Anti-Extremism Expert Loses Jobs, Twitter Account After Antifa Smears
Anti-extremism researcher Eoin Lenihan struck a nerve when he published the results of a study showing the links between liberal news outlets and the violent thugs who organize under the name "antifa." After Lenihan published his report, antifa activists contacted his employers to get him fired and reported him on Twitter, succeeding in shutting down his Twitter account. A reporter with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has disputed part of Lenihan's story, as noted in an update below.
Lenihan's story seems all the more important after Rose City Antifa in Portland beat up Quillette editor Andy Ngo, using milkshakes with quick-dry cement and landing him in the hospital with brain bleed. The anti-extremism researcher told PJ Media, "I am not surprised that Andy has been brutally attacked." He noted that Rose City Antifa belongs "to the Torch Antifa collective which is a network of Militant Antifa collectives throughout the USA. This means that Rose City Antifa prioritise the use of violence as their primary means of defeating those they deem to be fascist."
He pointed out a June 13 post singling Ngo out for being "Islamophobic." "They explicitly targeted him for attack. Also in that post they told Antifa members showing up to the June 29th Demonstration that they would be employing the St. Paul Principles. This means that anyone who shows up that isn't Militant Antifa must not criticise or stand in the way of anyone using violence," he added.
The attack on Ngo "was entirely premeditated and those (many!) journalists downplaying and ridiculing Andy — many of whom were found to have concerning links to Antifa in our recent research — are cheerleaders for Antifa violence," he said.
"The most disturbing Tweet — and that is saying something — that I saw was a tweet from SPLC contributor David Neiwert who stated that Andy Ngo 'invited' the assault, accusing him of writing an article that was turned into a 'kill list' of journalists," Lenihan noted. "Firstly, it was my article, not Andy's. And secondly, despite unproven claims of an Atomwaffen 'kill list' (nobody is willing to produce the video), in the month since the article was published only one journalist has been beaten — Andy. But facts do not matter to Antifa's cheerleaders in the media."
Lenihan posted the results of his study on Twitter on May 15, and RedState, PJ Media, and Quillette picked up the story a few days later. The anti-extremism researcher appeared on Al Jazeera to speak about the Christchurch Call to Action, an international response to the white supremacist shootings targeting mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The producer said she was proud of his segment.
Yet Al Jazeera removed the video from YouTube after The Huffington Post's Luke O'Brien alleged that Lenihan was himself on the far right. Michael Hayden, a reporter at the SPLC, tweeted at Al Jazeera, accusing Lenihan of running an account whose "primary shtick is to mock feminists and immigrants."
Hayden was referring to ProgDadTV, a political satire account Lenihan ran from November 2017 to August 2018 and occasionally thereafter. As he wrote in The Post-Millennial, "It was intended to spoof modern outrage culture across the political spectrum, and managed to build a fanbase in doing so. I even managed to gain praise from leading comedian Joe Rogan who said he found the satire hilarious on his popular podcast. ... ProgDad was never abusive. It was never racist, aimed at immigrants, women or religious minorities."
Hayden himself had exchanged direct messages with Lenihan about ProgDad, calling the satire account "one of the better trolls I've ever seen for a little bit." In fact, the researcher even told Hayden that he was using ProgDad as a vehicle for research into the far right. As Lenihan wrote, "Though ProgDad had begun as a spoof (and was genuinely a lot of fun!), as I spent more time online I was able to pinpoint a small, but noticeable, faction of followers who interacted with my posts not out of simple comedic enjoyment—but hate. They hated people on the left. Virulently. I put on my professional hat, and became interested in developing a set of interventions to prevent some of these people from drifting into far-right extremism."
It wasn't just Hayden, however. The Al Jazeera producer confessed to Lenihan that O'Brien had reached out. "He covers nationalists, neo-nazis, fascists, and Islamophobes. He said you are one of these extremists," the producer said. The producer reached out to Hayden, who discredited Lenihan.
Luckily, Al Jazeera had already done its due diligence on the researcher. O'Brien had produced no evidence against him, and Hayden produced false "evidence."
The SPLC reporter presented a tweet alleging that ProgDad had been banned from Twitter as part of a spoof campaign to stage "bleed in's" in public pools across America. This is false — ProgDad was suspended for mocking a white supremacist, @LucidHurricaneX. That individual was later banned from the free speech platform Gab for doxing a liberal activist.
Hayden and O'Brien "contacted an employer and smeared my reputation to poison the well against me, and did so while relying heavily on sources associated with—you guessed it—Antifa," Lenihan noted. Hayden disputes this claim, as noted in the update below.
In a far more insidious effort, antifa-connected activists have attempted to erase Lenihan's credentials as an anti-extremism researcher. Activists first contacted his employers to smear his name, then claimed that the employers and would-be employers never offered him jobs in the first place.
Right Wing Watch researcher Jared Holt wrote an article for the Columbia Journalism Review, claiming that Lenihan is not an anti-extremism researcher and has "no affiliation with any previously known organization that researches extremism." The researcher has effectively rebutted these claims, and he sent PJ Media screenshots of emails demonstrating his relationship with many anti-extremism organizations.
In 2016, Lenihan was invited to work with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, tasked with creating curriculum to prevent young people from slipping into far-right extremism. The foundation underwent many changes in 2016, becoming the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. Lenihan followed up in 2017 and the manager said he hoped everything would work out. The offer has never been revoked.
In October 2018, Lenihan spoke at an extremism conference for the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Berlin. Extremism experts, European Union staff, and German politicians attended the event.
Lenihan also worked with the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR) "to build a digital platform for webinars on countering far right extremism," he told PJ Media. Sadly, "the head of that foundation threw me under the bus when he was the target of another 'pressure campaign' by Antifa and journalists. He made a number of false statements in his official statement which is covered by the Daily Caller article, but to recap, he said he had never worked with me. That is not true."
The researcher provided emails showing his work with CARR and demonstrating that CARR's director later reached out to him to rekindle the relationship, rather than the other way around.
Lenihan was scheduled to speak at the Terrorism and Social Media Conference in Swansea, Wales, last week but he was disinvited after a pressure campaign.
He has a few other job opportunities that remain open and an academic paper "under review" at the journal Social Networks. The journal's editor has been harassed, but the paper is still being considered.
The antifa pressure campaign has also cost Lenihan his Twitter account. As previously noted, the ProgDad account was permanently suspended for "targeted harassment" of the white supremacist @LucidHurricaneX. "He had been harassing me for a while and I made a mocking tweet which got me banned. The tweet was very harmless so he must have gamed the report system and claimed that it was homophobic or trans bullying or something like that as it's not bannable on its own," the researcher told PJ Media.
Lenihan sent PJ Media research identifying @LucidHurricaneX by the name "Jason Jones," showing an arrest record for drunk driving, and revealing that the white supremacist Paul Nehlen retweeted his tweets.
Twitter's rules allow parody accounts under limited circumstances, but the company has begun shutting down accounts it suspects were created in order to evade permanent suspension. Twitter first cited this claim in suspending Lenihan's personal account.
"I have included the initial reason Twitter gave me for my ban -- evading permanent -- suspension and then their changed reason -- managing multiple accounts for abusive purposes -- when I appealed it," he told PJ Media.
Lenihan claimed that Twitter does not apply the rule against evading permanent suspension equally, however. "Elizabeth King, an Antifa-connected journalist who appeared on our dataset and abused me when I published my Antifa thread, was suspended permanently on her account @ekingc," he told PJ Media. "A few days later, she returned on an account @elizabcking and continued to harass me."
"I reported this to Twitter and she was allowed to remain on the platform. I am not complaining about my suspension (though I do think it was wrong) but I am questioning why I was suspended for the exact same reasons as King — abusive behaviour as ProgDad — yet she is allowed back and I am not," Lenihan added. "It seems like a double standard."
His personal account, @EoinLenihan, was older than ProgDad, so he could not be accused of creating the @EoinLenihan account in order to evade permanent suspension.
The violence of antifa was on full display this past weekend with the attack against Andy Ngo, but activists have also engaged in smear campaigns to get their critics fired, to erase their critics' credentials, and to get their critics silenced on social media. Eoin Lenihan will not be the last.
Michael Hayden, the SPLC reporter, reached out to PJ Media with a statement after publication.
"I never tried to get this Eoin Lenihan person fired because I didn't know what his job was or if he even had one," Hayden told PJ Media. "I only knew him as 'ProgDad' until he appeared under his real name. When I saw he got on TV I thought to myself, 'wow, Progdad did it again.' He had successfully tricked a lot of people under that handle, including me."
"I didn't reach out to CARR, I didn't reach out to Swansea. I asked Al Jazeera how he got on TV because I was surprised to see ProgDad there. That is it," Hayden added.
He also gave PJ Media a statement he sent to The Post-Millennial after it published Lenihan's story:
I reached out to Al Jazeera on May 17 to inquire how they arrived at the decision to produce a segment with Eoin Lenihan, who I knew only as “ProgDad,” a twitter personality who was involved in spreading what appeared to me to be disinformation on that platform at times during 2018. The article states that I “contacted an employer [of Lenihan’s] and smeared [his] reputation.” I do not know if Lenihan has full time employment right now or not. If he does, I certainly did not contact anyone I believed to be his employer with an attempt to get him fired.
When I reached out to Al Jazeera to ask about how he came to appear on their program, it was out of a desire to understand whether or not he had trolled his way into a television spot. I was curious to know whether or not he was fabricating credentials. The Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right released a statement on June 20, calling Lenihan’s research “discredited.” I think it is easy to understand why I was curious to learn more about Lenihan's credentials as a researcher, given the number of people who have complained publicly about the attention he has received from outlets like this one.
I did, in fact, interview Lenihan in 2018, as he states in this article. The context of that interview was my research about disinformation campaigns and social media personalities. He was polite, and helpful, but I chose not to take his claims of being a researcher seriously, because I knew him only as “ProgDad.” I personally have only known Lenihan as "ProgDad," a character I perceived to be a troll. If he is serious about combatting the spread of far-right extremism, I wish him best of luck with that endeavor.
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.