Rise of the Grifter: A Tim Pool Biography

An image showing Tim Pool on the right side. An American flag is behind him as money flies around him.

Introduction

Tim Pool is a rightwing grifter who receives over 100 million monthly views making him the most viewed independent rightwing Youtube creator. He releases approximately 4+ hours of video per day across his three main channels: Tim Pool, Timcast, and Timcast IRL. He is also the founder of the independent media company SCNR.

Presented below is the most complete (at time of writing) biography of Tim Pool available. It provides a lot of previously obscure or hard to find information about Pool, some of it buried deep in academic journal articles or in a throwaway line in a book. It has taken approximately 70 hours of research to create.

Over the coming months, the biography will continue to expand, however, I think it is vitally important to put it up now to act as a quick reference for people creating content about Tim, whether that be in an article or a Youtube video.

If you enjoy this post/biography please consider subscribing to our Patreon to help us bring you further stories and investigations like this (Patreon.com/TimPoolClips).

Birth and Early Years

Timothy Daniel Pool was born on March 9th 1986 (records don’t state whether he came out of the womb with a beanie). He grew up in Chicago’s Southside with his three siblings.

Pool’s father was a firefighter and his mother sold cars. Pool has described how his family was middle class but then fell on hard times and later became lower middle class; this appears to have coincided with Pool’s mother losing her job.

Pool and his family were staunch Christians and he attended a Catholic school until fifth grade. In sixth grade, he transferred to a public school and also drifted away from religion, becoming a firm atheist for a while. Politically he has described his family as moderate Democrats.

Pool attended high school for a couple of months before dropping out at 14 and continuing his education at home using books he received in the mail.

From then on not much is known about him for some time other than that he was an avid skateboarder. Videos from 2003 later uploaded to Youtube in 2006 show him skateboarding wearing his now distinctive beanie.

Recently Tim Pool has repeatedly claimed that during the 2008 election he was drawn to Ron Paul but didn’t vote for him, instead voting for Obama. This is contradicted by statements he made in around 2012 when he claime to have voted for Ron Paul and not Obama.

This brings us to the first example of Pool’s inconsistency. At many different points in his life things just don’t quite add up. If you look at his current Youtube videos you’ll see this pattern reflected where he’ll make two directly opposite and mutually exclusive statements, for example, “I think AOC will lose her primary election” and then a few minutes later he’ll say “I think AOC will win.”

Regardless of who Pool voted for in 2008, in recent years, he has frequently talked about becoming disillusioned by Obama.

Tim Pool first drew media attention in 2009 when he was mentioned in an article noting that he had been recruited to monitor a Chicago skatepark to prevent people from spraying graffiti in it.

2011: Pre-Occupy

In early 2011 Tim moved to LA to pursue an acting career. While there he fell in with a group of people living at a local hackerspace and made a few weird videos with them.

At some point in mid-2011 Pool moved to Newport News Virginia where he worked to build a skatepark with his brother and made instructional skateboarding videos.

During this period in his life Pool has claimed to work for several nonprofits in a variety of roles. In 2012 he specifically named Greenpeace, Environment America, The World Can’t Wait and other antiwar groups. This is where we have another inconsistency. In various publications from 2012 and in the present day he was given or provided the title of “community organizer” or community outreach director yet in other places he has stated he was only a fundraiser and canvasser.

Unconfirmed tweets from October 2020 from a person claiming to know Pool in around 2010/2011 suggest Tim was “always really good at making people trust him very fast. Which was a valuable skill in that job.”

In September 2011, while living in Virginia, Tim was scrolling through the internet one day when he saw a video of police brutality during an Occupy Wall Street action where a cop said: “My little nightstick is going to get a workout tonight.”  This inspired Tim to travel to New York.

2011: Occupy

Getting Started

Pool arrived in New York late at night on September 21st. He spent his first night sleeping rough in a park. Pool started recording things with his phone and uploading them later.

Reports on how and when Pool turned to livestreaming differ slightly with one suggesting he met Vlad Teichberg a derivatives trader turned activist and live-streamer who founded Global Revolution which filmed protests all around the world. In this story, Pool and Vlad became friends shortly after Pool’s arrival in New York and one day in a dramatic moment during a police action Vlad told Pool to download the UStream app and set up a livestream.

The more commonly told story is that soon after arriving in New York Pool met Henry James Ferry who had recently lost his job in academic publishing and together they set up a livestream called The Other 99.

Building A Reputation

At first, Pool was the cameraman while Ferry acted as a reporter in front of the camera. However, Pool was younger, fitter, and more liked by the audience so soon Ferry stopped appearing on the stream and Pool went out and did the filming, narrating what he saw using his phone.

As Ben Lenzner, an academic writing about Pool around the time put it, “Pool’s online audience was asking him to remove the reporter from the frame and they wanted Pool to be both the recorder and the reporter, albeit, more like them, behind the lens, with a smartphone, in a sense almost a representative of themselves on the scene.”  Ironically Pool’s role has now switched completely.

While he was streaming Pool’s audience would ask him questions and give him useful information in real-time. They would also give him instructions on where to go to be in the center of the action. Some of his supporters would even buy him food, water, and spare phone power banks when he requested their assistance. In 2014, Pool compared his livestreaming to being like a first-person journalism video game.

During this time Pool registered the timcast.tv domain name which now redirects to a fan site for Zara Larsson a Swedish singer and songwriter. Pool also registered the domain name occupywallstreet.com and had something related to Occupy as his Twitter name. Some contemporary reports suggest Pool was initially involved in the protests as a protestor but both mainstream media sources and the sources I have spoken to cast doubt on this.

Pool received varying amounts of views on his streams, sometimes pulling in a few dozen people, other times having hundreds or thousands. One day he ran into Michael Moore, Moore had been scheduled to appear on CNBC but apparently, they couldn’t film where he was appearing so Pool walked up and started interviewing him.

Tim Pool’s breakout moment came on November 15th 2011 when the police began evicting Zuccotti Park.

Many journalists were barred from entering the park and all the other livestream crews (more on them in a moment) were caught unawares. Pool was lucky and had a partial charge. For the next 21 hours, he streamed non-stop and was brought more batteries and food by his viewers. His stream was featured on NBC, Reuters, CNN, Al Jazeera and other news companies. This day cemented his reputation as “Occupy’s livestreamer.” He was featured in the New York Times, The Guardian, Fast Company, The LA Times, Mashable, Time Magazine, Wired, British GQ, The New Yorker, and more. In 2013 he won a Shorty Award for “Best Journalist in Social Media in 2013.”

He received book offers, joined a speaking agency website, and spoke to Fordham university journalism students. His work was featured and analysed in multiple academic journal articles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), at least one PhD thesis, in several books (1,2,3, 4), and in journalism textbooks (1, 2).

A livestream viewer donated money to buy Tim Pool a drone which he called the Occu-copter and hacked to broadcast live video.  He hoped to eventually be able to control the drone with his mind.

Many people referred to Pool as a citizen journalist which was a term he rejected and fought hard to avoid. He once called himself a social media journalist but seemed to think being called a citizen journalist demeaned the work he did. He was also heavily critical of the media privately saying to one academic “journalists are the enemy.” He also stated he would rather work for 1,000,000 people giving him $1 each than 1 person or company giving him $1,000,000.

Pool was also an idealist. He was once asked which headline he’d like to see in a newspaper and stated: “That is a very difficult question.” But in the end, he settled on “humans have come together to find a better tomorrow and are going to start working on it as soon as possible.”

In 2013 Pool also stated he thought a future world would need to move to a world “closer to socialism.

Occupy: Fault Lines

Throughout the early parts of his career, Tim Pool saw a value in showing everything on camera with no editing – he believed this was the most transparent way to do things.

This put him at odds with Occupy protestors and other live streamers. Over the past few months, I’ve spoken to several other live streamers and people who knew Pool during Occupy. I learned a lot from these conversations.  One overarching point that has stood out is that none have had a positive thing to say about him – he is viewed as a major disappointment.

These conversations revealed that Pool was not the only person livestreaming the protest nor was he even the first. Other groups and people included Global Revolution, The Other 98, OWS NYC, and Occupy Wall Street NYC.

Tensions first began to rise between Pool and the other livestreamers before spreading to the wider movement. One reason for the tensions was his superior equipment and donation. Another factor was the audience he was building. Unlike other livestreamers Pool was constantly narrating events. As one fellow livestreamer explained to me Pool built strong parasocial relationships with his audience and when he was hurt they hurt. His audience would also brigade other livestreams and propagate drama. Rather than hearing from the wider Occupy movement Pool’s audience was drawn to Pool and he, in turn, was drawn to spectacle.

Other live streamers spent hours streaming boring (but initially productive) General Assembly meetings while Pool ran around looking for action.

Some Occupy attendees were critical of Pool for trying to take over the Occupy branding, for example, by buying the occupy Wall Street domain name.

These tensions stayed simmering until Pool started getting on the bad side of other protestors. Whenever protesters engaged in direct action he would be there to record. One memorable clash came when Pool filmed protestors puncturing police car tires during the Zuccotti Park eviction. Other live streamers took a more careful approach to filming and were often protestors themselves.

Although Pool’s filming once actually got someone off a criminal charge he knew and spoke about how the police followed his channel. This latter fact led to protestors growing increasingly concerned.  On at least one occasion Pool had his camera knocked out his hand and made a very big deal about it.

Due to this developing hostility and Pool’s radical commitment to transparency, many Occupy protestors turned on Pool but his audience was largely blissfully unaware except when attacking other live steamers for disagreeing with Pool.

A Gothamist article from the time accuses Pool of being a police snitch however when I put this to other occupy protestors they said that no one “serious” believed that he was a paid police informant but more that he was providing incriminating evidence to the police and landing people in prison.

Despite all his claimed anti-authoritarian impulses Pool wasn’t afraid of letting the police arrest people due to the evidence he broadcast.

During a class he gave at Fordham university Tim Pool was asked “what he saw as the key difference between the coverage of the news on traditional media such as television, and coverage of the news via what he was doing, Pool replied, “we’ve got to get rid of the idea of editing”.

The class’s professor later wrote in reference to Pool “the advent of transmedia transnational video journalism has shifted the balance of news, power, and freedom in the world forever. The three – news, power, and freedom – are closely related. To report news is to have power, and to have both news and power is to have freedom.”

This question of power and editing brings us nicely to a very important part of Pool’s story. One of the people I spoke to explained it like this:

“It seems whether intentionally or conveniently that he cannot perceive power dynamics. Trying to get him to understand why filming the police and filming protesters is not the same thing and that the impact of the communication is not the same and the consequences are not the same, and that that’s something he has to take responsibility for was impossible. He just wouldn’t or could not acknowledge that.”

This lack of understanding of power dynamics is something I may later return to.

Occupy: Endings

As Occupy continued on, Pool and Ferry started falling out. Pool claimed it was because Ferry was spending holidays away from the protest and not contributing enough effort while taking much of the money. Meanwhile, Ferry claimed it was because Pool asked for a minimum compensation of $156,000. Either way, on January 4th Henry changed the livestream password resulted in Pool setting up his own UStream channel which he named Timcast.

Pool filmed for a few months and announced he would make a documentary on Occupy (which he called an ‘Occumentary’). This has yet to materialise.

Pool travelled to several places including in Spain and the UK, as well as breaking news stories like Hurricane Sandy back in the US live-streaming and crashing on inflatable air mattresses in random strangers closets. Some viewed him as the future of journalism and the man who could fix the news. Pool was critical of mainstream media and their reliance on opinion and filtering.

Vice News Era

In June 2013 Tim Pool was an early hire by Vice News.

Seven months on he has had foreign assignments in 14 countries, including to cover the conflicts in Ukraine and Thailand, usually travelling now with a VICE cameraman or producer.” In Istanbul, Turkey, he streamed the events through Google glass.

Around this time Pool also spoke at South by Southwest (1, 2) and a BBC conference in the UK.

Fusion Era

Pool left Vice in June of 2014 and started working at Fusion which later became Splinter in September of 2014 as a director of media innovation/senior correspondent.

While at Fusion Pool made videos about climate change, big corporations, government surveillance and social unrest. Now in 2020, he aligns with the party who denies climate change and smears anyone trying to make the world better by calling them radical, dangerous, stupid, and evil.

Pool helped make a really excellent documentary about Ferguson showing the systemic racism embedded within the justice system and county. For example, the documentary pointed out that due to the county being split into several municipalities each with their own police and court system a person with a broken taillight could be fined in 8 different police districts in one journey and people would get kicked between jails – leading to suicides and frustration.

It was an honestly impressive documentary however it also had a whole crew and director working on it so, in his narration, Pool was probably also reading someone else’s words. Again in the documentary, there is an example of him just not understanding power relations. He focuses on a cop car getting smashed until a black protester turns to his camera and points out that compared to the lives lost to the justice system’s racism, a smashed car was nothing.

Recently, Pool has spoken about getting frustrated at the woke agenda Fusion had pushed and has claimed that he refused to push this agenda and ran out his contract leaving in 2016.

During his time at Fusion, Pool was also making videos on his Youtube channel which are almost unrecognisable to videos he’s making now. He attacked big corporations, corrupt institutions, and privacy invasions. He even attacked Trump in around 2012 due to his birtherism comments.

2016: Independence

From 2016 onwards Tim Pool has largely worked independently.

In 2016, Pool was still averaging relatively low view counts compared to present day and he came off as far more reasonable than he does now. Even in early 2018 the grating tone he is now famous for had not yet fully sunk in.

During this time Tim Pool realised a very key point which was “trust is the #1 most important factor in delivering news. As the big news orgs lose reach and it disperses down to individuals people are looking for a selection of humans, not brands, to listen to.” This more horizontal rather than vertical model of trust is something the book ‘Who Can You Trust’ by Rachel Botsman touches on and Pool grasps it fully.

To build a successful career, Pool knew he had to build a brand around himself as he had done in Occupy so that people would come to him for the news.

Pool has privately claimed to Grftr.news that he doesn’t chase the algorithm. Whether that is true or not is less interesting to me than the fact that for whatever reason he is very attuned to what works and what doesn’t.

In 2019 Pool wrote an article in the conservative website Human Events in which he stated:

“Get people mad, get paid. But how do you keep milking the same cow over and over? You need to radicalize, and the content needs to stay fresh. After all, stale news doesn’t sell.

“Is Trump a Racist?” get you a million views but you can’t write the same story twice.

Tomorrow you write “Trump IS Racist.”

Then “Trump IS THE MOST Racist.”

Then “Is Trump Like Hitler?”

“Trump IS LIKE Hitler.”

“Trump Is WORSE Than Hitler.”

“It’s earning points, visible social approval points that make us feel good. Social media is a fucking drug that is polluting our minds.”

Despite the article being an attack on the media and the left, I think it’s actually more revealing about himself. The last part about earning social media points and feeling good also matches with what people who knew Pool told me. They said they think he’s less interested in the money and more the attention and validation he gets from his fans and views.

2017: Sweden Break

In February 2017 Pool got a huge break.

On February 19th 2017 Trump referred to an event happening in Sweden the night before and suggested refugees were to blame.

The day after Paul Joseph Watson tweeted “Any journalist claiming Sweden is safe; I will pay for travel costs and accommodation for you to stay in crime ridden migrant suburbs in Malmo”

Hundreds of people offered to go but he took up Tim Pool’s offer and paid Pool $2000. Pool also used GoFundMe to raise another $18,000.

Malmo’s deputy mayor Nils Karlsson promised any visiting journalists a warm welcome and then met with Pool.

In the video announcing he was going, Pool had already started defending Trump and then tried to do a bit of both siderism and claimed he wasn’t picking any sides.

Pool also started fear mongering saying he had been warned by other journalists not to go because he could be attacked but said he still wanted to go. Two days later he made another video where he said he had been told not to go.

In Sweden, he interviewed the deputy mayor and then some ordinary people. At times Pool seemed to discount what the deputy mayor had said because of his political leanings.

Interestingly this didn’t seem to always be his approach.

During his videos, one of the other people Pool spoke to was a migrant and his wife. He also spoke to Chang Frick, a person with close far-right links. Pool neglected to disclose this except by saying the Frick was a controversial figure and that some people said he was aligned with a right-wing party.

Pool also spoke to another right-wing Swedish figure who claimed police have lost control. In other publications, this figure has said he believes radical gender ideology is damaging academic freedom.

Pool also spoke to a businessman who claimed to be too scared of backlash if he used his face or real voice.

Pool also spoke to three men who it later emerged are allegedly part of the fringe conspiracy theorist organization Folkresningen de Fria who are sceptical of the Holocaust.

During his interviews, Pool did not push his interviewee’s to answer tough questions or question the meta-narrative he was crafting.

Tim Pool was also involved in an incident where he claimed the police had to escort him away. When reached by the media the police disputed this saying Pool was wrong.

Many people know this much of the story. What is left out of all the coverage is that Tim wasn’t actually the only journalist who went to Sweden.

This shows another through-line in Pool’s career: in almost all the situations he has been involved in there have always been other better sources of reporting who receive little or no recognition.

The other journalist is a man from the UK named James Patrick who used to work for the Metropolitan police before becoming a whistleblower.

His seven-part article series (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) on his Sweden trip paints both a  much more nuanced picture of Sweden but also a much more hopeful one. Unlike Pool who spoke to rightwing anti-immigrant political activists, and rightwing figures, Patrick spoke to Swedish academics, a local police captain, and dozens of local residents. Patrick’s story is the one Pool could have told if he cared less about spectacle and more about facts but unfortunately that’s not Pool’s role.

2019: The Birth of Modern Pool

By 2018, Pool was already almost fully evolved into his modern iteration and produced multiple daily videos. His view and subscriber count was relatively stagnant though did show slow growth. However, at the start of 2019, several things happened at once. First, Pool went from making about three to four videos on his second channel to making five per day, and then on February 8th 2019, he appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience.

Following Pool’s Rogan appearance there was a minor bump in Youtube search interest for him, followed by an even more substantial one after he went on Joe Rogan’s show again to talk with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of legal and policy March 5th. This cemented his growth and since then, his Youtube career has skyrocketed.

Pool is now the most-watched right-wing Youtuber achieving 100 – 110 million monthly views, and receiving thousands in Youtube live chat donations on his nightly podcast livestream Timcast IRL. He also gets money from sponsorships and YouTube ad revenue very likely earning him at least in the low millions each year.

Recently Pool bought a massive house near DC with 8 bedrooms, several external structures, and a basement basketball court which he’s converting into a skatepark. He lives in this house with several of his crew. Some online commenters have begun referring to this house as a “compound” and arguably they are not far wrong.

Despite all his fame and money, Pool receives little critical or even positive media attention. The IDW gets interviewed by the NYT while Pool sits in his house wearing the same outfit he has been wearing since 2003. This fact has led one of the people who knew him during Occupy to state that they think he’s partially playing a character and wearing a costume.

In July 2019 Tim Pool was invited to the Whitehouse by Donald Trump along with several other conservative commentators and showed up in his beanie.

2020: Current Pool

Most recently, Pool almost continually pushes the right-wing framing of stories. To set out to prove this we watched over 330 of his videos released over about a two month period and found that he uses right-wing sources 59% of the time and that his most used source by a massive margin is the Daily Mail, followed by Fox News, followed by the New York Times – largely because he attacks their coverage so often, followed by Andy Ngo tweets.

The Daily Mail has been shown numerous times to engage in bad journalistic practices including allegedly plagiarising stories with little or no credit, to pushing dangerous right-wing narratives. In fact, for several years running the Daily Mail has received the most rulings against it by IPSO the industry created voluntary press standards agency in the UK.

In the run-up to the US 2020 presidential election Pool donated money to a Republican politician for the first time and endorsed Donald Trump and Republicans multiple times. Pool went on to vote for a Republican candidate for President, Senate, and Congress. Throughout 2020, Pool stated on numerous occasions that he believed Trump would or could win a 49 state landslide. This did not occur. Pool also often pushed stories related to voter/election fraud in the run-up to the election.

2020 also saw the creation of his Timcast IRL Youtube show on which he livestreams almost every weekday drawing in thousands of dollars in Youtube livechat donations. He first hosted this show with Adam Crigler – a former model and skateboarder who ended up leaving the show in mid-August 2020. Pool currently hosts the show with new host Ian Crossland who was involved in the creation of Minds.com and Pool’s producer Lydia Evans.

Pool flies out high-profile guests to appear live in the studio for approximately two hours for the show and has hosted Enrique Tarrio, Chairman of the Proud Boys and other controversial rightwing figures. Pool has also stated a desire to have Infowars creator Alex Jones on his show and further hinted at a desire to host the far-right white nationalist commentator Nick Fuentes.

 

Notes

This biography is a living document. Expect many changes and additions in the coming weeks and months. As thorough as this document may be, it leaves out many key details. Some of these will be reported out by myself, others will need to be reported by other journalists.

Key omissions in this document as it currently stands which will eventually be added are 1) the story about the murder that happened outside Tim Pool’s New York home 2) the story about the alleged sex offender who stalked/visited Tim Pool’s house in 2019 3) details about Tim Pool’s podcast, his cohosts and his move history 4) further details about Pool’s rhetoric in 2020 5) details about Pool’s life and career from ~2013-2016 6) more details about Pool’s current output and other business ventures e.g. SCNR. These omissions and several others will eventually be rectified but I currently lack the time to write these up.

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