How they ruin you: inside a smear campaign by activists and journalists
In a recent article for Quillette, I presented the results of a study into the concerning relationships between Antifa and national-level journalists. This was never the sum total of anything I had set out to do, but simply a consequence of separate academic research I had conducted into the left-wing radical group. But, as expected, directly after publishing my article there was an immediate and coordinated backlash from those same journalists mentioned in the report. For me, this experience demonstrates an ideal example of how these groups cooperate to target dissenters.
My initial thread on Twitter, which I published on May 15th, mapped out the relationships between 15 Twitter-verified journalists from publications such as The Huffington Post, The Guardian, and CNN. It was met with days of derision and abuse from Antifa accounts on Twitter. Jason Wilson of the Guardian, and one of the chief examples I had outlined in my study, mocked:
It wasn’t until Red State, PJ Media, and Quillette picked up my research that the mockery and abuse quickly turned into character assassination and suppression.
Two days after the thread was published, I was asked to appear on Al Jazeera’s flagship political show Inside Story on an unrelated issue. I had been asked to come to the show and speak about the exceptionally important Christchurch Call to Action—a multi-governmental commitment to eliminate terrorist violence and online-based extremist content. It was an important subject for me, and the show went well. Shortly after filming, the producer messaged me to say how proud she had been of the panel.
Not too long after excitedly phoning my family in Ireland to see if they had watched the show, I realized it had been taken down from Al Jazeera’s YouTube page and removed from their homepage. I contacted the show’s producer who had been so pleased with the show.
The producer indicated that she had received an email from Luke O’Brien of The Huffington Post who had made very serious allegations about me being on the far-right. She also noted that Michael Hayden had written a tweet to Al Jazeera stating that I ran an alt-account whose “primary shtick is to mock feminists and immigrants.”
I did indeed run a political satire account called “ProgDadTV” from November 2017 to August 2018, with sporadic appearances thereafter. It was intended to spoof modern outrage culture across the political spectrum, and managed to build a fanbase in doing so. I even managed to gain praise from leading comedian Joe Rogan who said he found the satire hilarious on his popular podcast. My biggest hit as ProgDad was a prank which took aim at vegans—a duck heart in a kinder egg spoof intended to “start a conversation on ethical meat consumption” with a small child—that went viral on Christmas Day.
ProgDad was never abusive. It was never racist, aimed at immigrants, women or religious minorities. It was a parody intended to mock the ridiculous, tone-deaf attitudes of white, upper-middle-class progressives that have become the hallmark of that demographic.
I found it interesting that Michael Hayden claimed that ProgDad was a racist, sexist account, and not just satire, when he and I directly interacted at one point, with him telling me how funny he found ProgDad after I pranked him, and he even encouraged me to continue with the routine.
I found it even more interesting that Michael Hayden claimed (and later maintained) that ProgDad was a racist, sexist account when, in later conversations, I informed him directly that I was an extremism researcher and I was using ProgDad as a vehicle for research into the far-right. Though ProgDad had begun as a spoof (and was genuinely a lot of fun!), as I spent more time online I was able to pinpoint a small, but noticeable, faction of followers who interacted with my posts not out of simple comedic enjoyment—but hate. They hated people on the left. Virulently. I put on my professional hat, and became interested in developing a set of interventions to prevent some of these people from drifting into far-right extremism.
Hayden interviewed me in mid-2018, and though I was wary to break cover and put my far-right research at risk, I did let him know my intentions with ProgDad.
So why did he, only two days after my Twitter thread on connections between the media and Antifa, suddenly contact Al Jazeera and misrepresent ProgDad – who he knew damn well to be satire, and who he knew was my research vehicle? Why did he suddenly deny finding it humorous? What urged him to instead discredit me and conflate ProgDad, the satirical account, with Eoin Lenihan, the researcher?
And it only got worse.
On Friday morning, three days after my thread on journalists and Antifa, I received a confrontational and unsolicited DM from Luke O’Brien telling me he had contacted the producer at Al Jazeera. I was confused, at first. O’Brien knew Hayden, I thought perhaps he had shared information on my background.
Later, the producer texted me and stated that O’Brien had said “He covers nationalists, neo-nazis, fascists, and Islamophobes. He said you are one of these extremists.”
While I was explaining myself to Al Jazeera producer about the O’Brien accusations, I was in contact with Hayden, who I believed to have some decency based on his position at the SPLC, and our not-unfriendly history surrounding ProgDad even though he had reservations about my act. I asked him, after reminding him of previous conversations to intervene and help me. I gave him the producer’s email and he agreed to contact her.
I felt relieved. But that was quickly washed away when I found out he used that opportunity, the trust I had placed in him as a professional, to lie.
He misrepresented me, and ProgDad, to the Al Jazeera. The producer was explicit that he had taken the opportunity I had given him, providing him with the personal information of the producer, to discredit me.
Fortunately for me, Al Jazeera had a level of professional integrity these journalists did not. Prior to inviting me to the panel, they had already vetted my experiential expertise, and now they demanded evidence from Hayden and O’Brien to back up their accusations.
She confirmed to me that O’Brien never produced any evidence.
Hayden produced two pieces of what he called “evidence,” the first being three links to the Daily Stormer, which had featured ProgDad links at various points in time. ProgDad did appear in the Daily Stormer. He also appeared in several Polish Newspapers, The Poke, The Pluralist, The Huffington Post, PJMedia, and Joe Rogan.
The second piece of “evidence” from Hayden is far more absurd. He provided a tweet from @RamzPaul who Hayden referred to as “an overt white supremacist.” The Tweet stated that ProgDad had been banned from Twitter as part of a spoof campaign to stage “bleed in’s” in public pools across America. This is untrue, which could have been confirmed at any time. ProgDad had been suspended for mocking a literal white supremacist, @LucidHurricaneX. This individual was so vile that he was later banned from Gab, a free speech platform with very liberal standards on speech, for doxing a liberal activist.
In his only two pieces of evidence for his allegations that I am a right-wing extremist, Hayden could not produce a single tweet by Eoin Lenihan or ProgDad demonstrating any supposed affinity I actually had for the white race, or even right-wing politics.
ProgDad was satire. He was meant to be ludicrous and absurd. And, he parodied privileged, white extreme progressives and the social media outrage merchants for whom new parody accounts are popping up like four leaf clovers. He was not extreme, or coming from a place of hate, and Hayden knew that. Still, he attempted to undermine my reputation through slanderous guilt-by-association claims that misrepresented what he knew ProgDad to be.
What Hayden and O’Brien did is exactly what I outlined in my initial article for Quillette. They contacted an employer and smeared my reputation to poison the well against me, and did so while relying heavily on sources associated with—you guessed it—Antifa.
O’Brien of the Huffington Post, the one who couldn’t provide a single piece of evidence of my supposed right-wing extremism to Al Jazeera (in fact he didn’t even get back to the producer after his accusations), is particularly guilty of this. In May 2019, just after my Antifa thread, O’Brien posted a thread on Twitter, calling me “groyper fash” and linking a tweet by Antifa doxer and hacker @Karmatic_Antifa (who often alternates aliases e.g. @Anonymous_Ca1m and @RowdyPundit). I was routinely doxed and harassed by this account, and I had advised O’Brien as long ago as the Summer of 2018 that he was relying on information from an individual who was engaging in illegal activity.
A later dox of my ProgDad account was shared by @OpWolverines and @MACROCHIP, both accounts O’Brien regularly works with and both accounts that led a harassment campaign against me lasting months which included sharing my dox and contacting my place of work. Here is a pastebin link to data analysis @OpWolverines compiled for O’Brien prior to his doxing article on Amy Mek which I reference in my Quillette article.
@OpWolverines recently tweeted at a writer from The Post Millennial who had covered my story, feeding her a number of defamatory and untrue statements about ProgDad that he does not, and cannot, provide evidence for. That tweet was ‘liked’ by Hayden.
Among the more ludicrous accusations by OpWolverines are that I do not have a doctorate (separate tweet) and that I am “friends” with white supremacist Paul Nehlen. ProgDad had interviewed Nehlen when he was running for congress, before he descended into an obvious white supremacist. I got him to admit that he was far-right—something that the mainstream media at the time had failed to do.
Perhaps @OPWolverines should have asked Michael Hayden. He knew that.
Since the thread, the same journalists who mocked me for suggesting they could ever be associated with something as deviously mob-like as slandering and harassing people out of their lives’ normalcy have gone on to do exactly that. They denied I submitted my research to a journal, and then once an outlet released the name of the journal—they harassed the journal, inundating it with fake submissions.
Journalists have formally written in publications or platforms with huge reach and denied my professional and academic qualifications, smearing them as false or nonexistent—as though these statements are not libellous. Among those journalists who have made such statements, Jared Holt of CJR, Patrick Strickland of Al Jazeera English, Shane Burley and Alexander Reid Ross of The Independent, and Michael Edison Hayden of the SPLC.
Of particular contention has been my cited work history, I will clarify here.
In November of 2016, I won a contract with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation to develop a set of resources to create interventions for pre-radicalized youth as a part of the Generation Global Resources Production (GGRP) team. The Foundation was in the midst of a transition at the time, a restructuring, which would eventually lead to it being rediscovered as the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. This restructuring would lead to the contract never formally being fully realized, unfortunately. But I have maintained communications with the Foundation. And the GGRP is what inspired my research during ProgDad. I exclusively provided these emails to The Daily Caller.
Any statements suggesting that I have no connection to these organizations are defamatory and require immediate, full retraction or correction, and the harassment of the journalists who have provided the details on this experience must end.