June 18, 2021

CNN's New Day welcomed Denver Riggleman, a former Virginia congressman who, since leaving Congress in January 2021, has been working as a strategist with experts and academics at the Network Contagion Research Institute to study disinformation and how to combat it.

"You told me that everything we just laid out there, particularly the false FBI stuff, is akin to September 11th trutherism, just as dangerous but you say they're effective," John Berman said.

"It is, very effective. I deployed to 911. We saw a lot of the 9/11 trutherism type of theories come out and when I saw the FBI thing from Tucker Carlson and now I see the DHS is now starting to be mentioned with the FBI and some of these conspiracy theories, it's out of the same playbook, that there's some kind of internal thing going on with the government. It's actors that came in from the outside. So obviously this isn't real," Riggleman said.

"This is going out to the American people and specific groups and in this case they're going after MAGA. I did a search. People say 'legitimate questions. We have to find out.' When you see these types of things on Facebook and you do these searches, this should scare the hell out of people. I think it will be used for 2022 and for fundraising."

"And it's not just the FBI. It actually goes beyond the FBI?" Brianna Keillar said.

"It does. That's why I was sort of shocked this morning. I thought, I'll do some searches on social media. 'FBI is in cahoots with DHS. This is going to be an entire law enforcement false flag.' You saw in the beginning where they were talking about the questions in the March hearing. We knew three to four days afterward there were seven or eight white nationalist groups. This was far right activists like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers and Qanon believers. That's who sieged the Capitol," Riggleman said.

John Berman wanted to know what do "Fox entertainers" and Republican congress members get out of this.

"You win your primary," he said.

"When you look at polling and fundraising, you look at this type of hyperbolic language, it's very effective in raising money. And you look across the spectrum, you see Marjorie Taylor Greene raising $3.2 million, you see a Matt Gaetz raising $1.8 million, it's very effective with the base. It's even people in my district. I was looking at Republican committees, they're automatically saying there are legitimate questions here, we have to answer these questions. Was the FBI involved? The base is believing this and you think that's how you win an election? The truth doesn't matter. That's why I've been screaming: facts have to matter as a representative for the American people."

He said the disinformation bubbles up from the bottom.

"We saw data during the Trump presidency, for instance, the Obamagate thing, they started it from an online troll from Reddit. My guess is Revolver, 1/6 infiltrated this. When they saw that, they said, hey, this could be a story. So you probably had a bubble-up from the dark corners of the internet up to the Revolver, which is a ridiculous rag, all the way up to Tucker Carlson who has millions of followers. It's an ecosystem.

"It's about follow the money and power and winning elections. If politics has gone into where you have a fantasy-based way of doing business, you're in trouble. Instead, they're going to be running on 1/6, antifa, false flags, or any other ridiculous conspiracy theory."

He said fighting this kind of disinformation is "very difficult, because once it becomes a battle between good and evil, it's becomes messianic and it's going to be almost apocalyptic. You have to fight for your country. I think when you're looking at all the strategies you're seeing across the government and in private/public partnerships, we have to do something where we have private/public partnerships or groups from the outside, identify those people pushing this misinformation. If they're using the First Amendment to push this, we need the First Amendment to fight it.

"We need to use facts as a cudgel right now. It's very difficult, you have to do it with compassion. When you get angry, people push back. At this point, if we don't have some overall hold of government, we're going to have a lot more trouble in the future, and it worries me about the 2022 election."

He said the problem was "baked in, and it's going to be a real challenge to get it out."

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