The road to civil war is paved with Tim Pool's clickbait
Tim Pool has learned that once you take a stand on something, you can be defined by that stance in perpetuity. Instead, he's chosen to become the ultimate not-supporter of right-wing talking points.
There was an excellent Daily Beast article by Robert Silverman published last week about rampant plagiarism by Michael Robison, a writer at the so-called news department of Tim Pool’s website, timcast[.]com. If you don’t know who Tim Pool is, Silverman’s coverage is extensive and very informative. The much shorter version is that Tim is a popular right-wing YouTuber who started out as a leftist covering protests like Occupy Wall Street and Standing Rock. After a short stint at Vice News, Tim went solo and has increasingly gravitated toward right-wing talking points. Ever since 2016, we’ve seen Pool align himself with pro-Trump figures from the so-called Alt-Lite crowd—basically MAGA culture warriors who were an amalgamation of men’s rights activists, Proud Boys and Infowars junkies.
These days Tim still claims to hold moderate, center-left views, but among his roster of YouTube guests in the last month or so are right-wing diehards like Jack Posobiec, Larry Elder, Will Chamberlain (owner of Human Events), Peter Navarro, Alex Marlow and Naomi Wolf. The list goes on, and even though you have to look hard to find a guest who is not a Trump supporter, Pool is very emphatic about not being a Trump supporter himself. He just happens to give an outsized amount of airtime to pro-Trump talking points and media figures with minimal, if any, pushback.
Tim Pool is such a not-Trump supporter that he’s been approvingly amplified by figures on the right like Donald Trump Jr. to prove that, yes, in fact there are leftists out there who agree that people on the left have lost their collective minds! I can only imagine Tim probably arguing that he wouldn’t have to agree with Trump so often if the left wasn’t so crazy and wrong all the time. It’s a rather transparent game, but it’s made Tim plenty of money. There’s no reason to expect him to change course, especially when his news site is dependent on advertising revenue courtesy of an obscure relationship with Sean Hannity’s personal website, Hannity[.]com. However, there’s a recent talking point Tim can’t seem to let go, and I think it warrants discussion here. You see, Tim Pool doesn’t support the next American Civil War almost as much as he doesn’t support Donald Trump. Allow me to explain what this game is all about.
Tim Pool’s ad revenue
When you consider the kinds of guests Tim Pool keeps having on his show, it’s easy to mistake him for another right-wing junk news purveyor. When you realize Cassandra Fairbanks—who’s responsible for years of junk news MAGA clickbait at outlets like The Gateway Pundit and Big League Politics—is the editor-in-chief of Tim’s “news” site, you’d be forgiven for believing Tim is simply another Trump devotee without any original ideas. If you watch Tim’s YouTube channel, you’re likely to draw the same conclusion. Pool jumps onto the agreed upon right-wing narrative of the week, criticizes the mainstream media coverage and “the left” for believing said coverage while airing MAGA talking points without much regard for fact-checking or the truth. Sure, occasionally Pool’s co-hosts are vaguely oppositional to Trump and Pool’s pro-Trump positions, but they’re more adamant in their position of being anti-establishment and anti-mainstream media than they are adamantly opposed to the predominant right-wing talking point that day.
While Pool’s primary source of revenue these days comes from ads displayed on his YouTube videos, his website is almost entirely dependent on his relationship with right-wing media figures. In addition to Hannity[.]com, Pool also maintains an ongoing advertising relationship with the pro-Trump site Human Events, whose senior editor just so happens to be Pool’s third most popular guest, Jack Posobiec. One of Pool’s harshest critics is Nandini Jammi, who runs the outfit known as Check My Ads which has been successful in demonetizing peddlers of disinformation with a particular emphasis on those pushing pro-Russian, anti-vaccine and 2020 election denialism talking points. She’s a big reason why Pool’s advertising revenues have dwindled and few ad companies will maintain a relationship with his website. As of September 2022, only Revcontent supplies ads directly to Pool’s website, timcast[.]com, and even their advertising accounts are shared among pro-Trump websites such as Human Events and charliekirk[.]com. Other ads placed on timcast[.]com are resold to them by a middle man with a direct relationship with the advertising company. Basically, no one other than Revcontent is willing to deal directly with timcast[.]com. Everyone else is only willing to deal with his site indirectly, using other right-wing outlets as the middleman. So, it’s no real surprise that Pool’s content has shifted further and further into the right-wing junk news echo chamber. These are his people now.
Still, Pool takes great offense at being labeled right-wing or supporting any right-wing cause
Tim Pool’s support of the January 6th insurrection was documented by the January 6 Committee, but as soon as that connection was made, Pool wrote an op-ed claiming the committee “misrepresented” him, but the reality is Pool spent months amplifying figures and election denial talking points that culminated in the attack on our capital. Nevertheless, he clearly took great offense to even being indirectly called an insurrectionist, election denier or believer in the so-called “Big Lie,” and he can almost get away with saying it’s untrue. How so? Well, a look through Tim’s tweets and statements won’t find him sharing #StoptheSteal on Twitter. He wasn’t in DC on January 6th urging Trump supporters to storm the capital (his planned event in DC that day never materialized). He didn’t claim there was definitive proof votes were stolen or Trump’s conspiracies surrounding the vote tallies were actually true, but Pool didn’t have to. He stuck to “asking questions” about all those things without ever providing much in the way of answers, not disproving any of the claims nor correcting the record when Trump’s wild theories kept resulting in thrown out legal cases. Pool amplified election deniers over and over and over again. Then he walked away. This is what he does. You’ll see the same strategy when he amplifies anti-vaccine rhetoric or civil war 2.0 content. You can see Tim’s commitment to not committing to anything in his Newsweek op-ed where he claims the January 6 Committee misrepresented him. In that piece, he states that the committee unfairly accused him of encouraging the insurrection even though it’s documented that he encouraged false election denial talking points. Later in the op-ed, Pool states he barely qualifies as a Trump supporter; he also tells the reader, “I did proudly vote for Trump in 2020”.
That’s the whole game though—not saying the thing you’re doing explicitly and getting extremely offended when anyone puts a label on you. See, what Pool has learned is once you take a stand on something, you can be defined by that stance in perpetuity. Take the right-wing troll Chuck Johnson, for instance. He denied the Holocaust one time on a Reddit AMA prior to the 2016 election. What’s now the most used descriptor of Chuck Johnson? Holocaust denier. It’s rare to see a news article that doesn’t mention it. It’s rarer still to see a tweet which does not begin “Holocaust denier Chuck Johnson,” and it’s quite a bit harder to rehabilitate your image once that moniker is attached to you. Tim Pool knows this. He sees how hard Jack Posobiec has worked to remove the monikers attached to him. Nevertheless, Pizzagater Jack Posobiec or neo-Nazi collaborator Jack Posobiec are there to stay. He’s done those things. There’s documented proof of his unequivocal stances. Plenty of people don’t care what Posobiec’s done, but he’s never going to be able to make those descriptors go away. Pool learned his lesson and wants to avoid falling into the same trap.
This brings us to Pool’s latest favorite talking point, Civil War 2.0
Tim Pool doesn’t support Americans engaging in a second Civil War. He just thinks Civil War is coming. He’s thought this for several years now. He’s commented on it repeatedly. He also thinks it’s the left’s fault, and we apparently need to keep talking about it because it’s probably inevitable anyway or maybe it’s already started. It’s important for Tim’s audience to know who to blame. Herein we see the same pattern. Tim Pool doesn’t want a second Civil War to happen just as much as he doesn’t support Trump, despite “proudly” voting for him. Tim also isn’t anti-vaccine, wasn’t an election denialist and isn’t a right-wing junk news purveyor trying to convince his audience he’s a “liberal”.
However, a quick perusal of Pool’s tweets, his YouTube videos and his website shows just how often he’s talking up the civil war, which he does not support. I’m not the first person to comment on this obsession, The topic has also has been discussed by Sam Seder and @TimPoolClips. The same author at The Daily Beast who covered the recent plagiarism on Pool’s site, Robert Silverman, also had this to say about Pool in 2021:
No matter which ginned-up atrocity is roiling the online right on a given day, Pool routinely will deem it a crucial sign pointing towards a civilization-ending crisis or imminent civil war. (Sometimes, he’ll declare that a civil war is already underway.) Who is to blame? A vaguely defined yet omnipresent and menacing left-wing other.
Still, I think the larger strategy I’ve outlined here is gaining wider usage in order for unscrupulous influencers to avoid social media bans which threaten to cast them off into irrelevance.
Personally, I find the odds of any sort of armed conflict between Americans on the scale of a “Civil War” to be rather low. However, I do believe the threat of isolated violent future events to be considerably higher. Economic inequality breeds contempt and ultimately violence, and we’re not doing enough to help people break the cycles that help breed turmoil. The culture war online isn’t the cause of potential future violent acts, but inflammatory rhetoric does serve as an accelerant. If people believe armed conflict is already inevitable, they will continue taking steps that make armed conflict seem inevitable. The feedback loop will keep marching on. Why should we expect Tim Pool to stop? This low-energy operation has already made him a multi-millionaire.
Consequences only for thee, not for me
Don’t expect Tim Pool or the next generation of Tim Pools to come out and say they want Civil War 2.0 to happen. The experienced operators aren’t going to say these things outright. “Secessionist” Tim Pool isn’t a moniker he or most anyone else wants to live with the rest of their lives. It’s especially not something he wants to have to explain to his advertisers or YouTube’s moderators. Laying down a marker and stating you are a pro-Trump 2020 election denier who is also anti-vaccine and gearing up for a new Civil War means your opponents can say there is a moral imperative to stop supporting you. Companies forced to take a moral stand will err on the side of caution. From a financial perspective then, muddying up the waters enough so there is no clear-cut good vs. evil scenario is a practical (albeit cowardly and amoral) approach.
It’s worth plotting out how Pool’s adventure might go from here. I’ve witnessed the information space change and evolve in real time. I saw #Pizzagate become #Pedogate which became #QAnon, and the whole idea started with the same Alt-Lite trolls Tim Pool started palling around with during Trump’s 2016 campaign. These people laid the groundwork for QAnon before eventually distancing themselves from it. Posobiec himself even once claimed QAnon was started by “two guys that are friends of mine,” and while the real creator of QAnon isn’t known, the movement didn’t appear out of nowhere. It evolved over time from talking points spread to bolster the #Pizzagate narrative. Now, while that event culminated in gunshots being fired at Comet Ping Pong in 2016, the people who helped put the gunman’s thoughts in his head didn’t suffer the consequences. The gunman, Edgar Maddison Welch, was the only one who went to jail, not the information terrorists he listened to. Despite being one of the primary architects of Pizzagate, Posobiec didn’t even lose his Twitter account.
This same dynamic has played out again and again. While most of the biggest online promoters of Trump’s “Big Lie” have largely avoided consequences for the January 6th insurrection, the number of people they helped urge into the Capitol Building that day who have been convicted and pled guilty are now in the hundreds. Meanwhile, the influencers who promoted election denial are still posting and still profiting from new campaigns centered on talking points like "Defund the FBI". They decry the FBI arrests of people they urged ever forward, but the influencers didn’t breach the capital themselves. They didn’t attack the police. They weren’t committed the same way the rest of the crowd was because they knew what would happen next. They know that laws are stronger than rhetoric, but rhetoric can nevertheless prove deadly. If we are to one day suffer a Second Civil War in the United States, it will be urged on by people who probably won’t even stick around to see it. They’re just as likely to flee the country before the shooting starts. Pool and those like him can afford to go on not supporting a civil war from the safety of anywhere but here. The rest of us won’t be so lucky.
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