Joe Bernstein’s Buzzfeed scoop revealing the inner workings of Breitbart News—including a video showing white nationalist Richard Spencer giving a Nazi salute during Milo Yiannopolous' karaoke rendition of "America The Beautiful"—solidifies the far-right outlet’s reputation as a platform for the white nationalist “alt-right.”
The article, titled, “Alt-White: How the Breitbart Machine Laundered Racist Hate,” focuses on Breitbart’s former tech editor Yiannopoulos, and concretely demonstrates how the once rising conservative star intentionally smuggled explicitly racist ideology to Breitbart’s substantial base, with the entire operation backed by the billionaire Mercer family.
In April of 2016, the SPLC documented Breitbart’s embrace of extremist ideas and racist tropes such as black-on-white crime and anti-Muslim conspiracy theories. Further analyses showed how under executive chair Stephen Bannon, Breitbart’s comment section became a safe space for anti-Semitic language while its news coverage served as The New York Times for neo-Nazis.
Through an analysis of leaked emails, the Buzzfeed piece explores the compartmentalized and toxic ecosystem at Breitbart News that allowed for its meteoric rise to the premier outlet for the far-right.
Some of the most interesting revelations contained in the article are listed below:
Yiannopoulos played a critical role in bringing the term alt-right from the white nationalist fringe into the mainstream conversation with his primer, “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right.” Buzzfeed’s exposé details collusion between Yiannopoulos and extremist figures ranging from the neo-nazi, hacker Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, neo-reactionary Curtis Yarvin, and white nationalist Devin Saucier — the latter even providing line edits to articles.
Saucier works for American Renaissance, a website run by Jared Taylor, one of the most important white nationalist ideologues of the past quarter century. Taylor in turn mentored Richard Spencer, a close friend of Saucier’s. The emails reveal how Milo relied on Saucier for editorial direction and even trusted him enough to spike stories at the suggestion of his white nationalist friend. Saucier has been active in the white nationalist scene since he was a college student when he founded a chapter of Youth for Western Civilization while a student at Vanderbilt University in 2008.
Bernstein’s article also demonstrates, as critics have long argued, that the alt-right primer deliberately and deceptively whitewashes the racist core of the movement. Breitbart’s editor-in-chief, Alex Marlow, personally instructed Yiannopoulos and the primer’s ghost writer, Allum Bokhari, to obscure connections to publications like Taki’s Magazine and VDare, both of which he refers to as racist.
Steve Bannon also read a draft and remarked, “I do appreciate any piece that mentions [Julius] Evola.”
Evola was a proponent of fascist ideas and remains a darling of modern day racists, particularly those on the alt-right.
Emails referenced in the Buzzfeed article also reveal the role that Bannon had in shaping Milo’s persona as a calculating provocateur and firebrand, a relationship that the SPLC has written about in the past.
On December 8, The New York Times published a major story about the radicalization of American Muslims on Facebook. Yiannopoulos published a story called “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.”
That afternoon, Bannon emailed Yiannopoulos and Marlow.
“Dude — we r in a global existentialist war where our enemy EXISTS in social media and u r jerking yourself off w/ marginalia!!!! U should be OWNING this conversation because u r everything they hate!!! Drop your toys, pick up your tools and go help save western civilization.”
In a February email exchange before Yiannopoulos appeared on Greg Gutfeld’s Sunday Fox News show, Bannon wrote, “Gutfeld should become an object lesson for u. Brilliant cultural commentator who really got pop culture, the hipster scene and advant [sic] garde … .got on fox and tried to become a political pundit ... lost all credibility … You r one of the potential heirs to his cultural leadership so act according.” Bannon was grooming the younger man for something greater.”
Bannon’s appetite for stories demonizing Islam is also documented in quoted emails. In one, Bannon described mosques as “factories of hate.”
When Milo told Bannon about a plan to hold a press conference outside the mosque that the Pulse nightclub shooter attended, Bannon responded, “Brilliant.”
Breitbart remains a major clearinghouse of anti-Muslim rhetoric and personalities. Pamela Geller, Frank Gaffney, Robert Spencer and others have all published columns there, while its news writers have provided cover for anti-Muslim hate groups like ACT For America.
Emails revealed that Milo’s friend Ann Coulter was part of an email group that was “devoted to mocking stories about the social justice internet.” Coulter isn’t shy about cozying up to white nationalists. She attended the racist website VDARE’s Christmas party in December of 2016, and a few months earlier attended the Writers’ Workshop put on by the white nationalist Social Contract Press, an outlet that published an English translation of Camp of the Saints, a racist novel Bannon and white nationalists like Jared Taylor hold in high regard. Breitbart published an article likening Pope Francis’ vision for accepting refugees from the war-torn Middle East to the racist novel. That article was written by another Bannon protégé Julia Hahn, who is still in the White House.
Yiannopoulos used his college tours, most recently his “Dangerous Faggot Tour,” to farm new, young talent that he referred to as, “trufflehounds” for Breitbart.
Yiannopoulos tended to draw in ideologically sympathetic young men at conferences, campus speeches, and on social media, accumulating more and more acolytes as he went along.
In June 2015, it was Ben Kew, who invited Yiannopoulos to speak at the University of Bristol, where he was a student; he’s now a staff writer for Breitbart. In September 2015 it was Tom Ciccotta, the treasurer of the class of 2017 at Bucknell University, who still writes for Breitbart. In February 2016, it was Hunter Swogger, a University of Michigan student and then the editor of the conservative Michigan Review, whom Yiannopoulos cultivated and brought on as a social media specialist during his Dangerous Faggot tour. Yiannopoulos called these young researchers his “trufflehounds.”
The article ultimately confirms what’s been common knowledge for more than a year now: Breitbart News is exceptionally toxic. It’s a spin machine that produces hate and fear. When Bannon spoke to Mother Jones before taking over the Trump campaign last August he said Breitbart was “the platform for the alt-right.” He was telling the truth.