Canadians’ views on American politics are generally fairly predictable. Being Canadian means a degree of smugness blended with a drop or two of envy and a fairly constant need to assert moral superiority. In a very polite, but persistent way.
The candidacy, nomination and election of Donald Trump gave the better class of Canadian plenty of opportunity to show each other just how intelligent and enlighted they were. The Coynes and Kinsellas competed with each other in the political snobbery sweepstakes. Trump was Hitler, the Republicans the Nazi Party, Steve Bannon was a badly dressed Göring or, more likely, Satan himself. Breitbart News was Der Stürmer, the alt-right was universally the SS, the Trump regime overnight transformed America – save for the brave “Resistance” – into an anti-semitic, racist, fascist, misogynistic state in which freedom of the press and human rights in general were crushed under the jackbooted heels of Trump’s evil to a man (and pretend woman) Cabinet.
It has been tons of fun to watch ostensibly rational, intelligent, people reach immediately for the white supremacist smear tool kit in the face of the unthinkable occurring in our neighbour to the South. The fact that, one month into the Trump Presidency, the worst he seems to have done is be rude to CNN and the New York Times doesn’t deter our good and decent Canadians one bit. They just know that Trump is an evilton and, at any moment, will open the concentration camps and start rounding up Mexicans, Jews, Blacks, Muslims, Women, Queers, NYT reporters and anyone else the human Cheeto and his henchmen find objectionable.
And, to make the entire thing even more ominous, there seems to be a belief that Trump was put into position by none other than Prince of Darkness, Vladimir Putin and that Trump is simply following orders. Or something.
Jay Currie, “Trump and the Canadians”, Jay Currie, 2017-02-25.
March 8, 2017
March 2, 2017
In the 1990s, a serious malady appeared on the American public square in which citizens were driven over the edge by their antipathy for incumbent presidents. It came to be known as the “presidential-derangement syndrome” and over the course of the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama administrations its victims grew in number. But while it was a given that whoever won last November’s election would have one named after them, we really had no idea what we were in for once Donald Trump moved into the White House. As we’ve seen this past week, presidential paranoia has not only gone mainstream in terms of the public, it’s now found a home in the mainstream media.
Though it was limited at first to the fever swamps of American politics where some on the right first imagined that black helicopters were about to swoop in and steal their freedom or that the Clintons were operating a drug cartel, the derangement virus adapted to the changing political environment in the years that followed. Those deranged by Bush were less marginal than the Clinton victims but shared the belief that the 43rd president was somehow a front for a vast conspiracy and not only blamed him for “lying” the country into war but viewed the entire national-security response to 9/11 as a put-up job intended to mask the theft of liberty.
As awful as the Bush version was, the Obama-derangement syndrome was in many ways even worse as the 44th president’s citizenship was questioned along with his religious faith and anything else about him that anyone could think of. Though Obama’s liberal policies and power grabs were bad enough from a conservative point of view, some on the right preferred to instead spend their energy pondering the authenticity of his birth certificate (see Trump, Donald) or whether or not he was an Islamist mole. We can blame the Internet and the rise of social media for the more pervasive nature of Obama conspiracy theories but even that dispiriting spectacle may turn out to be insignificant when compared to the psychological torment Trump has inspired among not merely the far Left but also mainstream liberals.
Jonathan S. Tobin, “The Paranoid Style of Anti-Trump Politics”, National Review, 2017-02-12.
February 9, 2017
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our president has a persecution complex. He thinks any inconvenient but truthful coverage of him is an unfair criticism and any unfair criticism is a lie. What makes this complicated is that sometimes Trump is right. Some of the coverage has been ridiculous and desperate nonsense, as Mollie Hemingway ably chronicles. And some of the coverage has been merely accurate-but-hypocritical. Howard Kurtz ran through a list last night on Special Report. When Bill Clinton lied, it was called “misleading” or “less than candid” but when Trump lies, it’s a “Lie!” in the headline. (One can make the argument — as I have — that many of Trump’s lies are less offensive because he just glandularly blurts them out, while Bill Clinton lied like an artisan whittling a ballerina out of a block of wood, with loving, expert attention to every detail.)
But you know what? When I say Trump is lying about something, I’m not guilty of any double standard. I called Bill Clinton and Barack Obama liars all the time. You know why? Because they lied all the time. And yet every day, if I criticize Trump about anything, the cultists scream at me some version of “Oh yeah! Why weren’t you this critical of Obama?” or “What about Bill Clinton!?” It’s like they don’t know who they’re talking to. If Trump plays Baron-and-the-Milkmaid with an intern, I will make a big deal out of it and so will the New York Times. Their hypocrisy will not apply to me.
When conservatives — I’m not referring to Republican political hacks, that’s their job; I’m referring to actual conservative writers — go out and respond to the negative coverage solely by attacking the MSM messengers, they are in effect condoning — or at least providing cover for — Trump’s behavior and feeding the idea that he’s a victim whenever anyone does anything other than applaud. Steve Bannon wants to demonize and delegitimize the mainstream media. Given his record at Breitbart, that’s some odd casting for Champion of Journalistic Integrity, but whatever. That’s his fight, and shame on the mainstream media for making his job so easy.
Jonah Goldberg, “Week One”, National Review, 2017-01-27.
February 4, 2017
Chris Kluwe apparently believes that when the revolution comes, citizens can simply seize “captured armories or gun shops”
Since leaving the Vikings, former NFL punter Chris Kluwe has apparently developed quite the streak of paranoia about Il Donalduce and is advising fellow progressives to plan for the revolution:
In meltdown mode over the Trump administration, former NFL player Chris Kluwe is conjuring up ways to mount an armed resistance against the government—based on his knowledge of video games.
Known more for his loud opinions than for his athletic prowess, Kluwe is infamous for writing long, profanity-filled rants about gamers and their unwillingness to accept feminism into their hearts.
Since leaving the Minnesota Vikings, where he was a punter, Kluwe has established himself as a writer, penning a science fiction novel and an autobiography. He contributed posts to Deadspin and launched a crowdfund for a card game he designed.
During the election, Kluwe was outspoken in his opposition to Trump, posting innumerable tweets about it. Several of his slams went viral.
“They do not care about you. They do not care about me. They do not care about anything other than themselves,” he wrote of the government. “History is replete with examples of what happens when people like [Trump] hold the levers of a nation/state/city/village.”
After insisting that a civil war is inevitable, Kluwe offers some survival tips.
He suggests learning how to use a common service firearm, but adds that it won’t bet necessary to own a gun because when the revolution comes, citizens can simply seize “captured armories or gun shops.” Kluwe also offers useless advice on how to survive a combat situation.
On Facebook, John Ringo offers some helpful suggestions:
(Not sure who ‘Coop’ is. Took this from Chuck Bogardus’ page.)
Attention idiots, former linebackers, antifa(g)s, Sarah Silverman, Judd Apatow, and any other completely retarded “revolutionaries”:
1. The military is not on your side
2. You can’t “loot” a gun store or Military/National Guard armory. They’re kind of designed to be hard to loot, especially if you don’t have a couple of guns prior to attempting such.
3. The Trump supporters have most of the guns already. Better guns than the cops.
4. The Libertarian-leaning non-Trump supporters who own the rest of the guns are leaning closer and closer to Trump with every tantrum you throw and media hit job you make.
5. Your mother’s a whore
6. You have no combat experience.
7. The celebrities who are calling to arms these violent, insurgent actions have absolutely no skin in the game. They risk no arrest, they aren’t there being violent with you, they don’t even leave their gated communities, and when they do, they have an armed security detail. But they’re not going to pay your bail when you get arrested. They’re not going to pay your medical bills when someone reacts to you with superior force in self defense. You are their useful idiots.
8. You are either effeminately weak or cripplingly fat. Your enemies are in much better shape than you.
December 1, 2016
The media is always fretting that ginning up “white rage” will produce “backlash” — violence — against minority communities.
Okay, let’s say I accept that’s a possibility.
Is it not also a possibility that ginning up minority rage over agrievements, both those that can be characterized as possibly real as well of those of the #FakeNews contrived paranoia variety, can spur non-whites into their own “backlash” mode?
If not, why not? Are whites singularly evil in this world? Are they alone the only race capable of being whipped up into a hateful, violent lather by racial paranoia and racial grievances?
If it’s dangerous for a strain of white identity politics to nurture a fear and hatred of “The Other” — different races — and that such a strain of grievance-mongering and paranoia may result in the murders or assaults of minorities, why is it (as the media and mediating institutions seem to believe) not dangerous at all for minority ethnic groups to gin up their own fear, paranoia, and hatred against whites or society in general?
Will the media or any government official ever address this, given the weekly assassinations of police, and the newest barbarism committed against OSU students due to one lunatic steeping in the hatreds of identity politics?
November 30, 2016
Kathy Shaidle didn’t make any friends among the alt-Right with her most recent column:
Weeks later, Trump’s triumph still seems slightly unreal; I permitted myself to purchase Time magazine’s special commemorative issue — can you imagine how much it pained them to put that out? — to serve as cerebral smelling salts and snap me out of those sporadic “Holy shit, he’s the president!” flashes.
But that lapse aside, I put not my trust in princes.
Of course, not everyone shares my horror of personality cults, or the man never would have won. Twitter’s upstart counterpart Gab, for example, is overrun by Trump cheerleaders, for whom fun memes like that “Deplorables” Photoshop or “Donald Crossing the Delaware” aren’t just a split second’s amusement, but the bunting of a burgeoning civic religion.
Whatever the benefits of a Republican presidency, one of the unavoidable side effects is an emboldening of our side’s flakier elements, who weave two most unsavory obsessions — the occult and “pedophile rings” — into singularly elaborate and ultimately groundless conspiracy theories.
Sure enough, right on cue: Type “Pizzagate” into YouTube’s search engine and soak in the overblown paranoid hysteria.
These kooks and simpletons were harmlessly wrong about Harry Potter turning your kids into witches, and tragically mistaken about the “Satanic panic.” At the very least, they’re a colossal embarrassment, but they also undermine serious business undertaken by serious people.
A big difference this time around is that the president himself won’t be immune to the lure of such twisted, empty-calorie distractions. Trump used to be Birther-in-Chief, remember? And he’s on Twitter.
January 5, 2016
October 31, 2015
Ages are marked by their paranoias and despairs, and we see those paranoias and despairs in the art an age produces. What we dread in earnest we enjoy in fantasy.
After Watergate, there were a series of very paranoid and nihilistic films — The Parallax View, Capricorn One, The Conversation on the paranoid end; then all the violent ones about a growing nihilism in the world — Dirty Harry, Death Wish, and so on.
Cultural observers had no problem pointing directly at Watergate (and the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr.) to explain the paranoia, and nor were they so blind as to not notice the decay and malaise (and rising tide of bloody crime) of the seventies were responsible for the various violent retribution films.
Since 9/11, we faced a lot of movies about cataclysm and the end of the world. It’s easy enough to see that connection.
But the Age of Obama has not produced any uplift, nor any respite from the current preoccupation of people with the End Times. As a non-religious person, I don’t mean this literally (though many may), but it is impossible not to note the idea of Apocalypse and Cataclysm is in the air.
Look at the number of zombie films and zombie TV shows — as obvious a metaphor for decay and rot as can be imagined. Or the still-doing-bonzo-business cataclysm fantasies. Even the latest Man of Steel was about cataclysm.
And now add into that the large number of paranoid, rotten dystopia movies.
If the Age of Obama is so swell, if we’re all filled with Hope, why is this age not producing the spate of feel-good, have-fun, get-rich movies the 80s did?
Why are our collective fantasies in the Age of Obama so single-mindedly focused on the idea of dystopia, cultural decay, and ultimately cultural destruction?
Whether liberal cultural critics want to admit it or not — and they seem very much to not want to admit it, because this is so obvious it’s painful, and yet they fail to make this obvious connection — the Obama years are years of economic want, emotional depression, and spiritual chaos, at least as reflected by entertainments resolutely focusing on the end-times and the wretched dystopias that arise after the End Times, when civilization is dead but just hasn’t stopped moving yet.
The Leftovers, The Returned, Revolution, the Walking Dead not only being a top-rated show, but spawning a top-rated spin-off — I dare anyone to find any previous moment in American history, including in the years of paranoia after Watergate, in which our fantasies have been so dark, depressive, anxious and foreboding.
This is all very obvious. The people in Hollywood turning out one cataclysm-and-dystopia entertainment after another surely sense this, as do the talentless idiots paid to comment on the culture at fluffy magazines like The Atlantic and New York and The New Yorker; and yet, another aspect of the Age of Obama — that one must never admit the horrible truth; one must always pretend it away, and give only praise to Dear Leader — keeps people from stating what is so obvious it’s increasingly uncomfortable to remain silent about it.
June 13, 2015
… or, y’know … to get the global movers and shakers together for a quick rubber chicken dinner or six and a few grip’n’grins among the well-connected and the extremely-well-wealthed:
The annual Bilderberg meeting begins today in Telfs-Buchen, Austria. This year the summit’s influential attendees range from David Petraeus to Henry Kissinger, from the CEO of Airbus to the secretary general of NATO. There are some press figures on the guest list too — Bloomberg‘s John Micklethwait, The National Post‘s Andrew Coyne, The Washington Post‘s Anne Applebaum, and a few others. But the journalists won’t be writing about what they see, because the whole thing is off the record.
This combination of power and secrecy inevitably produces conspiracy theories, and the Bilderbergers have been dogged for decades by people convinced they’re the secret parliament of the world. The meeting is more mundane than that, sitting somewhere on the spectrum between a G7 summit and a Davos forum. But if some of the things people claim about Bilderberg are crazy — a couple years ago, Michael Tracy interviewed a protester outside the meeting who was convinced it featured “Devil worship” and “pedophilia” — it’s not at all kooky to recognize that powerful people are gathered there and that the things they’re saying in private may be newsworthy. Bilderberg is not a hidden government, but it’s certainly an elite institution, and it has been since it was founded in 1954.
May 19, 2015
Tom Kratman on the overtly paranoid reactions to the upcoming Jade Helm exercise:
In about two months, exercise Jade Helm 15 is scheduled to kick off. This is a two-month long special operations exercise, spread out across the southwest of the country, from Texas to California. It has the Tin Foil Hat Brigade, Right Wing Regiment1, demonstrating all the calm and relaxed demeanor (I am, of course, kidding), as well as the typical paranoid delusions (not kidding at all), for which it and its members are justifiably famous.2
Never having actually enlisted with the Tin Foil Hat Brigade, my initial reaction to exercise Jade Helm 15 was a resounding, “ho hum,” and my reaction to the TFHB reaction was, “As Christ probably would have said if He’d thought about it, ‘The loons ye shall have with ye always.’”
To be fair to the TFHB, though, whenever the New York Times3 and Washington Post4 agree that something like this is clearly harmless, it’s possibly time to inventory our stocks of ammunition and break out the banana oil to make sure our protective masks are in good working order. In other words, their enthusiastic and unquestioned agreement constitutes a rebuttable presumption that FEMA is about to open concentration camps.
However, rebuttable presumptions are there to be rebutted. This week and next I’m going to limit my rebuttal to the notion that the exercise is inherently suspicious because it is so militarily useless and unnecessary as to be indefensible. To do that we need to get into a little history, a bit of doctrine, and a touch of dogma.
1 Which in general demeanor much resembles the TFHB, Left Wing Regiment.
2 Just Google it; there are too many examples for me to illustrate without appearing to be playing favorites.
March 24, 2015
A fascinating … and disturbing … post from a Tumblr blog called White Hot Harlots on the pervasive fear among some academics. Not fear of the troglodytes of the right, but fear of their own students:
Personally, liberal students scare the shit out of me. I know how to get conservative students to question their beliefs and confront awful truths, and I know that, should one of these conservative students make a facebook page calling me a communist or else seek to formally protest my liberal lies, the university would have my back. I would not get fired for pissing off a Republican, so long as I did so respectfully, and so long as it happened in the course of legitimate classroom instruction.
The same cannot be said of liberal students. All it takes is one slip — not even an outright challenging of their beliefs, but even momentarily exposing them to any uncomfortable thought or imagery — and that’s it, your classroom is triggering, you are insensitive, kids are bringing mattresses to your office hours and there’s a twitter petition out demanding you chop off your hand in repentance.
Is paranoid? Yes, of course. But paranoia isn’t uncalled for within the current academic job climate. Jobs are really, really, really, really hard to get. And since no reasonable person wants to put their livelihood in danger, we reasonably do not take any risks vis-a-vis momentarily upsetting liberal students. And so we leave upsetting truths unspoken, uncomfortable texts unread.
There are literally dozens of articles and books I thought nothing of teaching, 5-6 years ago, that I wouldn’t even reference in passing today. I just re-read a passage of Late Victorian Holocausts, an account of the British genocide against India, and, wow, today I’d be scared if someone saw a copy of it in my office. There’s graphic pictures right on the cover, harsh rhetoric (“genocide”), historical accounts filled with racially insensitive epithets, and a profound, disquieting indictment of capitalism. No way in hell would I assign that today. Not even to grad students.
August 22, 2014
In the Washington Post, Alfred Moore, Joseph Parent and Joseph Uscinski show that it’s not just fringe activists on either side of the divide that indulge in conspiracy theorizing: it really is just as common on the left as it is on the right.
Krugman makes a fair point: in moderation conspiracy theories may show healthy skepticism, but in excess they can erode the trust needed for states to fulfill their basic functions and warp the respect for evidence necessary for sound decision making.
Yet Krugman is mostly wrong that nuttiness is found mainly among conservatives, and his misperception actually reveals a great deal about U.S. politics. People of all political persuasions believe their views are objectively right and others hold positions that are arbitrary and asinine. Daniel Kahan finds that partisan commitments make people look for evidence to justify their conclusions. Even when, say, liberals come up with a correct answer, it may not have been because of their high esteem for evidence. They just got lucky. The implication is that people use data like drunks use lampposts: more for support than illumination. Columnist Ezra Klein concurs with Kahan, although he points out the large numbers of Republicans who refuse to accept climate science and wonders whether there is a liberal equivalent to climate change denial.
In our survey, we also measured respondents’ underlying propensity to believe in conspiracy theories — that is, the general mindset that leads people to accept or reject conspiracy theories. We asked respondents whether they agreed with four statements:
- “Much of our lives are being controlled by plots hatched in secret places,”
- “Even though we live in a democracy, a few people will always run things anyway,”
- “The people who really ‘run’ the country are not known to the voters.”
- “Big events like wars, the current recession, and the outcomes of elections are controlled by small groups of people who are working in secret against the rest of us.”
We combined these questions into one summary measure. This graph shows the percentage of Democrats, Republicans, and independents that showed a strong or medium disposition towards thinking conspiratorially.
The upshot: near symmetry between left and right.
If Republicans and Democrats are equally prone to believing in conspiracy theories, where then is the liberal equivalent of climate change denial? An obvious possibility is the belief that Big Oil conspires to marginalize unfavorable findings or block alternative energies. Our survey, for example, shows that 52 percent of Democrats believe corporations are conspiring against us.
February 3, 2014
Justin Raimondo on the former head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and his “with us or against us” views of dissent. Any dissent:
Taking up where Princeton University historian and Clintonista Sean Wilentz left off, Sunstein avers:
“It can be found on the political right, in familiar objections to gun control, progressive taxation, environmental protection and health-care reform. It can also be found on the left, in familiar objections to religious displays at public institutions and to efforts to reduce the risk of terrorism.”
In short, any objection to the Obama administration’s agenda is indicative of “paranoia” on both sides of the political spectrum. While it would be tempting to write this off as mere partisan bombast, this isn’t the case with Sunstein, an ideologue whose faith in the beneficence of government action underlies all his public pronouncements. If government sees some benefit to state-sponsored displays of religiosity, well then what’s your problem? And as for the Surveillance State – it’s just a program to “reduce the risk of terrorism,” and has absolutely nothing to do with industrial espionage, compiling dossiers on innocent Americans, and tapping Angela Merkel’s phone.
So how do you spot these libertarian subversives who deserve to be “cognitively infiltrated” and quite possibly suppressed? According to Professor Sunstein, they share five characteristics:
“The first is a wildly exaggerated sense of risks – a belief that if government is engaging in certain action (such as surveillance or gun control), it will inevitably use its authority so as to jeopardize civil liberties and perhaps democracy itself. In practice, of course, the risk might be real. But paranoid libertarians are convinced of its reality whether or not they have good reason for their conviction.”
What would be a “good reason,” in Sunstein’s view? He doesn’t say, conveniently enough, but what about secrecy? Shouldn’t our suspicions be aroused by the fact that the NSA started spying on us behind our backs? Not even the author of the Patriot Act knew it was being utilized by this administration – and its predecessor – to justify scooping up all telephonic and Internet data generated within our borders and far beyond. Why was it all done in the dark, with even the court proceedings “legalizing” this anti-constitutional coup kept secret? The answer is clearly because such brazen chicanery could never stand the light of day.
And surely Sunstein’s argument can be turned around and aimed at its author: isn’t his proposal that the US government hire paid snoops to “cognitively infiltrate” so-called conspiracy theorists on the Internet (and elsewhere) using a hammer to kill a flea? In his infamous paper, he cites polls showing a good proportion of the people of New York believe the 9/11 attacks were the work of the US government, but even if this somewhat dubious statistic reflects reality what is the risk of failing to confront it with government action? Does Sunstein expect 9/11 “truthers” to take over the state of New York anytime soon? Who’s paranoid now?
December 12, 2013
Charles Stross has a few adrenaline shots for your paranoia gland this morning:
The internet of things may be coming to us all faster and harder than we’d like.
Reports coming out of Russia suggest that some Chinese domestic appliances, notably kettles, come kitted out with malware — in the shape of small embedded computers that leech off the mains power to the device. The covert computational passenger hunts for unsecured wifi networks, connects to them, and joins a spam and malware pushing botnet. The theory is that a home computer user might eventually twig if their PC is a zombie, but who looks inside the base of their electric kettle, or the casing of their toaster? We tend to forget that the Raspberry Pi is as powerful as an early 90s UNIX server or a late 90s desktop; it costs £25, is the size of a credit card, and runs off a 5 watt USB power source. And there are cheaper, less competent small computers out there. Building them into kettles is a stroke of genius for a budding crime lord looking to build a covert botnet.
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.
I’m dozy and slow on the uptake: I should have been all over this years ago.
And it’s not just keyboards. It’s ebook readers. Flashlights. Not your smartphone, but the removable battery in your smartphone. (Have you noticed it running down just a little bit faster?) Your toaster and your kettle are just the start. Could your electric blanket be spying on you? Koomey’s law is going to keep pushing the power consumption of our devices down even after Moore’s law grinds to a halt: and once Moore’s law ends, the only way forward is to commoditize the product of those ultimate fab lines, and churn out chips for pennies. In another decade, we’ll have embedded computers running some flavour of Linux where today we have smart inventory control tags — any item in a shop that costs more than about £50, basically. Some of those inventory control tags will be watching and listening to us; and some of their siblings will, repurposed, be piggy-backing a ride home and casing the joint.
The possibilities are endless: it’s the dark side of the internet of things. If you’ll excuse me now, I’ve got to go wallpaper my apartment in tinfoil …
November 30, 2013
A couple of my friends posted links to this rather useful flowchart to help you find the conspiracy theory that’s right for you:
H/T to Jessica Brisbane and John McCluskey for the link.