A conspiracy theory that was concocted and published nearly a year ago by a far-left fringe outlet has now cemented itself at the forefront of Republican politics.
In one of President Donald Trump’s first policy videos for his 2024, he announced a new initiative to end it. And Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) new Select Subcommittee for the Weaponization of Government is set to investigate it.
Twitter, and all of social media they believe, is an entirely controlled Democratic operation. A fed-infiltrated, deep state cutout designed to keep the far-right down. Spooks control what you see and what you’re allowed to say, all in furtherance of leftist ideology.
While it’s long percolated, especially in the wake of the 2020 election, numerous new reports have added fuel to it. The latest evidence for this theory comes in a feverish slurry of implication: emails between FBI and Twitter, leaked in Elon Musk’s Twitter Files
But the bulk of it, before it was thrust into the the mainstream, was seeded on a left-wing blog known for publishing misinformation and that merely cobbled together screenshots of Linkedin pages of ex-feds who now work for Big Tech.
Jack Posobiec, on the stage at Turning Point USA’s America Fest convention in December 2022, concisely explained the paradigm: “The Twitter Files are a road map into an intelligence operation run by the domestic security state on you, on me, on our families, and on our election. And it amounts to no less than a silent coup of the sitting president of the United States.”
Riding on those claims, Trump recently announced that if elected, no ex-fed would be able to get a job at any company that handles data for seven years after leaving the government, an effort to root out the agents in social media who control the future of this content.
So how did leading right-wing figures come to adopt a left-wing claim?
The theory has its genesis in the pages of Mint Press News (MNP), a conspiratorial outlet based in Minnesota. It claimed ex-feds infiltrated Big Tech in droves, implying that they were working as an extension of the U.S. security state rather than government employees who had changed careers.
MNP is part of the “anti-imperialist” or “tankie” left, a loose coalition that centers critique of American empire in their political philosophy.
In practical terms, this often translates to boosting Russian, Syrian or Iranian propaganda. A reporter from MinnPost noted that the site had no obvious source of income, an empty office, and a dummy phone number.
In 2012, MNP published a report saying that civilians had been gassed by Syrian rebels and not Bashar al-Assad’s government. Rather than a scandal for supporters of the rebels, however, it resulted in a scandal for the paper: One of the reporters on the story claimed they hadn’t written it and demanded to be taken off the byline. The other author appeared to be a person using a number of pseudonyms whose Linkedin profile was deleted after the story broke.
Other, more thorough investigations showed that reporting to be false.
Last summer, an MNP reporter produced a series of stories that scoured LinkedIn for any employees that had both worked at a federal agency and a social media company. His evidence was a number of screenshots of LinkedIn pages of a handful of ex-feds. Out of Twitter’s approximately 7,500 employees, MNP found 11 former FBI agents. Out of Meta’s approximately 87,000 workers, it found 19 ex-feds from a few different agencies.
The report argued that this is a problem because most of them worked in “trust and safety,” a division of big tech that largely translates to content moderation and speech bans. The piece argued, that because the government has a history of meddling in other countries and attempting to shape their media, it would do the same at Twitter and Meta.
Although it seems unusual that a conspiracy theory would jump from the fringe left to the fringe right, MNP has served as such a conduit in the past for right-wing propaganda.
Dr. Kate Starbird of the University of Washington found that MNP was part of a content-sharing cluster within the conspiratorial internet. Starbird explained that in a content-sharing cluster, “the same article might appear on several and sometimes dozens of different websites” that run the gamut from left to right, conspiracy to clickbait.
As the article gets re-recycled, the provenance—and often the byline—can get omitted.
In this case, the article was shared in June shortly after its publication by the far-right conspiratorial financial blog Zerohedge, alongside an op-ed suggesting that the deep state controlled social media, a group of woke they/them federal agents who censor real Americans and overturn elections.
That content was shared across dozens of small-time blogs, Telegram channels, and Gab pages over the next few months.
Then Elon Musk bought Twitter.
After he took over, Muck shared loads of internal conversations at the company, dubbed the Twitter Files. Substackers Matt Taibbi, Michael Shellenberger, and Bari Weiss began publishing internal Twitter documents given to them by Musk that allegedly showed collusion between Democratic politicians, federal government officials, and Twitter executives to suppress free speech.
On Dec. 6—in the midst of all the concerns—an anonymous account bearing an American flag profile pic going by the moniker “Name Redacted” posted a thread of feds who “currently” worked at Twitter, urging Musk to “clean house.”
The evidence and framing was the same as MNP’s article—a series of LinkedIn pages, discovered by searching for both “Twitter” and “FBI.” Nine of the names were the same as the MNP article.
That thread rocketed around right-wing Twitter. Then Trump, in one of his first campaign videos, focused on the party’s qualms with big tech, promised that if elected he would institute a “cooling-off” period of at least seven years for any federal agent who wanted to work at a big data firm.
The same thread made it to the New York Post, where it became canon: Shellenberger retweeted the Post story, as did the House Judiciary GOP official account, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).
Jordan now chairs the newly established subcommittee investigating the “weaponization of the federal government,” and promised to investigate the “cozy relationship” between the FBI and Twitter, where, according to him, “publicly available information” shows that many agents had taken jobs there.
Jordan demanded information on a number of individuals at Twitter, including everyone who was on the nameless Twitter account’s thread.
Nobody had checked, it seemed, that most of those people don’t even work at Twitter anymore.
They’d been laid off over the past few months of purges by Musk. When the original MNP article was published, Musk hadn’t taken over Twitter. When the thread was posted on Dec. 6, however, most of those people had been out of work for at least three weeks.
By the time the Trump spoke, it had been more than a month.
The New York Post, in its reporting, didn’t say they all still worked there, instead calling pre-Musk Twitter a hive of feds.
According to public posts on Linkedin, six of the employees named in Redacted’s thread had since been laid off. Matthew Williams, Dawn Burton, Kevin Michelena, and Mark Jaroszewski, all named in the New York Post article, were laid off before December. Russel Handorf and Laura D.—named in the thread, but not the article— were also laid off before December.
The Daily Dot attempted to contact the above named individuals, who did not respond for to a request for comment.
But the fact that Musk has cleaned out house has not abated the desire for grievances among the Republican party. It already held a hearing where it berated former Twitter employees, and more are planned.
And if Trump actually wins in 2024, the far-right candidate will be implementing a signature policy cooked up by a small-time, left-wing blog.
Twitter and Meta did not respond to requests for comment.