Red Dawn: 2016

The more I think about it, the more I believe Comey should be investigated for his role in manipulating the election. The timing of every leak throughout the primaries and presidential campaign all benefited Trump, which is especially concerning given the amount of hacksscandalsquestionslawsuits, and investigations swirling around Trump at the same time, and continue to do so.

The DNC hack was in May 2016, and by June identified by three independent cyber security firms and a London professor of cyber security as Russian in origin. Identification was aided because such attacks were far from the first known hacks by Russia agents of foreign government servers (or US servers, of both parties), and the spring hacks were primarily unique due to the speed in which they were detected.

Apparently the RNC was also hacked, but chose not to report it because they were not concerned about a security breach. In Dec 2016 — eight months after the DNC hack, six months after the leak, and one month after Trump won — Trump’s chief propagandist, Sean Spicer, confirmed the RNC was also hacked, but claimed it was not relevant because a subsequent cyber security investigation showed the hackers only acquired out-of-date emails from a single former RNC employee (the implication being that RNC security was superior to DNC security). 

The problem, of course, is that even if what they’re saying is true, it still doesn’t explain why they waited 8 months to confirm they were also hacked (whereas the DNC immediately notified the press), or the inexplicable difference in details/ openness between how the DNC and RNC have handled the investigations and examination of hacking data and cyber security reports in the fallout. (Hint: the DNC has been open with the code, investigations, and results; the RNC waited months, then stonewalled with assurances that an unnamed cyber security expert assured them they were not comprised.)

In May 2016, unconnected to Russia, Bernie Sanders was surging ahead in the primaries. He was hailed as the potential “people’s” presidential candidate. Numerous articles and polls indicated he was a stronger candidate than HRC against Trump. 

When he began losing the primaries in June, those losses were accompanied by a growing sense of unfairness and accusations that the political process had been rigged — accusations of voter intimidation, voter suppression among revelations of voter purges and reduced polling locations led to grassroots attempts by some to demand recounts, while others filed local lawsuits in an attempt to nullify the state primary results and force a re-vote.

Given the intensity of the primaries, HRC was always going to have difficulty winning back a certain segment of the Sanders supporters. It didn’t help matters when — as June 2016 turned to July and Clinton’s victory was assured –HRC supporters appeared to respond to the outrage and accusations of voter suppression/ tampering by Sanders supporters as little more than bruised/ sensitive feelings and the whining of sir losers (or, more offensively, evidence of the lack of progressive credentials and/ or internalized sexism/ racism on the part of Sanders supporters for preferring a white male candidate over a white female candidate). 

The message Sanders supporters were getting was, essentially, get over it and fall in line, because HRC was now “their” candidate. It was in this already non-ideal climate that HRC won the primary, as we all know. 

I am not here to argue about whether or not her win was valid. Personally, I supported Sanders in the primary, but HRC in the presidential — but I’ll admit that it took me some time to come around, which is interesting because before the primary campaign I fully supported HRC as a candidate, based on her political, academic, and activist history.

In retrospect, I believe it took longer than it should have for me to recognize the clear fingerprints of emotional manipulation from the cumulative effect of this anti-HRC media blitz, due to the Julu DNC Convention Guccifer leak. 

That leak validated the sense of injustice and outrage which dogged Sanders’ supporters in the final weeks of the primary, and was especially frustrating in states like mine, where Sanders won the primary vote overwhelmingly, but the electors announced they would be supporting HRC as the nominee.

Furthermore, the anti-HRC media blitz became toxically pervasive at such a gradual rate (at least in liberal/ progressive circles) that, from hindsight, it is difficult to pinpoint when verifiably fake news about HRC began circulating among Sanders supporters. 

I know it did, because some of those stories were passed to me. Further research revealed some as the product of slanted information — a truth, half-told, but lacking the consideration or acknowledgment of valuable context/ extenuating circumstances — while others were outright lies. 

So, back to the leaks: the timing of the July Guccifer leak was nearly 2 months after the DNC hack; meaning the “smoking gun” emails indicating the DNC engaged in preferential techniques to benefit HRC had been in the hackers possession throughout the messy contentioness of the primary … but they waited to release those emails (and did so via an intermediary to provide plausible deniability) until just before the Democratic National Convention.

Perfect timing, really: It was too late to actually challenge the DNC party nomination; but by leaking just before the formal declaration, it created a sense of false hope that because nothing had been formally been announced, it could still be challenged/overturned — a false hope fanned by unsubstantiated rumors Sanders was going to lodge a formal challenge (denied by his campaign). 

HRC started her presidential campaign with her base in shambles, progessive/ Sanders supporting protesting the nomination, and a highly-publicized scourge of top DNC officials.

Throughout and after the presidential campaign, whenever former Sanders supporters talk about whatever method they did not vote HRC (Trump, third party, or abstaining), it was framed less as support for their chosen candidate/ action and more as a protest against the perceived corruption of HRC and the DNC: “Did you see the leaks?!” 

I always find myself thinking, “And?!” 

Okay, yes. The deal-making and internal corruption wasn’t great. But honestly? Also not unusual for either side. 

We all know that. That’s what the whole appeal of Sanders was — not being beholden to money in politics. And after Sanders defeat; Trump (falsely) co-opted that appeal (it still baffles me people somehow think a billionaire CEO  — the literal embodiment of a business interest — who refuses to release his tax returns is preferable to a government employee who was funded by business interests. One of those situations you can address via legislation.)

But that leak — think of the timing! That wasn’t about altruistic information, or truth for the sake of an informed populace creating a stronger democracy! 

If those were the goals, the emails would’ve been leaked shortly after the hack, in May 2016, when the results of the primaries could still be influenced. But Russia didn’t want to take the risk of a Sanders v. Trump presidential campaign; they wanted HRC as the nominee so they could cripple her presidential campaign with whispers and rumors from the outset. She was already being investigated for her email servers! All they needed to do was fan the flames of distrust — and boy howdy, did they.

Normally, a presidential candidate can rely on a significant proportion of their base turning out — even after a harsh primary — and spend the presidential campaign focusing on the swing/electoral college states. 

A lot of post-election critique made much of how HRC ignored the states Trump won, but nobody really talked about why: I think it was a response to starting the presidential campaign with a deeply splintered voter base and the DNC purges. She was campaigning to win back her base; the votes she should have been able to rely on in a normal electoral season. 

By the time the Russian-Guccifer link was confirmed, it was too late — the outrage of alienated progressives who supported Sanders felt validated, and trust in not only the candidate, but organized/ official institutions overall was severely undermined. Reports of HRCs innocence in the collision were met by too many with mockery and disbelief.

As a result of HRC’s campaign’s focus on winning back the base, they relied on social media/ TV/ debates to get her message out to the swing/ independent voters. Impossibly, this approach actually seemed to work — as election day approached, and it looked as though, against all odds, the HRC campaign had recovered, what happened?

Another devastatingly timed scandal headline, just days before the election. From James Comey, no less — top government official and known political opponent of HRC. The same man who had recently publicly exonerated her of wrongdoing in a highly publicized investigation; a statement which (arguably) went a long way to clearing her character and improving her chances of winning. 

It also made Comey look good: fair and honest. A registered Republican for “most of his life,” who donated to the Romney and McCain campaigns, Comey had an investigation record known as careful, nonpartisan, and evidence-based. When he’d cleared HRC of wrongdoing in the server email scandal, it pissed off Republicans as much as it reassured everyone else. 

So his sudden, unprecedented, unnecessary letter announcing new email-related developments — given his much-established character and credentials–was all the more damaging. 

And, again, perfectly timed: explosive and headline grabbing; seeding doubt in voters just before the election deadline, yet so baseless it was already fizzling away to nothing by election day and disappeared completely by the end of the month. 

But it was enough, with all the other whispers that dogged the HRC campaign, to erase any lead she may’ve had. Those swing voters and former Sanders supporters who might’ve gone out? They stayed home, or voted third party. Some of them, sadly, betrayed Sanders’ values and campaign altogether to vote Trump. 

The thing that bothers me most is that all this meddling would have been for naught if it weren’t for the electoral college. She still won the popular vote. Russia literally leveraged our flawed democracy against us. 

Everyone talks about the effect of false news inflaming the right wing voters so they went out and voted; but what about the demoralizing effect of the leaks on progressive voters?

Those leaks were timed to alienate the progressive base, in the hope HRCs campaign would be so occupied with winning back and consolidating her base, they would neglect the key swing states — and that is exactly what happened.

The hack and fake news are made much of, but I think it’s important not to forget the influence of the paid human trolls from Russia, or discount the real possibility they inflamed the internecine conflict of the DNC primaries. 

It is true DNC preferred HRC as a candidate. Traditional politics is once again infused and corrupted by corporate/ big bank finances. This is a situation which has historically recurred in the US political system, and been addressed not by outsiders with no working understanding of governance but career politicians (some despicable). 

It could have been addressed again, in our own house. By a politician at the very least rigged in our system, as opposed to implemented by the interference of outside manipulation. We have a Manikin President, a stooge whose failure upward was machinated not by a foreign power who seeks to control him — no, I do not think that’s Russia’s endgame at all.

They wanted Trump as the US president because he’s a fool who knows nothing of politics, and rather than serve US interests, his policies and mishandling of governance will undermine and devastate US standing on the world stage.

At this point, Russia doesn’t need to do anything else. From here on out, all the failures of this administration will be their own doing. 

HRC would have been the status quo, or slow change. The leaked emails which indicted her campaign, while inflammatory, were not the outright smoking gun of illegal and amor action many claimed them to be. 

I suspect for maximum effect, the Russian trolls (defined as Russian citizens who represented themselves as US citizens in social media and discussed the election with the intent of sowing dissent) amplified the simmering sense of injustice by:

  1. Posing as HRC supporters and insulting Bernie supporters/ encouraging actual HRC supporters to insult Bernie supporters, and
  2. Signal-boosting each lawsuit and failed attempt to verify primary election results, which cast more doubt on the validity of HRC’s nomination.

I just wish we could somehow get the election results discounted because of Russian interference and have the winner of the popular vote take office.

I have heard rumors HRC is thinking of running in 2020. I really hope not. She is one of those politicians who is, no doubt, extremely skilled, but she lacks a certain je nais se quoi, and it cripples her in national campaigns. I do not think this is anything as reductive as sexism, btw — I’m not denying sexism exists, and plays a strong role in how she is perceived. I’m just saying, whatever it is that makes her such an appealing candidate off-season seems to evaporate once the actual campaigning starts, and I can’t stand to watch it again.

I think I’d prefer Elizabeth Warren, or Kshama Sawant, or Pramila Jayapal. Michelle Obama would be amazing, obviously, if she had any interest in running — but she doesn’t, so I kinda feel like people should stop with the daydream.

“I don’t want to hear about it” 

My first day of Journalism 101, the professor asked each student how often they read the news, and what kind– actual news articles, by established journalistic organizations, blogger news, or viral posts in their social media feeds?

A surprising amount of the (presumably) aspiring journalists and reporters in the class confessed they did not actually read news articles. When pressed, the general consensus of the class was that the news is depressing and scary. One classmate asked why they can’t cover “nice” stories, like kittens or puppies or something.

Paraphrasing a bit here, because it’s been a few years, but essentially my professor said, “Take comfort in knowing that puppies are so commplace, their mere existence doesn’t merit headlines.”

Basically, no matter how frequent protests and riots and earthquakes and corruption and crime may seem in the news, there’s a reason they make headlines. On a planet with 7.4 billion people and counting, events such as these are remarkably out of the ordinary for large segments of the population. 

Tragedy is not ordinary, like puppies and kittens and joyful things are. Cruelty and selfishness are not expected as the default interaction, the way we expect civility, kindness, charity, love, and acceptance to be. 

If cruelty and bigotry were expected as the default mode of human interaction, we would not be so outraged by their presence. We would not be shocked into stunned silence, or driven to passionate outcry. 

And were it not for our expectation of civility, there would not be those among us who are so exhausted by the vicious and depressing weight of the news who sigh and say, “It’s just too much; I don’t like to talk about it.”

I can understand the impulse to hide; to bury ones head under the covers and hope the monsters have gone away by the time you come out.

But we are not children any more. And ignorance, though bliss, never solved anything. All it did was delay the moment of reckoning and–too often–prevent those who could have acted from doing so in a timely manner.

“But what can I do? It’s so depressing, and I don’t have enough money or power to make a difference.”

Well, the first step is staying informed–which means reading the news, and not just from sources you agree with. A broad cross-section of sources, both local and international, to get a nuanced and realistic sense of the issues.

And the second step is recognizing the power of organization. In Newsies, there’s a moment when Davey asks Cowboy how he’s going to get the heads of the biggest, wealthiest newspapers in New York to listen to the demands of a couple of street kids with no money. Cowboy replies, “We’ll go on strike!” 

“How?” Davey demands. “We’ve got no money, no union.”

“Well, if we go on strike, then we are a union,” reasons Cowboy.

And though Davey scoffs, at the core of it, Cowboy’s right. That musical may be a Disney-fied version of a historical event, but as far as the core message goes? It’s kind of spot on. 

One ordinary voice against the corrupt institutions of the powerful and wealthy isn’t going to change anything. But if you add another, and another, until that voice becomes a hundred voices and those become a thousand, and then a million–that is where our power is. 

Not in turning our eyes away with an unhappy sigh and plugging our ears to the cacophony of news in order to focus on tending to our own gardens, but in solidarity. In raising our voices in common cause to demand better for our neighbors, our communities, our coworkers — ourselves.

So listen. Be informed. Make your voice heard. And get involved in your community.

I can’t even with this shit

Jesus fuck, talk about moving goalposts.

So let me get this straight … after Conway referenced the (non existent) Bowling Green massacre (and was called out on it) to support the refugee ban, that non-populist, fixed-election joke of a puppet-president doubled down on this narrative by asserting to senior military officials in his first-ever military address the factually inaccurate and readily disprovable claim of the media literally ignoring terrorist attacks like a big bunch of jerks, right? And then his administration swears, in the face of the ensuing outcry, that they will totally release a list of these tragically ignored terrorist attacks that will justify their actions thus far–have I got it right so far?

Sure, we all thought the promised list would–like his tax returns–never materialize. And meanwhile, Propagandist Spicer is already mewling about, trying to walk this latest insanity with justifications of what Trump said wasn’t what he meant, although he meant what he said, just not the exact words–it went from something like “unreported” actually means “under reported,” because Trump feels these terrorist attacks didn’t get quite as much attention as, say, the protests of his inauguration.

“He felt that members of media don’t always cover some of those events to the extent that other events might get covered,” Spicer said. “Like a protest gets blown out of the water, and yet an attack or a foiled attack doesn’t necessarily get the same coverage.” — Chicago Tribune, Fact check: Trump’s unsupported claim that terrorist acts ignored by media

It seems Trump is a little offended at his unpopularity–that sounds almost like a, “Hey, guys, the vote might not have been exactly unanimous, but I’m no terrorist!”

Uh, Donny-boy, to a lot of people, you are.

Anywho, miracles of miracles, the Joker in Chief actually got his team to scrape up a list of these “unreported” attacks to illustrate his specific complaints. To recap, Trump said Islamic terrorist attacks were now at, “… a point where it’s not even being reported,” because, “in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it.

Spicer qualified those remarks, moving the goalpost to the more nebulous and difficult to pin down marker of “under reported” as opposed to “unreported” (because the amount of coverage something deserves, really, is fucking subjective). And it is into this atmosphere the infamous list was released into. Of course, as everyone with basic reading and critical thinking skills has already pointed out, the list completely fails in its stated purpose, on several counts:

  1. The majority of the terrorist attacks on the list were extensively covered by numerous news organizations–both print, online, and television–worldwide, while only a handful were limited to local news coverage.
  2. Chillingly absent from the list are the domestic terrorist attacks by Right-Wing Extremists (RWE), Christian Fundamentalist Misogynists (CFMs), and Active School Shooters (ASSs). It is a glaring absence on an official White House document which purports to be about addressing the failings of choosing to ignore or not report information one ideologically disagrees with.
  3. The damn thing is riddled with spelling errors. Just fucking riddled with them.

So, yeah. Basically, every terrorist attack cited (save for the fake Bowling Green one) were, in fact, reported on by, well, news reporters. Of the news media. Which (obviously) is how Trump knows about them.

I mean, obvious statement is obvious, you’d think, but some people can’t use the brains they were born with.

When questioned/ confronted about the extensive coverage of the attacks on the list, the propaganda team twins responded (in a nutshell) by once again moving the goalposts and definitions of the argument. Starting with Spicer: “Hey–they weren’t reported on enough, and the world is a dangerous place!” (Translation: YOU DON’T REALIZE HOW SCARY THE WORLD IS! THE WORLD IS SCARY AND WE WILL PROTECT YOU!

Throw the ball to White House spokesperson Lindsey Walters: “Look at the list, guys–terrorist attacks are happening every two weeks, okay? Once these would have inspired wall-to-wall coverage in every single news outlet, but now they’re so commonplace the networks are barely giving them any time!” (Translation: Okay! Okay, so they’re on the news, but look, they’re covered so frequently, nobody cares. Nobody’s paying attention. We’re just trying to force you to wake up, people!)

They keep moving the fucking goalposts. Redefining shit and changing their justifications. Talking in circles.

Most insultingly, they didn’t even run a fucking SPELL CHECK. Now, I KNOW any basic Word program spell check wouldn’t have missed “attaker” and “Denmakr,” whatever other flaws those damned unimaginative programs might have. I mean, what kind of rank incompetence is this?!? These are grown ass men who can’t fucking SPELL and people are still taking them seriously as politicians and government leaders? The only conclusion I have is that it was intentional — like they figured, ah, the people this list is allegedly aimed at aren’t gonna buy it, and our base is a bunch of illiterate rubes! Let’s pull a little prank and watch the eggheads explode in nerdrage. (cue evil megalomaniacal laugh).

Now, I did mention Trump and co. left out the domestic white terrorist attacks on their list. This is actually super important, because for years the FBI and Homeland Security have been aware of and quietly investigating the concerning trend of white supremacists infiltrating our nation’s law enforcement. In 2012, they even released a report about the domestic terror threat posed by US-military trained right-wing anti-government nationalist extremists, which was unfortunately suppressed after conservatives took offense and raised an outcry.

The thing is, the report wasn’t saying all conservatives are terrorists. Being conservative is a political belief–like anything else, there are gradients of intensity. There are extremists, moderates, and idealists in all beliefs/ causes/ movements.

The extremists and idealists are generally some sort of unattached–either in an unhappy relationship or no relationship, no kids/ pets dependant on them (if they have kids/ pets, they’re primarily cared for by someone else), and their employment situation is sporadic/ unpredictable. They sound a lot alike, but extremists tend to want to enforce their worldview by dint of violence, while idealists tend to prefer non-violent action/ self-sacrifice to illustrate their worldview.

I think most people are naturally moderate, especially once they’ve acquired the responsibilities of family/ employment/ community, and aspire to idealism. That said, on a cultural level, the violence of extremism is really admired and romanticized. Culturally, we’ve been fed a steady diet of rebel movements, anti-authoritarian actions, and brave underground resistance fighters who rise up against invading armies.

I think in a sense, it actually feeds the issue of extremism. See, pretty much everyone believes, in their heart of hearts, that they have what it takes to be the “good guys” of the story–the French Resistance, the Wolverines, the rebel spies. But for most of us, it’s a belief that’s sort of like, “If we have to.” Like, we don’t want to fight–but if push comes to shove, I think most people believe (deep down), they’d be the Rebels, not the Stormtroopers. The Wolverines, not the Russians (or Chinese, if you prefer the reboot). The plucky underdog, not one of the faceless army of the great evil.

But then, when push does come to shove, it’s not about Rebels v. Stormstroopers or Wolverines vs. Foreign Invaders or Resistance vs. Nazis. It’s not about space battles or plucky high school students MacGuyvering a resistance in the backwoods or the romantic tragedy of historical retellings–it’s here and now, in the place you clock in every day, with the coworkers who are not quite your friends but not quite your enemies, and the manager who brings in donuts every Friday. Those airport workers faced with implementing Trump’s ban–they didn’t have to be cruel. They could have resisted. There might even be some among them who love Casablanca, or Swing Kids, or Star Wars, or Firefly, or The Sound of Music. But when push came to shove, resistance was the choice they couldn’t make. I imagine them hesitating for a the breath of a moment–second-guessing, doubting. Then telling themselves, harshly– this isn’t Nazi Germany, or Star Wars, or some story! This is the real world–I need this job! I have bills to pay–my family needs me.

I imagine confusion, the anger pumping through them, sped by adrenalin. Shouting voices all around them–they work customer service every day and they’ve never had this many people shouting at them! They don’t know the answers–they don’t know what’s going on–I imagine them scared, confused and angry. Just want to do their job, to keep their job. So they lashed out, unfairly, at the perceived cause of all these problems–not Trump. Not the man who wrote the order, because he wasn’t there. They couldn’t lash out at him. But oh, the travellers equally taken aback by this insanity? They were right there, and people do that shit all the time–deflect their rage onto the nearest target. Yell at their kid because their spouse was in a bad mood. Scream at the cashier for the store policy they have no influence over. Berate the waiter because of the cook’s pace in the kitchen. Abuse the refugee because the president issued an order that brought out protesters and forced them to work overtime. I think it’s probably hard to see the way through to the end of the story when you’re suddenly the protagonist. The arcs and plots get all tangled up, and nothing is quite as clean or clear as we imagine it will be before the moment arrives.

But extremists, idealists–they push all that muddle aside long before the decisive moment, and construct a clear narrative to justify their actions. So they have this defining cause leading them to enforce their beliefs through violent action (extremists), or sacrifice their own financial security/ physical safety/ freedom in order to illustrate the importance of their cause (idealists). And they’ve gotten all the same cultural messaging, seen all the same films, and also imagined themselves in the role of hero.

The difference is, where moderates say to themselves, “If push came to shove, I think I could defend my family/ myself/ my home,” and idealists say to themselves, “If push came to shove, I think I could sacrifice everything for what I believe in,”  I think extremists might be saying to themselves, “Why am I waiting for push to come shove me and mine? Preemptive battle motherfuckers! This is waaaaaaaarrrrrrr!”

 

 

That in-depth investigation on right wing extremist terrorists in the US was pretty nerve-wracking. Taken in conjunction with the FBI/ DHS investigations and report, it’s pretty clear that an ideological war has been quietly raging right under our noses, and with the infiltrated law enforcement agencies across the nation preoccupied with the battle to clean house, they’re too preoccupied (best case scenario–worst case is they’re preserving the racist status quo and sympathetic to the RWE terrorists) to adequately address the threat of right-wing nationalistic terrorists and the danger they pose to their communities.

And that’s a really scary thought, because since 2002, RWE have killed more US citizens in service to their fundamentalist constitutional/ anti-modern-government, fundamentalist christian beliefs than jihadis have in that same time frame–RWE have launched 18 attacks with 48 total deaths, while jihadis claim responsibility for nine attacks and 45 deaths. I suppose the fact that RWE are already here, and have such ready access to weapons, makes their goal a lot easier.