A right-wing conspiracy theory was born at Columbia University last night, based on a lie that spread with remarkable speed from a student-led college protest to the immediate family of the president of the United States. As a result, Donald Trump Jr., along with countless others, now believe that Twitter is running interference for pro-pedophile antifascist student protesters.
Here's how that happened: On Monday night, Alt Right meme-maker and self-styled "national security reporter" Mike Cernovich was invited by the Columbia University College Republicans to deliver a speech about the rise of "alternative media." His appearance sparked protests from some members of the student body, who questioned the value of providing a platform to a speaker who critics call a rape apologist, white nationalist, and serial online harasser. An hour prior to the speech, as a few hundred people gathered to rally against the event, a group of counter demonstrators—disguised as protesters—briefly unveiled a NAMBLA-branded banner suggesting the anti-Cernovich crowd was also anti-"pedo bashing" (as in, pro-pedophile).
Alt right strikes first at Columbia Cernovich event, plants NAMBLA-branded sign in front of protest march pic.twitter.com/IAw6yIeINC
— Jake Offenhartz (@jangelooff) October 30, 2017
"Someone said 'hold this real quick' and then they proceeded to snap pics," recalls Mistee Denson, a Columbia social work student and one of the organizers of the protest. "Someone quickly realized what it said and ran them off. Unfortunately, they got what they wanted." What they wanted was for people to share photos of the stunt online, which I did, noting in a tweet that the banner was planted by the Alt Right—pedo is a favorite term of Cernovich's crowd, which overlaps heavily with the pizzagate crowd; contemporaries of Cernovich, like Jack Posobeic, are known for such banner stunts.
In quick succession, Cernovich, Posobiec and other Alt Right luminaries swiped my photo, sending their own tweets without any mention that the banner was planted. The image was removed from Cernovich's Twitter once I reported the copyright infringement, though that only fueled the firestorm: Paul Joseph Watson, a writer at InfoWars, then claimed that Twitter was censoring the #NAMBLAANTIFA image. As of this writing, his censorship-alleging tweet has been shared over 12,000 times, and liked by 10,000 people—including Donald Trump Jr..
They are trying to censor this image. It's coffin nails to the left. Retweet the crap out of it. Streisand effect! 🤗 pic.twitter.com/8adRZueldO
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) October 31, 2017
he really likes this one pic.twitter.com/I7CyJyRZ00
— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) October 31, 2017
Watson's story about pro-pedophile protesters and Twitter censorship is on the front page of InfoWars. The conspiracy site—which has previously claimed that 9/11 was an "inside job," that the Sandy Hook massacre was a "false flag" operation and that Michelle Obama is a "tranny"—is a favorite source of content for both Donald Trump Jr. and his father. Repeatedly, family members and close confidantes of President Trump have helped to amplify the site's lies.
"As for the president's son, I think his ‘like' speaks for itself and brings attention to the fact that he, himself is a follower of these alt-right groups,” Denson added.
Other than a minor troll turning into a Trump-approved conspiracy theory, the night was relatively undramatic. A few hundred protesters rallied in the halls of Lerner Hall, focusing most of their energy on the Columbia President Lee Bollinger's strident defense of hosting such speakers on campus.
protesters pushed thru campus security gate, in lobby of Lerner now pic.twitter.com/bacUGHwuLF
— Jake Offenhartz (@jangelooff) October 31, 2017
"Black and brown students are Bollinger’s intellectual experiments," freshman Isaiah Hines told Gothamist. "He gets off on us defending our humanity, but it’s not a game to us. It’s our lives."
"It’s interesting because he’s a whole-ass white man, and this stuff doesn’t target him," added Alimatou Demba, also a freshman, and organizer with the Liberation Coalition.