The alt-right seized national news with yet another phony story Wednesday, this time fooling Politico and causing administrative carnage across several voting jurisdictions.
Put flatly: Despite what Politico’s most popular Nov. 2 story might tell you, there is no insidious plan to suppress the black vote with 40 oz. beers and marijuana in areas around voting stations. Further, there is no actual evidence of the plan aside from anonymous musings emailed to Politico.
Like the bogus origins of Pepe the Neo Nazi, the charade was surprisingly easy to execute: An alt-right personality simply lied to a reporter who had a clear agenda, and the reporter in turn reported those lies as fact, albeit with a caveat that he couldn’t obtain independent verification.
Ben Schreckinger’s Wednesday story at Politico quickly inspired hysteria among the media and pundit class, breathlessly spreading across the web and causing a scramble among local officials to adequately man the election ramparts.
“I was pretty sure he knew it was bullshit,” Mike Enoch, owner of The Right Stuff (TRS), a main node of the alt-right, told TheDCNF. “But was then just going along with it for the fun of it, but it wasn’t until the sixth response that he sent that I realized he was going to go ahead and print this crap.” The alt-right is a relatively recent political ideology that has at its core the mission of preserving American culture and white identity.
The Daily Caller News Foundation initially got into contact with TRS for a comment on whether or not the black voter suppression plan was actually genuine.
The story began after Schreckinger contacted Andrew Anglin at the Daily Stormer via email. Anglin had mentioned he was working in conjunction with The Right Stuff on poll monitoring.
Schreckinger then contacted TRS. TheDCNF obtained the email thread of the exchange, which started on Oct. 27, as well as internal time-stamped screenshots of members making creative suggestions on how to take Schreckinger for a wild ride.
“Anglin tells me he’s working with you on organizing some poll-watching efforts for Election Day…You guys planning any Election Day parties or voter mobilizations?” Schreckinger asked a TRS representative over email, later revealed to TheDCNF as Mike Enoch, owner of TRS.
Enoch ignored his request for a phone call and instead stated that the group is planning to organize “poll watchers in urban areas to cut down on the most traditional type of voter fraud,” before moving on to describe the more grandiose elements of the charade.
“We also have some teams going in to the ghettos in Philly with 40s and weed to give out to the local residents which we think will lead to more of them staying home,” Enoch told Schreckinger. “We have had success with this in the past.”
“How many times have you passed out 40s and weed in the ghettos in the past and where? Do you have any documentation of your past efforts on this front?” Schreckinger, to his credit, asked in a follow-up email.
Enoch again ignored the request and continued explaining the plot to set-up hidden cameras to watch for voter fraud.
“Many polling locations are in schools, and black schools are so disorderly that pretty much any official-looking white person with a clipboard can gain access to them ahead of time and set up a hidden camera,” Enoch wrote. “You don’t really ever even have to speak with an adult. Simply walk in like you belong there and no one even asks you why you are there.”
“So we usually go in teams of two, one person driving and one person dressed as a blue collar worker … we set up a hidden camera in the school cafeteria. Go during lunchtime and the teachers are all so busy trying to contain the kids that no one says anything. We already have a few set up.”
“As far as going in to the ghettos with 40s and weed, probably the most successful operation was for the Michigan Democratic primary where we wanted to sway the vote to Bernie,” Enoch added. “We don’t really know how many black votes we kept from being cast in Detroit that day, but it was a very tight finish so we like to think we had an effect.
“We had four teams of two drop of cases of Heineken, OE and bags of weed to some of the guys hanging around near the polling locations that morning. The funny thing is that they thought we were from the DNC and asked our guys if they were going to have to vote. They were relieved when they were told there were no strings attached.”
In yet another email to TRS, Schreckinger asked, “What’s your name and where are you based – or do you not disclose that.”
Here’s where Schreckinger pressed hard.
“Of course the dilemma of believing a source without documentation is endemic to all reporting,” he wrote. “But somewhat more pressing when dealing with an anonymous source representing a fringey political orientation. Anything more you can do to give me documentation that the Detroit effort happened and this Philly effort is happening?”
“Dude, I’m not giving you my name or the name of anyone else or any documentation about what we did in Detroit,” Enoch shot back. “I don’t give a fuck if you report this. Take it or leave it bruh.”
“Fair enough. Had to ask,” Schreckinger responded.
Schreckinger went ahead and published the piece and quotes from TRS on Politico—without any actual evidence.
“I’ll tell you this,” Enoch told TheDCNF. “This email [from Schreckinger] just rolled in, and I just saw it and thought I might play it a joke, and I never in a million years thought he’d print it. I was pretty sure he knew it was bullshit, but was then just going along with it for the fun of it, but it wasn’t until the sixth response that he sent that I realized he was going to go ahead and print this crap.”
Enoch laughed as he told TheDCNF how ridiculous the plan is on its face.
“You can’t actually just walk into these places,” Enoch said, referring to his comment about a white male with a clipboard trying to set-up hidden cameras in a school. “They have metal detectors and security guards.”
“But I’m well aware of what they want to hear, what they think is true,” Enoch continued. “And I was deliberately hitting on that, but I really, really didn’t think he would print it.”
“We don’t endorse or engage in any illegal activity whatsoever,” he added.
Instead, Enoch noted that he encourages voters to be poll watchers within the bounds of the law.
Schreckinger’s original piece only included a couple of weak caveats about TRS’s tall tale, one of which was from Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), who stated that TRS is a serial exaggerator.
The problem with quoting the SPLC as an authoritative source is that it’s suffered repeated hits to its reputation, as the organization has a history of painting an incredibly wide brush in terms of whom it deems hateful, among other credibility issues. In one instance, the SPLC placed GOP Sen. Rand Paul on an “Electoral Extremist” list. In a more recent case, the SPLC listed well-known, but reasonable critics of Islam, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz, as anti-Muslim extremists. Critics of the organization have also said it overstates the number of hate groups in the country by targeting political conservatives.
Schreckinger noted Politico couldn’t independently verify TRS’s claims.
Despite the measly caveats featured in the Politico piece, the frightening details of the black voter suppression plan immediately made national news. The story even reached much smaller states in the country, prompting worries from officials like Arkansas State Rep. Nate Bell, chairman of the State Agencies and Government Affairs Committee, about whether local election officials were prepared to handle a white nationalist show of force at the polls with the intent to dissuade minority voters.
According to an audio recording obtained by TheDCNF, Bell asked officials with the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office and the State Board of Election Commissioners at a Wednesday morning committee meeting what procedures were in place to prevent such endeavors.
“One of the things that has been troubling me as we approach this cycle and election day is the potential for external interests to attempt to influence the outcome in a variety of ways,” Bell said. “I don’t know if any of you saw the Politico headline this morning. It says, “White nationalists plan election day show of force.”
Bell then continued by asking how poll employees were ready to respond in the event of a strong white nationalist presence.
Employees of the Arkansas State Board Of Election Commissioners said poll workers were trained to call local law enforcement when observing voter intimidation.
In Philadelphia, District Attorney Seth Williams told Philly.com that his office was preparing to fight voter intimidation.
Democratic Sen. Bob Casey has called for the Department of Justice to make sure white nationalists aren’t allowed to scare off minority voters.
“We have come too far to allow a group of white nationalists to intimidate minority voters in Philadelphia or anywhere throughout the nation,” Casey wrote in a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Numerous media outlets have also taken the bait, in effect making Schreckinger’s story the most read site on Politico for Wednesday. Brad Reed at Raw Story repeated the alt-right’s dastardly voter suppression plan—without even airing the caveats Schreckinger at least listed in the original story.
Abigail Tracy at Vanity Fair ironically trashed GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “unsubstantiated fearmongering” regarding election rigging, while in the same breath warning that “a slew of fringe-right, white-nationalist groups reportedly intend to deploy thousands of people to engage in ballot-box intimidation and voter suppression.”
Esquire wrote a guide to the alt-right preparing to swarm the polls and took the hocus-pocus at face value, only doubting its effectiveness and whether followers are motivated enough to carry out the plot.
“Roaming gangs of neo-Nazis handing out weed and 40s in heavily minority communities as distractions from voting. No, really, that’s their plan,” Megan Carpentier wrote. “Plus poll watchers, possibly in coordination with an anonymous website that swears it has secretly installed hidden cameras in school cafeterias (which is totally illegal) to capture fraudulent voters in the act.”
Salon called out the Politico story as bunk, but cited just one tweet.
“Yeah, it’s likely not going to happen,” Brendan Gauthier wrote, referring to the plans. “But don’t take it from us.”
Journalists also credulously picked up on the story via Twitter and added their own commentary.
Sam Stein, senior politics editor at Huffington Post, tweeted out, “this is vile.”
Correct The Record, an organization dedicated to presenting a pro-Hillary narrative in internet spaces and social media, also tweeted out the article, saying, “White nationalists are plotting an #ElectionDay show of force to help elect @realDonaldTrump.”
Oliver Darcy, politics editor at Business Insider, tweeted “Some Neo-Nazis plan to hand out alcohol and weed in Philadelphia’s ‘ghetto’ on Election Day to decrease turnout”.
Julia Ioffe, columnist at Foreign Policy, highlighted a quote in the story from the TRS representative and tweeted out, “White privilege? What white privilege? Amazing @SchreckReports story,” tagging Schreckinger.
Ben Schreckinger did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation.
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