer it for sale. Not carrying “I am not a dog on a chain” has more to do with the owner’s false sense of righteousness than punishing Morrissey. Time and time again, Morrissey has shown that he can’t be shelved and forgotten. His work is too essential and beautiful for that.
Loving The Onion for its satirical takes and hating The Babylon Bee for theirs is all in a day’s work for CNN “reporter on disinformation” Donie O’Sullivan.
While he has endlessly tweeted out uproarious Onion stories on everything from “Clinton Throws Flash Grenade to Divert Attention from Question About Senate Voting Record” to “FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot to Just Sit Back and Enjoy Collapse of United States,” (hilarious), he has taken issue with The Babylon Bees’ off-the-wall comic piece “Democrats Call For Flags To Be Flown At Half-Mast To Grieve Death Of Soleimani.”
The fictional story was shared abundantly on social media, as much as top New York Times and CNN stories, which rankled O’Sullivan.
Babylon Bee founder Adam Ford took to Twitter to parlay the hypocrisy he saw in O’Sullivan’s crush on The Onion and displeasure with The Babylon Bee.
Ford points out that O’Sullivan, a fan of The Onion’s skewering of American politics, doesn’t like it when The Babylon Bee does it. Why not? The Onion racks up clicks, as does The Babylon Bee. The Onion has often been accidentally shared as though it were real news, as has The Babylon Bee.
There was the time The Onion ran a story about how North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was named sexiest man of the year, and it was reprinted by the South China Morning Post. Or the time a congressman shared an appalling story about Planned Parenthood opening up an “abortionplex.” There was even the time The Onion ran a story “Congress Takes Group of School Children Hostage” and the actual Capitol Police sprang into action to save the school children from Congress.
The Onion has been publishing satirical content online since 1996, and we, the public, have almost gotten used to not believing what they post. The Babylon Bee has only been on the scene four years, but they’ve been constantly crushing it.
There’s one major difference between these two outlets. And at first glance, it’s basically nothing. The Onion runs political and social satire, The Babylon Bee runs political and social satire. But while The Onion has always done so from something of a leftist bent, The Babylon Bee makes no bones about its Christian underpinnings. The Babylon Bee’s google listing clearly states “The Babylon Bee is your trusted source for Christian news satire.”
But explicitly stating that your site is satire not good enough for CNN expert in disinformation Donie O’Sullivan.
Disinformation campaigns are serious business. Bad actors and nefarious governments work hard to spread fake news in efforts to mislead the public. That’s not going to stop, in fact it’s just getting worse.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are in a rush to try and curb the spread of fake news and influence campaigns. But as they rush to do so, they must be made aware of the efforts of bad actors like O’Sullivan who wish to silence their ideological opponents by crying “disinformation” at every turn.
Terry Gilliam has a new movie coming out. But he doesn’t want to talk about art in his latest interview with Alexandra Pollard in The Independent, he wants to talk about how crazy culture has become. The fact that Gilliam’s film is about Cervantes’ Don Quixote, a man who believes in his own rightness, despite the entirety of society telling him he is wrong, is pretty timely. In his later career, with heaps of successes and failures at his feet, Gilliam has a breadth of understanding about how a culture that used to skewer itself for laughs has landed in a place where nothing is funny, and ambition is mocked.
“I understand that men have had more power longer, but I’m tired, as a white male, of being blamed for everything that is wrong with the world,” Gilliam told Pollard. “I didn’t do it!” Pollard tried to school him on the idea of white privilege, that while he might not be to blame personally, the historically racist underpinnings of society mean that he should bear an awareness and responsibility for the unfairness of his success.
Of course, Gilliam has failed, countless times. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote has been in the works since 2000. It has hit snag after snag. That it was made at all speaks to Gilliam’s refusal to let the project die. And not all of his films have been big hits. A few have even flopped. But he keeps picking himself up and giving it another go.
If Gilliam were asked to take a step back, to curb his ambition and artistic drive simply so someone else could have a chance in his stead, he would guffaw. For Gilliam, that’s just not how things work, and it shouldn’t be.
Gilliam tells Pollard “We’re living in a time where there’s always somebody responsible for your failures, and I don’t like this. I want people to take responsibility and not just constantly point a finger at somebody else, saying, ‘You’ve ruined my life.’” On Weinstein, he says that “when you have power, you don’t take responsibility for abusing others. You enjoy the power. That’s the way it works in reality.” Weinstein wasn’t a monster on his own, he was able to use his power to get what he wanted because people wanted access to that power.
There were plenty of others who got caught up in the mob’s wrath and need for vengeance. “Yeah, I said #MeToo is a witch hunt,” Gilliam replied when Pollard brought it up. “I really feel there were a lot of people, decent people, or mildly irritating people, who were getting hammered. That’s wrong. I don’t like mob mentality. These were ambitious adults.”
As a culture, we might want the objective best to win out, or for each sex, every race, ethnicity, creed, gender identity, and sexual orientation to be represented equally in every field at all times, but Gilliam posits that ambition doesn’t work that way and that it shouldn’t. In the push for inclusivity, we have dispensed with the idea of “objective good,” in favour of something more about moral rightness based upon inclusion of identity factors.
Attitudes like those from U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team captain Megan Rapinoe are what Gilliam is speaking against. As she prepared to be honoured as the Sports Illustrated person of the year, she was asked about the 2018 stats that showed 21% of men are afraid to hire women in the current climate, she called bullsh*t.
“Well, women are afraid to be raped, sexually assaulted, sexually harassed, kept out of jobs, fired from jobs, moved laterally their entire career,” she said. “If you have some sort of platform you can support that way… You don’t have to get involved in a million charities. You can literally just re-tweet stuff. You can speak up and show support that way.”
Of course, we know that social media activism is hollow, as President Obama told us, something of a meaningless gesture that reflects more on the intent to show virtue than on securing meaningful change. While #MeToo has raised some awareness about workplace harassment, it has also destroyed men’s careers. #MeToo is not strictly an altruistic movement– and why would it be? Hardly anything is. It has been used to restructure power hierarchies. Only instead of the traditionally capitalistic power tools like money and profit, it uses emotional manipulation and the valour of victimhood to achieve its aims.
A man whose career was founded on pushing the envelope as part of Monty Python, the 79-year-old filmmaker cannot abide our incessant outrage culture and the demise of personal responsibility. He blames only himself for his failures, and while Pollard seemed consistently appalled by his remarks, Gilliam is not wrong.
David Marcus, Senior Contributor to The Federalist and New York Post columnist has been banned from Twitter for advocating for a massive bombing of Iran, should they retaliate against the American killing of Qasem Soleimani, leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Classified as an enemy combatant by the State Department, Qasem Soleimani was actively engaging in terrorist activity against the U.S. and its interests. Plenty of progressive accounts posted in opposition to the U.S. strike, and actress Rose McGowan went so far as to beg the nation for mercy.
HuffPo, among other outlets, wrote about what a great guy Qasem Soleimani was.
Colin Kaepernick had his own take, claiming that the action against Iran was racist, and had nothing to do with legit concerns.
It was in light of these worries from Hollywood celebrities and progressive media, who fear an Iranian response, that Marcus suggested that an Iranian strike against New York would be ill-advised.
The Bulwark writer Molly Jong-Fast took issue with this.
The Post Millennial reached out to Marcus, a colleague of this author’s at The Federalist, to get a sense of his take on this Twitter ban. Having never been banned by the site before, he was a bit perturbed.
“The big secret is that if you’re on the right, you’re going to get banned, if you’re on the left, you’re going to get celebrated,” Marcus said. “I criticised Iran. I said we should take Iran down. They throw gay people off of roofs, and that’s what I got taken down from Twitter for? Go f*ck yourself, Jack.”
In July, Soleimani’s forces shot down a U.S. drone, and Trump declined to retaliate, since no one was killed. December saw these forces kill an American contractor in Iraq, and support a violent attack against the American embassy in Baghdad.
Marcus’ Twitter ban is temporary, but odds are that even when the ban is lifted, he will still be making a clarion call for liberty and swift action against enemies of the U.S.