So let’s talk about Parler. Where did it come from? Founder John Matze met his now wife, Alina Mukhutdinova, in May 15, 2016 in Las Vegas. Alina is from Kazan, Russia. She was on a two week road trip “vacation” across the USA with a friend.
John was involved in a couple of unremarkable tech companies with college friend Jared Thomson. After a short stint working at Amazon in Seattle, and being unhappy there, he and Alina return to Vegas and decide to marry. They traveled to Russia in November 2017.
John and Alina were married December 2, 2017 in Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia. They were married in a government facility overseen by Alina’s mother, Gulnara Mukhutdinova, a longtime government functionary. Gulnara’s mother was an “Honored Builder of Russia” in Soviet times.
John and Alina traveled in Russia and in Europe extensively between December and July 2018. They returned to Vegas and launched Parler with Jared Thomson in August 2018. Almost no one joined between August and December 2018; it was in early alpha stages.
In December 2018, the site received a massive influx of new users (tens of thousands) thanks to publicity from “far right” LARPers Candace Owens and Cassandra Fairbanks. Many operatives reserved accounts that month as a result of this push, including Owens’ pal Kanye West.
As the company grew in 2019, they turned to Jesse Benton, a political operative who had worked with Ron Paul, Rand Paul, and Mitch McConnell. Benton was indicted and found guilty of election finance violations. Benton is married to Ron Paul’s granddaughter Valori Pyeatt.
Benton became the company’s PR consultant and primary press contact. To help with marketing, they enlisted the hospitality coordinator of the BLT Prime steakhouse at the Trump hotel in DC, Elise Rhodes. She had no prior marketing experience, it seems.
As the company expanded in 2019, it has been squarely focused on creating conditions that would challenge section 230 of the communications decency act. The company’s purpose seems to be expressly political and aimed at eroding US social media firms.
Now let’s talk money. Parler LLC is owned by two member entities: John Matze and NDMASCENDANT LLC. There is no public record of who comprises NDMASCENDANT LLC. It is a Delaware corporation. The company has not raised any traditional VC rounds that we can see.
Parler has claimed that Dan Bongino (notorious Republican media personality) has made strategic investments in the company. However it is unlikely he would have sufficient capital to fuel such a firm. Likewise “cryptocurrency investor” Jeffrey Wernick has said he is an investor.
However none of this passes the sniff test: any company aiming to challenge firms at Twitter scale needs a massive supply of funds to hire employees competitively and pay for rapidly scalable computing infrastructure.
Also, the kinds of employees the company needs cost over $100k per year each, even in Las Vegas. $120k-150k is a more competitive salary. These folks do not come easily and are in short, inelastic supply. They also have to compete on ideological grounds...
Limiting their employee pool to people ideologically committed to Parler’s bizarre anti-social mission is going to be a tough sell, and difficult to scale. The firm is likely to need technical and infrastructure help from outside to survive, as its weird revenue model is nascent.
In the last couple of days Fox News advanced rumors that Parler was owned by George Soros, a claim for which there is zero evidence. Bongino was quick to step up and say that he owns it. That’s not how large scale tech investment works and this is BS. https://politicaldaze.com/2020/11/11/fox-news-claims-george-soros-is-majority-owner-of-parler-owner-dan-bongino-says-thats-fake-news/
Additionally, flooding the zone with shit noise about the company’s ownership would seem to be a way of deflecting attention away from valid questions about that exact question. Who does own it? Where is the money, tech talent and infrastructure coming from? Follow the money.
I believe that @TechCrunch
, @theinformation @theverge
and other outlets that cover this realm need to dig in and get to the bottom of this. Parler is the #1 app in the App Store and has been off and on for months. It sucks, but it’s growing.
The company seems to like to promote the Epoch Times. Epoch Times is owned by Falun Gong, and aligned with Steve Bannon’s buddy Guo Wengui. They may also have an interest in Parler’s trajectory and finances. We don’t know. Again, what’s NDMASCENDANT LLC?
It’s true. THE AMERICANS is a very good television series. It’s a favorite of Alina’s it seems. And she is proud of her newborn daughter’s US social security card. And loves the Russian flag. Fun fact: Izzuminka means “cherry on top.”
John Matze thinks it’s very important that people remember the role the Soviet Union played in defeating the Nazis, and in bringing World War II to a close. Fair point, John; they did their part. Including a lot of raping in Berlin. #nobodysperfect
Here is Alina’s grandmother, an “Honored Builder of Russia,” and a sample of what that award looks like. (She would have received it during Soviet times. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
I’ve been sitting on this information for six months and hoping media outlets would cover it and get up to speed on this. It hasn’t happened; our press corps is spread to thin. There is no “smoking gun” here. Everybody is behaving within their legal rights, it seems.
But it doesn’t add up. Non-descript tech bro randomly meets ostensible Russian honeypot, travels to Russia, marries her, then returns to US to start a whacko social network with explicit political aims, in partnership with Russia aligned ops? Uh, ok.
We don’t begrudge this couple a happy productive life in the good ol’ USA. But reporters writing about Parler need to get smart about what they are looking at and ask better questions about capital and infrastructure. It wasn’t hard to do this background research.
Also, a preliminary analysis of the first several thousand accounts on Parler shows that it is the usual Russia aligned operatives that we in this space have tracked for years. This is a large scale op aligned with Russian interests.
This is not some kind of free-speech tech dudebros just tryna let people do their thing. This is a calculated political and economic attack on US interests and we should treat it accordingly. The fact that it sucks makes that easier. But it may get better.
Alina is very interested in her motherland also, making sure to follow @KremlinRussia
. It’s nice when people can appreciate two cultures, right?
My hope is that when reporters like @MattBinder
set out to write lengthy “what you need to know” pieces like this one, they go a little deeper and ask basic structural questions. Like where the f*ck would Dan Bongino get enough money to fund this?!? https://mashable.com/article/what-is-parler-explainer/
Because in the end the only thing standing between us and calculated societal and economic attacks is our own naïveté. We can do better. Reporters, hit me up if you want to know more.
Oh, and one more thing. It seems NDMASCENDANT LLC was filed by Greenberg Traurig, LLP. If that sounds familiar it’s because it’s Rudy Giuliani’s former firm. He was traveling in Russia and the region at the time Parler was founded in late 2018.
And we have heard some speculation that Robert and Rebekah Mercer may be the source of funds for NDMASCENDANT, but we cannot confirm that at this time. But here is Rudy traveling in Russia around that time. https://www.propublica.org/article/trump-inc-podcast-rudy-giuliani-mystery-trips-to-russia-armenia-and-ukraine
Ultimately Parler would seem to have very little chance to become self-sustaining, so who will fund such a money-sink, for how long, and why? What is the investment play here?
And... researcher @VickerySec
points out a very good set of leads for those looking to get a clearer picture of the opaque Parler / NDMASCENDANT money trail. Follow the money. This is NOT a conventional tech startup! https://twitter.com/vickerysec/status/1302815780782764033
reports that the rumors about George Soros owning Parler, and Fox reporting that, are fabrications, further reinforcing the question: who is putting in the money, and why is anyone trying to hide the facts? https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-foxnews-soros-parler-idUSKBN27T1EO
So what might be next for Parler? We anticipate Trump will join and announce his plan to transition away from Twitter. Kanye West too; maybe some others. But to do that, Parler needs to be ready to scale up quickly, which requires $$$ and people.
Again, where’s that coming from?
A tiny number of people (also, Kremlin) have criticized this thread for being “xenophobic” and targeting people with “Russian last names.” Flatly: that is nonsense. Grow up.
I am calling out opaque behaviors and associations with Americans working for Russian interests.
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.