Squad Rep’s YouTube Page Is a Conspiracy Theorist’s Dream

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty images/Reuters
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty images/Reuters

Old (internet) habits die hard.

When The Daily Beast revealed in January that Rep. Jamaal Bowman had promoted 9/11 conspiracy theories on his blog while working as a public school principal, the New York Democrat maintained it was just a bygone phase, and that his days of marinating in the nether-swamps of online paranoia were long over. But his personal YouTube account, where he continued to follow new channels and create playlists as recently as last month, indicates his taste for fringe content has endured into his tenure on Capitol Hill.

Bowman’s page, which uses his longtime screen name “Inner Peace” and features his image and videos from the middle school he once led, subscribes to dozens of bewildering and bizarre accounts—including known Russian and Chinese disinfo peddlers, flat earthers, musings about UFOs and “signs you’re being prepared to cross to the new earth,” a U.S.-born Muslim influencer who killed a German citizen and provoked attacks on American businesses in Egypt, and many arcane online realms in between.

“This CIA Document Literally Explains Time Travel (practical steps included)," crows the title of one post on an account the congressman follows called Video Advice, which also frequently shares conspiracy content about the Illuminati and the Catholic Church. Another recording on the same page blares: “Kanye Exposes the Truth: ‘The Secret Codes They Don't Want You to Know.’”

“‘We use the RIGHT FREQUENCIES’ (hidden numerology used by the elite),” is the name of a video on another account called Be Inspired, which Bowman also follows.

“‘100% Alien Technology’ - Something Big Being Hidden From Us,” alleges a video on a page called Anonymous Official, another Bowman subscription, which frequently also pushes content by serial sex offender and Vladimir Putin-booster Scott Ritter, such as “What’s Coming is WORSE Than a WW3, Iran is Ready.”

These follows might seem unusual for a member of Congress—but less so for a man who published poetry The Daily Beast uncovered that promoted debunked conspiracies about the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Bowman’s verse, first published on his blog Relentless-Strongback.blogspot.com in 2011 when he was 35, also urged readers to watch the pseudo-documentaries ‘Loose Change’ and ‘Zeitgeist,’ both of which earned the endorsement of arch-paranoia-pusher Alex Jones. Bowman’s poem also included an explicit shout-out to William Cooper, an Arizona broadcaster whose anti-government rants made him a pivotal figure in the American militia movement.

Although the congressman has since disowned his old heroes as “cranks,” his YouTube subscriptions reflect a similar blending of right and left. Anonymous Official, for instance, uses the name and symbols of the anarchist hacker collective—but shares clips of conservative populist figures such as Tucker Carlson and Joe Rogan. Bowman also follows Stephen Gardner, a pro-Trump YouTube influencer who also promotes the idea that the federal government is hiding evidence of aliens, while critiquing U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine and the Middle East.

In fact, Ritter, Rogan, and Carlson recur across multiple channels Bowman subscribes to, as does former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, as well as claims about alleged government plots to conceal extraterrestrials, an imminent third world war emerging from American support of Ukraine and Israel, and content about inventor Nikola Tesla and his supposed knowledge of mysterious vibrations that pervade the universe and various parallel dimensions. Bowman also follows mainstream and apolitical accounts, such as National Geographic and ESPN, and musical artists like Busta Rhymes and Eminem.

Bowman’s campaign did not deny the Inner Peace account belonged to him, but supplied a statement from the lawmaker disclaiming even the faintest familiarity with the extreme and outlandish content he subscribed to. Bowman also downplayed the importance of his social media exposures in the face of what he characterized as domestic and international crises.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, I don’t know these accounts, and I haven’t watched any of these videos. There is a war going on that has killed tens of thousands of innocents and people here can’t afford rent and groceries, I think people care more about that than some convoluted story about videos that I haven’t even watched.”

Further, Bowman has publicly identified himself in the past as a frequent YouTube user. At a panel discussion held at an Islamic center in the city of Yonkers in January, the Democrat described himself as “starstruck” to introduce the incendiary academic Norman Finkelstein, whom he said he knew from online videos.

“I watch them all the time on YouTube,” said Bowman, who subsequently had to denounce Finkelstein’s praise of Hamas’ bloody raid into Israeli territory on Oct. 7.

Sure enough, several of the pages Inner Peace follows—including DiEM25, Real News Network, Free Will, PoliticsJOE, TRT World—feature interviews with Finkelstein.

Moreover, a number of the accounts Bowman has subscribed to are of recent vintage: more recent, even, than his own ascent to power in 2020. For instance, one called Afripost—where recent video titles announce “Vatican Angry as PUTIN Declares Russia will Only Worship THE BLACK JESUS” and “African Historian Reveals hidden Secret: God did NOT CREATE WHITE: The Bible is all about BLACKS” (capitalization original)—was created in April of last year, just a few months after Bowman started his second term.

Afripost also frequently shares speeches by controversial Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan, known for his antisemitic rhetoric. The most recent such video asserts, falsely, “BLACKS ARE THE TRUE J£WS [sic].”

Bowman also subscribes to an account called Thinkers Forum, created in late 2021, toward the end of his first year representing parts of the Bronx and Westchester County in the House. Thinkers Forum is a project of The China Academy, which bills itself as “one of China’s most influential current affairs and intellectual content outlet [sic],” and boasts ties to an array of Chinese state-backed institutions. Recent videos posted to the Thinkers Forum channel include “Why the West ‘takes pleasure’ in seeing the genocide in Palestine?” “Why NATO is collapsing like the Soviet Union, by the same mistake,” and “How the US Keeps Fighting China, Knowing It Won’t Win?”

Thinkers Forum also recently posted a translation of a Chinese state university professor’s evidence-free speculation that the terrorist attack at a Moscow concert hall was the work of Ukraine and Western intelligence services—even though a faction of the Islamic State took responsibility for the assault.

A few months earlier, in July 2021—six months into Bowman’s stint on the Hill—another channel was born called Middle Nation, which the congressman at some indeterminate point followed. Middle Nation belongs to Shahid Bolsen, a Colorado-born Muslim convert who used his prior social media accounts to urge Islamist militants to attack so-called “corporate crusaders” that had set up shop in Egypt. Bolsen, previously imprisoned on a manslaughter conviction in the United Arab Emirates for killing a German engineer, uses his new channel to rail against “The Loud, Hollow American Empire,” “The Prison of American Hegemony,” Western “materialism,” the U.S.’s supposedly “fake ceasefire” proposals to end the conflict in the Gaza Strip.

One of the loopiest pages Bowman follows also came into being that same year: Wired Mind, which exclusively promotes the ideas of late New Age icon Dolores Cannon, known for her advocacy of conspiracies about aliens, reincarnation, and the lost island of Atlantis. Wired Mind urges its viewers to prepare for an impending “shift” to a higher reality, and offers advice on such dilemmas as "Are You an Alien Among Us? Signs You Might Not Be from This World” and “Think You're Going Crazy? Surprise! You're Actually Awakening Your Spirit!"

Finally, Bowman also follows BreakThrough News, which established its YouTube presence in early 2020, while the Democrat was on the campaign warpath against then-incumbent Rep. Eliot Engel. As The Daily Beast reported last spring, BreakThrough News draws its staff from Russian state-owned media and cash from Neville “Roy” Singham, a U.S. tech mogul ensconced in Shanghai—and pushes the favorite propaganda narratives of Moscow and Beijing.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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