This will never be normal

One of the current complaints of the Trump right concerns the treatment given to Alex Jones by Facebook, which has temporarily banned the Internet radio host for videos that violated “community standards.” According to Lou Dobbs of the Fox Business Network, “freedom of speech [is] under attack.” Fox News television personality Tucker Carlson has also come to Jones’s defense, saying sarcastically, “I know we’re supposed to think Alex Jones is way more radical than, like, Bill Maher.”

.. Well, yes, that is precisely what we should think. At various points, Jones has promoted the belief that

  • 9/11 was an “inside job,” that
  • Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of a pizzeria, that
  • NASA had built a child slave colony on Mars in order to harvest blood and bone marrow, that
  • the Oklahoma City bombing,
  • the Boston Marathon bombing and the
  • Sandy Hook school shooting were government “false flag” operations, that
  • some shooting survivors were “crisis actors,” that
  • “globalists” are intent on committing genocide and that
  • Democrats are on the verge of launching a second civil war.

.. President Trump has made a great many unpleasant things unavoidable. He has appeared on Jones’s Infowars program and assured Jones that his “reputation is amazing.” The White House briefly gave Infowars a press credential. And Donald Trump Jr. has retweeted Infowars stories.

.. It represents not only a certain approach to political strategy but also a certain approach to morality, pressed to its logical extreme. Trump is not a dogmatist; he is an egotist. He judges others not by their convictions, or even by their hold on reality, but by their fidelity to his person. It is a form of identity politics in which all that counts is one man’s identity. So Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), being faithless to Trump, is an enemy. And the revealer of child slavery on Mars is a friend.

.. Remember when a white man in Boston, spouting Trump slogans, beat up a homeless man outside a subway station? Trump responded: “People who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.”

.. Remember when a Trump supporter punched an African American man at a rally? Trump said that his follower “obviously loves his country.”

.. Remember when the alt-right provoked violence in Charlottesville? Trump pronounced some white nationalists to be “very fine people.”

.. The president has a nearly impossible time criticizing his fans, even when they are guilty of hate crimes and violence. In Trump’s own private creed, they are absolved of guilt by their loyalty to him.

.. This commitment

  • transforms their cruelty into the proof of passion; their
  • prejudice into an expression of patriotism; their
  • lawlessness into the embrace of his higher order. ‘

Just ask former Phoenix area

  • sheriff Joe Arpaio, pardoned after his abuse of Hispanic migrants. Or
  • Oregon cattle ranchers Dwight Hammond and his son Steven, pardoned after defying the federal government.

All were justified and sanctified by their devotion to Trump.

.. Any political movement is defined not just by what it aspires to, but also by whom it excludes. And the alt-right, the Alex Jones right, the white nationalist right know that they are fully included in Trump’s definition of his movement.

.. They know that their loyalty to him has been rewarded with a legitimacy they have craved for decades. And they are full, enthusiastic partners in the Trump project — to delegitimize any source of authority and information but his own.

  • .. Genuine populists are discredited by consorting with people who accuse elites of arming for mass murder.
  • The religious right is caught in bed with a diseased, seeping moral relativism. And
  • Fox anchors come to the defense of a man who verbally defiles the graves of murdered children.

 

The Great Russian Disinformation Campaign

In a new book, Timothy Snyder explains how Russia revolutionized information warfare—and presages its consequences for democracies in Europe and the United States.

When Westerners first began to hear of Vladimir Putin’s troll army—now some five years ago—the project sounded absurd. President Obama in March 2014 had dismissed Russia as merely a weak “regional power.” And Putin’s plan to strike back was to hire himself a bunch of internet commenters? Seriously?

.. historian Timothy Snyder observed that Russia’s annual budget for cyberwarfare is less than the price of a single American F-35 jet. Snyder challenged his audience to consider: Which weapon has done more to shape world events?

.. Amid the collapse of the Soviet state, canny survivors of the old regime seized valuable assets. Yeltsin secured their new wealth; they secured Yeltsin’s power.
..  Yeltsin elevated Putin as his deputy, then resigned in his favor. Putin faced the electorate in 2000 supported by all the power and money commanded by a Russian incumbent. Public opinion was consolidated by a conveniently timed series of murderous terrorist bombings. Number Snyder among those Western experts who strongly suspect that the bombings were organized by the Russian authorities themselves to legitimate Putin’s accession.
.. He promoted ideologies that Snyder inventively describes as schizo-fascism: “actual fascists calling their opponents ‘fascists,’ blaming the Holocaust on the Jews, treating the Second World War as an argument for more violence.” Putin’s favored ideologist, Alexander Dugin, “could celebrate the victory of fascist in fascist language while condemning as ‘fascist’ his opponents.”
.. In this new schizo-fascism, homosexuals played the part assigned to Jews by the fascists of earlier eras. Democratic societies were branded by Russian TV as “homodictatorships.”
.. When Ukrainians protested against faked elections and the murder of protesters, Russian TV told viewers, “The fact that the first and most zealous integrators [with the European Union] in Ukraine are sexual perverts has long been known.”
.. Putin himself struck more macho poses and wore outfits more butch than all the stars of the Village People combined.
.. “Putin was offering masculinity as an argument against democracy.”
.. it all started with the August 2012 law outlawing advocacy of gay rights.
.. Even as Russian troops in Russian uniforms seized the peninsula, Putin denied anything was happening at all. Anyone could buy a uniform in a military surplus store. Russia was the victim, not the aggressor. “The war was not taking place; but were it taking place, America was to be blamed.”
.. Snyder identifies a new style of rhetoric: implausible deniability. “According to Russian propaganda,
  • Ukrainian society was full of nationalists but not a nation;
  • the Ukrainian state was repressive but did not exist;
  • Russians were forced to speak Ukrainian though there was no such language.”

Russian TV told wild lies. It invented a fake atrocity story of a child crucified by Ukrainian neo-Nazis—while blaming upon Ukrainians the actual atrocity of the shooting down of a Malaysian civilian airliner by a Russian ground-to-air missile.

Russia’s most important weapon in its war on factuality was less old-fashioned official mendacity than the creation of an alternative reality (or more exactly, many contradictory alternatives, all of them Putin-serving). “Russia generated tropes targeted at what cyberwar professionals called ‘susceptibilities’: what people seem likely to believe given their utterances and behavior.

..  “The Russian economy did not have to produce anything of material value, and did not. Russian politicians had to use technologies created by others to alter mental states, and did.”

.. Snyder cites repeated examples of journalists in prominent platforms, trusted by left-of-center readerships, whose reporting seemed to support Russian claims that Ukraine had become a romper room for neo-Nazis—or alternatively to “the green flag of jihad.”

.. Many of these reports cited second- and third-hand sources, some of whom disappeared untraceably after depositing their testimonies on Facebook.

Hard-left and alt-right social-media trolls then tidied up after the reporters, belittling claims that the original sources were disinformation.

.. Trump in Snyder’s telling was not the successful businessman he performed in his TV non-reality series, The Apprentice, but an American loser who became a Russian tool. “Russian money had saved him from the fate that would normally await anyone with his record of failure.”

.. . His first big foreign-policy speech of the election campaign—viewed from a reserved front-row seat by the Russian ambassador to the United States—was reportedly ghostwritten in considerable part by Richard Burt, a former American diplomat then under contract to a Russian gas company. (Burt has denied this attribution).

.. Snyder sees Trump as very much a junior partner in a larger Russian project, less a cause, more an effect.

.. slowly before Trump—and rapidly after Trump—America is becoming like Russia: a country on a path to economic oligarchy and distorted information.

.. Trump’s attitude to truth again and again reminds Snyder of the Russian ruling elite: The Russian television network RT “wished to convey that all media lied, but that only RT was honest by not pretending to be truthful.”

 

After the Parkland shooting, pro-Russian bots are pushing false-flag allegations again

For most Americans, the Parkland shooting was a terrible tragedy. But for social media accounts that promote the interests of Russia in the United States, it was a fantastic opportunity.

.. According to Hamilton 68, a tracker website created by the German Marshall Fund, a lot of them linked to photos of guns and ammunition on the Instagram account of the suspected killer, plus a screenshot of a Google search for “Allahu akbar.” Others linked to a fact-checking website that debunked some statistics about gun crime. By Friday morning, some of the same accounts were also pushing something slightly different: the hashtag #falseflag. That’s a reference to the conspiracy theory, already widespread 48 hours later, that the shooting never happened, that the attack is a “false flag” operation staged by the U.S. government as a prelude to the seizure of guns.

.. And this is just the beginning. Over the next few days, many of these same kinds of accounts will invent a whole range of conspiracy theories about the shooting. If the past repeats itself, pro-Russian, alt-right, white-supremacist and pro-gun social media accounts will promote the same hashtags and indulge in the same conspiracy theories. Each group has its own interests in pushing #falseflag, but the Russian interest is clear. They do it because it helps undermine trust in institutions — the police, the FBI, the media — as well as in the government itself.

They also do it because it helps to amplify extremist views that will deepen polarization in U.S. political life and create ever angrier, ever more partisan divides.

.. since the events of 2016, very little has changed. Despite the bad publicity, Twitter has not removed bots from its network, and despite some theatrical agonizing from its chief executive, Facebook has not taken steps to ensure that its targeted advertising systems are not still spreading disinformation, too.
.. No major institutions, government or non-government, have launched digital-literacy campaigns to help teach people how to identify disinformation campaigns, Russian or not.

The “soft coup” under way in Washington

If Donald Trump had any kind of presidential strategy and propensity to take command, he would have had all the intercepts of Russian chatter gathered up weeks ago. He would then have had them declassified and made public, even as he launched a criminal prosecution against Obama’s hit squad­-John Brennan,

Susan Rice and Valerie Jarrett for illegally unmasking and leaking classified information.

Such a course of action would have crushed the Russian interference hysteria in the bud.

.. At bottom, the latter was a rearguard invention of the Deep State and Democratic partisans. They became literally shocked and desperate for a scapegoat early last fall by the prospect that the unthinkable was happening.

Namely, the election by the unwashed masses of an outsider and insurrectionist who could not be counted upon to serve as a “trusty” for the status quo; and whose naïve but correct instinct to seek a rapprochement with Russia was a mortal threat to the very modus operandi of the Imperial City.

.. After all, it didn’t take a Kremlinologist from the old Soviet days to figure out that Putin did not favor Clinton, who had likened him to Hitler. And that he welcomed Trump, who had correctly said NATO was obsolete, that he didn’t want to give lethal aid to the Ukrainians, and had expressed a desire to make a deal with Putin on Syria and numerous other areas of unnecessary confrontation.

.. Given that he is up against a Deep State/Dem/Neocon/ mainstream media prosecution, the Donald has no chance of survival short of an aggressive offensive of the type described above.

But that’s not happening because the man is clueless about what he is doing in the White House and is being advised by a cacophonous coterie of amateurs and nincompoops. So he has no action plan except to impulsively reach for his Twitter account.

.. “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt”

So alone with his Twitter account, clueless advisors and pulsating rage, the Donald is instead laying the groundwork for his own demise. Were this not the White House, it would normally be the point at which they send in the men in white coats with a straight jacket.

.. Mueller is a card-carrying apparatchik of the Deep State, who was there at the founding of today’s surveillance monster as Director of the FBI in the aftermath of 9/11. Since the whole $75 billion apparatus that eventually emerged was based on a vastly exaggerated threat of global Islamic terrorism that doesn’t exist, Russia had to be demonized into order to keep the game going­-a transition that Mueller fully subscribed to.

.. To wit, Mueller’s #1 hire was the despicable Andrew Weissmann. The latter had led the fraud section of the department’s Criminal Division, served as general counsel to the F.B.I. when Mueller was its director, and, more importantly, was the driving force behind the Enron task force the most egregious exercise in prosecutorial abuse and thuggery since the Palmer raids of 1919.

.. Exactly four years ago in June 2013, no one was seriously demonizing Putin or Russia. In fact, the slicksters of CNN were still snickering about Mitt Romney’s silly claim during the 2012 election campaign that Russia was the greatest security threat facing America.

.. But then came the Syrian jihadist false flag chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus in August 2013 and the US intelligence community’s flagrant lie that it had proof the villain was Bashar Assad.

.. To the contrary, it subsequently became evident that the primitive rockets that had carried the deadly sarin gas, which killed upwards of 1500 innocent civilians, could not have been fired from regime-held territory; the rockets examined by UN investigators had a range of only a few kilometers, not the 15-20 kilometers from the nearest Syrian base.

.. in the eyes of the neocon War Party, this constructive act of international statesmanship by Putin was the unforgivable sin. It thwarted the next target on their regime change agenda­-removal of the Assad government in Syria as a step toward an ultimate attack on its ally, the Shiite regime of Iran.

.. the entire apparatus of Imperial Washington­–the CIA, the National Endowment for Democracy, the State Department and a long string of Washington funded NGOs­-was on the ground in Kiev midwifing the putsch that overthrew Ukraine’s constitutionally elected President and Russian ally.

.. the Ukrainian civil war and partition of Crimea inexorably followed, as did the escalating campaign against Russia and its leader.

.. Indeed, given the Stalin-era animosity between the Russian-speaking Donbas and Crimean regions of the confected state of Ukraine and the virulent anti-Russian populations elsewhere­ – including descendants of the Nazi collaborators with Hitler during WWII­ – there could have been no other outcome. And that was especially the case after Washington designated “Yats”, a neo-Nazi sympathizer named Arseniy Yatseniuk, as the guy to takeover the Ukrainian government at the time of the Kiev uprising.

.. Russia moved to protect its legitimate interests in its own backyard resulting from the Washington-instigated civil war in Ukraine, including protecting its 200-year old Naval base at Sevastopol in Crimea. The War Party simply characterized these actions falsely as acts of aggression by a potential sacker of the peace and territorial integrity of its European neighbors.