Sunday, March 13, 2022

Last Call For The Convoy's Long Haul

 The conventional wisdom on "The People's Convoy" is that the event earlier this month was an unmitigated disaster, a rolling tire fire of a failure, and a cosmic joke that shows that the only people the far-right rabid Trumpies can ever really own are themselves.

But the vehicle convoy part was never the actual goal, it was the street fair aura of "come check us out" for Our Little White Supremacist Domestic Terrorism Problem™ and on that lone premise, it was one of the most successful recruiting events in the post-Capitol attack era, as UMBC history professor Terry Bouton reports.

It’s hard to take the "People’s Convoy" trucker caravan seriously. Starting as a protest against Covid mask and vaccine restrictions, it launched after most mandates had been lifted. Many of the convoy’s big rigs, pickups and SUVs are covered with QAnon conspiracy references. Convoy organizers promised to shut down Washington D.C. Instead, they parked their trucks at a stock-car racetrack in western Maryland and then did a few gaffe-filled laps around the D.C. Beltway. The convoy has been lampooned in late-night talk show monologues and newspaper op-eds, and parodied in countless memes. The consensus is that it has been a complete failure.

That’s the wrong conclusion. I spent four hours walking around the convoy’s Hagerstown, Maryland, encampment last Saturday. Make no mistake: the "People’s Convoy" has been a great success as a movement-building event for the far-right. And it should be taken seriously, despite its absurdities.

The far-right was well represented at the convoy. Members of white supremacist and anti-government groups that were at the center of the Capitol insurrection have been heavily involved in its planning. Erik Rohde, a national leader of Three Percenters, was a “consultant” to the "People’s Convoy." (In return the "People’s Convoy" official Telegram account urged supporters to donate to a protest march on the Washington state capitol that Rohde was organizing). Three Percenter and Proud Boy Telegram channels have organized support and raised money for the "People’s Convoy." In Wisconsin, convoy organizers called on the Oath Keepers to provide security.

When I visited the Hagerstown encampment, numerous people wore Proud Boys sweatshirts or had Three Percenter patches on their jackets. I was told that other members of both groups were there in street clothes. One guy I spoke to claimed to have entered the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The Hagerstown encampment soft-pedaled the hate and the convoy’s far-right ties, camouflaging them in a carnival-like atmosphere that drew thousands of people from the surrounding region. Entire families turned out to see the trucks and walk around the giant Speedway parking lot. There was free food and drinks, DJs, a band, quality fireworks, a ceremony with headlights and giant flags. Drivers let kids pull their horns, rev their engines and sign trucks with Sharpies. There was even funnel cake.

The convoy’s entire journey has had a similar festive feel, drawing large crowds across the heartland. People flocked to overpasses to hold signs and wave as the convoys passed. Homeschooling mothers brought their kids as part of civics lessons. Convoy stops were often mobbed with visitors and were inundated with food and drink donations.

Meanwhile, membership in dozens of public and private Convoy Facebook groups and Telegram channels has exploded. Convoy drivers upload reports, sometimes with videos shot as their trucks pass cheering crowds. Supporters post pictures and video taken from overpasses and roadsides along the route. Most people just write messages of support and thanks.

This is how social movements are built. The glue that binds people together is events just like the convoy, where strangers unite through a shared sense of belonging and purpose. They reinforce commitments and forge new bonds as people talk, share contact information, network and recruit. The man I spoke to who claimed to have entered the Capitol became emotional just talking about the convoy’s arrival in Hagerstown, comparing it to a joyous July Fourth parade.

Politicians on the right have also been moved — at least enough to get their pictures taken with the truckers. Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita spoke at a large convoy rally. The main convoy organizers met with members of Congress and Sens. Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson. Cruz later went to the Hagerstown Speedway, flanked by national media, and rode in the passenger seat of the lead truck, giving convoy organizers exactly the media win they wanted.
And I know the first thing I'll see in the comments is "stop giving these assholes credit by pushing their propaganda, they didn't recruit anyone" to which I reply "You're not the Black guy in Kentucky who removed his Biden magnet from his car the day he won, either."
They're not going to be a danger to most folks right off the bat. It's always folks like me who have to deal with the first wave of movements like this, and having seen this coming in 2015 when Matt Bevin won here in KY and it only getting worse from there, I can tell you this feels like 2015 all over again.
Liberals weren't the target audience. Never Trump Republicans and independents were, and on that point, it brought some into the extremist fold.
That's not a good thing.




Factory Fresh Tuckerganda

FOX News polyp Tucker Carlson isn't just the most watched cable TV fish in America, he's apparently very popular in Russia these days, too, as Mother Jones reporter David Corn informs us, especially with Russia's psy-ops and disinformation mavens.

On March 3, as Russian military forces bombed Ukrainian cities as part of Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of his neighbor, the Kremlin sent out talking points to state-friendly media outlets with a request: Use more Tucker Carlson.

“It is essential to use as much as possible fragments of broadcasts of the popular Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who sharply criticizes the actions of the United States [and] NATO, their negative role in unleashing the conflict in Ukraine, [and] the defiantly provocative behavior from the leadership of the Western countries and NATO towards the Russian Federation and towards President Putin, personally,” advises the 12-page document written in Russian. It sums up Carlson’s position: “Russia is only protecting its interests and security.” The memo includes a quote from Carlson: “And how would the US behave if such a situation developed in neighboring Mexico or Canada?

The document—titled “For Media and Commentators (recommendations for coverage of events as of 03.03)”—was produced, according to its metadata, at a Russian government agency called the Department of Information and Telecommunications Support, which is part of the Russian security apparatus. It was provided to Mother Jones by a contributor to a national Russian media outlet who asked not to be identified. The source said memos like this one have been regularly sent by Putin’s administration to media organizations during the war. Independent media outlets in Russia have been forced to shut down since the start of the conflict.

The March 3 document opens with top-line themes the Kremlin wanted Russian media to spread: The Russian invasion is “preventing the possibility of nuclear strikes on its territory”; Ukraine has a history of nationalism (that presumably threatens Russia); the Russian military operation is proceeding as planned; Putin is protecting all Russians; the “losing” Ukrainian army is shelling residential areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia; foreign mercenaries are arriving in Ukraine; Europe “is facing more and more problems” because of its own sanctions; and there will be “danger and possible legal consequences” for those in Russia who protest the war. The document notes that it is “necessary to continue quoting” Putin. It claims that the “hysteria of the West had reached the inexplicable level” of people calling for killing dogs and cats from Russia and asks, “Today they call for the killing of animals from Russia. Tomorrow, will they call for killing people from Russia?”

A section headlined “Victory in Information War” tells Russian journalists to push these specific points: The Ukrainian military is beginning to collapse; the Kyiv government is guilty of “war crimes”; and Moscow is the target of a “massive Western anti-Russian propaganda” operation. It states that Russian media should raise questions about Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s state of mind and suggest he is not truly in charge of Ukraine. And it encourages these outlets to “broadcast messages” highlighting the law recently passed by the Russia Duma that makes it a crime to impede the war effort or disseminate what the government deems “false” information about the war, punishable for up to 15 years in prison. This portion instructs Russian journalists to emphasize that these penalties apply to anyone who promotes news about Ukrainian military victories or Russian attacks on civilian targets.

This is the section of the memo that calls on Russian media to make as much use as possible of Tucker Carlson’s broadcasts. No other Western journalist is referenced in the memo.
Now I'm betting this landed in the inbox of Carlson's bosses, and they told him to knock it off, explaining his recent shift from "Putin is great" to "Putin is terrible but so is Ukraine"

Of course, it also explains him blaming everything on Joe Biden, too.

Sunday Long Read: Racking Up The Points

Jackson Hole, Wyoming is famous as a ski resort town and home of the Fed's yearly symposium where the government's central bankers hang out with the richest people in the country to talk shop, but there are other attractions to the storied town, namely the National Elk Refuge. The sanctuary serves as a gold mine every spring when the elk bulls shed their antlers, and a new type of hunter emerges on to public lands around the sanctuary looking to really rack up in this week's Sunday Long Read from the New Yorker's Abe Streep.

On the National Elk Refuge, only the staff and local Boy Scouts are permitted to collect antlers, which are sold in an annual auction. But though the elk may eat the refuge’s alfalfa, they don’t have much use for arbitrary jurisdictional boundaries, so they frequently wander onto adjacent public lands, which are managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Each year, on the first of May, those lands open to shed hunters. “You get to put your hands on something no one else has ever touched,” a shed hunter from Minnesota told me. “And then you get to take it home!”

The May hunt is feverish, and occasionally dangerous. It used to begin at midnight, but in 2015 a shed hunter on horseback tried to cross a river and was swept away. The man survived, but the horse drowned. The derby’s start has since been amended to 6 a.m.

On April 30, 2021, shed hunters began arriving in southwest Jackson, at the Teton County Fairgrounds, a designated waiting area twenty-five minutes from where the hunt would take place. They drove trucks with window stickers that said “rise and shed” and “shed life”; some hauled horse trailers. Many of them were locals, while others had come from Utah and Idaho, New York and Wisconsin. Nearly all of them were men, a good number of whom were dressed in camouflage—an unnecessary choice, given that antlers don’t run. But many shed hunters are also proud hunters, and the physical demands of the two sports are similar: both can require endurance in rough, mountainous terrain. Amid thick deadfall in the high country, every root and bleached cow femur can resemble an antler. Some shed hunters use trained dogs; others rely on expensive optics. That afternoon, workers from a cheese-processing plant in Utah played with a spotting scope—a device that can detect sheds from hundreds of yards away. Nearby, a coed group from Kansas was huddled around a pickup truck, where a twenty-seven-year-old Pfizer employee was holding court. He told his friends that he had run more than seven hundred miles in the past nine months to prepare for antler season.

As night approached, people drank beer and prepared to sleep in their cars. Early the next morning, police officers began escorting vehicles to the east end of town, where the road turned to dirt. The cars sped off, dust and headlights creating eerie weather. A man led his horse, yelling, “He’s gonna go like a son of a bitch!” Many of the hunters headed for Flat Creek, a stream running through hills. They raced across the water and ascended into tawny meadows. One rider was bucked off his horse and injured himself. A teen-ager from Montana alleged that someone stole an antler he had spotted first. One of the shed hunters from Kansas saw a bull elk running full tilt, its tongue lolling. “I felt bad for him,” she said later. “You could tell that he’d been pushed by all these people.”

Back on the road, more vehicles kept arriving until the parking line was half a mile long. A few riders returned from the hills, their horses hauling dozens of antlers. Near a red pickup truck with Wyoming plates, a young man was standing by the head of a dead bull. The man, who said that his name was McKay, had found the bull’s carcass in the creek and decapitated it with a knife. “I got lucky,” he said. The bull’s antlers were crooked, or nontypical, which potentially made them more valuable than a normal set—they could be worth several thousand dollars. But he couldn’t leave his trophy unguarded, meaning that his day was essentially finished. “It’s over already,” he said, glumly. “It’s too bad.”

There are more than a million wild elk in North America, mostly clustered throughout the western United States and Canada. Bulls that live in forests of cedar and fir, like those in northwest Montana or in the Canadian Rockies, often color their antlers with deeper shades than those in, say, the deserts of southern Nevada. Elk wandering through old burns can rub against char-covered trees until their antlers are nearly black. Roosevelt elk and tule elk, subspecies found in Oregon and California, respectively, have shorter antlers than Rocky Mountain elk. Nontypical antlers can result from genetics or trauma; an injury to a right rear leg can result in a warped left antler, a discovery that has mystified biologists. “They’re like snowflakes,” Kevin Monteith, a wildlife biologist at the University of Wyoming, said of antlers. “Every one is unique.”

It's certainly better than poaching and killing the elk, but it still can be dangerous. Still, this is a pretty wild story, as there's a whole pile of green to be made on May 1.

Big Chuck's Big Week

As I said earlier this week, I give Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer a lot of crap about two things in particular: not getting things passed and looking like an idiot, and not bragging about the things he does get passed. Apparently I'm not the only one, because this week Chuck is on a roll.

Well now. This has been a list of badly needed legislation for over a year now, and Chuck cleans it up in a week.

The problem remains though that without a comprehensive voting rights bill, a bill to protect abortion as health care, and the provisions of Build Back Better, very little of this will matter in the future.

We need more of this, Democrats.

A lot more of this.

Related Posts with Thumbnails