Posts Tagged ‘Conspiracy Theories’


 

The First White President

It is insufficient to state the obvious of Donald Trump: that he is a white man who would not be president were it not for this fact. With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them. Land theft and human plunder cleared the grounds for Trump’s forefathers and barred others from it. Once upon the field, these men became soldiers, statesmen, and scholars; held court in Paris; presided at Princeton; advanced into the Wilderness and then into the White House. Their individual triumphs made this exclusive party seem above America’s founding sins, and it was forgotten that the former was in fact bound to the latter, that all their victories had transpired on cleared grounds. No such elegant detachment can be attributed to Donald Trump—a president who, more than any other, has made the awful inheritance explicit.

Listen to the audio version of this article:Feature stories, read aloud: download the Audm app for your iPhone.

His political career began in advocacy of birtherism, that modern recasting of the old American precept that black people are not fit to be citizens of the country they built. But long before birtherism, Trump had made his worldview clear. He fought to keep blacks out of his buildings, according to the U.S. government; called for the death penalty for the eventually exonerated Central Park Five; and railed against “lazy” black employees. “Black guys counting my money! I hate it,” Trump was once quoted as saying. “The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” After his cabal of conspiracy theorists forced Barack Obama to present his birth certificate, Trump demanded the president’s college grades (offering $5 million in exchange for them), insisting that Obama was not intelligent enough to have gone to an Ivy League school, and that his acclaimed memoir, Dreams From My Father, had been ghostwritten by a white man, Bill Ayers.

It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true—his ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power. Trump inaugurated his campaign by casting himself as the defender of white maidenhood against Mexican “rapists,” only to be later alleged by multiple accusers, and by his own proud words, to be a sexual violator himself. White supremacy has always had a perverse sexual tint. Trump’s rise was shepherded by Steve Bannon, a man who mocks his white male critics as “cucks.” The word, derived from cuckold, is specifically meant to debase by fear and fantasy—the target is so weak that he would submit to the humiliation of having his white wife lie with black men. That the slur cuck casts white men as victims aligns with the dicta of whiteness, which seek to alchemize one’s profligate sins into virtue. So it was with Virginia slaveholders claiming that Britain sought to make slaves of them. So it was with marauding Klansmen organized against alleged rapes and other outrages. So it was with a candidate who called for a foreign power to hack his opponent’s email and who now, as president, is claiming to be the victim of “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.”

In Trump, white supremacists see one of their own. Only grudgingly did Trump denounce the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke, one of its former grand wizards—and after the clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, Duke in turn praised Trump’s contentious claim that “both sides” were responsible for the violence.

To Trump, whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power. In this, Trump is not singular. But whereas his forebears carried whiteness like an ancestral talisman, Trump cracked the glowing amulet open, releasing its eldritch energies. The repercussions are striking: Trump is the first president to have served in no public capacity before ascending to his perch. But more telling, Trump is also the first president to have publicly affirmed that his daughter is a “piece of ass.” The mind seizes trying to imagine a black man extolling the virtues of sexual assault on tape (“When you’re a star, they let you do it”), fending off multiple accusations of such assaults, immersed in multiple lawsuits for allegedly fraudulent business dealings, exhorting his followers to violence, and then strolling into the White House. But that is the point of white supremacy—to ensure that that which all others achieve with maximal effort, white people (particularly white men) achieve with minimal qualification. Barack Obama delivered to black people the hoary message that if they work twice as hard as white people, anything is possible. But Trump’s counter is persuasive: Work half as hard as black people, and even more is possible.

For Trump, it almost seems that the fact of Obama, the fact of a black president, insulted him personally. The insult intensified when Obama and Seth Meyers publicly humiliated him at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2011. But the bloody heirloom ensures the last laugh. Replacing Obama is not enough—Trump has made the negation of Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own. And this too is whiteness. “Race is an idea, not a fact,” the historian Nell Irvin Painter has written, and essential to the construct of a “white race” is the idea of not being a nigger. Before Barack Obama, niggers could be manufactured out of Sister Souljahs, Willie Hortons, and Dusky Sallys. But Donald Trump arrived in the wake of something more potent—an entire nigger  presidency with nigger health care, nigger climate accords, and nigger justice reform, all of which could be targeted for destruction or redemption, thus reifying the idea of being white. Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president.

The scope of Trump’s commitment to whiteness is matched only by the depth of popular disbelief in the power of whiteness. We are now being told that support for Trump’s “Muslim ban,” his scapegoating of immigrants, his defenses of police brutality are somehow the natural outgrowth of the cultural and economic gap between Lena Dunham’s America and Jeff Foxworthy’s. The collective verdict holds that the Democratic Party lost its way when it abandoned everyday economic issues like job creation for the softer fare of social justice. The indictment continues: To their neoliberal economics, Democrats and liberals have married a condescending elitist affect that sneers at blue-collar culture and mocks the white man as history’s greatest monster and prime-time television’s biggest doofus. In this rendition, Donald Trump is not the product of white supremacy so much as the product of a backlash against contempt for white working-class people.

“We so obviously despise them, we so obviously condescend to them,” the conservative social scientist Charles Murray, who co-wrote The Bell Curve, recently told The New Yorker, speaking of the white working class. “The only slur you can use at a dinner party and get away with is to call somebody a redneck—that won’t give you any problems in Manhattan.”

“The utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes,” charged the celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, “is largely responsible for the upswell of rage and contempt and desire to pull down the temple that we’re seeing now.”

That black people, who have lived for centuries under such derision and condescension, have not yet been driven into the arms of Trump does not trouble these theoreticians. After all, in this analysis, Trump’s racism and the racism of his supporters are incidental to his rise. Indeed, the alleged glee with which liberals call out Trump’s bigotry is assigned even more power than the bigotry itself. Ostensibly assaulted by campus protests, battered by arguments about intersectionality, and oppressed by new bathroom rights, a blameless white working class did the only thing any reasonable polity might: elect an orcish reality-television star who insists on taking his intelligence briefings in picture-book form.

Asserting that Trump’s rise was primarily powered by cultural resentment and economic reversal has become de rigueur among white pundits and thought leaders. But evidence for this is, at best, mixed. In a study of preelection polling data, the Gallup researchers Jonathan Rothwell and Pablo Diego-Rosell found that “people living in areas with diminished economic opportunity” were “somewhat more likely to support Trump.” But the researchers also found that voters in their study who supported Trump generally had a higher mean household income ($81,898) than those who did not ($77,046). Those who approved of Trump were “less likely to be unemployed and less likely to be employed part-time” than those who did not. They also tended to be from areas that were very white: “The racial and ethnic isolation of whites at the zip code level is one of the strongest predictors of Trump support.”

An analysis of exit polls conducted during the presidential primaries estimated the median household income of Trump supporters to be about $72,000. But even this lower number is almost double the median household income of African Americans, and $15,000 above the American median. Trump’s white support was not determined by income. According to Edison Research, Trump won whites making less than $50,000 by 20 points, whites making $50,000 to $99,999 by 28 points, and whites making $100,000 or more by 14 points. This shows that Trump assembled a broad white coalition that ran the gamut from Joe the Dishwasher to Joe the Plumber to Joe the Banker. So when white pundits cast the elevation of Trump as the handiwork of an inscrutable white working class, they are being too modest, declining to claim credit for their own economic class. Trump’s dominance among whites across class lines is of a piece with his larger dominance across nearly every white demographic. Trump won white women (+9) and white men (+31). He won white people with college degrees (+3) and white people without them (+37). He won whites ages 18–29 (+4), 30–44 (+17), 45–64 (+28), and 65 and older (+19). Trump won whites in midwestern Illinois (+11), whites in mid-Atlantic New Jersey (+12), and whites in the Sun Belt’s New Mexico (+5). In no state that Edison polled did Trump’s white support dip below 40 percent. Hillary Clinton’s did, in states as disparate as Florida, Utah, Indiana, and Kentucky. From the beer track to the wine track, from soccer moms to nascar dads, Trump’s performance among whites was dominant. According to Mother Jones, based on preelection polling data, if you tallied the popular vote of only white America to derive 2016 electoral votes, Trump would have defeated Clinton 389 to 81, with the remaining 68 votes either a toss-up or unknown.

Part of Trump’s dominance among whites resulted from his running as a Republican, the party that has long cultivated white voters. Trump’s share of the white vote was similar to Mitt Romney’s in 2012. But unlike Romney, Trump secured this support by running against his party’s leadership, against accepted campaign orthodoxy, and against all notions of decency. By his sixth month in office, embroiled in scandal after scandal, a Pew Research Center poll found Trump’s approval rating underwater with every single demographic group. Every demographic group, that is, except one: people who identified as white.

The focus on one subsector of Trump voters—the white working class—is puzzling, given the breadth of his white coalition. Indeed, there is a kind of theater at work in which Trump’s presidency is pawned off as a product of the white working class as opposed to a product of an entire whiteness that includes the very authors doing the pawning. The motive is clear: escapism. To accept that the bloody heirloom remains potent even now, some five decades after Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down on a Memphis balcony—even after a black president; indeed, strengthened by the fact of that black president—is to accept that racism remains, as it has since 1776, at the heart of this country’s political life. The idea of acceptance frustrates the left. The left would much rather have a discussion about class struggles, which might entice the white working masses, instead of about the racist struggles that those same masses have historically been the agents and beneficiaries of. Moreover, to accept that whiteness brought us Donald Trump is to accept whiteness as an existential danger to the country and the world. But if the broad and remarkable white support for Donald Trump can be reduced to the righteous anger of a noble class of smallville firefighters and evangelicals, mocked by Brooklyn hipsters and womanist professors into voting against their interests, then the threat of racism and whiteness, the threat of the heirloom, can be dismissed. Consciences can be eased; no deeper existential reckoning is required.

This transfiguration is not novel. It is a return to form. The tightly intertwined stories of the white working class and black Americans go back to the prehistory of the United States—and the use of one as a cudgel to silence the claims of the other goes back nearly as far. Like the black working class, the white working class originated in bondage—the former in the lifelong bondage of slavery, the latter in the temporary bondage of indenture. In the early 17th century, these two classes were remarkably, though not totally, free of racist enmity. But by the 18th century, the country’s master class had begun etching race into law while phasing out indentured servitude in favor of a more enduring labor solution. From these and other changes of law and economy, a bargain emerged: The descendants of indenture would enjoy the full benefits of whiteness, the most definitional benefit being that they would never sink to the level of the slave. But if the bargain protected white workers from slavery, it did not protect them from near-slave wages or backbreaking labor to attain them, and always there lurked a fear of having their benefits revoked. This early white working class “expressed soaring desires to be rid of the age-old inequalities of Europe and of any hint of slavery,” according to David R. Roediger, a professor of American studies at the University of Kansas. “They also expressed the rather more pedestrian goal of simply not being mistaken for slaves, or ‘negers’ or ‘negurs.’ ”

Roediger relates the experience, around 1807, of a British investor who made the mistake of asking a white maid in New England whether her “master” was home. The maid admonished the investor, not merely for implying that she had a “master” and thus was a “sarvant” but for his basic ignorance of American hierarchy. “None but negers are sarvants,” the maid is reported to have said. In law and economics and then in custom, a racist distinction not limited to the household emerged between the “help” (or the “freemen,” or the white workers) and the “servants” (the “negers,” the slaves). The former were virtuous and just, worthy of citizenship, progeny of Jefferson and, later, Jackson. The latter were servile and parasitic, dim-witted and lazy, the children of African savagery. But the dignity accorded to white labor was situational, dependent on the scorn heaped upon black labor—much as the honor accorded a “virtuous lady” was dependent on the derision directed at a “loose woman.” And like chivalrous gentlemen who claim to honor the lady while raping the “whore,” planters and their apologists could claim to honor white labor while driving the enslaved.

And so George Fitzhugh, a prominent 19th-century Southern pro-slavery intellectual, could in a single stroke deplore the exploitation of free whites’ labor while defending the exploitation of enslaved blacks’ labor. Fitzhugh attacked white capitalists as “cannibals,” feeding off the labor of their fellow whites. The white workers were “ ‘slaves without masters;’ the little fish, who were food for all the larger.” Fitzhugh inveighed against a “professional man” who’d “amassed a fortune” by exploiting his fellow whites. But whereas Fitzhugh imagined white workers as devoured by capital, he imagined black workers as elevated by enslavement. The slaveholder “provided for them, with almost parental affection”—even when the loafing slave “feigned to be unfit for labor.” Fitzhugh proved too explicit—going so far as to argue that white laborers might be better off if enslaved. (“If white slavery be morally wrong,” he wrote, “the Bible cannot be true.”) Nevertheless, the argument that America’s original sin was not deep-seated white supremacy but rather the exploitation of white labor by white capitalists—“white slavery”—proved durable. Indeed, the panic of white slavery lives on in our politics today. Black workers suffer because it was and is our lot. But when white workers suffer, something in nature has gone awry. And so an opioid epidemic among mostly white people is greeted with calls for compassion and treatment, as all epidemics should be, while a crack epidemic among mostly black people is greeted with scorn and mandatory minimums. Sympathetic op‑ed columns and articles are devoted to the plight of working-class whites when their life expectancy plummets to levels that, for blacks, society has simply accepted as normal. White slavery is sin.

Nigger slavery is natural. This dynamic serves a very real purpose: the consistent awarding of grievance and moral high ground to that class of workers which, by the bonds of whiteness, stands closest to America’s aristocratic class.

This is by design. Speaking in 1848, Senator John C. Calhoun saw slavery as the explicit foundation for a democratic union among whites, working and not:

With us the two great divisions of society are not the rich and poor, but white and black; and all the former, the poor as well as the rich, belong to the upper class, and are respected and treated as equals.

On the eve of secession, Jefferson Davis, the eventual president of the Confederacy, pushed the idea further, arguing that such equality between the white working class and white oligarchs could not exist at all without black slavery:

I say that the lower race of human beings that constitute the substratum of what is termed the slave population of the South, elevates every white man in our community … It is the presence of a lower caste, those lower by their mental and physical organization, controlled by the higher intellect of the white man, that gives this superiority to the white laborer. Menial services are not there performed by the white man. We have none of our brethren sunk to the degradation of being menials. That belongs to the lower race—the descendants of Ham.

Southern intellectuals found a shade of agreement with Northern white reformers who, while not agreeing on slavery, agreed on the nature of the most tragic victim of emerging capitalism. “I was formerly like yourself, sir, a very warm advocate of the abolition of slavery,” the labor reformer George Henry Evans argued in a letter to the abolitionist Gerrit Smith. “This was before I saw that there was white slavery.” Evans was a putative ally of Smith and his fellow abolitionists. But still he asserted that “the landless white” was worse off than the enslaved black, who at least enjoyed “surety of support in sickness and old age.”

Invokers of “white slavery” held that there was nothing unique in the enslavement of blacks when measured against the enslavement of all workers. What evil there was in enslavement resulted from its status as a subsidiary of the broader exploitation better seen among the country’s noble laboring whites. Once the larger problem of white exploitation was solved, the dependent problem of black exploitation could be confronted or perhaps would fade away. Abolitionists focused on slavery were dismissed as “substitutionists” who wished to trade one form of slavery for another. “If I am less troubled concerning the Slavery prevalent in Charleston or New-Orleans,” wrote the reformer Horace Greeley, “it is because I see so much Slavery in New-York, which appears to claim my first efforts.”

Firsthand reports by white Union soldiers who witnessed actual slavery during the Civil War rendered the “white slavery” argument ridiculous. But its operating premises—white labor as noble archetype, and black labor as something else—lived on. This was a matter of rhetoric, not fact. The noble-white-labor archetype did not give white workers immunity from capitalism. It could not, in itself, break monopolies, alleviate white poverty in Appalachia or the South, or bring a decent wage to immigrant ghettos in the North. But the model for America’s original identity politics was set. Black lives literally did not matter and could be cast aside altogether as the price of even incremental gains for the white masses. It was this juxtaposition that allowed Theodore Bilbo to campaign for the Senate in the 1930s as someone who would “raise the same kind of hell as President Roosevelt” and later endorse lynching black people to keep them from voting.

The juxtaposition between the valid and even virtuous interests of the “working class” and the invalid and pathological interests of black Americans was not the province merely of blatant white supremacists like Bilbo. The acclaimed scholar, liberal hero, and future senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in his time working for President Richard Nixon, approvingly quoted Nixon’s formulation of the white working class: “A new voice” was beginning to make itself felt in the country. “It is a voice that has been silent too long,” Nixon claimed, alluding to working-class whites. “It is a voice of people who have not taken to the streets before, who have not indulged in violence, who have not broken the law.”

The fact of a black president seemed to insult Donald Trump personally. He has made the negation of Barack Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own. (Gabriella Demczuk)

© Provided by Atlantic Media Company

It had been only 18 years since the Cicero riots; eight years since Daisy and Bill Myers had been run out of Levittown, Pennsylvania; three years since Martin Luther King Jr. had been stoned while walking through Chicago’s Marquette Park. But as the myth of the virtuous white working class was made central to American identity, its sins needed to be rendered invisible. The fact was, working-class whites had been agents of racist terrorism since at least the draft riots of 1863; terrorism could not be neatly separated from the racist animus found in every class of whites. Indeed, in the era of lynching, the daily newspapers often whipped up the fury of the white masses by invoking the last species of property that all white men held in common—white women. But to conceal the breadth of white racism, these racist outbursts were often disregarded or treated not as racism but as the unfortunate side effect of legitimate grievances against capital. By focusing on that sympathetic laboring class, the sins of whiteness itself were, and are still being, evaded.

When David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, shocked the country in 1990 by almost winning one of Louisiana’s seats in the U.S. Senate, the apologists came out once again. They elided the obvious—that Duke had appealed to the racist instincts of a state whose schools are, at this very moment, still desegregating—and instead decided that something else was afoot. “There is a tremendous amount of anger and frustration among working-class whites, particularly where there is an economic downturn,” a researcher told the Los Angeles Times. “These people feel left out; they feel government is not responsive to them.” By this logic, postwar America—with its booming economy and low unemployment—should have been an egalitarian utopia and not the violently segregated country it actually was.

But this was the past made present. It was not important to the apologists that a large swath of Louisiana’s white population thought it was a good idea to send a white supremacist who once fronted a terrorist organization to the nation’s capital. Nor was it important that blacks in Louisiana had long felt left out. What was important was the fraying of an ancient bargain, and the potential degradation of white workers to the level of “negers.” “A viable left must find a way to differentiate itself strongly from such analysis,” David Roediger, the University of Kansas professor, has written.

That challenge of differentiation has largely been ignored. Instead, an imagined white working class remains central to our politics and to our cultural understanding of those politics, not simply when it comes to addressing broad economic issues but also when it comes to addressing racism. At its most sympathetic, this belief holds that most Americans—regardless of race—are exploited by an unfettered capitalist economy. The key, then, is to address those broader patterns that afflict the masses of all races; the people who suffer from those patterns more than others (blacks, for instance) will benefit disproportionately from that which benefits everyone. “These days, what ails working-class and middle-class blacks and Latinos is not fundamentally different from what ails their white counterparts,” Senator Barack Obama wrote in 2006:

Downsizing, outsourcing, automation, wage stagnation, the dismantling of employer-based health-care and pension plans, and schools that fail to teach young people the skills they need to compete in a global economy.

Obama allowed that “blacks in particular have been vulnerable to these trends”—but less because of racism than for reasons of geography and job-sector distribution. This notion—raceless antiracism—marks the modern left, from the New Democrat Bill Clinton to the socialist Bernie Sanders. Few national liberal politicians have shown any recognition that there is something systemic and particular in the relationship between black people and their country that might require specific policy solutions.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton acknowledged the existence of systemic racism more explicitly than any of her modern Democratic predecessors. She had to—black voters remembered too well the previous Clinton administration, as well as her previous campaign. While her husband’s administration had touted the rising-tide theory of economic growth, it did so while slashing welfare and getting “tough on crime,” a phrase that stood for specific policies but also served as rhetorical bait for white voters. One is tempted to excuse Hillary Clinton from having to answer for the sins of her husband. But in her 2008 campaign, she evoked the old dichotomy between white workers and loafing blacks, claiming to be the representative of “hardworking Americans, white Americans.” By the end of the 2008 primary campaign against Barack Obama, her advisers were hoping someone would uncover an apocryphal “whitey tape,” in which an angry Michelle Obama was alleged to have used the slur. During Bill Clinton’s presidential-reelection campaign in the mid-1990s, Hillary Clinton herself had endorsed the “super-predator” theory of William J. Bennett, John P. Walters, and John J. DiIulio Jr. This theory cast “inner-city” children of that era as “almost completely unmoralized” and the font of “a new generation of street criminals … the youngest, biggest and baddest generation any society has ever known.” The “baddest generation” did not become super-predators. But by 2016, they were young adults, many of whom judged Hillary Clinton’s newfound consciousness to be lacking.

It’s worth asking why the country has not been treated to a raft of sympathetic portraits of this “forgotten” young black electorate, forsaken by a Washington bought off by Davos elites and special interests. The unemployment rate for young blacks (20.6 percent) in July 2016 was double that of young whites (9.9 percent). And since the late 1970s, William Julius Wilson and other social scientists following in his wake have noted the disproportionate effect that the decline in manufacturing jobs has had on African American communities. If anyone should be angered by the devastation wreaked by the financial sector and a government that declined to prosecute the perpetrators, it is African Americans—the housing crisis was one of the primary drivers in the past 20 years of the wealth gap between black families and the rest of the country. But the cultural condescension toward and economic anxiety of black people is not news. Toiling blacks are in their proper state; toiling whites raise the specter of white slavery.

Moreover, a narrative of long-neglected working-class black voters, injured by globalization and the financial crisis, forsaken by out-of-touch politicians, and rightfully suspicious of a return of Clintonism, does not serve to cleanse the conscience of white people for having elected Donald Trump. Only the idea of a long-suffering white working class can do that. And though much has been written about the distance between elites and “Real America,” the existence of a class-transcending, mutually dependent tribe of white people is evident.

Joe Biden, then the vice president, last year:

“They’re all the people I grew up with … And they’re not racist. They’re not sexist.”

Bernie Sanders, senator and former candidate for president, last year:

“I come from the white working class, and I am deeply humiliated that the Democratic Party cannot talk to the people where I came from.”

Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist, in February of this year:

My hometown, Yamhill, Ore., a farming community, is Trump country, and I have many friends who voted for Trump. I think they’re profoundly wrong, but please don’t dismiss them as hateful bigots.

These claims of origin and fidelity are not merely elite defenses of an aggrieved class but also a sweeping dismissal of the concerns of those who don’t share kinship with white men. “You can’t eat equality,” asserts Joe Biden—a statement worthy of someone unthreatened by the loss of wages brought on by an unwanted pregnancy, a background-check box at the bottom of a job application, or the deportation of a breadwinner. Within a week of Sanders lambasting Democrats for not speaking to “the people” where he “came from,” he was making an example of a woman who dreamed of representing the people where she came from. Confronted with a young woman who hoped to become the second Latina senator in American history, Sanders responded with a parody of the Clinton campaign: “It is not good enough for someone to say, ‘I’m a woman! Vote for me!’ No, that’s not good enough … One of the struggles that you’re going to be seeing in the Democratic Party is whether we go beyond identity politics.” The upshot—attacking one specimen of identity politics after having invoked another—was unfortunate.

The KKK and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, July 8, 2017. Not every Trump voter is a white supremacist. But every Trump voter felt it acceptable to hand the fate of the country over to one. (Gabriella Demczuk)

© Provided by Atlantic Media Company

Other Sanders appearances proved even more alarming. On MSNBC, he attributed Trump’s success, in part, to his willingness to “not be politically correct.” Sanders admitted that Trump had “said some outrageous and painful things, but I think people are tired of the same old, same old political rhetoric.” Pressed on the definition of political correctness, Sanders gave an answer Trump surely would have approved of. “What it means is you have a set of talking points which have been poll-tested and focus-group-tested,” Sanders explained. “And that’s what you say rather than what’s really going on. And often, what you are not allowed to say are things which offend very, very powerful people.”

This definition of political correctness was shocking coming from a politician of the left. But it matched a broader defense of Trump voters. “Some people think that the people who voted for Trump are racists and sexists and homophobes and just deplorable folks,” Sanders said later. “I don’t agree.” This is not exculpatory. Certainly not every Trump voter is a white supremacist, just as not every white person in the Jim Crow South was a white supremacist. But every Trump voter felt it acceptable to hand the fate of the country over to one.

One can, to some extent, understand politicians’ embracing a self-serving identity politics. Candidates for high office, such as Sanders, have to cobble together a coalition. The white working class is seen, understandably, as a large cache of potential votes, and capturing these votes requires eliding uncomfortable truths. But journalists have no such excuse. Again and again in the past year, Nicholas Kristof could be found pleading with his fellow liberals not to dismiss his old comrades in the white working class as bigots—even when their bigotry was evidenced in his own reporting. A visit to Tulsa, Oklahoma, finds Kristof wondering why Trump voters support a president who threatens to cut the programs they depend on. But the problem, according to Kristof ’s interviewees, isn’t Trump’s attack on benefits so much as an attack on their benefits. “There’s a lot of wasteful spending, so cut other places,” one man tells Kristof. When Kristof pushes his subjects to identify that wasteful spending, a fascinating target is revealed: “Obama phones,” the products of a fevered conspiracy theory that turned a long-standing government program into a scheme through which the then-president gave away free cellphones to undeserving blacks. Kristof doesn’t shift his analysis based on this comment and, aside from a one-sentence fact-check tucked between parentheses, continues on as though it were never said.

Observing a Trump supporter in the act of deploying racism does not much perturb Kristof. That is because his defenses of the innate goodness of Trump voters and of the innate goodness of the white working class are in fact defenses of neither. On the contrary, the white working class functions rhetorically not as a real community of people so much as a tool to quiet the demands of those who want a more inclusive America.

Mark Lilla’s New York Times essay “The End of Identity Liberalism,” published not long after last year’s election, is perhaps the most profound example of this genre. Lilla denounces the perversion of liberalism into “a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity,” which distorted liberalism’s message “and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.” Liberals have turned away from their working-class base, he says, and must look to the “pre-identity liberalism” of Bill Clinton and Franklin D. Roosevelt. You would never know from this essay that Bill Clinton was one of the most skillful identity politicians of his era—flying home to Arkansas to see a black man, the lobotomized Ricky Ray Rector, executed; upstaging Jesse Jackson at his own conference; signing the Defense of Marriage Act. Nor would you know that the “pre-identity” liberal champion Roosevelt depended on the literally lethal identity politics of the white-supremacist “solid South.” The name Barack Obama does not appear in Lilla’s essay, and he never attempts to grapple, one way or another, with the fact that it was identity politics—the possibility of the first black president—that brought a record number of black voters to the polls, winning the election for the Democratic Party, and thus enabling the deliverance of the ancient liberal goal of national health care. “Identity politics … is largely expressive, not persuasive,” Lilla claims. “Which is why it never wins elections—but can lose them.” That Trump ran and won on identity politics is beyond Lilla’s powers of conception. What appeals to the white working class is ennobled. What appeals to black workers, and all others outside the tribe, is dastardly identitarianism. All politics are identity politics—except the politics of white people, the politics of the bloody heirloom.

White tribalism haunts even more-nuanced writers. George Packer’s New Yorker essay “The Unconnected” is a lengthy plea for liberals to focus more on the white working class, a population that “has succumbed to the ills that used to be associated with the black urban ‘underclass.’ ” Packer believes that these ills, and the Democratic Party’s failure to respond to them, explain much of Trump’s rise. Packer offers no opinion polls to weigh white workers’ views on “elites,” much less their views on racism. He offers no sense of how their views and their relationship to Trump differ from other workers’ and other whites’.

That is likely because any empirical evaluation of the relationship between Trump and the white working class would reveal that one adjective in that phrase is doing more work than the other. In 2016, Trump enjoyed majority or plurality support among every economic branch of whites. It is true that his strongest support among whites came from those making $50,000 to $99,999. This would be something more than working-class in many nonwhite neighborhoods, but even if one accepts that branch as the working class, the difference between how various groups in this income bracket voted is revealing. Sixty-one percent of whites in this “working class” supported Trump. Only 24 percent of Hispanics and 11 percent of blacks did. Indeed, the plurality of all voters making less than $100,000 and the majority making less than $50,000 voted for the Democratic candidate. So when Packer laments the fact that “Democrats can no longer really claim to be the party of working people—not white ones, anyway,” he commits a kind of category error. The real problem is that Democrats aren’t the party of white people—working or otherwise. White workers are not divided by the fact of labor from other white demographics; they are divided from all other laborers by the fact of their whiteness.

Packer’s essay was published before the election, and so the vote tally was not available. But it should not be surprising that a Republican candidate making a direct appeal to racism would drive up the numbers among white voters, given that racism has been a dividing line for the national parties since the civil-rights era. Packer finds inspiration for his thesis in West Virginia—a state that remained Democratic through the 1990s before turning decisively Republican, at least at the level of presidential politics. This relatively recent rightward movement evinces, to Packer, a shift “that couldn’t be attributed just to the politics of race.” This is likely true—the politics of race are, themselves, never attributable “just to the politics of race.” The history of slavery is also about the growth of international capitalism; the history of lynching must be seen in light of anxiety over the growing independence of women; the civil-rights movement can’t be disentangled from the Cold War. Thus, to say that the rise of Donald Trump is about more than race is to make an empty statement, one that is small comfort to the people—black, Muslim, immigrant—who live under racism’s boot.

The dent of racism is not hard to detect in West Virginia. In the 2008 Democratic primary there, 95 percent of the voters were white. Twenty percent of those—one in five—openly admitted that race was influencing their vote, and more than 80 percent voted for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama. Four years later, the incumbent Obama lost the primary in 10 counties to Keith Judd, a white felon incarcerated in a federal prison; Judd racked up more than 40 percent of the Democratic-primary vote in the state. A simple thought experiment: Can one imagine a black felon in a federal prison running in a primary against an incumbent white president doing so well?

But racism occupies a mostly passive place in Packer’s essay. There’s no attempt to understand why black and brown workers, victimized by the same new economy and cosmopolitan elite that Packer lambastes, did not join the Trump revolution. Like Kristof, Packer is gentle with his subjects. When a woman “exploded” and told Packer, “I want to eat what I want to eat, and for them to tell me I can’t eat French fries or Coca-Cola—no way,” he sees this as a rebellion against “the moral superiority of elites.” In fact, this elite conspiracy dates back to 1894, when the government first began advising Americans on their diets. As recently as 2002, President George W. Bush launched the HealthierUS initiative, urging Americans to exercise and eat healthy food. But Packer never allows himself to wonder whether the explosion he witnessed had anything to do with the fact that similar advice now came from the country’s first black first lady. Packer concludes that Obama was leaving the country “more divided and angrier than most Americans can remember,” a statement that is likely true only because most Americans identify as white. Certainly the men and women forced to live in the wake of the beating of John Lewis, the lynching of Emmett Till, the firebombing of Percy Julian’s home, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers would disagree.

The triumph of Trump’s campaign of bigotry presented the problematic spectacle of an American president succeeding at best in spite of his racism and possibly because of it. Trump moved racism from the euphemistic and plausibly deniable to the overt and freely claimed. This presented the country’s thinking class with a dilemma. Hillary Clinton simply could not be correct when she asserted that a large group of Americans was endorsing a candidate because of bigotry. The implications—that systemic bigotry is still central to our politics; that the country is susceptible to such bigotry; that the salt-of-the-earth Americans whom we lionize in our culture and politics are not so different from those same Americans who grin back at us in lynching photos; that Calhoun’s aim of a pan-Caucasian embrace between workers and capitalists still endures—were just too dark. Leftists would have to cope with the failure, yet again, of class unity in the face of racism. Incorporating all of this into an analysis of America and the path forward proved too much to ask. Instead, the response has largely been an argument aimed at emotion—the summoning of the white working class, emblem of America’s hardscrabble roots, inheritor of its pioneer spirit, as a shield against the horrific and empirical evidence of trenchant bigotry.

Packer dismisses the Democratic Party as a coalition of “rising professionals and diversity.” The dismissal is derived from, of all people, Lawrence Summers, the former Harvard president and White House economist, who last year labeled the Democratic Party “a coalition of the cosmopolitan élite and diversity.” The inference is that the party has forgotten how to speak on hard economic issues and prefers discussing presumably softer cultural issues such as “diversity.” It’s worth unpacking what, precisely, falls under this rubric of “diversity”—resistance to the monstrous incarceration of legions of black men, resistance to the destruction of health providers for poor women, resistance to the effort to deport parents, resistance to a policing whose sole legitimacy is rooted in brute force, resistance to a theory of education that preaches “no excuses” to black and brown children, even as excuses are proffered for mendacious corporate executives “too big to jail.” That this suite of concerns, taken together, can be dismissed by both an elite economist like Summers and a brilliant journalist like Packer as “diversity” simply reveals the safe space they enjoy. Because of their identity.

When Barack Obama came into office, in 2009, he believed that he could work with “sensible” conservatives by embracing aspects of their policy as his own. Instead he found that his very imprimatur made that impossible. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the GOP’s primary goal was not to find common ground but to make Obama a “one-term president.” A health-care plan inspired by Romneycare was, when proposed by Obama, suddenly considered socialist and, not coincidentally, a form of reparations. The first black president found that he was personally toxic to the GOP base. An entire political party was organized around the explicit aim of negating one man. It was thought by Obama and some of his allies that this toxicity was the result of a relentless assault waged by Fox News and right-wing talk radio. Trump’s genius was to see that it was something more, that it was a hunger for revanche so strong that a political novice and accused rapist could topple the leadership of one major party and throttle the heavily favored nominee of the other.

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters,” Trump bragged in January 2016. This statement should be met with only a modicum of skepticism. Trump has mocked the disabled, withstood multiple accusations of sexual violence (all of which he has denied), fired an FBI director, sent his minions to mislead the public about his motives, personally exposed those lies by boldly stating his aim to scuttle an investigation into his possible collusion with a foreign power, then bragged about that same obstruction to representatives of that same foreign power. It is utterly impossible to conjure a black facsimile of Donald Trump—to imagine Obama, say, implicating an opponent’s father in the assassination of an American president or comparing his physical endowment with that of another candidate and then successfully capturing the presidency. Trump, more than any other politician, understood the valence of the bloody heirloom and the great power in not being a n*****

.

© Provided by Atlantic Media Company

But the power is ultimately suicidal. Trump evinces this, too. In a recent New Yorker article, a former Russian military officer pointed out that interference in an election could succeed only where “necessary conditions” and an “existing background” were present. In America, that “existing background” was a persistent racism, and the “necessary condition” was a black president. The two related factors hobbled America’s ability to safeguard its electoral system. As late as July 2016, a majority of Republican voters doubted that Barack Obama had been born in the United States, which is to say they did not view him as a legitimate president. Republican politicians acted accordingly, infamously denying his final Supreme Court nominee a hearing and then, fatefully, refusing to work with the administration to defend the country against the Russian attack. Before the election, Obama found no takers among Republicans for a bipartisan response, and Obama himself, underestimating Trump and thus underestimating the power of whiteness, believed the Republican nominee too objectionable to actually win. In this Obama was, tragically, wrong. And so the most powerful country in the world has handed over all its affairs—the prosperity of its entire economy; the security of its 300 million citizens; the purity of its water, the viability of its air, the safety of its food; the future of its vast system of education; the soundness of its national highways, airways, and railways; the apocalyptic potential of its nuclear arsenal—to a carnival barker who introduced the phrase grab ’em by the pussy into the national lexicon. It is as if the white tribe united in demonstration to say, “If a black man can be president, then any white man—no matter how fallen—can be president.” And in that perverse way, the democratic dreams of Jefferson and Jackson were fulfilled.

The American tragedy now being wrought is larger than most imagine and will not end with Trump. In recent times, whiteness as an overt political tactic has been restrained by a kind of cordiality that held that its overt invocation would scare off “moderate” whites. This has proved to be only half true at best. Trump’s legacy will be exposing the patina of decency for what it is and revealing just how much a demagogue can get away with. It does not take much to imagine another politician, wiser in the ways of Washington and better schooled in the methodology of governance—and now liberated from the pretense of antiracist civility—doing a much more effective job than Trump.

It has long been an axiom among certain black writers and thinkers that while whiteness endangers the bodies of black people in the immediate sense, the larger threat is to white people themselves, the shared country, and even the whole world. There is an impulse to blanch at this sort of grandiosity. When W. E. B. Du Bois claims that slavery was “singularly disastrous for modern civilization” or James Baldwin claims that whites “have brought humanity to the edge of oblivion: because they think they are white,” the instinct is to cry exaggeration. But there really is no other way to read the presidency of Donald Trump. The first white president in American history is also the most dangerous president—and he is made more dangerous still by the fact that those charged with analyzing him cannot name his essential nature, because they too are implicated in it.

This essay is drawn from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s new book, We Were Eight Years in Power.

 

PAYPAL :- we value your ongoing support and generous donations that assist the production of this site.

 

Preview Image

Join us on Facebook in discussion:- facebook-logo-images
https://www.facebook.com/groups/377012949129789


Paranoia-Rama: This Week In Right-Wing Lunacy

Submitted by Miranda Blue

RWW’s Paranoia-Rama takes a look at five of the week’s most absurd conspiracy theories from the Right.

This week, we learn more about President Obama’s secret gay past and Michelle Obama’s poor spiritual housekeeping, find out the real reason for Terry McAuliffe’s victory in Virginia, and are duly warned about the consequences of health care coverage and U.N. treaties.

5. Obamacare Will Force People to “Suffer and Potentially Die”

Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert, Congress’ most creative conspiracy theorists, told the residents of a nursing home in Texas this week that the Affordable Care Act would cut Medicare benefits, causing people to “suffer and potentially die.”

Gohmert’s claim that the ACA “cut $716 billion from Medicare,” repeated frequently by Mitt Romney in his presidential campaign last year, glosses over the fact that the cuts in costs – also recommended by Rep. Paul Ryan – would not affect Medicare benefits .

4. The United Nations Will Snatch Homeschoolers and Kids With Glasses

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee revived consideration of the United Nations Conventions on Persons With Disabilities this week, a year after a right-wing scare campaign managed to prevent the Senate from ratifying the treaty.

Taking the lead in the effort to sink the treaty was Michael Farris, director of the Home School Legal Defense Association, who claimed that U.S. ratification of the treaty would allow the U.N. to “get control” of children with glasses or ADHD and even lead to the deaths of children with disabilities. Invited to testify at this week’s hearing, Farris tried to convince senators that ratifying the treaty – which is based on laws already in place in the United States – would in fact lead to an American ban homeschooling. His only evidence for this fear was a completely unrelated immigration case .

The many right-wing conspiracy theories about the CRPD have been handily debunked by the U.S. International Council on Disabilities, as well as by former Republican senators Bill Frist and Bob Dole.

3. Michelle Obama Invited Demons Into The White House

The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer was shocked to learn that First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a White House event this to celebrate Diwali.

By celebrating the Hindu festival, Fischer warned, the first lady was inviting “demons into the White House,” necessitating a “spiritual cleanse” of the building after Obama leaves office.

Fischer neglected to mention that George W. and Laura Bush had hosted the very same event. He did, however, later in the week provide a helpful how-to on how to rid a home of demonic spirits in case it ever comes to that.

2. Voter Fraud Won the Election in Virginia

Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli thinks that President Obama won reelection through organized voter fraud , so it’s no surprise that some of his supporters were ready to cry “voter fraud” when he lost the gubernatorial election on Tuesday to Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

A full week before election day, Virginia conservative commentator Dean Chambers laid out how he predicted McAuliffe would “steal” the election through voter fraud. Meanwhile, Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber spent Election Day tweeting about how Cuccinelli would need to win by 7 points “to get within the margin of Democrat fraud.” And after the results came in, the white nationalist site VDARE claimed that McAuliffe must have relied on “black voter fraud” because it was not “plausible” that African-Americans would “turn out for New York Irish American Pol running for Governor with the same enthusiasm that they voted for a Black for President.”

In 2008, Virginia officials prosecuted 39 cases of voter fraud out of 3.7 million votes cast, none of which involved voter impersonation, the alleged target of Virginia’s pending voter ID law.

1. Obama Procured Cocaine Through Older White, Male Lovers

We already knew that during his student days President Obama was married to his male Pakistani roommate, the union from which he still wears a secret gay Muslim wedding ring , but we learned today via anti-gay activist Scott Lively that the president’s secrets go much deeper.

Lively linked on his website to an interview between crackpot preacher James David Manning and a woman named Mia Marie Pope, who claims to have been a classmate of President Obama’s back in Hawaii in the 1970s.

Pope recalled how the future president was “very much within sort of the gay community” and “was having sex with these older white guys” in order to procure “cocaine to be able to freebase.”

Thanks to RWW

http://tinyurl.com/pdew673


UVA PROFESSOR: We Cannot Rule Out A Conspiracy To Kill John F. Kennedy

Michael Kelley

JFK

It’s not just crackpots who question the conventional wisdom that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he killed President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.

University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato, author of “The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy” argues that “the chance of some sort of conspiracy involving Oswald is not insubstantial.”

Sabato reached this conclusion after considering 50 years of evidence, even while also debunking a conspiracy theory put forth by a House committee in 1979.

“For all attempts to close the case as ‘just Oswald,’ fair-minded observers continue to be troubled by many aspects of eyewitness testimony and paper trails,” he writes.

The founder of the UVA Center for Politics opened this never-ending debate “because the assassination is critical both to understanding America’s past and future paths and to the lasting legacy of John Kennedy that is the subject of this book.”

Alternative theories cannot be put to rest because of discrepancies and inadequacies in the initial response to the assassination.

To start, there are the questions about why the autopsy was performed at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland, not in Texas as required by the law, and why the Bethesda team did not confer with doctors from the Texas trauma room and did not have the president’s clothes.

“[The autopsy] opens it up to conspiracy theories immediately that the body was altered, the wounds were altered, and all the rest of it,” Sabato told us. “I understand why they couldn’t leave the body there but it would have been so much better if it had been performed in Dallas.”

More questions arise with the investigation ordered by President Lyndon Johnson, which Sabato claims was haphazard and inadequate.

“The problem is the Warren Commission did not do a thorough job when the trail was hot,” Sabato told Business Insider. “The trail went cold decades ago. It is virtually impossible 50 years later to put all of the pieces back together. I’ve interviewed people 50 years later that the Warren Commission never interviewed that were right there and took important photos or films.”

Because of these errors, certain conspiracy theories may never be put to rest.

JFK

The conspiracy theories

While all evidence suggests that Oswald killed Kennedy, some clues suggests that he may not have been the only assassin or that he may not have acted alone.

First, there remains “the live possibility of a second gunman in the grassy knoll area,” given the testimony of several witnesses, the presence of phony Secret Service agents, and the armed men seen in the vicinity of the Dealey plaza before, during, and after the assassination.

Adding to this theory is Dr. Robert McClelland, a physician in the trauma room of the hospital where JFK was taken, who contends that the wound he saw was consistent with a shot from the grassy knoll. Sabato notes that the “ambiguous nature of the visual evidence” has led to experts to disagree as to whether the bullet that entered JFK’s head came from the rear (where Oswald was) or the front (the grassy knoll).

As for the idea that Oswald received help or encouragement, there is no proof that he did, but there also is no proof that he didn’t — and there are reasons to be suspicious.

“For a complete nobody, Oswald certainly did seem to hang out with well-connected people,” Sabato told BI.

Some of those shady connections include:

Upon returning from his short defection to the Soviet Union, Oswald became friends with an international man of mystery named George de Mohrenschildt, who “had ties with American intelligence and the State Department … and killed himself before he could testify to the House Committee on Assassinations,” Sabato said.

When Oswald moved from Dallas to New Orleans, he moved in with his uncle, a small time hustler and bookie for New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello. According to an FBI informant, Oswald received money from one of Marcello’s chief lieutenants.

It was in the Big Easy where Oswald became acquainted with the FBI. Oswald handed out pro-Castro literature with the address 544 Camp Street on it. Curiously, FBI agent Guy Bannister and a CIA-backed Cuban Revolutionary Council also rented space at the same location.

“One thing that I’ve always wondered about is [Oswald’s] time in New Orleans because he was apparently associated with Guy Bannister, who clearly had FBI and CIA ties, and yet he’s also scuffling on the street with [the local representative of] an anti-Castro group,” Sabato said.

When Oswald was arrested after the fight, he demanded to speak with FBI, and the agency sent Special Agent John Quigley to see him.

“All of these things are suspicious,” Sabato told BI.

As a teenage Oswald was photographed with David Ferrie, a staunch anticommunist who would allegedly go on to buy weapons from mob boss Marcello and hand them off to Bannister and a CIA asset. Ferrie denied ever knowing Oswald, yet in September 1963, six witnesses alleged that the two showed up at a voter registration office in Clinton, Miss.

“It could be that Oswald was just a Forrest-Gump like character who popped up at interesting moments wherever he happened to live,” Sabato writes. “But just as conceivably, whether related to the Kennedy assassination or not, Oswald actually had secretive contacts with the CIA or the FBI, or both.”

Dealey Plaza

Sabato details several more intriguing connections to Oswald, including the top CIA officials who withheld information about Oswald after he allegedly showed up at the Cuban and Russian embassies in Mexico City on Oct. 9, 1963, in a failed attempt to secure visas so that he could go back to the Soviet Union.

When the CIA Mexico City station informed CIA headquarters that a man named Lee Oswald had been in contact with the Soviet consulate, Langley only sent a bare-bones reply with Oswald’s basic facts. And the CIA, which had self-operating surveillance cameras and telephone bugs in both buildings, has never produced a photo or recordings of Oswald at either embassy.

“The pieces of the Oswald puzzle stamped CIA may be ill-fitting, but they could reasonably create a portrait of covert action,” Sabato writes. “CIA headquarters might have found a good use for Oswald and would not have wanted to share how much they knew about this particular asset with lower-level employees or foreign country stations.”

Taken together, Sabato concludes that the prime suspects for influencing Oswald to murder JFK would be the Mafia, the anti-Castro Cubans, or a rogue cell within the CIA.

“They all had means, motive, and opportunity,” according to Sabato.

“As far as the CIA goes … it is clear beyond question that the CIA lied repeatedly to the Warren Commission and continued lying to the House Select Committee on Assassinations,” Sabato told BI. “Revealing nothing about the assassination attempts on Fidel Castro. Revealing very little about the fact they kept close tabs on Oswald: They knew what he was doing, they were evaluating him. I think they had something in mind. I don’t subscribe to the hidden coup within the CIA, although I don’t rule it out. ”

The suspicions about CIA went all the way to the top. Sabato writes that Marvin Watson, LBJ’s postmaster general, told the FBI that “President Johnson expressed a belief in private in 1967 that the CIA had had a role in Kennedy’s death.”

Where the mystery stands

The Kennedy Half Century

“Given the lack of hard evidence, to accuse any arm or agency of the federal government of orchestrating Kennedy’s assassination is both irresponsible and disingenuous,” Sabato writes. “At the same time, it is impossible to rule out the possibility that small, secret cabal of CIA hard-liners, angry about Kennedy’s handling of Cuba and sensing a leftward turn on negotiations with the Soviets … took matters into their own hands lest the United States go soft on Communism.”

The truth is that we may never know.

“I think this subject after 50 years requires some humility, which very few analysts of the assassination have,” Sabato told BI.

“I am tired of reading books by authors who are absolutely certain that they have found the truth about the assassination. Malarkey,” Sabato said. “There is no way to have a full picture. We are where we are and I think we are just going to have to accept that.”

New details could come out soon, however, when thousands of documents are scheduled to be released in October 2017.

“The President at that time will get to rule whether anything can remain secret and redacted,” Sabato said.


Paranoia-Rama: This Week In Right-Wing Lunacy

Submitted by Brian Tashman

We here at Right Wing Watch regularly observe how strange conspiracy theories and absurd right-wing nightmares percolate through conservative message boards and fringe websites all the way up to Fox News and the Republican Party, until they eventually become “mainstream.”

In a new feature, we’ll look at five of the week’s most absurd conspiracy theories and maniacal claims.

5. Satan Behind Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against Herman Cain

Herman Cain has finally put all those allegations of extramarital affairs and sexual harassment from different women to rest, saying that all of them were lying and are working the Devil. Cain told Real Clear Religion that Satan was behind the charges of sexual misconduct, several of which were made long before he even ran for president, as part of a plot to bring down his campaign, which he suspended before the Iowa caucus. After explaining how he was the real victim, Cain said that he now preaches about his experience in fighting the demonic spirits which supposedly manufactured the scandal.

4. Grover Norquist Is Palling Around With Terrorists

In an interview with Glenn Beck, Center for Security Policy head Frank Gaffney said that he saw terrorists meeting with Grover Noquist back when they shared an office in Washington, D.C. Rather than alert the authorities, apparently, Gaffney instead decided to wait over a decade to reveal Norquist’s terrorists allies. Norquist notes that on the date of his supposed meeting with terrorists, he wasn’t even in Washington.

Gaffney’s claims that Norquist is a terrorist fellow traveler are so farfetched that leaders of the American Conservative Union decided to kick Gaffney out of the annual right-wing summit CPAC, but that hasn’t stopped him from winning over Beck and other anti-Muslim zealots such as Jerry Boykin, David Horowitz and Pamela Geller. Cathie Adams of Eagle Forum has found even more definitive evidence that Norquist is a secret Islamic agent: “he has a beard.”

3. Obama Will Nuke Charleston

After the right-wing conspiracy that President Obama was planning to set off a nuclear bomb in Washington, D.C. and blame it on Syria, we now have gotten word that Obama has shifted his menacing plan to Charleston, South Carolina. Survivalists have been fretting about a secret plan to nuke Charleston that went awry after generals refused and, as a result, were swiftly fired by Obama.

This conspiracy theory follows claims made by Alex Jones of InfoWars, who cited comments made by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) about how Iran could give nuclear weapons to terrorists targeting US cities like Charleston, of an imminent false flag attack: “Graham is quite literally saying that if we do not launch a war with Syria, South Carolina may be nuked. And this ultimately reeks of yet another false flag being orchestrated by the United States government in order to send us into war, or at the very least a threat.”

2. Military, NFL Facing Feminization

Did you know that President Obama is personally selecting new hats for the Marines to make them look “feminine” and “French”? The New York Post story about Obama’s wretched plan to make male Marines seem “girly” was quickly picked up by Fox News, the Washington Times, Newsmax, all the news sources you’d expect not to do basic research to see if Obama was actually involved in uniform cover design process.

Shockingly, he wasn’t.

But maybe that was all a plot to take away attention from the “chickification” of the NFL, which Rush Limbaugh bravely exposed. “You don’t put the NFL in pink for a month!” Limbaugh said, referring to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, “I don’t think there’s any question, folks, that there is an attack on masculinity. And it’s not new. Basically the modern era of feminism, that’s what it is, is a critique against masculinity.”

1. Fainting Lady An Obama Plant

When a pregnant, diabetic woman nearly fainted during President Obama’s press conference in the Rose Garden, “Lady-Patriots” was on the case to expose her as an Obama plant! Naturally, Sarah Palin, Matt Drudge, and Fox News were happy to join the usual suspects like WorldNetDaily and InfoWars. “Lady Patriot” Sharon Scheutz foiled Obama’s false flag fainting to “take the focus off the disastrous website” and make people “feel warm and fuzzy for our hero President.”

“There are a lot of idiots out there,” she writes.

Indeed there are.
– See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/paranoia-rama-week-right-wing-lunacy#sthash.yu9jhdoP.dpuf


Conspiracy theories explain the right                                                    

The conservative mindset is in decline.

Stories of cabals and secret plots provide comfort as its power wanes  

By Arthur Goldwag

Conspiracy theories explain the right

What just happened in Washington?

Ask a true conservative believer, and they’ll tell you that it was the birth of a terrible beauty. They’ll say the GOP’s true leaders, our nation’s future leadership, revealed itself in all its splendid, futile glory—only to be stabbed in the back by a “thundering herd of chicken-hearted Republicans in Name Only (RINOs)  galloping to the Left.”

If you asked me, I would say that we witnessed a recrudescence of a nihilistic tendency that has never been far from the surface in American politics—a conservatism that is as far from the dictionary definition of conservatism as Obama is from being a socialist. Last fall, on the eve of the election, I wrote in Salon that “America is becoming more multicultural, more gay-friendly and more feminist every day. But as every hunter knows, a wounded or cornered quarry is the most dangerous. Even as the white, patriarchal, Christian hegemony declines, its backlash politics become more vicious.” Was it vicious enough to strap a figurative suicide vest to its chest and threaten the U.S. with default? If you had asked me at the time, I would have said no. Little did I know.

Some of the Republican jihadists who pressed for default feel so personally violated by the presence of a black family in the White House that they would just as soon burn it down as reclaim it. And some live in such a bubble of denial—an alternate cognitive universe in which the poor lord it over the rich and white Christians are a persecuted minority, in which a president who was twice elected by an overwhelming popular majority is a pretender, and a law that Congress attempted to overturn more than 40 times was “never debated”—that they have convinced themselves that a default would have actually been a good thing, that it would have restored the U.S. economy to a sound foundation.

It is a triumph not so much of a conspiracy as of conspiracist thinking. As John Judis wrote in The New Republic last week, even “lobbyists I talked to cited….Richard Hofstadter’s essay on ‘The Paranoid Style in American Politics’ to explain the rise of the populist right. It’s the kind of reference you’d expect to read in a New Republic article, but not necessarily in a conversation with a business lobbyist.”

Lest I be accused of falling for a left wing conspiracy theory myself, I want to say a few words about “conspiracy theory” before I continue. “Conspiracy theory” is a loaded and frankly a bad term, one that unfairly besmirches any and all theorizing about conspiracies.

Bracketing all thinking about conspiracies with tall tales and outright delusions about secret societies whose leaders toast each other with blood drunk out of human skulls is unfair and misleading. Some anti-government conspiracy theories—that the Tonkin Gulf Incident didn’t happen as reported, for example, or that the CIA was involved with international dope dealers, are so far from being ridiculous that they turn out to be true. The NSA does have access to your emails. For that matter, a certain amount of toasting with skulls (if not actual blood) has been reliably reported to go on in some quarters.

Still, there are theories and then there are theories. Scientists know the difference between unfalsifiable ones like intelligent design and genuinely scientific ones like evolution. Theories about political conspiracies are harder to put to the test; absence of evidence, as Donald Rumsfeld once said, is not evidence of absence. In fact it’s the whole point.

I do think most people know the difference between a “conspiracy theory” in its pejorative sense—say, that the Fed takes its orders from a secret society of Jewish elders, who cause depressions and wars to further their plan of ruling the world—and its literal sense, such as a serious inquiry into Oswald’s relationship to the CIA.

Still, truth can be stranger than fiction and we need to respect that.

If I were to tell you that a cabal of Congressional Republicans had been quietly working with a roster of little-known political organizations since the last election, many of them funded by a pair of shadowy billionaire brothers, to bring the country to the brink of financial ruin, I’d understand it if you thought I was talking about a conspiracy theory. But really I’d be describing the sausage making that goes on in politics today and the blurry lines between lobbying and influence peddling—and even more than that, about the behavior of people who are so blinded by rage, so driven by their own fever dreams about Obama’s plot to turn the U.S. into a Third-World, multi-racial, socialist, Muslim, atheist paradise, that they would pay any cost to ruin his presidency.

But if there is still any question about what a bad conspiracy theory is, I’d like to submit as Exhibit A one proposed by an anonymous author at the Canadian website Press Core, which was promoted a couple of weeks ago by World Net Daily columnist and Fox News contributor Erik Rush (sometimes known as “the other Rush”) on his radio show. Part of what makes it a classically “bad” conspiracy theory, besides its tendentiousness, is its meanness. It’s like a push poll; its sole purpose is to propagate a meme that demonizes and delegitimizes the president. I think it also provides insight into the mindset that characterizes far-right thinking these days.

The Navy Yard shootings in D.C., this theory goes, was a false flag incident perpetrated by the Obama administration to stop the Navy from arresting the president for treason. The victims of the shooting, who were all NCIS commanders, the story continues, had discovered that Obama was planning an even more horrific false flag—he was going to explode a nuclear device in Washington, D.C., to justify going to war with Syria. Some of this “sounds like a conspiracy theory,” the other Rush admitted, but “a lot of stuff that seemed to some of us like conspiracy theories years ago turned out to be true over the last few months.”

One way to judge a theory is to look at its source. Is it a generally respected news gatherer or a propaganda mill?  Scanning the headlines at Press Core, I couldn’t help noticing another article, this one with the byline Paul W. Kincaid, the site’s editor. The piece reveals that the Vatican, the U.N., and the Third Reich have been working together on a covert and sinister plan to exterminate, and I am quoting now, “as many as 3 billion people through Vatican unholy wars of terror against Muslim and Jewish states, designer diseases, and famine.”

This story really astounded me, because it sees both Jews and Muslims as victims rather than perpetrators. That’s not what you usually read on websites of this kind, trust me. Some of the most virulently anti-Islamic websites today, many of them run by Jews, feature stories that could have been written by 1930s anti-Semites like Elizabeth Dilling or Gerald Burton Winrod, except the word Shariah replaces the word Kehilla, and instead of out-of-context quotes from the Talmud about the necessity of lying to the gentiles they are pulled from the Koran and refer to the supposed doctrine of Tawriya. Of course a major theme at those sites is Obama’s suspicious sympathies toward the Muslim world.

The theories that we file under the unfortunate rubric of conspiracy theories are theories of everything. They have a kind of metaphysical authority, and, in their confidence that everything is ultimately connected, a scope and a moral framework that is almost theological.

Most of all, they are reactive. Conspiracists are people who feel threatened—in their pocketbooks, their status, or both. Conspiracy theories explain what is happening to them and why, assigning blame to an adversary who is consciously and deliberately carrying out an evil intention.

Conspiracists use the word “evil” as a noun as well as an adjective; they believe that their adversaries are literally demonic. Much as a Kabbalist believes that God fashioned the world out of Hebrew letters, many conspiracists believe that their enemies sign the catastrophes that they cause in visual, numeric or symbolic codes.

They look backward nostalgically to what they’ve lost, they look forward with anxious expectation to a bloody reckoning. As a political candidate once said in an unguarded moment, they cling to their guns and their religion.

Conspiracism turns chaotic events into coherent narratives—surprisingly often, one that hews to the storyline of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” an early 20th-century anti-Semitic pastiche that was cut and pasted together by Eastern Orthodox defenders of the absolute monarchy of the Tsar.

Conspiracy theories’ narratives unfold much as the storylines of massive multi-player online games do. They take place in a universe that’s bounded by hard-and-fast rules and peopled by broadly drawn, cartoon-like characters. Whatever happens is either part of the algorithm or something that one of the player gods has intentionally caused to happen.

You see this kind of thinking when you read claims that the Sandy Hook school shooting was staged by “actors,” or that purport to identify the fake blood and prosthetic limbs in the carnage after the Boston Marathon “false flag” bombing. Like the ancient Gnostics, or the characters in “The Matrix” or “The Truman Show,” they believe that God is a Satanic impostor—that the world is a deliberately constructed illusion, the opposite of the place that its designated authority figures purport it to be.

The Left, I freely admit, is not immune to conspiracy theories. If many of the “false flag” claims originate with quasi-Bircher populists like Alex Jones, they resonate in some leftist quarters as well. Communist dialectics and the theory of history that undergirds Premillennial Dispensationalism share some attributes; party propaganda was as filled with paranoid conspiracy theories (some of them true) as anything that the organized right has ever produced. But I do tend to think that the very reactiveness of reactionary thinking predisposes it to conspiracism a bit more. This is why as many extreme ideas resonate within the Republican mainstream as they do.

Conservatives, especially conservative white men of a certain age, many of them living in the states of the Old Dominion and the mountainous West, are feeling beleaguered in this fifth year of the Great Recession. As conservative as his governance has turned out to be in practice, the election of an African American president has tended to exacerbate their feelings of victimization.

Public Policy Polling has issued a couple of surveys on conspiracy theories this year. And belief pretty clearly breaks down along partisan lines:

  • 34 percent of Republicans and 35 percent of Independents believe a global power elite is conspiring to create a New World Order—compared to just 15 percent of Democrats.
  • Fifty-eight percent of Republicans believe global warming is a hoax; 77 percent of Democrats do not.
  • Sixty-two percent of Republicans and 38 percent of Independents believe the Obama administration is “secretly trying to take everyone’s guns away.” Only 14 percent of Democrats agree.
  • Forty-two percent of Republicans believe Shariah law is making its way into U.S. courts, compared to just 12 percent of Democrats.
  • More than twice as many Republican voters (21 percent) as Democrats (9 percent) believe the government is using “false flag incidents” to consolidate its power.
  • Forty-four percent of Republicans and 21 percent of Independents believe that Obama is making plans to stay in office after his second term expires. Only 11 percent of Democrats agree.

Most elected officials who traffic in conspiracy theories are too rich and successful themselves to believe in them; they deploy them opportunistically, to push voters’ emotional buttons. As Michael Tomasky wrote in The Daily Beast last week, “The rage kept the base galvanized….The rich didn’t really share the rage, or most of them. Even the Koch Brothers probably don’t….But all of them have used it. And they have tolerated it, the casual racism, the hatred of gay people, and the rest….because they, the elites, remained in charge. Well, they’re not in charge now. The snarling dog they kept in a pen for decades has just escaped and bitten their hand off.”

Back in the winter of 2012, a couple of weeks before my book “The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right” was published, I was at a party at my sister’s house, and she introduced me to the husband of a friend of hers, a lawyer active in the Democratic party. I told him how conspiratorial memes about the Illuminati have echoed down to us from the 1790s, and how the influence of fringe groups like the John Birch Society extends beyond marginal figures like Alex Jones and Ron Paul and can even be discerned in the GOP’s campaign rhetoric.

He just laughed derisively. “What possible relevance do those nuts have today?” he said. “Nobody cares about them.” Judging from the recent events in Washington, I think it’s safe to say that his complacency was a bit premature.

Arthur Goldwag is the author, most recently, of “The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right”

Conspiracy theorists, conservatives more likely to reject science
        Times LIVE

Image by: Thinkstock

        American conspiracy theorists and conservatives are more likely to reject scientific findings than American liberals, a recent study has found.

The study, published in the online science journal PLOS One, measured trust in science using three examples of scientific advance – vaccines, genetically modified foods and climate change.

Conservatives appeared to trust scientific findings less when they were likely to lead to regulatory outcomes, conspiracy theorists meanwhile were more likely to reject science on all three counts.

The scientists were surprised to find that liberals did not reject genetically modified foods, writing: “This result is striking in light of reports in the media that have linked opposition to [genetically modified] foods with the political Left based on statements by political figures. Our results provide no evidence that this link holds in the American population at large.”

Liberals were slightly less likely to trust vaccines however.

Conspiracy theorists, not bound by the need to make logical sense (for example, being able to buy into both the theory that Princess Diana was murdered and faked her death at the same time) were found to not only be more likely to reject science but hold more strongly to their ideas the more evidence mounted against them.

“Evidence against conspiracy theories is often construed as evidence for them, because the evidence is interpreted as arising from the conspiracy in question,” the researchers wrote.

Because evidence doesn’t really work with regards to dealing with people who believe in conspiracy theories, the scientists suggested a more indirect approach.

“Conspiracist misconceptions of scientific issues are best met by indirect means, such as affirmation of the competence and character of proponents of conspiracy theories, or affirmation of other beliefs they hold dearly.”

“Alternatively, efforts should be made to rebut many conspiracy theories at the same time because multiple rebuttals raise the complexity of possible conspiracist responses, thereby rendering it increasingly baroque and less believable to anyone outside a committed circle of conspiracy theorists,” the scientists wrote.


The right’s government shutdown conspiracy theories

From park closures to delayed back-pay for workers, the right sees the effects of the shutdown as a left-wing plot

By Elias Isquith

nlargeJim Geraghty, George Will  (Credit: CBS News/AP/F. Scott Applewhite)
It’s the second week of the government shutdown, and while the right is still confused about whether the shutdown is a good thing, one thing is certain: any and all negative repercussions from it are not only Democrats’ fault, but the result of a “sadistic” master plan to turn the American people against the Republican Party. “Obama views the shutdown as just a game,” writes Rachel Alexander for Townhall. She continues:

One senior level Obama administration official gloated, “We are winning.” Obama is cruelly playing with Americans’ emotions in order to beat the Republicans. He shut down veterans’ memorials, requiring World War II veterans to break down barriers in order to see a memorial set up for them. Obama is counting on the cruel, unnecessary shutdown of certain areas of government to anger Americans against Republicans, and not see it as a carefully plotted maneuver by the left.

National Review’s Jim Geraghty doesn’t allege any “carefully plotted” schemes from the left, but he does go so far as accuse Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of “sadism.” In response to the House’s passing a bill to guarantee back-pay for furloughed federal workers, Geraghty writes:

This is quite the revealing moment, as the leadership of the Democratic party and federal government workers are supposed to be the best of friends — symbiotic, really. But when the moment comes to help out federal workers, Harry Reid drags his feet. The only plausible motivation is that the Democrats’ strategy for “winning” the shutdown fight requires maximizing the pain to as many Americans as possible, so that the pressure is maximized on the GOP opposition to accept a deal that amounts to unconditional surrender.

“Harry Reid doesn’t want to minimize the pain of the shutdown,” Geraghty writes. “He wants to maximize it.”

From his new perch at Fox News, meanwhile, George Will argued that the National Park Service is acting like a “willing servant” of the Democrats. “All around the country,” Will said, the government “went out of [its] way to make life as unpleasant and inconvenient as possible.” Will went on to call the closure of parks “government acting as an interest group on its own behalf.”

%d bloggers like this: