How We Uncovered the Truth about Twitters Rising King of Bullshit
This blog post gives an insight into the methodology we used during our open source and public record investigation into Dylan Wheeler a.ka. Educating Liberals (@Education4Libs) on Twitter. If you have accidentally stumbled onto this article, you may want to read our main piece on the subject first.
The main investigation and book review was spearheaded by our editor-in-chief Skeptical7th with minor assistance from other contributors and the help of a volunteer proofreader. We will let Skeptical7th tell you in his own words how this, our biggest investigation to date, came about.
As we do not believe in doxxing people, we will purposefully keep some details vague so as not to reveal more than is strictly necessary about Mr Wheeler and his associates.
In the aftermath of the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida twitter was flooded with a deluge of bullshit, lies, misleading memes, and raw partisanship. Amidst all this one tweet, stood out to me. It was a tweet from the twitter user Educating Liberals (@Education4Libs) who we’ll refer to as E4L for now. E4Ls tweet repeated some very easily debunked fake news claiming that the Parkland shooter was a registered Democrat and a member of Antifa. The tweet received thousands of likes and retweets, and the follower count of the twitter account increased. The person behind the E4L account deleted the tweet the next morning, but it had been featured in a number of online news reports allowing us to obtain an archive copy.
I was curious to see who this E4L guy was so took a look at his twitter feed. It was full of conservative talking points and propaganda. I quickly forgot about it though, I had more important things to deal with. A few weeks later while scrolling through the toxic sludge within the /r/the_donald subreddit - Donald Trumps biggest Reddit fanbase - I came across a screenshot of one of E4L’s tweets. I can’t recall which one it was, but I know it was misleading and or repeating fake news.
As I had a bit more time on my hands that time, I decided I would take a further look at E4L’s online presence to see what I could glean.
I quickly found an AMA (ask me anything) he had done on the /r/the_donald subreddit. The AMA led me to his website and payment processor which led me to the name of the company he had co-founded along with his brother and two of their friends. After purchasing the company filing records, I cross-checked the details in it with a number of public records which led me to discover Wheeler's assault conviction. Tracking down the details of this added to my cost after I had to purchase a (draft) transcript of his sentencing hearing. Other documents in the public record provided many leads but to be certain of the facts I needed to acquire the full police incident report regarding the assault Wheeler was involved in.
The report gave a far more nuanced picture of the assault conviction than the court records had indicated. It showed that Wheeler had been going through a difficult moment in his life when the police had been called, and that there were mental health issues at play.
The details in the report gave me pause for thought - I considered whether the story of the assault should be included in my post at all. After all, there were obviously other mitigating factors involved. In the end, I decided to go for transparency mainly due to Wheeler's unrepentant nature in the immediate aftermath of the assault and later in online discussions about it saying “I don't feel bad or crazy about doing it tho.”
I initially wrote an early draft of the investigative blog post in March and then added to it in a piecemeal fashion until August when I put it on a back burner. In mid-October, I fished the blog post out and had another look at E4L’s twitter feed. I found a number of falsehoods and misleading tweets on there, but on the 22nd of October when E4L or Dylan Wheeler - as I now knew him by - tweeted: “The mass caravan has swelled to 14,000 people. Good Lord this is ridiculous. Like or RT if you are in favor of our military using deadly force if necessary to defend this nation from enemies BOTH foreign & domestic.” That Tweet made me decide to reprioritise the piece.
I was curious to see if I could work out how much Wheeler's patrons were paying him on Patreon to write the stuff he does. While on the page I watched the video he had put up on his patron page to get people to support him. Upon clicking on the channel, I was surprised to see that it was not the same as the one his podcast is on.
I didn’t find much of interest on the channel apart from some rap songs, but I decided to check if he had used the channels username on any other social media websites. It turned out he had. The youtube channel shared a name with his previous twitter account which helped me enormously as it helped confirm the names of his collaborators (who I had first come across in his company filing records) as well as providing me with tweets regarding his assault conviction.
The account gave me further information about Wheeler's life and an incredible insight into the evolution of his political mind. It also offered up additional clues to investigate. One such clue was a parking fine he got from the university he attended from 2010-2012.
The moment I found the account I created an archived copy with two different archive services and then went through selecting individual tweets to archive through screenshots and online archival services. That way even if the account and tweets were later deleted I would have an independent record to refer to.
After reading through most of the over 7000 tweets on Wheeler's first account, I compared tweets from the previous account and his new one to identify major areas of hypocrisy or inconsistency, and to build up a profile of his life.
At the same time, I called various bodies in Wheelers home state to see what other public record information I could gather but found little that was worth publishing. I also decided to fact check a month's worth of his tweets (adding to some I had fact-checked in February).
As the various threads started coming together my piece began to drift into focus, I had initially planned to dedicate a small section to the book he wrote but once I actually read the book, I found it so riddled with errors, inconsistencies, misleading information, and falsehoods I knew it would require its own post. I also decided to write a separate methodology piece (which you’re reading right now) so as not to add more writing to an already lengthy investigation.
I listened to Wheeler's music and some podcast episodes in the background of my writing pausing the video/audio to write down anything particularly worth writing. This gave me further stories from Wheeler's youth and a slip of the tongue provided me with even more confirmation that my guesses about the real names of his collaborators were correct.
Deciding to publish the full names of the Wheeler and his collaborators was not an easy decision to make. Deciding to release Wheeler’s name was the easiest because he had been the most open about his name, date of birth, and location. The Janousek brothers provided me with a bit of a conundrum though. On the one hand, they were happily showing their faces and had accidentally provided one of their names on the E4L podcast. On the other hand, I believe that people have a right to privacy and pseudo-anonymity (I would be hypocritical not to).
In the end, a few factors pushed me in the direction of releasing their names:
They were obviously not trying to mask their physical identities
Their names are public record in court cases and their company filing record.
Although they are currently still relatively niche, it is clear they are trying to raise their profile with their book and other ventures. Many journalists and leftists commentators are already following them, and this will only increase over time. Eventually, one of the people following them will go digging and find exactly what I did, it only took me about an hour to find their full court and business records.
The Janousek brothers have not publicly condemned Wheeler's misinformation or more importantly his tweets calling for the deaths of defenceless migrants.
At the time I first found their names I did not have enough corroborating evidence to be certain of their identities. However, with the arrival of Wheeler's full police report and the discovery of his previous account my doubts vanished. I had enough information to state my claims plainly.
As I continued drafting the main investigation, I also spent several hours dissecting several of the facts within Wheeler's book while ensuring I stayed on the right side of copyright law.
Eventually, a near penultimate draft of all three related pieces of content: the investigation, the book review, and this piece were completed. I had checked my facts, corrected as many spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes as I could. I then ran parts of it past some people I know and trust to get their thoughts and updated any parts based on their recommendations. One of my friends also volunteered to very helpfully proof-read the investigation and book review.
After that the near penultimate draft was ready. All I had to do was add the posts to my blogs content management system, add pictures and captions, design a cover image, and decide in which order to publish the posts.
With that done I whizzed around the three posts performing a couple last edits to tie up loose ends before publication.
Finally, the final draft was ready and all I had to do was press post. All in all this investigation took over 50 hours spread over 8 months to complete.
Thank you for reading through our methodology section, if you have any further questions please reach out to us, and we’ll be happy to answer you if we can.