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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Trump, Russia, Q-anon and conspiracy theory

What to say about the Mueller indictments? I'll try to be brief, though I expect to fail.

The American friend. A few talking heads on teevee were bold enough to note that the events described in this indictment could not possibly have occurred without American aid and guidance. I draw your attention to paragraph 53, which mentions a fictitious Muslim group created to smear Hillary by association. An American was hired to hold a sign saying "I think Sharia Law will be a powerful new direction of freedom."

That move is classic Roger Stone. In 1972, he created a fake group called "Gays for McGovern" in order to smear the Democratic candidate. (It was a different time.)

So far, nobody has linked Stone to the St. Petersburg project. One of his rules is "Always use a cut-out." If his partner Paul Manafort really has turned, that rule may not save him.

Inside man? Malcolm Nance has suggested that some of the information in this indictment must have come from an FBI "inside man" within either the Russian operation or the Trump team. There is some independent evidence for this suggestion. However, it is possible that Nance, an intelligence veteran, hopes to psych out the Alt Right by arousing internal suspicions. 

Misdirection. Spend half an hour on the right side of the web, as I did, and you'll find enough material to stay enraged for the rest of the day. During that half-hour of exploration (all I could tolerate), I discovered that the rightists are using several contradictory arguments to minimize the damage done by this indictment

Argument the First: They claim that Mueller is part of the Clinton/Soros/Deep State/Illuminati conspiracy. This one is obvious and predictable.

Argument the Second: "Blame Obama." This argument is more clever, and actually has some merit. Historians will spend the next few centuries asking why No-Drama Obama didn't do more to protect the country from Trump. Although that question is legitimate, it does not excuse the right-wing hallucination that John Kerry deliberately allowed Russian agents into the country -- agents who (in this view) helped Hillary, not Trump. In the real world, the indictment clearly shows that Putin did everything he could to destroy Hillary.

Argument the Third:  Mischaracterization. The Alt Rightists know that few within their audience will actually read the indictment -- after all, it's more than thirty pages long! As a result, they have much freedom for mischief. Some have suggested that the indictment portrays the Russians as attacking Hillary, Bernie and Trump in relatively equal measures.

Surreal. Absolutely surreal.

Conspiracy. The surrealism of the right will, I think, win the day. As Bill Maher pointed out in his last show, Trump's numbers are rising, as are the poll numbers for the Republican party as a whole.

How can this be? We've heard many suggestions, but I think that the main culprit is the stranglehold of conspiracy theory on the American imagination.

In many parts of this country, conspiracy news is just...The News. Similarly, conspiracy history is the only history many Americans ever learn. (For example, more people can recognize the name Colonel House than can recognize the name Adam Clayton Powell.) Younger people think that their favorite conspiracy cliches are new and hip, when in fact they are familiar and trite. Even though these memes are (almost literally) a factory product, right-wing conspiracism is considered "woke." I guess woke is the new word for trance.

In a previous post, we discussed The Storm conspiracy theory, which holds that Mueller is actually investigating Hillary Clinton, not Trump. The promulgator of this nonsense calls himself Q or Q-anon, sometimes spelled Qanon. He claims to have top-level sources who are feeding him all sorts of juicy inside dope.

Newsweek has a good expose of this stormy madness, as does the Southern Poverty Law Center. Are the Russians behind Q? Perhaps not. Still, they are clearly Q-friendly.

From the SPLC:
“What we have come up with is a possible coup,” explained conspiracy theorist David Zublick in a late-November video, “not against Donald Trump, but by Donald Trump, working with Robert Mueller to bring down the Clintons, the Democrat Party, and the entire U.S. government involved in pedophilia and child sex trafficking.”
However, in the new expanded version of the theory, the pedophilia ring has gone global, drawing in alleged participants from all around the nation, and occurring in locations ranging from Hollywood to Europe. (One version of the pedophilia theory entertained by Jones claimed that the child victims were being secretly shipped to a colony on Mars.)

“QAnon” and the conspiracy theorists who piled on at 4chan, 8chan, and on Twitter claimed that contrary to the running story in mainstream media, this pedophilia ring is the real focus of Mueller’s investigation. The general conclusion, spread through the #qanon hashtag on social media, was that a wave of arrests – including Clinton, Obama, Podesta, Soros, Sen. John McCain, and a number of leading Hollywood figures and Democrats was about to happen.
Here's what I found when I looked for Q-anon stuff on Twitter. Basically, tweets with that hashtag are the Lazarus Pool for kaput conspiracy theories. In conspiracy-land, formerly-dead hoaxes gain immortality.

(Remember Alex Jones' loopy reference to a "colony on Mars"? That came from an outrageous leg-pull called Alternative Three, which was exposed ages ago. No matter how many times we stake that vampire, it keeps coming back.)

The Storm-peddlers have revived this chestnut...

Do you recall this obviously-fake medical diagnosis of Hillary's alleged "dementia"? Cannonfire spoofed the whole affair -- and offered proof of the hoax -- in the summer of 2016.

(The star of that satirical post is my late dog George, whom I still miss terribly.)

Here's another one, which apparently traces back to Q himself:

Q wants us to be believe that the mythical "Orion" mind control process was used to engineer the recent horrors in Florida. The book Behold a Pale Horse was written by the notorious "conspiracy salesman" Milton William Cooper, with whom I had a few run-ins before he became famous. He claimed to learn about Orion -- and many other things -- from a Top Seekrit "book of wonders" he was mysteriously asked to read during the Vietnam War, the contents of which he "recalled" under hypnosis.

According to Cooper, this document stated that the earth was being visited by two alien races, one evil, one good. The bad aliens were greedy materialists who controlled Hollywood and the banks, and who were notable for their large noses. The good aliens were tall blonde "Nordics." The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (reprinted in full in this volume) supposedly exposes the conspiracies perpetrated by the bad aliens. I think you get the picture.

Cooper later revised his memories and told audiences that aliens have never visited this planet, and that space travel is impossible. What about the moon landings, you ask? Faked, of course. Duh.

Circa 1989, I asked Cooper if he could cite a source for this "Orion" claim, a feature of even his earliest lectures (which he delivered with the aid of cheap vino). He angrily cited that mythical Top Seekrit document, as if that settled that. He also suggested that anyone who questioned his word must be part of The Conspiracy. Nevertheless, I'm sure that Cooper stole the "Orion" riff from someone else: His whole shtick was repackaging other people's hogwash and claiming it as his own.

Let us move on to another zombie conspiracy theory which the Q-anon Twitterverse has re-animated...

This nonsense has been exposed many times. Once again, I must ask: If Trump disapproves of a Russian company owning a uranium mine in Wyoming, why hasn't he forced (or even politely requested) a divestiture? He certainly has the power to do so.

A final example:

It's weird. Many participants in the Q-anon Twitterverse think that Adolf was a sweetie-pie, yet they also promote the "Hitler the Rothschild" myth. (And a myth it is: See here and here.)

Enter Russia. It is abundantly clear that the Russians have joined forces with the American conspiracy subculture. How did that happen? When did it all start?

One could devote a massive book to answering that question. The Russians have been a paranoid lot for a long, long time -- at least since the Decembrist revolution, which was largely plotted in Freemasonic circles. One could probably find a much earlier origin point.

Believe it or not, a large segment of the American neo-Nazi underground became pro-Russian in the 1950s -- yes, during the height of McCarthyite hysteria, and not many years after the Battle of Stalingrad. Although American anti-Semites have always despised Communism, they began to develop warm feelings toward Joseph Stalin when they learned that, just before his death, he signaled his intention to launch a massive pogrom.

Kevin Coogan's important book Dreamer of Day documents at exhaustive length the pro-Russian strain within American post-war fascism. The key theoretical writings were done within a group called the National Renaissance Party. The writer was a fascist mastermind named Francis Parker Yockey, who went on to produce a racist magnum opus called Imperium

Yockey was associated with Willis Carto. In a previous post on "The Storm," I've outlined my theory that the author of the Q material is a notorious forger formerly associated with Carto's organization. I can't prove this theory at present -- so for now, let's classify it as an "educated hunch."

(Another National Renaissance Party alum was Eustace Mullins, a protege of Ezra Pound. In the 1990s, Mullins' writings became weirdly ubiquitous on both the right and the left. I was located somewhere on the left, yet whenever I went to politically-tinged gathering in L.A., I would run into someone -- usually an ever-so-hip alleged progressive -- who wanted to convert me to the Gospel According to Eustace Fucking Mullins. It was infuriating! After a point, mere mention of that name would elicit a "Niagara Falls" reaction from me: Slowly I turned, step by step...)

In an important, widely-discussed recent piece, James Risen identifies what may be another key point of convergence.
The most infamous and dangerously effective KGB disinformation campaign of the Cold War was known as Operation Infektion. It was a secret effort to convince people in developing countries that the United States had created the HIV/AIDS virus.

In 1983, a newspaper in India printed what purported to be a letter from an American scientist saying the virus had been developed by the Pentagon. The letter went on to suggest that the U.S. was moving its experiments to Pakistan, India’s archenemy. Meanwhile, the KGB got an East German scientist to spread misinformation supporting the Moscow-backed conspiracy theory that the U.S. was behind the virus.

While these lies never penetrated the U.S. mainstream, they nonetheless spread insidiously through much of the world.

Vladimir Putin was a KGB officer during the 1980s when the KGB was conducting this disinformation campaign. He was stationed in East Germany in the late 1980s, and there is a good chance he knew about the East German component of Operation Infektion.
Risen doesn't tell you the rest of the story: In America, a few years after "Operation Infektion," both the John Birchite right and the "progressive" paranoids glommed onto the theory that the Reagan administration created AIDS. I'm sure -- well, fairly sure -- that the KGB did not mastermind this development. But the Russians surely took note of how quickly the idea spread throughout various American subcultures. Fear is a powerful form of junk, and many Americans first became addicted to the rush at that time.

And now here we are. What was once a subculture is now THE culture.
Quite a post! A lot to dig through.

Jill Stein certainly deserves some attention. She made and appearance on AM Joy on Sunday. She's a sociopath.

Very studied evasion and deflection and a cool smile throughout. Not the sort of skills good doctors pick up in med school or medical practice, where the bad ones at least learn to act as if they care.
No, no, very sorry. Not AM Joy.

Stein was on the following show, MSNBC Live with Alex Witt. Sorry.

Worth seeing the video if it becomes available.
The dominant narrative at the moment, at least the one I am most frequently insulted for not accepting, seems to be that the Russians weren't interested in Trump winning, but only in spreading division.

The mention of the HIV thing might be the first time I've ever heard a claim of a succesful disinformation operation by the Soviets, who are generally reported to have been rank incompetents at such things, and at assassination and most other intelligence matters. Of course there were those defectors who may have been false defectors, but then certain people would have reasons not to accept those as Soviet victories.

It does bring to mind, however, the old conspiracy theory that the Soviets were behind global terrorism, which was of course put about by the CIA, only for the CIA to end up being run by one of the useful idiots who refused to believe this theory was untrue, even when those who devised it told him so. Now that's blowback. And now the president is a former guest on Infowars. Not that I'm saying Infowars works for the CIA, of course. Rather, para Nixon, everyone's a conspiracy theorist now.
Back in 1986, while working in a bookstore in Harvard Square, a customer with excellent bu notably accented English asked for a book, and while leading him to the location I made conversation and found that he was from Russia and a mathematician. I asked what he was working on and was told, "the prediction of human behavior."

I, who find even my own behavior rather unpredictable at times, replied that I doubed such predictability.

He said very firmly words to the effect that human behavior is undoubtedly predictable.

Words that have been on my mind quite a bit recently.
Don't worry about Trump's slight uptick in his poll numbers. It's all coming from consolidation among Republicans. He isn't winning any new converts. I mean, it's still frightening, but it's not as frightening as actually winning over new people.
Looks to me like this Russian LLC was not interested in influencing the election, just creating clickbait content for commercial reasons.

Most of small spend was after the election (52%). The Russian conspiracy thing is dead. The conspiracy is the creation of the Russian conspiracy narrative.
Matt: Yawn.

Yoou might sell that old stuff elsewhere, but it's doubtful.
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