Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Last Call For Faster Than The Speed Of Lies

The alt-right did everything they could in order to tie Monday's devastating fire at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris to "Muslim terrorism" and they did it at record speed thanks to the power of social media.

As a conflagration spread through the ancient timbers of Notre Dame Cathedral’s attic on Monday, a parallel fire was spreading on social media. This one was willfully set, a series of conspiracy theories neatly slotted into preexisting cultural biases. And soon enough, willing believers were aflame with hate.

The conspiracy theorizing began almost as soon as the blaze did, right when people saw the shocking, transfixing video of the cathedral’s spire toppling. While French authorities began to assert almost immediately that the fire was apparently accidental, the brief gap between the startling images’ generation and their explication was enough for far-right figures to exploit with their own sinister insinuations. Their prevailing view was nearly identical and, apparently, completely false: that the fire was deliberate and most probably set by Muslims.

Conservative gadflies on social media were among the first to leap to dark conclusions about the blaze, even as it raged: Matt Walsh, a conservative blogger who identifies himself as a “theocratic fascist” in his Twitter bio, wrote, “I don’t understand how a fire of this magnitude could happen accidentally,” accumulating nearly 9,000 likes. Infowars, a conspiracy-oriented outlet helmed by Alex Jones, immediately publicized unverified rumors claiming the fire had been “deliberately started” and linking the blaze to “anti-Christian attacks.” Katie Hopkins, a racist British provocateur, was far more explicit, claiming that “Jewish and Christian Parisians” are being “hunted out of the city by Islamists, fleeing in their thousands,” and affixing the hashtag #NotreDame.

Many figures on the right took the opportunity to turn Notre Dame into a metonym for Western civilization as a whole, intimating that far more than a cathedral was in peril. Just as the fire hit social media, conspiracy theorist and brain-supplements salesman Mike Cernovich dramatically tweetedthat “The West has fallen.” Shortly thereafter, fast-talking far-right pundit Ben Shapiro called Notre Dame a “monument to Western civilization” and “Judeo-Christian heritage.” Given the already-raging rumors about potential Muslim involvement, these tweets evoked the specter of a war between Islam and the West that is already part of numerous far-right narratives; it was also a central thread in the manifesto of Brenton Tarrant, the alleged Christchurch, New Zealand, shooter. (On Tuesday, Shapiro called this article “simply gross” and said he called Notre Dame a monument to Western civilization “because it is,” not because of “malicious intent.“) Richard Spencer, professional racist and coiner of the term “alt-right,” openly advocated for such warfare, stating (and misspelling) his hopes that the fire would “spur the White man into action — to sieze power in his countries, in Europe, in the world,” and declaring such an insurgence a “glorious purpose.” And, as Buzzfeed’s Jane Lytvynenko reported, other, more oblique figures managed to go even further, from provocation in the abstract to more concrete incitement. A parody account masquerading as Fox News fabricated a tweet from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) that said, “They reap what they sow #NotreDame.”
Omar, under relentless attack by the right — including the president — became something of a totemic figure for those on social media already predisposed to see the fire as a Muslim conspiracy. Blogger David Futrelle, an expert on the worst of the Web, gathered dozens of tweets claiming that Omar was either celebrating the fire (variously “smiling inside,” “happy as a muslim terrorist,” “giddy and laughing”) or, somehow, had caused it. Multiple accounts questioned whether Omar was in Paris and whether her relatives had set the fire or asserted falsely that she was affiliated with a Muslim group that had set it.

It's pretty clear that any disaster like this is going to be repurposed in order to cause the violent right to cause bloodshed, either they inspire another Christchurch or Las Vegas shooter and terrorize the rest of us, or they constantly mark Muslims and their allies on the left for violence.  After a while, the numbing despair exacts a psychic as well and health toll.

They're winning this war.  They have a playbook ready to go for disasters of all shapes and sizes and it will be used again and again and again.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Just so we're all clear, the heavily redacted Barr version of the Mueller report will drop on Thursday, and Trumplandia is totally not packing at all because of course the report totally exonerates Trump and nobody is worried about being exposed as the source of any detrimental information about Trump who is completely innocent of wrongdoing and everything is great.

Some of the more than one dozen current and former White House officials who cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller are worried that the version of his report expected to be made public on Thursday will expose them as the source of damaging information about President Donald Trump, according to multiple witnesses in the investigation.

Some of the officials and their lawyers have sought clarity from the Justice Department on whether the names of those who cooperated with Mueller’s team will be redacted or if the public report will be written in a way that makes it obvious who shared certain details of Trump’s actions that were part of the obstruction of justice probe, people familiar with the discussions said. But, they said, the Justice Department has refused to elaborate.

Of particular concern is how Trump — and his allies — will react if it appears to be clear precisely who shared information with Mueller, these people said.

“They got asked questions and told the truth, and now they’re worried the wrath will follow,” one former White House official said.

Some of those who spoke with Mueller's team, such as former White House counsel Don McGahn, witnessed Trump’s actions up close and were privy to key moments in the obstruction investigation and spent many hours with investigators.

One person close to the White House said there is “breakdown-level anxiety” among some current and former staffers who cooperated with the investigation at the direction of Trump’s legal team at the time.

There is also concern that new facts in the report could be disclosed that do not reflect favorably on the president, two people familiar with the discussions said.

“You have a whole bunch of former White House officials and current White House officials, but especially former White House officials, who were told to cooperate,” the former White House official said. “So people went and did that, and now the uncertainty is just how much of that information is going to be in that report and how identifiable to individuals is it going to be. And nobody knows.”

Steve M has a theory on the panic mode.

I don't know how much of the Mueller report we'll actually get to read. I've been assuming that there'll be more redacted than unredacted words in the document released by Attorney General Bill Barr. But I think Barr will leave in just enough mildly negative information about the president and his circle to make it seem, to credulous observers, that he's done an honest job and hasn't engaged in a cover-up.

So if very little much damaging information is made public, the press will need to cover some other aspect of the story -- and what could be more tempting than backstairs gossip? We may reach the point where the press is talking less about the crimes of Russiagate than about boldface names and their proximity to Trump's doghouse.

I hope this doesn't happen, but I won't be at all surprised if it does.

I would suspect that the more likely point of Barr's redactions will be that they are just clear enough that Trump can point to departed staffers and cabinet members and say "See, it was all them. I'm clean".

Barr is going to throw people under the bus by, well, the busload.  His job right now, as Steve M has pointed out, is to collect heads for Trump's wall.  It'll start with the redactions pointing to WH staffers to crucify, and the next step will be going after Obama, Clinton, and DNC staff.

If you thought Trump's scorched earth tactics at State in 2017 or DHS in the last few weeks was bad, stay tuned.

Another Hat Lands In The Ring, Con't

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld announced Monday he is officially entering the race for president, becoming the first Republican to challenge President Donald Trump in the 2020 race. 
"Ours is a nation built on courage, resilience, and independence. In these times of great political strife, when both major parties are entrenched in their 'win at all cost' battles, the voices of the American people are being ignored and our nation is suffering," Weld, who had previously formed an exploratory committee, said in a statement. 
"It is time for patriotic men and women across our great nation to stand and plant a flag. It is time to return to the principles of Lincoln -- equality, dignity, and opportunity for all. There is no greater cause on earth than to preserve what truly makes America great. I am ready to lead that fight." 
In 2016, Weld was the vice presidential nominee on the Libertarian Party ticket with former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. He previously served two terms as the governor of Massachusetts in the early 1990s
Weld ran for Senate in Massachusetts in 1996 and lost against John Kerry. He later moved to New York and in 2005 unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor. 
Weld told CNN's Jake Tapper on "The Lead" that it would be a "political tragedy" and he would "fear for the Republic" if the country had six more years of Trump as President. 
"I really think if we have six more years of the same stuff we've had out of the White House the last two years that would be a political tragedy, and I would fear for the Republic," he said. 
"I would be ashamed of myself if I didn't raise my hand and run," he told Tapper. 
Weld said he will not run as an Independent if he does not win the Republican nomination. 
Trump enjoys a nearly 90% approval rating among Republicans, according to Gallup. When asked about the President's historically high approval rating and whether Weld believes he can beat him in the primary, Weld said, "Yeah, I do."

It's ironic, as the Johnson/Weld Libertarian ticket basically put Trump in the White House in the first place.  The ticket's totals in Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona, and Pennsylvania all exceeded Trump's win margins over Clinton (and exceeded Clinton's win margin over Trump in Nevada).

We know that the Russian disinformation campaign in 2016 was designed to get younger voters to abandon Clinton in favor of Johnson and Jill Stein, and it worked well enough to give Trump the White House.

You'll excuse me then if I think Johnson's running mate, deciding he's a Republican again, stinks to high heaven.

The larger problem is that Trump is a symptom of the diseased Republican Party, sick beyond recovery.  Replacing Trump with Weld won't make a lick of difference.


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