Make It Make Sense: Yvette Carnell, #ADOS & the Tanton AstroTurf Narrative

In one version of things, Yvette Carnell has for the last three and a half years been at the helm of a conservative-sponsored initiative passing itself off as a reparations movement, the actual intent of which is to manipulate the dependably Democratic black voter bloc and thus grease the skids for Republican electoral victories in 2020 and beyond. In another version, Yvette Carnell is just (and I’ll quote here) “a bitter old woman” who is “living in her parents [sic] basement.”1

Given the seemingly contradictory nature of these accounts, you might suspect that whichever version you get depends on who you ask. After all, the first invites us to behold a kind of mastermind-Svengali who’s been handpicked by a group of highly influential figures and lobbyists in the extreme political Right and who (on their dime!) has been tasked with carrying out a massive, nationwide plot of black voter suppression. The second, on the other hand, invites us to essentially dismiss that same person as being nothing but an apparent deadbeat worthy of our ridicule.

These two portrayals, however, are both frequently spoken together in the same breath, by the same crowd of people, all of whom seem oddly untroubled by the obvious inconsistencies that surface. Who is Yvette Carnell? A key resource on the payroll of a shadowy cadre of rightwing donors? Duper of hundreds of thousands of people and orchestrator of a movement that serves to exclusively carry out the will of that rightwing cabal? Embittered former Democratic congressional aide? A perpetually down-and-out basement dweller? All of these things? Really?

This is how it tends to go with the allegations leveled at Yvette Carnell (and #ADOS more generally). They often, in the end, beg way, way more questions than they actually answer, and they routinely run aground some rather incongruous realities that cast serious doubt not only on the claims against #ADOS themselves, but also—and perhaps more importantly—the motives and integrity of the individuals making them.

The idea that, since 2016, Yvette Carnell has enjoyed access to the deep coffers of John Tanton’s network of white supremacist organizations (most directly via the group Progressives for Immigration Reform [PFIR], on whose board of directors she openly admits to having served beginning that same year) is one such claim that is having more and more difficulty making its way across this ever-widening credibility gap. And despite her insistence that she has never taken money from PFIR, critics of #ADOS claim that Carnell is concealing the true nature of the movement’s financing and have routinely sought to tie it to Tanton et al. in order to expose what they believe to be its rightwing, xenophobic and nativist seeding. And, as pictured below, documentation such as the Colcom Foundation’s contribution of $350,000 to PFIR back in 2016 for ‘unrestricted purposes’ serves for these opponents of #ADOS as irrefutable ‘proof’ that the movement’s co-founder is (and has been for some time) in the pocket of white supremacist ideologues and is merely a stooge for helping advance their pro-Republican agenda vis-à-vis the #ADOS movement.


2016-17 was, to be sure, a pivotal time in BreakingBrown’s history. The channel’s subscriber count—which up to that point had experienced modest upticks slowly over the course of years—really seemed to then begin gathering some serious momentum and growing at an observably brisker pace. And, as available analytics detailing the show’s subscriber count can attest, that number has since continued to climb steadily upwards right up to today.

What’s worth paying attention to, though, is the only instance on this graph at which the subscriber count appears to stall out for some time; namely, between late September and December of 2017. That period of course—as longtime fans of the show will no doubt recall—was particularly significant in relation to BreakingBrown. Those two and a half months constituted its only extended programming hiatus, one which followed a rather abrupt departure by then-co-host Irami Osei-Frimpong and which left Yvette Carnell’s increasingly popular political education channel without any of the necessary production equipment (and an intern) required to air its twice-weekly broadcasts. And so, just like that, at what seemed a critical juncture in the show’s run during the fall of 2017, BreakingBrown simply went away.

Somewhat bewildered, fans of the show took to forums to speculate on what may have happened, and also to keep each other abreast of any potential developments regarding the show’s return. For months there was nothing to signal the possibility of that happening anytime soon. Then, around early December, a Lipstick Alley user uploaded a video that Yvette Carnell had streamed live on her YouTube channel.

Thumbnail from Yvette Carnell’s “Audio Test” video, cir. December 2017

The video has since been deleted, presumably because its only content is literally Yvette in a room by herself, evidently frustrated and clearly struggling with trying to iron out the technical side of things in advance of the show’s apparently-not-too-far-off return.

This is, of course, not exactly anything too far out of the ordinary for a person who, in the absence of sufficient resources, is forced to wear a few different hats, solicit some help from whomever might be willing to lend a hand, and just make do. What is unusual, however, is that—according to those who now in 2019 are busy promulgating the narrative that Yvette Carnell has long been in receipt of secret payments from a right-wing propaganda machine (and #ADOS its puppet movement)—2017 ought to have found the co-founder of the #ADOS movement in no kind of financial straits whatsoever.

After all, if for the year and a half leading up to this, Yvette Carnell had been sitting on an apparent reserve of discretionary Tanton capital, then what the hell is she doing spending her day troubleshooting audio? Couldn’t she have easily availed herself to whatever resources PFIR had supposedly earmarked for #ADOS back in 2016 and just hired someone to take care of that for her?2 Wouldn’t her white handlers enthusiastically front her the money for something like that? Furthermore, why would BreakingBrown even have been allowed to experience such a prolonged interruption in the first place? Especially in late 2017, when the #ADOS political project was so clearly picking up steam, and when it would obviously be in the Tanton web’s best interest to ensure that their up-and-coming mouthpiece has a platform from which to trumpet their propaganda. How would this apparently quite practiced and adept group of astroturfers fail to recognize the absolute necessity of sustaining a smooth-running media component in order to churn out and disseminate those archconservative values?

Although, maybe when we consider to which arm of the #ADOS movement the ‘alt-Right’ has been funneling its resources we unduly focus on Yvette Carnell. Perhaps over the years these figures have been investing in the building up of a robust field of political candidates, all of whom were recruited and trained to foreground the #ADOS agenda in order to assist in their ultimate aim of driving voters away from the Democratic Party. Obviously having that sort of political infrastructure in place would be essential to achieving exactly the kind of disruption one would expect from a cynical organization committed to Republican dominance.

However, a cursory survey of candidates whose platforms speak explicitly to the ADOS electorate, and who are presently vying for office, reveals literally two such persons: Tamara Johnson-Shealey, a Democrat who is running for a congressional seat in Georgia’s 40th district, and Stevevonna Evans, who, out in San Bernadino, California, is running for county supervisor. In the former’s last bid for Congress in 2018, her opponent raked in over a quarter-million dollars in contributions while she herself pulled in $15,836.90

The point is obviously not to diminish what candidates like Johnson-Shealey and Evans are doing. Quite oppositely, what they are doing is all the more commendable, all the more admirable, precisely because they are starting at such a deficit—of interest, resources, whatever. The point, rather, is to try and take an honest look at what is (and has been) actually happening out there and note the glaring disconnect between that and the ongoing depiction of #ADOS as a political movement that is under the financial auspices of major players in the Right.

To be perfectly frank, those individuals who are routinely making that claim are people who have in fact proven themselves to be comically and pathetically inept when it comes to their ability to discover the absolute most basic and obvious of truths. These people are the Inspector Clouseaus of Twitter. And the affectation of righteousness and self-assuredness they assume while they bumble maladroitly through their own mess of misinformation, loudly proclaiming to be fact that which is either completely groundless or easily refutable, is genuinely embarrassing and contemptible. The ring leader of these anti-#ADOS carnival barkers could not perform a simple Twitter search of my name in order to disprove her own patently moronic theory that I was Yvette Carnell, a theory which—to this day—somehow amazingly still has legs.

‘Receipts’ will not kill #ADOS. You can’t ‘mute’ it. Calling it ‘trash’ over and over and over again every single day will not stop it. It is here now, and its presence has nothing at all to do with its being ‘rightwing-funded.’ It has always been here. It has survived four-hundred years of murderous, unrelenting violence, and you think you’re going to stop it by calling them bots and Republicans? Bots and Republicans? That’s your play? Do you not see yourselves? You are howling idiotically at the centuries-undead idea of justice, a thing that will surely—as it always has—march on single-mindedly in search of itself inside this offending land long after you and everyone else who would deny it realization have become ash and dust; after all your halfbaked theories and consternation about why it’s here (or why it’s here in the particular way that it now is) run toward exhaustion; after all your trying desperately to erase its being here reveals—in the end—only the undeniable permanence of it, a permanence that is tied indissolubly to America’s continued and dogged unwillingness to ever deal honestly with it.

#ADOS is here, plain and simple. And the bolt on the door behind which we have tried to keep it shut away is now shaking more violently than ever before. The only thing that might be worth investigating is the question of why that so deeply upsets you.

. N O T E S .

1. This is, of course, consistently said in a way that is meant to encourage all the most unsympathetic of assumptions that most Americans will make when they hear an individual is living at the home of their parents (e.g. some assortment of personal deficiencies is at play). At least to my knowledge, no consideration has ever been given to the possibility of her being a caretaker for a sick or infirm family member, nor to the basic fact that the current economy is dictating all sorts of alternate living arrangements across demographic groups. Whatever the case may be, Yvette’s home life is (obviously) absolutely no one else’s business but hers. But these people bringing it up in such a clearly judgmental way reveals nothing so much as a total disconnect from the difficult realities faced by everyday people in the U.S., and—perhaps more germane to this essay—a penchant for loudly repeating hearsay in the absence of any proof.

2. 2016 was also the year, according to one individual with apparent insider ‘intel’, that Russia “copped” (sic?) the #ADOS movement. Again, one can do nothing but just sort stare and blink at such an absurd and idiotic claim.