A Troll's Progress
How one of the right's most vicious bigots touched all the bases
You may not recognize the name Patrick Howley, but you know his work.
Howley is credited with breaking the story about former Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s blackface yearbook picture; and the story about a Democratic candidate’s sexting, which may have cost him a seat in United States Senate.
Howley continues to push stories about members of the Biden family, and has been actively spreading disinformation about mask mandates and the “plandemic.”
As Zachary Petrizzo described him in 2020, “Patrick Howley seems to be a mouthpiece for every false smear the right wants to float into the online ether.”
But that’s only part of the story.
This is how he spent the weekend before this year’s Martin Luther King Day: (Hat/tip Right Wing Watch):
And this weekend:
These were, unfortunately, not atypical meltdowns by Howley. For years, he has been telling us who he is.
There is nothing subtle about Howley’s anti-Semitism, sexism, or racism. He frequently tweets about white “genocide,” and uses terms like “purebloods.”
How on earth did we get here?
In many ways, Howley is a case study in how the right lost its mind — or looked the other way while some in its ranks lost theirs.
Indeed, Howley is a product of a right wing media that always seemed to find a spot for him.
Whatever problems he had (and they appear to be many), Howley’s career has included stops at many of the right’s best-known publications, including the American Spectator, the Washington Free Beacon, the Daily Caller, and Breitbart. His work has shown up in obscure far-right websites like Big League Politics and the National File, but he’s also been featured by the Wall Street Journal, and his work has been touted by National Review.
Throughout his career he has seemingly touched all the bases on the right: he has worked for Tucker Carlson, been featured on Infowars and Fox News. And, of course, he’s been retweeted by Donald Trump Jr.,
(The story is bogus and Kelly later filed a defamation suit against Howley’s employer, the National File.)
It’s not like there weren’t warning signs.
In 2012, when Matthew Continetti announced the launch of the Free Beacon and its philosophy of “combat journalism,” Howley was listed as a staff writer. He previously served as an assistant editor for The American Spectator, where he wrote bizarre (and questionable) tales of infiltrating leftist protests and getting pepper sprayed.
From the Free Beacon, he moved on to Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller, but both he and Tucker were forced to apologize after Howley sent crude and sexist tweets about a female reporter (Rosie Gray, then of Buzzfeed.)
After the tweets, Howley left the Daily Caller, and landed at Breitbart. But in 2016, he was suspended after trying to discredit the story of a female colleague who had been assaulted by Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski at a campaign event.
The next year, Howley left Breitbart to form a new populist/nationalist group.
In Howley’s view, Breitbart has lost its street cred by trying to go mainstream, and it no longer provides a voice for the “populist nationalist” movement that Trump represents.
By 2019, he was editor-in-chief of Big League Politics, which the NYT noted, “has promoted conspiracy theories and written favorably about white nationalist candidates.” At Big League he broke the stories about the racist photo on the 1984 yearbook page of Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, as well as accusations of sexual assault against the state’s then-lieutenant governor. Shortly after his scoops though, Howley left Big League Politics and, for a while at least, was a free lance writer for the uber-Trumpy Epoch Times, before ending up at another far-right site, The National File, which (and this will not amaze you) “is known for publishing false or misleading claims about COVID-19.”
These days, even the right-wing media seems reluctant to touch Howley’s reporting. As Petrizzo wrote in late 2020: “In the past decade, far-right media has devolved into a haven for conspiracy theories and misinformation. That Howley has somehow managed to alienate himself from even that wing of conservatism might be his only impressive piece of work.”
But that may have been overly optimistic. For more than a decade, the right’s media ecosystem promoted and amplified his work. And, even now, he remains very much a part of the right’s troll world.
Just this month, Howley was featured on OAN, peddling his latest conspiracy theory. — this time about Nancy Pelosi’s son. And he’s not done with Joe Biden’s children.
As he has done so often in the past, Howley is moving on… and someone in the right’s troll-o-sphere always has a spot for him.
Long Before Hungary, the Right Was Fixated on Another Country
Just as they’re now doing with Viktor Orbán, Joshua Tait writes in today’s Bulwark, conservatives once fell head over heels for Francisco Franco.
Francoist Spain figures prominently in the history of American intellectual conservatism. National Review, the conservative journal of ideas that emerged from both right-wing and Catholic circles in the mid-1950s, reflexively defended both the Franco of the contemporary 1950s and the victory of the Nationalists over the secular Republican government in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.
With their own Spanish-language skills, and with Spain’s low cost of living, Catholic culture, and right-wing government, important conservative writers—L. Brent Bozell, Willmoore Kendall, and Frederick Wilhelmsen—lived in Spain during critical periods of intellectual development. Likewise, conservative luminaries William F. Buckley, Jeffrey Hart, James Burnham, Erik Kuehnelt-Leddihn, and Russell Kirk all ventured to the dictatorship. Buckley’s brother Reid spent fifteen years in Spain writing novels as well as romantic accounts of life in Madrid for National Review under the pseudonym Peter Crumpet.
How can you have a democracy without a shared reality? How can you have a shared reality without somehow drowning out misinformation trolls?
For some reason, the axiom “Every accusation is really a confession” keeps running through my mind this morning. I have no idea why