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TBR News August 24, 2020

Aug 24 2020

The Voice of the White House

Comments for August 24, 2020:  Trump’s shabby empire is beginning to crumble but given his persona, he is still capable of wreaking more havoc as his Titanic slowly sinks into the cold, dark ocean. We will be bombarded with a legion of frantic lies and threats until the final moments and probably afterwards. Republican Senators are as nervous as sheep in a thunderstorm. If they continue to back Trump, they may lose their jobs come November.

 

The Table of Contents

  • Trump’s diplomatic legacy: lost trust, scarred ties and sanctions
  • Donald Trump and the Art of Betrayal
  • Small but growing Russian support for QAnon conspiracies seen online
  • How Donald Trump canceled the Republican party
  • The Family: The Octopus of God
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons

 

 

 

Trump’s diplomatic legacy: lost trust, scarred ties and sanctions

August 24, 2020

by Humeyra Pamuk, David Brunnstrom

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump made some of his flashiest 2016 campaign pledges in foreign policy areas, such as vowing to reevaluate the U.S. relationship with NATO, abandon a landmark nuclear deal with Iran and bring U.S. troops back from “forever wars.”

The Republican president, a former businessman from New York who boasts about his deal-making skills, has delivered on some of his pledges, while partially meeting a few others. Some he has so far completely failed to achieve.

If Trump is defeated in the Nov. 3 election by Democratic rival Joe Biden, the new administration’s hardest challenge will be to restore the global standing and trustworthiness of the United States, analysts and former U.S. and European officials say.

Biden, vice president under President Barack Obama, will be taking over a scarred transatlantic relationship, deep antagonism with China and sanctions-dominated pressure campaigns against Iran, Syria and Venezuela.

Here is a look at some of the key policy priorities of the Trump administration and potential challenges for Biden:

CHINA

A central theme in Trump’s 2016 campaign was to accuse China of “ripping off” the United States while vowing to seal a fair trade deal with Beijing that would help American businesses and create U.S. jobs.

After almost two years of tit-for-tat trade war with the world’s second largest economy, Trump has so far managed a stalled first phase of such an agreement.

Meanwhile, Washington and Beijing have slapped tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of each others’ goods and the global spread of the coronavirus from China has soured bilateral ties to their worst level in decades, raising fears of a new Cold War.

Washington has acted against Beijing on multiple fronts: It ended the special status of Hong Kong, sanctioned top officials over human rights abuses and sought to ban Chinese technology companies from operating in the United States.

A Biden administration would have little option but to maintain the hard stance, analysts say, but would likely seek to dial down some rhetoric to create room for engagement.

IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL

In 2018, the Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, saying he could strike a better one. He also launched a “maximum pressure” campaign to choke off Tehran’s sources of income.

Despite almost two years of sanctions on everything from oil revenue to minerals and Iran’s central bank, Washington has yet to force a change of behavior by Tehran and bring it back to the negotiating table. Instead, escalating tensions have carried the two nations to the brink of war.

Biden has said he would deal with Iran through diplomacy and re-enter the agreement, but only if Iran first returned to compliance with the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear program.

NATO & TRANSATLANTIC TIES

Trump has repeatedly complained about the failure of many NATO partners to meet defense spending targets. He has also questioned the continued relevance of the organization created in 1949 at the start of the Cold War with Russia.

His attacks soured ties with several European allies, but more members of the alliance have now increased spending to meet its target of two percent of GDP.

This year, Trump vowed to cut the number of U.S. troops in Germany, accusing Berlin of taking advantage of the United States while not meeting its NATO obligations.

Analysts say repairing the transatlantic alliance will take time, but should be one of the easier tasks awaiting a potential Biden administration.

          BRINGING TROOPS HOME

Trump promised in his 2016 campaign to stay out of foreign wars and bring home U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan, America’s longest war, which is now in its nineteenth year.

Washington has begun cutting troop numbers in Afghanistan after striking a deal with the Taliban in February that envisaged the withdrawal of all U.S. troops. This depends, however, on talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which have stalled.

Trump also ordered a pullout of U.S. troops from Syria. The decision was repeatedly watered down by aides and the military, but numbers have still been reduced by more than half.

PARIS CLIMATE DEAL

One of Trump’s most controversial decisions was his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, something he had repeatedly vowed to do during the 2016 campaign.

Trump said the agreement imposed “draconian” financial and economic burdens on the United States and vowed to negotiate a better one.

A new agreement has not materialized. The Biden campaign said he would recommit to the original Paris deal and lead an effort to get major countries to toughen their domestic targets.

MIDDLE EAST

Trump delivered on his 2016 campaign promise to relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel to divided Jerusalem. The move was slammed by most of the Arab world but won praise from the Israeli government and its supporters, as well as evangelical Christians.

His wider Middle East Peace plan was rejected by Palestinians as it allowed Israel to maintain control of long-contested West Bank settlements, but received some encouraging reviews from several Arab states.

One, the United Arab Emirates, this month normalized ties with Israel in a historic deal brokered by the United States, a move that many analysts saw as a foreign policy win for Trump at a time when he has been trailing Biden in polls.

NORTH KOREA

Trump surprised the world by entering unprecedented talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He made no progress in persuading Kim to give up his nuclear weapons, but some believe his ice-breaking diplomacy could be a building block for a future administration.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Mary Milliken and Daniel Wallis

 

Donald Trump and the Art of Betrayal

August 24, 2020

by Ted Snider

AntiWar

Iran and the Nuclear Deal

The betrayal began with Iran. The work had all been done by Obama and Secretary of State, John Kerry. Trump was the beneficiary of a historic treaty that made the world a safer place and that lifted trust between Iran and the US to a level it hasn’t been at since 1979. All Trump had to do was honor it. But he couldn’t do that.

For all the complexity of the negotiations, for all the complexity of the clauses, the deal was pretty simple: if Iran keeps its promise to limit its civilian nuclear program, America would keep its promise to lift sanctions. Iran did; America didn’t. Trump broke America’s word and betrayed Iran.

In 2015, when the US and all the permanent members of the UN Security Council (P5+1) signed the JCPOA nuclear agreement with Iran, the deal was that if Iran continued to be in compliance with the limitations on its nuclear program, the US had to continue to honor the agreement and hold back on sanctions. If Iran was not in compliance, then – and only then – could the US pull out of the agreement and snap back sanctions. But Iran was completely and consistently in compliance with their commitments under the agreement, as verified by eleven consecutive International Atomic Energy Agency reports. So, Trump betrayed Iran when he illegal walked away from the JCPOA.

Iran’s hardliners always said that it was naïve to make a deal with America. They warned that America would repay their honest diplomacy with betrayal. And they were right: Trump betrayed Iran.

The Kurds and Ethnic Cleansing

On October 6, 2019, after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Trump removed US troops from the Kurdish region of northeast Syria, clearing the way for the Turkish invasion of the region that followed just three days later. Trump knew that Turkey would invade the Kurds, and he pulled back to make it possible. If there was any doubt that Trump knew his redeployment was an abandonment of the Kurds, his own statement on the pullout obliterates it: “We fought with them for three and a half to four years. We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives. Where’s an agreement that said we have to stay in the Middle East for the rest of humanity, for the rest of civilization to protect the Kurds?”

The betrayal was not removing the troops from the region. The decision to withdraw troops was, contrary to congressional and media objections, not only correct but long overdue. It was correct on moral grounds, on foreign policy grounds and even on facts on the ground grounds. The betrayal was abandoning America’s Kurdish allies by greenlighting the Turkish invasion. The need to pullout did not necessitate the abandonment of the Kurds. The US could have established conditions that allowed both the leaving of the region and the protecting of the Kurds. Trump could have engineered a diplomatic solution that protected the Kurds prior to pulling out. But that’s the art of diplomacy, not the art of betrayal. The US could have negotiated a settlement with willing partners or imposed a settlement on an unwilling Turkey by withholding arms from the country it provided $3.7 billion worth of weapons between 2011 and 2018. Stephen Zunes, professor of politics and international studies at the University of San Francisco and an expert on American Middle East policy, has pointed out that “A more effective deterrent than simply keeping US troops in Syria would be for Washington to make clear to the Turks that the United States will suspend all arms transfers and strategic cooperation with Turkey if it moves any more troops into Syrian territory.” It was possible to leave Syria and protect the Kurds if the US had as fully engaged in the diplomatic arena as they did in the military one. Instead, they betrayed and abandoned the Kurds.

In the Kurds, America had finally found a solid ally in the war in Syria. Too bad the Kurds didn’t find one. Trump knew, not only that he was abandoning the Kurds, he knew that the betrayal opened the door for ethnic cleansing. 190,000 Kurds were forcefully displaced by the Turkish army and their Syrian National Army partners. The Turkish troops were dangerous; the Syrian troops were more dangerous. 25,000 strong, many of them were former ISIS or al-Qaeda fighters who had fought against, and detested, the Kurds. According to Patrick Cockburn’s reporting, those radical jihadi Syrian fighters threatened to massacre the Kurds if they didn’t convert to ISIS and al-Qaeda’s radical brand of Islam.

Did Trump know about the jihadis at the front of the invading Turkish force for whom he opened the door? Did he know about the ethnic cleansing? A leaked internal memo from William V. Roebuck, an American diplomat in northeast Syria, to the State Department was tellingly titled, “Present at the Catastrophe: Standing By as Turks Cleanse Kurds in Northern Syria.” He knew. Cockburn, in his book, War in the Age of Trump, reports that, based on Roebuck’s access to US intelligence about Turkish plans, he told Washington that “Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria, spearheaded by armed Islamist groups on its payroll, represents an. . .effort at ethnic cleansing.” Roebuck’s memo also makes clear that the US knew that the Syrian National Army fighters were former ISIS and al-Qaeda fighters.

The UN reports that, as the tidal wave of Kurdish refugees fled, they were targeted by Turkish air strikes and artillery fire.

Over a five year period of the Syrian war, 11,000 Syrian Kurds were killed fighting ISIS as allies of the US. Kurdish officials insist that the US “promised they would not withdraw U.S. forces until a political settlement was in place to secure their future in the Syrian political system.” But the Kurds are very well aware that history has cast them in the role of the betrayed. They were well aware that the US was entirely capable of betraying them as they had betrayed them before. Well acquainted with their American ally, the Kurds had even opened back channels to Syria and Russia as an insurance policy against US betrayal. But as cognizant as the Kurds were that the US could betray them, Cockburn says that they were taken unaware “by the speed and ruthlessness with which Donald Trump greenlit the Turkish attack.” They knew that their utility to the American’s had an expiration date, but, “[e]ven so, they did not expect to be discarded quite so totally and abruptly.” Their 11,000 dead were brutally repaid by betrayal and abandonment to ethnic cleansing.

The Palestinians and a Separate Peace

Donald Trump’s “HUGE breakthrough,” normalizing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirate (UAE), is being inflated by some into a historic piece of diplomacy to be hung on the wall beside Carter’s negotiations with Sadat and Begin. Like that agreement, it is being sold as an historic peace agreement, and a peace agreement that brings great benefit to the Palestinians in its wake.

But a slower look at the sleight of hand exposes no benefit to the unconsulted Palestinians. And, unlike the reluctant Begin, who, according to Moshe Dyan, withered under the “fury” in Carter’s eyes and under his “dagger-sharp” glance, Netanyahu had forced upon him only what he has always sought.

The normalization agreement brings nothing new to the Middle East. Normalization of relations with the UAE was already the plan, and the annexation of the West Bank was already in the state the agreement celebrates that it places it in.

As early as February of 2017, the newly inaugurated Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were already preparing the world for this plan. At a February 15, 2017 press conference following his meeting with Netanyahu, Trump said that his “administration is committed to working with Israel and our common allies in the region towards greater security and stability.” Netanyahu called the common allies “our newfound Arab partners.” Notice they were already partners. One of those partners is the UAE.

But the plan is older than that. In a September 2014 speech at the UN, Netanyahu had already said that “After decades of seeing Israel as their enemy, leading states in the Arab world increasingly recognize that together we and they face many of the same dangers: principally this means a nuclear-armed Iran and militant Islamist movements gaining ground in the Sunni world. Our challenge is to transform these common interests to create a productive partnership.” Done!

Netanyahu calls this plan “outside in.” It is his adaptation of Israel’s supreme foreign policy guideline, the periphery doctrine. In Netanyahu’s outside in version of the periphery doctrine, you first pacify the outside and bring it in line: that means allying with the Sunni Arab states outside of Israel. Then, with the Sunni states on your side, you turn inside to Palestine and impose a plan on them. Severed from its Arab allies, and now too weak to mount an opposition, the isolated Palestinians would be helpless and could offer no resistance.

Outside in is what Trump, Kushner, Netanyahu and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed just handed the world. It is not a new normalization of relations: it is Netanyahu’s six year old plan. Nobody got anything new.

It’s not a new plan. And it’s not a peace plan. The UAE has never been in a war with Israel. According to Middle East expert and journalist Patrick Cockburn, “The UAE had long ago established security and commercial links with Israel.” According to Rashid Khalidi, professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University, the UAE’s air defense system and missile defense system are manufactured in Israel. They are made by Raytheon, which is an American company, though they are largely made in Israel. In July, two Israeli defense companies signed agreements with an UAE tech firm that works in artificial intelligence. And, even before full normalization of relations, senior Israeli officials had visited the UAE for a number of years. Reporting by UPI in January of 2012 had already revealed that the UAE had “discreet ties with private security companies in Israel to protect its oil fields and borders.” They report that ties between the UAE’s Critical National Infrastructure Authority and several Israeli companies may go back to as early as 2007.

Four years ago, Trump promised the Palestinians the deal of the century. What they got was nothing. What Israel got was a capital in Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. What Palestine gets this time, according to the UAE, is an Israeli promise to “stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories,” that is an end to the Trump/Netanyahu plan to annex 30% of the West Bank.

Part there are four problems with that promise. The first is that Israel already occupies and controls the West Bank. Annexation would merely formalize what is already true for Palestinians.

The second is that annexation of any part of the West Bank is illegal under international law, meaning that, at best, the deal grants what is already given.

The third is that the annexation permitted Israel by Trump’s Middle East peace plan has already been placed in suspended animation. So grievous a violation of international law would the annexation be that several officials and bodies have taken the unusual step of confronting Israel. UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, called the planned annexation a violation of international law and warned that “the UK will not recognize any changes to the 1967 lines.” The EU rejected the annexation plan and went so far as to warn that “it could put the relationship between the EU and Israel in jeopardy.” The foreign ministers of France and Germany also independently warned of consequences to bilateral relations with Israel. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, declared that “Annexation is illegal. Period.” And UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said that “annexation would constitute a most serious violation of international law.” So, again, the deal makers gives what was already forced upon them.

Finally, the UAE decision to step out of the Arab consensus, enshrined in the Saudi peace initiative and make a separate peace with Israel without negotiating a peace for Palestine allows the Israeli occupation to go on with UAE approval. Trump’s signature on the deal means the US is walking away from the historical approach that a peace plan is not permissible without an Israeli/Palestinian peace plan. And this aspect of the normalization agreement represents a complete abandonment and betrayal of the Palestinian people.

But the most important problem with the Israeli promise to “stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories” is that Israel made no such promise. Although Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed said “An agreement was reached to stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories,” that is a misrepresentation. The text of the agreement says, not “stop,” but “suspend.” So, while Mohammed bin Zayed was boasting to his people that he had stopped the annexation of the West Bank, Benjamin Netanyahu was telling his people that “There is no change to my plan to extend sovereignty, our sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, in full coordination with the United States.” And, to punctuate his point, he added the exclamation mark that he would “never give up our rights to our land”. During a televised address, Netanyahu declared that he is still “committed to” annexation and insisted that annexation of 30% of the West Bank, as set out in Trump’s peace plan, is “still on the table.”

And it is still on the table. A senior political source told Haaretz that “annexation is still on the agenda, and that Israel is committed to it. ‘The Trump administration asked that we temporarily postpone declaring [sovereignty over parts of the West Bank] in order to achieve the beginning of this historic peace agreement with the Emirates.’” According to Israel, Trump asked, not for a stop to annexation, but a temporary postponement.

Jared Kushner, who was part of the negotiating team, said ambiguously that Trump does not plan on giving Israel the green light to annex 30% of the West Bank “for some time.” But any time is some time.

So how long is “some time?” When Trump was asked by a reporter whether Netanyahu was correct that the deal asks only for a temporary suspension, he answered only that “right now it’s of the table.” He added that “I can’t talk about some time into the future; that’s a big statement” before nervously turning to his Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and asking if he said the right thing. Friedman set the record straight: “The word ‘suspend’ was chosen carefully by all the parties. ‘Suspend,’ by definition – look it up – means ‘temporary halt.’ It’s off the table now, but it’s not off the table permanently.”

So, the Palestinians got nothing: except betrayal. In exchange for keeping its promise to limit its civilian nuclear program, Iran got more sanctions and maximum pressure. In return for sacrificing 11,000 soldiers in alliance with America, the Kurds got abandoned to ethnic cleansing. Instead of a peace plan that was promised to be the deal of the century, the Palestinians got UAE approval for the Israeli occupation and American approval for Israel to normalize relations with its Arab neighbors without having to address the Palestinian plight.

And that is the Donald Trump art of betrayal.

 

Small but growing Russian support for QAnon conspiracies seen online

August 24, 2020

by Joseph Menn

Reuters

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Russian government-supported organizations are playing a small but increasing role amplifying conspiracy theories promoted by QAnon, raising concerns of interference in the November U.S. election.

Academics who study QAnon said there were no signs Russia had a hand in the early days of the movement, which launched in 2017 with anonymous web postings amplified by YouTube videos.

But as QAnon gained adherents and took on new topics, with President Donald Trump as the constant hero waging a misunderstood battle, social media accounts controlled by a key Kremlin ally joined in.

In 2019 the Internet Research Agency, a Russian “troll factory” indicted by Robert Mueller in his election interference prosecution, sent a high volume of tweets tagged with #QAnon and the movement slogan #WWG1WGA, short for Where We Go One, We Go All, said Melanie Smith, head of analysis at social media analysis firm Graphika. The company dissects propaganda campaigns and plans to publish an analysis of QAnon this week.

More recently, Russian government-backed media RT.com and Sputnik have stepped up coverage of QAnon, which began with a false proclamation Hillary Clinton would be arrested for an undetermined reason and now includes theories about child trafficking by Hollywood elites, the novel coronavirus and more.

Disinformation expert Cindy Otis, a former CIA analyst, said RT, Sputnik and other Kremlin-backed media have been writing more about QAnon, using it to fit into their broader narrative of: “The U.S. is falling apart, look how much division there is.”

After Twitter banned thousands of QAnon accounts last month, RT.com predicted the move would backfire by directing more attention to the cause, adding that “it gave QAnon followers the validation they craved.”

Last week, it ran a similar article after Facebook removed about a third of QAnon groups and restricted the other two thirds.

RT’s story began: “Facebook has removed thousands of groups and pages related to the QAnon conspiracy after expanding its concept of ‘dangerous individuals’ to include those who merely ‘celebrate violent acts.’ Streisand effect, meet slippery slope.” The Streisand effect refers to when singer Barbra Streisand sued to get photos of her Malibu home removed from the internet, only to win them more viewers.

The articles have fallen short of full-throated support, and others have been critical. But they cast QAnon as channeling legitimate outrage.

QAnon followers have taken note and begun to share more content from the Russian outlets, according to Graphika.

“Russia is increasingly interested in QAnon, and it’s being reciprocated,” said Graphika Chief Innovation Officer Camille Francois.

Russia is actively interfering with the campaign season in other ways, the government’s top counter-intelligence official said recently, including by disseminating false stories about Joe Biden in Ukraine. Democrats are pressing for the public release of more instances.

Researchers at Graphika, Stanford University and elsewhere stressed that QAnon for now remains a largely domestic phenomenon. Facebook took down two QAnon networks for coordinated artificial behavior, before its new content restrictions, and neither had Russian connections.

But tracking QAnon has become increasingly tough, Graphika’s Smith said. “It’s very difficult to understand what a QAnon account is, versus a Trump supporter’s account versus an anti-vaxxer,”

Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Chris Sanders and Diane Craft

 

QAnon analysis from Wikipedia

QAnon is a far-right conspiracy theory alleging a secret plot by a supposed “deep state” against President Donald Trump and his supporters. No part of the theory has been shown to be based in fact. The theory began with an October 2017 post on the anonymous imageboard 4chan by “Q”, who was presumably an American individual, but probably became a group of people. Q claimed to have access to classified information involving the Trump administration and its opponents in the United States. NBC News found that three people took the original Q post and expanded it across multiple media platforms to build internet followings for profit.

 

What is QAnon?

by Shayan Sardarizadeh and Jack Goodman,

BBC anti-disinformation team

 

QAnon is a wide-ranging, unfounded conspiracy theory that President Trump is having to fight against a clandestine “deep state” network of political, business, media and entertainment elites, often involving satanic plots and child trafficking.

QAnon began in October 2017 on the anonymous message board 4chan. A user claimed to have top-security clearance within the US government and signed off their posts anonymously as “Q” – hence the name QAnon. Q communicates in cryptic posts and claims to be involved directly in a secret Trump-led investigation of a global network of child abusers.

QAnon followed on from the “pizzagate” saga in 2016 – a fake theory about Democratic Party politicians running a paedophile ring out of a Washington pizza restaurant.

QAnon influencers have big audiences on social media. They urge followers to “do their own research” – in other words, watch YouTube videos and talk to other supporters – to solve Q’s puzzles.         In its nearly three years of existence, the conspiracy has drawn huge traffic on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Reddit, attracting hundreds of thousands of dedicated followers.

This includes celebrities and dozens of candidates running for Congress this year.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Q influencers have spread unfounded theories about coronavirus, calling it a “deep state” hoax and have promoted misinformation about face masks and vaccines.

Comment: And there are many who believe the earth is flat, that Jesus will be coming very soon, that the world was created in six days, that Big Foot was seen in a Seattle park eating a cat, that Donald Trump is sane, that the Loch Ness monster was seen in a Hollywood swimming pool, that there is a huge city under the Antarctic ice cap, that Planet X will be landing outside Chicago next month, that carrot juice will cure cancer.

 

How Donald Trump canceled the Republican party

The convention will be a ghastly reminder of what happened to the party of Lincoln – even as it desperately grabs for his mantle

August 23, 2020

by Sidney Blumenthal

The Guardian

The Republican convention that nominates Donald Trump for a second term will be the greatest event in the political history of cancel culture. What Trump is cancelling is nothing less than the Republican party as it has existed before him. He ran in 2016 in the primaries on cancelling the GOP and in 2020 he ratifies his triumph. After the election, political scientists and historians will study his obliteration of the Republican party as his greatest and most enduring political achievement.

The Republican party has been on a long journey away from being the party of Abraham Lincoln, accelerating since Barry Goldwater and rightwing cadres captured it in 1964 in reaction to the civil rights movement. After Richard Nixon embraced the southern strategy and won the nomination in 1968 with the help of Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, the Dixiecrat segregationist presidential candidate in 1948, the party increasingly radicalized in every election cycle and became gradually unmoored. In 1980, Ronald Reagan opened his general election campaign at the Neshoba County Fair, the place where three civil rights workers had been murdered in 1964. Surrounded by Confederate flags, he hailed “states’ rights”. As brazen an appeal as it was, Reagan felt he had to resort to the old code words.

Central to Trump’s unique selling proposition is that he dispenses with the dog whistles. His vulgarity gives a vicarious thrill to those who revel in his taunting of perceived enemies or scapegoats. He made them feel dominant at no social price, until his catastrophic mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis. Flouting a mask is the magical act of defiance to signal that nothing has really changed and that in any case, Trump bears no responsibility.

But there has also been a political cost to Trump’s louche comic lounge act that still transfixes a diehard audience lingering like late-night gamblers for the last show. Trump is the only president since the advent of modern polling never to reach 50% approval. Despite decisively losing the popular vote in 2016, he said he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally”. This time, fearing an even more overwhelming popular rejection, he says the outcome will be “rigged” and he has pre-emptively tried to cancel the US Postal Service, to undermine voting by mail.

From Reagan onward, even as the fringe moved to the center and took it over, the party did not anticipate that it was slouching toward Trump. Conservatives have consistently failed to grasp the unintended consequences of conservatism. Even when Reagan fostered the evangelical right, George HW Bush appointed Clarence Thomas to the supreme court, George W Bush invaded Iraq and neglected oversight of financial markets that collapsed, and John McCain named Sarah Palin as his running mate, Republicans believed they were expanding the attraction of the conservative project. When Newt Gingrich, Roger Ailes and Rush Limbaugh methodically degraded language, it seemed a propaganda technique to herd supporters. When the dark money of the Koch family and the wealthy reactionaries of the cloaked Donors Trust bankrolled the lumpen dress-up Tea Party to do their bidding on deregulation of finance and industry, the munificently funded conservative candidates did their bidding as retainers of privilege.

At the presidential level there still remained residual elements contrary to what metastasized into Trumpism. Reagan represented free trade and western firmness against Russia. George HW Bush was a paragon of public service. George W Bush was an advocate for immigrants. John McCain was the embodiment of patriotic sacrifice.

After Trump, all that has been cancelled. Since he first rode down the escalator at Trump Tower in 2015, to declare his candidacy against Mexican “rapists”, there has always been a new escalator downward. After overcoming his initial hesitation, the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, welcomed the election of a QAnon conspiracy-spouting candidate from Georgia, Marjorie Taylor Greene. Then McCarthy condemned QAnon and stated that Greene wasn’t part of a movement she continued to defend.

Trump hailed her as a “future Republican star”. For months, he has been tweeting messages to encourage the racist, antisemitic cult. “There’s a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out, and I think we have the president to do it,” Greene proclaimed. “I’ve heard these are people that love our country,” Trump said. In the wasteland, only cockroaches and Mitch McConnell may survive.

Stuart Stevens, a prominent Republican political consultant, eyes startled wide open, has entitled his exposé of the party It Was All A Lie. He describes the conservative Trump apologists, the adults in the room, as latter-day versions of Franz von Papen, the German chancellor who enabled the rise of Hitler in the complacent belief that he could be controlled and the conservatives would maintain power.

On 4 July, at the mammoth stage set of Mount Rushmore, Trump mugged for his photo op by posing his face next in line to the carving of Abraham Lincoln. He had earlier told the South Dakota governor, Kristi Noem, “‘Did you know it’s my dream to have my face on Mount Rushmore?’” “And I started laughing,” she recounted. “And he wasn’t laughing, so he was totally serious.” (Trump tweeted that it was “fake news” that he had ordered an aide to inquire about immortalizing his face on the mountain.)

Ostensibly, Trump came to deliver his ideological message. He denounced “cancel culture”, which he said was “the very definition of totalitarianism, and it is completely alien to our culture and to our values, and it has absolutely no place in the United States of America”. He attributed it to “a new far-left fascism”. And he spelled out its punitive nature: “If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras and follow its commandments, then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted and punished.” Thus, he offered a concise description of his own cancel culture’s methods.

Trump’s cancel culture deals in aggressions, not micro-aggressions. The only safe space is where Trump is worshipped. Before, during and after the death of McCain, Trump unleashed tirades of insult. He finally complained that the McCain family never thanked him for approving the senator’s funeral arrangements, even though it was Congress that gave approval. For years, Trump has disparaged the Bush family. At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, when George W Bush called for setting aside partisanship and embracing national unity, Trump tweeted, “but where was he during Impeachment calling for putting partisanship aside”.

Trump has invoked Reagan only as a stepping stone of his own monumental pedestal. At a rally in 2019, Trump mused: “I was watching the other night the great Lou Dobbs [of Fox News], and he said, ‘When Trump took over, President Trump,’ he used to say, ‘Trump is a great president.’ Then he said, ‘Trump is the greatest president since Ronald Reagan.’ Then he said, ‘No, no, Trump is an even better president than Ronald Reagan.’ And now he’s got me down as the greatest president in the history of our country, including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Thank you. We love you too.”

When Trump sought to profit for his 2020 campaign by selling a gold-colored Trump-Reagan commemorative coin set, the Reagan Foundation sent him a curt letter, telling him to cease and desist. Trump has constantly retailed a false story about Reagan supposedly remarking after meeting him, “For the life of me, and I’ll never know how to explain it, when I met that young man, I felt like I was the one shaking hands with the president.” The chief administrative officer of the Reagan Foundation felt compelled to note that Reagan “did not ever say that about Donald Trump”.

Trump’s petty, vindictive and exploitative abuse of the Bush presidents, McCain and Reagan pales in comparison to his raging obsessions about Lincoln. He has boasted his poll numbers are better than Lincoln’s ever were (true), claimed he is more a victim than the assassinated martyr (untrue), and declared he has done more for Black Americans than Lincoln (untrue).

Trump, the would-be Great Emancipator and upholder of Confederate monuments, has lately ruminated about giving an address at Gettysburg. There are many such monuments there to the thousands of poor white southerners who gave their lives for the Slave Power and to overthrow the democracy of the United States. Perhaps, contemplating his last campaign, Trump could trudge across the rutted field of Pickett’s Charge. He might ask what his bikers and self-styled militia would be willing to do for him. What Lincoln consecrated, Trump would desecrate. But he would undoubtedly speak longer.

Trump’s compulsive need to elevate himself as greater than the greatest president does not stand alone among strange statements about Lincoln from members of his inner circle. Some fancy that they too resemble Lincoln, alongside Trump. Some insist they are bravely fighting the civil war, on behalf of Trump. Some depict Trump as the reincarnation of Lincoln, to justify his dishonesty. Some summon Lincoln to claim God is on their side. The disconnect of these incoherent and eccentric gestures from any reality past or present is a telltale sign of terminal party identity. Each weird distortion marks the progress of Trump’s cancel culture, the eclipse of history bred by one-man misrule that is a half-cocked aspiration to an authoritarian system that might be codified by the likes of William Barr.

Stephen Bannon, Trump’s now-indicted former campaign manager and senior adviser, appeared in a 2019 documentary about his post-White House crusade to organize an international neo-fascist alliance. The film opens with Bannon cradling a volume of Carl Sandburg’s biography of Lincoln. Bannon says portentously that it’s 1862. Then he reads Lincoln’s words: “They wish to get rid of me and I am sometimes half-disposed to gratify them. We are now on the brink of destruction. It appears to me the Almighty is against us and I can hardly see a ray of hope.” Lincoln’s “fiery trial” to preserve the union is reduced to Bannon’s dark apocalyptic mutterings against the forces conspiring against him and Trump: the “Deep State”, rootless cosmopolitans, globalists and liberal elites. We’re a long way from, as Lincoln said, “the last best hope of earth”.

Ivanka Trump has turned to Lincoln for the occasional non-sequitur defense of her father. Her vacant voice and immobile expression augment the surprise effect of her inapt citations. After Attorney General Barr issued a deceptive characterization of the Mueller Report to mislead the public about its actual content, Ivanka rushed to support Barr’s falsehood. She tweeted a quote: “Truth is generally the best vindication against slander – Abraham Lincoln.” The difference between Barr and Lincoln was that Barr covered up the truth.

During the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s withholding of nearly $400m in military aid to Ukraine, to coerce its government to launch an investigation that would smear Joe Biden with fabricated accusations of corruption, Ivanka leaped to protect her father. She claimed the incontrovertible facts were nothing but a partisan attack contrived to malign him, originating from a whistleblower within the intelligence community who was “not particularly relevant”.

“Basically since the election,” she said, “this has been the experience that our administration and our family has been having. Rather than wait, under a year, until the people can decide for themselves based on his record and based on his accomplishments, this new effort has commenced.” Once again, she reached for Lincoln as her father’s model. “This has been the experience of most,” she observed with the sagacious tone of a student of history. “Abraham Lincoln was famously, even within his own cabinet, surrounded by people who were former political adversaries.” Ivanka’s smug confusion was complete. She had mistaken the whistleblower whose memo triggered the impeachment process with Lincoln’s “team of rivals”.

On 23 January, Betsy DeVos, Trump’s secretary of education, a billionaire heiress and funder of rightwing causes, spoke at the Museum of the Bible in Washington to a group from the Colorado Christian University, to claim Lincoln as the imaginary leader for the anti-abortion movement.

“He too contended with the ‘pro-choice’ arguments of his day,” she said. “They suggested that a state’s ‘choice’ to be slave or to be free had no moral question in it.” According to DeVos, women asserting their reproductive rights are engaged in a “vast moral evil”, equivalent to slavery.

“Lincoln was right about slavery ‘choice’ then, and he would be right about the life ‘choice’ today,” she said. “Freedom is not about doing what we want. Freedom is about having the right to do what we ought.”

DeVos’s mangling of Lincoln, who was an early advocate of women’s rights and suffrage but never said a word about abortion, is intended to legitimate the anti-abortion agenda of granting personhood rights to fetuses, which she and other zealots equate to enslaved African Americans. Her definition of freedom as “what we ought”, that is, what she determines, is more Orwellian than Lincolnian. Historically, claiming that law should be rooted in theological dogma is in the tradition of the southern theologians Lincoln condemned, who justified slavery by biblical references and divine sanction.

Mike Pence, Trump’s vice-president, a former rightwing radio host, travelled in January to Ripon, Wisconsin, site of the founding of the Republican party in 1854, garrulously to praise Trump as the true heir to Lincoln in “the advancement of our highest ideals”. Once again, Pence explained, we are at a “crossroads of freedom”. Trump, the Lincoln manqué, is all that stands between America and the threat of Joe Biden and “socialism and decline”. Months before the murder of George Floyd and the wave of Black Lives Matter demonstrations that swept across the country, Pence charged, “Joe Biden believes America is, in his words, systemically racist. And despite historically low crime rates prior to this pandemic, Joe Biden believes that law enforcement in America has a, quote, ‘implicit bias’ against minorities.” In conclusion, the evangelical Pence declared, “The Bible says, ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’, and “with President Donald Trump in the White House for four more years, we’ll make America great again, again.”

In the long-ago days when there was only one “again”, during the 2016 campaign, Pence defended Trump’s shout-out to Vladimir Putin to hack and release Clinton campaign emails: “Russia if you’re listening …”

“You know,” Pence explained, “Abraham Lincoln said, give the people the facts, and the republic will be saved. I mean, I think that’s the point that [Trump is] making. He’s not encouraging some foreign power to compromise the security of this country.” Bowdlerizing a dubiously sourced Lincoln quote, Pence portrayed Trump as the simple protector of facts and denied he was “encouraging” Russian intervention. Pence’s statement was a cover-up in real time. We now know from the Senate intelligence committee report that Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime political operative and dirty trickster, was directly in touch with Trump on the theft of the Clinton emails by Russian intelligence and their release by WikiLeaks. To quote Marx – Groucho – “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” If Trump has a faithful servant, it is Mike Pence.

Mike Pompeo, Trump’s secretary of state and yet another evangelical crusader, has raised Lincoln to justify his own brand of dogma. In a speech entitled “Being a Christian Leader”, to the American Association of Christian Counselors at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel at Nashville on 11 October, he explained how God directs him to be humble, forgiving and thrifty.

“I know some people in the media will break out the pitchforks when they hear that I ask God for direction in my work,” he said. “But you should know, as much as I’d like to claim originality, it is not a new idea. I love this quote from President Lincoln. He said … quote, ‘I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.’”

Unfortunately, in their Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln, the historians Don and Virginia Fehrenbacher rate the words Pompeo spoke with a grade D: in other words, bogus. Lincoln is in fact recorded to have referred to “knees” only three times, all involving jokes. The Fehrenbachers also give a D to another well-used “Lincoln” quotation: “You can fool all the people some of the time; you can fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all the people all the time.”

Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior adviser, originator of the Muslim ban and separating migrant children from their families, author of the cancel culture speech at Mount Rushmore, is impatient for the apocalypse. Observing the protests at Portland before the federal courthouse that were met with a show of armed force, Miller went on Tucker Carlson Tonight to explain why this was Fort Sumter.

“The Democratic party for a long time historically has been the party of secession,” he said. “What you’re seeing today is the Democratic party returning to its roots.”

In his compact and inverted analogy, the protest against police violence was a battle in a new civil war and the ragtag shifting bands of protesters including the “Wall of Moms” were the restoration of the pro-secession Southern Democratic party, which would of course transform Trump into Lincoln. The identity of the enemy may change – Muslims, Mexicans or Moms – but Miller is prepared to draw the sword for whatever clash of civilization may come. He’s just not prepared for a virus.

During his 2016 campaign, Trump plagiarized not only Reagan’s slogan, “Make America Great Again”, but also Nixon’s appeal to “the silent majority”. He also boasted: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” Trump’s attorney, asked about “the Fifth Avenue example” by the judge presiding in the case of the Manhattan district attorney seeking Trump’s tax returns, argued that Trump would have legal immunity if he killed somebody.

Since March, more than 170,000 Americans – the New York Times estimates more than 200,000 – have died of coronavirus. On 20 June, Trump kicked off his campaign with a rally at Tulsa. Campaign workers tore stickers off the seats that encouraged social distancing. In the sparse but closely packed crowd sat Herman Cain, proudly grinning, not wearing a mask. For a brief moment in 2012 the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and fast-talking Tea Party advocate had been the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. Disillusioned after he quit the race when accused of sexual harassment, he called for a third party. Then came Trump.

For 2020, the man who said his Secret Service code name as president would be “Cornbread” became chairman of Black Voices For Trump. A month later, he was dead of coronavirus. Cain would miss his speaking slot at the Republican convention. He had joined what the ancient Greeks called “the silent majority”. Yet 20 days after Cain’s death, on 19 August, his Twitter account posted Trump’s latest ad: “Boy, it sure looks like Joe Biden is losing his mental faculties.” In death, nobody, not even Mike Pence, could claim greater devotion to the party of Trump.

 

The Family: The Octopus of God

by Thomas Kimmel

In an age when dissatisfaction with systems of governance is becoming a daily norm, the public has become more and more interested in conspiracy theories that purport to expose various misdeeds of governance and its various organs and purported accomplices.

We have seen an enormous body of revisionist literature arise, dealing with the assassination of President Kennedy, and as that topic slid down and away from public interest, another issue rose to prominence speculation and fictive writing. This was the September 11, 2001 attack by Saudi terrorists on various targets in the United State.

Invented stories about “robot aircraft,” “’Nano thermite’ controlled explosions,” and other theories, many verging on the lunatic, sprang up and proliferated. While most of these entertainments were the product of inventive minds and eagerly accepted by a public that felt betrayed by their government and the upper levels of the national economic structure, a number of stories were very obviously clever insertions of deliberate disinformation from the very same power elite.

One of the recurring themes of the conspiracy claques is that of the existence of a secret society, or organization, that is somehow able to exert powerful but behind-the-scenes control over all aspects of governance. One of the favorites has been the Illuminati. This was originally a German association, formed in 1776 by one Adam Weishaupt, a Freemason and law professor at the University of Ingolstadt in Bavaria.

The original Illuminati, then called the Order of Perfectibilists, and later became a secret society dedicated to the overthrow of both established governments and religions, specifically the Catholics. Eventually, Weishaubt made enough noise that the Bavarian Elector, Karl Theodor, outlawed them and forced Weishaupt to move to Gotha where he finished his life by writing books and abstaining from anti-establishment activities.

Weishaupt’s disbanded organization has become the inspiration for several generations of conspiracy inventors and because Weishaupt spoke of a single world government, ruled by men of honor and intellect (obviously impossible in any age), the conspiracy people have talked about a New World Order which might be satisfying and even desired but would be impossible of execution. To this mythic entity is ascribed all manner of manipulations and plottings

In addition to the Illuminati, fiction theorists have also targeted the Rothschild banking house and the Bilderburger banker’s association as being the controlling forces behind all the governments of the world. In the United States, one can add the Council on Foreign Relations, the fraternal Skull and Bones society, the Federal Reserve and a legion of quite harmless associations to the conspiracy mix.

In the background, however, only dimly seen and then only by established intelligence and counter-intelligence agencies, exists a very genuine, and very dangerous, secret organization that wields far more actual power than any of the imaginary creations of the Internet..

This is a power group, posing as a religious organization, and who, with its various associated sub-groups, pose a critical threat to the American democratic system., It is a Washington-based organization known as both ‘The Fellowship’, and ‘The Family’. This group, and its allies, the Dominionists and the Neo-Templars, basically control the American Congress, the Department of State, and have “very important” connections at the top levels of the Central Intelligence Agency.and the American military. The Family’s goal, according to one secret internal document, is to create a “hidden structure” of “national and international world leaders bound together relationally by a mutual love for God and the family.” The first hallmark of this theocratic clandestine organisation is their unquestioning reliance on the Bible in all matters, to the complete exclusion of any other authority, secular or otherwise  The second is their insistence on a faith in Christ as one’s personal Lord and Savior, again, to the exclusion of any other entity.

The Fellowship’s known participants include ranking United States government officials, both elected and appointed, corporate executives, heads of religious and humanitarian aid organizations,  ambassadors and high ranking politicians from across the world. Many United States Senators and Congressmen have publicly acknowledged working with the Fellowship or are documented as having done so and work together to pass or influence legislation.

This organization fetishizes power by comparing Jesus to “Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Bin Laden” as examples of leaders who change the world through the strength of the covenants they had forged with their “brothers.”The agenda of the Fellowship becomes much clearer when it is realized that Fellowship leader Douglas Coe preaches a personal commitment to Jesus Christ very and specifically comparable to the blind devotion that Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Chairman Mao, and Pol Pot demanded from their followers. In one videotaped lecture series in 1989, Coe said:

“Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler were three men. Think of the immense power these three men had…But they bound themselves together in an agreement…Two years before they moved into Poland, these three men had…systematically a plan drawn out…to annihilate the entire Polish population and destroy by numbers every single house…every single building in Warsaw and then to start on the rest of Poland.” Coe added that it worked; they killed six and a half million “Polish people.”

Though he calls Nazis “these enemies of ours,” he compares their commitment to Jesus’ demands: “Jesus said, ‘You have to put me before other people. And you have to put me before yourself.’ Hitler, that was the demand to be in the Nazi party. You have to put the Nazi party and its objectives ahead of your own life and ahead of other people.”

Coe also compared Jesus’s teachings to the Red Guard during the Chinese Cultural Revolution

.         Fellowship members are taught the leadership lessons of Hitler, Lenin and Mao and that their genocide allegations  wasn’t an issue for them, it was the strength that they emulated that was of vitasl importance.

The Fellowship is associated with an organization called ‘C Street’, which has drawn national attention for its connections to the extra-marital affairs of Senator John Ensign and Governor Mark Sanford.

Prominent evangelical Christians have described the organization as one of the most, or the most, politically well-connected ministries in the world.

American lawmakers have mentioned The Fellowship more than any other organization when asked to name a ministry with the most influence on their faith.

In 1977, four years after he had converted to Christianity, Fellowship member and convicted Watergate conspirator Charles Colson described the group as a “veritable underground of Christ’s men all through the U.S. government.”

 

 

Encyclopedia of American Loons

          Louie Verrecchio

Louie Verrecchio is a fundie Catholic author, columnist and speaker, as well as president and founder of Salve Regina Publications, Inc. He is apparently particularly notable for his Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II series of conciliar document study materials that explore the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, but has apparently become gradually more fundamentalist since writing it – he currently claims that Pope Francis has “judged himself a formal heretic” and, as a consequence, has surrendered the Petrine office and become an antipope. In particular, Verrecchio is concerned with questions related to marriage, condemning divorce and – but of course – gay marriage.

And Verrecchio is not content with dry, academic-theological musings and concerns. In a column for the anti-gay conspiracy site RenewAmerica, for instance, he expressed his dismay that NBC Sports hired openly gay figure skater Johnny Weir to provide commentary for the 2014 Winter Olympics, warning parents not to let their children watch figure skating alone. Weir is, according to Verrecchio, “a flamboyant, cross-dressing [entirely unlike this dress-clad fellow], homosexual man who thinks he has a ‘husband’ ” and a model for “the moral decline of society.” Continued Verrecchio: “So, unless you want your children exposed to the likes of Johnny Weir, an icon of the popular culture’s Hell bent determination to undermine the objective truth about marriage and family. If you allow it at all, don’t let your children to watch the Olympics without supervision.” Because just watching a gay person talk on television might contaminate you. Meanwhile, LGBT rights supporters are “nothing more than Satan’s little soldiers.”

          Diagnosis: Deranged fundie idiot bigot. He used to be a somewhat significant figure among traditionalist Catholics, and it would be interesting to know his current standing in that group (among bigoted fundie wingnuts in general he is pretty undistinguishable, at least).

Jeff Godwin

Many fundies have warned us about the dangers of pop music. It’s really a calling card for the lunatic fringe of maniacal fundamentalist. And, as Johnny Marr puts it, Jeff Godwin belongs to “the lunatic fringe of the anti-rock movement” – indeed, Godwin doesn’t hesitate to call out his fellow anti-rock activists as closet rock fans and devil worshippers and has for decades been Jack Chick’s go-to-guy for information about rock music and popular culture – Chick published Godwin’s first three books Devil’s Disciples: The Truth About Rock Music, Dancing With Demons: The Music’s Real Master, What’s Wrong With Christian Rock? One thing that distinguishes these and his other books from those of other anti-rock writers like Jacob Aranza, is style. Godwin’s books are poorly written, unstructered and argumentatively incoherent hate screeds characterized by fuming rage and lunatic ravings, whereas Aranza could fool you for four or five seconds before you appreciate the howling insanity expressed by his otherwise grammatically well-formed sentences.

According to Godwin, rock and roll music (yeah, we know) traces its origins back thousands of years. Its rhythms were written by Satan and his demons and have, accordingly, a subliminal power to control a listener’s mind. Those rhythms eventually found their way, via Africa, into blues, jazz and other forms of African American music and the rest of us received this Satanic curse through African American voodoo culture. Indeed, one of Godwin’s main ideas is the “voodoo beat theory”: The rock beat has the same time signature as the human heart (no, he hasn’t listened to much rock music), and hence clearly hypnotizes and brainwashes listeners into accepting a message so evil that it could only be Satan’s.

It’s not only the rhythms, though; rock music is loaded with references to sexual behavior of all kinds, and therefore encourages fornication amongst youths and inspires lust and rage, as well as preaching “rebellion, hatred, drug abuse,” it encourages “mind decaying, death-dealing drugs”, in slang terms only understood by teens, “suicide, fornication and the dark things of Satan”. Of course, it is not only promiscuous sex that is being promoted, but abnormal sex, as epitomized by that nexus of darkness David Bowie, the “limp wristed king of the abnormal world of Homo Rock”. All screamed rock vocals are in fact inspired by the sound of the “homosexual penetration of the male”, and whip crack drum beats are just a gateway to filthy and unhibited homosexual S&M. The hypothesis tells you not so much about rock, but might tell you things you might not want to know about William Godwin.

Of course, the actual messages have been backmasked (oh, yes), even though Satan’s presence has never required hiding. “I believe that even now Satan and his demons are blaspheming and insulting God and the Lamb with their horrible rock record covers and backmasked broadcasts from Hell,” says Godwin. As opposed to some backmask lunatics, Godwin doesn’t think Satan has snuck into the messages without their knowledge, however; rock musicians, producers and promoters are outright Satanists who maintain secret but deliberate alliances with Satan and his demons (“the Lord has also revealed to some Christians that incarnate demons from the netherworld actually are members of some of the most popular bands …”). How do they do the backmasking? Simple: Rock stars summon (literally) demons when they’re in studio to ensure hit records; the backmasked messages are merely the signatures of the supernatural presences. And once the demons have been brought into this world by the artists, playing a rock record is enough to call them up to possess the listener or anyone nearby. To say that “addiction to rock ‘n’ roll is a form of demonic possession,” is to make an understatement. And we’re not only talking about rock here: all of popular music is Satanic, since “NO ONE makes it big in secular music without selling out to Satan.” “We Are the World,” for instance, with its message of “Love is all we need” is wrong and demonic because “Jesus Christ is what this world needs!”

Finally, Christian rock is a diversion created by Satan. The Christian content preached in Christian rock is feel-good, inoffensive religious messages and does accordingly not genuinely preach Christ, who according to Godwin is not this effeminate, mild and benevolent guy he’s sometimes portrayed as being; that mild and merciful guy is apparently a creation of Satan and good grief this guy is insane. A particularly sinister example is Stryper, as evidenced e.g. by their “To Hell With The Devil” album, which Godwin predictably (no, seriously: you must have seen this one coming) takes to mean “To Hell WITH the Devil”, which happens to be the fate of all Stryper fans, so there.

Accordingly Godwin recommends that parents should burn anything relating to rock in their homes immediately and double their daily prayer time. That’s the only way you can secure your home and your family from the gangs of roving rock-and-roll-summoned demons now during the final days of the Earth.

Diagnosis: Ah, yes. Another one of those who add a bit of color to life – probably harmless, but we should probably feel a bit of pity for him, at least until we realize that he really how unsavory of a character he really is.

John Gilmore

Anti-vaccine loons exhibit the love/hate relationship with science so typical of pseudoscientists – on the one hand, they have to vigorously deny or pretend not to see that science consistently produces results that don’t support their cherished fantasies; on the other, they will desperately try to use whatever flimsy and imaginary support they can in the scientific literature, wherever they can find it. And applying enough motivated reasoning, Texas sharpshooting, cherry-picking and misunderstanding, you will always seem to find some if you torture it enough.

John Gilmore is as fine an example of these dynamics as any. Gilmore is the Executive Director of the Autism Action Network, and a convinced vaccine denialist. He has testified against requiring health care workers to be vaccinated with the flu vaccine, and has made a number of appearances in anti-vaccine rallies and various new stories that need “balance”, always arguing the dingbat side. Moreover, Gilmore is the author of “2003 Danish Study on Mercury Fabricated? New Study Completely Different Results” (note the question mark. The background is described here, but the short story is this: Antivaccinationists really, really don’t like the so-called “Danish studies,” of which one unsurprisingly found no link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism, and another found no link between the MMR and autism. Of course, these two studies are mere drops in an ocean of studies finding no such link, but they have nonetheless become particular targets for these loons. You see, some years ago one of the co-investigators of the Danish studies, Poul Thorsen, was charged with fraud and misuse of federal grant money that he purportedly used for private expenses. That Thorsen was not the main author, that the fact that he misused grant money for personal expenses in no way invalidates or affects the results, or that the studies themselves are mere drops in the ocean of evidence, doesn’t matter much to the crazies, who made quite a bit of meaningless noise to divert attention from the real issues. Gilmore, however, appears to think that he hit gold with the publication of a new study, Grønborg et al. (2013). Like the previous studies, Grønborg et al. found no evidence of a link between autism and vaccines – in fact, it found very, very strong evidence for a significant genetic component in autism and no evidence for environmental factors. Gilmore disregarded that part of the study, the part that produced further evidence against the conclusion he wants to be true; Gilmore focused instead on the fact that Grønborg et al. operated with different figures than the “Danish studies”, which is unsurprising since they were studying completely different questions using completely different designs (details here), longer follwups, and took into account the expansion definition of “autism” that has occurred in the meantime, as they should. But to Gilmore, who apparently fails to grasp the basic facts about scientific methodology, the fact that they used a different study design is evidence that the “Danish Studies” were fraud. And if they were fraud, everything must apparently be a conspiracy, and Gilmore’s pseudoscientific denialism is vindicated. The usual story.

In 2005, Gilmore praised the work of David Kirby: “Thanks to David’s incredibly hard work the book has done phenomenally well. Two years ago this was the province of the loonie fringe. EOH has put us in the mainstream. Our main job is to destroy the credibility of the vaccine industry and that’s just what EOH has done.” Wonder whether he, ten years later, still believes that he’s not on the loonie fringe?

Diagnosis: Standard conspiracy theorist and B-level antivaxx mainstay. Oh, but he is not “antivaccine”; he is “pro safe vaccine”. Right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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