A heckler from the far-right website Infowars was just forcibly removed from an impeachment hearing after delivering an incendiary and racist rant that took aim at former President Barack Obama.
"Americans are sick of your impeachment scam! Trump is innocent!" Owen Shroyer shouted early Monday morning. "Folks, Obama was emailing Hillary Clinton on her illegal server under a secret name, that came out in emails. And he claimed he didn't know she had it. Barack Obama is a treasonous ... he belongs in jail. He belongs in Guantanamo Bay. I mean look, I'm not saying this should happen but Barack Obama, you know, find the tallest tree and a rope."
Shroyer's comments were delivered in defense of President Trump, who has insofar obstructed the current probe into his attempt to persuade Ukraine to help him win the 2020 election by withholding documents and discouraging witness testimony. Shroyer delivered his rant at the start of the latest impeachment inquiry hearing, accusing Congressman Jerry Nadler and other Democrats of treason. Less than 40 seconds after he started speaking, he was forcibly removed by police.
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Shroyer is a known conspiracy theorist and instigator who has been banned from Facebook and YouTube, which is really saying something. Along with Infowars, he infamously helped spread the debunked Pizzagate theory, which alleged that the Clintons were involved in a child sex-trafficking ring.
Shroyer's comments at the hearing were, of course, deeply racist, as they concern the first African American president of the United States, but given his website's track record and white supremacist leanings, this shouldn't surprise us. Websites that perpetuate this kind of misinformation present major threats to any form of democracy and justice. Videos with titles such as "Why Impeachment Crisis Is a Textbook Lynching" add insult to injury, co-opting legacies of racist oppression and transmuting the American people's distrust of authority into fake news.
Still, we shouldn't think of Shroyer as a lone wolf or solo extremist gone rogue; rather, he's an unusually visible symptom of a much larger and very complex matrix of problems. Some of the worst perpetuators of racist systems hold positions of power across party lines, and mainstream media sources and politicians can be purchased and influenced by major moneyed influences as well. In all these cases, false information can easily become weaponized as protest and alternative versions of truth when refracted through the right's kaleidoscope of circumstances, rage, and high-profile distraction.