Who Is Right-Wing Influencer Ian Miles Cheong, and Why Do Malaysians Want Him Jailed?
Top image: @stillgray / X

In the chaotic realm of American politics lie pundits. Often, they are fiery, sometimes catalytic. They’re mostly there to aid and contextualise political coverage based on their experience as academics, journalists, or activists. Their insights air across news channels like CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.

Ian Miles Cheong is not that. He’s, at best, a political influencer (as deemed by Time Magazine) who works as a blogger—albeit one falling diligently along the partisan side of US right-wing politics.

Many just count him as a troll.

His Twitter (now X) account @stillgray, where he appears to spend most of his time, counts over 900k followers. Daily, he tweets complaints about the state of US cities and its citizens. His content also hinges on broader issues with unhinged takes on Ukraine, COVID-19, and gender politics. He once called climate change a “hoax invented by neo-Marxists” who aim “to destabilise the world economy”.

What has caught the attention of people with cursory knowledge of the man is that—despite the volume and dedication of his online vitriol—he’s not even American.

(That isn’t a new concept. Singapore has the Critical Spectator, a Polish man by the name of Michael Petraeus living in Singapore who engages in commentary on local politics.)

No, it’s the widely-shared fact that Ian Miles Cheong has been, all along, tweeting from his home in Malaysia. So far, he’s evaded talking about Malaysian politics, presumably to keep his spot criticising the US from afar comfortable.

Unfortunately, that isn’t working for him anymore. Recently, Malaysians are calling for his head—and the rest of the world is egging them on.

Wait, Who is This Fella?

We’re not going into a deep dive of a clandestine blogger here. Facts and figures about Ian’s personal life have been vague, but the apparent fact that he lives in Malaysia has been the point of mockery against him whenever his tweets about US politics spread like wildfire.

Ian’s name became prominent in the 2010s when he involved himself in the discourse around Gamergate, a coordinated online harassment campaign towards women in the video game industry like Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian.

Funnily enough, Ian positioned his views against the harassment, defending those who were targeted by Gamergate and calling himself a “turbo-feminist”.

twitter, tweet, ian miles cheong
Source: @TheQuartering / X

Over time, however, Ian’s political outlook began to align starkly with the right wing, criticising at length the Black Lives Matter movement and the LGBTQ+ community—two common targets by that side of the US political spectrum. What has remained the same for this Malaysian is his fixed gaze towards the West and its cavalcade of issues.

In recent years, this has involved the ongoing siege in Palestine by Israel. Now-deleted tweets by Ian made in 2023, circulated by other X users, stated in clear words his support of Israel’s “right to exist” and “right to defend itself”—a sentiment amongst right-wing influencers as well.

Where He Badly Messed Up

Seeing as Ian is not just based outside the US but a citizen of a majority-Muslim country—where many stand in solidarity with Palestine—this has landed him in scalding hot water.

twitter, tweet, ian miles cheong
Source: @Sturgeons_Law / X

New Straits Times reported on February 10 that Malaysian online users have been calling for legal action against Ian for these tweets. Tagging the country’s Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil, X user @chairmanGLC tweeted in Malay: “bila nak ambil tindakan terhadap Ian Miles Cheong ni?” (“When are you going to take action against Ian Miles Cheong?”)

The publication also reported that Ian is, indeed, a Malaysian citizen based in Ipoh.

twitter, tweet, ian miles cheong
Source: @JasonTeslaQ / X

Americans took notice. This followed tweets by them that deliberately obfuscated the severity of the situation in jest. Or, to sum it up, they began trolling the troll.

A now-deleted tweet by user @TheWapplehouse reported the supposed execution of Ian by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. Since then, the user posted that the initial tweet had been removed by X, claiming suppression by its owners.

twitter, tweet, ian miles cheong
Source: @TheWapplehouse / X

The stream of misinformation has been started by those clearly in deep disdain of the blogger. It has involved claims that he deals drugs out of his home, possesses weapons for a planned coup of his government, and beheaded a dog that he named after Anwar.

All wild and baseless claims, yes. But underneath it all, there is a clear aim to pin Ian with charges under Malaysia’s strict laws.

Even dialling back the hoax machine from the execution rumours has been ruthless (and just as funny).

“BREAKING: Ian Miles Cheong released by Malaysian authorities after pleading down from execution to castration: “There wasn’t anything to cut off,” says RMP Husain”, tweeted @TheRealMickMais. You get the idea.

twitter, tweet, ian miles cheong
Source: @GoblinModeVR/X.

So… Ian Miles Cheong’s Not Dead?

Obviously, Ian Miles Cheong is very much alive (wellness disputed, even before all this). New Straits Times followed up their initial report with a comment by Ian himself about his tweets on Israel:

“I was expressing my horror at the events that unfolded on Oct 7, 2023, along with the rest of the world when footage was live-streamed on the internet.

“My views on the matter have been very nuanced contrary to the regurgitated baseless claims about my past from unreliable far left-wing and transgender sources who have been literally trolling me for years due to my conservative views.”

If you’re new to Ian Miles Cheong (and, aside from this piece, it’s better not to know anything about him at all), his statement aligns with his ongoing tweets: to paint people on the other end of the US political spectrum as nefarious bogeymen.

He still tweets. And he’s a lot more open about his home country now.

twitter, tweet
Source: @stillgray/X.

As far as we know, no one has seen him out and about in Malaysia, so we can only assume he’s cooped up in Ipoh, without any weapons or dog carcasses.

The Culture Wars

Ian’s notoriety has been built on the alarmist culture war screed—warning his followers about the degradation of cultural norms, morals, values, etc. Just like the worst of political trolls, a lot of what he offers as commentary are primarily distorted views on real people and issues.

However, as long as there’s enough fodder for an attentive audience—one looking to fuel their confirmation bias—he’ll continue to make bank. Last year, he made US$16,259 just from tweeting alone. You can be in Ipoh or India, but if you have a nose for sniffing out culture war issues to milk, there’s money and fame in it. It’s a strategy that has worked pretty well in recent years, thanks to the proliferation of social media.

For now, it remains to be seen if the Malaysian government will take action against Ian. Aside from a few mea culpa ‘I love Malaysia’ tweets, he’s keeping local politics far away from his feed. It’s certainly out of self-preservation. He is, after all, someone who once said “colonialism was great”.

There are bound to be a few noxious Asia-centric takes up his sleeve that he’s trying hard not to publish. But if that day ever comes, it might just put a new spin on the ensuing discourse whenever ministers in Parliament talk about the dangers of ‘importing’ a Western culture war.

And considering his terminally-online activity—you’ll genuinely lose count if you try tallying up the amount of tweets he’s posted since the start of 2024—he might just slip up again.

When that happens, thousands of people online, whether they’re part of his 900k+ followers or not, will be watching.

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