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Inside Marine Le Pen’s "Foreign Legion" of American Alt-Right Trolls

Mother Jones

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Vladimir Putin isn’t the only one trying to attack the French presidential election. Far-right trolls and meme warriors like the kind who helped elect Donald Trump have found a new calling: “The Battle of France.” There’s no way of telling what real-world impact it’s having, but with the vote just a few days away, activity in support of right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen has reached a fever pitch on Reddit, 4chan/pol/, and other online forums popular with the American alt-right.

“All shitposting units are required to man their battle stations,” declared a recent 4chan post. “Meme war recruits: prove your worth. Veterans, lead the charge…. MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN.” The post urged 4channers to join a Discord forum dubbed “Operation: Marine Le Kek,” where at any given moment up to about 450 participants are conducting meme “raids” to hype their candidate and attack her centrist rival, Emmanuel Macron. Using fake French identities and sock puppet social media accounts, they’ve hijacked Twitter hashtags, social media posts, and comments sections on news sites with memes portraying Macron as a stooge of Jewish financiers who will sell out the working class and capitulate to Muslim terrorists.

Though “Operation: Marine Le Kek” is named after the ironic Pepe-inspired god of the alt-right, organizers of the forum have urged participants to mask their alt-right affiliations by avoiding the use of Pepe memes altogether:

On Twitter, the group has focused on hijacking popular hashtags and pushing pro-Le Pen hashtags in coordinated tweet-storms:

The Discord chat for “Operation: Marine Le Kek” includes a sub-forum called #rent-a-twitter, where participants post login information for sock puppet accounts:

The group has pursued a different strategy on other social media platforms. Here’s a how-to manual for Facebook trolling that was circulating last week (by then, Facebook had already banned 30,000 French accounts that violated its terms of service):

The meme warriors of 4chan have been careful to conceal their American identities. A number of posts on Discord urge users to adopt French-sounding social media identities and avoid using Google Translate to convert English phrases into French. Instead, they’ve collaborated with the French equivalent of 4chan and a related French-language forum on Discord called La Taverne des Patriotes. English-speaking visitors to the French site hang out in a sub-forum known as #Foreign_Legion, where they often solicit help in translating their anti-Macron memes into French.

A recent post on the #Foreign_Legion section of La Taverne des Patriotes

They’ve also been careful not to draw too much attention to their efforts:

The French and English-language Discord groups include forums where meme creators share their work. Organizers have pushed a strategy focused on targeting specific ideological factions of the French electorate, as detailed in a recent 4chan thread:

1) “Portray Macron as a French aristocrat. Really hammer in the point that he doesn’t give a fuck about the common man, and that he is a SIC elitist who know SIC nothing about the common folk.”

“Let them enrich themselves,” an anti-Macron meme posted on Discord

2) Make memes tailored to supporters of candidates who failed to reach the final round of the election:

Voters who in the primary had supported the center-right candidate François Fillon should be hit with memes focusing on “Islam and immigration, and how Macron won’t stop it.”
“If you are in the Islamic State, Vote Macron,” a meme posted on Discord

Memes targeting supporters of the socialist candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon should “focus on how bad the EU is, and how Macron is a rich banker globalist puppet.”
“Trust me, I understand the difficulties of the French. Vote for me!”

3) “MOST IMPORTANT: French voters hate current president François Hollande” and will vote against Macron if it means “another 5 years of Hollande.”

Macron to Hollande: “Shhh! Don’t reveal our plans to help the rich!”

Other memes have focused on the age difference between Macron and his older wife. Late last month, 4channers used doctored images to spread the conspiracy theory that he was secretly sleeping with his wife’s 30-year-old daughter.

Ultimately, it’s hard to assess the impact of these various efforts. The number of people participating in the the Discord chat rooms and 4chan threads I visited was relatively small—as of Tuesday there were less than 1,000—and they didn’t typically discuss specific targets. Participants have boasted of tweeting and retweeting pro-Le Pen hashtags tens of thousands of times, though it hasn’t typically been enough to cause them to trend on Twitter’s homepage. What’s clear, however, is that anti-Macron and pro-Le Pen memes abound on French social media. On Tuesday, anti-Macron memes from the 4chan playbook dominated Twitter in association with a trending hashtag about France’s upcoming presidential debate:

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Inside Marine Le Pen’s "Foreign Legion" of American Alt-Right Trolls

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Rabbi Jack Moline’s Resistance Reading

Mother Jones

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We asked a range of authors, artists, and poets to name books that bring solace or understanding in this age of rancor. Two dozen or so responded. Here are picks from the Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance.

Latest book: Growing Up Jewish
Reading recommendations: I can’t avoid including the Book of Psalms. Aside from the fact that it is the only book in the Jewish Bible that is of undisputed human authorship, it is a collection of essential yearnings and gratitudes that give me a sense that our current troubles, existential and political both, are neither new nor permanent. In addition, the melodies to which so many of the psalms have been set are inseparable from the words. And how can I not also hear Leonard Cohen in every “hallelujah.”

Rainer Maria Rilke’s Book of Hours probably makes me sound like a poetry buff, which, alas, I am not. But Rilke’s extraordinary talent for combining deep spiritual sensitivity with intuition about the human condition can rescue me from almost any funk. I feel the same way about Israeli poet Dan Pagis.

I remember reading Margaret Atwood‘s The Handmaid’s Tale when it first came out. I can remember where I was sitting as I read each chapter. The early chapters that almost breezily describe how quickly an inclusive society can collapse into a corrupt theocracy and, most impressively to me, the epilogue in which future academics look back with disdain and incredulity on the dark age of female servitude still inspire me never to give up resisting injustice and never to give up hope that the moral arc of the universe…well, you know. These two features, by the way, are what make this book a better choice right now than Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America.
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So far in this series: Kwame Alexander, Margaret Atwood, W. Kamau Bell, Jeff Chang, T Cooper, Dave Eggers, Reza Farazmand, Piper Kerman, Bill McKibben, Rabbi Jack Moline, Karen Russell, Tracy K. Smith. (New posts daily.)

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Rabbi Jack Moline’s Resistance Reading

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The Daily News Slams Sean Spicer’s Holocaust Remarks with Scathing Cover

Mother Jones

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White House press secretary Sean Spicer ignited a firestorm of controversy Tuesday, when he compared Adolf Hitler to Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad, and incorrectly claimed Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” The false assertion, which was used to defend President Donald Trump’s military strike on a Syrian air base last week, quickly drew the ire of Democrats and prominent Jewish groups, including the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect.

On Wednesday, the Daily News dedicated its front page to condemning Spicer for the remarks. The New York paper also featured a scathing editorial demanding he resign from his post over the latest gaffe:

Spicer apologized for the remarks, and said that he did not wish to become a “distraction” to Trump’s agenda.

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The Daily News Slams Sean Spicer’s Holocaust Remarks with Scathing Cover

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Holocaust Survivor Slams Top Immigration Official: "History Is Not on Your Side"

Mother Jones

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On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a surprise appearance at a White House press briefing to announce that the Justice Department would begin cracking down on so-called sanctuary cities that fail to comply with federal immigration laws. If local governments refuse to cooperate with federal efforts to detain undocumented immigrants, Sessions said, as much as $4 billion in grants across the country could be withheld.

Despite the stark warning this week, many residents opposing Trump’s anti-immigration policies don’t appear to be deterred. In the case of Sacramento County, where Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Thomas Homan was invited to speak at a town-hall style meeting Tuesday, hundreds of people turned out to blast the ongoing sweeps targeting undocumented immigrants in the state. The most powerful moment arrived when an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor named Bernard Marks took to the mic to warn Homan and Sheriff Scott Jones that “history was not on their side.”

The remarks, as noted by CBS Sacramento, below:

When I was a little boy in Poland, for no other reason but for being Jewish, I was hauled off by the Nazis. And for no other reason I was picked up and separated from my family, who was exterminated in Auschwitz. And I am a survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau.

I spent five and a half years in concentration camps, for one reason and one reason only—because we picked on people, and you as the sheriff, who we elected as sheriff of this county—we did not elect you for sheriff of Washington, DC. It’s about time you side with the people here. And when this gentleman stands up there and says he doesn’t go after people, he should read today’s Bee. Because in today’s Bee, the Supreme Court Justice of California objected to ICE coming in and taking people away from the courts. Don’t tell me that this is a lie.

You stand up here Mr. Jones. Don’t forget—history is not on your side.

The remarks were met with loud cheers from the audience. Homan responded to the speech by saying his agency will continue to arrest undocumented immigrants inside courthouses.

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Holocaust Survivor Slams Top Immigration Official: "History Is Not on Your Side"

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Here Are Your Highlights of Today’s Trump Press Meltdown

Mother Jones

Donald Trump went full Sarah Palin today at his press conference. It was glorious. I think you have to watch it to really get the full effect, but here are a few highlights.

First off, the word of the day is mess:

To be honest, I inherited a mess. It’s a mess. At home and abroad, a mess….I just want to let you know, I inherited a mess….ISIS has spread like cancer — another mess I inherited….And you look at Schumer and the mess that he’s got over there and they have nothing going.

Fact check: Delusional. Trump inherited an economy in pretty good shape. Crime has steadily decreased over the past decade. ISIS is losing ground and close to defeat. Illegal immigration has been stable for many years. Test scores for schoolkids are up. Fewer than a dozen American soldiers have died in combat in the past year. Obamacare has cut the number of people without health insurance almost in half. The budget deficit is down to 3 percent of GDP. After years of stagnation, wages are finally starting to go up. Unemployment and inflation are both low.

I put it out before the American people, got 306 electoral college votes….270 which you need, that was laughable. We got 306 because people came out and voted like they’ve never seen before so that’s the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.

Fact check: Also delusionial. He got 304 electoral votes, and Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, and Obama all did better.

We’ve begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare….I know you can say, oh, Obamacare. I mean, they fill up our rallies with people that you wonder how they get there, but they are not the Republican people our that representatives are representing.

Fact check: Plausible! Trump and the Republicans in Congress probably do think they represent only Republicans.

The leaks are real. You’re the one that wrote about them and reported them, I mean the leaks are real. You know what they said, you saw it and the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.

Fact check: Huh?

If the information coming from those leaks is real, then how can the stories be fake?

The reporting is fake. Look, look…You know what it is? Here’s the thing. The public isn’t — you know, they read newspapers, they see television, they watch. They don’t know if it’s true or false because they’re not involved. I’m involved. I’ve been involved with this stuff all my life. But I’m involved. So I know when you’re telling the truth or when you’re not. I just see many, many untruthful things.

Fact check: True. Trump almost certainly does see many, many untruthful things.

I mean, I watch CNN, it’s so much anger and hatred and just the hatred. I don’t watch it any more….Well, you look at your show that goes on at 10 o’clock in the evening. You just take a look at that show. That is a constant hit….Now, I will say this. I watch it. I see it. I’m amazed by it.

Fact check: Schrödinger’s cat. Trump both watches and doesn’t watch CNN.

We had Hillary Clinton try and do a reset. We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country. You know what uranium is, right? This thing called nuclear weapons like lots of things are done with uranium including some bad things.

Fact check: Half true. No, Hillary Clinton didn’t give Russia any uranium. (She was one of many who approved a deal for the Russian atomic energy agency to buy a Canadian company that controls 20 percent of the US uranium reserves. But none of it can exported outside the US.) However, it is true that bad things can be done with uranium.

QUESTION: Let’s talk about some serious issues that have come up in the last week that you have had to deal with as president of the United States. You mentioned the vessel — the spy vessel off the coast of the United States.

TRUMP: Not good.

QUESTION: There was a ballistic missile test that many interpret as a violation of an agreement between the two countries; and a Russian plane buzzed a U.S. destroyer.

TRUMP: Not good.

….QUESTION: So when you say they’re not good, do you mean that they are…

TRUMP: Who did I say is not good?

QUESTION: No, I read off the three things that have recently happened. Each one of them you said they’re not good.

TRUMP: No, it’s not good, but they happened.

QUESTION: But do they damage the relationship? Do they undermine…

TRUMP: They all happened recently.

Fact check: True. These are all things that happened recently.

JAKE TURX, A REPORTER FOR A SMALL ULTRA-ORTHODOX JEWISH PUBLICATION: Despite what some of my colleagues may have been reporting, I haven’t seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic. We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren. You are their zaidy. However, what we are concerned about, and what we haven’t really heard being addressed, is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it… There has been a report out that 48 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers all across the country in the last couple of weeks. There are people who are committing anti-Semitic acts or threatening to…

TRUMP: he said he was gonna ask a very simple, easy question. And it’s not, its not, not — not a simple question, not a fair question. OK sit down, I understand the rest of your question.

So here’s the story, folks. Number one, I am the least anti- Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person….See, he lied about — he was gonna get up and ask a very straight, simple question, so you know, welcome to the world of the media. But let me just tell you something, that I hate the charge, I find it repulsive.

I hate even the question because people that know me and you heard the prime minister, you heard Ben Netanyahu yesterday, did you hear him, Bibi? He said, I’ve known Donald Trump for a long time and then he said, forget it. So you should take that instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.

Fact check: Incoherent. Turx explicitly tried to assure Trump that nobody thought he was anti-Semitic, but Trump’s skin is so thin that he immediately decided Turx was calling him a racist and an anti-Semite. I wonder why?

By the way, the entire point of this press conference seemed to be directed at one thing: accusing the press of being horrible and dishonest. This came up in nearly every Trump answer. This is a great strategy for shoring up his base, of course. As near as I can tell, conservatives all thought this dumpster fire of a press conference was a terrific performance.

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Here Are Your Highlights of Today’s Trump Press Meltdown

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