Shortly after “alt-right” poster boy Steve Bannon reportedly called Jared Kushner a “cuck,” signaling an escalating battle in the White House between the “Bannonites” and the “globalists,” Donald Trump bucked his isolationist promises and launched a military strike against the Syrian government. The barf-splatter of neo-Nazi conspiracy trolls dubbed the “alt-right” were among those who weren’t happy about it, largely because they weren’t so sure the Assad regime actually murdered people.
In a Periscope video chronicled by Politico, noted #PizzaGate theorist Mike Cernovich—who appears to have White House sources and tweeted about the strike hours before it happened—expressed doubt that Assad was responsible for the chemical attack and wondered whether it happened at all, declaring that the media and the “deep state” are “trying to con Trump into believing the people want war.” I wonder if Donald Trump, Jr. still wants to give him that Pulitzer?
Cernovich also expressed his belief that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad had been framed for the chemical attack, though he had not decided by whom. “It was probably ISIS did it to themselves,” he said on the livestream, while also tweeting, “Did McCain give ‘moderate rebels’ (ISIS) in Syria poison gas and Hollywood style film equipment?”
Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, founder of pro-Trump “Western chauvinist fraternal organization” the Proud Boys, joined Cernovich as a guest via Skype, and shared his skepticism. To illustrate a parallel from his own life, McInnes recounted a story in which he said a female friend accused a man of rape and McInnes violently confronted the man, only to be convinced by the man’s incredulous response that he was not guilty of rape. (In a text message, McInnes, who left Vice a decade ago, maintained his skepticism about the source of the chemical weapons attack but signaled support for Trump’s response).
Cernovich also agreed with a caller that maybe the whole thing could be traced back to Susan Rice.
Trolls have been questioning realities on the ground in Syria for a long time, consistently convinced that pictures of dead and dying people can’t possibly be real; reliably disturbing Dilbert creator Scott Adams is pretty sure the chemical weapons attack was too “on-the-nose” to have actually happened. On the far end of this trend are literal Nazis like Richard Spencer, who recently tweeted this:
What’s interesting here, of course, is that this particular conspiracy theory is not getting airtime at @realDonaldTrump. Evidently, the president opted to believe his intelligence briefing this time and pulled a dizzying policy 180, putting him at odds with his base, who somehow got the impression that the Apprentice star wouldn’t immediately try to start a war.
This schism isn’t necessarily permanent; Cernovich told the Atlantic’s Rosie Gray that he’s “still a Trump supporter,” while InfoWars’ Paul Joseph Watson called reports that he’d turned on Trump “fake news.” But it does mean that the “alt-right” is willing to denounce daddy, and perhaps even, at some point, flock to another champion. The deranged, conspiratorial mindset that compels someone to declare a picture of dead infants a “deep state” hoax will clearly continue merrily on whether or not Trump parrots that particular delusion—this “troll army” is perfectly capable of operating without a commander.