New York congressman Anthony Weiner resigned in disgrace a full year ago, admitting to having sent lewd photos to female fans of his on Twitter.
But for one corner of the Internet, Weinergate is very much not over. A group of liberal bloggers believe that Anthony Weiner was blackmailed by Andrew Breitbart into a false confession, and are carrying out a lonely Twitter crusade to spread their theory — in spite of the fact that Weiner himself has never claimed this to be the case.
In a post on the blog Cannonfire, the blog's proprietor Joseph Cannon describes the "weird subculture of bloggers" that sprung up around Weinergate.
Cannon was a more vocal proponent of the theory when the story broke, but "Their obsession with that scandal soon went way beyond Weiner, and perhaps even beyond conventional left-right politics," he writes. "A very personal twilight war broke out."
A major locus of modern Weiner trutherism is BreitbartUnmasked.com, a site "dedicated to unmasking the underbelly of Andrew Breitbart and his crew of rogues, criminals, wannabe journalists, various right wing extremists and the religious intolerant," per its "About Us" section. Breitbart Unmasked features a large GIF of Breitbart's face morphing into a mask, and lists the name of everyone in Breitbartworld, from editors of Breitbart.com to people only tangentially related.
One of its related Twitter accounts, @OccupyRebellion, regularly tweets about Weinergate and the alleged conspiracies therein.
Different versions of the theory exist; some involve the premise that Republican congressman Michael Grimm, from a neighboring district, extorted Weiner, or that @patriotusa76, the account that first pointed out Weiner's tweet, was a paid campaign tracker for the Republicans.
The theories were in vogue a year ago but have now migrated to a particularly obsessive part of the blogosphere, one that's perpetually engaged in a war with its similarly hard-line counterparts on the right.
1. These twilight warriors are obsessed with hacking and related matters. Some of them claim to have worked with Anonymous and LulzSec and allied organizations.
2. They use obvious sockpuppets. If you visit their microblogs, the self-astroturfing is evident.
3. They are forever claiming that the FBI and/or the cops are going to arrest their opponents very soon. (On what charge? God knows.) Both the left-wingers and the right-wingers make this claim.
4. The rage level runs white hot. This war goes beyond politics. It's personal.
5. The right-wingers come out of the bizarre, paranoid realms of Breitbart-land, where everyone reveres the underhanded tactics of James O'Keefe.
Given that Weiner himself admitted to sending the photos, Weiner trutherism has to rely on the same kind of gymnastics that early-stage birtherism did when confronted with the reality of Barack Obama's birth certificate.
"This is also exactly like Birtherism," writes one blogger familiar with the Weiner Truthers. "That began when two 'experts' came up with some very-dodgy 'proof' the short-form BC was fake. That was disproven in a day-- but the idea stuck in their heads."
Rosie Gray is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. Gray reports on politics and foreign policy.
Contact Rosie Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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