Villains

Steve Brodner illustrates some of the worst offenders in the disinformation world

The Kochs

Charles Koch (left) and his deceased brother David (right) have spent millions to infuse the media with misinformation. Their most significant legacy is peddling fake climate science. From bankrolling global-warming denialism at the Daily Caller to publishing an economics textbook that downplays the climate crisis, the Kochs’ labyrinthine funding apparatus is far-reaching. 

 


Q

 

For two years Q, a pseudonymous troll claiming to hold high-level security clearance in the Department of Energy, has posted on 4chan, an online message board, with cryptic hints about the “true” nature of the Trump administration and a secret ring of villains Trump has been working to defeat. A site that monitors Q-related activity, QMap.pub, boasts five million monthly visitors.

 


Donald Trump

 

An early, aggressive peddler of misinformation, he misleads many on Twitter (followers: sixty-five million) by amplifying conspiracy theories and sharing his own. A highlight, from July 16, 2018: “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!”—a reference to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of him.

 


Yevgeniy Prigozhin

Known as “Putin’s Chef,” he financed the Internet Research Agency, which managed a disinformation campaign across US media in 2016. On Facebook alone, the campaign reached 126 million people, some of whom attended rallies the IRA organized.

 


Rupert Murdoch

Founder of News Corp, the media empire that owns Fox News, which tirelessly promotes conspiracies about the “replacement” of white people by immigrants of color, tells audiences that tech companies discriminate against conservatives (they don’t), and amplifies Trump’s lies.

 


Mohammed bin Salman

Crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Believed to have directed the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, and then oversaw a troll army that spread pro-Saudi propaganda on Twitter.

 


Claire Lehmann

The founding editor of Quillette, the right wing’s highly influential answer to Slate. Lehmann publishes members of the “intellectual Dark Web”—academics, journalists, and tech entrepreneurs who defend debunked race, gender, and climate science.

 

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Sam Thielman is the Tow editor at the Columbia Journalism Review.