How Online Trolls Pushing for Regime Change in Syria Helped Popularize Trump’s Abusive Attack on the ‘Alt-Left’ – AlterNet

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President Donald Trump has attempted to establish a false equivalence between neo-Nazis and the anti-fascist, anti-racist leftists who were most recently seen resisting white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

To do so, Trump has branded the anti-fascists as the alt-left, repurposing a term that was first popularized not by Republicans or extreme right-wingers, but rather by liberals who loathe the left.

Liberal websites have pointed the finger at prominent centrist Democrats for mainstreaming the alt-left smear to blame leftists for helping to elect President Donald Trump. But back in July and August 2016, well before influential neoliberals like Neera Tanden and Eric Garland were leveling the term against Bernie Sanders supporters, alt-left was the slur du jour of a collection of online trolls that had banded together to advance regime change in Syria.

Members of this motley crew of interventionists used the term in systematic fashion to demonize the traditional anti-war left and anyone with leftist credentials who challenged U.S. State Department dogma on countries targeted for destabilization and overthrow, particularly Syria.

Louis Allday, a PhD researcher at SOAS London, has detailed how interventionists trolls attempted to ruthlessly enforce the narrative on the Syrian war through online abuse and McCarthyite tactics of denigration. One of the key smears they rolled out in the summer of 2016, as the Syrian war reached its climax, has been weaponized by Trump to delegitimize leftists.

In a stormy press conference August 16, Trump blamed what he called the “alt-left for provoking the violence that rocked Charlottesville during the Unite The Right right-wing march on the city on August 12. The rally ended with a white supremacist terror attack in which a neo-Nazi plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racist activists, killing demonstrator Heather Heyer and injuring 19 more.

To be sure, there is no alt-left; it does not exist and no one on the left has laid claim to it. Alt-right is a brand conceived by white nationalist activist Richard Spencer to market racial supremacism in the world of digital media.

Alt-left, on the other hand, is an insult that was popularized in mid-2016 partly by a coterie of pro-war or rather anti-anti-war figures who have fanatically clamored for regime change in Syria, Libya, Venezuela and beyond. All along, they have attempted to flaunt their own putative left-wing creds.

These anti-anti-imperialist trolls have for years lobbied for regime change in Syria, just as they did with Libya before that, and have maligned socialists, communists and anarchists who oppose U.S. and NATO military intervention as alt-left in a deceitful attempt to conflate them with their mortal enemy on the alt-right. When members of this angry band of trolls cant confront their targets directly, they have smeared them through a series of anonymous blogs and social media accounts, often with false allegations and personal attacks.

The following is an introduction to the collection of toxic Syria regime change trolls who helped popularize the term alt-left.

Michael Weiss:Weiss is an influential neoconservative pundit and CNN analyst and one of the most vociferous Western supporters of the Islamist extremist-dominated Syrian opposition. AlterNet’s Max Blumenthal has published a lengthy investigation of Michael Weiss long record as a neocon operative, which include hosting an anti-Muslim rally that attracted support from far-right Islamophobia industry leader Pamela Geller.

Charles Davis:A former right-wing libertarian turned anti-anti-imperialist who frequently writes articles and delivers grainy video rants condemning the anti-war left. He now works for ATTN, an online media startup that boasts arch-racist and Islamophobic HBO host Bill Maher as one of its top investors.

Murtaza Hussain:A reporter at The Intercept who has long attacked anti-war journalists and consistently denied and downplayed U.S.-backed Gulf regimes support for extremist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. Hussain lobbed softball interviews at the spokesman of Syrias al-Qaeda affiliateand wrote a puff piece on Bilal Abdul Kareem, a top al-Qaeda propagandist in Syria whose services were similarly employed by CNN. Hussain used the term alt-left multiple times to disparage the anti-imperialist left before deleting all 40,000 of his tweets in Decembera bizarre move for an employee of a publication supposedly dedicated to transparency.

Danny Gold:A former VICE reporter who has constantly attacked anti-war leftists. In Syria in 2013, Gold was embedded with the CIA-backed Free Syrian Army.

Oz Katerji: An obsessively pro-war troll who openly supports regime change in Syria, as he did in Libya before that. Katerji has worked for Turkish state media. His attacks on the alt-left represent some of the earliest to systematically appear in social media.

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad:A fanatical regime change troll who has viciously maligned and lied about anti-war journalists, Idrees Ahmad defended the Trump administrations bombing of Syrias Shayrat airbase in April. Before that, Idrees Ahmad was one of the leading cheerleaders for NATO-led regime change in Libya, which destroyed the oil-rich North African country and plunged it into chaos. A contributing editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Ahmad phoned AlterNet senior editor Max Blumenthal to threatenhim aboutthe planned publication of a two-part expos of the Syrian rebel-tied White Helmets organization.

Shawn Carri: A pro-opposition American journalist who, like Oz Katerji, has worked for Turkish state media. He began consistently using the smear in August 2016.

Pham Binh:A left-wing pro-war troll who has impersonated multiple people, including Syrian opposition figure George Sabra and, more recently under the name @_alhamra, an alleged female Palestinian Syrian sniper who supposedly uses the name Guevara.

Cody Roche:An avowed Trotskyite pro-Syrian rebel blogger who has contributed to the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy-funded website Bellingcat.

Ben Norton is a reporter for AlterNet’s Grayzone Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

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How Online Trolls Pushing for Regime Change in Syria Helped Popularize Trump’s Abusive Attack on the ‘Alt-Left’ – AlterNet

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