Howard Kurtz is equally tired of Republicans trying to stage a coup and of Democrats getting mad about it.
On Wednesday morning, Fox News host Howard Kurtz took to Twitter to let the world know that both sides are bad in the most hilarious attempt at false equivalency in modern memory.
Host of the Fox News show Media Buzz, Kurtz recognizes the dangerous game the Trump administration is playing. By blocking President-Elect Joe Biden and his team from transitional access to the workings of the federal government, they are threatening the stability of America's institutions.
A smooth transition of power is essential. And people like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and General Services Administrator Emily W. Murphy are flouting that important process.
Sec. of State Mike Pompeo: 'There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration' www.youtube.com
In order to prop up Donald Trump's continued denial of the fact that he lost the election, they are refusing access to Biden's team. Pompeo even mocked a reporter's question on the issue in a press conference on Tuesday, remarking that there would be "a smooth transition to a second Trump administration."
In case there is any uncertainty, it should be noted that Joe Biden unequivocally won the election, and the only way to achieve a "second Trump administration" would be through a coup.
But Kurtz knows that this issue—like every issue in American politics—cannot possibly be one-sided. That's why he identified the major culprit on the other side of the aisle: Sister Act star Whoopi Goldberg.
One of the hosts of ABC's daytime talk show The View, Goldberg had a message on Monday for any of Donald Trump's supporters who are still in denial about the election's clear outcome. Addressing the camera directly, the comedian and actor told them to "suck it up."
"Hillary Clinton didn't say, 'Hey, wait a minute, this doesn't feel right, stop the count.' She didn't say, 'This doesn't feel right, I'm not going for it.' She didn't say any of that. So all of you, suck it up. Suck it up like we sucked it up."
From Trump's GSA barring Biden transition officials from federal buildings to Whoopi Goldberg telling his voters to… https://t.co/musEsjBXz1— HowardKurtz (@HowardKurtz) 1605097229.0
Of course many Trump supporters would no doubt take issue with the idea that a three-year investigation into electoral misconduct—resulting in dozens of indictments and guilty pleas, including several figures from within the Trump campaign—was "sucking it up."
But Whoopi left room for them to pursue the same approach with Biden, saying, "If the law says it's something to look at, look at it." It's just that first they have to acknowledge the reality of the election results.
They have to stop clinging to phony claims of fraud and stories about election observers being excluded. They have to accept the election results and admit that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won.
Still, Howard Kurtz felt that Goldberg—the woman who allowed Patrick Swayze to possess her so he could dance with Demi Moore in Ghost—had overstepped the bounds of her sacred duty. Pushing voters to accept the outcome of a democratic election is apparently out of line.
And who has a responsibility to remain politically impartial more so than the star of 1995's classic Theodore Rex—a movie about a dinosaur who is also a cop?
It was Howard Kurtz's own tweet promoting a column he wrote on "both sides" of the election dispute that highlighted the supposed parallel between Whoopi Goldberg and top Trump administration officials. But when "Whoopi Goldberg" became a trending topic on Twitter—with users mocking his comparison—Kurtz pushed back, saying in another tweet, "Gee, I'd really prefer people react to the whole column about anger and payback on both sides."
ah yes, the famous two sides, "the president of the United States" and "Whoopi Goldberg" https://t.co/DiQoOoz6OW— Albert Burneko (@Albert Burneko) 1605106033.0
Leaving aside the fact that he chose those ridiculous examples to put in his original tweet, reading the full column doesn't make it much better.
Kurtz draws absurdly stretched comparisons throughout. He likens comments from a former Obama and DNC spokesperson to the actions of two sitting senators.
The former spokesperson, Hari Sevugan, recently called for Trump staffers to be held accountable for assisting in an attempted coup—for employers to shun them. On the other side, the two sitting senators from Georgia have called for the resignation of Georgia's secretary of state just for acknowledging that Joe Biden won the state through legal votes.
Never mind the strangeness of placing a man who no longer speaks for any political institution on the level of two of the nation's top legislators. While it's worth noting that they're obviously in different leagues, the reality is that they aren't even playing the same game.
Because Senators Perdue and Loeffler—who both face contentious run-off elections in January—weren't weren't criticizing the other side. They were attacking a fellow Republican simply for not supporting the president's delusional belief that he somehow won an election he clearly lost.
Kurtz's only other example of a Left-wing attack is a political commentator who hasn't been on MSNBC since 2015. Touré wished ill on Trump supporters for voting "against America and for a cult leader who has no redeeming or admirable qualities."
As for the Right-wing, Kurtz points to Attorney General Bill Barr, who has taken the unprecedented step of involving the Justice Department in what is technically an ongoing election. Before a winner is officially certified, Barr has approved investigators to pursue claims of election fraud.
There is, of course, no reason not to be vigilant in these matters. Investigators should pursue any legitimate allegation in an unbiased manner.
But at the moment there are no legitimate allegations—just a series of flimsy excuses. And Barr has spent his entire tenure as AG making it clear that his Justice Department is anything but unbiased. He works directly for Donald Trump. Which is presumably why Barr's latest move prompted the department's election crimes chief to resign this week.
With Bill Barr’s newly issued ‘Election Interference’ memo, apparent we have a second Barr policy to add to the OLC… https://t.co/7ZcqQqsPBH— Glenn Kirschner (@Glenn Kirschner) 1605044639.0
So, no, there is no "both sides" in the election dispute. Joe Biden won the election, and Donald Trump is using his power and his supplicating cronies in an effort to undermine the democratic result.
On the Left, media figures of varying stature are being rude and pushing Trump supporters to accept reality. On the Right, people with real power are supporting an attempted coup that strikes at the heart of American democracy–and attacking those who don't as apostates.
As is so often the case with efforts to find blame on "both sides," Kurtz is trying to provide cover for Republicans' blatant misconduct by dredging up petty gripes with the Democrats.
The reality is: Democrats and Republicans are not equivalent. In terms of corruption, deceptive rhetoric, and blind party loyalty, the Democrats are horribly outmatched. Kurtz's pathetic attempt to make it seem otherwise only serves to make that more clear.
Our broken electoral system makes the endless stress and confusion of razor-thin margins inevitable. But we can fix it.
The panic that enveloped the world on November 3, 2020 already feels like a bad dream.
Despite the best efforts of Bernie Sanders and others to prepare us for the inevitable chaos, the partisan divide between mail-in and in-person voting had the predictable effect last Tuesday.
As the in-person votes accumulated in several key states where mail-in totals were always going to be delayed, the sense that Donald Trump was outperforming expectations—and was likely to secure reelection—was pervasive.
Sen. Bernie Sanders Predicts How Trump Will React On Election Night www.youtube.com
The president's rhetoric—deriding mail-in voting and downplaying the threat of the deadly coronavirus pandemic—meant that his supporters were much more likely to turn out to polling places. Democratic voters, on the other hand, were more inclined to avoid the crowded public spaces of election day voting.
Considering the ongoing, unprecedented spike in COVID-19 cases in the US, that caution was well-placed. Nonetheless, it gave President Trump leeway to pretend that his apparent victory had somehow been tampered with.
That strategy may turn out to work, and Donald Trump could snatch a "legal" coup from the jaws of a clear electoral defeat. But if the election had been closer, this game would have been much easier for him to play. The uncertainty and the potential for a court case to disrupt the results—as happened in Florida in the 2000 election—could have taken over the country for weeks without any projected winner.
Instead, victory was declared for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and we got to experience the pristine beauty of Donald Trump's desperate legal team scrambling to give a press conference outside Philadelphia's Four Seasons…Total Landscaping.
The image of Rudy Giuliani spreading lies about fraudulent votes in front of a garage door in a random, grungy parking lot was priceless. The only thing better is the way he and his team unconvincingly pretended to have booked that spot—rather than the similarly-named luxury hotel—on purpose.
I could write jokes for 800 years and I'd never think of something funnier than Trump booking the Four Seasons for… https://t.co/HoNzSpDrlt— Zack Bornstein (@Zack Bornstein) 1604804994.0
And that absurd, hilarious fumbling is all thanks to the fact that Joe Biden earned a resounding and unambiguous victory. Except… Did he?
The Election Results
At current count Joe Biden has received around 5 million more votes than Donald Trump, and that margin is likely to grow as millions of remaining votes are tallied.
His popular vote lead puts him roughly in line with Barack Obama's unequivocal defeat of Mitt Romney in 2012. Biden is also projected to win as many as 306 electoral college votes—the same number Donald Trump won in 2016, and well in excess of the 270 needed to secure the presidency.
While these figures fall short of most of the polling in the lead-up to the election—which predicted Biden securing closer to an 8% lead—it still sounds like a decisive result. Sadly that shortfall hurt down-ballot Democrats, who failed to take control of the Senate or strengthen their caucus in the House. That points to at least two years of divided, ineffectual governance while Americans face down multiple generation-defining crises.
Still, the fears of a Trump victory that loomed large as the first results came in now seem a little silly. Trump didn't really stand a chance, right?
I woke up this morning with a sense of dread that I can't shake. So I'm gonna put my doom spiral out there in hopes… https://t.co/nTkVxyJVbt— Natalie Wynn (@Natalie Wynn) 1604988024.0
Sadly, no. While the number of Americans who turned out to reject Trump's hateful politics and failures of leadership outnumber their pro-Trump counterparts by a respectable margin, the growing sense that Biden's victory was inevitable and comfortable does not hold up to scrutiny.
As 2016 taught us, "millions more votes" is a meaningless achievement in our bizarre, antiquated system. In that presidential race Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, but the way electoral votes are apportioned to favor rural states resulted in Donald Trump winning 306 electoral votes and the presidency (later finalized as 304 due to faithless electors).
The Decisive States
At the time, a great deal of attention was paid to the fact that three states—Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan—had narrowly handed Trump his win. Worth a total of 46 electoral votes (enough to flip the whole election), Trump's margin of victory in those states was less than 1%.
From a cohort of 138 million, 79,316 voters in those three states ended up making the decision for the entire country. It seemed like a slap in the face to the notion of Democratic elections. But it turns out that things were even more narrow in 2020.
While there are still votes being counted—and the specific figures could change as the final tallies come in—it looks likely that four states will go to Biden with a margin of less than 1%. And in the three states where counts are currently closest—Georgia, Arizona, and Wisconsin—Biden is ahead by a total of fewer than 50,000 votes.
If those three states had gone the other way—Arizona could still flip—Donald Trump would have secured their 37 electoral votes and been handed a second term as president. And that's exactly what would have happened if 0.03% of the 160 million Americans who voted had decided to stay home—or if half that number flipped to voting for Trump instead of Biden.
Projected final Electoral College Tally, with current vote counts in the four closest states.AP
And Donald Trump only needs to assemble enough flimsy evidence to cast substantial doubt on that tiny fraction of votes in order to conduct a coup.
To put things in perspective, the voters who ensured Joe Biden's victory are outnumbered by the average daily visitors to Disneyland (pre-COVID). Back in the '90s, all the voters who were decisive in expelling Trump from the White House could have fit inside Donald Trump's Atlantic City casinos—before those were all either shuttered or rebranded.
The number of voters who determined our leader during a pandemic are dwarfed by the number of people who have been killed by that pandemic in New York and Texas alone...
Even if you add Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes to the mix, around 95,000 voters could have delivered Donald Trump a comfortable victory—with 292 electoral votes—just by staying home. Then they all could have gone to a game at Penn State's Beaver Stadium, with 10,000 seats left to spare.
The Problem With the Electoral College
Why is it possible—let alone familiar and expected—for the most powerful position on Earth, leading a nation of 330 million, to be assigned according to the will of a number of people who couldn't fill the seats at a college football game?
Our system, as it currently exists, makes these razor-thin margins unavoidable.
If the decision were between two disappointing moderates, that might not be such a terrifying prospect, but political polarization has made each election an inevitable battle between a far-right zealot and… a disappointing moderate.
States with more rural populations lean strongly Republican, while more urban states lean strongly Democratic. With the already swift rate of cultural progress in cities being amplified by the Internet's tendency to intensify everything, the backlash in rural areas that are more resistant to change is stark, and the divide is only growing.
Of course the populous in Democratic states significantly outnumber Republican states. In a democratic system that would mean that Republicans would have to shift their policies and their rhetoric to appeal to more people. But the electoral college cancels out the population difference—giving smaller states proportionally more sway.
As a result, Republicans can play more and more to their relatively small base of support, while Democrats attempt to build broad enough support to overcome their disadvantage. And this struggle ends up playing out in just a handful of "swing states" where opinions are fairly mixed.
That's where candidates spend hundreds of millions of dollars, bombarding residents with attack ads, trying to sway the slim percentage of voters who aren't devoted to one side or the other. And the effect is to leave an increasing number of people disgusted with the whole political process.
This makes it exceedingly easy for misinformation or voter suppression efforts to become decisive. What if Trump donor Louis DeJoy had been even better at slowing down the mail in the lead up to the election? What if a "satirical" deepfake video of Hunter Biden had spread on Facebook, bolstering false claims of pedophilia? Would it have been enough to shift the vote by 1% in Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin?
In either case, as awful and as stressful as this election was, we shouldn't take the less-than-horrifying result as a sign that things are okay, or that the next election will be any better. As a nation we walk on a political knife's edge that's controlled by a fraction of the population of a few states.
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact: A Possible Solution
If you don't live in one of those battleground states, you will never be in that tiny group of voters whose decision to vote or stay home determines the next four years for the rest of America. As long as we continue to allow the confusing, undemocratic, and unpopular Electoral College system to determine the outcome of presidential elections, candidates will ignore the needs of your state, because your vote won't count.
The good news is: There is a way out that doesn't avoids the nearly impossible process of passing a constitutional amendment.
The Electoral College and the National Popular Vote | One Detroit Clip www.youtube.com
States have the power to determine how their electoral votes are awarded. If a few more state legislatures in places like Texas—where each vote has roughly ⅓ the power of a vote in Vermont—signed onto the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, we could render the Electoral college moot.
A winning number of electoral votes would go to whoever won the popular vote. Our next president would be determined by millions of Americans, rather than a few thousand people in Wisconsin.
Until then, we will keep walking the razor's edge.
A profile of America's greatest conman.
Donald John Trump (born June 14, 1946)–also known by the aliases John Barron, John Miller, and David Denison—is the former villainous star of reality TV show The Apprentice and current villainous star of actual reality.
Elected to the presidency of the United States—against the popular will of the voting public—by a vestige of America's history as a nation fueled by slavery, he has declared himself "the least racist person there is anywhere in the world."
Despite this apparent obstacle, Trump has managed to win over an overwhelming majority of America's thriving racist community by surrounding himself with white supremacists, refusing to condemn hate groups, dog whistling so loudly Old Yeller can hear it, and putting young children in concentration camps for months while prosecuting their parents for committing a misdemeanor.
How Trump's Family Separation Traumatized Children www.youtube.com
Known for his catchphrases, "You're fired!" and "When you're a star, they let you do it," Trump first captured the attention of federal investigators in 1973 for systemic discrimination against Black prospective tenants at one of his housing developments. Under noted bleeding-heart liberal Richard Nixon, the Justice Department sued Trump and his father for refusing to rent to Black Tenants.
Since that early highlight, Donald Trump has gone on to have an impressive career as the target of numerous federal investigations for everything from tax evasion to insurance fraud to running a sham "university" and (possibly) colluding with a foreign power to undermine American "democracy."
Having inherited a huge portion of his wealth from his real estate mogul father—a sum dramatically increased by dodging estate taxes—the money Donald Trump has "earned" has been based mostly on his reputation as a famous rich guy.
It's that reputation as a brash "billionaire" who can turn s**t to gold that has allowed him to repeatedly turn gold to s**t, accruing numerous bankruptcies, endless scandals, and unfathomable levels of debt, all while building lifelong ties to organized crime, global oligarchs, and the shadiest figures in American politics—from Roy Cohn to Roger Stone.
But, perhaps most importantly, that reputation earned Trump opportunities for media attention, which he craves above all else. That's how he ended up with a place in the WWE hall of fame, a cameo appearance in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, and a starring role as Biff Tannen in Back to the Future Part II .
Was Donald Trump in Back to the Future? www.youtube.com
It's how Donald Trump ended up with his own reality show, where editors worked tirelessly to add an air of business competence to his rich assh**e mystique. And it's why in 2011—amid calls for the government to be "run like a business"—anyone cared to listen to "businessman" Donald Trump's baseless, racist suggestion that Barack Obama wasn't really born in Hawaii.
And it was that birther ordeal that led inevitably to Trump's ascension as a political figure, to the Trump presidency, and to the apocalypse circling overhead as America's pathetic, depleted husk crawls further into the lifeless expanse of the future.
Among Trump's most notable life achievements, apart from becoming the most powerful manchild on Earth, are his failed casino ventures—including the spectacular financial collapse of Trump Taj Mahal—and his charity foundation that was shut down for illegal misuse of funds.
He also has some real estate ventures that involve plastering his name on buildings...until the actual owners decide it's too embarrassing.
Trump was raised by his father, Fred Trump, to believe that there were two kinds of people in the world: killers and losers. Despite a lifetime of losing business ventures, disappointing children (with the exception of Ivanka, whom he repeatedly "jokes" about wanting to sleep with), and failed tabloid marriages, Donald Trump finally secured his position as a killer in his 70s by spreading confusion and misinformation about the deadly novel coronavirus pandemic while failing to take necessary precautions, thus contributing to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans.
As a child, Donald Trump was instructed in "Christianity" by pastor Norman Vincent Peale, who preached that wealth and success are signs of God's love, and both can be achieved through positive thinking. Donald Trump has held onto this idea by banishing negative thoughts like, "You are unqualified," "You don't know what you're talking about," and, "You're not the only person in the world who matters."
As an adult, Donald Trump extended this absence of doubt and self-criticism to his romantic life by not allowing himself to be constrained by vows of commitment, a lack of consent, or basic human decency. In the case of his first wife, Ivana, Donald Trump deliberately spread tabloid stories about his affair with a younger woman (future ex-wife Marla Maples), and—according to Ivana Trump's own court testimony—once raped her as an act of vengeance after an unpleasant experience with a scalp surgery intended to conceal his baldness.
Ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal speaks about alleged affair with Trump www.youtube.com
In addition to dozens of other accusations of sexual misconduct—from unwanted kissing to further allegations of rape—Donald Trump reportedly had affairs with adult film star Stormy Daniels while his third wife, Melania Trump, was pregnant with their son, Barron Trump, and with Playboy model Karen McDougal shortly after Melania gave birth. Donald Trump is also the preferred candidate of Christian, "family values" voters.
In late 2013, Donald Trump visited Moscow in connection with the Miss Universe pageant, which he owned at the time. An offer was reportedly made to send five sex workers to Donald Trump's hotel room, but Keith Schiller—Trump's personal bodyguard at the time—claims that he rejected the offer before going to bed with no knowledge about whether anyone entered Donald Trump's hotel room.
The evidence is inconclusive as to whether Donald Trump did in fact have multiple women in his hotel room that night—and instructed them to pee on a mattress that the Obamas slept on during a state visit.
It is also unclear whether Donald Trump—who was actively assisted in 2016 by a Russian disinformation effort and who openly asked Russia to perform a cyberattack against Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign—is actually subject to the whims of his good friend Vladimir Putin, with whom Trump loves to have private meetings.
We may never know if the Russian government is using compromising materials—possibly including a tape of sex workers peeing on a mattress at Trump's behest—to gain leverage over Trump in order to receive a startling series of foreign policy wins.
By contrast, there's a ton of damning evidence that Trump and his associates are tied up in international money laundering schemes involving oligarchs from Russia and elsewhere.
In September of 2020 it was revealed that Donald Trump paid just $750 in income tax in both 2016 and 2017, while claiming jaw-dropping deductions such as $70,000 for hair styling. But as Donald Trump put it in a 2016 debate, when Hillary Clinton confronted him about his tax evasion, "That makes me smart." Less indicative of intelligence are the loans that have him on the hook for over a billion dollars to various international banks who therefore have substantial power to influence the American government.
In October of 2020 Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 in an event that was lauded by Popdust.com as "maybe the purest example of karma ever."
Many predicted that Donald Trump was at particular risk from the disease—and was placed on supplemental oxygen as well as an aggressive regime of experimental medicines, suggesting a severe case. However, he soon addressed his supporters—claiming that he was feeling "better than I did 20 years ago," and was not contagious—and said of the virus, "Don't let it dominate your life."
Mad Max Fury Road Immortan Joe Speech www.youtube.com
Reports vary as to whether Trump then added, "Do not, my friends, become addicted to Oxygen. It will take hold of you, and you will resent its absence!"
2020 Reelection Campaign
Donald Trump is running for reelection against Democratic candidate Joe Biden, and considering the resources available to cheat and suppress the vote—and the likelihood that he will face prosecution if he loses—it remains a distinct possibility that he will defy the polls and win.
8chan founder Fredrick Brennan believes his former business partner, Jim Watkins, is behind the dangerous conspiracy theory.
Update 1/22/2021: Following the inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20th, many believers in QAnon lore have begun to question some of their convictions.
Many saw the inauguration as a final deadline for "The Storm" and the mass arrests they expected to publicly expose the cabal of deep-state Satanists. And both Jim and Ron Watkins have issued statements seeming to indicate the end of the Q era.
Ron Watkins urging his followers on Telegram to "remember the friends and happy memories we made together," and to "respect the constitution," while his father Jim Watkins posted on the reactionary micro-blogging platform Gab about the "historical value" of the Q movement and the fact that "the culture of our country changed because of it."
That much is certainly true. And in the wake of the Capitol Hill insurrection on January 6th — which saw one of Q follower shot dead, another leaving Mike Pence n ominous note, and numerous others arrested — the apparent change of heart may be inspired by concern that these cultural changes will invite unwelcome scrutiny.
Still, there is little doubt that some Q followers — as flexible as the acolytes of any other cult — will find ways to adapt their beliefs to the post-Trump era. Some are already beginning the process. Even if Q never reappears, the disturbed and unhinged worldview of Q followers is likely to remain culturally relevant for years to come.
There is a growing belief system in the US that is beginning to spread around the world.
Tied to a mystical struggle between ancient forces of good and evil that are secretly operating beneath the surface of our society, adherents believe they have been given the key to understanding the world.
QAnon Conspiracy Theory Lands On European Shores | Morning Joe | MSNBC www.youtube.com
They believe that their mysterious prophet has awakened them to a reality that you and I will soon be forced to face: that global elites from Washington DC to Hollywood are part of a Satanic (possibly Jewish) cabal of murderous, cannibalistic pedophiles who torture children in order to harvest their adrenaline-rich blood and oxidize it into the addictive drug adrenocrhome.
They believe that our civilization must be torn down to the foundations in order to be rebuilt—or perhaps just to bring on the apocalypse. And, as it turns out, the only politician heroically selfless enough to bring the whole system crashing down is the alleged peeping tom of Miss Teen USA and well-wisher of Ghislane Maxwell, President Donald J. Trump.
The billionaire accused of sexually predatory behavior by dozens of women—who is on tape saying he can grab women "by the pu**y," who used to hang out with "terrific guy" Jeffrey Epstein and joke about the financier's preference for women "on the younger side," who is refusing to provide DNA in the case of a woman accusing him of rape—that same man is secretly a crusader against elite sexual predators.
Who Believes in QAnon?
With Q believers likely in the millions—with that figure growing rapidly around the world—QAnon has a sticky capacity to pick up aspects of other belief systems in order to appeal to as broad a spectrum of credulous people as possible.
From Evangelical Christians to New-Age yogis, basically anyone liable to distrust vaccines in favor of either prayer or organic vegetables is likely susceptible to Q's message of mainstream evil and corruption.
The QAnon belief system fits neatly with the ideas about masks making people sick, 5G making people sick, or fear making people sick. Anything other than an infectious respiratory virus can be blamed for making people sick, and not nearly as many people are dying as They want you to think—They are just trying to control us for their mysterious evil purposes.
Back in April—when there was briefly a consensus on taking COVID-19 seriously—it actually seemed possible that people were going to abandon their weird conspiracy theories to focus on forming a united front to address a very real and frightening crisis. Surely people would find the reality of a deadly global pandemic much more compelling than fantasies about Hillary Clinton engaging in elaborate ritual murders. In hindsight, that was absurdly wishful thinking.
As it turned out, that April consensus would soon be undermined by Donald Trump and his ilk spouting off mixed messages, conspiracy theories, and anti-mask rhetoric. And under various states of lockdown and unemployment, increasingly disconnected, bored, and desperate people turned to weirder, darker corners of the internet for answers.
Despite (or perhaps inspired by) social media companies taking measures to purge this brand of conspiratorial misinformation, membership to QAnon groups has exploded. By some measures, it may be up to seven times what it was in March.
What makes the message particularly infectious is the way it's delivered. Originally posted on the /pol/ section of imageboard 4chan in mid-2017—amid a slew of similar anonymous posts from supposed political insiders —the cryptic "drops" delivered by a nameless informant claiming to have "Q clearance" (high-level access to classified government information) lend the whole thing a dire sense of secrecy.
As an added feature, the uncertain meaning and broken grammar of the posts allow individual followers to decode them communally—following the slogan "Where We Go One We Go All" (WWG1WGA), playing detective, and drawing conclusions that align with their personal assumptions about the world.
And if some of those conclusions—about Robert Mueller working with Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton being executed in secret, or JFK Jr. faking his death to live as a man named Vincent Fusca—turn out to be wrong, that's only one refutation of a particular interpretation. No amount of evidence can touch the infallible source itself.
Unlike Pizzagate, which came before it, there is no Comet Pizza for a delusional gunman to invade—looking for kidnapped children. In that instance, when he discovered that there were no abducted children locked in the basement—because there was no basement at all—he and others were forced to acknowledge that they had some fundamental details wrong.
But when it comes to the cryptic ambiguity of QAnon, followers find evidence of the worldwide pedophile conspiracy all around them.
You might think that in a world where actual elite sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein were able to operate in the semi-open for years—using their power and influence to shield them from consequences—that there would be no need to construct elaborate fantasies.
Surely, with all their public connections to prominent cultural and political figures—some portion of whom were active participants in predatory behavior—QAnon adherents could simply extrapolate those relationships into the web of the secret pedophile network. While they certainly do that, even using phony, sloppily-made flight logs to Epstein's private island to implicate a then-teenaged Chrissy Teigen…that's not enough.
No, true devotion to Q means seeing evidence of Satanist activity everywhere. Let's say you're shopping for furniture online and stumble across an overpriced item with an odd name. Do you think, "That's weird, seems like a mistake?" No, you immediately start Googling the name to find a missing child with the same name. Boom, Wayfair child trafficking conspiracy revealed.
There's something undeniably noble about the role these people have assigned themselves in the imaginary reality they live in. They cut themselves off from friends and family, from church leaders and anyone else trying to convince them that they aren't living in a dystopian detective novel as part of the underground resistance. They give up everything to fight the deep state pedophiles.
Their altruistic convictions, coupled with their incredibly skewed worldview, can unfortunately lead to some very dark places. In addition to nearly chasing Chrissy Teigen off Twitter with a dedicated harassment campaign, nd inspiring a handful of violent incidents, QAnon has disrupted real, valuable activism.
In July, Q believers co-opted the #SaveTheChildren hashtag and organized rallies that lured in a lot of well meaning people with no idea about the conspiracy theory behind it. All that energy might have actually been useful if directed toward increasing awareness of the realities of child trafficking—and perhaps promoting some legislation to help fight it.
But the QAnon cult isn't interested in any of that. The only part of the government you can trust is the Trump administration, and anyone who tells you that child trafficking is not primarily the work of an elite Satanic cabal is probably working for the elite Satanic cabal—if Tom Hanks is one of the bad guys, anyone can be.
So how do you fight the spread of misinformation that is so resistant to refutation and authority—with a community that fiercely reinforces it? Maybe you can't.
Maybe QAnon is destined to become the full-blown cult that it is quickly trending toward—luring in confused and directionless people to trade their money and their real-world relationships for a sense of purpose and an online community of fellow believers. And maybe that cult will react very badly—violently—to a "deep state" victory in the form of Donald Trump losing reelection in November.
But if we want to avoid that outcome, perhaps the best chance we have is to expose the identity of Q.
Unlike many cults—which rely on the charismatic appeal of the leader—QAnon works because of the leader's anonymity. It allows followers to imagine Q as a perfect embodiment of their ideals, working deep inside the structures of government power.
In this framing, Q must conceal their identity and communicate through coded messages in order to continue operating in the upper echelons of the American government. If Q instead turned out to be a pig-farming smut peddler living in the Philippines…that might change things.
As it turns out, the founder of 8chan (since rebranded as 8kun)—where Q has posted those coded messages since abandoning 4chan in November of 2017—has been claiming to know the identity of Q for some time now. According to him, Q is in fact a pig farming smut peddler living in the Philippines—and also the current owner and operator of 8kun…
In 2014, 8chan's founder, Fredrick Brennan, first partnered with a man named Jim Watkins, who had recently acquired the domain for Japan's most popular message board 2channel—through questionable methods.
Brennan had founded 8chan at the age of 19 to operate as a version of the troll-haven imageboard 4chan, but without moderators to interfere with "free speech" (i.e. hate speech and worse). After partnering with Watkins—then around 50—Brennan moved to the Philippines to work with him more closely.
Pictured: Fredrick Brennan (left) and Jim Watkins (right)
At the time, Brennan was a vocal proponent of the misogynist "Gamergate" movement, and while he still holds onto some of the ideas of that movement, it's clear that he has matured a great deal and abandoned notions of free speech absolutism. In tweets he has disavowed much of the toxic behavior associated with gamergate and claims to have "moved on."
No doubt seeing the community he'd created become a haven for neo-Nazis, pedophiles, and mass shooters played a part in his growth. He resigned as the head of 8chan in 2016, selling the company to Jim Watkins. In 2018 he severed ties with Watkins and 8chan entirely and in 2019—following a string of mass-shooters posting their manifestos on 8chan—began actively calling for the site to be shut down, accusing Watkins of being "senile."
That was enough for Watkins to have Brennan charged with cyberlibel under the Philippine Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. Facing possible prison time—likely a death sentence for Brennan, who suffers from a genetic condition commonly known as brittle bone disease—Fredrick Brennan fled the Philippines back to the US earlier this year.
So perhaps he has a bit of a vendetta against Jim Watkins—who has denied being or having any close connection to Q. Nonetheless, the case Brennan makes is compelling, and Watkin's biography makes him sound like exactly the kind of person who would pretend to be a secret government informant in order to manufacture a conspiracy and prop up the presidency of Donald Trump.
Who Is Jim Watkins?
A helicopter mechanic and recruiter for the U.S. Army at the time, Watkins got his computer training through the military, but he left the service during the dot-com boom to fully invest himself in "Asian Bikini Bar" and the related ventures of his company, N.T. Technology.
Since then Watkins has moved to the Philippines, got married, started a pig farm, founded a conspiratorial right-wing news outlet called The Goldwater (that also fetishized Asian women), hijacked the domain of 2channel, and took over 8chan—which has since been under scrutiny by the Philippines' National Bureau of Investigation for allegedly enabling the distribution of child-abuse materials.
Why would a government informant working to expose a global pedophile ring choose to operate on a website that has itself been labeled as a pedophile ring?
Is it the only place on the Internet where a secretive Government insider can be certain that coded messages won't be traced or altered? Or is Jim Watkins—who labels any criticism of his site as "a smear by the press"—driving traffic to his platform and using it to throw some smears back at the mainstream media? After all, how can the mainstream media judge 8chan's content if they are implicated in the Satanic pedophile cabal?
Evidence of Watkins' Connections to Q
This is not to say that Watkins invented QAnon. There are other likely suspects for that. But, perhaps, around the time that QAnon announced that 4chan had been "infiltrated" and switched to posting on 8chan in late 2017, Watkins may have taken over the role—which would explain how Q developed an interest in yoga and fountain pens...
@DylanReeve He can post as Q at any time. 8chan now entirely relies on Q traffic, as I've shown, all other users h… https://t.co/iZy6JAUGg9— Fredrick Brennan (@Fredrick Brennan) 1598416563.0
At this point, QAnon is responsible for most of the traffic to the rebranded 8kun, and Watkins has not only promoted and defended the conspiracy theory and its merchandise through various venues, he even started a super PAC called Disarm the Deep State, with a stated mission to "mobilize a community of patriots in order to remove power from Deep State members."
The PAC has bought ads for QAnon-friendly candidates—with more than one QAnon adherent likely to enter congress next year. And a number of those ads happen to be running on 8kun…
Watkins being at the helm of the movement would also explain some of QAnon's antisemitic underpinnings and obsession with propping up a fascist leader, as Watkins previously used his news site The Goldwater to spread messages such as, "The third reich of germany corrected a crashing economy, and was brilliant in transforming Germany from a broken nation to a superpower in a rapid, methodical way."
Perhaps Watkins noticed that Donald Trump's brand of fascism (though replete with the usual trappings of nationalism, violent authoritarianism, xenophobia, aggreivement, false nostalgia, and militarism) lacked the structure of conspiratorial occultism that served the Nazi party so well. Maybe he felt he could provide that added structure from the sidelines.
But probably the most damning evidence that Watkins is, if not himself posting as Q, at least closely tied to whoever is, is the fact that 8kun and the most popular source for verifying and aggregating Q's posts both use the same IP address through an obscure Internet security service known as VanwaTech—a service which Fredrick Brennan claims was developed specifically to serve Watkins and 8kun.
A theory going around is that Vanwatech (@LimTheNick) is not an independent company, but is in fact itself owned by… https://t.co/fhGj33JIcM— Fredrick Brennan (@Fredrick Brennan) 1571306600.0
If, as this seems to indicate, Watkins operates both 8kun and QMap.pub, Brennan argues that there is nothing to stop Jim—or perhaps his son Ronald Watkins—from posting as Q and faking the "tripcode" verification system.
We may never find out if this is true, and even if we do, it's likely that many QAnon adherents would never believe it—following the mantra of "do your own research" in order to confirm their biases, rather than listening to any legitimate sources of information.
But maybe, if we can spread this information about Watkins to enough prospective targets, we can prevent more people from falling prey to QAnon's cultic conspiracy movement. Maybe we can prevent more families from losing their loved ones to paranoia and delusion. Maybe we can prevent American Fascism from reaching its full, terrifying potential.
President Donald Trump—whose every move is already interpreted by QAnon followers as being secret messages directed toward them—was asked about QAnon at a recent press conference, and stated: "I don't know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate."
When the reporter followed up, noting that the movement believes him to be "secretly saving the world from this satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals," he seemed to embrace the idea without much concern for its absurdity, saying, "Well, I haven't heard that, but is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing? ... If I can help save the world from problems, I'm willing to do it."
Statistical anomalies in previous elections point to frightening vulnerabilities in how votes are tallied
In 2012, Mitt Romney was declared the winner of the GOP's Iowa caucus by a margin of just eight votes.
That result was announced at 1:30 AM on Caucus night, but two weeks later there was a different result. The Republican Party of Iowa had performed a recount of the votes and Rick Santorum—a candidate broadly considered too far outside the mainstream to stand a chance in the general election—was revealed as the actual winner. By that point of course it was far too late. Romney had already gotten the media attention that comes with winning, and had capitalized on that sense of momentum to achieve a solid victory in the New Hampshire primary.
If that sounds familiar, that's because there is currently a "recanvassing" under way in Iowa to reassess the results of a contest that will once again be decided by a very slim margin. Though Bernie Sanders managed a clear victory in the popular vote, Iowa's elaborate system for awarding "State Delegate Equivalents" at each caucus location (to then be converted to the actual delegate count that determines the Democratic party's nominee), has resulted in a near-tie between Senator Sanders and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
The official winner may not be announced for days or weeks—or it may never be known at all. In the mean time, Pete Buttigieg declared himself the winner on Caucus night, and has been treated as such by much of the media. With Sanders looking more and more like the frontrunner, Buttigieg is seen as much more palatable to moderate general election voters, and many powerful donors and party insiders would much rather he get the nomination. With that in mind, the chaos in Iowa—particularly the faulty app and the release of partial results that seemed to favor Buttigieg—has already sparked speculation of party corruption and election rigging for Sanders voters holding on to memories of the DNC's favoritism toward Hillary Clinton in 2016, but it may be more instructive to consider the model of the 2012 Republican primaries.
2012 was not a simple year for Republicans in the way 2016 was for Democrats. Much like the 2020 field of Democratic candidates, there was not a presumptive nominee, but rather a wide field of contenders with centrists—Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman—struggling against the enthusiastic support for more extreme candidates like Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul. Polling seemed to swing wildly, from one candidate to the next until—according to some accounts—the RNC tipped the scales toward the man considered the most electable (read: bland and inoffensive) candidate.
The case of bias for Romney is as elaborate and detailed as every budding conspiracy theory about Acronym, Shadow Inc., and the new "Voter Protection Director" for the Nevada State Democratic Party—especially considering the contentious events of the Nevada Democratic Party state convention in 2016. Likewise, the overwhelming variety of those details is evidence—depending on your perspective—of either how insidious the whole plot was, or of the depths of its adherents' delusion.
For a start, there were a variety of issues in that year involving states attempting to increase their influence on the process by ignoring the traditional schedule for primaries and caucuses, skipping ahead of other states. The RNC was conflicted about how to handle that tactic, but many voters felt that the resulting schedule favored Romney's candidacy by allowing states where he polled well to vote earlier, further emphasizing the sense of building momentum. That much was acknowledged as a problem even at the time, but there are other issues that remain murkier. Was the miscount in Iowa intentional? Did the RNC combine fundraising with Romney's campaign too early? Did they pad Romney's delegate count to prevent a brokered convention? Most worryingly of all, were votes flipped to Romney in state primaries that lacked a paper trail?
Whatever the confusion in Iowa, the caucus system is at least public and relatively easy to monitor. But primaries that are carried out with all electronic voting machines are a black box, and the state parties run the show with little oversight. Unlike a federal election, primaries are fundamentally under the purview of political parties. They can choose their nominees however they like. They have chosen a roughly democratic system for a variety of reasons (to build enthusiasm, test candidates' campaign skills, and avoid voter alienation) but if they wanted to undermine the integrity of that process in order to ordain the candidate they see as standing the best chance in the general election, there would be little to stop them. According to two statisticians, Francois Choquette and James Johnson, that is exactly what happened in 2012.
Choquette and Johnson, 2012
When Choquette and Johnson analyzed vote totals out of hundreds of precincts, they discovered a strong tendency for voters in larger precincts to favor Mitt Romney more than did voters in smaller precincts. These results have been criticized as attributable to demographic differences between precincts, but when researchers looked at results out of precincts that kept paper records of voting, that tendency disappeared. Likewise in Utah—where Romney was always expected to win by a wide margin—the results showed no shift in preference toward Romney based on the size of the precinct. The trend was so distinct in competitive precincts with no paper trail that Choquette and Johnson were unable to account for it as a result of chance or any factor other than deliberate fraud. According to their work, Romney received approximately a 7% bump in the most populous precincts in multiple states as a result of votes flipped from other candidates—allowing him to secure the nomination handily.
Choquette and Johnson's evidence was brought to court in a lawsuit filed by a third statistician at Witchita State University. Beth Clarkson works in the university's National Center for Advanced Materials Performance, and was inspired by Choquette and Johnson's research to investigate similar anomalies in Kansas's 2014 general election—larger precincts trending toward Republican candidates. She sued to gain access to more detailed records in order to build a statistical model that could shed light on the question of fraudulent vote flipping. Unfortunately Clarkson's efforts were stymied by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who argued that releasing the time-stamped records could somehow violate voter anonymity.
Kris Kobach with Donald Trump
You may recognize Kris Kobach as perhaps the greatest enemy of unbiased elections in recent American history. Kobach is the man whose voter fraud commission pushed the false narrative of millions of fake voters in support of discriminatory voter ID laws, and whose apparent political and white-supremacist motivation for adding a citizenship question to the national census resulted in the Supreme Court rejecting the change—which would have led to dramatic under-counts of immigrant populations, and a shift in congressional districts that would disproportionately benefit the Republican party. While he was able to halt Clarkson investigation, many have credited her lawsuit as being instrumental in the push for recently enacted legislation which now requires post-election audits in Kansas. Reached for Comment, Clarkson admitted that this was a step in the right direction, though she was "not impressed" with the audit techniques being utilized.
Overall, Clarkson seems pessimistic about the fidelity and security of our elections, saying that there is still a lot of potential for fraudulent vote counts, "anytime there's no way to check a paper record." This does include several races in the Democratic primaries, though the New Hampshire primary taking place today is utilizing paper ballots, which leave less room for tampering. Nationally, there has been a push to move toward that model, but for those of us who will be casting votes on electronic machines, Clarkson advocated that, where possible, voters check their electronic vote against the paper record to ensure their vote was recorded correctly. And for all voters, Clarkson had a reminder to check your voter registration online in advance of every election. With recent voter purges Clarkson says there have been many cases "of people being surprised when they arrive at the polls to vote and find out, 'Oh, they don't have me down as a registered voter.'"
Beyond that, electronic voting remains so opaque and vulnerable, all we can do is continue pushing for paper-based voting systems and remind our nation's political institutions—as the primary process continues through New Hampshire and beyond—that we are watching them; that we will not take any irregularities lightly.
Amy Klobuchar ate salad with her comb and then made her aide clean it.
Prior to their official half-endorsement of Amy Klobuchar as the "Democrats' Best Choice For President," The New York Times covered another side of the Minnesota senator. "Senator Amy Klobuchar was hungry, forkless and losing patience," wrote political reporters Matt Flefenheimer and Sydney Ember.
"An aide, joining her on a trip to South Carolina in 2008, had procured a salad for his boss while hauling their bags through an airport terminal. But once onboard, he delivered the grim news: He had fumbled the plastic eating utensils before reaching the gate, and the crew did not have any forks on such a short flight.
What happened next was typical: Ms. Klobuchar berated her aide instantly for the slip-up. What happened after that was not: She pulled a comb from her bag and began eating the salad with it, according to four people familiar with the episode.
Then she handed the comb to her staff member with a directive: Clean it."
Flefenheimer and Ember's deep dive into Klobuchar's campaign team reads more like a copypasta than an account of real events; but alas, Klobuchar herself even seemed to lowkey brag about her history of mistreating her staff. "Am I a tough boss sometimes? Yes," Klobuchar said during a CNN Town Hall in February 2019. "Have I pushed people too hard? Yes. But I have kept expectations for myself that are very high. I've asked my staff to meet those same expectations. The big point for me is that I want the country to meet high expectations."
The CNN Town Hall audience may have cheered for that line, but voters don't seem to be "eating the salad," proverbially speaking. Klobuchar has consistently polled near the very bottom of people's choices for Democratic primary candidate, with recent polls placing her just over 3%. In other words, The New York Times' endorsement of Amy Klobuchar is strange considering the fact that she's basically unelectable.
But while, statistically speaking, pretty much nobody actually likes Amy Klobuchar, her behavior has struck a chord with a specific demographic on Reddit.
For context, while the overall Reddit community leans white, male, and liberal, many political figures' most ardent supporters use Reddit as a gathering space for promoting their candidate of choice. From the quarantined r/The_Donald with its 785k members (Russian bots included) to r/SandersForPresident with 380k, almost anyone can find their favorite presidential pick on Reddit. Even r/Tulsi has over 17k people who want Tulsi Gabbard to be president for some reason.
And then we have r/AmyKlobuchar. With 147 total members, roughly seven of whom seem to be online at any given time, the truly incredible thing about Amy Klobuchar's subreddit isn't its minimal user base. It's the fact that pretty much everything posted there is ironic.
The most upvoted post on the entire sub is titled "Amy Klobberchar" and contains a meme recounting a fictional incident wherein Amy Klobuchar threw a stapler at a staffer. In fact, many of the posts in r/AmyKlobuchar hone in on Klobuchar's history of staffer abuse, depicting Klobuchar firing unpaid interns and stepping on people's necks.In another top post on the sub titled "Why I am voting for Amy," a user lists off reasons including, "She is abusive towards her staff. We need a fighter, not a wimp," and, "I like the taste of boot."
The same New York Times article that covered the salad incident included a leaked email that Klobuchar has sent to her staffers regarding the things people said about her on Twitter: "We are becoming a joke and it is making me a joke."
As it turns out, Klobuchar's prophecy was self-fulfilling. By continually treating her staff like garbage, Klobuchar invoked the attention of a small but vocal demographic of roughly 147 people who don't like seeing low-paid interns treated like garbage.
Perhaps much more importantly, though, to most of the American electorate, Amy Klobuchar still doesn't matter.
We are all nobodies in Hillary Clinton's eyes
In the 2016 Presidential Election, Hillary Clinton dominated the endorsement race.
She had the backing of every prominent Democratic figure within moments of declaring her candidacy, while Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley made do with the scraps. For the campaign of a politician like Martin O'Malley, that was a death sentence. His term as Mayor of Baltimore was famously dramatized on HBO's The Wire in the figure of Tommy Carcetti—an idealistic politician who sacrifices his values in service of his ambitions and the political machine. A politician like that needs the support of as many establishment backers as he can get, and the fact that Hillary Clinton was taking up all the air in that exclusive room left O'Malley with about 0.5% of the Iowa Caucuses. A politician like Bernie Sanders is another story.
NO, HILLARY CLINTON, NO. I have diligently avoided attacking @HillaryClinton as I embraced #NotMeUs. But this bro… https://t.co/J26S43Sv8D— Peter Daou (@Peter Daou) 1579614240.0
For Bernie Sanders, grassroots support from ordinary voters matters far more than the support of powerful elites. That was his strength in 2016 with #FeelTheBern, and it remains his strength in 2020 with #ILikeBernie, and his army of volunteers and small dollar donors. Just as in 2016, Hillary Clinton doesn't seem to know how that works, and the citizens of Twitter desperately want to teach her with a flood of scathing responses to her recent quote that "nobody likes" Bernie—including at least one from a former Clinton advisor.
Do endorsements even matter next to this kind of enthusiasm from supporters? Despite scant endorsements from traditional kingmakers and power players, Sanders' 2016 campaign won in 21 states, garnered 46% of pledged delegates, and took the race all the way to the convention. Meanwhile, in the Republican primaries, Donald Trump collected very few high-profile endorsements—and almost no newspaper endorsements—while easily besting his opponents in state after state.
This is inexcusable. If Bernie wins the nomination, we all need to work our asses off to help him win. If someone e… https://t.co/kviFDX2ml3— Tommy Vietor (@Tommy Vietor) 1579616947.0
Comparisons of Sanders to Trump are never far from the lips of many mainstream pundits, and while much of that tendency is built on a faulty "horseshoe" theory of politics (that the "far-left" and the far-right of the political spectrum bend toward each other), there is a kernel of truth hidden in there. Both Sanders and Trump built their political successes on a perception of authenticity. That's what made their fans so passionate, despite the lack of institutional support. But while Donald Trump is an erratic, unprincipled con-man who built that perception primarily on the basis of his shameless embrace of racist and sexist rhetoric—"he tells it like it is"—Bernie Sanders is seen as authentic because he's been consistently fighting for the same causes, with the same uncompromising vigor, for four decades.
Since he entered politics in the early 1980s, if not long before—the image of him as a young activist being arrested during a civil rights protest in Chicago speaks volumes—Bernie Sanders has been fighting for a vision of justice that most Americans have only recently come around to. A vision that embraces issues of race, gender, and sexuality, but also of class, and of the ways that those concepts interact. And it is precisely because of that commitment that voters love him while, within the political machine, "nobody likes him."
That's what Clinton said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, going on to claim of Sanders that "nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician." She was referring specifically to Sanders' role in Congress, but what she revealed is that she is still deep in denial about her 2016 loss.
While it's always important to point out that Clinton received nearly three million more votes than Donald Trump—and would have won the presidency if our electoral system wasn't holding onto a useless relic of our nation's worst historic crimes—it's still worth noting that her primary flaw as a candidate played a role in her poor performance in key states.
Bernie’s base is primarily women, young people, low-income, & POC. We’ve been called “Residue”, “Russian trolls”,… https://t.co/FSPtRg0sGg— Dynasty🌹🌺✊🏿 (@Dynasty🌹🌺✊🏿) 1579627942.0
She was and is perceived by many voters as inauthentic. She plays the political games too well and too willingly, adjusting her public and private stances to her audience. Someone who doesn't play at all, who—in Sanders' own words—doesn't "tolerate bullsh*t terribly well," must seem like a strange creature. Her issue with him is not that he is a "career politician," but that he built that career on a foundation of grass-roots support, rather than mutual political aid within the institutions of power. Why doesn't he just play ball?
In other contexts Clinton has made it clear that she still blames Sanders for Donald Trump's victory. The fact that Bernie's firm principles threw her pliability into such stark relief may have made her flaws more visible and played a role in her failed candidacy, but her latest comments make it clear that she doesn't believe in another way for politics to work. The backroom deals and the focus-tested positions are politics to her. The idea of actually trying to build a better system—one that works for justice for all people—is "all just baloney" to her, and she feels "so bad that people got sucked into it."
Bernie has the temperament to be President of the United States. He doesn’t get angry when his “friends” backstab… https://t.co/rhAaAC6cG5— Veronica Corrales (@Veronica Corrales) 1579637230.0
We feel bad for you too, Hillary. You were a career politician too, and you may have gotten your name on more bills than Bernie Sanders—and I'm sure your fellow senators were impressed with your work—but none of us can name one. Your lack of vision, and the political strategies cemented in the 90s prevented you from pushing for the kind of change that might have been your legacy. People will remember Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All, whether or not the bill ever receives a floor vote.
Visionary change must seem like baloney to someone who had fully adapted to political stagnation. Bernie was no more responsible for you being branded "Crooked Hillary" than you were responsible for Barack Obama being labeled a Muslim. In both cases the slander was an exaggeration of the real story. And while political weaknesses are fair game, the fact that your staffers chose to distribute the image of Obama in a turban in 2008 points to the flaw in your character—in the character of the people with whom you surround yourself and in your entire approach to politics—that Sanders' biggest fans rejected in you. The flaw that Trump capitalized on with that nickname.
So yes, by the standards you built your career on, Bernie Sanders is a failure, and "nobody" likes him. His authenticity and his principles are incompatible with the kind of glad-handing and ass-kissing that could have won him some more endorsements. Luckily for him, there are a lot of us nobodies in the world, and we don't just exist on Twitter behind the explosion of #ILikeBernie posts that emerged in response to your interview. We vote.
So when you're asked if you would endorse in the case that he wins the nomination—that you're "not going to go there yet," it's tempting to point to your hypocrisy, but the more important point is: We don't care. We've moved on from politicians like you.
They need to put their differences aside if either of them hopes to win
In a recent interview with New York Magazine Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez commented that "in any other country, Joe Biden and I would not be in the same party, but in America we are."
With consistent cries for party unity since before presidential candidates even began announcing their campaigns, it would be tempting to attack Ocasio-Cortez as splitting the party, but she is absolutely right. There is only a unified party to split on paper. America's winner-take-all style of voting forces disparate political interests to share a title and to pool donors—unless they have the ability, like AOC, to source their own funding.
The GOP has used this to their advantage, emphasizing social wedge issues like abortion and immigration to pull working-class white voters away from their economic interests on the left—convincing them to cheer on tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy. For the Democrats, however, the powerful faction of the party that represents professional-class interests—the private-public partnership, means-testing, social-program-cutting wing—has represented a barrier to participation for truly progressive candidates and voters.
That's why it has been heartening, prior to this week, to see Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren avoiding the temptation to attack one another. While many of Bernie's supporters online have adopted toxic attitudes toward anyone other than their preferred candidate, and many Warren supporters have questioned Bernie's feminist bona fides (particularly in light of that toxicity from many "Bernie Bros"), the candidates and their campaigns seemed largely cordial and supportive of one another. It's important, as the marginalized left-wing of the party, to focus on commonalities and mutual aid if there is going to be any hope of overcoming the powerful centrist forces that have ruled the party and served moneyed interests with only moderately less zeal than the Republican party.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
That shared effort began to fall apart on Saturday night when Politico ran a story under the headline "Bernie Campaign Slams Warren as Candidate of the Elite." The story included excerpts from a document purported to be circulated within the Sanders campaign, with scripts instructing volunteers how to attack rivals in the Democratic primaries. While criticisms of Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg are hardly surprising, the attacks on Warren—noting that her supporters are predominantly educated, affluent voters who "who are going to show up and vote Democratic no matter what"—came as a surprise in the context of the candidates' established alliance.
Skepticism in these cases is usually warranted, but the article contained little to suggest that the content was anything less than official and approved by Bernie Sanders himself. By the time Sanders came forward to repudiate the document and deny its official status, the damage was done. The rift was already beginning to widen.
@michelleinbklyn This campaign would NEVER attack supporters. The script, which was not directed by the campaign, p… https://t.co/smcZ6ssrU7— Briahna Joy Gray (@Briahna Joy Gray) 1578977594.0
Warren responded that she was "disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me," and she sent out a fundraising email that asked both for donations and for supporters to share personal stories and perspectives to contradict the framing of her base as elitist. If that had been all, then it might have been easy to move on and return to a mutually supportive stance within a few days. But the real damage was done when people close to Warren, perhaps in an effort to retaliate, spoke to CNN about a private conversation the two had in 2018.
Back then, the thought of actual voters making actual choices seemed distant and abstract, and the candidates sat down to discuss strategies against Trump and to establish the general truce that has held until now. Everyone involved seems to agree on those points, but differing reports emerge when it comes to the topic of gender. As CNN reported, Warren laid out her strengths as a candidate: "She could make a robust argument about the economy and earn broad support from female voters." Bernie was not on the same page.
The Bernie cult has been attacking @ewarren for way too long. They’ve minimized her achievements, called her a copy… https://t.co/9zLobcSgBv— Joshua Manuel Bonet 🏳️🌈 (@Joshua Manuel Bonet 🏳️🌈) 1578984471.0
According to anonymous members of Warren's team, Bernie didn't think a woman could win. Bernie shot back with his own version of events, saying, "It is ludicrous to believe that at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president, I would tell her that a woman couldn't win... What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could. Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016." When Warren herself was finally convinced to weigh in directly, she urged people to move on, claiming that she was more interested in what she and Sanders agree on… But she also confirmed the more inflammatory version of events: "Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed."
While there is certainly a conversation to be had about to what extent America remains too sexist to support a female candidate, it seems like a stretch to accept the idea that, in 2018, Bernie would hold such a categorical view against the possibility of a woman being elected president. What makes it particularly questionable is the existence of footage from a C-SPAN appearance three decades earlier, in which Bernie says, "In my view, a woman could be elected president of the United States. The real issue is whose side are you on? Are you on the side of workers and poor people, or are you on the side of big money and the corporations?"
The suggestion that Bernie's views have become more regressive since 1988 seems far-fetched. The inclusive, forward-thinking persona he has consistently presented to the public for 40+ years doesn't line up with this supposed private view. Then again, the idea that Warren would simply lie about Sanders' comments seems equally unlikely. Who you believe seems to depend largely on who you prefer, and the two camps seem to be moving further from each other as the Iowa Caucuses close in. On one side, Bernie Sanders is a sexist; on the other, Elizabeth Warren is a liar.
Without a recording or a transcript of the conversation, it doesn't seem quite justified to land in either of those camps. Without third-party witnesses, the basic facts of who did and who said what can quickly dissolve. The message that was intended and the message that was received crystallize in each person's mind to the point that they become irreconcilable. Perhaps Bernie did think that a progressive man was better poised than a progressive woman to counter Donald Trump's brand of populism in the 2020 election. Maybe his way of saying so was so clumsy that Warren took it as a broad statement about the viability (or lack of viability) of female candidates, and she recounted it as such to people close to her. Short of calling either of them a liar or worse, that is the best I can muster—a version of events that I prefer to believe in order to maintain my respect for both of these candidates.
Supporters from both sides will no doubt find this middle-ground unsatisfactory. The rift feels real right now, and it's starting to seem like each side is trying to undermine the chances of the other. But while only one candidate can win the nomination in the end, their support draws too much from the same pool of voters to allow this rift to remain. Already Bernie supporters who also donated to Warren are turning against her with the hashtag #RefundWarren. But the sad truth is that neither can win in the general election without support from the other's ardent fans. And who really stands to benefit from continued fighting? The center and the far-right. It can only help Joe Biden and Donald Trump. And Donald Trump seems to know it...
Bernie Sander’s volunteers are trashing Elizabeth “Pocahontus” Warren. Everybody knows her campaign is dead and wan… https://t.co/XaRdJ6P3W8— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1578929126.0
If Sanders and Warren can't each count on the other's supporters to get behind them as the primaries shake out, then Biden will likely hold onto his narrow lead. And if one of them does manage to get the nomination with this acrimony still hanging in the air between them, no amount of campaigning for one another is going to muster the sort of passion that we can count on to overwhelm Donald Trump in the general. 2016 should have taught us that much.
This feud needs to end now. Warren and Sanders need each other, and our country needs them. They are the only candidates taking America's economic divide seriously, and the only candidates willing to tackle climate change with the resolve and transformative action it requires. If Donald Trump gets reelected, he will continue to make both of these problems far worse, destroying hope for economic justice and a sustainable future. If Joe Biden is our next president, then we will go back to enacting middling, inadequate reforms—one step forward for every two steps back.
Hillary supporters as 2016 election results came inGetty Images
Warren and Sanders, united, represent our only real hope. Of course, they each believe that they are best suited to the job. They wouldn't be running otherwise. But if either of them is going to win, they need to come together, reaffirm progressive unity with one voice—acknowledging the differing accounts of events and decrying sexist limitations. Either of them can win this election, but neither can do it alone.
Jeffrey Epstein's Exorbitant Lifestyle: Private Islands, Conspiracy Theories, and Networks of Corruption
Epstein's lifestyle was unimaginably creepy, but it's indicative of a larger problem.
Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his jail cell on Saturday, having been accused of sexual abuse by nearly 80 women.
He leaves behind a legacy of destructive opulence.
Epstein lived a lifestyle of unchecked consumption. The billionaire possessed a number of extravagant homes. His Manhattan townhouse allegedly cost $77 million and contained disturbing oddities—such as a hall full of fake eyes that were initially created for injured soldiers. It also contained a photorealistic mural that featured Epstein in jail, surrounded by prison guards, as well as a life-sized female mannequin that hung from a chandelier.
His private ranch was even more grandiose. At 10,000 acres, Zorro Ranch is a sprawling stretch of land, to which Epstein allegedly flew young girls, and where he abused them with the help of his supposed madam, Ghislaine Maxwell. The ranch was also a place where he attempted to impregnate hundreds of women in an effort to seed the human race with his DNA. This attempt was inspired by his distorted belief in transhumanism, a theory that the human population can be improved through artificial intelligence and genetic engineering.
Image via BBC.com
The townhouse and the ranch paled in comparison to his primary place of residence—his private island. St. James Island is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Epstein purchased it in 1998. According to a contractor, Steve Scully, Epstein possessed two private offices on the island, as well as a strange blue-and-white striped temple and a lagoon full of flamingos. The island was, allegedly, the location of a variety of heinous crimes and was casually called the "Island of Sin" and even "Pedophile Island" among some of Epstein's acquaintances.
Epstein had ties to countless businesses and money-making ventures, and he had a particularly fraught relationship with Victoria's Secret, a company that may have funneled models directly to him—and from which he may have embezzled millions. He had a circle of powerful friends that included Donald Trump, Kevin Spacey, Woody Allen, and Bill Clinton. He was also a serial liar, constantly fabricating relationships and insinuating himself into the scientific and political communities, including ingratiating himself with scientists by bankrolling their research. He is an example of the way that money can pave pathways and open doors for people with little to offer other than their purported fortunes and their charisma.
Between the bizarre decor of his homes, his interest in nefarious ideas like eugenics and cryogenics, and the suspicious circumstances of his apparent suicide in a Manhattan jail, Rolling Stone was right when it published the headline, "Conspiracy theories have gone mainstream."
Many of the conspiracy theories currently swirling around the Internet center around Epstein's relationship with Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, with #TrumpBodyCount and #ClintonBodyCount trending on Twitter and Trump himself tweeting about the Clinton conspiracy. Many others believe that Epstein faked the suicide, as the cameras in the jail cell stopped working at the time of his death.
With its tangled web of lies, the Epstein case is "the end of an information ecosystem that at least feints at asking questions before pretending to have the answers," according to Anna Merlan.
Is this the end, or just a step towards chipping away illusions and unearthing the corruption inherent to America's wealthiest class? After all, it's likely that there have been thousands of Epsteins before—billionaires in bed with politicians and scientific communities who abused women without consequence and who've funded false scientific research.
Maybe social media is, in its ugly, distorted way, finally bringing the dark money and covert alliances at the heart of America out into the light. Maybe next, the Internet could come for people like the Koch Brothers, the billionaires who paid millions to shut down climate change research.
Based on the nature of social media, though, it'll be a long time before we arrive at anything like the truth.
Little Saint James Island. Image via The Cut
Can the Democratic establishment get it right this time?
With the first Democratic primary still about eight months away, the Democratic party establishment appears prepared to throw all of their weight behind Joe Biden.
To hear MSNBC or CNN tell the story, Joe Biden has been the Democratic party's frontrunner since before he even declared his candidacy. Whether or not this is entirely true, however, is debatable. Misleading polls are being conducted and then misrepresented by many liberal news outlets as a means of solidifying Uncle Joe's frontrunner status early on in hopes of swaying voters toward the "more electable" candidate in the primaries. If Joe Biden can be made to look like he actually has the best chance of clinching the nomination or winning against Trump in a general election, then, voters will be more likely to vote for him as the safe bet.
IVN, or the Independent Voters Network, self-described as "a platform for unfiltered political news and policy analysis from independent-minded authors," has highlighted the biased nature of many political polls. IVN writer, Rudolpho Cortes Barragan reports:
"FiveThirtyEight, which is owned by ABC/Disney, functions as a sort of gatekeeper for polling, and polls are extremely important for candidacies. The public is told that polls judged as A+ by FiveThirtyEight are to be seen as real bellwethers of popular opinion. In reality, 'the polls' are manufactured to produce the results that the pollsters (and their corporate funders) want to see."
Barragan goes on to cite a recent Mammoth University poll as evidence. "The results showed Biden 9 percentage points ahead of Sanders," he writes, "but if you look closely you will see that more than 70% of the people polled are over the age of 50. Any honest person would be able to tell you that the 2020 electorate will be far younger than 50." The data is seldom presented within its full context on mainstream news outlets like MSNBC or CNN, and instills in voters a false sense of Biden's electability and props him up as the "safe" vote.
If this sounds eerily familiar, it's because the same thing happened in 2016. Hillary Clinton, like Biden, was prematurely propped up as the most electable candidate, even though an anti-establishment candidate like Bernie Sanders may have stood a better chance against Trump's "outsider" persona, which resonated with many voters (particularly across the midwest). This was proven in the wake of Trump's victory when analyses showed that many Bernie supporters either did not vote in the general election or jumped on the Trump ticket, preferring the radical change suggested by Trump's "drain the swamp" narrative over Clinton's years of experience as a politician.
Joe Biden, like Clinton, is firmly rooted in the Democratic establishment. While Trump's approval rating has wavered over the last few years, hitting its low at 35% in 2017, it has remained around 40 to 45% — a number that should be alarming for Democrats going into 2020, as there have been only three single-term presidents since World War II.
Either way, the Democratic party and its voters must avoid making the same mistakes if there is any hope of preventing a Trump reelection. Poll manipulation was not the only issue in the 2016 election. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) was also exposed for unfairly tipping the scales toward Clinton in 2016, effectively rigging the primary against Bernie Sanders.
Donna Brazile, former interim chair of the DNC, revealed in her book, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House, the nefarious– although not technically illegal, according to US District Judge William J. Zloch, who dismissed a class action lawsuit against the DNC – actions of the Committee.
"Hillary would control the party's finances, strategy, and all the money raised," writes Brazile. "Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings."
It's unclear whether the DNC's current chair, Tom Perez, will run an honest and fair ship as we approach the 2020 election cycle. Perez held the position of labor secretary during the Obama administration, and Biden publicly threw his support behind Perez during his campaign for DNC chair; whereas Sanders preferred Keith Ellison, who lost by a narrow margin. Only time will tell if Perez will tip the scales in Biden's favor due to their favorable history together, but the Democratic party is no stranger to nepotism, so Perez – especially in light of 2016 – should be watched carefully in the months to come.
Even if the DNC does run a fair election this time around, electing Joe Biden would be a grave mistake. A mistake that the party already made last time around in the form of gifting the primary to Hillary Clinton. This election will not be one for tepid, center-of-the-road policies. We've already seen how an establishment centrist performs against Donald Trump. The Democratic party must embrace and adopt the progressive push to the left provided by candidates like Sanders and others if they have any hope of winning in 2020. Playing politics as usual will cost the Democratic party, and the nation, another four years of a Donald Trump White House.