Victoria Duran is a conservative woman who once operated under the moniker “Based Mama.” Nearly a year after online harassers tied into the white supremacist “alt-right” movement made her a target, she still can’t openly use the internet without fearing for her family’s safety.
Last year, Duran teamed up with YouTuber Dave Cullen and another person using the name “Sister Danger” to plan an event dubbed “Kilroy” that promised to be “a safe space for free speech.” The conference was slated to host speakers from across the political spectrum, including those who hold extremist views, to fill panels dedicated to discussions about First Amendment rights, and to engage on controversial political topics in what organizers hoped would be a good-spirited debate. Duran says that although she doesn’t agree with the extremists invited to speak to the event, their presence wasn’t an issue to her because she believes “the best way to debunk them is to let them talk.”
The event, which took place in Arizona, drew opposition. Due to the lineup, Duran and other organizers faced scrutiny “from both sides” of the political spectrum about planned discussions, and faced resistance from potential venues contacted about hosting their event, several of which cited security concerns.
“I understand that. We had very controversial speakers lined up,” Duran said.
The first wave of major wave of opposition came in response to non-disclosure agreements Duran said were meant to protect the identity of a political dissident slated to speak from Venezuela, as well as others from North Korea. She also said that the event venues had requested that conference-goers not film in areas not rented by the event organizers. This drew criticism from YouTube journalist Tim Pool, who called out the agreement in a YouTube video and a series of tweets.
But that would pale in comparison to the reaction Duran faced after she denied the requests of alt-right activist James Allsup, who marched last year in Charlottesville with the far-right white nationalist group Identity Evropa. Allsup is presently a Republican precinct committee officer in Whitman County, Washington, and has urged his followers to pursue similar political endeavors.
Duran told us that Allsup had agreed to appear on a panel on free speech, but then made a series of demands that organizers were not able to accept. In an email exchange shared with Right Wing Watch, Allsup tells Duran he wants the event to feature a panel on “Western civilization” featuring far-right YouTube users Lauren Southern, Brittany Pettibone and Faith Goldy. In the email, Allsup told Duran it would be “in your best interests as organizers” to make room for them by canceling other speakers scheduled for the event. Allsup shared some of these emails in a video he uploaded to YouTube weeks later, but he omitted crucial parts of the exchange. Duran and Allsup live in areas with different time zones.
Duran said that off the email chain on November 29, 2017, Allsup had sent a panel submission form stating that he wanted to do a lecture on identitarianism with Goldy and a panel about Western civilization with Goldy, Pettibone and Southern, prompting her to send the following response:
Duran told us that she wasn’t sure what Allsup had hoped to accomplish or whether he had discussed his requests with those mentioned in his emails. She said that except for Goldy, those mentioned in the messages had already withdrawn from the event on mostly good terms for seemingly unrelated reasons. She said that Southern declined to appear at the event when she was asked to sign the non-disclosure agreement for the event, that Pettibone politely opted out when it became a point of controversy online. Duran never spoke personally to Goldy, she said.
“I didn’t have any issue with them being there. It’s that I wasn’t going to throw others off the platform to accommodate them. I wasn’t in a position to do so,” Duran explained.
“They just wanted a platform,” she said, adding that she felt it was ironic that someone like Allsup—who claims to simply advocate for free speech, as many others in his movement do—insisted that others be removed from the event to make way for his envisioned panel.
The last email obtained by Right Wing Watch is dated December 1, 2017. Shortly after, Allsup tweeted that he wanted to stage a meetup of his own in the area that would feature Goldy, white nationalist podcaster Nick Fuentes and Tim “Baked Alaska” Treadstone, whom Allsup claimed was uninvited from the Kilroy event. Duran said that Treadstone was turned away because the event was at-capacity. Duran said she perceived Allsup’s planned counter-event to be an attempt to pressure her after she declined to accommodate his panel.
“By now, I knew he had been at Charlottesville and had been involved in that Unite the Right stuff,” Duran said, referring to the August 12, 2017 gathering of far-right white supremacy groups that erupted in a melee where counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed in an apparent attack by alleged neo-Nazi James Fields. Duran said that she felt threatened by Allsup’s call to rally in Phoenix days before her Kilroy conference. That call was amplified by other actors in the same political space online as Allsup. She also mentioned Colin “Millennial Woes” Robertson piped up with criticisms of her but, she said, she had never been told that Robertson was interested in attending, to begin with.
Members of the far-right piled on. Some accused Duran and a YouTube user known as “Kraut and Tea” of participating in a chat server dedicated to digging up personally identifying information about various YouTube users—an activity that both strongly deny engaging in. (That public chat server is now defunct.)
After members of the alt-right began to target Duran, she says she began receiving a barrage of harassment that has kept her offline to this day. Duran told us that someone had hacked her cell phone, after which the alleged perpetrator, she said, maxed out her credit cards, drained her personal bank accounts and browsed through private messages on her Twitter account. She said she received threatening letters in the mail and eerie phone calls from random numbers. But the one moment she said was most disturbing is when the online mob targeted her children. One person using an anonymous account had tracked down her nine-year-old daughter online and had sent her photographs of lynchings and said that the photos represented what would happen to her mother in April, Duran said.
“It was just happening so fast I couldn’t even organize it in my head,” Duran said.
She added, “It just surprised me, I guess. I expected more backlash from the [‘Social Justice Warrior’] types.”
Duran says that she and other organizers will host another Kilroy event because “free speech is always under attack” from those who hold power.
“What it came down to is ego and vendetta at the end of the day.”