In an article entitled “How Breitbart Unleashes Hate Mobs To Threaten, Dox, And Troll Trump Critics,” The Daily Beast accused Breitbart News of encouraging an eye-popping range of Twittercrimes, ranging from anti-semitic abuse to death threats, against members of the conservative establishment.
The article is classic guilt-by-association and bears a close resemblance to how supporters of GamerGate — another movement that took on media elites — were collectively smeared for the worst behaviours of social media miscreants.
Like the feminist critics of GamerGate, it seems that opponents of Breitbart and Donald Trump intend to use the inherent nastiness of social media as a political talking point.
The article features a number of Trump critics complaining about the abuse they’ve received on social media. Bethany Mandel, a contributor for The Federalist, has received some particularly nasty anti-semitism from self-proclaimed Trump supporters on social media.
There is no evidence that these accounts are connected to Breitbart’s reporting in any way. Yet The Daily Beast is quick to draw a link, claiming, “It is entirely predicable, that, among other outlets – including The Drudge Report, The New York Times, and The Washington Post – the Twitter feeds of Mandel’s Trump-fan assailants often include links to stories on Breitbart News.”
So, it seems anti-semites read the news. What a revelation!
Another Trump critic, Commentary magazine editor John Podhoretz, who once accused Breitbart readers and Trump supporters of supporting “rape” (yes, really), complains that he, too has been the victim of uncouthness on the internet following Breitbart’s coverage of his comments. Podhoretz told The Daily Beast that after his statements were covered by Breitbart, he received a barrage of tweets from “literally neo-Nazi White supremacists, all anonymous… and there is some overlap here.”
Once again, it seems neo-Nazis read the news. If Podhoretz’s comments were covered in CNN, would the network also receive accusations of having “some overlap” with neo-Nazis?
Continuing the theme of aggrieved Trump critics, The Daily Beast also features accusations from RedState editor Erick Erickson, who said he was “victimized by a torrent of abuse from anonymous strangers” following “Breitbart News stories concerning his anti-Trump statements.”
According to Erickson, these include anonymous letters with “vulgarities” on the envelopes, including “f*** you” and “go to hell.”
Last but not least, the article features Rick Wilson, the GOP consultant who said Trump supporters “masturbate to anime” on national television. Wilson, who also called Ann Coulter a prostitute, complains that Breitbart decided to “weaponize” and “go after him.”
But all Breitbart did was cover Wilson’s own words. If that constitutes “going after” someone, then the words in question probably aren’t very good ones.
As if by magic, The Daily Beast turns from Breitbart’s coverage of Wilson to his victimisation at the hands of online trolls, who allegedly subjected him to a range of juvenile pranks including deliveries of unordered pizzas and fake Craigslist ads for a yard sale at his home.
Those who followed the GamerGate controversy will recognise the tactics on display in the Daily Beast’s reporting. Then, as now, the actions of anonymous trolls on the Internet were blamed on a much larger group of people. The media focused relentlessly on trolls, with scant regard given to the majority of peaceful movement members, while opponents of the movements used any hint of “online harassment” against them as a political weapon. And then, as now, the attacks of the media only made that peaceful majority more determined.
In another parallel to the campaign against Gamergate by the establishment press, Salon published an article on Wednesday titled “Donald Trump’s supporters are so fanatical that now they’re sending threats to other conservatives,” regurgitating the same guilt-by-association talking points that The Daily Beast relied on to attack Breitbart News. Readers may be reminded of the torrent of nearly identical articles lambasting gamers in the early days of Gamergate to establish a narrative of gamers inciting harassment among the establishment media that is used as a club to bludgeon supporters to this day.
As The Daily Beast helpfully points out, Breitbart has more than 17 million readers. It is entirely possible that among those 17 million readers, there will be some unsavoury characters. In fact, it’s unlikely that there won’t be. 17 million is a big number, after all. And it’s growing.