Jackson Hinkle brings anger towards Israel to the fore

Jackson Hinkle has cultivated an online persona so incendiary that he has been kicked off YouTube, Twitch and Instagram.

It rages undaunted, even energetic. He regularly produces a podcast on Rumble, a website popular with many prominent conservatives. He writes dozens of posts a day on

Meanwhile, he used false or misleading content, promoted manipulated images and made comments that watchdog organizations denounced as anti-Semitic. He calls himself an American patriot even as he praises American adversaries, including Vladimir V. Putin, Xi Jinping and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“LEAVE A LIKE if you stand with IRAN in the face of ISRAELI TERRORISM!” he wrote last week on X after an Israeli airstrike in Syria killed several Iranian military officers. The next day he addressed the Houthi leadership in Yemen via video, praising the group for its attacks on ships in the Red Sea.

All of this made Hinkle an online celebrity at age 24, a symbol of the Gen Z of the modern Internet: a place where authenticity is no longer a necessity and outrage offers attention and even some financial reward.

“It was a godsend for me at the time,” he said in an interview about his growing popularity on X during the war in Gaza. “I was very lucky.”

His sudden rise may stem from more than just luck.

Two Israeli research firms that specialize in online threats and have focused on what they consider to be disinformation related to the war in Gaza said they had identified coordinated and possibly state-sponsored networks of bots or inauthentic accounts that were amplifying the provocative mix of Hinkle. of political opinions. China, Russia, and other foreign actors are known to use such tactics to achieve their geopolitical goals, including efforts to influence this fall's presidential election.

Mr. Hinkle has also benefited from changes made by X's owner, Elon Musk, including the reversal of policies that once restricted toxic content. With the addition of a premium membership feature, he now charges some followers $3 a month for what he calls “extra cool stuff,” including behind-the-scenes videos and “random thoughts.” The

Imran Ahmed, head of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a research organization, said Hinkle is part of “some sort of new group of people exploiting algorithms' insatiable desire for highly controversial content for financial gain.”

In a new report, the center documented dramatic follower growth for 10 prominent accounts on X that have been spreading anti-Semitic content since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.

Mr. Hinkle's was by far the best.

“It's kind of a sick industry of creators and platforms that profit from contention,” Ahmed said, “the kind of car crash that people react to hate with.”

Mr. Hinkle, for his part, seems to relish the limelight.

To illustrate a post about the Gaza conflict, he used a stylized cartoon of himself dressed in military fatigues holding a rifle in front of a fireball. His profile on X and other platforms includes a doctored image of his bloody face surrounded by a circle of guns.

Mr Hinkle solicits donations and sells merchandise to support his “independent journalism” on platforms such as Patreon, having already been barred from PayPal and Venmo.

In the interview, Hinkle stressed that he does not accept any payments from foreign governments, but spoke unapologetically about his support for – and from – often hostile foreign powers. This year she visited Russia and China at the invitation of government-related organizations, having dinner with the Russian Foreign Minister and appearing on state-controlled television networks.

“I think they appreciate the support wherever they can get it,” he said.

From an early age, Mr. Hinkle understood that zealous support of a cause could attract public attention. He grew up in San Clemente, Southern California, a surfer who heavily publicized his embrace of environmental activism, gun control measures and progressive politics.

As a teenager, he helped start an environmental cleanup organization and another to encourage young people to run for political office. Teen Vogue recognized him as one of the best young environmentalists; Reader's Digest included him in a list of inspirational children. He posed in an Instagram photo with actor Will Smith, whose son Jaden Smith has worked with Mr Hinkle to limit plastic water bottles in schools.

Perry Meade, a progressive organizer who worked with Mr. Hinkle on campaigns as a teenager, said his “general understanding of Jackson was that he always wanted to be famous,” adding: “Sure, he cared about things, but it came first “.

His activities soon became political. At his high school graduation in 2018, he knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice. He ran twice, unsuccessfully, for San Clemente City Council, when he was 19 and 20 years old. A local conservative blog called him “a far-left ideologue.”

He said in the interview that, after his political defeats, he had “decided to still pursue the issues I cared about, but on the national stage.”

Mr. Hinkle found that stage on YouTube, where one of his big hits, he said, was an interview with Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic candidate for president in 2020. At its peak, his channel reached 300,000 subscribers.

His views, like those of Ms. Gabbard, who once joined him in surfing, have changed. The Sierra Club, one of the world's largest environmental organizations, included Hinkle in a voter video shot in 2018. In 2022, he described environmentalism on social media as “anti-human.”

Today he says he is a Stalinist and a Maoist expelled from the Communist Party of the United States. (Roberta Wood, the party's leader in Chicago, said she signed up for the newsletter but never joined the party and doesn't reflect its values.) She once supported Bernie Sanders, but now praises former President Donald J. Trump.

He is, he wrote last year, an “American PATRIOT, GOD-fearing, pro-FAMILY, Marxist-Leninist, pro-PALESTINE, RUSSIA AND CHINA, anti-DEEP STATE, anti-EMPERIALIST, anti-WOKE, pro-GROWTH, ANTI-MONOPOLY, Pro-GUN, Pro-FOSSIL FUEL.”

As Hinkle's attention focused on international affairs, his audience grew. He has supported authoritarian leaders such as Syria's Bashar al-Assad, whom he has called a “hero.” When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, she embraced Putin's conflict logic.

Mr. Hinkle has become a “merchant of anger,” said Pekka Kallioniemi, who researches social media and disinformation at the University of Tampere in Finland.

“The way he goes from one thing to another, it seems very opportunistic to me,” Kallioniemi said.

Hinkle has drawn attention from critics for frequently spreading Russian propaganda about Ukraine, including disinformation linked to the Kremlin's covert campaigns. His affection for Russia was also personal.

He traveled there for the first time in September with Anna Linnikova, a model crowned Miss Russia 2022. For a time they were engaged and were about to get married. Mr Hinkle posted a photo of the couple posing in front of Moscow's Red Square last year and said they were moving to Miami together. (By the end of 2023, it appeared they had parted ways acrimoniously.)

He recently visited Russia again to attend a conference organized by Konstantin Malofeyev and Aleksandr Dugin, both prominent nationalists facing sanctions in the United States. He said he was drawn to Dugin's writings, which glorify Russian culture as an antidote to corrupt values ​​in the West.

YouTube suspended his channel in October for “repeated violations” of the company's policy against denying or trivializing major violent events, including the war in Ukraine, according to a company spokesperson.

However, it wasn't until Hamas invaded Israel that month – when Hinkle began consistently posting criticism of Israel and Russian support for the Palestinians – that his X account reached stratospheric heights.

Several organized networks of inauthentic accounts amplified his posts, according to Next Dim, an Israeli company that studies inauthentic activity online and which had previously found evidence of an attempt to amplify pro-Beijing messages on X.

The researchers found that one of the organized networks had previously broadcast unrelated content – ​​in Chinese – criticizing the Japanese government for releasing radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in August. Once fighting began in Gaza, the same network, which had at least 20,000 accounts, began reposting Mr. Hinkle's content.

Another research firm in Israel, Cyabra, found that Mr. Hinkle's account gained 1.2 million followers in the first 19 days of the war. A sample of 12,510 of them suggested that about 40% were fake.

In the interview, Mr. Hinkle shrugged off findings of inauthentic support for his account. “There will always be bots on social media,” he said. He acknowledged making mistakes in some posts, but said they were unintentional and argued that the scale of Israel's retaliation in Gaza confirmed his view of the conflict.

“I think if we focus on the people who spread false information, a bad photo on Twitter is not the bigger problem than lies used to sell a war,” he said.

Losing his YouTube subscribers, he said, had cost him three-quarters of his salary. He claimed to have recouped the loss through his X activities, primarily through subscribers. “I'm fine, I guess,” he said.

He declined to say how much his posts earned or how many paying subscribers he had. In October, he noted that he had earned $550 the previous month thanks to but he said revenue was limited because his posts were too controversial for some advertisers.

Hinkle spoke with admiration of Tucker Carlson, the former Fox News host who spread pro-Russian narratives, and Candace Owens, a conservative commentator who left the Daily Wire website last month. Mr. Hinkle, who said he turned down a job offer from a foreign media outlet that he declined to disclose, compared himself to Mr. Carlson and Ms. Owens: “We're all independent, not by choice.”

“You know, obviously, I would be happy if there was any media outlet in the United States that wanted to hire someone like me,” he said, “but our values ​​aren't aligned, so I don't think that's in my future.”

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