New Analysis Shows Supporters of Family Research Council Embrace White Supremacy and Neo-Nazism

Sharona Coutts, Rewire, October 17, 2017

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A social media network analysis performed by Rewire shows the Family Research Council’s messages are resonating with other factions of the far right that explicitly endorse and advocate white supremacist views.

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The FRC vehemently rejects the notion that it’s a hate group, as Rewire has previously reported. It is currently spearheading a campaign of around 50 far-right groups to discredit the SPLC, complaining that the label is defamatory and unfair.

A social media network analysis performed by Rewire, however, shows the FRC’s messages are resonating with other factions of the far right that explicitly endorse and advocate extremist views on white supremacy, women’s rights, and even espouse neo-Nazi views.

Our analysis examined more than half a million Twitter accounts that followed a selection of six leaders of the far right. Those leaders included Perkins, Gavin McInnes, Michael Cernovich, Richard Spencer, and Jared Taylor. We also included the account for Return of Kings, a site started by the notorious misogynist and rape apologist Daryush Valizadeh, who is also known as Roosh V.

McInnes and Cernovich belong to a faction of the far right known as the “alt-lite,” which claims to reject outright racism and anti-Semitism, but whose ideas are based on a notion of U.S. culture that experts in extremism have said is rooted in white supremacy.

Spencer and Taylor are unabashed white nationalists. Spencer is the poster child for the so-called alt-right, and was a key organizer of neo-Nazi protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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Our numbers must also be viewed with regard to the anonymity of Twitter, and the presence of automated accounts known as “bots.” While there is no universally accepted or definitive way to identify bots, experts we consulted agreed that there are several patterns that suggest that an algorithm, not a human, is behind an account. For more on how we performed this analysis, please read our methodology.

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Opposition to Abortion Unites the Religious Right and White Supremacists

In some respects, it should not be surprising that people who find the messages of the FRC and Perkins appealing are also enthusiastic about white supremacist hate speech.

Prominent members of far-right and white supremacist groups vigorously oppose reproductive rights, especially for women.

Gavin McInnes, whose audience across social media and his new online video program numbers in the hundreds of thousands, calls abortion “murder,” and has repeated the false claim that third-trimester abortions are “all over the country.”

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Michael Cernovich, another leader of the alt-lite, has an even larger audience. He now has 354,000 Twitter followers, and his reach was dramatically expanded earlier this year when he became a host on Infowars, the radio and online video show made infamous by its creator, the right-wing conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones. There are no reliable figures on the size of Jones’ audience, but he has claimed that he has around 5 million daily listeners.

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The far-right’s fixation on the family could be one source of the overlap between their followers, and those who follow the Family Research Council, according to Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“The imagery, and the vision of America that the FRC supports, is the same kind of vision that Gavin McInnes or Richard Spencer would want to see—a white nuclear family,” she said. “The whole thing about the white family unit, white women, white children—you can see the mutual attraction.”

More than 18 percent of the roughly 30,000 accounts that follow Perkins also follow one of the far-right or white supremacist accounts that we analyzed. Fifteen percent of Perkins’ followers also follow Cernovich. More than 6.5 percent also followed McInnes, nearly 2.5 percent also follow Richard Spencer, and around 1.5 percent also follow Jared Taylor.

Rewire reviewed the content shared by hundreds of the accounts that followed Perkins and at least one of these other leaders of the far right. Rewire is choosing not to link to these accounts due to the nature of the material they contain. Rewire attempted to contact scores of these accounts, but we were unable to interview any of the individuals or groups behind them. In some cases, the frequency and nature of the posts heavily suggested that the accounts were generated by bots, according to criteria used by experts—for example, they tweeted hundreds of times per day, or only tweeted very simplistic memes about one subject. We also found accounts belonging to researchers or journalists, whose interest in the material shared by these far-right leaders could have been for professional reasons.

However, the majority of these accounts appeared to be run by human beings, who frequently tweeted, retweeted, commented, and otherwise reacted to the materials {snip}

Many posts also had political messages. Often, they echoed the themes of ads that were reportedly generated by Russian operatives as part of the campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. election. In particular, these ads mocked, demeaned, or suggested nefarious intentions behind people working in Congress, the judiciary, and the two-party system.

And there were hundreds of posts supporting President Trump, glorying in the physical appearance of the First Lady, and mocking the record and appearance of President and First Lady Obama.

Told of the nature of these posts, Beirich said it further supported the conclusion that white supremacy undergirds the Trump coalition.

“The Trump administration is asserting white supremacy in so many ways, whether in its anti-immigrant policies, its Muslim ban, its dismantling of sexual minority rights, or all minority rights through voting rights,” she said. “The Christian conservatives are probably the strongest bloc standing behind the Trump administration, and of course, Trump is the savior of the alt-right.”

She pointed out that while Tony Perkins and the FRC have tried to present themselves as focused on “family values,” they have also staked out many other positions that both implicitly and explicitly endorse white supremacist views.

“Our focus with the FRC has been on anti-LGBT demonization and propaganda,” she said. “Although we don’t characterize them this way, they would also fit under the anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant categories of hate group.”

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“The overt positions that the FRC has taken are the same as white supremacist groups,” said Beirich. “Anti-Latino, anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT, and anti-woman. These are the bedrocks of white supremacy in the United States.”

Indeed, the lineup at this year’s Values Voter Summit went beyond the usual list of anti-choice heroes: It also included leaders of the far right.

Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, who both worked at Breitbart News before joining Trump’s White House team, addressed the crowd. Gorka resigned from the administration amid reports that he had concealed ties to neo-Nazi organizations. Bannon has recently returned to run Breitbart, which he has called his “war machine.”

The lineup also featured prominent anti-Muslim activists Brigitte Gabriel of ACT! For America, and Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy. And it included Al and Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty, public racists who have been regular speakers at the Values Voter Summit for the past several years.

The main attraction, however, was none other than the president, who addressed a crowd that increasingly shows the coalescence of the evangelical anti-choice movement with ardent white supremacists.

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