“Your Microwave Can See You Naked,” And Other Tales From “How To Create And Exploit Fear And Grow Rich And Powerful”

“There was an article this week that talked about how you can surveil someone through their phones, certainly through their television sets, any number of different ways. And microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera. So we know that that is just a fact of modern life.”

—Kellyanne Conway, counselor to Tr-mp

Every day we see and hear almost nothing but propaganda, some of it strange and dark, from Tr-mp and his regime and his enablers in Congress. Trashing the Congressional Budget Office’s estimates of killing Obamacare is just one example (the CBO, by the way, is headed by a conservative Republican economist and critic of Obamacare). Another example is the attempt by Sean Spicer to reinterpret what Tr-mp meant when he accused President Obama of a crime. There are countless cases of such surreal attempts to ignore or, more often, invent an alternative reality.

Some people call this stuff gaslighting. Some call it deflection. Others call it simple obfuscation, designed to draw attention away from the Russian scandal or the Tr-mp family grifting and Emoluments Clause violations or the administrative incompetence—or Tr-mp’s personality disorders. But because I spent more than 20 years listening to talk radio—as a conservative—I know exactly what it is we see and hear. It’s an attempt to radicalize Americans, at least enough of them to make a good living, or in terms of Image result for microwave and conwaypolitics, to retain political power and achieve reactionary policy goals. These people sell conspiracies, they peddle half- and quarter-truths as gospel. They tell lies. They radicalize Americans so they can use them, either to get their money or their votes.

And I have bad news. It works.

We can trace nearly all of what we see today back to Rush Limbaugh. He went national with his divisive, propagandistic, profitable radio show in 1988. I was there with him from the beginning. Every day. First it was two hours, then it went to three. I was a believer. I was a dittohead. I had been educated in conservatism by intellectuals like William F. Buckley and George Will and Joseph Sobran. But I was, to tell the truth, radicalized in my formerly rabid conservatism by Limbaugh.

It was the Limbaugh model—distort and skew the news to promote far-right politics and demonize Democrats—upon which Roger Ailes, who once tried to make Rush a television star in the 1990s, based the idea of Fox “News.” Debuting in 1996, Ailes’ Fox enterprise became the number one cable “news” channel in 2002 and has remained there ever since. It turns out, as Ailes learned from Limbaugh’s financial success, that disseminating disinformation and propaganda, turning the Democratic Party into an America-hating institution, and radicalizing conservatives, is a lucrative business. According to the Pew Research Center, Fox “News” enjoyed a profit in 2015 of some $1.5 billion, well ahead of CNN’s $381 million and MSNBC’s $227 million.

About the same time Fox “News” was beginning its televised assault on the truth, hijacking journalism for the radicalization of the right, a former 7-Eleven night clerk and telemarketer named Matt Drudge began to make his mark on the Internet. The Drudge Report began as a small email newsletter dabbling mostly in showbiz, “part gossip and part opinion,” as Wikipedia describes it, that Drudge ran out of his tiny two-room apartment in a run-down part of Hollywood. It morphed into a news aggregation site, began focusing on politics, and gained prominence by first revealing, early in 1998, that Newsweek was sitting on a story about someone named Monica Lewinsky. We all know what happened to Bill Clinton after that. What happened to Drudge is that outing Newsweek, assisting in the right-wing assault on the Clinton’s, made him a superhero on the right. His intentional and ongoing disdain for journalistic standards, of standards of any kind, is demonstrated by a story published by Media Matters in 2013 involving Drudge and a crazy conspiracist now linked to Donald Tr-mp:

Matt Drudge has long been conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ biggest ally. According to a Media Matters review, the heavily-trafficked Drudge Report has promoted at least 50 separate articles at Jones’ Infowars website in 2013, and has linked to at least 244 different articles on the site in the past two years.

Drudge announced this week that he had privately told friends that 2013 would be the “year of Alex Jones.” Considering Drudge’s penchant for promoting Jones and his Infowars website, those comments are more of a promise than a prediction.

Drudge missed the exact year that the kooky Jones—on whose program Tr-mp has appeared, whom Tr-mp has called “amazing,” and to whom Tr-mp said “I will not let you down”—would rise to prominence. But that wasn’t the point. The point was and is to make money off misinformation and propaganda and lies, which is a reason to promote people like Jones. Mediaite reported that in July of last year, DrudgeReport.com “netted a combined page view count of 1,189,670,000 for the month and held its position as the #3 media publisher in the country.” This stuff works, people.

Now we come to Breitbart.com, “the platform for the alt-right,” as Tr-mp’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, who recently resigned as the chairman of the extremist site, once called it. The founder of Breitbart.com was no stranger to Matt Drudge, as Reason magazine pointed out:

Andrew Breitbart describes his job function as “Matt Drudge’s bitch,” but he’s being modest: He’s the man behind the curtain at The Drudge Report, stirring up the site’s signature mix of scandal, box office returns, wire stories, and political tidbits.

Even though Andrew Breitbart is dead, his site lives on and is still spreading Drudge’s sludge, as this story from October of 2016 demostrates:

Drudge Warns: Impending Hillary Sex Scandal

That story was ostensibly about a tweet Drudge sent out:

drudge and hillary and ellen

The real point of the Breitbart story and the Drudge tweet with a photo of Ellen DeGeneres, a well-known lesbian, was to get the following “scandal” and “political tidbit” into the minds of conservative readers who may not have known about it or had forgotten it:

A rumor circulated in the 1990s saying that Clinton was secretly okay with her husband’s extramarital affairs because she was secretly a lesbian, but there has been no truth to the rumor.

This isn’t the first time Clinton has been accused of cheating on her husband.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump accused Clinton of cheating on her husband, but he didn’t say with whom or provided any specifics.

“Hillary Clinton’s only loyalty is to her financial contributors, I don’t even think she’s loyal to Bill if you want to know the truth,” he said during a rally in Pennsylvania on Oct. 1. “Really folks, why should she be?” he asked, a reference to Bill Clinton’s womanizing and accusations of sexual abuse.

Propagating such tripe radicalizes conservatives, make them regular customers, and gets them to pass stories like these among their friends and family and coworkers, which generates income. So does labeling the mainstream press as “fake news,” something Tr-mp and his followers do now without even blinking.

Conservative media, of which Tr-mp is now a part, use these methods to divide the country and exploit and monetize the differences between us. For an increasing number of cynical politicians on the right, the methods are meant to divide the country and benefit from a fevered following of fanatics, those who will express their radicalization by voting against their own economic interests and, in more extreme cases, taking to violence or, as we have seen lately with the attacks on Jewish centers, expressing ancient hatreds.

Just stop and think of where we are right now:

♦ The special counsel to Tr-mp has essentially warned Americans that their government may be using microwave ovens to spy on them.

♦ A United States congressman from Iowa, praising a right-wing Dutch xenophobe who thinks European civilization is being transformed by Muslim immigrants, said, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” He then went on CNN and made matters worse by doubling down on his message. And we barely heard a negative peep from his fellow Republicans.

♦ According to the Anti-Defamation League, “Since January, 161 bomb threats have targeted Jewish institutions across the country.” Another ADL article notes: “White supremacists, emboldened by the 2016 elections and the current political climate, are currently engaged in an unprecedented outreach effort to attract and recruit students on American college campuses.”

♦ One of Tr-mp’s top strategists, Steve Bannon, a self-avowed Leninist who wants “to destroy the state,” thinks Western Civilization is in a Holy War not just against violent Islamist extremists, but with Islam itself, a religion that has 1.6 billion followers around the world, including 3.3 million here in America, some 4000 of whom are currently serving in the U.S. military.

♦ Sean Hannity, a radical radio guy spawned by the success of Rush Limbaugh and who crossed over to TV as a popular host on what masquerades as a conservative “news” network, on Thursday claimed there were “Obama holdovers” in the government “hell-bent on destroying” Tr-mp. He told the Tr-mp regime to “purge these saboteurs before it’s too late.” The next day the purging began with the firing of U.S. Attorneys. None other than Geraldo Rivera called Hannity “the second-most powerful, influential person in the country” because  he talks to Tr-mp every day and, more frightening, Tr-mp listens.

♦ Worse, Bloomberg news posted a video story today with this headline and description:

Alex Jones Preaches Conspiracy Theori♦es, Trump Listens

Alex Jones is one of the most famous conspiracy theorists in America, calling events like the Sandy Hook shooting, the Apollo moon landing, and 9/11 “false flags.” One of his biggest fans? Donald Trump. This Bloomberg Profile looks at how Alex Jones went from extremist fringe to a major source of information for the president of the United States.

♦ Our Secretary of State is sometimes unaware when foreign diplomats are visiting Washington, takes foreign trips without the press, and generally has no staff to help him understand the complexities and nuances of diplomacy.

♦ Wikileaks has released potentially devastating intelligence-gathering secrets, and Agent Orange is more worried about The Apprentice’s ratings. In fact, Kellyanne Conway’s allusion to spying microwaves was in the context of Wikileaks—think: Russia—trying to undermine our national security and our democracy.

♦ Tr-mp delusionally claimed Obama committed a serious felony, referred to the former president as either a “bad” man or a “sick” man, and close to half of the country is willing to believe him.

♦ Tr-mp claims, almost every time he talks about the economy, that it was a “mess” when he took over. Journalists, weary of correcting every lie, every day, don’t even bother to address this one anymore.

♦ Before Tr-mp was in power, the employment numbers were phony. After he’s in power, they are indisputable evidence of his governing genius.

♦ The Office of Management and Budget director, former congressman Mick Mulvaney, has not only told lies about Obamacare, but he accused the Obama administration of “manipulating the numbers” in order “to make the unemployment rate…look smaller than it actually was.” He offered no evidence for this claim, of course, but it is part of radicalizing a segment of the population to doubt the facts and believe the unbelievable.

♦ And speaking of radicalism, that same Mick Mulvaney championed the 2011 government shutdown, believed such shutdowns were “good policy,” and, as a congressman, would have cut government spending to the point that it could be drowned not in Grover Norquist’s infamous bathtub, but in Tr-mp’s gold-plated shitter. During hard economic times, he proposed dramatic cuts in government spending, including defense spending, so much so that John McCain voted against his confirmation as OMB director.

♦ The Speaker of the House has called the GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare an “act of mercy.” Here are examples of Republican mercy: some 24 million folks, many of them elderly and living in nursing homes, will lose their health coverage; older Americans will pay a lot more for their insurance; CBO estimates monthly health insurance premium for a single 64-year-old who makes $26,500 would jump more than 700% (from $1,700 to $14,600)”; defunding Planned Parenthood “would leave many women without services to help them avoid pregnancy, resulting in thousands of additional births”; oh, and rich people will get $600 billion in tax cuts over ten years.

All this and more that is happening around us is radical stuff. There is no doubt about it. And none of it could happen without intentionally radicalizing enough people in the country—not a majority but enough— to make it all possible.

Many of us outside the various fundamentalist tribes have wondered how a culture can exist in faraway places that promotes the idea that people should strap explosives to their torsos to kill and terrorize those who don’t share their theological beliefs. Now we can see how that can happen. It starts with radicalization. It starts with convincing ignorant or unsophisticated or vulnerable people that what they see and hear is false, unless it comes from the radicalizers. Microwave ovens can see what we are doing. Our televisions are spying on us. Only the regime’s numbers are real numbers. “Mercy” means taking away healthcare from millions and giving away millions to billionaires. And on and on.

We have not seen and will not see American radicals on the right strap on explosive vests and blow up people in the town square. Theirs is a different brand of radicalism. What we have seen are these radicals collectively strapping Tr-mpism to the chest of America and threatening to politically blow up the place if they don’t get what they want.

Our job, as resisters, is not to let them terrorize us into submission or to numb us into pessimism and paralysis. Tr-mpism is explosive. It is dangerous. But we can fight it and win. We can protect the truth, respect the facts, and insist that our friends and family and others around us do the same. Then when election time comes, we can vote and strip the radicalizers of their power, if not their ability to make money by radicalizing the gullible.

 

Charles Manson, Helter Skelter, And Donald Tr-mp

One of the first serious books I ever read was Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor who eventually put Charles Manson in prison for orchestrating the gruesome Tate-LaBianca murders just north of Beverly Hills in 1969. Manson, you may remember, was not physically a part of the murders. Bugliosi convicted Manson mainly on circumstantial evidence, mostly by convincing jurors that Manson manipulated the actual killers by selling them the conspiratorial idea (which a deluded Manson actually believed) that the acts were necessary to trigger a race war between blacks and whites. The resulting apocalypse would end with all the whites dead (the “Black Muslims would come out of hiding and wipe them all out”) and, because Manson thought blacks were incapable of running the world, the blacks would turn to Manson and his white followers—hidden away in Death Valley—to take charge.

Charles Manson is, and remains, nuts, of course. Through a weird interpretation of songs by the Beatles, especially from their White Album, combined with his reading of the Book of Revelation (a weird book in itself), Manson’s deranged mind invented the Helter Skelter scenario, which was essentially a giant conspiracy, of which the murders were only a small part, to make him ultimate ruler. In an effort to make it as clear as possible to the jury just what Helter Skelter was, prosecutor Bugliosi made the testimony of a Manson follower named Paul Watkins part of his closing argument at trial. According to Watkins, here is how Manson described Helter Skelter:

WATKINS: There would be some atrocious murders; that some of the spades from Watts would come up into the Bel-Air and Beverly Hills district and just really wipe some people out, just cut bodies up and smear blood and write things on the wall in blood, and cut little boys up and make parents watch.

So, in retaliation-this would scare; in other words, all the other white people would be afraid that this would happen to them, so out of their fear they would go into the ghetto and just start shooting black people like crazy. But all they would shoot would be the garbage man and Uncle Toms, and all the ones that were with Whitey in the first place. And underneath it all, the Black Muslims would-he would know that it was coming down.

BUGLIOSI: Helter Skelter was coming down?

WATKINS: Yes. So, after Whitey goes in the ghettos and shoots all the Uncle Toms, then the Black Muslims come out and appeal to the people by saying, ‘Look what you have done to my people.’ And this would split Whitey down the middle, between all the hippies and the liberals and all the up-tight piggies. This would split them in the middle and a big civil war would start and really split them up in all these different factions, and they would just kill each other off in the meantime through their war. And after they killed each other off, then there would be a few of them left who supposedly won.

BUGLIOSI: A few of who left?

WATKINS: A few white people left who supposedly won. Then the Black Muslims would come out of hiding and wipe them all out.

BUGLIOSI: Wipe the white people out?

WATKINS: Yes. By sneaking around and slitting their throats.

Now, at this point, you may wonder what any of this has to do with politics, which is what this blog is mostly about. After all, Tr-mp, as bad as he is, is no Charles Manson. He’s not a convicted killer. But he is a conspiracist. He is mentally ill. He does believe crazy things. And so do many people around him and many people who support him. And because of that fact I believe it is important to peer into the minds of conspiracy believers, deranged and otherwise, even if the conspiracies are not as dark and disturbing as Manson’s Helter Skelter, or the minds are not as deranged as Manson’s. So, here we go.

By now, you have seen countless times Tr-mp’s latest conspiratorial tweets from this weekend, but here they are for the record:

♦ Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism! (March 4, 2017, 5:35am)

♦ Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW! (March 4, 2017, 5:49am)

♦ I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election! (March 4, 2017, 5:52am)

♦ How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy! (March 4, 2017, 6:02am)

In a true Mansonian disconnect from the whirlwind of weirdness he had created in a mere 27 minutes, Tr-mp tweeted the following at 7:19am:

Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t voluntarily leaving the Apprentice, he was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me. Sad end to great show

Obviously, if you had no other evidence to draw from, if there weren’t hundreds upon hundreds of other reasons to pronounce the mind of “President” Tr-mp disturbed and disturbing, these tweets would be enough. They are lies. They are conspiratorial nonsense. And perhaps the most pathetic part about it all is that Tr-mp had no idea how these tweets would appear to others. He wasn’t playing mult-dimensional chess to deflect from other issues. To him, it was quite natural to accuse, falsely, President Obama of an astoundingly high crime, of being a “bad” man or, alternatively, “sick,” and then to follow that up with commentary about a reality show on television. That’s how disturbed minds work. Or, well, how they don’t work.

Tr-mp’s conspiracy about Obama came, naturally, from other conspiracists. First, the idea was advanced on Thursday by a noxious radio host named Mark Levin, who suggested Obama and his pals are executing a “silent coup” against Agent Orange. To spend two minutes listening to Levin is to wish one was deaf at birth. Rush Limbaugh joined the coup chorus and then, straight from cuckooville, came Breitbart, with a story that eventually got circulated around the White’s Nut’s House, where, reportedly, the Head Nut was “infuriated.” There is, it turns out, a “deep state” hard at work fighting the deconstruction of the administrative state.” In other words, the administrative state will not go gently into the good night of deconstruction. Good for it. I like the administrative state. It always—always—deposits my government retirement check into my bank account on time, every time.

None of this nuttery would be possible, of course, without enablers. Paul Ryan. Mitch McConnell. Others. These “establishment” folks tolerate the insanity because they are using the political equivalent of Helter Skelter (get that right, all you haters out there) as cover for their dirty policy deeds (all of which we will get to as the weeks pass). While unforgivable, that part of this twisted soap opera is at least understandable. To put it in Rahm Emmanuelian terms, politicians don’t often let a crisis go to waste, even if it is a crisis involving a mentally ill president.

What is harder to understand is why people want to blame players like Steve Bannon for Tr-mp’s mental challenges. It’s true Bannon has many bad ideas, including his recently highlighted affection for “a breathakingly racist French novel,” called The Camp of the Saints. Again, permit me to venture into (at some length) the scary world of Mansonesque fantasies. Here’s how HuffPo describes the book Bannon finds so fascinating and opinion-shaping:

The plot of The Camp of the Saints follows a poor Indian demagogue, named “the turd-eater” because he literally eats shit, and the deformed, apparently psychic child who sits on his shoulders. Together, they lead an “armada” of 800,000 impoverished Indians sailing to France. Dithering European politicians, bureaucrats and religious leaders, including a liberal pope from Latin America, debate whether to let the ships land and accept the Indians or to do the right thing — in the book’s vision — by recognizing the threat the migrants pose and killing them all.

The non-white people of Earth, meanwhile, wait silently for the Indians to reach shore. The landing will be the signal for them to rise up everywhere and overthrow white Western society.

The French government eventually gives the order to repel the armada by force, but by then the military has lost the will to fight. Troops battle among themselves as the Indians stream on shore, trampling to death the left-wing radicals who came to welcome them. Poor black and brown people literally overrun Western civilization. Chinese people pour into Russia; the queen of England is forced to marry her son to a Pakistani woman; the mayor of New York must house an African-American family at Image result for The Camp of the SaintsGracie Mansion. Raspail’s rogue heroes, the defenders of white Christian supremacy, attempt to defend their civilization with guns blazing but are killed in the process.

Calgues, the obvious Raspail stand-in, is one of those taking up arms against the migrants and their culturally “cuckolded” white supporters. Just before killing a radical hippie, Calgues compares his own actions to past heroic, sometimes mythical defenses of European Christendom. He harkens back to famous battles that fit the clash-of-civilizations narrative — the defense of Rhodes against the Ottoman Empire, the fall of Constantinople to the same — and glorifies colonial wars of conquest and the formation of the Ku Klux Klan.

Only white Europeans like Calgues are portrayed as truly human in The Camp of the Saints. The Indian armada brings “thousands of wretched creatures” whose very bodies arouse disgust: “Scraggy branches, brown and black … All bare, those fleshless Gandhi-arms.” Poor brown children are spoiled fruit “starting to rot, all wormy inside, or turned so you can’t see the mold.”

The ship’s inhabitants are also sexual deviants who turn the voyage into a grotesque orgy. “Everywhere, rivers of sperm,” Raspail writes. “Streaming over bodies, oozing between breasts, and buttocks, and thighs, and lips, and fingers.”

The white Christian world is on the brink of destruction, the novel suggests, because these black and brown people are more fertile and more numerous, while the West has lost that necessary belief in its own cultural and racial superiority. As he talks to the hippie he will soon kill, Calgues explains how the youth went so wrong: “That scorn of a people for other races, the knowledge that one’s own is best, the triumphant joy at feeling oneself to be part of humanity’s finest — none of that had ever filled these youngsters’ addled brains.”

The Camp of the Saints — which draws its title from Revelation 20:9″}}”>Revelation 20:9 — is nothing less than a call to arms for the white Christian West, to revive the spirit of the Crusades and steel itself for bloody conflict against the poor black and brown world without and the traitors within. The novel’s last line links past humiliations tightly to its own grim parable about modern migration. “The Fall of Constantinople,” Raspail’s unnamed narrator says, “is a personal misfortune that happened to all of us only last week.”

If you can differentiate, in significant and meaningful ways, from the apocalyptic nonsense in that French novel and the apocalyptic nonsense of Helter Skelter, you are a better man or woman than I. Because I can’t see much of a distinction. I find it all disturbing. And scary. The Tr-mp “presidency” isn’t, ultimately, about Steve Bannon and the fear, or hope, he has of his own version of a “race” war to end all wars. It is about Donald Tr-mp. It is about the things that pass through his untilled mind, through his conspiracy-poisoned field of mental fantasies. Let us never forget that. Let us ignore people like Joe Scarborough of MSNBC, who tweeted on Sunday the following regarding Tr-mp’s accusations against Obama:

Did Steve Bannon slip the offending article into Tr-mp’s hands to set the president swirling into a rage? That toxic mix undermines America.

It doesn’t matter, relatively speaking, whether Steve Bannon slipped that Breitbart article into Tr-mp’s tiny hands. What matters much, much more is that the mind connected to those Tr-mpian hands is a sick mind. Yes, it is noteworthy that people like Bannon have access to Tr-mp and can use his mental illness and susceptibility to conspiracy theories to at least attempt to actualize some kind of weird and dangerous fantasy, every bit as weird as Helter Skelter. But it is the sick mind that matters most of all, no matter how hard that bitter reality is to contemplate.

Thus, I want to leave you with the words of Vincent Bugliosi, Manson’s prosecutor and the determined man who uncovered the primary motivation behind some infamously grisly murders in Los Angeles in 1969. Bugliosi told the jurors in his rather unique closing argument in the Tate-LaBianca murder trial:

I, as a prosecutor, and you folks as members of the jury, cannot help it, we cannot help it if Manson had this wild, crazy idea about Helter Skelter. It is not our fault. Manson is the one that made the evidence, not we. We can only deal with the evidence that presents itself.

We, as members of a democracy, are the jurors listening to what is going on in the trial of our democratic experiment. We can only deal with the evidence that presents itself to us. CharlesManson2014.jpgAnd the evidence compels us to conclude that the man holding the highest office in our land has a deluded mind that is only different in degree from the mind of the man who, as I write, sits in Corcoran State Prison in Corcoran, California.

No, Donald J. Tr-mp is not Charles Manson. He hasn’t killed anyone or urged anyone else to kill anyone to start a Helter-Skelter Armageddon. But given the position this disturbed man in the White’s House holds, he could, potentially, be more dangerous to the world that a thousand Charles Mansons. And that’s worth thinking about. It’s worth writing about. And it’s worth talking about to your family, your friends, and those with whom you interact.

In short, we shouldn’t be afraid to render the only obvious verdict.

______________________________________

[Manson image: By California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation – [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36851622%5D
%d bloggers like this: