‘Stop the Steal’ Founder ‘in Hiding’

A one-time denizen of Blogger's Row at CPAC has come a long way.

When hundreds of people, most not bothering to conceal their faces, stormed the Capitol Wednesday, many have had the bizarre experience of seeing someone they’ve worked with, served with, or even dated suddenly become Internet famous. It turns out that I’ve met one of the organizers.

The Daily Beast‘s Will Sommer (“‘Stop the Steal’ Organizer in Hiding After Denying Blame for Riot“):

Two weeks before thousands of Trump rioters breached Congress, “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander said his group wasn’t violent—“yet.”

“One of our organizers in one state said, ‘We’re nice patriots, we don’t throw bricks,'” Alexander told a crowd at a Dec. 19 rally at Arizona’s state capitol. “I leaned over and I said, ‘Not yet. Not yet!’ Haven’t you read about a little tar-and-feathering? Those were second-degree burns!”

Alexander, who has described himself as one of the “official originators” of the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, went on to use “yet” as a code word for violence. Then Alexander told the Phoenix crowd about his plans for Washington.

“We’re going to convince them to not certify the vote on January 6 by marching hundreds of thousands, if not millions of patriots, to sit their butts in D.C. and close that city down, right?” Alexander said. “And if we have to explore options after that…’yet.’ Yet!”

Alexander’s supporters cheered, yelling threats like “noose!” and “nothing’s off the table!”

Alexander led a host of activists in ratcheting up the rhetoric ahead of Congress’ certification of the electoral votes, threatening to “1776” opponents of Trump’s re-election. Now that five people, including a Capitol Police officer, are dead, however, Alexander has gone into hiding, and the website promoting his Jan. 6 rally has been wiped from the internet.

Alexander is defiant, saying he won’t “take an iota of blame that does not belong to me.”

“I didn’t incite anything,” Alexander said in a video posted Friday to Twitter. “I didn’t do anything.”

In reality, even as Alexander claimed his supporters were peaceful, he repeatedly raised the prospect of using violence in the weeks ahead of Jan. 6.

On Sunday night, Twitter banned Alexander’s personal account and an account for “Stop The Steal.” Alexander didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Time will tell whether Alexander can be proven to have engaged in a conspiracy to commit sedition or was merely a grifting rabble-rouser talking shit with reckless disregard for the consequences. As I understand the law, the latter, while reprehensible, falls short of direct incitement of violence and is therefore protected under the First Amendment.

But I’ve met Ali, then going by the nom de blog “Ali A. Akbar,” at CPAC at more than one occasion. We’re even friends on Facebook, although its algorithms haven’t sent me his content in years and I don’t recall the last time we interacted.

Regardless, even though I was rolling my eyes at and then viscerally turned off by CPAC well before I stopped voting Republican, Ali didn’t stand out as particularly strident. Or, frankly, all that interesting. He seemed fairly earnest, albeit likely capitalizing on being a person of color and maybe a Muslim who was a conservative Republican.

I was, of course, aware of the “Stop the Steal” campaign. But I had no idea Ali was the organizer.

Nor of his shady past:

Alexander is a convicted felon, after pleading guilty to felony property theft in 2007 and felony credit card abuse in 2008. Alexander first appeared in conservative politics in the Tea Party era under the name “Ali Akbar,” organizing a group called the National Bloggers’ Club that was tied to “shady data collection operations.”

Regardless, he’s come a long way:

In the Trump era, now using a new name, Alexander emerged as an idiosyncratic, trash-talking MAGA die-hard affiliated with figures like InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, anti-Muslim Trump booster Laura Loomer, blundering provocateur Jacob Wohl, and Trump ally Roger Stone.

Before Trump’s 2020 election defeat, Alexander was perhaps best known for Donald Trump Jr. retweeting his groundless claim that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is not an “American Black.” He was invited to the White House for Trump’s “Social Media Summit” with various right-wing internet figures, and began frequently wearing orange clothes, claiming God had given him a message that the color had special significance for 2020.

“God gave me the color orange in December 2019,” Alexander tweeted on Election Day. “He told me ‘orange would be the color of 2020.’ I’ve come to learn it means GOD’S POWER.”

After Trump’s election defeat, Alexander positioned himself as one of the leading Trump re-election dead-enders with his “Stop the Steal” group, which quickly became a clearinghouse for pro-Trump personalities rallying outside of state capitols in contested battleground states.

Alexander also started to promote mega-rallies protesting the election results in Washington in November and December, even clashing with rival organizers over who deserved credit for the events. And he began organizing a protest outside the Capitol for Jan. 6, dubbing it the “Wild Protest” after a Trump tweet promising the protests during the electoral vote count “will be wild.”

Interestingly, though, Sommer may have buried his lede:

For Jan. 6, Alexander claimed in a video, he had some organizing assistance from pro-Trump Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Mo Brooks (R-AL).

“We four schemed up putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting,” Alexander said in a video posted before the Jan. 6 protest.

Gosar and Brooks didn’t respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Biggs disputed Alexander’s story, claiming Biggs isn’t “aware of hearing of or meeting Mr. Alexander at any point” and had no “contact with protestors or rioters.”

Again, it’s entirely possible that this is all part of a grift to make him seem like a bigger deal than his is. But, if it’s actually true that three Republican Members of Congress were part of the planning for a rally that was organized with violent intent, they’re in a world of hurt.

Alexander’s voice grew more menacing in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 rally. He tweeted that he would “give my life for this fight,” a call that was promoted by the Arizona Republican Party.

Alexander also began tweeting frequently about “1776,” a reference to the start of the American Revolution. Alexander wrote in one post that the choice was “45”—Trump’s re-election—“or 1776.” In another message, he wrote that “1776 is always an option for free men and women.”

Most pointedly, Alexander responded to a tweet from QAnon-supporter Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) claiming that top congressional leaders were working to block objections to the electoral vote. If that happened, Alexander said, he and hundreds of thousands of other protesters would “1776” the Capitol.

“If they do this, everyone can guess what me and 500,000 others will do to that building,” Alexander tweeted on Dec. 30. “1776 is always an option”

Alexander’s anger wasn’t limited to Congress. After four people were stabbed after a December MAGA protest outside the Hotel Harrington, a downtown Washington hotel popular with Proud Boys, the hotel announced that it would be closed for several days around the Jan. 6 protest.

A furious Alexander posted a video filled with threats to the hotel, urging his fans to “be extremely high IQ as God enacts his vengeance.” Alexander compared his supporters to the snake in the “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden flag, saying they had been “tread on” and noting that “the vipers bite.”

“May not one patriot get caught on camera doing anything bad,” Alexander said.

At the Dec. 19 Arizona rally, Alexander kept up his threat that his movement could become violent. He said he wouldn’t describe Democrats as burglars in Republicans’ homes, implying that would mean they’d be shot—a metaphor he said wasn’t necessary “yet.”

“Let them hear that,” Alexander said. “‘Yet.'”

The night before the Jan. 6 rally, Alexander riled up Trump supporters in Washington with a “victory or death” chant and once again brought up “1776.”

“1776 is always an option,” Alexander told the crowd. “These degenerates in the deep state are going to give us what we want, or we are going to shut this country down.”

Alexander’s “Wild Protest” rally was scheduled to take place on the northeast corner of the Capitol’s lawn, with a website claiming that Greene, Gosar, and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) would all speak at the event. Before the rally, Alexander attended Trump’s speech on the White House Ellipse, posting a picture from the front row.

“Nice seats,” Alexander tweeted. “Thank you @realdonaldtrump!”

Alex Jones claims that he and Alexander had some “deal” with the White House about their protest outside of Congress.

“We had a legitimate deal with the White House,” Jones said in an InfoWars show filmed after the riot with Alexander. “‘Hey Jones and Ali,’ literally, they let us out early, we were supposed to lead a peaceful deal.”

Video posted by InfoWars in an apparent attempt to distance Jones from the riots shows Jones and Alexander on the west side of the Capitol as tear-gas canisters went off in the distance and Trump supporters mounted MAGA flags on the inauguration risers. Jones unsuccessfully tried to convince rioters to move to the east side of the Capitol and attend their rally on the other side of the building instead.

“As much as I love seeing the Trump flags flying over this, we need to not have the confrontation with the police, they’re going to make that the story,” Jones said.

But Alexander refused to disavow the riot.

“I don’t disavow this,” Alexander said in a video filmed overlooking the Capitol. “I do not denounce this. This is completely peaceful, looks like, so far.”

Again, I don’t think aggressive shitposting on Twitter is evidence of a criminal conspiracy. But it certainly doesn’t look good. And it seems more than plausible that Trump was well aware of all of this.

Finally, we get to the headline piece:

Now Alexander claims to be in hiding, alleging in a video posted Friday that he needs $2,000 a day to fund his security detail and other expenses and hitting his fans up for donations. In a bizarre moment in his fundraising pitch, Alexander claimed that he was being targeted by the supernatural: “Witches and wiccans are putting hexes and curses on us.”

It’s not clear how, however, if Alexander’s supporters can send him money at all. On Saturday, he posted on Parler that he had been banned from Venmo and PayPal.

Whether he’s actually “in hiding” or this is just another grift is unknowable.

In his Friday video, Alexander claimed that his “rally never turned violent.” But Alexander also read a quote from talk radio host Rush Limbaugh that positively compared the rioters to the heroes of the American Revolution, and said rioters who entered the Capitol should suffer light consequences, if any.

“I think people should be rowdy, I think people should be messy,” Alexander said. “I do believe that we own that U.S. Capitol. So I’m not apologizing for nothing.”

His understanding of property rights is, alas, not in alignment with the law.

And, of course, the American Revolution (or, more accurately, the War for American Independence) was high treason against the king. It required winning the war for that to not matter.

FILED UNDER: US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. mistermix says:

    If Brooks, Gosar and Biggs weren’t part of a conspiracy they can deny it and affirm that Biden won a legitimate election. It’s just that simple. Make a clear public declaration that Biden won. No hedging, no winks, nothing but a statement read from a piece of paper on video. And, maybe, say that QAnon is a baseless conspiracy theory.

    But they won’t.

    25
  2. grumpy realist says:

    Given the reactions a lot of these bozos have had to being a) teargassed b) put on the No-Fly list c) fired, I get the impression that a lot of them were LARPing at being “revolutionaries” and are aghast that there turn out to be consequences to getting involved in something which resulted in dead bodies.

    Given his skin colour, I’m surprised that Alexander wasn’t more chary of consequences of his hijinks. Guess his parents never gave him The Talk–or they did, and he forgot about it. Now the idiot is undoubtedly on at least one legal authority’s list as Someone We Want To Talk To. No wonder he’s vanished.

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  3. Grifters are our national bane at the moment.

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  4. Jon says:

    @grumpy realist:

    wasn’t more chary of consequences

    I just learned a new word. Thanks!

    4
  5. drj says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I get the impression that a lot of them were LARPing at being “revolutionaries” and are aghast that there turn out to be consequences to getting involved in something which resulted in dead bodies.

    I think a lot (but not all) of them were dead serious. They are not shocked by the fact that there are consequences, they are shocked that those consequences will impact them.

    In their minds, they did not intend to overthrow the real power, they came out to support the “real power.”

    After all, Trump is the sitting President. “Q” was/is some high-level representative of the military and/or military intelligence. They support the police. They themselves represent the silent majority of “real Americans.”

    With those kind of allies and that kind of support, how can they lose? And if they don’t lose, how can there ever be consequences?

    Consequences are for the losers, i.e. not them.

    16
  6. Kathy says:

    I expect a book in the near future detailing the lives and actions of the people who instigated and carried out the January 6 Putsch, entitled “Profiles in Cowardice.”

    Perhaps Yellow is the new Orange.

    9
  7. @Jon: Me, too! I thought it was a typo of “wary.”

    2
  8. MarkedMan says:

    @Jon: Another one of the many words whose meaning I’ve gleaned from context but never looked up. Now that I have a dictionary in my pocket at all times (on my phone) I’m slowly correcting that defiency

    4
  9. wr says:

    Fascinating article at NYTimes giving a first-hand account of how internet radicalization works by Ben Smith, who watched it happen to one of his employees at Buzzfeed: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/10/business/media/capitol-anthime-gionet-buzzfeed-vine.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage

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  10. wr says:

    @wr: Which I now see there’s a whole post about, above. Sorry!

    2
  11. grumpy realist says:

    @wr: Unfortunately, the same thing has happened to a friend of mine.

    Not that he hadn’t been laying the mental ground-work for it with his descent into continuous self-pity after his wife kicked him out. Suddenly everything that went wrong in his life as Someone Else’s Fault. He was ripe for the picking by anyone who could provide him with a target.

    I honestly think that one of the worst mental habits to develop–and get addicted to–is self-pity.

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  12. Joe says:

    “He told me ‘orange would be the color of 2020.’ I’ve come to learn it means GOD’S POWER.”

    He’s may be correct about his premonition, but a little ahead on his calendar. Orange may well be his color of 2021, but not because it’s god’s power.

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  13. al Ameda says:

    Not to get to far over my skis, but ….
    I am of the opinion that as investigations are initiated, and as facts begin to emerge, we’re going to learn that some Members of The House – during the insurrection invasion and evacuation of House members to offices elsewhere in the Capitol building – were in communication with some insurrectionists as to the whereabouts of Pelosi’s offices, and probably other offices of important House officers. It will become more shocking to us.

    Also an aside: How about Ginni Thomas (wife of Justice Thomas) being extremely vocal in her support of the effort to deny certification of Biden’s electoral count, and of the January 6th rally?

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  14. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Like *bleep* he was just grifting or sh*t-posting. Like *bleep* he didn’t mean it.
    He named elected congresspersons as people he was colluding with, and he has to stand by that along with everything else he said. I’m sure the FBI will know how to find him before very long, assuming this “in hiding” is real. And I’m sure there are charges pending too. And I’m fine with all grifters and sh*t-posters getting the same thing that will teach them a lesson they badly need.

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  15. Kingdaddy says:

    Time will tell whether Alexander can be proven to have engaged in a conspiracy to commit sedition or was merely a grifting rabble-rouser talking shit with reckless disregard for the consequences.

    That’s a distinction without a difference. We don’t ask why people yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

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  16. Jax says:

    @al Ameda: Lauren Boebert, she of the “I pack my Glock in DC” fame, was apparently live-tweeting Pelosi’s location during the riot. She should lose her seat and be criminally charged.

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  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    “God gave me the color orange in December 2019,” Alexander tweeted on Election Day. “He told me ‘orange would be the color of 2020.’

    Well, for all the difference to the inmates of the Crawford County jail, the CC Sheriff might as well be God.

  18. James Joyner says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    That’s a distinction without a difference. We don’t ask why people yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

    The rather pernicious phrase from Holmes’ opinion in Schenk was more-or-less rendered obsolete by Brandenburg 50 years later—and more than 50 years ago. Since then, even most inflammatory speech is protected.

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    Like *bleep* he was just grifting or sh*t-posting. Like *bleep* he didn’t mean it.

    Again, we’ll know once the investigation is done.

    He named elected congresspersons as people he was colluding with, and he has to stand by that along with everything else he said.

    Indeed, as noted in the OP. But it could be BS to make himself look more important.

    And I’m sure there are charges pending too. And I’m fine with all grifters and sh*t-posters getting the same thing that will teach them a lesson they badly need.

    So, like it or not, being a jackass and talking smack is protected speech. We can ostracize them from polite society but not lock them up. That’s been the consensus going back to at least 1969 and the Warren Court.

    1
  19. James Joyner says:

    @al Ameda:

    I am of the opinion that as investigations are initiated, and as facts begin to emerge, we’re going to learn that some Members of The House – during the insurrection invasion and evacuation of House members to offices elsewhere in the Capitol building – were in communication with some insurrectionists as to the whereabouts of Pelosi’s offices, and probably other offices of important House officers. It will become more shocking to us.

    That’s pure conjecture at this point but certainly possible.

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  20. Sleeping Dog says:
  21. James Joyner says:

    @Sleeping Dog: She’s a Q nut but I just read that tweet as her being safe, not instructions on where to find her. ‍♂️

    1
  22. Mr. Prosser says:

    @James Joyner: Qbert, as she is known around here is. my rep. As a poster on ColoradoPols wrote yesterday, “She’s dumber than a box of hair.” As you say, probably just posting to fans like a Kardashian would do.

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  23. inhumans99 says:

    @James Joyner:

    She is looney tunes but after I saw the explosive claim that she tweeted where Pelosi was I searched the web and had the same reaction you did…she was simply over-excited in the moment and tweeting that they were being moved. That being said, that was just a generally dumb thing to do, why tell anyone you are moving from point A to point B, when the whole point of moving locations is to protect Congress from the insurrectionists, I am surprised the security folks did not groan at her tweet and then decide to move everyone to point C and tell her to knock that tweeting bs off and get to safety with everyone else, but a targeted tweet to attack Pelosi, nah…I think not.

    She is someone though who is way over (like ridiculously way over) her head now that she has become a Congress-Critter, wanting to bring a gun onto the floor of the Senate even pre-January 6th is just a spectacularly dumb action to want to follow through on.

    I think with Trump on his way out that she will be quickly marginalized by both sides of the Political aisle, if Trump had won a second term though, lets just say I could picture him saying that Boebert is one of the most geniusey people he has ever met, and we should all listen to her smart words about how to make this country great. You laugh James, but we can both picture this if Trump remained in office. Anything that is half-way pretty and can wear a skirt always catches the old letches eye.

    Thank goodness people on both political teams will always be looking at her as THAT member of Congress and wondering why she is standing in the same room as the rest of them.

    Also, I wish Boebert good luck with that in regards to getting a waiver to bring her gun with her to work.

    3
  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @drj: “Though we never thought that we could lose, there’s no regret. If I had to do the same again, I would, my friend, Fernando.”

    1
  25. Thomm says:

    @inhumans99: her arrest record will keep her from getting that permit on its own.

  26. Gustopher says:

    Is he is hiding, or has he been picked up by the Deep State, and forced to sell out his Patriot friends? There’s something about him that just can’t be trusted, although I would be hard pressed to say exactly what it is. Something a little dark about his soul that tarnishes his integrity…

    Oh, that’s right, he’s a loon.

  27. Kurtz says:

    @wr:

    Still, it’s not clear what Mr. Gionet actually believes, if anything.

    This line from Smith’s piece is my first thought whenever I see most prominent Republican POCs. One of the results of a monochrome GOP is that it creates a lucrative market opportunity for cynics and grifters–Candace Owens is the first one comes to mind in MAGAland.

    Sometime in the last year or two, I read a piece that argued Clarence Thomas is possibly a Black Nationalist. One look at Hotep Twitter should disabuse anyone of that notion, given that Thomas’s wife is White.

    But he and Sowell always strike me as opportunists more than anything. That 19 year old South Asian journalist from the NY Post and Coleman Hughes (less so) seem to fit this mold as well.

    But really, it isn’t limited to POC anymore. The only real qualification to be prominent in Right Wing circles is to be obnoxiously fucking stupid.

    Oh, and willingness to lie.

  28. Jax says:

    @Kurtz: And the willingness to be used and exploited for whatever niche role (race, religion or politics) the Reality TV machine requires for “this episode”.

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  29. Kylopod says:

    @Kurtz:

    But he and Sowell always strike me as opportunists more than anything. That 19 year old South Asian journalist from the NY Post and Coleman Hughes (less so) seem to fit this mold as well.

    I’m convinced there’s some kind of pathology with people like this–I always get the feeling they take pleasure in saying things that liberals call racist. One of the most telling examples for me was a 2010 ad for a Congressional candidate, which goes through 30 seconds of all the usual anti-Obama crap, and we see that the candidate is black but he never mentions his race until the very end when he loftily declares, “And they’re not going to call me a racist.”

    Herman Cain was very into that sort of thing. I remember a profile of him in The Atlantic when he was first launching his 2012 campaign, and it said the following: “Cain railed against liberals, who, he said, slander conservatives as ‘racist, redneck tea-baggers.’ He paused for effect, then brought the house down: ‘I had to go look in the mirror to see if I missed something!'”

    The simplistic logic in these declarations is designed to appeal to white conservatives who want to convince themselves and others that they aren’t racist, so it makes sense to think people like this are opportunists (and that seems especially clear with Candace Owens, who had a very unconvincing overnight conversion from liberalism to conservatism). But I also think there’s something psychological that leads people to want to set themselves apart from the rest of their community in this way, to be the big fish in a little pond. You can practically hear them saying, “See, I’m not like those others. I’m one of the good ones.” There’s a tradition of black conservatism that comes into play in some of these examples (Jim Brown can explain it better than I can), but what I’m describing isn’t exclusive to blacks: you see an equivalent phenomenon among Asians, among women, among Jews, among gay people. Heck, there’s currently a trans woman blogger who puts out videos bashing other trans people and defending a TERF perspective. It’s the same sort of thing.

    3
  30. Kurtz says:

    @Kylopod:

    Maybe it’s psychological. Some people are just contrarians. Some try so hard to be different that it’s no more than a superficial pose that is no different from doing things to fit in even if you have no interest in them.

    I must admit that Clarence Thomas strikes me as the latter and perhaps an opportunist as well. Sowell gets under my skin because of his stridency, and because of his choice of profession.

    I’ve said this here before, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. A lot of these people are just stubborn assholes who formed their political beliefs then shaped their professional life along that line to the poiny their work cannot be taken as an exercise in good-faith intellectual inquiry. The others are just cynical grifters. Almost p-zombies.*

    *yes, this is a loose use of that concept. As a practical matter, they are the intellectual equivalent of it. Their processes seem designed to give a particular answer no matter what.

    1