By mid-afternoon of Jan. 4, it had become increasingly clear that a slew of far-right actors were gearing up for violence at the Capitol. Tim Pool derided and dismissed the accurate reporting out of hand.
Of all the ideological enemies Pool, 35, rails against on YouTube for an audience of millions each day, few stack up to the mainstream press. In his mind, coverage of then-President Donald Trump’s instigations and the mounting threats was yet another example of the media’s “depravity,” he said.
“What do you think they’re going to do?” asked Pool. “It’s so stupid.”
Two days later, a mob stormed the Capitol, whipped into a frenzy by nonsensical claims of a stolen election and determined to put a stop to the constitutional transfer of power. To date, nearly 600 alleged rioters—a mishmash of Trump backers, QAnon adherents, and members of militias and extremist groups—have been arrested.
Throughout the fall of 2020, the wildly successful YouTube pundit had spent countless hours hyping the blinkered legal strategies and half-baked fantasies about voter fraud animating the online right. At the same time, in each video Pool tried to separate himself from the hardcore conspiracy theorists. After all, he was just commenting on the news.
“Dude, I’ve had messages from people saying that they’ve already got plans to rush to D.C. as soon as Nov. 3 goes chaotic,” Pool said in early September during a recorded conversation reviewed by The Daily Beast.
A few minutes later, Pool added: “The right-wing militias, the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters, and just the Proud Boys and Trump supporters, they are going to rush full-speed to D.C. They are going to take the White House and do whatever they can and paramilitary.” (Pool made these comments to then-colleagues at the media company he started. The following month, Pool used his YouTube platform to say the Oath Keepers had been unjustly “smeared” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He habitually comes to the defense of the Proud Boys, as well.)
This glaring omission was not out of character for Pool. Far from it. A former digital media journalist who originally built up his name with on-the-ground reporting and livestreaming, including stints at Vice and Fusion, Pool now postures as a rational centrist or “disaffected liberal” who grew to loathe the excesses of the left. If you buy Pool’s branding, he stands in contrast to the bulk of his journalistic peers: “evil” “liars,” he says, who’ve supposedly capitulated to the agendas of Black Lives Matter, antifa, Democrats, Big Tech companies, feminists, and the like.
This self-generated mythology—an anti-authoritarian truth-teller whose successes stemmed from confronting “the machine,” as Pool puts it—bears little resemblance to reality.
Contrary to the overall manner in which Pool portrays himself, he was not an intrepid field reporter and streamer who barreled into conflict zones filled with an unshakable desire to ferret out the real story. Pool was at times reluctant to leave the safety of his hotel room, according to several of the nearly 30 former co-workers and other acquaintances from the past decade who spoke with The Daily Beast. He’d come across as uninterested in interviewing subjects or doing much research. During shoots, Pool’s head was frequently buried in his phone, diligently tracking social media, only to blame his co-workers or equipment when he couldn’t live up to his clippings. Pool’s main focus when reporting, those on the ground with him said, was drawing attention to himself.
“A coward and a phony,” “a joke,” “staggeringly arrogant,” “totally full of shit,” “not smart” and “a bumbling doofus” are a representative sample of how those who worked with Pool at digital media companies described him. Most did so on the condition of anonymity, in some instances citing possible reprisals by Pool and harassment from his fans.
Since then, Pool has discovered a style of commentary and audience where a lack of knowledge or journalistic skills might not prove an impediment to success. In some ways, incuriosity and incapacity serve as valuable attributes in this medium. Not solely because of the political valence but thanks in part to how YouTube itself functions: rewarding the kind of high-volume, sensationalized, and sloppy churn Pool specializes in.
“He was bringing nothing to the table. It felt like we were being conned.”
— A former Vice producer
And it has made Pool both exceedingly rich and one of the most-watched independent YouTube political pundits in the country—over 3.3 million subscribers, 1.5 billion views, and, by all estimates, hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue per month. He earned $600,000 just in August 2020 and “most of it” came from YouTube, Pool claimed in the recorded conversation.
Unlike his peers in conservative media, Pool wasn’t boosted by the usual suspects. Neither the Koch brothers, the Mercer clan, nor another deep-pocketed billionaire forked over seed money, and he didn’t game Facebook’s algorithms. Fox News has more or less ignored him, as has the institutional Republican Party and its network of well-funded think-tanks.
In 2020 and continuing through 2021, a rotating cast of Stop the Steal activists, Capitol rioters, QAnon and Pizzagate promoters, 9/11 truthers, grifters, anti-vaxxers, antisemites, misogynists, cranks, and neo-fascists trundled down to Pool’s Maryland podcast studio to appear on Timcast IRL, his two-hour-plus-long YouTube livestream. There, Pool allows them to peddle their wares before six-digit audiences and receive very little if any pushback. This should come as no surprise. Whenever a right-wing politician, personality or group enters the news cycle, Pool finds a way to sand down their actual, stated beliefs or will claim ignorance.
Business is booming, per Pool, with a dozen employees on payroll since April, a prominence made possible in no small part by YouTube promoting his work to its front page. “I know for a fact,” he said during a December 2020 livestream, “the YouTube algorithm drives the majority of my content.” (At other times he’ll complain that YouTube is suppressing his content or will soon ban him outright.) YouTube picks and chooses which content gets views and which creators become famous, he told a Twitter follower. Apparently they’ve chosen Pool.
For some time now, misinformation has proliferated and its merchants have thrived on YouTube, particularly on the right. Three years ago, Pool’s channel was included in studies about how YouTube serves as a radicalization vector, algorithmically leading viewers to seek out far-right creators and content. But his evolution indicates that YouTube doesn’t just impact audiences—the money and fame radicalizes creators, too. (YouTube did not respond to a request for comment.)
The proof lies in his current output. Despite his continued insistence on being viewed as a “center-left” truth-teller, a Daily Beast review of hundreds of hours worth of Pool’s commentaries revealed a consistent if broad eschatology: 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.
As a matter of course, Pool depicts people and groups on the left as potential bomb-tossing radicals or authoritarian lunatics; cultural shifts or gestures towards social and racial justice will lead to chaos and gulags stocked with the victims of morality policing, like the McCloskeys, according to Pool; and if the police are now siding with terrorists like “BLM and antifa” perhaps the time has come to flee the cities and stock up on firearms, as Pool himself has done.
“They will never stop coming. They will take your job away. They will come for your parents,” Pool said in a keyed-up June 2020 livestream lambasting those who won’t push back against the horde of “woke” cultists. “You will do something wrong, they’ll fire your mom. They will come to your house with fireworks and guns.”
When Pool said so to Tarik Johnson, a Black then-employee of his defunct media company in 2019, he also told him to “choose a side,” because his ex-boss couldn’t ascertain “which side you’re going to be on,” is how Johnson recalled Pool phrasing it. Two individuals familiar with the events backed up Johnson’s account.
When reached for comment, Pool fervently denied telling Johnson about a “race war” and called any suggestion he had “insane,” citing his content and mixed-race heritage. Pool further disputed many of the claims and descriptions of events in this article, and alleged they were provided by individuals who harbored a personal vendetta against him. His responses can be read here.
Pool’s journey from beanie-clad Occupy Wall Street livestreamer to “reactionary social media performer,” per the Southern Poverty Law Center, may seem improbable at face value. But some who’ve known him aren’t exactly surprised.
“It’s a trajectory I’ve seen before—almost always with young and young-ish men who are so laser-focused on making their own careers that they arrive at racism and misogyny almost by accident—because that’s what gets the most clicks,” said Laurie Penny, a reporter and writer who has covered far-right provocateurs and knew Pool when he worked for Vice.
“This, of course, does not make them any less dangerous. Because they’re not encumbered by ideology, if anything, it makes them more so.”
“The Eyes of the Movement”
Timothy Daniel Pool was born in 1986 in Chicago. Scant biographical information exists beyond what Pool has made public, but during his childhood his father, a now-retired firefighter, and mother, who sold cars, divorced. The family then fell into financial distress, he has said.
He attended a private Catholic school through the fifth grade before transferring to a public school and dropping out by age 14, the year he received “all Fs” in a progress report. “My comprehension level was much higher than that of many of my teachers,” Pool says, and so school made him “miserable.” Jobs in retail and as a baggage handler at American Eagle Airlines while a teenager ensued. (The Transport Workers Union confirmed Pool was a member.) Videos from this time show Pool dabbling in tech and skateboarding. The latter did not abate: Pool erected two custom-built skate ramps at the nearly $1 million eight-bedroom Maryland compound he bought in September 2020.
In his early twenties, Pool did some street canvassing for nonprofits, soliciting donations and signatures. That much is certain. Pool, however, has described the bulk of those jobs in ways that strain credulity.
Sometimes, Pool held the position of “fundraising events and marketing director for one nonprofit,” he claimed, and “a manager at many of the biggest fundraising companies and nonprofits in the world.” Other titles include: “fundraising director at a homeless shelter,” “nonprofit director,” “director at several [activist] organizations,” and even ”fundraising director for many nonprofits.” Pool rarely names the organizations—in one video, he says it’s to avoid possible litigation—but that doesn’t explain why no jobs are listed on his LinkedIn page prior to 2013. On occasion, Pool has let a few names slip.
On air and in private, Pool has claimed he worked for Great Lakes Coalition, the Human Rights Campaign, Greenpeace, and Children’s International. Representatives from these organizations said they had no record of Pool directly working for them, though Greenpeace’s records only dated back to 2008.
In a direct message to a Twitter follower, Pool said he’d been a “supervisor” with the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). Though the PIRG denied employing him directly, a spokesperson for the Fund for the Public Interest, a canvassing organization affiliated with the PIRG, confirmed that Pool worked as a “canvasser or field manager” in California for “a few weeks” between April and May 2010. (Pool has mentioned working for an unnamed subcontractor which serves nonprofits.) That said, “He definitely didn’t run any fundraising,” the spokesperson added.
Turning street canvassing or a low-grade supervisory role into the lofty title of “fundraising director” could be dismissed as mere résumé-pumping. But Pool cites his past work experiences when inveighing against charities or labeling all nonprofits “corrupt,” as if he were privy to their inner workings. “Most of these nonprofits I’ve worked at, I think they’re all scams,” said Pool—a racket designed to wring cash from donors. “They’re really just paying themselves.” (In his comments to The Daily Beast, Pool maintained he did work for Children’s International and Greenpeace, though he did not say what his title was and neither organization’s records confirmed his employment. Pool further claimed he was a “director and manager” for two other nonprofits he can’t name, citing “settlement agreements.”)
By summer 2011, Pool was living with his brother Chris in Newport News, Virginia. After seeing images of police violence in September from the Occupy Wall Street protests at Zuccotti Park, he hopped on a bus.
In New York City, Pool hooked up with Henry Ferry, then an out-of-work realtor and sales manager. The pair began documenting the unfolding political movement on a then-relatively new streaming service: UStream. Before long, Pool had assumed an on-camera role. The live videos took off, and they decided to form a media company called The Other 99.
The barebones DIY operation—Pool filmed using only his cellphone—was often able to get greater access and immediacy than some legacy media shops. Adding to their bona fides, The Other 99 weren’t perceived as neutral observers but rather actively involved with the movement. Eventually, network and cable-news programs began rebroadcasting their footage. Livestreams lasting for hours became a trademark, too, including a notable 21-hour stretch when cops cleared out the park.
Within a month, they’d racked up more than 2 million unique views, Pool claimed, a substantial social media following, and near-universal positive coverage from a wide array of both online and print publications. Awards and accolades followed hard upon. Pool was dubbed “the eyes of the movement,” by Time magazine.
Some of the other activists weren’t buying the hype.
Timothy Fitzgerald and Tess Cohen were both members of the General Assembly (GA), the organizational hub for Occupy. All appearances to the contrary, Pool was never aligned with the movement, they said. “That is 100 percent [Pool’s] mythology,” according to Cohen. Fitzgerald described Pool’s participation as a “branding” exercise—a leveraging of Occupy’s brief notoriety to elevate his own profile.
Unlike livestreamers who were working with the GA, Pool was soliciting donations to The Other 99. This engendered a certain amount of suspicion, if not resentment. (The Other 99 disbanded in 2012 with Pool and Ferry both firing off accusations of mismanaged funds and misplaced priorities. The Daily Beast was not able to reach Ferry for comment.)
Many GA-affiliated livestreamers (like Cohen) also felt a duty to not only detail the day-to-day activities of Occupy, but advance the cause. Pool differed. He tended to gravitate towards action and conflict, Cohen said, whether it was a police crackdown or protesters engaging in civil disobedience and at-times illegal activity. To her, Pool had crossed a line.
“I’m not about to endanger other people by creating evidence that could be used against them, and he’s happy to do that,” she said. (Pool has boasted that the police watched his Occupy livestreams.) Pool parachuted into Occupy without understanding its ideological underpinnings, Cohen explained. Over time, protesters grew increasingly wary of Pool’s presence and made it clear he wasn’t welcome. During one broadcast his phone was knocked out of his hand.
Pool would maintain, both to protesters and in interviews, that his adherence to objectivity and transparency meant sharing almost everything he’d recorded. Few would quibble with this explanation from a reporter or citizen journalist. But Pool openly presented himself as a pro-Occupy activist. “I don’t consider myself a journalist… I consider myself an activist 100 percent,” he told On the Media in November 2011, who was there to “support the movement.”
Once Occupy was out of the news cycle, Pool flipped.
“I am not an activist,” he told El Pais 10 months later. He was, however, now calling himself a journalist. By 2018, Pool had gone further. “I don’t align with Occupy Wall Street and never did,” he said. His definition of objectivity doesn’t hold up for Cohen, either. “By singularly focusing on the cop-confrontation and acts-of-dubious-legality beat, he had as much a biased lens as we did,” she said in a follow-up email. (Viral-ready videos of this sort have become something of a growth industry on the right.) “He wasn’t there to document a complicated political moment, he was there to get views. And conflict is what got views.”
These days, Pool paints a harsher picture of Occupy. “It was so crooked,” he claimed. What’s more, his opinions were rejected out of hand because others assumed he was white. When he identified as having a mixed-race background—Pool’s maternal grandmother is Korean—Occupy welcomed his contributions.
“These people were racist, the most racist people I’ve ever encountered in my life,” Pool claimed in February—more so than the avowed racists and members of the “alt-right” he’s spoken to. (The Daily Beast was unable to identify any interviews with Pool either during or immediately after Occupy in which he mentioned the rampant racism.)
Asked about Pool’s story, Fitzgerald replied: “This sounds like a totally fabricated, ‘overheard at the local coffee shop’-type anecdote meant to launder the false notion that racial justice is zero-sum.” As someone who’d documented “hundreds” of meetings, Fitzgerald said the idea Pool was discouraged from participating is easily disprovable: Pool never participated in public conversations, let alone tried to speak up.
“In reality, white-identified folks like myself were more than well-heard at OWS, and Occupy’s efforts to lift up voices of people who have been marginalized did not come at anybody’s expense,” he continued. “So that definitely would not have happened.”
For the next year and a half, Pool struck out on his own. Pool made appearances at SXSW and journalism panels, and he continued reporting from the field. Offers to crank out a ghostwritten book or work for an unnamed TV news program were turned down, Pool claimed. A “hacker space” in upstate New York he was helping launch never appears to have materialized. Funds were solicited for a documentary of the ongoing Occupy-related protests, which also apparently went unfinished.
The novelty of livestreamed broadcasts was very much held in high regard—the harbinger of a new, democratized, and decentralized kind of reporting. Pool was viewed as its avatar. Vice hired him in spring 2013, when the site was thriving. A partnership with HBO had been announced, and within months, Rupert Murdoch would buy a 5-percent stake, valuing it at $1.4 billion. (By 2017, an additional cash infusion led to a $5.7 billion valuation, and, over time, questions about Vice’s long-term financial stability.)
Pool’s appeal to the outlet was as a one-man content creator—able to jet from location to location at a moment’s notice and attract gobs of viewers. It didn’t take long before the staff had soured on their new hire. Some former colleagues pointed to Pool’s evident lack of reporting experience or skills, save for his ability to hit play on a livestream.
“He was bringing nothing to the table,” a former Vice producer said. “It felt like we were being conned.”
“The Problem Is… Definitely Not Me. I Think It’s Everybody Else.”
Pool’s first Vice trip to Istanbul, Turkey, saw his colleagues’ worries borne out.
An ex-Vice staffer familiar with the shoot described their issues with much of the footage Pool sent back: him sitting in his hotel room and talking to the camera, and, once the conflict had subsided, emerging to point and gawk at the rubble. The initial version of the short documentary didn’t pass muster with their Vice superiors, they claimed, if only because they’d failed to make it seem as if Pool was on the front lines of the unrest. It had to be drastically re-edited prior to being released.
At a different shoot in Thailand, Vice sent two teams of reporters. One positioned itself in the thick of the protests. Pool rode on a moped on the outskirts of town, shouting into the camera, and removed from the conflict. “It was just hilarious,” a person who worked with Pool at the time said.” A February 2014 shoot in Venezuela ended abruptly. According to Pool, he was forced to flee the country after a high-profile pro-Maduro media figure accused him of being a “spy.” Should he ever return, he “will be killed,” Pool has claimed.
His trepidations were certainly understandable. Providing coverage during civil unrest and from conflict zones can spook even seasoned hands, let alone someone who isn’t familiar with the lay of the land, a former senior Vice editorial employee explained. But Pool had trouble fessing up to his fears, multiple Vice sources said. Instead, he’d toss out thinly veiled excuses, pinning his reluctance to leave the hotel on problems with his technical gear or producers not comprehending the severity of the situation. (Pool strongly disagreed with the criticisms of his field reporting. “I covered the Gezi Park protest to smashing success,” he told The Daily Beast.)
Back at Vice’s Brooklyn offices, Pool found other ways to alienate his colleagues.
One female ex-Vice staffer recalled a 2013 conversation with Pool in which he told her point-blank: “Women are too emotional to be good journalists; their feelings get in the way.” An individual who was present for the exchange confirmed her account; another confirmed they’d been told by the female staffer at the time. (Pool told The Daily Beast it was “absurd” to think he’d made this comment.) Somewhat relatedly, two years ago, Pool announced he wanted a wife who would stay at home and raise his children as opposed to having her own career. It bothered Pool that this desire was now viewed as “socially unacceptable.” Pool complained last year that feminism had negatively impacted his ability to find a romantic partner and start a family. “You know what the problem is, though, it’s definitely not me,” he said. “I think it’s everybody else.”
When Pool was given an early version of Google Glass, he strolled around the office broadcasting his co-workers’ activities live. It was viewed by some at Vice as a transparent attempt to bolster the image he’d been cultivating: a reporter who availed himself of the latest in bleeding-edge tech to expand the boundaries of reporting. Of course there was nothing worth filming in an early 2010s media shop, save for people sitting at their desks, writing stories, and whatnot. Baffled staffers either did their best to ignore him or were forced to politely ask that he stop recording without their consent.
Vice also provided reporters working in conflict zones with protective gear. Pool would wear a flak jacket in the office, per multiple Vice sources. Several Vice employees thought it laughable or made him look like a “poser,” but others found his behavior downright offensive, one former longtime Vice editorial staffer said, since Vice reporters had been detained by hostile foreign governments. In their eyes, Pool treated the gear like a cosplay outfit.
Touting his own bravery, accomplishments, Vice paycheck, or the famous people he knew didn’t go over well, either. At one point he brought hacker-turned-Nazi troll Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer to the Vice newsroom and paraded him around. The former longtime editorial staffer felt Pool was showing off, as if to say, “Check it out, I’m hanging out with Weev, I’m so plugged in to internet culture.” (In the documentary Hacker Wars, Pool appears in scenes with Auernheimer.)
“There was a deficit of ideas from Tim Pool,” a former member of Vice’s video team said. “There was frustration about his inability to do a repeat hit like his coverage of Occupy Wall Street.” He still had his fans in upper management, and the ability to remain in their good graces also pissed people off. Specifically, how “seemingly oblivious the upper management and the execs at Vice were to the fact that Tim Pool was a total hack,” as the former longtime editorial staffer put it.
Pool has a different recollection of his stint at Vice. In his comments to The Daily Beast, Pool firmly insisted any allegations he’d failed to perform under duress or shied away from hazardous reporting were false. “I constantly flew into chaos,” he said. As to the broader criticisms, “I don’t care if people say stupid things about me. People are allowed to hate me and there are many people I’m still friends with from Vice.”
Publicly, Pool has repeatedly stated he was both the “first“ and “founding member” of Vice News. Were it not for him, Vice News might not have existed, even. “I convinced [Vice] to do real news, on the ground reporting,” he declared in October. The outlet has been sending reporters to cover stories from far-flung locations dating back to the mid-2000s.
“One of the more visible forms of evidence we can find of radicalization on the platform is watching the influencers themselves get radicalized over time.”
— Becca Lewis, Stanford University extremism researcher
Danny Gold, one of the first Vice News hires, said while Pool had been brought onboard to the vertical fairly early on, “He wasn’t the founding member. That’s not true.” (Multiple Vice sources agreed with Gold, who has occasionally freelanced for The Daily Beast.) “And the idea that he convinced Vice to do real, on-the-ground reporting is also not true,” he added.
Pool has insinuated that his colleagues were lazy and overpaid. Citing conversations he’s had with “a couple” of unnamed former Vice employees, Pool also said “going woke” had led to its downturn, financial and otherwise. Unnamed investors’ capitulation to “feminists” following high-profile sexual-harassment allegations against Vice in 2017 was also to blame. “Imagine what Vice would be today under my leadership,” he mused.
His most recent attempt at creating an independent news site imploded in January. This despite crowdfunding $1.2 million in 2019. In the aftermath, two employees alleged Pool had kidnapped a cat. The former lead reporter has filed a complaint in California charging Pool’s company with engaging in retaliatory termination, per documents obtained by The Daily Beast. Pool has filed a $1.2 million lawsuit in the state of Connecticut accusing the two former employees of unjust enrichment.
The end of Pool’s yearlong tenure at Vice came in the summer of 2014. Mass protests broke out in Ferguson, Missouri, following the police shooting of Michael Brown. Vice sent two crews, including Pool and reporters from their recently launched HBO show. But Pool struggled, because “he wasn’t really a journalist,” a staffer who was part of Vice’s coverage said. Asking questions and interviewing protesters and residents didn’t seem to pique his curiosity, despite the stories they were told about disturbing interactions with the police. Pool tended to keep his head buried in his phone. “It was so bizarre,” said the staffer. “It was always about him.”
Given the heightened tensions in the area and the expanding national conversation about race, many locals were apprehensive when approached by reporters. “If you didn’t strike the right tone, you could easily be dismissed, and that’s what was happening over and over again” with Pool, a second staffer present in Ferguson said. From their perspective, Pool was unable to overcome this obstacle because he was focused on promoting himself. It also seemed as if “any person of color [Pool] interacted with just really had no time for him,” they said.
The second staffer also remarked that Pool spent an inordinate amount of time while on the ground checking his Twitter feed and, for reasons they couldn’t ascertain, touching base with Casey Neistat, a popular YouTuber who was in town to provide his own coverage.
Reached by phone, Neistat confirmed their account. During Ferguson, “Tim was very intrigued with how I was able to build this brand for myself—how I was able to build my own following on YouTube,” he said. At first blush, the second staffer dismissed Pool as being “clueless,” but over the course of the shoot, their perceptions sharpened: “He acted like a narcissist—someone who didn’t care about other people.”
That night in August, the other Vice reporters and producers managed to get behind the barricades law enforcement had established. Pool, who had arrived late, had been shunted into the parking lot of a Target and away from West Florissant Avenue where the main clashes between police and protesters took place.
The livestreamed video from that night shows the differences in the two feeds: Pool’s was shunted into the lower right-hand corner; the other Vice crew took up the rest of the screen. In the comments section, as the evening unfolded, viewers treated the two feeds as if it were a kind of competition—and Pool was losing. Unsurprising, since they were providing real-time reporting, and Pool was merely talking or speculating about things he saw from a distance.
Three years after the Ferguson protests, Pool tried to rewrite history, alleging to The New Yorker that a Vice “camerawoman,” not him, wanted to remain on safe terrain and instead preferred to interview the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Meanwhile, he took to the streets, “to cover what’s happening,” where, he said, “grenades were going off. Guess which one got more views.”
None of that is accurate, per multiple Vice sources. The “camerawoman” he referred to was his producer, who had gotten past the barricades set up by the cops to cover what was happening in the streets—not Pool. The brief interview with Jackson took place early the following morning after an all-nighter spent shooting and editing, not while the protests were taking place. (It never aired on Vice.) And it was the other crew’s videos, not Pool’s, which drove viewership.
Shortly after publication in December 2017, the quotes from Pool about Ferguson were removed from The New Yorker’s story, titled “The Live-Streamers Who Are Challenging Traditional Journalism.” The magazine wrote that the changes were made because Pool’s statements “contained several errors.” (In his emailed responses to The Daily Beast, Pool claimed the excised quotes were not reflective of his comments.” He expressed similar sentiments recently on YouTube, calling it a “fake story.” But in August 2018, Pool said while he disagreed with the framing, the reporter who’d written the article “does a good job” and had been “fair.”)
Shortly after that night of filming, Pool got on a plane while Vice continued to cover the events on the ground in Ferguson without him. It didn’t take long before Pool had left Vice altogether and moved on to yet another media gig.
“Tell the Audience What They Want to Hear”
Fusion had been on a hiring spree in 2014. Flush with Disney and Univision cash, the site had poached well-known reporters, editors, and columnists. They had access to a pricey TV studio in Florida, and a 100-person digital team was soon assembled. (That same year, Fusion reportedly suffered $35 million in losses.) Daniel Eilemberg, then the chief digital officer of Fusion, told The Daily Beast the protests and unrest led Fusion to believe Pool would make for the ideal addition. They had pursued Pool aggressively while he was still at Vice, and signed him to a two-year contract, which Eilemberg said was in the “low six figures” per year. After coming on board in September, Pool was dubbed Fusion’s “director of media innovation.”
In late 2014, Fusion sent Pool back to Ferguson. Like the Vice staffers before them, a former Fusion employee familiar with the shoot said interviewing people didn’t seem to pique Pool’s interest that much, particularly Black people. He would check his phone regularly, “obsessed” with his social-media metrics.
Pool took it as a given his colleagues would do the work for him. “Very much a prima donna,” is how the Fusion employee described him. Juan La Riva, an assistant producer at Fusion who worked with Pool, had a similar experience. “[Pool] always came across as this know-it-all who never wanted to hear anybody else’s input,” La Riva said..
In-office problems like those at Vice persisted, too.
“The editorial staff took issue with his reporting,” said Eilemberg, the ex-chief digital officer. “People took issue with his treatment of people.” Multiple Fusion sources mentioned an incident in which Pool berated a female subordinate in public to the point she was visibly upset. “We didn’t like him and the feeling appeared to be mutual,” Felix Salmon, one of the splashy Fusion hires, told The Daily Beast. In an October 2020 video, Pool suggested he didn’t “get along” with Fusion employees, either.
The outlet was not exactly functioning at peak capacity. According to an investigative article by Gizmodo Media Group, “a culture of complacency and excess” festered at Univision, Fusion’s parent company. (Univision also owned GMG when the story was published.) Fusion in particular, was pinging from one content strategy to another, and chasing Facebook traffic and virality at the expense of more substantial reporting. One staffer told GMG the outlet decided, “We’re going to be the super-woke millennial-focused media outlet.”
Pool has similar complaints. After being lured to Fusion with promises of full editorial independence, he claims to have been directed to reinforce leftist pieties. “Lie. Lie to the audience. Tell the audience what they want to hear,” is how Pool puts it now. Four years ago, Pool indicated in a Reddit AMA that Eilemberg had given him and other Fusion staffers marching orders to “side with the audience.” The ex-Fusion boss does not recall saying so, nor does Pool’s description match company policy.
“To suggest we bent, ignored, or fabricated facts is simply not true,” Eilemberg said in a text message. “Fortunately, both Fusion’s reporting and Tim’s YouTube channel are public, so anyone can come to their own conclusions about who’s peddling baseless narratives to fit an audience’s point of view.”
Like some of the other high-profile names on staff, Pool wasn’t producing a ton of content for the site. A former Fusion staffer who worked with Pool said, “There were many weeks where we didn’t do anything.” Pool describes his stint at Fusion as having been slapped with “golden handcuffs”—well-compensated but with his ambitions thwarted. “So I sat around,” he said. “It was boring and eventually I left.”
Pool’s contract with Fusion ended in September 2016.
Invariably, it’s a tale he recounts constantly and with a purpose, like an origin story: He ditched Fuson and digital media as a whole because they’re utterly corrupt and feckless, not because of his own failings.
Only now, unshackled from his corporate masters, could he tell the real truth, the whole truth, the things they didn’t want you to know. And no one would be in a position to tell him otherwise or stop him from getting a story floridly wrong.
“Just Amplifying Someone Else’s Ideas”
Since being liberated from working with editors and producers, Pool’s affiliations with the seediest elements of the far right have only grown. And the falsehoods have rapidly accelerated.
Scroll through Pool’s current output and it’s hard to find a video he’s produced which does not contain some combination of rank distortions, conspiracy theories treated as if they were credible ideas, or a basic misunderstanding of the subject at hand. (A recent study named Pool as a “superspreader” of falsehoods about voter fraud in the run up to the 2020 election.) Take Pool’s response after a handful of stories came out about adverse responses to the vaccine in December. Maybe, Pool baselessly speculated, the left and the media wanted to reduce the public’s confidence in the vaccine. That way, they could deny Trump the rightly-deserved credit for this miraculous feat and lower his popularity at a critical moment—while Trump was “fighting for the presidency,” he said, (By July, he’d pivoted to fearmongering about the Biden administration’s efforts to reach the unvaccinated.)
Then there’s Pool’s record of political predictions. In 2020, he routinely forecast a Trump win—possibly by a 49- or 50-state landslide, per Pool. When Biden won, Pool tried to retcon his history, claiming when he said “landslide” it was tied to “hypothetical” contingencies, like Trump appointing Tulsi Gabbard or legalizing marijuana. (This is false.)
As Pool readily admits, “I turn the camera on and I rant,” whether he’s deeply familiar with a subject or not, and for viewers who treat him as a valued source for news and a way to understand how the world really works. “There’s no script, there’s no plan.”
Staking out this turf inevitably leads him to some untenable positions. But when confronted with concrete evidence of mistakes, Pool often doubles down. Sometimes, this results in him siding with despots.
Two years later, he denied having done so while threatening legal action against outlets—including The Daily Beast—which had accurately covered his comments. Pool even announced in March that he’d begun strategically posting contradictory information about his opinions and beliefs on Twitter. That way, none of his social-media posts could be included in any articles about him.
Of course, no group attracts Pool’s enmity more than the mainstream media. Most reporters are “morons,” he has said, who “publish garbage nonsensical drama and ragebait trash.” As Pool has drummed into his audience over and over again, the profession is rife with lazy incompetents and “evil” “vampires” who are perpetually lying—unlike him. “They hate you,” he often sneers.
Mining the right-wing outrage cycle for stories—and serving as a sanitized conduit to the far right—for an audience desperate to have their misperceptions validated and grievances nursed has proven an extremely effective business model. From summer to early autumn 2020, Pool’s three YouTube channels racked up over 100 million views per month, according to SocialBlade. Pool claims he topped out at around 120 million “during the election season.”
As a member of YouTube’s partner program, Pool was handsomely rewarded. In August 2020 alone, Pool raked in $600,000, as he boasted during the recorded September conversation. By Pool’s calculations, YouTube accounted for 90 percent. (In his email to The Daily Beast, Pool claimed the income total was “wildly incorrect and easily disproved” but declined to provide the correct figure. “Perhaps the audio has been edited,” he said without evidence.)
Two industry experts told The Daily Beast that Pool may be exaggerating somewhat—SocialBlade’s public estimates of his potential earnings are lower, too—but banking about $540,000 is within the realm of possibility, they said, if, as Pool claims, 90 percent of his videos are monetized. Anecdotally, the rate squares with the frequency of ads seen by The Daily Beast in its examination of Pool’s content. These days, and since he more than halved the number of videos produced per week, he’s down to 45 million or so, about where he was in April 2020.
Still, though his Facebook viewership pales in comparison, Pool has prospered on YouTube. For over a year, he’s easily surpassed better-known right-wing yakkers like Dennis Prager, Dan Bongino, and Ben Shapiro on the platform. (Steven Crowder leapfrogged Pool this April, the same month in which he was demonetized for violating community guidelines. The following month, Crowder was suspended for two weeks.)
It is unclear how much revenue the podcast version of his videos brings in. Pool said in December the viewership numbers were dramatically lower than on YouTube, despite the show reaching sixth place on Apple’s charts as of January. He doesn’t do many live ad reads on his channels, but one sponsor sells survivalist bulk food buckets. (Pool hawked them while Texas was suffering mass power outages.) During Timcast IRL live broadcasts, which air five times a week and began last summer, fans can pay for YouTube super chats, putting their questions to Pool at the top of the queue. On any given livestream, the take often tops four figures. Production expenses are minimal, he has said.
How did Pool reach these levels of prominence and profit? Becca Lewis is a PhD candidate at Stanford University. Three years ago, she conducted a study examining how the YouTube algorithm was funneling viewers to the far right. Pool was a central subject of her work. Like social media influencers, political YouTubers packaged themselves as more authentic and relatable—and therefore more trustworthy—than mainstream news sources, Lewis told The Daily Beast. And while a great deal of emphasis has been placed on the effect YouTube has on audiences, the converse is also true.
They continually A/B-test ideas and receive direct feedback about what works. Pool is no exception. In the recorded September conversation, Pool told his ex-colleagues that since he announced he’d be voting for Trump, “My views are skyrocketing.” Publicly, Pool makes it clear he’s well aware of which stories his audience wants to hear. Over a long enough timeline, the question of whether they’re true believers evangelizing for the far right or motivated by profits and attention becomes unanswerable and not really relevant.
“One of the more visible forms of evidence we can find of radicalization on the platform is watching the influencers themselves get radicalized over time,” Lewis said.
That’s definitely the direction Pool’s content has headed. After leaving Fusion, Pool went back to covering demonstrations and political events like the DeploraBall, a D.C. shindig hosted by extremely online MAGA luminaries the week of Trump’s inauguration. This meant greater contact with the fringes of the ideological spectrum.
Pool scored a few appearances on Fox News and talked about being threatened by antifa. (A trip to Milwaukee in August 2016 was cut short, with Pool stating that the unrest had made the area “unsafe” for him and others who presented as white.) On YouTube, Pool hosted or was a guest of far-right personalities like Brittany Pettibone, Lauren Southern, Carl “Sargon of Akkad” Benjamin, Mike Cernovich, Mark “Count Dankula” Meehan, Gavin McInnes, Anthime “Baked Alaska” Gionet, and more.
Those extremists were given space to air their views without much in the way of resistance from Pool. With Gionet, who had just gained notoriety for tweeting “1488” and other antisemitic memes, Pool asked, “Are you a racist?” Gionet said no. Pool called the posts “jokes” and seemed satisfied with his response. Within months, Gionet attended the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville. He used a similar line of questioning to interrogate Cernovich. At that time, the Pizzagate promoter was trying to distance himself from the openly bigoted factions in the alt-right, like the white nationalist Richard Spencer. Cernovich said no and Pool didn’t press him.
Lewis told The Daily Beast that mutually beneficial collaborations between conservative and far-right circles were commonplace in 2016 and 2017 when YouTube was taking more of a hands-off approach towards moderating extremist content. Far-right creators viewed the soon-to-called “Intellectual Dark Web” and others like Pool as a useful bridge to a new, possibly lucrative audience, and a batch of fresh recruits. For their interlocutors, engaging with personalities considered to be on the fringe added a patina of salaciousness, bringing them attention as well. (To this day, the far-right mines value from intermingling with ostensible centrists.)
At the same time, Pool and others of his ilk strove to maintain some plausible deniability: They weren’t espousing far-right beliefs themselves, mind you—they were just reporting. Pool is still running the same playbook. He has ridiculed and condemned QAnon, but that hasn’t stopped him from inviting QAnon–associated figures on his nightly live show. Stop the Steal promoters and organizers and election-related conspiracy theorists also made appearances, both before and after Jan. 6. None of them, nor any of the other far-right extremists, were pressed on their views. Whether Pool is purposely downplaying his guests’s beliefs and prior acts or was not aware doesn’t really alter the resulting impact.
By definition, YouTube as a platform can blur the lines between a rigorous interview and pals hanging out online. Consciously or not, the end result is “actually just amplifying someone else’s ideas behind the facade of an interview,” said Lewis.
In private, such distinctions seem to evaporate entirely.
Pool was in Berkeley, California in September 2017 for “Free Speech Week,” an ultimately canceled four-day event organized by Milo Yiannopoulos. Daniel Lombroso, the director of White Noise, a 2020 documentary featuring white nationalists like Spencer, was in town doing preliminary research. At an AirBnB rented by a handful of right-wing figures, Lambroso drew the ire of Pool and Benjamin, a YouTuber and staunch anti-feminist who told jokes about raping a member of the British Parliament.
“The two of them were just a nightmare,” Lombroso told The Daily Beast. Their behavior was “really vicious,” he said, with both repeatedly calling him “fake news” and “evil” because he worked for a mainstream news outlet.
When Lombroso took out release forms, “That’s when [Pool] really lost his mind,” the filmmaker said. He described Pool as loudly and vehemently arguing he was not to be trusted, saying the release forms shouldn’t be signed. (Asking participants to sign a release form is a standard practice when filming a documentary. Benjamin did not respond to an emailed request for comment.)
Later that night, Lombroso recalled, Benjamin stridently railed against media coverage of race and equality issues, with Pool concurring. The media was lying to the public and focusing on these issues in order to purposely “start a race war in America,” he said. “They kept saying that.” (In addition to the 2019 comment made to Johnson, his Black ex-employee, Pool also told the former Fusion staffer about the “race war” soon to come.)
These associations continue to this day. In the recorded September conversation, Pool confessed to his then-colleagues that former Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio privately asked him to delete a tweet, and effectively provide cover for the far-right street gang. On Sept. 7, 2020, a man wearing a Proud Boys T-shirt was caught on-camera bludgeoning a leftist counter-protester in Salem, Oregon. At first, Pool condemned the Proud Boys on Twitter. But Tarrio sent Pool a message saying the alleged perpetrator was not a Proud Boy. “You’re going to get my dudes hurt,” he claimed Tarrio told him. At his request (and perhaps without checking to see if Tarrio was correct) Pool deleted the tweet and posted a new one, wrongly telling his hundreds of thousands of followers—without disclosing where his info came from—that the Proud Boys did not seem to be involved. Currently, Pool boasts more than 841,000 followers.
Five weeks later, Pool hosted Tarrio for a friendly sit-down. In private, Pool had offered a much more pointed and accurate assessment of the Proud Boys than he would ever deliver on-air. “It sounds like their fucking whole existence is predicated on showing up to where antifa is to start fights and then complain they’re being attacked,” he said in the recorded conversation. (Though critical of the gang for attending the same protests as leftists, Pool has asserted the Proud Boys acted in self-defense “nine out of ten times.”) As of this writing, dozens of Proud Boys have been arrested to date for their roles in the Capitol insurrection. One arrested Capitol rioter, though not a Proud Boy, used a photo of himself wearing a Tim Pool T-shirt as his avatar on his since-deleted Twitter profile in July 2020.
“A Milquetoast Fence-Sitter”
During these initial years as an independent act, Pool didn’t attract much in the way of attention. That changed when he embarked on a joint effort with Paul Joseph Watson, a YouTuber and conspiracy theorist.
Then-President Trump had made a speech in April 2017 partly devoted to wailing about a non-existent terrorist act in Sweden. (Swedes were confused, to say the least.) Watson entered the fray. Regardless of whether Trump had fudged the details, migrants and refugees posed a serious threat, Watson, an Alex Jones acolyte, opined. So did much of the online far right in the U.S. To those criticizing him, Watson proposed footing the bill for any reporter who spent a week investigating the “crime-ridden suburbs of Malmö.” (The idea that migrants—nonwhite migrants—bring crime and squalor with them is a long-standing white nationalist trope.)
Only one journalist took Watson up on his offer: Tim Pool, who was already planning a reporting trip prior to Watson’s challenge. The $2,000 from Watson was added to a successful $20,000 GoFundMe campaign for the project, titled “Investigating Swedish Crime Waves.” In the description, he swore he’d only report the facts and not take sides.
The final product did not bear this out. But in these dozen-odd videos, you can see how and why Pool began appealing to a right-leaning audience: the patina of authenticity and objectivity masking deep-seated biases, conveniently omitted context benefitting a right-wing narrative, and animosity towards the press fact-checking his assertions.
In Rinkeby, a suburb of Stockholm, Pool hunkered down in a bowling alley to gab with three men whom Pool says he just happened to meet. During their chat, the men aired suspicions about the recent influx of refugees while praising Trump.
As the Swedish press and leftist YouTubers like HeyIt’sVadim previously documented, the men weren’t locals—they didn’t reside in Rinkeby at all—but rather members of Folkresningen de Fria (the Free People’s Movement), an anti-immigrant, far-right fringe group whose leader has blamed Jews for both the Holocaust and 9/11, among other conspiracies.
During a Reddit AMA 10 days after the video was posted, a user informed Pool about his interview subjects and de Fria’s extremist beliefs. Pool didn’t seem troubled. “I was introduced to them as ‘from Rinkeby,’” he replied. The description in his video has not been updated.
The de Fria members weren’t the only far-right individuals Pool failed to accurately depict. To introduce IIvar Arpi, Pool says he’s a “journalist” who “has a really good perspective,” but “it might be controversial.” What those controversies might be, Pool doesn’t say. Arpi is a far-right columnist who later opined that Google search results are manipulated to serve “Blacks and gays” while harming “white heterosexuals.” Chang Frick, who served as Pool’s guide in a couple of the videos, is also described by Pool as “controversial” and “aligned with the right-wing,” according to “some people,” but “others say he is a good journalist.”
Viewers are not informed that Frick held political office as a member of the Sweden Democrats, a far-right, anti-immigrant party, as BuzzFeed reported, or that a high-ranking party official prodded Frick to found Nyheter Idag, his right-wing news site. A year after Pool’s visit, the outlet was named a leading purveyor of “junk news,” according to an Oxford University study (a charge Frick has disputed). Pool told BuzzFeed in 2017 he wasn’t aware of Frick’s affiliations.
Identifying left-leaning interviewees wasn’t a problem. When Pool talked with Nils Karlsson, Malmö’s deputy mayor, he framed Karlsson’s response—that refugees were not responsible for the increase in violent crime—as coming from someone with a “very liberal” perspective, he said.
What caught the conservative media’s eye was a scene where Pool and Frick were idling about in a shopping center in Rinkeby when suddenly they had to beat a hasty retreat. Pool claimed he was instructed to leave the area and escorted out by the cops, as up to 50 unnamed men could possibly show up and begin pelting them with rocks.
The Stockholm police called the allegation bunk (a small group of individuals made it clear they didn’t want to be filmed; Pool was not “escorted” out) but that didn’t stop Pool’s tale of imminent peril from being trumpeted by the likes of Watson himself, Breitbart, The Daily Mail, The Daily Wire, and even The Daily Stormer.
Following the Swedish excursion, Pool began to abandon on the ground reporting and shift almost entirely into commentary. (The “death threats” he claimed to have received from the left were a deciding factor, he’s said.). A second YouTube channel, Timcast News, was created in November 2017 to include “less polished” work, said Pool, and address a wider array of cultural topics like “technology” and “skateboarding.” Initially, not much was posted. By July, the pace had picked up. Pool never did branch beyond culture war battles, but over time, he settled on a replicable, scalable, and cost-efficient format. In each video, he’d read a newsworthy article out loud, pausing to add his opinions, cite social media or other stories, and riff.
Watch Pool’s content from this period, and some differences become clear. He still defended and mischaracterized far-right cranks and blamed the media for all manner of ills. But rather than ever openly endorse right-wing ideas, Pool did position himself as a centrist laying out both sides of an issue. But considering whether one party was engaging in hackery or misrepresentation was mostly outside of Pool’s job description, he told The New Yorker. No wonder, then, a commenter called Pool a “milquetoast fence-sitter,” a descriptor he has since reclaimed. Later, Pool’s viewers would say he underwent the world’s slowest red-pilling.
In January 2019, Pool ramped up his output. Producing six videos per day, seven days a week became the norm. The uptick coincided with a “dramatic increase” in views, he has said, over the first two months. Two appearances on The Joe Rogan Experience in February and March 2019 also swelled his number of subscribers, per Pool. Within months, Pool scored an invitation to the White House for a “Social Media Summit”—a photo op featuring online extremists, conspiracy theorists, and assorted trolls.
For close to two years, Pool rarely if ever took a day off. Whatever else one wants to say about him, he maintained a rigorous, diligent pace—12 to 16 hours on the job per day, according to Pool. He also insists he spends hours fact-checking, and does “a lot more journalism” than New York Times reporters tend to, in contrast to what his Vice and Fusion colleagues recalled about his work habits.
Creating this sheer amount of content had other unforeseen impacts. Most people would be hard-pressed to maintain the baseline expertise and/or do the extensive research required to pump out multiple 20- or 30-minute videos per day on a wide range of events. (Pool often hits record hours after a story is reported elsewhere. The most frequently used source material in his videos as of mid-2020 was The Daily Mail, according to Jack Lawrence, a British medical student and independent journalist who’s carved out a niche documenting Pool’s work on Twitter at @TimPoolClips. Right-wing shit-stirrer Andy Ngô’s tweets finished fourth.)
Inevitably, this production schedule—and videos needing to last ten minutes in order to maximize monetization—will result in content packed with careless errors, rambling, circular or contradictory diatribes, and anecdotes which confirm his priors repeated incessantly.
But as a growth strategy, it’s quite shrewd. Viewers know exactly when to tune in and catch their favorite show. (His broadcast times rarely changed, though he ended the three 6 p.m. and weekend videos in December 2020.) They can be assured their extremely online, skater-ish millennial buddy will hit the same beats at some point during each episode: the left has gone insane, the “Fake News” media is lying to you, the right is being targeted, and societal collapse or a “peaceful separation” is imminent.
Even a 20-minute video from July ostensibly about a George Floyd memorial which was struck by lightning culminates with Pool proclaiming the left is “acting against the natural order” and is the sworn foe of creation itself. By definition, his content traces the fault lines of the culture wars. Not only because those engagement-grabbing grievances have supplanted policy concerns on the right, but because the logistics alone don’t allow for deep-bore policy analysis.
If nothing else, it makes for a frictionless consumer experience. The body of Pool’s work is geared towards triggering his audience’s anger and fears—ones the host seems to share.
A rotating cast of villains are held up for scorn and ridicule in the Tim Pool Cinematic Universe. President Biden, who Pool and his then-co-host called a “pedo[phile]” last summer, heads “one of the most criminally complicit and corrupt families in this country.” What’s more, the president may be beholden to China or “compromised” and is a “fascistic nutjob.” Dr. Anthony Fauci is “evil” and a “psychopath.” Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is obsessively referred to as a lying, “evil” ignoramus, and cops who enforced COVID-19 regulations during lockdowns were betraying the Constitution or “oath breakers.” (Capitol rioters screamed the term at police officers on Jan. 6. MAGA internet dwellers similarly consider members of Congress who supported the vote count to be “oath breakers.”)
Nurses posting a TikTok video of themselves dancing weren’t blowing off steam after a brutal year. To an enraged Pool, they were mocking and laughing at “us.” Both the Hunter Biden saga and the FBI raiding Rudy Giuliani’s office were described as, “One of the most consequential stories of our generation.” The shambolic lockdowns and bungled response to the pandemic might be part of a conspiracy to intentionally tank the economy and impose totalitarian one-world rule. When Gen. Michael Flynn and other bold-font QAnon adherents were grumbling in December about a military coup or begging Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, Pool posited, “Maybe the solution is martial law,” if only to restore constitutional rights.
Before the 2020 election, Democrats plotted to rig the election, Pool brayed that summer and fall. After Biden won, Pool pinned the defeat on Trump being “Ocean’s 11’d”—the unwitting victim of an intricate scheme involving shadowy, powerful public and private actors determined to thwart Trump, whom Pool considers an “anti-establishment” figure. (A Time magazine report detailing how a coalition mobilized to protect election integrity and increase voting access was regularly cited as evidence he’d been right.) One day before Jan. 6, he suggested Pence could declare Trump the winner. QAnon circles had been spreading this unconstitutional fantasy, calling it “the Pence Card.”
Confronting these perceived adversaries will win Pool’s praise. He showers Tucker Carlson and James O’Keefe with hosannas and respects the “spine” shown by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon promoter and conspiracy theorist. QAnon-friendly Rep. Lauren Boebert, who tweeted “Today is 1776” on Jan. 6, also earned Pool’s admiration for being “strong’’ and carrying firearms unlike other “spineless, little, weaselly” GOP politicians. On the morning of the Capitol riot, Pool praised Boebert as being “principled” and a person of “integrity.” Afterwards, not much had changed. “I actually think she’s kind of all right,” he said a week later. “She seems cool.”
To be clear, none of the above would in all likelihood warrant a strike on YouTube. Pool takes great pains not to run afoul of YouTube’s community guidelines, and getting kicked off or demonetized would be “crippling,” he has confessed. Regardless, “YouTube generally avoids taking punitive actions against creators with big audiences, especially if there is little public scrutiny or criticism of them,” Lewis explained.
When it comes to building a durable, large following, this all works. Pool has been approvingly retweeted by both Trump and his eldest son, Donald Jr. On the day of the first 2020 presidential debate, the Trump campaign bought out YouTube’s homepage to share a testimonial from a Black man who credited Pool with his newfound admiration for the now-former president. “You unlocked me,” he says of Pool in the video. “And I’m sure you unlocked a lot of people.”
And of course, given his reading material and nightly guests, rarely does Pool expose his audience to anything but a straw-manned version of the countervailing perspective. (When Pool wishes to belittle a leftist perspective, he often adopts a whiny, high-pitched, lisping accent.) To maintain the useful if fictional selling point that he’s still left of center politically—in October 2019, Pool swore he would never vote for Republicans; by 2020 he’d donated to multiple GOP candidates—Pool will toss out mid-video that he is in favor of a progressive income tax, opposes U.S. military intervention, or believes structural racism exists, as if it counterbalances the entirety of his output.
But on the rare occasions he comes face-to-face with an actual leftist, it usually doesn’t go well. Sam Seder, the host of The Majority Report, appeared on Pool’s channel in 2019. For the bulk of the broadcast, Pool stammered and sputtered, unable to offer cogent arguments. In one widely shared and derided clip, Pool said he refused to vote for Hillary Clinton. The only way to justify doing so, he explained, was by adopting a utilitarian philosophy, not unlike the Marvel supervillain Thanos, who wanted to eradicate half of all life in the universe.
In October, Pool brought the leftist podcaster Vaush on Timcast IRL. Once again, Pool came across as out of his depth, no more so than when talking about critical race theory. The once-obscure academic theory has become an increasingly prevalent catch-all term wielded by right-wing activists to stave off a reckoning with the ongoing racial disparities in America. More than two dozen states have since introduced legislation broadly targeting critical race theory in education.
Pool was an early adopter, citing critical race theory and “leftist identitarianism” as key reasons why he voted for a straight GOP ticket. But when pressed by Vaush to define critical race theory, he was at a loss. (On air, Pool blamed not having the “academic definition” handy. Months later, he still needed to read the Wikipedia page out loud.) That night, he fired off a string of vaguely connected buzzwords.
“Specifically, like, privilege plus power, whiteness, minorities, white, traits of whiteness would be specifically, like, hard work, scheduling,” said Pool before pivoting to one of his pet anecdotes: a chart created and then quickly removed by the Smithsonian Museum.
“The Nail Is White Dudes”
More Pool projects are on the way.
His recently erected website, Timcast.com, had “thousands” sign up in 2021, Pool claimed. The site provides protection against his channels being demonetized or removed entirely by YouTube. Subscribers doling out between $10 and $1,000 a month receive access to “stuff YouTube doesn’t let us talk about,” Pool promises. In a June 2021 paywalled interview with Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart honcho called people who get vaccinated for COVID-19 “dumb.” (Pool implied in December and last month that “bad food allergies” prevented him from getting the jab.)
He also hopes to attract viewers under 18 years old to the site with nonpolitical videos about “culture,” like skateboarding or UFOs. There, Pool and his younger fans can congregate and not fear the specter of cancel culture.
“We want to play the circle game without being accused of being Nazis or whatever,” he said. Whether throwing trollish “white power” hand signs or not, there are reasons why Pool’s programming might prompt such accusations.
Cassandra Fairbanks, an extremist online personality and bureau chief for the far-right website The Gateway Pundit, was named editor-in-chief of Timcast.com in June. She has a habit of posting and deleting gleeful tweets about those she disagrees with politically being physically harmed. On the day officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty in the murder of George Floyd, Fairbanks declared him a “political prisoner.” (Other extreme-right figures reacted similarly.) The daughter of white nationalist Peter Brimelow started blogging for Timcast.com later in June. (In his email to The Daily Beast, Pool wrote, “I don’t know who [her] dad is,” adding that Fairbanks recommended her.) In one paywall-protected video, Pool’s co-host Ian Crossland bitterly complained about not being able to say the n-word. “It’s a fucking English word,” Crossland yelled. “It means black in Spanish.”
In the original Pool-produced livestream, the n-word is not bleeped out. After the clip made the rounds online, Pool claimed it lacked context and was misleading.
But a prime example is the livestream on Jan. 20, an episode that started out as fodder for comedy. That night, Pool and his Timcast IRL guests didn’t catch the self-evident satire in a Jacobin cover depicting Biden as a saint. They got heated at what they thought was simplified political imagery being used to manipulate clueless Americans. When Pool et al. were ridiculed on social media for their gaffe, Pool began firing off excuses. First, Pool said he and his crew weren’t familiar enough with the socialist magazine to parse the cover’s meaning, which doesn’t explain why they were discussing the publication without doing minimal research. Then he blamed the giggling onlookers for impeding his efforts to “unify” people against “the machine.”
Casual observers, the kind who only caught the jokes made at Pool’s expense, missed out on the extremist politics which followed minutes later.
That night’s roundtable included Lydia Smith, Pool’s producer and show booker, who tweeted Pinochet memes at Ocasio-Cortez this past November, plus Crossland and Luke Rudkowski, a former Alex Jones employee and old school 9/11 truther. The show’s guest was a frequent one: John Goldman, aka “Jack Murphy,” a former D.C. charter school employee who was fired in 2018 after pseudonymously blogging since-deleted thought jewels like “Feminists need rape.”
The self-styled “leading voice in the men’s space on Twitter” has of late written about the concurrent decline in male sperm count and grip strength. Goldman made dozens of appearances on Timcast IRL in 2020 and 2021. (Reached for comment, Goldman wrote, “eat a bag of dicks.” Crossland and Smith did not respond.)
After incorrectly dissecting the Jacobin artwork, the quartet veered off into seemingly unrelated topics: Pool falsely said Occupy was intentionally subverted when powerful forces “introduce[d] identity politics” and drove “white people” from the movement; Crossland casually called Native Americans cannibals; and Goldman postulated that since the 1960s, people of color had been used as a blunt instrument by the left and the Democratic Party to “hammer” white men.
“The nail is white dudes,” he said. “And the hammer is what now? The state and all the nonwhite dudes behind them.”
As the old lie goes, one dating long before the ’60s, the demands for social justice by people of color are secretly being promoted by a cabal of elites whose true endgame is the subversion of majority-white rule. Sometimes it’s explicitly Jews out to sow destruction from within. At other moments in history, it’s been communists and Marxists, the “deep state,” or an ever-swirling hodgepodge of the above.
The names may change, but the paranoia remains the same. During the broadcast, Pool never said he disagreed with Goldman. When asked by The Daily Beast if he too believed people of color were used by Democrats as a cudgel against white males, Pool declined to say. Instead, he listed a few leftist Timcast IRL guests who “made several claims I also did not contradict,” and said he’s pro-immigration.
The full livestream has been viewed more than 361,000 times on YouTube as of publication. Four shorter excerpts have been viewed more than 331,000 times.
All told, those two hours of fact-free, at times bigoted bantering put a few thousand YouTube ad dollars in Pool’s pocket. His audience got a free dose of white nationalism.