conspiracism

The Man of the Hour

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Political strategist Stephen Bannon speaks at a Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore campaign rally in Midland City, Alabama, 11 December 2017. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

The triple-bylined exclusive from The Daily Beast opens like sublime comedy:

Steve Bannon is lawyering up as he gets ready to face investigators looking into the Trump-Russia nexus.

The Daily Beast has learned that the former top White House strategist has retained Bill Burck, of the firm Quinn Emanuel. Two sources tell us Burck is helping Bannon prepare for an interview with the House intelligence committee, which is currently scheduled for next week. Sources also said Bannon plans to “fully cooperate” with investigators.

Puti TootsBurck also represents White House Counsel Don McGahn and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for the purposes of the Russia probe ....

(Woodruff, Markay, and Suebsaeng)

To the one, this ought to be in some manner artistically appreciable; to the other, we cannot reiterate enough that as much as Mr. Bannon needs to testify under oath, and about more than simply his time with the Trump campaign, neither, really, can he be trusted. That is to say, spectacularly flaming paragon of right-wing cynicism he might be, Steve Bannon not only can be expected to throw the House Intelligence Committee, and thus the entire Beltway, into chaos, but virtually cannot fail to discredit Congressional inquiries into the #TrumpRussia affair.

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The Turn of the Page (Marooned Fifth)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite — Donald Trump: Detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc; Carter Page: AP Photo; Puti-Toots: Artist unknown.

Should we take a moment to recall, oh, not quite six months ago, the ledes made a pretty straightforward setup:

President Donald Trump sought to insert himself into congressional investigations on Russia on Wednesday, urging lawmakers to hear from one of his former advisers, Carter Page, to counter testimony by directors of the FBI and CIA.

(Chiacu)

† † †

President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused Democrats of resisting testimony from Carter Page, his former campaign adviser, because he “blows away” allegations they have made.

(Bennett)

And that really is a wasted setup, right? That is, since we already know the punch line:

Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, informed the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that he will not be cooperating with any requests to appear before the panel for its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and would plead the Fifth, according to a source familiar with the matter.

(Watkins)

#wellduh. Because of course he will.

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Passthrough (Presidential Potsherd)

#PresidentPotsherd | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President-elect Donald Trump delivers his first official news conference since winning the November election, 11 January 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“I assume ‘let’s blame Obama’ will become a popular rallying cry in far-right circles, because it’s vastly easier than dealing with the facts.”

Steve Benen

It is not quite correct to ask who is surprised. In truth, nobody ought to be surprised. Still, though, if we inquire, for the sake of some decent societal form, what brought on Mr. Benen’s line, well:

This week, the president has moved on to a new explanation: this is all Obama’s fault. USA Today reported this morning:

President Trump said that former president Barack Obama is “behind” the angry protests that have erupted at Republican town halls around the nation during an interview on the Fox News morning program Fox and Friends scheduled to air Tuesday morning.

“I think he is behind it,” Trump said when asked about Obama’s role in the protests. “I also think it’s politics. That’s the way it is.

“No, I think that President Obama is behind it,” Trump said, “because his people are certainly behind it and some of the leaks, possibly come from that group, some of the leaks – which are really very serious leaks because they’re very bad in terms of national security – but I also understand that’s politics. And in terms of him being behind things, that’s politics. And it will probably continue.”

This is, in many ways, the perfect Donald J. Trump Conspiracy Theory.

And this is the Donald J. Trump administration, after all.

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A Memo to American Conservatives: Self-Gratifying Mess

#closeteers | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Corset looks forward to using Brief. (Detail of Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, ep. 12, "D.C. Confidential")

MEMORANDUM

To: American Conservatives

re: Triggerella and the Perverts

When the right wing makes a nasty, self-gratifying mess of itself― ....

Yeah, you know, that’s just not an encouraging start, is it? Still, though, how conservatives manage to make such a perverse, awful mess out of pizza isn’t exactly a mystery for the ages. It’s easy enough to make the point that people like Comet Ping Pong gunman Edgar Maddison Welch are mere tools; or remind that the “alt”-right, as they are presently known, are least scathingly described as seemingly unwitting agents of international interests except for the fact that they are at least sanguine with their place in that exploitative scheme and, as such, would rather be known as willing grifters openly working against the best interests of their country than easy marks in a pabulum-grade propaganda swindle; but there is another important question we ought to consider, as well, and that is the dangerous, sexually deviant obsessions displayed by conservative scandalmongers.

What makes Comet such a distinct place—a beloved haven for outside-the-mainstream people and art—is what has whet the appetites of alt-right fanatics looking for an outlet for their hate. In a large-scale gestural mural of people and faces by an artist who’s played the Comet stage, conspiracy theorists see a depiction of a child being strangled. In run-of-the-mill bathroom graffiti, they see secret sexual messages. In the lack of labeling for the gender-neutral bathrooms, haters with a political agenda see “secret rooms.” In Heavy Breathing, a band composed of decade-plus veterans of the D.C. music scene that traffics in stylized, abrasive, tongue-in-cheek electro-punk—only the truly humorless would not receive it as such—they see child-abusing satanists. In the venue’s all-ages policy, a time-honored practice of radical inclusion in the D.C. punk scene, they see a cover for pedophilia.

And in Josh Vogelsong—who has been bartending and helping book shows at Comet since 2011 and also performs in drag as Donna Slash—and his fellow drag queens who’ve performed at the venue, the alt-right sees degenerate weirdos who represent an America they’d like to destroy. For weeks, Vogelsong has been harassed and received death threats on Instagram from #pizzagate believers. User @rb.sad called him a “dumb bitch, or whatever the fuck you are” and a “fucking tranny,” he told Slate. User @debbieoconnell_ called him a “PAEDOPHILE CHILD MOLESTING ASS PIECE OF GARBAGE.” Other internet trolls have threatened “Hillary will be dead soon and so will you” and “we’re gonna slit your throat and bathe in your blood.”

“There’s just so much on Instagram—me in drag, photos of drag queens covered in blood, and bands doing weird shit—that it’s easy for people to see it and be like, ‘Oh my God!'” Vogelsong said. D.C. drag queen Summer Camp, who once appeared covered in red fluid in an Instagram photo for a Halloween event at Comet, has also been threatened by members of the alt-right in recent weeks. So has Cis Jenner, another local queen who performed at Comet years ago and now gets Facebook messages calling her a “Satanist homo.” “Hope I get to watch u bleed out n get a hard on from it,” one said.

Many of the #pizzagate blog posts claiming to find circumstantial evidence of a pedophilia ring at Comet have specifically referenced the sexuality and gender identities of the owner, who is gay, and staff. Conspiracy theorists who have gone through Vogelsong’s Instagram, where he advertised his shifts to friends with a photo of two buff men scarfing down a single slice, now claim his posts are code for gay men doing obscene things to children.

(Cauterucci and Fischer; boldface emphasis added)

So, this one is pretty straightforward.

• If you are all lathered up in a moral rage about the Satanist homo, why? Is it the Satanism? Because while the literature has plenty to say about watching people bleed, if dude gets hard watching homo dude do anything at all, then dude is a fuckin’ homo, too. Get thee out of the closet, bitch! Stupid enough to be scared sadistic is no decent way to go through life.

____________________

Image note: Corset looks forward to using Brief. (Detail of Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, ep. 12, “D.C. Confidential”)

Cauterucci, Christina and Jonathan L. Fischer. “Comet Is D.C.’s Weirdo Pizza Place. Maybe That’s Why It’s a Target.” Slate. 6 December 2016.

An Abiding Question: Sinister or Stupid?

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016. (Detail of frame via YouTube)

“Take a moment to imagine the feeding frenzy that would exist right now if, just two weeks after the election, the Clinton Foundation quietly told the IRS it broke the law.”

Steve Benen

The msnbc producer and blogger has a point. For all the scandalmongering about family foundations, we knew before the election that the Donald J. Trump Foundation had some skeletons in its closet.

We might, then, turn to the Washington Post and the incomparable David A. Fahrenthold:

President-elect Donald Trump’s charitable foundation has admitted to the IRS that it violated a legal prohibition against “self-dealing,” which bars nonprofit leaders from using their charity’s money to help themselves, their businesses or their families.

That admission was contained in the Donald J. Trump Foundation’s IRS tax filings for 2015, which were recently posted online at the nonprofit-tracking site GuideStar. A GuideStar spokesman said the forms were uploaded by the Trump Foundation’s law firm, Morgan, Lewis and Bockius ....

.... In one section of the form, the IRS asked if the Trump Foundation had transferred “income or assets to a disqualified person.” A disqualified person, in this context, might be Trump―the foundation’s president―or a member of his family, or a Trump-owned business.

The foundation checked “yes.”

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The Donald Trump Show (Basketeers)

Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, DC, December 3, 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

This is a long problem in the political discourse:

If you follow Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site, you already know that statistics suggest that if only women voted for president, Hillary Clinton would win in a landslide. Yet Trump’s female supporters are some of the most ardent folks on his side. He seems to appeal to women supporters as a candidate who will keep them safe and protect the borders from the bad hombres.

They don’t trust Clinton. And the endless stories about her emails don’t help build confidence with supporters of either gender. Yet when I ask for examples of what bothers people most about the emails, the answers seem to come directly from the Trump playbook. According to Trump supporters, the emails prove that Clinton is funding ISIS, ordered the massacre in Benghazi, is plotting to steal the election and is actually a pimp who procures women for her husband. “It just proves just how nasty she is,” one male voter told me.

When asked about the notion of breaking the glass ceiling by electing a woman to the White House, they all resoundingly said, “Not that woman.” Several women suggested that Sarah Palin, John McCain’s running mate in 2008, would make a great first woman candidate. “She is so much more prepared to serve than Hillary Clinton,” a stay-at-home mom from California said.

(King Collier)

It’s very nearly petulant, and comes in a variety of flavors. This time around it’s pretty straightforward: It is not that your voice does not matter; rather, forfeiture of reality simply does not constitute a middle ground. There is nothing we can do when the compromise point with conspiracists is granting the conspiracy theory.

And, frankly, it sounds like neurotic desperation, an excuse for supporting terrible people and ideas. The thing about self-indictment is that, for the most part, conscience will out; it’s part of being human. Relatively few of the infamously-designated deplorables actually celebrate their hatred; most of them try to find some way to believe they’re good people. We should find that encouraging; they want to be good. It’s just … I don’t know. This is the challenge. Pathos is one thing; self-imposed alienation is something else entirely.

____________________

Image note: Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, D.C., 3 December 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

King Collier, Andrea. “What are they thinking? Talking to Trump voters without judgment (and while black)”. Salon. 5 November 2016.

A Question of Legitimacy

At eight minutes after the hour, Hugh Hewitt went there with a line about whether the Democrats nominated the Republican nominee.

It’s been a pet thesis, counting up the bizarre things Republicans might say in order to explain themselves after the Trump presidential bid is over. One is that this was somehow the plan; don’t ask. The other is that Hillary Clinton’s election is illegitimate because Republican voters were denied a say in their nomination process.

It was a joke, and then, well, they’re Republicans. Little hints. Charlie Sykes on All In last week, for instance, simply saying that Donald Trump doesn’t really represent the Republican Party; we know what he means, but conservatives lack nuance about some things, and this easily qualifies. Kyle Cheney’s report for Politico on RNC sympathy for delegitimization includes a committeeman from California explaining the Republican outlook: “Should Hillary get ‘elected'”, Shawn Steel wrote, “she is immediately delegitimized”. His explanation is that “Wall Street Bankers” are involved in a “massive Left Wing Conspiracy”. That’s right. American bankers … and Communists.

And Hugh Hewitt, at eight minutes after the hourα, offering his analysis of the debate for msnbc, defended Mr. Trump’s invocation of a conspiracy theory and voiced the question of whether Democrats nominated the Republican nominee.

____________________

α 19 October 2016, 20.08 PDT.

Cheney, Kyle. “RNC members agree with Trump: It’s rigged”. Politico. 18 October 2016.

The Donald Trump Debacle (Economy Beatdown Mix)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump departs from a campaign event at Trump Doral golf course in Miami, Florida, 27 July 2016. (Photo: Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

“But for those who still believe the candidates’ approach to the nation’s economy should matter, Trump’s comments were more than a little alarming. At least yesterday―who knows what his beliefs might be today―the Republican presidential candidate accused the Fed without proof of being politically manipulated by the White House, while simultaneously endorsing higher interest rates, which would slow the economy, despite having said the exact opposite four months ago.”

Steve Benen

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