President Donald Trump celebrated a variety of right-wing personalities, meme-makers and conspiracy theorists at his so-called “Social Media Summit” on Thursday, bringing new respectability to the right’s online fringe.
“The crap you think of is unbelievable,” Trump said, as he welcomed some of his most dedicated social media partisans to the White House.
Trump’s guests included a variety of right-wing internet personalities, including promoters of the QAnon and Seth Rich conspiracy theories. Conservative operative Ali Alexander, who has promoted that smear that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) isn’t an “American black,” was invited. So was Jim Hoft, whose Gateway Pundit blog has promoted hoaxes.
“You’re in many cases getting the honest word out,” Trump told the invitees. “Not in all cases, but in many cases.”
While the event was aimed at the social media companies, no representatives from the social media giants were invited to the summit. Giant signs around the summit explained terms like “doxxing” and “shadowbanning.”
“They’re not using that brilliance, and they’re not using what we gave them fairly,” Trump said, referring to a law that protects social media giants from being held liable for moderation decisions.
Trump spent much of the event, which was meant to showcase conservative allegations that the social media giants are biased against them, complaining about his own social media metrics.
The president spent much of the event complaining that his tweets get fewer retweets than they used to, suggesting that this was proof of a conspiracy against him — claiming that he had been “shadowbanned” by Twitter executives. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey met with Trump earlier this year to explain that Trump had lost followers in routine bot purges, but Trump also alleged on Thursday that Twitter was deliberately depressing his follower count.
“I have millions and millions of people, so many people you wouldn’t believe it, but I know I’ve been blocked,” Trump said.
To kick off the event, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway interviewed pro-Trump YouTube stars Diamond & Silk. The invite list also included Donald Trump Jr., lawmakers like Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL), as well as establishment GOP figures like executives from campus conservative group Turning Point USA.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who has been threatening to push legislation against social media giants like Facebook and Twitter, was also in attendance and ready to rail against the companies.
“You and I know the truth is the social media giants would love to shut us up,” Halwey said.
The social media summit had stirred up controversy even before it began, with the White House disinviting pro-Trump cartoonist Ben Garrison over an anti-Semitic tweet. The invite list also angered many right-wing personalities who have been banned from Twitter and Facebook but were still left out of the summit.
The event included a number of people who elevate conspiracy theories for a living, including YouTuber Tim Pool, who has promoted the Seth Rich conspiracy theory, and Bill Mitchell, an online video personality who has promoted QAnon, a ludicrous idea that posits that the Democratic Party is run by pedophile cannibals.
“You’re very special people, you’re very brilliant people, in so many cases,” Trump said.
Trump said he could see why some of the summit’s invitees would be targeted for social media bans for their content.
“It’s genius, but it’s bad,” Trump said.
Trump frequently veered off-topic, returning multiple times to his complaints about the management of The Apprentice, the NBC reality show he hasn’t hosted for years. But he also used the event to pump up his online personalities for the 2020 election.
“Our country’s going to go one way, or it’s going to head in the direction of Venezuela,” Trump said.