Like every house party, Thursday afternoon’s shindig at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is only as good as the guest list.
The White House notably decided not to invite the major social media companies to its supposed social media summit. It instead beckoned an all-star lineup of right-wing provocateurs, fake news peddlers, pro-Trump lawmakers, political meme artists, and anti-anti-Trump contrarians.
The agenda: Discuss how the digital world is somehow silencing their extremely loud digital voices.
Trump and his media allies dominate large swaths of the social web. Right-leaning voices have mastered the type of outrageous content that juices all-important engagement metrics on Facebook and YouTube, in turn getting boosted by those platforms’ algorithms. Republican campaigns, meanwhile, pour money into digital advertising at a far faster clip than their Democratic counterparts. Trump himself conducts it all with his all-powerful Twitter feed.
Thursday’s event will legitimize the right’s grievance campaign against Silicon Valley like never before, putting yet more pressure on tech companies that try to avoid charges of political bias at all costs. The known guests comprise a who’s who of a Trump-friendly internet that’s likely to grow even stronger in the months ahead. Here are some of them:
O’Keefe leads Project Veritas, an outfit that publishes undercover sting videos intended to embarrass liberals and mainstream media. O’Keefe made a splash in 2009 by dressing up as a cartoonish pimp and selectively editing a subsequent report about the nonprofit community group ACORN; backlash pushed various public and private institutions to cut off funding to the organization. More recently, The Washington Post turned the tables on the group’s effort to embarass the newspaper by planting a fake rape story about then-Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. No word on whether the Pulitzer Committee took note.
Donktum has quickly established himself as the president’s favorite memesmith, and has been rewarded with not one but two invitations to the White House. Only a week ago, Donktum and his family visited Trump in the Oval Office at the president’s request. The invitation came not long after Donktum won a retweet from the president after publishing a doctored version of a 2018 Time Magazine animation.
Donktum has also taken up the plight of far-right and right-wing figures — like Laura Loomer, Milo Yiannopolous, and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes — who claim they were wrongfully suspended from Twitter.
Ali Alexander, who also goes by “Akbar,” is a MAGA-world social media personality who has had his own share of troubles when it comes to getting banned from mainstream platforms. For example, he was suspended from Twitter earlier this year after he seemingly urged followers to purchase bitcoin, ammo, and guns, ahead of an imagined impending civil war. Alexander, who is black, recently launched a birtherism-style attack on Democratic candidate Kamala Harris.
“Kamala Harris is implying she is descended from American Black Slaves,” Alexander wrote on Twitter, to his 95,000-strong follower base. “She’s not. She comes from Jamaican Slave Owners. That’s fine. She’s not an American Black.” The president’s eldest son, Don Jr, hopped on the bandwagon, retweeting Alexander’s post with the comment: “Is this true? Wow.”
He’s the guy behind the Trumpian blog Gateway Pundit. In between trafficking hoaxes such as Hillary Clinton having a serious gum disease or that E. Jean Carroll cribbed her Trump rape allegation from Law & Order, Hoft made an appearance in the White House Briefing Room. He also helped pro-Trump pranksters Jacob Wohl and Lucian Wintrich cut their teeth in MAGA media.
Pool is a bit of an outlier. The YouTuber — identifiable by his trademark beanie — made a name for himself through live streaming the 2011 Occupy Wall Street protests. After stints at media companies including Fusion and VICE News, Pool now runs an independent channel with half a million subscribers popular with the political fringes. While Pool says he supports progressive causes and policies, he spends much of his energy bashing perceived excesses of the left. He’s also used his platform to promote baseless right-wing rumors, like Antifa targeting its opponents with milkshakes mixed with quick-dry cement.
The internet personality has been followed by accusations of plagiarism and ethical lapses throughout his transformation from BuzzFeed virality whiz to Independent Journal Review frontman to Daily Caller reporter to all-out Trump stan. Now, he works for conservative youth organization Turning Point USA. He promised in a recent Instagram post to bring “dank memes” to the White House.
Although Facebook and Google were snubbed from Thursday’s event, the relatively obscure platform “Minds” wrangled an invite. Minds describes itself as an “anti-Facebook” and “crypto social network,” and rewards contributors in bitcoin.
The company was recently reported to be providing a safe harbor and facilitating payments to violent neo-Nazi groups such as Atomwaffen, which has been linked to several murders in the U.S., and Feuerkrieg Division, which has made death threats against tech CEOs and politicians.
Minds ultimately banned Atomwaffen and Feuerkrieg Division for “terrorist activity” and “inciting violence.” Other white supremacist and white nationalist accounts remain on Minds.
A conservative radio host and conspiracy theorist, Mitchell became famous for predicting that Trump would win the 2016 election. Since then, he’s built a loyal following via his radio show “Your Voice America,” dedicated to extolling the virtues of the Trump presidency. Mitchell is so enamored with the president that he’s even embraced and promoted the bizarro pro-Trump conspiracy movement QAnon.
“What Q is trying to do is motivate and encourage the base by — what is their hashtag? ‘Trust the plan,'” Mitchell said on his show in April. “What’s the alternative to that? Question and doubt everything Donald Trump does?”
Michael J. Morrison
Social media personality Morrison was recently suspended from Twitter along with his extremely popular account parodying Congresswoman Alexandra Ocascio-Cortez because the content was too “substantially similar” to her real account.
Once again, Trump’s eldest son rushed to Morrison’s defense. “Why did @Twitter suspend a parody account that was is full compliance with their rules,” Don Jr asked. “Could it possibly be because the account was mocking the lefts new icon AOC? What's the deal here @jack? Because it sure looks like political bias.”
Morrison posted on the messaging app Telegram on Thursday morning, saying he got pulled over for speeding earlier in the day. “The officer asked me where I was heading so I told him the White House,” Morrison wrote. “He asked why so I told him I was suspended from twitter for being an outspoken supporter of the President and there’s a SM [Social Media] summit today. He gave me a courtesy and told me to slow down I should tell the President that NJ troopers support him.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.
Among the thirstiest pro-Trump lawmakers, Gaetz has at times praised Infowars, castigated the “deep state,” and introduced a resolution to force former Special Counsel Robert Mueller to resign. Choose your own adventure.
Cover: NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - APRIL 1993: Window display of troll dolls. (Photo by Joe Schilling/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)