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The WalkAway campaign, also styled #WalkAway, was a social media campaign that launched ahead of the 2018 mid-term elections by former liberal Brandon Straka, a hairstylist and actor from New York City, in a video released 29th June 2018 entitled #WalkAway - Brandon Straka, "Why I Left The Democrat Party".
The campaign's stated goal was to "[encourage] others to walk away from the "divisive" left, but also [take] back the narrative from the "liberal" media about what it means to be a conservative in America." As of November 2018 the video had over 400,000 views on YouTube and 1 million on Facebook.
Competing news sources disagree over the extent to which WalkAway is an example of Astroturfing rather than a genuine grassroots movement. The conservative-leaning New York Post and Fox News websites both posted favourable coverage of WalkAway in the wake of the Washington rally. President Donald Trump and former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, both conservative politicians, have tweeted messages of support for Straka. Other news sources claiming "viral" popularity for the campaign include far-right website Breitbart News.
In contrast, news outlets were critical of the campaign. David A. Love of CNN condemned the campaign as "pure propaganda, a psychological operation" and "connected to Kremlin-linked Russian bots", a theory supported by the Alliance for Securing Democracy. Abby Ohlheiser in The Washington Post claimed "There’s little actual evidence to suggest that #WalkAway represents a mass conversion of millions — or even thousands — of Democrats", and contrasted the broad appeal of true viral videos with the "Conservative Internet viral" nature of the WalkAway video. ThinkProgress characterized the campaign as "a grifting operation," noting efforts by the organizers to sell dinner packages priced in the hundreds of dollars to march attendees.
Slate journalist Mark Joseph Stern accused Straka of presenting photos, supposedly of people who had left the Democratic Party, which were actually royalty-free stock images from Shutterstock. Straka has denied that any such material originated from the WalkAway campaign.
Brandon Straka was the campaign's founder. He grew up in Nebraska and now lives in New York City. Straka is gay.
In September 2018 he claimed to have been suspended for 30 days from Facebook for posting a link to the InfoWars website run by the banned conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on whose radio show he was scheduled to appear.
- #WalkAway Campaign Official YouTube (2018-06-29), #WalkAway - Brandon Straka, "Why I left the Democrat Party", retrieved 2018-11-03
- https://www.facebook.com/aohlheiser. "Analysis | The #WalkAway meme is what happens when everything is viral and nothing matters". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-11-03.
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- i24NEWS (2018-07-05), 'Walkaway' Founder on Why Democrats No Longer Represent Him, retrieved 2018-11-03
- McBride, Jessica (2018-07-05). "Brandon Straka of WalkAway Says He was Denied Service". Heavy.com. Retrieved 2018-11-03.
- Gilmour, David (September 12, 2018). "Facebook suspends #WalkAway founder over InfoWars link". The Daily Dot. Retrieved February 14, 2019.