Donald Trump’s surprise election last year sparked a national crisis across the left and right of America’s political spectrum. In the chaotic nine months since his inauguration, there has however been one constant among the mass upturning of norms: The Resistance.
A uniquely modern movement with online origins, it has become an umbrella term encompassing wildly disparate groups of people. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican Never Trumper like David Frum or a progressive activist like Linda Sarsour. You could be Hillary Clinton or George Bush, Bill Kristol or Michelle Obama. The Resistance welcomes all.
There is a specific faction of The Resistance that stands out in particular however. Fuelled by Twitter shares, it lives and thrives online. While a good deal of the movement is rational, and bases its Trump attacks on facts, a significant portion is not so measured. In fact, its leading figures have become social media stars by posting outlandish theories, often in lengthy Twitter threads.
They have amassed millions of followers between them, mostly by reporting on what the mainstream media has avoided due to a lack of concrete evidence. Their theories are often feasible but unproven, and filled with speculation or sources even the most seasoned journalists don’t seem to have. In more extreme instances, they have reported hoaxes and conspiracy theories that have been thoroughly debunked.
The Resistance has already taken to the streets via protests like January’s Women’s March, but its rogues have had the biggest impact on social media. Entirely new celebrities and organisations have been born out of The Resistance, all animated by the same fundamental principle: the president must be opposed and removed as soon as possible.
Invigorated by Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s possible collusion with Russia, the movement's more conspiratorial elements have grown louder and louder. Its adherents are a mish mash of professors, journalists and former political operatives, as well as one former Tory MP.
Together, they are the rogues of the Resistance. But who are they?
On Twitter Eric Garland calls himself a “Strategic intelligence analyst for corporations and governments”. On his website he is also listed as a “futurist, strategist, author and bassist”.
Before becoming an icon of the resistance, Garland’s most notable work was a book he wrote under another name with the title “How to Predict the Future... and WIN!!! The World's Preeminent Business Strategy Manual on how to Strategically Use Strategy, Competitive Intelligence, Crowdsourcing, Twittercasting, Value-added Six Sigma, Long-tails, Waterboarding, Social Media and Nanobranding to MAKE MONEY THIS QUARTER (while Scrupulously Avoiding Trends, Forecasts, Expert Opinion, Rigorously Explored Scenarios, Open Communication and Clear Decisions)”.
Garland’s commitment to length, specificity and capital letters have continued onto his Twitter account, and has helped him become a leading light of the resistance.
What Garland is most famous for, and what first initiated him into The Resistance, is Game Theory. In December 2016, he went on a long tweet thread that began like this:
Before Garland posted it on 10 December he had 5,000 Twitter followers. 24 hours later he had 30,000. “Guys, it’s time for some game theory” even became a meme, and was transposed into New Yorker cartoons.
Garland’s Game theory tweet was on Trump's collusion with Russia, and since then he has continued to pump out threads outlining his takes on what is going on in and around the White House
Garland is also known for his outbursts about his principles. “You think this is a game?” he tweeted in June. “I would go to my death THIS INSTANT for the women I have sworn to protect. Explain to me your values. Now.”
In March he also tweeted “I WON'T BE THE FIRST GARLAND OF MY LINE TO SPILL BLOOD FOR AMERICA AND THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY AND NEVER THE LAST, YOU FUCKERS.”
Garland now has 165,000 followers.
Louise Mensch was elected to British parliament in 2010 after publishing a number of successful novels for young women. She stood down in 2012, and went on to launch a series of unsuccessful digital ventures. In 2012 she helped create a new social media site called Menschn. It shut down in 2013. She then set up a blog called Unfashionista in 2013, which became inactive in 2015. In 2016 she launched a site called Heat St. It was shut down in July 2017.
Earlier this year Mensch called herself a “temporary super power” after she found her calling as part of The Resistance. Despite having little professional experience as an investigative journalist, she has began reporting stories using information no other journalist seemed to have.
Mensch got a scoop last year when she reported the FBI had obtained a warrant to monitor emails between the Trump organisation and two Russian banks. This turned out to be largely accurate, but was followed up with a series of questionable claims.
In April she claimed on Twitter that Black Lives Matter activists were paid by Russia to demonstrate in Ferguson.
In October she claimed that Trump is under multiple sealed indictments, citing “multiple sources with links to the justice and intelligence communities”.
She has also claimed that Andrew Breitbart was murdered by Putin.
In August The Guardian reported that Mensch had retweeted a false report around "lurid" Trump allegations linked to sex trafficking. It had originally been tweeted by Claude Taylor, a fellow member of the Resistance she has worked with closely. But it turned out to be from a hoaxer.
While Taylor apologised, Mensch doubled down and claimed to have her own sources for the story. "The allegations are authentic, they are true, and the case is ongoing," she wrote. "I did not endorse Claude’s view because he tweeted it; I endorsed it because it is true, from my own sources."
“Louise has no counterintelligence background, nor does she speak Russian or understand the Russians at a professional level, and that makes her analysis hit or miss sometimes.“ John Schindler, a former NSA officer who shares ideas with Mensch told Vox in March. “That said, very few people pontificating on Kremlingate have those qualifications, so if that's disqualifying, pretty much everyone but me is out.”
Mensch has tweeted 110,000 times since she joined Twitter in 2009, averaging 38 a day. She currently has 268,000 followers.
Abramson’s Twitter page lists him as “Attorney. Professor [at University of New Hampshire] (journalism, law).” He is an assistant professor of English, according to his page on his university website, and the majority of his publications have been in creative writing and poetry. When he joined the English department in 2015, the university described him as a “poet, teacher, and public intellectual”. He also calls himself a “curatorial journalist”.
Before he joined The Resistance, Abramson’s most notable work was a poem he wrote about Eliot Rodgers. Titled ‘The Last Words of Mass Murderer Elliot Rodger Remixed Into Poetry’, and published on the Huffington Post, the poem was apparently intended as a gesture of solidarity with Rodgers’ victims but consisted entirely of the violent, misogynist words he recorded before killing 22 people.
Abramson works against Trump by posting long threads. And lots of them.
Some of his tweets have also contained calls to action against Trump, to oppose the President by retweeting Abramson himself.
Abramson’s tweet thread about the former Trump aide George Papadopoulos “almost certainly” wearing a wire has so far been retweeted 22,000 times. Some commentators have speculated on this too, although none with the same level of certainty as Abramson, as no solid evidence has yet been presented.
Jen Kirkman is a comedian who has gained notoriety for her long Twitter threads on US politics. Her most famous thread was on Bernie Sanders being part of a Russian ploy to disrupt the 2016 primary for Hillary Clinton, posted in August 2017.
The first tweet she posted introducing the thread was quickly deleted, but became a meme after screenshots of it were captured. It read: ‘1. Here’s the deal. I believe in my heart Bernie is a KNOWING chaos agent paid by Russia in 2016 election. This is my OWN conclusion.”
Despite being mocked for her theories, Kirkman has continued posting in a similar vein, and in September posted a 97-tweet thread on Bernie Sanders and Russian election meddling.
Compared to the rogues above, Amy Siskind is a much more respectable face of The Resistance. Like its other key figures, she doesn’t have a background in journalism; up until 2008 she worked on Wall Street.
However, Siskind makes the list as she provides one of the movement’s most valued resources. A week into Trump’s presidency she posted a list under the title “Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember”. And that’s exactly what it did – each week, the post would document a series of bad and bizarre behaviour that appeared to be new.
It began with one post, collecting various strands like Trump’s attacks on the media and the constitution, and laying them out in full. That post was retweeted thousands of times.
Since then, the weekly message – now in its 52nd week – has gone on to be something of a news destination itself. Ms Siskind’s posts now document important work going on online,and wraps up the major events that people might have missed amid the dizzy speed of the news coming out of Trump’s White House.
ROGUE POTUS STAFF
The original rogues of The Resistance, Rogue Potus Staff seemed too good to be true when it first started tweeting. It sold itself as a set of White House staffers so disturbed by Trump’s presidency they had no choice but to leak everything they were witnessing.
While the account managed to amass over 800,000 followers on Twitter, and send some of the most popular tweets ever posted, it seems to be completely fake. The biggest red flag has been that, despite having supposedly privileged access to the inner workings of the White House, it only seemed to reveal them after they’d first been discussed in a newspaper.
Rogue Potus Staff managed to catch on so quickly because the account was established in the early days of the Trump administration, amid a huge range of other “rogue” government accounts. They were able to take advantage of widespread paranoia, and cloak themselves in an anonymity that people wouldn’t question due to the confidential nature of their leaking.
It first started getting people’s attention by “revealing” the secrets of the White House. But the tweets were often vague and hedged. Many of them say that something might happen, meaning that the account got credit for suggesting something could happen, but no blame when it didn't.
That doesn’t stop them getting thousands of retweets, and enough interest for the account to launch a spin-off website. Here, things start to get weird. On a page called “letters to the President”, the site displays six messages. “Dear Mr. President,” one begins. “I've been in this game long enough to know that there is nothing glamorous about how the sausage is made.” All of them are signed off “Sincerely, A member of your staff”.
As the most unusual and probably bogus account on the list, its most significant moments have been its mistakes. On February 13, for instance, the account tweeted that Michael Flynn was never going to be sacked; the same day, he left the White House.
Such moments are memorable because they show how much traction an account can generate against Trump despite being incredibly sketchy when it comes to the facts. More than 850,000 people still follow the account, including journalists and editors from The Guardian, The New Yorker, and New York Times.
Honourable mentions: Scott Dworkin, Yonatan Zunger, Peter Daou
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