tinfoil conspiracy theory

Something of an Update (Crackpottery Wrapped in Tinfoil Wrapped in a Bad Suit)

#trumpfoil | #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)

If it feels somehow familiar, yes, there really is a reason.

The Justice Department confirmed in a court filing late Friday that neither it nor the FBI has evidence that Trump Tower was the target of surveillance efforts by the Obama administration during the 2016 presidential election.

(Greenwood)

Six months. How strange it feels to look back to March as if the upcoming six-month mark should feel like some chapter from ancient history. What should have been breathtaking in its time might well have been, but how far down the #trumphole have we fallen, since?  (more…)

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Your Quote of the Day (Pompeo and the Circumstance)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Mike Pompeo (Photo by Getty Images)

“These officers have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution. They have signed secrecy agreements. They quietly go about their work and try not to get too worked up over the headlines, including the fanciful notion that they spy on their fellow citizens via microwave ovens.”

CIA Director Mike Pompeo

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#DimensionSteve (Narrative)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

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)

We might take a moment now and then to observe the power of narrative, and it is fair enough to acknowledge there is nothing new if we take the note from Steve Benen of msnbc:

When it comes to Donald Trump’s White House and issues related to the Nazi Holocaust, the president and his team have made some unfortunate missteps. There was, for example, the ill-advised statement honoring International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January. A month later, the West Wing had an odd quarrel with the Anne Frank Center.

Today, however, Team Trump broke new ground.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer compared Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Adolf Hitler on Tuesday, saying that even someone as “despicable” as the German dictator “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer attempts to demonstrate the difference between government and the Republican health care agenda during a daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., 7 March 2017. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)Asked moments later to clarify those remarks, Spicer, speaking from the White House podium, said that Hitler “was not using the gas on his own people the same way Assad used them.”

Spicer went on to say Hitler brought people into “Holocaust centers.”

All of this, of course, unfolded from the White House podium during Passover.

Part of what makes this so remarkable is how obviously wrong Spicer was. One need not be a historian to know Hitler gassed Holocaust victims. The reference to “his own people” made an unfortunate mistake worse. As for Spicer describing Nazi concentration camps as “Holocaust centers,” I honestly don’t know where to start.

(11 April 2017)

To the one, it really was an awkward circumstance even more unnerving to experience, even having heard or read about it. And, yes, the Press Secretary is a particularly unfortunate example of his office; Mr. Spicer can very much seem emblematic of Trump administration incompetence. There is no chic about Cheeky Spice’s reboot of the dignity of the office. There is, however, the added gravity of just how this White House has managed to create it’s own … er … ah … question about Jews. Of course, there is also this: We should not be surprised, although back then conventional wisdom thought going after Jews to their faces like that was a bad idea.

Still, though: If we call it a Kinsley gaffe, then what truth have we just glimpsed?

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A Tragic Tale of Tools

#lulz | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of frame from FLCL episode 2, 'Firestarter'.

Trying to explain #pizzagate reminds of an old lyricα: “Baring your soul was the in thing to do. It’s fun and it’s easy for an empty-headed fool.” And it’s true, those recalling the period closely―and thus painfully―enough, yes, the line works well enough. Indeed, we might cringe recalling Iron John and the mythic Fire in the Belly, but the vinyl memory also brings to mind a trend of men exploring their feelings, shedding fear about shedding tears, and, of course, reinforcing the stereotypes they would ostensibly otherwise break by pursuing their feminine sides. It is then, merely coincidental―or, you know, not, given how the interconnectedness of all things is most affecting of our lives when asserting through the historical record―that scattershot assertions of traditional masculinity find themselves so close to an invented scandal asserting child sexual exploitation by one group while relying on an opposing group wallowing in child rape fantasies.

Never mind. Andrew Breiner takes his turn for Salon:

But a small number of people on message boards like 4chan and Reddit were more interested in seemingly mundane emails about small social gatherings and parties hosted by Podesta and his friends. Specifically, they noticed that these emails mentioned pizza a few times.

Boldly disregarding the simple explanation that the emailers, like most Americans, eat pizza regularly and find it to be an easy food to serve and eat while socializing, self-appointed Internet detectives decided that “pizza” was a complex code for pedophilia. Using this code, Pizzagaters claim, Podesta and his well-heeled pals could brazenly discuss their plans for throwing disgusting sex parties exploiting enslaved children, in between exchanges about Clinton’s campaign strategy and setting up conference calls.

It’s important to note that since the theories that would become Pizzagate began on 4chan and Reddit, sites known for trolling people with cruel, complicated pranks, it’s likely that many of the conspiracy theory’s originators were joking―coming up with absurdities to entertain themselves.

But it took a very short time for /r/Pizzagate, the now-closed Pizzagate-focused Reddit subforum, or subreddit, to fill with people who appeared to be true believers. The theory also became popular on Reddit’s “The Donald,” a hub for Trump supporters. From there, Pizzagate caught the attention of conservative fake news sites, minor white supremacist celebrities, and supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It’s been amplified for unknown reasons by Twitter bots traced to the Czech Republic, Cyprus and Vietnam.

To the one, we can only reiterate the question of whether or not Trump supporters are complaisant assets to the machinations of international interests, but perhaps more importantly we should note, to the other, the question of lulz.

That is to say, we might recall Brendan Gauthier’s report for Salon in September:

Perhaps the most noteworthy admission came from a 4chan user who openly acknowledged the big scary alt-right’s satirical (and inflammatory) edge: “CTR shills still not realising that pol is a board of satire and our only mission is to meme the retarded manchild to the white house for the lulz.”

This is one of those weird facets we might wish to pay some attention to. Overseas twitterbots are sufficient to move a soft-headed religious fanatic to terrorize a pizzeria as a means of taking up arms against Hillary Clinton; the lulzaholics ought to be proud, but what about the rest of Donald Trump’s supporters?

In the end, it’s all the same. They get played by Russian trolls, international misinformation bloggers, and botnets around the world because they want to.

It is easy enough to remind that it always has been about supremacism and lulz; as the excuses fall away, what else will be left?

____________________

α Memory insists it comes from a Seattle band from the late eighties into the early nineties called Chemistry Set, but that vinyl echo is really dusty.

Image note: Naota gets screwed. (Detail of frame from FLCL episode 2, “Fire Starter”.)

Breiner, Andrew. “Pizzagate, explained: Everything you want to know about the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria conspiracy theory but are too afraid to search for on Reddit”. Salon. 10 Deceember 2016.

Gauthier, Brendan. “Pepe’s post-debate identity crisis: Online alt-right turns on Donald Trump after his presidential debate fiasco”. Salon. 27 September 2016.

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.

What They Voted For: Swamp

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump answers a question during the third presidential debate at University of Nevada Las Vegas, 19 October 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Who: Christina Flom (Roll Call)
What: “Rand Paul on Bolton Appointment: ‘Heaven Forbid'”
When: 15 November 2016

Roll Call brings us up to speed:

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul says that President-elect Donald Trump appointing former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton to his Cabinet would be a major step toward breaking his promise of “changing America’s disastrous foreign policy.”

Rumors that Trump is considering Bolton as Secretary of State prompted Paul to write an op-ed in Rare.us, calling Bolton “part of failed elite that Trump vowed to oppose” ....

.... Paul said no man “is more out of touch” with the Middle East than Bolton and that Bolton is unable to see the mistakes he has made.

“All nuance is lost on the man,” Paul wrote. “The fact that Russia has had a base in Syria for 50 years doesn’t deter Bolton from calling for all out, no holds barred war in Syria. For Bolton, only a hot-blooded war to create democracy across the globe is demanded.”

This is one of those interesting things Republicans do to themselves. The Kentucky also-ran is not without a point, but he’s also Rand Paul, and this is Donald Trump’s Republican Party, now. There really isn’t anything surprising happening, which is a strange thing considering it’s happening at all. Still, though, as Donald Trump continues to undermine pretty much every allegedly respectable reason anyone might have offered in defense of their vote, we should remember that it always was about supremacism and lulz.

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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.

Something Going On (Asymetrically Intriguing)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton laughs before speaking to supporters at the Human Rights Campaign Breakfast in Washington, October 3, 2015. (Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

This is the thing: While it is easy enough to get lost in the spectacular noise and bluster, the breathtaking incoherence and disbelief, something does seem to have happened. Jonathan Chait dove in last month, noting, “The most important substantive problem facing political journalists of this era is asymmetrical polarization”. And to a certain degree, Chait is vital, here, because of something else he wrote, all of several days before:

I had not taken seriously the possibility that Donald Trump could win the presidency until I saw Matt Lauer host an hour-long interview with the two major-party candidates. Lauer’s performance was not merely a failure, it was horrifying and shocking. The shock, for me, was the realization that most Americans inhabit a very different news environment than professional journalists. I not only consume a lot of news, since it’s my job, I also tend to focus on elite print-news sources. Most voters, and all the more so undecided voters, subsist on a news diet supplied by the likes of Matt Lauer. And the reality transmitted to them from Lauer matches the reality of the polls, which is a world in which Clinton and Trump are equivalently flawed.

Nor need one be any manner of confessed media elitist; outside the circles where people perpetually complain about the media, news consumers are more than a little puzzled―indeed, some or maybe even many are alarmed―about what they are witnessing.

Part of the problem, of course, is asymmetrical polarization; Chait considered the question―

Political journalism evolved during an era of loose parties, both of which hugged the center, and now faces an era in which one of those parties has veered sharply away from the center. Today’s Republican Party now resides within its own empirical alternative universe, almost entirely sealed off from any source of data, expertise, or information that might throw its ideological prior values into question. Donald Trump’s candidacy is the ne plus ultra of this trend, an outlier horrifying even to a great many conservatives who have been largely comfortable with their party’s direction until now. How can the news media appropriately cover Trump and his clearly flawed opponent without creating an indecipherable din of equivalent-sounding criticism, where one candidate’s evasive use of a private email server looms larger than the other’s promise to commit war crimes?

Liz Spayd, the New York Times’ new public editor, dismisses the problem out of hand in a column that is a logical train wreck. Spayd specifically addresses a column by Paul Krugman that lambastes two news investigations into the Clinton Foundation, one of which appeared in the Times. Both reports dug deep and found nothing improper, but instead of either walking away from the dry holes or writing an exculpatory story, dressed them up with innuendo. These stories supply a prime example of the larger critique often grouped under the heading of “false equivalence”―journalists treating dissimilar situations as similar, in an attempt to balance out their conclusions. Spayd dismisses false equivalence as liberal whining, without in any way engaging with its analysis.

―in the wake of a New York Times dispute between public editor Liz Spayd and columnist Paul Krugman.

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