The Left has an interesting relationship with trolls. Saul Alinsky’s strategies were considered clever or even brilliant political theater. Groups like the “Yes Men” are appreciated as “pranksters.” PETA’s stunts are covered with bemusement and humor. Nobody gets mad at Nathan Fielder. All these tactics are fine. But do anything that smacks of right wing politics—do anything that challenges the media’s self-identity, as I have found—and you’re a troll or a liar or worse.
That’s why I wanted to interview Laura Loomer, a self-proclaimed “guerrilla journalist” most recently for storming the stage of “Julius Caesar” in Central Park and getting international headlines for it. Don’t think that’s her only stunt: On election day she attempted to vote under the name of Huma Abedin while wearing a burqa. Laura also captured on video trying to get Chelsea Clinton to sign a copy of her book out to Juanita Broaddrick.
I’m not saying this is high art or grand humor or incisive political commentary. It is undeniable, however, that she knows how to get media attention for what she is doing, whether it’s from The Blaze or the New Yorker. I would also say that for the same reasons that many on the left would find her actions offensive or repugnant, many on the right think she is brave and provocative. Laura is from the James O’Keefe (and indirectly Andrew Breitbart) school of media manipulators and provocateurs. She knows that the press has an infinite appetite for controversy and she knows that the easiest way to be in the news is to make news. She was also nice and open enough to speak to me about how to she does that.
I don’t agree with most of Laura’s views, but I am always interested in understanding how people spread their message and what they do with their beliefs. I’ve left her answers unedited below—and I urge you to read them (as opposed to judging them) and focus on what they reveal about our media system and political discourse.
How do you describe what it is that you do? Where do you see your role as in the current media and political culture?
I consider myself to be a Guerrilla journalist. Some would call me a provocateur, but I am a journalist who uses ambush and undercover tactics to uncover the truth and expose people for who they truly are. As Andrew Breitbart used to say, “politics is downstream from culture”, and I am a culture warrior within the conservative political movement. I don’t sit behind a desk and write stories, but instead I throw myself on the front lines with the opposition to counteract their attempts to dominate culture. If we want to win the culture war, we must define the culture by being the counter culture. Conservative is the new counter culture, and I consider myself to be a member of the counter culture.
Part of Rebel’s mission is to actually participate in the news, not just report on it. Walk us through how that looks for you day to day. Are you looking for opportunities to make statements? Are you looking to direct the conversation, to move the window of acceptability this way or that way?
As a Guerrilla journalist, I participate in the news by holding individuals who are in the news accountable through personal interactions. That involves confronting people in ambush interviews, secretly recording them, or engaging in a conversation with them when they are caught off guard. For example, this week Chris Cuomo was in the news not only because he was mentioned in an undercover video investigation conducted by Project Veritas, but also because he was accused of extorting a Reddit user over a GIF/meme. He deleted a tweet in which he asked whether CNN should dox the Reddit user. Cuomo wasn’t giving an answer as to why he deleted the tweet, so I ambushed him as he was getting into his private car service at CNN. He was caught off guard but I participated in the news by taking measures into my own hands. I participate by doing what everyone wants to do but won’t do.
Tell us about your interruption of the New York Public Theater’s production of Julius Caesar. What were your goals going in? How did it all go down? How would you describe it—a protest? A statement? A scandal? A stunt?
I was bothered by the New York City Public Theatre’s anti-Trump version of Julius Caesar from the moment I heard about it. The fact that liberals were coming together to celebrate a play that portrays the assassination of President Donald Trump is sickening and should really serve as a wakeup call to all Americans who are under the impression that violence against the right has not become normalized. My frustrations with political violence escalated following the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise on Donald Trump’s birthday. I started to think about what could have inspired the shooter to attack Republicans, and things like Kathy Griffin’s ISIS photoshoot and the media’s celebration of the Julius Caesar assassination porn came to mind.
I decided that I would buy a ticket to Julius Caesar and protest political violence by interrupting the assassination scene. I was not originally planning to storm the stage, but when I entered the theatre and realized I had second row seats, I knew my message would be more powerful if I stormed the stage. So I did. And it was great. My goal was to bring awareness to the epidemic of the normalization of political violence against the right. I would describe it as a combination between a protest and a stunt.
After I stormed that stage, I was escorted out by security and I continued to protest outside of the theatre on periscope. After about 20 minutes, I was arrested by police officers and taken to the Central Park precinct. I am facing charges of misdemeanor trespassing and disorderly conduct. My court date is in August.
Following the protest and my arrest, I instantly became an internet sensation. I had no idea my protest would be as big or as impactful as it became, and I was truly shocked. My 33 seconds on stage touched so many people, angered many others, and ended up causing a huge national debate about political violence. I knew I struck a nerve when CNN and the New York Times were forced into writing about political violence. I was proud of myself but also knew I had become a voice for the people who couldn’t speak up or were too scared to speak up. I felt a lot of pressure on my shoulders. The two weeks following my arrest were some of the busiest most hectic days of my life, with nonstop interviews and meetings with my lawyer. My protest also caused a rift between the alt-right and new right in which I became the face of. I went from having 6k followers to 40k overnight. To say the least, it was a little overwhelming at times, and still is.
You’ve worked with and know some of the more interesting provocateurs in media, particularly on the right. What have you learned from James O’Keefe and Mike Cernovich and others? What do you think they’ve figured out about the media environment that other people seem to be missing?
I will always treasure the nearly 3 years I spent working for James O’Keefe as an undercover journalist at Project Veritas. O’Keefe taught me the importance of the truth, and above anything else, he helped me become the fighter I am today. In the words of O’Keefe, content is king. You can talk a big talk, but nothing really means anything unless you’re producing original content. He has inspired me to become a content creator, and I definitely became a content generator, both during my time at Veritas and now during my time at Rebel. I learned through O’Keefe the importance of accountability, and it is because of O’Keefe that I have relied on Alinsky tactics as the foundation of what I do. At Project Veritas I learned that the most effective way to influence culture and defeat the left is by making them play by their own rule book. Whether or not people on the right who are dominating the culture war like O’Keefe, Mike Cernovich, Roger Stone, Alex Jones, Ann Coulter and Milo will admit it, much of what they do is rooted in Alinsky tactics. They successfully defeat the left and globalists on a daily basis because they make them live up to their own book of rules, i.e. identity politics. The left can’t handle when the right uses identity politics and protest tactics against them. That is why my protest of Julius Caesar was so successful. I forced the left to denounce one of their main tactics of disrupting events.
Both O’Keefe and Cernovich have become very close friends of mine. I respect them on a professional level, but my loyalty and love for them is unmatched. I would do anything for my friends, especially those like O’Keefe and Cernovich, who similar to me, are loyal to a tee. I admire them and many others who have figured out how to completely make the mainstream media irrelevant by becoming dominant voices in the field of citizen journalism; not only by producing their own content, but by literally building an army of guerrilla journalists who are armed with cell phones and a Twitter accounts. They are both truly revolutionary forces. An inspiration to all.
At the Shakespeare play, you made a statement about the normalization of political violence against the right. What do you think about the escalation of rhetoric on both sides? Even your stunt, nobody—including you—felt the need to jump up at the Obama-inspired version in Minneapolis in 2012. Do you have any worries about the response to your response and where this will all go?
I would argue that the current political climate in America is rife with hatred and political violence. However, majority of the hate and violence is coming from the left and is directed towards the right. If we go back to the 2016 election, the left was exposed by Project Veritas for engaging in “bird dogging” in which the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign were actually paying protesters to disrupt and incite violence against Donald Trump and his supporters. Yes, it is true that President Obama was also portrayed as Julius Caesar, but it is not the same as the most recent depiction of Donald Trump as Caesar. The New York City Public Theatre received $30 MILLION in NY taxpayer dollars to fund a play that actively celebrates and encourages the assassination of President Trump. Nowhere near that much money was used to put on the version in which Obama was Caesar.
Another reason why the two different versions of the play are not the same is because MSM conservative media was not actively advertising for and funding a play that assassinated Obama. However, two of the most powerful liberal MSM outlets and publications (CNN Time Warner and the NY Times) were both proud sponsors of the tax payer funded play that portrays Trump as Caesar and viciously assassinates him.
By being sponsors, the liberal MSM was signaling that it is ok to enjoy a mock assassination of the president. Essentially, the NYYC Public Theatre bastardized Shakespeare, turning what was supposed to be a political tragedy into a modern day political comedy.
I worry that if the normalization of political violence continues to be supported by the MSM there will continue to be shootings like the one in which Rep. Scales was a victim, and a general consensus that it is ok to violently take out your political opponents. Conservative genocide is starting to become a reality.
Obviously the people you were trying to reach to some degree weren’t the actors or the audience, but the people who would hear about what happened through the media. Did you think about how to spread what happened? Or did you just know it would sort of take care of itself?
As I mentioned, I was not expecting the protest to reach as many people as it did. I filmed it on periscope and was expecting it to make the rounds in my conservative twitter echo chamber, but I was shocked when I realized how much media coverage it received. I expected right leaning media to cover my protest since they had been discussing the play for a few weeks, but I never thought the left would entertain the idea that there is an issue with political violence in this country. However, I won’t deny the fact that I am happy it spread like a wildfire, because the debate it caused was long overdue.
After it happened, you were a trending topic on Twitter. What is that like? How much impact does something like that have?
I was not expecting my protest and arrest to go viral. It was very surreal being the number one trending topic on Twitter the day after I stormed the stage. I was at the top of Drudge for a day and a half, which is a huge deal in the media world, given the fact that Drudge is the number two most viewed site in the world. I made a huge media footprint with what I did, and although it was overwhelming at times, it was also fulfilling and disappointing. While many of those who I idolized and respected throughout my ;life praised me, many of those I looked up to criticized me and my protest. I went into the theatre thinking everyone on the right would be satisfied with my actions, but I quickly learned that many on the right were not ready to accept my journalistic style and tactics out of their fear of resembling the left. However, I don’t have any regrets and I would do it all over again. I don’t mind having haters on the right, because I sparked a debate that was long overdue on the right and much needed for the media and left to see that not all people on the right think alike.
What’s your take on the word troll? It’s one of those phrases that came out of nowhere that seems to be a proud badge for some and an epithet to others. What is your view?
I think some people take pride in being a troll while others view it as a degrading term that serves to diminish the significance of their work. While I participate in the trolling of the left, I wouldn’t want to be labeled as a troll, because despite what the left may think, what I do is journalism and it has an impact. I didn’t storm the stage to troll the left (although many described me as a troll), I stormed the stage to bring awareness to an issue that is eating away at the political fabric of our country. Many people wear the title of troll as a badge of honor, but I strive to do more than just agitate. In other words, trolling is an activity I engage in, but it is not what I do.
What’s your media diet look like? Is there anything you’ve learned making the sausage (so to speak) that has changed what you will and won’t eat?
I used to engage with haters, but through my growing platform, I have learned not to feed the trolls or engage with haters. I am a consumer of what many would call alternative media. I transformed from a person who used to rely on MSM like Fox News for 80% of my news content to someone who gets most of their news from periscopes, YouTube videos, live streams, apps, and Twitter. As a member of the alternative media, I will no longer get the majority of my news consumption from MSM sources. I like to say that I have learned to not elevate fake news, but instead create the news.
What’s next for you? I imagine one of the downsides of how democratized statements like this are and how quickly they spread is that they can be forgotten very quickly. Are you already thinking about what comes after?
Topping the vitality of the Julius Caesar protest will be difficult, but I am not in this for popularity. I want to be significant. Popular people almost never do anything significant, but significant people can always become popular. I want to make a difference and I hope that people are inspired by my courage or what many call my “brass balls”. I want to motivate people to speak up regardless of the consequences. I want to be a voice for the silent majority who often feel that they do not have a voice.
In the weeks following Julius Caesar, I have continued to make waves and hold people accountable. I continue to do so in my ballsy fashion and as far as I am concerned, nothing is off limits. I don’t have any reservations. Nobody is off limits to me.
Ryan Holiday is the best-selling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. Ryan is an editor-at-large for the Observer, and he lives in Austin, Texas.
He’s also put together this list of 15 books that you’ve probably never heard of that will alter your worldview, help you excel at your career and teach you how to live a better life.
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