After Hillary Clinton called out the Alt-Right and established that the fringe political sect was inexplicably linked to a decade old meme called “Pepe”, the Daily Beast’s Olivia Nuzzi did an article with two individuals who claimed to have helped establish Pepe the Frog as a white supremacist representing Donald Trump and the Alt-Right. The only thing is… everything the duo told Nuzzi turned out to be a lie.
Nuzzi printed the article back on May 26th, 2016 on The Daily Beast. Jared T. Swift and Paul Town, two anonymous individuals who claimed to be white nationalists, fed Nuzzi a story about how they “seeded” Pepe into mainstream through mimetic distribution on chan boards. The idea was to get the wider public, the normies, to see a decade old meme as a white supremacist and a representation of Donald J. Trump.
Nuzzi writes from the perspective of someone conveying claims from anonymous individuals, but seems to keep the article straight-laced, as if what they’re saying is true even though the only thing she had to go on was their word. They mentioned meeting up with a group of other white nationalists in New York to discuss the importance of Pepe over drinks and that there was around 30 of them from an /r9k/ chan board. Jared T. Swift fed Nuzzi the line that he was a 19-year-old in school living somewhere along the West Coast.
According to a report by The Daily Caller… none of what the duo told Nuzzi was true.
How do we know it’s not true? Because the duo came forward to explain how they set it all up as an ultimate troll. Feeding Nuzzi lies, some getting more and more ridiculous, to see just how much of it would go to print on the national – no, scratch that – global stage.
According to Paul Town and Jared T. Swift (their online pseudonyms), there is no actual organized effort to “reclaim” Pepe for white nationalism. Town told the Daily Caller…
“There was no ‘plot’ to take a cartoon frog and make it a symbol of white supremacy,” […] “That’s absurd on the face of it.”
Swift followed up on Town’s comments, explaining that they were feeding Nuzzi a bucket of lies to see how far they could push the troll. It was all an attempt to see how much of a fool they could make out of a recognized journalist. Swift explained to the Daily Caller…
“Basically, I interspersed various nuggets of truth and exaggerated a lot of things, and sometimes outright lied — in the interest of making a journalist believe that online Trump supporters are largely a group of meme-jihadis who use a cartoon frog to push Nazi propaganda. Because this was funny to me,”
Swift’s most ridiculous quote – he explains to The Daily Caller – is the one that takes on an existential vibe of philosophical nonsense. According to Swift, he didn’t actually think the quote would make it to publication, but lo and behold, Nuzzi quoted Swift’s over-the-top reason as to why the white nationalists are trying to take control of Pepe. Nuzzi’s Daily Beast piece quotes Swift as saying…
“Most memes are ephemeral by nature, but Pepe is not,” @JaredTSwift told me. “He’s a reflection of our souls, to most of us. It’s disgusting to see people (‘normies,’ if you will) use him so trivially. He belongs to us. And we’ll make him toxic if we have to.”
According to The Daily Caller, Paul Town didn’t intend to push the limits like his fellow cohort in trolling, but instead fed Nuzzi just enough of a lie that sounded like an easy-to-quote truth.
At present, there has been no modifications to the original piece by Nuzzi on The Daily Beast. I even reached out to Nuzzi in an attempt to ask if there would be updates or corrections, but Nuzzi has not responded.
She did, however, respond to a piece by Jesse Singal, who did a piece over on New York Magazine, calling it a “good piece” [via KiA].
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) September 16, 2016
Ironically, the piece breaks down how Nuzzi was duped into writing an article based on lies. Of course, the only sliver of hope that Nuzzi has in retaining some ounce of credibility is that even The Daily Caller noted that both Paul Town and Jared T. Swift could have been trolling them and running a long con. Trolling ’till they die.
The only real truth of the matter is that journalists are so quick to push out a story that fact checking and verification are thrown out the window. Nuzzi never asked Paul Town about meeting any of the 30 people who had the meet-up over Pepe’s appropriation? Nuzzi never asked to see the actual boards or archives to document if any of what they were saying was true? Nuzzi never questioned Swift about his parents, what they thought about the whole thing? Was he even voting? What are the issues that Trump holds in which the nationalists stand so fervently behind Pepe in representing? Did they even say?
The piece on The Daily Beast has little to do with the actual election, nothing to do with actual issues facing the country, and doesn’t even discuss what exactly makes Pepe a good nationalist icon. Instead, the article appears to have everything to do with misdirection and propaganda.
While people can rag on #GamerGate all they want about many of the lies being pushed by outlets like The Daily Beast — which previously claimed that #GamerGate was a harassment campaign (for which no evidence has surfaced over the past two years indicating it as such) — the core tenets of the movement relating to poor journalistic standards have echoed louder during this current election than anytime during the height of #GamerGate’s efforts.