From Fake News To Fact: How Alt-Right Movements Start With Internet Trolls

Phaylen Fairchild
7 min readJul 5, 2018

It began on a web forum with a college student giving the “OK” hand gesture. It turned into a symbol of hate embraced by White Nationalists.

Recently I was researching some of the most trending anti-LGBT movements to hit social media- the hashtag #DropTheT- a radical feminist effort by right-wing lesbians to exile transgender women and men from beneath the LGBT umbrella. More recently, there was the incredibly alarming uprising of the individuals self-identifying as MAPs (Minor-Attracted People) -or, pedophiles, if, like me you refuse to grant those who pose a threat to children with a sanitized initialism.

I watched MAPs openly discuss their desire to be “Out of the closet” without risking social shame. They compared themselves and their struggles to gay and bisexual folks claiming that they are simply people who have a different sexual orientation, which they have termed “Pedo-sexual.”

With the increased visibility of emboldened bigotry in post-Trump America, which, I confess, always existed, albeit more quietly and begrudgingly, as we pushed back against it, I wondered how all these new, more radical ideas that conservative have latched onto came to the surface.

I was shocked when a fellow writer (An actual journalist- of which I am not, nor do I claim to be.) began sharing with me discoveries of her own. As I listened and made comparisons to my own research, I had one of those mind-blown moments. Most of the propaganda that has reared it’s ugly head in the last two years have been directly linked to internet trolls who introduced concepts and ideas leveraging (I hate to say it) fake news.

No, it’s not Russia. It’s far less sophisticated. It’s legions of people who do things “For the lulz” like spamming the TIME Person of the Year poll in Donald Trump’s favor that organize and inhabit dark corners of the metaverse and deliberately post content out of context, like photos and videos en masse on social media. Since most users don’t fact check and instead simply react, it sometimes catches fire. While I’m sure it began long before now, the current political climate has created something of a perfect storm for things that were once easily dismissed as innocuous to become national symbols for White…

Phaylen Fairchild

Actor, Filmmaker, LGBTQ+ & Women’s Rights Activist All work copyright