Jacob Wohl ― the 21-year-old securities fraudster behind an attempt to smear Robert Mueller last year ― was all but busted Wednesday organizing a fake protest against his own press conference in Washington, which itself was meant to promote a hoax: He was supposed to introduce a teen he apparently tricked into fraudulently accusing presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg of sexual assault.
It’s difficult to describe someone like Wohl in one breath. His laundry list of scams is constantly growing ― even as this story is written ― and evolving further into absurdity. Each time Wohl is caught lying or faces consequences for his actions, he doubles down and tries another scheme. In March, for example, he was accused of faking terroristic threats against himself to garner attention for a documentary he was filming in Minneapolis to further his harassment campaign against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). A month later, he was caught in the apparent scheme to solicit sexual assault allegations against Buttigieg.
A serial troll, Wohl has used his plots to pitch investors on a moneymaking scheme in which he would manipulate political betting markets for the 2020 election, according to a Daily Beast report.
This playbook ― pushing lies to gain social media followers, money or power ― is shared by many of the most prominent racists, scammers, white nationalists and conservative pundits operating today. But over the past week, their grift train has gone off a cliff ― many of those loudmouths are now banned from platforms that helped make them famous, and have since been reduced to screaming in public places, hoping anyone might listen.
Last week, Facebook announced that it had banned seven prominent extremist voices from its platforms, including Instagram, separating them from hundreds of thousands of followers, The New York Times reported. Among the banned were Sandy Hook truther and Infowars host Alex Jones, his conspiracy theorist lackey Paul Joseph Watson, noted anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, white nationalist political pundit Paul Nehlen, bigoted troll Milo Yiannopoulos and career Islamophobe Laura Loomer.
Many conservatives were willing to fall on their swords for these extremists ― President Donald Trump even decried the bans as an affront to free speech, despite each displaying egregious violations of Facebook’s policies against “dangerous individuals and organizations.”
“I am continuing to monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms,” Trump tweeted on May 3, also retweeting Watson and avowed white nationalist Laura Southern, among others who were complaining that day.
Some of those banned had public breakdowns. Loomer ― an anti-Muslim propagandist infamous for handcuffing herself to the Twitter offices in New York after her ban from the platform ― ranted in the lobby of Facebook’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters for a while before police officers kicked her out. Wearing a “Free Loomer” shirt, she also joined Alex Jones on Infowars, where she declared, “My life is ruined.”
That said, even though the train has left the tracks, it certainly hasn’t crashed. Those with enough followers can turn their downfalls into cash: Loomer has reportedly raised nearly $70,000 in direct response to her social media bans, according to a donation tracker on her website.
Wohl, meanwhile, is the grift that keeps on grifting (though his attempts to capitalize have apparently been unsuccessful). He was banned from Twitter in February after it was revealed that he was using fake accounts to draw attention to himself, even allegedly using one of them to lodge the phony terroristic threats against himself in Minnesota. (Minneapolis police haven’t yet confirmed whether they think a crime was committed in that case.)
Then, last month, he was accused of fabricating a sexual assault claim against Buttigieg, creating a fake story and publishing it to Medium under the name of a 19-year-old college student. We were supposed to meet that student on Wednesday during Wohl’s press conference in a D.C. driveway. Instead, we learned that Wohl had likely created a fake protest to the press conference, and that the student wasn’t even in the same part of the country at the time.
As some platforms push back against extremists, the likes of Loomer, Yiannopolous and the right-wing extremist gang known as the Proud Boys have retreated to new homes on lesser-used platforms like Telegram, according to a Daily Beast report. There, they post last-ditch efforts for attention or money ― Yiannopolous went as far as to call on his former employer, Breitbart, to organize an uprising against the platforms.
“If Breitbart still had any balls, it would be calling for mass civil disobedience,” he wrote.