For nearly half an hour, Anthime “Tim” Gionet — known online by his moniker “Baked Alaska” — livestreamed from inside the Capitol building on January 6, 2021, smiling into the camera as hundreds of other insurrectionists milled around him.
Despite his claims that he was merely there as a media member, Gionet took every opportunity to inflame the moment, yelling with glee as destruction unfolded. “America First is inevitable. Fuck Globalists, let’s go!” he said according to an FBI affidavit.
“1776, baby!” he added later. “Occupy the Capitol… we ain’t leaving this bitch.”
And, to a police officer: “You’re a fucking oathbreaker, you piece of shit.”
Gionet was arrested just weeks later, but ultimately received one of the weakest charges possible for his crimes: One misdemeanor count for “willfully parading, demonstrating or picketing” inside the Capitol, which comes with a maximum sentence of six months in prison. The cards were set for Gionet to accept a layup plea deal that would likely result in a greatly reduced sentence, or even house arrest and probation.
But this week, he shot himself in the metaphoric leg right as he neared the finish line. In a baffling bit of subterfuge, Gionet told U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan that he only considered pleading guilty because the prosecutor had told him that he could face felony charges if he didn’t take a deal.
“I believe I’m innocent,” Gionet proclaimed.
The government claims there was never a felony charge in play, which makes it seem like Gionet is flat-out lying in order to feign a courageous, last-stand resistance. Maybe he’s worried about being seen as a soft far-right informant by his fans. Or maybe he thinks that he can convince a jury of his peers to somehow ignore the evidence that he literally recorded.
For Gionet, it’s just another fork in the road that’s led to a very stupid decision — just the newest in a string of mistakes that has left “Baked Alaska” grasping at extremist straws and more isolated than ever.
For much of the last six years, Gionet has operated as one of the far right’s best-known digital agitators, racking up hundreds of thousands of followers across Twitter and YouTube by spreading right-wing conspiracies, buddying up to white nationalist influencers like Nick Fuentes and harassing strangers in public under the guise of “free speech.” It’s a long way from his early days trying to rap his way to viral fame and, later, working as a “brilliant” social media strategist at BuzzFeed.
It seems that Gionet was inspired to pivot to the alt-right after running into office conflicts over his public fanaticism over Trump. In 2016, he was hired to be manager to notorious troll Milo Yiannopoulos, which put him in touch with other “new right” provocateurs like writer Chuck Johnson and Mike Cernovich. By 2017, he was a featured speaker at the violent white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
He’s since gotten arrested multiple times for his increasingly aggressive antics, including pepper-spraying a restaurant employee and defacing a Hanukkah display in 2020, both in Arizona. On January 13, 2022, Gionet was sentenced to 30 days in jail for the former assault, and currently awaits sentencing for the latter crime. It’s hard to imagine Gionet dodging any time behind bars given his string of offenses, but somehow, it should’ve been worse, given how he willfully violated the terms of his pretrial release for the restaurant assault. He promised not to leave Arizona without court permission; instead, he flew to Washington, D.C. for the insurrection, hung out with Fuentes, and went to Florida to buy a house.
Once upon a time, however, Gionet seemed to experience a flash of self-awareness and remorse while struggling to float his career as far-right instigator. In 2019, after being kicked off Twitter and encountering more restrictions on streaming platforms, Gionet seemed to want to give it all up, and finally do right by himself. “It’s been a pretty big disaster, to be honest,” Gionet told The Daily Beast of his far-right lifestyle. “It’s been terrible for my employment opportunities, my reputation. It’s ruined lifelong friendships, it’s ruined relationships with family. It’s hurt my soul.”
He made a rap video about supporting Andrew Yang, and began speaking out about the dangers of right-wing radicalization, declaring that “normie-tier conservatives” were being brainwashed by a “cult.” He warned that white supremacists were recruiting young people through the catharsis of “ironic” racism and violent memes. In various videos and interviews, he reflected on the Christchurch mosque shootings and his own impact on fomenting real-world violence.
He even observed, wisely, that the world of right-wing content creation is built on victimhood and naturally resistant to regulation: “I don’t think the deplatforming approach works because the alt-right has learned to exploit deplatforming to convince their adherents that they can’t possibly rejoin mainstream society,” he told the Daily Dot.
Gionet didn’t just want to assess the landscape he had helped wrought — he wanted to pay his mea culpa, too. He claimed he wanted to set up a nonprofit named “XALT” to help deradicalize alt-right figures and help shift their reputation through legitimate work. “I will do what I can to tell my story and try to educate kids from getting involved in extremism on both sides,” he said.
In a parallel universe not too distant from here, there is a Gionet who followed through with his word, and was able to generate attention and kudos for using his past to prevent violence in the future. In this universe, however, “XALT” doesn’t exist. Nor does Gionet’s remorse, nor his public critiques of right-wing media as a cottage economy for grifters. Instead, Gionet’s back to his alt-right hustle, yelling on Telegram about how Elon Musk will reinstate his Twitter while begging for donations to cover his legal fees.
His rise in the last few years can’t be underestimated — his influence has created a blooming family tree of pasty alt-right agitators, all of whom know they can make a buck on a livestream through preening and exaggeration. (Consider the case of his buddy Ethan Schmidt, a violent right-winger with a penchant for targeting LGBTQ people.)
But with so many legal battles to fight on the horizon, it feels a lot like Gionet’s peak has already come and gone. He has 60 days as of Wednesday to plead guilty and accept a deal, or face the likelihood of stiffer punishment in a March 2023 trial. It’s a big decision for the young man once described as “a kind but lonely social-media genius,” and it’s easy to wonder whether Gionet regrets being at this fork in the road once more.
As he reportedly wrote in an email to his fans in 2017: “When I was a kid, all I dreamed about was being famous, but once it happened I realized it didn’t fulfill the void in my soul like I thought it would.”