The sad messages inside Alex Jones's texts, and more: The week in extremism
Extremists have raised millions on crowdfunding websites in the last few years, much of it to pay for legal defense for insurrection-related crimes. Lawmakers are targeting drag shows across the country with legislation. And a deep dive into Alex Jones' phone reveals self-loathing and close ties with the Proud Boys.
It's the week in extremism.
We had an exclusive story this week focused on a report from the Anti-Defamation League that found extremist campaigns have raised more than $6.2 million on crowdfunding websites over the last few years.
$2.6 million raised: Crowdfunding websites in 'heyday' for extremists
Crowdfunding hate: How white supremacists raise money
The report tallied 324 fundraisers for the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, white supremacist organizations and other extremist groups.
An ADL expert said the online effort shows we are in a "heyday" for extremist fundraising, where everyday people can easily contribute to extremist causes.
Most of the money was raised on GiveSendGo, which bills itself as a "Christian crowdfunding" website.
Context: Shortly after the Jan. 6 insurrection, GoFundMe banned fundraising for travel to political events that have a "risk for violence." But other sites, particularly GiveSendGo, have become the go-to for extremists and their supporters.
Lawmakers target drag shows
Lawmakers in at least eight states have crafted at least14 bills taking aim at drag shows, according to an analysis by PEN America, a free speech advocacy group that I wrote about this week. The bills come as drag shows — particularly those that allow children in the audience — have become a flashpoint for far-right extremists, who have increasingly shown up to protest shows, sometimes with violent results.
Laws seek to ban drag shows: Lawmakers targeting drag shows with 14 bills across U.S., analysis finds
Special Report from USA TODAY: A drag show, a protest and a line of guns: How the battle over one issue is tearing at America
Supporters of all-ages drag shows say they provide a crucial support network for LGBTQ children, who can benefit from events that celebrate gender identity and expression.
Right-wing extremists, amplified by conservative pundits and politicians, claim all-age drag shows are damaging to children's mental health and allege, without evidence, they are havens for child abusers.
Context: In November, a man attacked Club Q, an LGBTQ-friendly bar in Colorado Springs. The bar had just held a drag show and had an all-ages drag show scheduled for the following day. Experts said the attack was shocking, but not surprising in the current climate.
Inside Alex Jones' phone
Researchers at the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hate Watch spent months examining the contents of Alex Jones' phone, provided by an attorney who successfully sued the conspiracy theorist last year. Among the findings:
Around the time he was facing financial collapse, Jones texted his father that his situation was like "a black hole." His father didn't respond by text, Hate Watch writes.
Despite publicly decrying pornography, Jones shared multiple links to pornographic videos with his acquaintances.
Part 2 of the expose reveals just how close Jones is with past and present members of the extremist group the Proud Boys. Jones frequently texted several members of the group, as well as Roger Stone, confidant of former President Donald Trump.
The texts also show how desperate former Proud Boys chairman Henry "Enrique" Tarrio was for Jones' attention. “Enrique Tarrio talked to Alex like he needed something out of him all the time," a source told Hatewatch.
Go deeper: read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
Statistic of the week
That's how many Americans took up arms in the revolution against the British, according to the myth upon which the Three Percenters extremist group was founded.
Let's be clear. That's a myth, as in, it's false. Historians have found the real number was far larger. (Notably, even 3 percent would have been a lot: The current active-duty military is less than 1 percent of the adult U.S. population.)
The Three Percenters, on the other hand, saw some of their adherents charged with seditious conspiracy for their actions at the Jan. 6 insurrection.
The loose-knit group made the news this week when a retiring police officer in South Bend, Indiana, was photographed with a tattoo of the logo of the group on his hand. "I am not a radical. It’s just my own personal show of patriotism," officer Jack Stilp said about the tattoo.
Last week in extremism: More Oath Keepers guilty of seditious conspiracy, active-duty Marines charged in Jan. 6
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bills to ban drag shows; extremist crowdfunding; Alex Jones' texts