Fish Hook Theory Is Real

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This week, Joseph Bernstein of Buzzfeed News, published an article titled Here’s How Breitbart And Milo Smuggled Nazi and White Nationalist Ideas Into The Mainstream. Through a trove of email correspondences and other documents, Bernstein uncovered ongoing collaboration between Breitbart, Alt-Right darling and former Breitbart tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos, neo-Nazis, White nationalists, and perhaps most surprisingly, members of the liberal media.  

For most, revelations that Breitbart and Yiannopoulos collaborated with White nationalists and neo-Nazis over the years aren’t too shocking.  While the Alt-Right has spent the better part of the last two years trying to clean up its image, most observers haven’t been convinced. In general, the move has been seen exactly for what it is, an attempt to bring anti-immigrant, anti-globalist, anti-feminist, anti-Islam and racist agendas to the political mainstream. As Bernstein notes:

“These new emails and documents…clearly show that Breitbart does more than tolerate the most hate-filled, racist voices of the alt-right. It thrives on them, fueling and being fueled by some of the most toxic beliefs on the political spectrum — and clearing the way for them to enter the American mainstream.”

So while Breitbart has repeatedly disavowed connections to White nationalists and neo-Nazis, Yiannopoulos’ emails indicate quite the opposite. For example, in April 2016, Yiannopoulos sought approval from Breitbart editor Alex Marlow to invite neo-Nazi “Weev” Auernheimer of the Daily Stormer, onto his podcast. In seeking Marlow’s approval Yiannopoulos wrote, “he’s one of the funniest, smartest and most interesting people I know. … Very on brand for me.”

Additionally, Yiannopoulos referred to Devin Saucier as his “best friend” in an October 2016 email.  Saucier is associated with the Wolves of Vinland and has worked as an assistant to Jared Taylor, a prominent American White nationalist. According to Bernstein:

“On June 25, Yiannopoulos sent Saucier a copy of an analysis, Brexit: Why The Globalists Lost. Saucier responded via email… “Britain, like Israel and other high-IQ, high-skilled economies, will thrive on its own.” (IQ differences among races are a fixation of American Renaissance). “I’m easing everyone in gently,” Yiannopoulos responded. “Probably beats my ‘bite the pillow, I’m going in dry’ strategy,” Saucier wrote back.”

Nonetheless, spend enough time on social media and you are sure to notice the Far Right’s push to rebrand itself as nothing more than patriotic anti-war Americans, “White nationalist” rather than “White supremacist” (as if the former is somehow better than the latter), and not the group of bigots for which they’ve come to be known. As Bernstein remarks“by Yiannopoulos’s own admission, maintaining a sufficiently believable distance from overt racists and white nationalists [is] crucial…”

Apparently, this has worked on some members of the liberal media, who publicly promote and defend members of the Alt-Right.

Mitchell Sunderland, who was a senior staff writer at Broadly, Vice’s women’s channel “Devoted to representing the multiplicity of women’s experiences…” until his termination yesterday afternoon, was revealed to be among Yiannopoulos’ liberal email pals.

“Please mock this fat feminist,” Sunderland wrote to Yiannopoulos in May 2016, along with a link to an article by the New York Times columnist Lindy West, who frequently writes about fat acceptance. And while Sunderland was Broadly’s managing editor, he sent a Broadly video about the Satanic Temple and abortion rights to Tim Gionet with instructions to “do whatever with this on Breitbart. It’s insane.” The next day, Breitbart published an article titled “‘Satanic Temple’ Joins Planned Parenthood in Pro-Abortion Crusade.”

Dan Lyons, a tech journalist and former writer for the HBO series “Silicon Valley,” was also revealed in Bernstein’s report as having email correspondence with Yiannopoulos, in which they reportedly mock feminist journalist Amber Discko and ponder the “birth sex” of GamerGate target Zoe Quinn.

Zoe Quinn responded to Lyons’ claim that he had apologized directly to both women for his emails, he responded by promptly blocking her on Twitter.

Along with Sunderland and Lyons, former Slate tech journo and Nation contributor David Auerbach also reportedly passed Yiannopoulos background information “about the love life of Anita Sarkeesian; “the goods” about an allegedly racist friend of Arthur Chu… and a “hot tip” about harsh anti-harassment tactics implemented by Wikipedia.” However, Auerbach has categorically denied Buzzfeed’s claims and intuits that, Buzzfeed might have it in for me because I criticized Buzzfeed chair Keith Lerer for hiring 4chan’s founder.”

Auerbach may be correct. Perhaps a little tit-for-tat was a motivating factor. However, the fact that liberals and the Far Right share common ideology is not exactly a secret. It’s something many Leftists see time and again on social media and has been dubbed “Fish Hook Theory.”  MSNBC national correspondent and political commentator Joy Reid seems to give us near endless examples of this theory to draw from.


But others seem to be unwittingly carrying water for fish-hooking establishment Democrats like Joy Reid, and using the type of false equivalency typically reserved for Alt-Righters and President Trump. For example, Trump’s “both sides” statement following the murder of Heather Heyer by a White supremacist in Charlottesville.   

Unfortunately, some liberal journalists seem to have a remarkably difficult time recognizing false equivalencies and often dabble in their own brand of both side-isms. 

While Zaid argues that there is no difference between neo-Nazi’s promoting the idea that Black Americans and immigrants commit more crimes than White Americans, and Leftists pointing out that mass shootings are typically a crime of White males, he is conveniently ignoring some fairly basic concepts. 

First, America’s criminal justice system is racist. From police surveillance, police stops, police searches, use of force, juvenile arrests, drug arrests, to prosecution charges, pretrial release, sentence length and community service vs. prison time, racism is deeply embedded in every facet our justice system.

Zaid’s argument that race doesn’t matter is not only naive, it is wrong, and as @rtyson82 on Twitter quite rightly pointed out, an inadequate analysis leads to inadequate solutions. Zaid might believe that the best course of action is just not to consider race. However, not seeing it, in this case, ignores and upholds a system that, at its core, is the quintessence of White supremacy.  

Zaid is also ignoring the fact that White nationalists use our racist criminal justice system to fuel racial hatred and promote the idea that people of color are a dangerous threat to White people, to promote an idea that White people are being ignored and devalued, and to promote the exact “White victimization” meme that George Ciccariello-Maher argues is at the heart of mass shootings like the one that occurred in Las Vegas this week.

Frankly, the entire Yiannopoulos-liberal White dude collaboration is almost too perfect an illustration of Ciccariello’s tweet and Fish Hook Theory. Scratch a centrist liberal these days and you’re likely to find a reactionary just below the surface. It’s hard to miss the fact that the three White liberal men in Bernstein’s article reached out about as Far Right as they could to peddle dirt on feminist critics who pissed them off.

They reached out to a man who’s made a career of publicly debasing marginalized groups, a man who was permanently banned from Twitter for siccing a mob of sexist and racist followers on Black actress Leslie Jones, and who has been banned from universities for creating a hostile campus environment. 

As Sarah Jones of New Republic notes:

“In light of  tireless cultivation of his bigot-for-hire brand, there are just two ways a person can be friends with someone like him:  You either share his views; or you don’t think about politics in terms of meaning or conviction. If the latter’s true, you’re a useful idiot to Yiannopolous and the alt-right— and a bad journalist into the bargain. And a horse-race-fueled vision of politics as just a game certainly makes you more likely to believe that when figures like Yiannopolous or Mike Cernovich disavow the alt-right, they mean it, and aren’t acting out of self-interest.”

My guess, it’s both. There’s probably no group more clueless about the many significant issues affecting people of color, trans people, women and the poor than the affluent, White liberal American male. Politics mean nothing to them because the risk of harm to them professionally, socially or economically is nil. Therefore, everything in their lives centers on maintaining their prominence, power, and wealth or trying to achieve more.

To these men, Yiannopolous is just another powerful White male who seemed to be on his way to a prominent position within American politics. What he stands for didn’t matter to these men, because the harm he inflicts doesn’t affect them, the only thing that mattered to them was what they believed he could do to elevate them professionally and politically. It was about quid pro quo.


Written by Beth Lynch

Mother, advocate, activist, academic, unapologetic Feminist and Progressive. Beth is a Writer for Progressive Army.
Follow Beth on Twitter @BethLynch2020.

One Comment

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  1. “This week, Joseph Bernstein of Buzzfeed News published an article titled Here’s How Breitbart And Milo Smuggled Nazi and White Nationalist Ideas Into The Mainstream”

    And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how you throw away the credibility of your article upon the first sentence. I’ve noticed that all of these people that believe in leftist propaganda like “fish hook theory” and whatever Twitter’s shoving down their throats also like to take garbage media such as Buzzfeed and Tumblr seriously. Sad that some people that think they’re overthrowing the system are the same people that don’t bite the hand that feeds them.

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