Looking for a free gold-plated Trump coin? Head over to Parler & Gab

You might be a disappointed Trump supporter. Or you might be a Trump supporter confident that he will be reinstated in 2024 (four more years!). Or, at the very least, you still bask in the glory of how he defeated Hillary Clinton, when no one in the media gave him a chance. Those were the days! Either way, can we interest you in a free gold-plated Trump coin?

If you spend much time on Parler or Gab, or on the bespoke MAGA media where every Democrat is a thief, you are bound to run into an offer for “free” gold and silver-plated commemorative Trump coins (you only pay for shipping). While the image bitmap looks pretty downmarket, the coin depicted is beautifully embossed with Trump’s trademark sideswept hair and even the folds in the double chin.

All those free offers lead to one single internet vendor—the Raw Conservatives store at shop.RawConservativeOpinions.com, which, for all intents and purposes, seems to exist only to sell Trump coins.

Links into the Raw Conservatives store lead in from all over MAGA media. Sometimes as a news article, like on World Newes, one of the Macedonian websites I covered last month; or an ad shown on a news page.

Sometimes it is a Parler post that appears to be leading to an actual news story: but the “news” it leads to is really just a fake outrageous quote from Nancy Pelosi (“I’m calling for a complete ban on all sales of Trump’s Presidential coin!”) above a sales pitch for the coin. On Gab’s massive “Conservative News” group, seemingly every third post pitches free gold-plated coins.

Sometimes the “Free!” pitch leads to a Weebly website link—which redirects instantly to the Raw Conservatives store. Some Gab or Parler accounts that promote the coin posture as right-wing celebrities, for example, Sidney Powell, as described by Buzzfeed recently.

Sometimes a pin on Pinterest—which leads to a sales site that in addition to selling Trump coins, also pitches a way to make money taking paid surveys. Blogs selling Trump coins are found all over the scammer underbelly of the web—including one apparently run out of Vietnam, and one from Portugal.

Sometimes it is just a tweet. Or a Medium post with news about Rep. Ilhan Omar written by a “Karen Smith” (an internet marketer) whose profile is that of a South Asian man.

Or strangest of all, a press release on AP NewMediaWire (paid content) from July 2020, written by a “Kevin”, on the AP News website, that links over to the Raw Conservatives store amid some pretty dry verbiage.

We seem to have run into an affiliate marketing network with a wide reach.

E-books, now only $37

It would be a rare online business that sells only one thing. Sure enough, a little digging discovers that the Raw Conservatives store is one storefront among several. It shares Google Analytics with a number of other online vendors—this means there is a single owner behind them all. They all use the same method, and all sell e-books.

The website leads off with a video surrounded by warnings: “This video contains extremely sensitive and disturbing content”.

“Fellow patriot,” one video begins, “shit has really hit the fan.” The voiceover’s serious tone often doesn’t match the words as written. “The coronavirus outbreak is spreading fast,” the video goes on, continuing on to claim that the WHO and CDC are lying to you, patriot. This website, PandemicStatus.com, sells e-books including Pandemic Protocol and Survival Mindset for $37.

The video on another sales website, AliveAfterTheFall.com, begins, “on December 6, President Trump’s words shook the world.” It purports to help the buyer survive after an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack, during which, apparently, as foretold in the Bible, 290 million Americans will die. Do you want to know how to protect yourself and your family? The upshot—you guessed it—buy now!—an e-book called Alive After the Fall, now only $37, slashed from $97, 100% money back guarantee, surrounded by biblical sunlight rays.

They all share the apocalyptic tone of letting the viewer in on a shadowy conspiracy. They all proudly claim to be written by someone who wants to protect his true identity, and thus is forced to use an alias, such as Stewart Adams or Frank Tanner. They all implicate the usual slate of MAGA foes in the conspiracy: mainstream media, WHO, and so on. Like little fish feeding in the big fish’s wake, they all ride on the devotion the MAGA base has for Trump.

The Pitch

One can detect some real marketing cleverness behind these websites.

For example, MegaDroughtExposed.com sells e-books including Food For Freedom targeted at the back-to-nature hobbyist, but does it amid dire warnings about the coming drought and a dig at mainstream media: “Deadly NASA warning is being completely ignored by mainstream media! We are about to face a 50-year-long disaster!” But the Food For Freedom pack is also marketed to a homesteader audience that emphasizes saving money instead of conspiracizing about enemies through a different website, FoodForFreedom.net. The words are surgically chosen, for opposite audiences.

PandemicStatus.com about Covid-19 fear-mongering was registered on February 8th, 2020, before most people were aware of the novel coronavirus, let alone that it would go on to become a global pandemic. Clearly, this seller was on the ball. MAGA enemies such as WHO were framed as Covid denialists. This website was marketed on Facebook pages, scammy Medium posts that purport to be written by a doctor, and even comments on Bill Gates’s blog.

Pretty soon, events overtook the vendor; Trump himself turned out to be the prime Covid-19 denialist. No matter. Covid-19 denialism is also peddled at a different website: PrepperLifestyle.org.

Indeed, the owner of these websites has tapped into America’s most potent wealth-generation engine: the gullible MAGA base, the group of people who have fallen for Trump’s patina of #winning so hard that they have bought into scam after scam: from Trump University, to QAnon, to gold-plated Trump coins.

The fake personas created for these e-book vendors are key to the pitch. “Frank Tanner” of DeepStateExposed.com claims to be an “independent investigative journalist” who even has a YouTube account. A “Frank Tanner” also sells e-books about growing your own food on MegaDroughtExposed.com. AliveAfterTheFall.com once pitched the Bible prophecy of an EMP attack as one “Alexander Cain, theology professor in Arkansas”. This persona was so successful that “he” even got debunked by an actual Christian minister/Bible scholar. Lately, any mention of “Alexander Cain” is scrubbed from the site—perhaps because Cain became too Internet-famous.

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MAGA news

This e-book vendor also owns a number of MAGA news websites. As is usual with these fly-by-night made-to-look-like-news websites, their content presents a highly slanted, and often false view of the news, nevertheless one that the MAGA base thrills to. The content is often copied word-for-word from more established right-wing outlets such as The Federalist Papers, The Western Journal, etc.

Sometimes this creates some hilarious oddities, like the time in MAGANews2020.org a “James G. Dalton” (not a real person) claimed to have founded Judicial Watch in 1994 and to run Freedom Watch—two rather well known institutions. The article, written in the first person, was entirely copied from an op-ed by Larry Klayman, whose biography does fit those details.

These websites are identical to each other in their style, down to the same text on the About page:

The paranoia about big tech is justified: indeed, their Twitter account (@hub_true) was suspended, and Facebook posts linking to the Raw Conservatives store were removed.

Their “Contact Us” pages are identical to each other, and always point to a mailbox in some town in the USA, from Smithfield, VA to Louisville, KY.

The owner even went to trouble of creating fake ZoomInfo profiles for these outlets, complete with fake people, fake titles, and the same overwrought “About” text as above.

Under this shell, each day, these news websites rotate red meat stories to catch the MAGA eye. “Student sues over critical race training” on TrueConservativesHub.com. “Dr. Fauci admits he has been misleading Americans” on PatriotPowerline.com. “Muslim singer’s threats: we’ll put an end to your existence” on RightWingEconomics.com. And so on.

ABC: Always Be Converting

In case you wondered if the seller of such scam e-books as Pandemic Protocol has now decided to enter the news business, please be assured that they are in fact, still selling. The news content just functions as a beacon for calling out to the right sort of audience.

An audience that craves content such as “Media confirms its double standard” is also likely to click on the other images and links presented. For example, each of these websites prominently displays images of Biden and Trump on the top right. It asks you to answer a poll on who really won. The link leads to trk.eybmedia.com, another one of this owner’s websites, probably tracking clicks for collecting prospects.

Ad links down the sidebar lead to TrendingReports.club which from its fingerprints, also seems to belong to the same owner. It probably also tracks clicks. One sidebar link leads to a book called Secret State by a “Jack Thomas” for, you guessed it, $37. Another leads to the familiar Raw Conservatives store selling Trump coins. These links are all created by a Javascript from yet another domain in the stable, content.TrueNaturalSolutions.com. The latter web server uses cookies to track its audience.

Of course, this is in addition to a straightforward ask for email addresses (“Get your real American news”) on a couple panels. Always be building that email list.

These websites are a classic form of conversion marketing. They first attract customers to their storefronts—deceptively fashioned as news—and then use further deceptive practices to get them to click on product links, and then fall into a sales “funnel”, where after you purchase one item, you are upsold on product after product. They also stash your email address for more sales pitches in the future. Meanwhile, the damage that their inflammatory language, election conspiracy theories, and other disinformation does to American democracy is completely incidental.

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Training for affiliates and marketers

Whether they sell e-books or coins, these websites are all storefronts at popular Internet retailers: ClickBank or DigiStore24, both of which are giant e-commerce platforms. On Clickbank, each of these has a vendor ID that identifies the product being sold and the seller. For example, the vendor ID for the Trump coins is “trsvl”; for the Alive After The Fall e-book is “alivefall”, and so on.

What of the multitude of links into the Raw Conservatives store that promote the coin all over MAGA media: the Parler posts, the Medium posts, the pins on Pinterest? They are affiliates, who can make an easy buck through cuts for referral. Each link into the Raw Conservatives store is tagged with a “hop” or a “tracking id” that identifies who receives the cut.

For example, the Lou Dobbs Fan account on Parler regularly promotes the Alive After The Fall e-book and the Trump coin using the tracking ID “sonja1999”.

If you aspire to be an affiliate, no worries, they’ve got your back. Notwithstanding the dire language on the front, a page for affiliates explains how you can write your own promo material, whether it is emails or fake news pages. For example, TacticalHomeDefense.com blasts out some gut-wrenching words: “My dad was was forced to tie me up while my mom watched helplessly,” on the front. Behind the “Affiliates Center” link though, the website promises you 75% commision on 3 upsells, and also provides ad copy such as: “(EXCLUSIVE) Inmate serving life explains all”. AliveAfterTheFall.com‘s affiliate center tells you, “The Prophet sees PROFIT for you in 2018!”—and provides “creatives” and display banners you can use to “crush” display traffic.

In fact, they have an entire page devoted to product offers for affiliates to sell. For example, the fake outrageous quote from Nancy Pelosi, that masquerades as a news story? Presented on Conservative Affiliates as potential ad copy (a “swipe”), later copied word for word by an affiliate on SidneyTeam.com, that leads you to the Raw Conservatives store with an affiliate identifier of “SUPPORT”. You can also find eye-catching hate-mail “swipes” about AOC or Rep. Ilhan Omar (“I am absolutely offended by these disgusting coins”), if you think your audience will jive more to those.

But if you’d like to go deeper, you can head over to Black Hat World, an internet forum for online marketers. Here, a post by a “Matt707” describes (archived) how one goes about marketing Trump hats and Trump coins to MAGA customers on Facebook. In fact, from the screenshot, it seems he was selling this exact coin. The method is to purchase fake Facebook profiles, outfit them with AI-generated profile pics, post in groups with disguised sales pitches or popups—and lead the customers into “absurdly long funnels” that upsell a hat, then multiple hats, then a coin, and then multiple coins, to anyone who might be tempted to click. Leave your politics at the door, he announces; this is about monetizing a devoted, captive audience. He even explains how to procure the coins cheaply: from AliExpress. Sure enough, I found the the same coins available there at wholesale rates.

That’s right—gold-plated Trump commemorative coins, symbols of patriotism that thrill the MAGA heart—are made in China.

Who owns the Raw Conservatives store?

Could it be that the owner of the Matt707 accounts is the seller of the Trump coins on MAGA media? Well—there is no evidence for that aside from the post on the Black Hat World forum. He might be the owner, or the owner might have used his methods, or purchased his business—so it is unclear.

However, two of the websites in this stable do give away the owner’s name. One inadvertently, and the other, shall we say, very advertently.

The TacticalHomeDefense.net website sells the Patriot Home Defense e-book on the DigiStore24 platform. When you click on the DigiStore24 badge, it tells you name of the company the website belongs to: Stone Force Media SRL (“SRL” is the Romanian version of “LLC”), which is based in Bucharest, Romania.

On the ConservativeAffliates.com website, which offers a toolkit for aspiring affiliates to sell their products, we see that the contact email mentioned is one belonging to the Affiliate Manager at the same company, Stone Force Media.

Stone Force Media is a real company with a LinkedIn page and 8 employees, including the Affiliate Manager mentioned above. They recruit in Romania for jobs like Email Marketing Assistant, Video Editor Rockstar, and Content Manager with an interest in US politics. To close the loop, the official website for StoneForceMedia.com is hosted on the same IP address as one of the subdomains in the TrueConservativesHub.com group. Back in 2015/6, the Stone Force Media website was hosted on the same IP Address as some of the other websites in this group: including AliveAfterTheFall.com and MegaDroughtExposed.com. This points to a continued ownership of these websites by this company at least since 2015.

I think we have found the ones we have been looking for.

MAGA gullibility

I have little else to add, except to marvel. The devotion and gullibility (let’s just call it scammability) of Trump’s MAGA base is so world-renowned that you now have a company based in Romania, fleecing them for products made in China, marketed over blogs written in Vietnam, Macedonia, and by a man in Karachi, Pakistan (as I discovered “Karen Smith, Internet Marketer” to be).

Of course, the MAGA base existed before Trump entered politics, Trump just helped sort them out. They have fallen for scams for a long time. It is the Alive After The Fall e-book for $37, and gilded coins for $9 now. But historian Rick Perlstein once noted the 23-cent Heart Miracles and oil-fields in the placenta advertised all over Newsmax back in 2007. “Mail-order conservatism,” he called it.

The technology has received an upgrade and the scammers are now far-flung. But the methods remain the same.

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Full list of websites

Right-wing news websitesE-book vendors

Update January 24th: As of this morning, I also see it peddled on Telegram by a fake Gen. Flynn account. Screenshot below.

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