How COVID and Syria Conspiracy Theories Introduce Fascism to the Left. Part 2: The Red-Brown Media Spectrum

This part of the series describes what is truly the heart of red-brownism; a seemingly chaotic, and even contradictory populist blend of (ultra-)nationalists with mixed or unclear left/right political alignments. This is where you find things that just boggle and shock the brain but nonetheless, as we will see, are, for some actors, part of a coherent strategy of disruption against liberal democracy from both the far-right and the hard-left. The ultimate goal of many of these actors is a patchwork of autocratic and often ethno-nationalist traditionalist states with hard borders, locked in multipolar warfare ad infinitum. Pure fascists and white nationalists find this vision useful as it creates spaces for them to carve out their own ultra-violent dreams. The opposition to this horror is not unipolar, liberal imperialism, but rather complex and adaptive networks of anti-fascist and anti-imperialist internationalist solidarity.

Veterans Today

This is one of the wildest stories of this series. This chaotic, conspiratorial-prone media outlet targets US veterans. Which is strange because they admit quite openly to working “regularly” with Syrian, Russian, and Iranian intelligence and military officials and are a featured “friend” organization to the Holocaust denialist “spy-front” New Horizon conference in Iran (more on this later). Supposedly, they negotiated a hostage release with Russian military police in Syria. Senior Editor Gordan Duff wrote an article that claimed he was contacted by Syrian and Russian intelligence agencies to encourage him to write called, “The Luciferian-Deep State roots of Erdogan’s Holocaust in Idlib, What you will never be told”. When I asked in an email about his connections to intelligence agencies, both foreign and domestic, he replied:

I talk to the Russians and Syrians daily…often several times a day.

 More often than not, they question me.

 The Luciferian piece is an important one. I spent 20 minutes throwing it together…and there is reason for this.

 We aren’t selling this information…which does describe what is now called the deep state.”

 I asked if he was afraid the US deep state would come for him next and he simply replied, “I have worked within the intel community for 40 years. This is my day job.” While it’s unclear to what extent he has a clear understanding of reality, his presence in red-brown spy-front conferences like New Horizon suggests some merit to his claims. Their editorial board reveals similarly sprawling intelligence affiliated people like former Soviet psychological warfare agents, Minister of Justice, Bureau Chief, and Grand Mufti of Syria, and a CIA affiliate. These come alongside Holocaust denialists like Kevin Barret and red-brown and fascist Larouchite antisemites like William Engdhal. All of this yet they proudly fly the “free and independent media” banner alongside their byline of “serving the clandestine community since 2004.” It seems at least plausible that the website is a chaotic attempt at grooming intelligence assets from the west.

These connections are made more disturbing in that they control Success Spear LLC through which they run several projects and apps including one quite large website that helps link veterans with jobs, while conveniently advertising their strange media network.

As if written by an author that had completely jumped the shark, one of their co-founders, Mike Harris, was involved with the National Socialist Movement and is even in a photo with the infamous J.T. Ready who killed himself and his wife after attempting to run terror campaigns against migrants including the use of landmines. They advertise Iranian state-run and antisemitic Press TV while trying to cultivate pro-China anti-imperialist audiences. Though criticism of Israel is not inherently antisemitic as the ADL and others often conflate, their and the SPLC’s research on the particular ways in which anti-Israel narratives are used by these sites show that it goes much farther than legitimate critique and into hardcore antisemitic conspiracy theories. Veterans Today even posted one article entitled “Free David Duke”, which said that the former grand wizard of the KKK had been ‘kidnapped’ by the German government. Kevin Barret proudly identified with ADL’s designation of him as an antisemite alongside Gordon Duff in this VT article.

Their content is of course deeply syncretic. Flipping from “satanic alien illuminati” content and antisemitic conspiracy theories to supposedly negotiating a hostage release in Syria, they truly keep readers on their toes. After the recent tragic explosion in Beirut, they immediately jumped to spread propaganda that it was an Israeli nuke, but then, in a classic red-brown chaos information warfare, rapidly switched from “evil Trump protects Israel” to nuke Beirut and noble Trump resists the somehow Israeli Daily Beast in spreading the secret truth of Israeli attacks. They flip randomly either as part of a calculated disruption strategy or as a simple chaos approach to clickbait crowd engagement. As chaotic as they are, some positions are clear. VT has a relationship with supposedly leftist and anti-imperialist identified websites like MintPress News where both one and the other syndicate each other’s content.

They are deeply pro-Assad, and lambast claims of chemical weapons usage by organizations like the OPCW. It goes almost without saying they claim the US army created COVID-19 as a bio-weapon in the University of North Carolina. They feed conspiracy theories to veterans likely as part of a strategy turning disgruntled and traumatized veterans with extensive weapons training against their government along antisemitic and pro-Russian lines. Implications of such propaganda vectors can be quite dramatic as well. Veterans Today did an extensive profile on a man claiming to be an ex-Navy Seal and intelligence agent who is now running a tactical training outfit and who has since has been identified from multiple sources as the person who threw IEDs at protestors in Portland while wearing night-vision goggles and full camo. He is now under investigation by the FBI for these incidents. Of course the man Veterans Today did a profile on who seemingly eventually was involved in a massive crime against civillians, like so much of their shtick, also shared literal Nazi propaganda on his Facebook.

21st Century Wire

The founder of 21st Century Wire, Patrick Henningsen, got his start on the right-wing conspiratorial outlet InfoWars, a fascistic, holocaust denialist publishing website globalresearch.ca (where he’s extremely prolific), and also moonlighted on a podcast focusing on hard-hitting issues like Bigfoot. His career hasn’t really changed much since then except he founded 21CW and has written for other outlets such as RT. He also goes on antisemitic podcasts (ironically titled “No Lies”) with Veterans Today and a holocaust denialist, Kevin Barret from Russia Insider. In her pioneering work on information warfare, Kate Starbird’s lab at the University of Washington found 21CW in the center of conspiracy theories ranging from anti-vaccination content to “alternative” narratives about mass shootings. She looked specifically at the way phrases like “alternative media” and “free thought” were used to propagate dangerously untrue content. As the great tragedy of death continues to unravel around us Patrick calls COVID-19 a farce and rabidly opposes social-distancing measures. Of course this is the same person who tried to make fun of BIll Gates for suggesting a lockdown but instead revealed a concerning lack of understanding of compound interest. The 21CW also featured most frequently in the r/conspiracy subreddit as found using the SMAT app.

 

Duginist Website ecosystem

Aleksandr Dugin is a Russian political advisor and a former advisor to Putin who was very well regarded by high level Russian military officials as evidenced in instances like Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia Gerasimav’s analysis of hybrid warfare and how they were applied in Ukraine. He is also highly regarded by figures close to the Trump regime such as Steve Bannon. He operates or inspires a wide range of think tanks and blogs promoting variations of his ‘post’-fascist “4th Political Theory” or 4PT. The catch phrase is “Beyond the left and right but against the center” exemplifying its inherent illiberal third-positionism. Despite identifying as having transcended fascism, he has a long history of promoting or being directly involved with explicit fascists and white nationalists and then promoting them as part of his vision for how a transition to a multipolar world should occur. Not surprisingly, he cites the origin of esoteric-Hitlerism and self-identified ‘super-fascist’, Julius Evola, and French ethno-nationalist of “Nouvelle Droit (predecessor for the alt-right)” fame, Alain de Benoist, as inspirations in this journey in his lectures to Chinese politicians. It’s easy to get lost in the webs of his fascist entryism and connections to various hard-left and far-right parties and individuals across the globe but this has been covered extensively by others. What is more interesting here is how individuals from within his networks spread their ideology into other domains. Some of the most obvious examples within this sub-ecosystem are Katehon, SouthFront, the Center for Syncretic Studies, New Eastern Outlook, The Duran, Oriental Review, 4pt.su, Eurasianist Archive,  Geopolitica, Fort Russ, News Front, Strategic Culture Foundation, Voltaire Network, among others. Of course Dugin and his 4PT has been featured across the fascist right from Arktos to meeting with and making videos on conservative nationalism with alt-light figures like Lauren Southern and Brittany Sellner, the US LaRouche network, as well as many other connections to the broader alt-right and fascism.

It’s beyond the scope of this piece to examine the particularities of each of their pro-Kremlin conspiratorial positions but I will provide a few examples to give a general sense of the landscape. Fort Russ includes the headline which speaks for itself, “Robert F Kennedy Jr. Exposes Bill Gates’ Vaccine Dictatorship Plan – cites Gates’s twisted ‘Messiah Complex’ and also, “Revealed: Is the Coronavirus Scare a Psychological Operation?”. The geopolitical value to the Kremlin or any other state actor to further COVID-19 outbreaks in their enemies countries is as obvious as it is short-sighted. This prerogative can nonetheless be seen reflected in articles by outlets like Fort Russ cheering on massive protests in Germany against government efforts to restrict the COVID-19 pandemic[1]. The very ‘serious’ and Kremlin intelligence connected think-tank Katehon went as far as to say that 5G could have caused coronavirus and of-course followed the Kremlin line that it was somehow a US bio-weapon. Though websites within this network may have contradictory views on other topics, they all take the pro-Assad Kremlin positions related to Syria especially with regard to things like undermining OPCW reporting on chemical weapons usage. The Duran has a whole tag devoted to OPCW-related propaganda claiming many contradictory things such as that there was no attack or that there was an attack but it wasn’t the regime it was by “Western-backed Jihadis”, or that it was all a false flag. Like most of these sites, the details don’t need to line up as long as there is an all-out information warfare front on the possibility of Assad committing war crimes. Another common theme is the use of neoconservative ‘war on terror’ language and support for state repression around non-western states but within alt-imperialist frameworks.

Though your average western reader may not be surfing these sites, they act as pedestals to surface narratives which are then fed to the broader Russian state media ecosystem such as Sputnik and RT which are widely shared despite heavy cultivation of conspiracies as part of a concerted strategy. Indeed, outlets like RT and Sputnik are themselves part of the Kremlin’s foreign media operations (similar in some ways USAGM) and so should be considered broadly red-brown and even somewhat Duginist in their approach to information warfare. Then Western journalists are fed the stories and invited to galas and conferences to exchange on the topics ultimately feeding the narratives back towards right-leaning figures like Tucker Carlson and Anne Coulter but also towards left leaning outlets such as The Grayzone or MintPress News through people like Max Blumenthal, Caleb Maupin, and Pepe Escobar, who are regular attendees at their conferences and authors on related sites.

New Horizon Conference

New Horizon is an annual conference put on by “The International Institute of Independent Thinkers and Artists (New Horizon)” usually in Iran but took place in Beirut last year. Others have covered in-depth just how bizarre the confluence of speakers at this and other events by the same organization are but suffice to say a mixture of left identified figures like Caleb Maupin, Ajamu Baraka, Cynthia McKinney, and Madea Benjamin can be found alongside explicit Holocaust denialists such as (but not limited to) Kevin Barrett and former Klan leader David Duke. Cynthia McKinney was the first Black congresswoman in Georgia, is a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, and has been seen on Twitter seemingly engaging in Holocaust revisionism and antisemitic conspiracy theories more broadly. Additionally she wrote support for Maram Susli by comparing Black Lives Matter to a CIA color revolution against the United States itself. This idea seemingly simmered out from LaRouchite Engdahl’s article “America’s Own Color Revolution” who was himself also an attendee at the New Horizon-affiliated Hollywoodism International Conference. He was a keynote speaker alongside Cynthia McKinney, former senator Mike Gravel, and a range of fascists and holocaust denialists such as Mark Weber of the Institute for Historical Review (a Holocaust denial organisation)[2]. The keynote speakers list here will show you a PowerPoint with not just Engdahl, Weber, Gravel, and McKinney, but also other prominent figures in this network like Kevin Barret, Ken O’Keefe, Theirry Meyssan, Merlin MIller of the American third-position party, and Mark Dankof of Russia Insider and friend of David Duke.

This New Horizon has since been sanctioned by the US government as a spy-front, yet details on this are shady. Last year had the normal red-brown smattering of Dugin himself and other Duginists like Leonid Savin of Katehon and Geopolitica. Then it had “tankies” like Tobias Pfenning who “unfailingly supported Bashar al-Assad, Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov, Kim Jong-un, and Putin because they were anti-imperialist”, but also seemed to be extremely friendly with multiple countries’ intelligence agencies while volunteering for the Russian invasion of Crimea. Another speaker was Mannuel Ochsenreiter, who they simply described as a “German far-right editor” but who is in fact an AfD organizer accused of ordering a false-flag arson attack against a Hungarian cultural center to discredit Ukranian nationalists.

Since they have not had another event since the COVID pandemic we can’t say for sure what stance they’d take on it but we can look at the ways some of their participants have been reacting to COVID-19. Most notably, some “Friends of New Horizon” are Veterans Today and 21st Century Wire who are full-blown COVID-19 conspiracy theorists. These alongside more pure red-brown Duginist sites like Geopolitica and the Voltaire Network that also frequently engage in COVID-19 and other conspiracy theories. New Horizons and their messages are able to spread out through the left through a range of strategies. Voltaire Network was itself a partner to the left-aligned Global Research website to be discussed in part 3 of the present series.

Conclusion

Part 2 of the series built upon the framework laid out in part 1 and dove into the bizarre world of pure red-brownism showing the ways in which they operate in coordination with not just blogs, but also larger media outlets, businesses, and conferences. Part 3 will outline the critical implications of this network to building a more grounded internationalist left.

This grayzone between the populist far-right and hard-left churns out a degree of mis- and disinformation that is impossible to systematically counter. It is an agile network that effectively syndicates wholly or partially fabricated conspiracy theories and geopolitically advantageous weaponized information into mainstream awareness. The ways in which they are fringe, should be analyzed only alongside their disproportionate impact on the global information ecosystem through asymmetric hybrid warfare. They are an effective chaos front with goals that are devastating to the extent they are implemented. Resisting the false promises of their approach will help ensure that our movements for justice are grounded in reality and the lived-experiences of those facing down multiple threats at once, from both the west and regional authoritarian figures.

Note: If the original of a source has been cited, but has since been deleted please check archive.today or archive.org where we have archived them all. If the archive is linked and it doesnt include video content, double check if the original link is still live. Also, this article was contributed to by a huge number of researchers, many of whom are anonymous because of systematic efforts by this network to slander, harass, threaten, bully, and silence them. A special thanks to David Klaus who did a lot of research for this and also even wrote some parts of it. Without all of their contributions this work would not have been possible. When reviewing citations in this article please use discretion about the quality of each source rather than assuming they are all of equally vouched for quality and independence as this type of research requires trawling the fringes and sussing out state-influenced materials.

[1] This article was written by Joaquin Flores who has been affiliated with various Duginist skinhead movements such as the New Resistance Movement.

[2]

Emmi Bevensee is a Doctoral Fellow at CARR and a Mozilla Open Web Fellow, Founder of the Social Media Analysis Toolkit (SMAT) and Rebellious Data LLC See full profile here.

© Emmi Bevensee. Views expressed on this website are individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). We are pleased to share previously unpublished materials with the community under creative commons license 4.0 (Attribution-NoDerivatives).