Proof of Casual Indifference

On the third night of the Democratic National Convention everyone must have been used to how these things will be conducted from now on – no big crowds – just the candidates and those who explain them out there, all alone, saying what they will, with no applause or cheering or anything else. There are no social cues. No loyal party crowd is letting everyone else know what everyone should think of what they’ve just heard. This is more intimate and more dangerous. People will now pay attention to exactly what’s said. There’s nowhere to hide, and that’s probably a good thing. No one can hide the implications of what they just said behind the cheers. Everyone will know exactly what you meant. Honesty will be unavoidable. Honesty will be the only option.

And so it was. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake covers the third night:

Democrats on Wednesday night formally nominated Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) as Joe Biden’s vice-presidential nominee, making her the first woman of color on a major-party ticket, while the last Democratic president, Barack Obama, issued an extraordinary rebuke of his successor, President Trump.

Kamala Harris did what she had to do:

Wednesday night’s acceptance speech was an opportunity for Harris to redefine herself – after her 2020 primary campaign flamed out early and at a time in which she’s not just vital to Democrats’ 2020 hopes, but is set up to be their standard-bearer in future presidential elections.

Two lines stood out: “I know a predator when I see one,” and “There is no vaccine for racism.”

“I have fought for children and survivors of sexual assault,” Harris said. “I fought against transnational criminal organizations. I took on the biggest banks and helped take down one of the biggest for-profit colleges. I know a predator when I see one.”

That line, which is similar to one she used when campaigning for herself, came before Harris’s address explicitly turned to President Trump, but it was clearly intended to paint a picture. It was a subtly delivered but not terribly subtle allusion to the character of the man who occupies the Oval Office. In fact, Harris has previously followed up similar comments by directly invoking Trump, saying, “And we have a predator in the White House right now.” Harris also uttered it while talking about her past as a prosecutor – seeking to turn something of a liability with progressives into a positive.

Yes, she had sent people to jail, which to some seemed heartless and cruel and made her part of “the system” that had to end. But maybe some people should go to jail. The predator in the White House might be one of them.

But the other item was a stretch:

Harris later described racial injustice as a “virus,” likening it to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This virus, it has no eyes, and yet it knows exactly how we see each other and how we treat each other,” Harris said. “And let’s be clear: There is no vaccine for racism.”

That’s where people were supposed to cheer, but without cheers that just seemed facile. That was clever, but what should anyone do about that?

Obama was more direct:

For years, Trump built his political career by using Obama as a boogeyman – mostly as the lead public face of the racist birther movement. Despite this, Obama in 2016 initially offered Trump the kind of well wishes we expect during a peaceful transfer of power. He even called their post-election conversation “excellent” and professed to be “encouraged” by it.

On Wednesday night, Obama was done putting anything amounting to a good face on things, utterly departing from traditional post-presidential protocol.

There’d be no more bullshit:

While Obama has increasingly criticized Trump, on Wednesday he went further. In his speech, Obama said that the man he hoped would rise to the task had utterly failed – and didn’t really even try.

“He never did,” Obama said. “For close to four years now, he’s shown no interest in putting in the work, no interest in finding common ground, no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends, no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

The New York Times headed their transcript of the Obama speech with this:

Former President Barack Obama delivered an impassioned speech on Wednesday to the Democratic National Convention in support of his party’s presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., praising him as a man of experience, character, empathy and resilience, and urging the nation to come together to oust President Trump, saying democracy’s very existence is in jeopardy.

Calling the consequences of Mr. Trump’s failures severe – “170,000 Americans dead, millions of jobs gone, our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished and our democratic institutions threatened like never before” – Mr. Obama issued a call to action, imploring Americans to get behind Mr. Biden and his vice-presidential running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California.

That is, get behind someone who actually knows what they’re doing, or more precisely, someone who might be able to perform the basic functions of the job:

Mr. Obama, adopting a tone of urgency and speaking directly to his fellow Americans, delivered his speech from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia in what the party said was an effort to illustrate the high stakes voters face in this election.

Repeating a theme from a speech delivered by his wife, Michelle Obama, the former first lady, on Monday night, Mr. Obama said that Mr. Trump was simply incapable of being president, issuing a stunning rebuke of his successor.

“I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously,” Mr. Obama said. “That he might come to feel the weight of the office. And discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care. But he never did.”

“Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t,” he said.

He can’t? Prove it! There was no need for that. He proved that a few hours earlier, as Katie Rogers reports here:

President Trump on Wednesday offered encouragement to proponents of QAnon, a viral conspiracy theory that has gained a widespread following among people who believe the president is secretly battling a criminal band of sex traffickers, and suggested that its proponents were patriots upset with unrest in Democratic cities.

“I’ve heard these are people that love our country,” Mr. Trump said during a White House news conference ostensibly about the coronavirus. “So I don’t know really anything about it other than they do supposedly like me.”

Call that casual indifference. He knows nothing about these people, but he has heard that they like him. What’s the problem? And then someone told him:

When told by a reporter about the central premise of the QAnon theory – a belief that Mr. Trump is saving the world from a satanic cult made up of pedophiles and cannibals connected to Democratic Party figures, so-called deep-state actors and Hollywood celebrities – Mr. Trump did not question the validity of the movement or the truth of those claims.

Instead, he offered his help.

“Is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing?” the president said lightly, responding to a reporter who asked if he could support that theory. “If I can help save the world from problems, I am willing to do it. I’m willing to put myself out there.”

What the hell, why not? Trump needs to pay more attention to things:

Mr. Trump’s cavalier response was a remarkable public expression of support for conspiracy theorists that have operated in the darkest corners of the internet and have at times been charged with domestic terrorism and planned kidnapping. Mr. Trump’s comments also elevated a group of people who the FBI has said poses a domestic terrorism threat.

That would be these folks:

QAnon is a larger and many-tentacled version of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton was operating a child sex-trafficking ring out of the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant. In December 2016, a man who said he was on the hunt for proof of child abuse was arrested after firing a rifle inside the restaurant.

QAnon supporters often flood social media pages with memes and YouTube videos that target well-known figures – like Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and the actor Tom Hanks – with unfounded claims about their links to child abuse.

“It’s not just a conspiracy theory, this is a domestic extremist movement,” said Travis View, a host of “QAnon Anonymous,” a podcast that seeks to explain the movement. Mr. View said that Twitter and Facebook pages exploded with comments from gleeful followers after Mr. Trump’s comments.

They do love him, and they’re really not obscure:

In recent weeks, platforms including Twitter and Facebook have rushed to dismantle a mushrooming number of QAnon-related accounts and fan pages, a move that people who study the movement say is too little and too late. On Wednesday, after a record amount of QAnon-related growth on the site, Facebook said it removed 790 QAnon groups and was restricting another 1,950 groups, 440 pages and more than 10,000 Instagram accounts.

On Facebook alone, activity on some of the largest QAnon groups rose 200 to 300 percent in the past six months, according to data gathered by The New York Times.

“We have seen growing movements that, while not directly organizing violence, have celebrated violent acts, shown that they have weapons and suggest they will use them, or have individual followers with patterns of violent behavior,” Facebook said in a statement, adding that it would also block QAnon hashtags like #digitalarmy and #thestorm.

But the movement made the jump from social media long ago: With dozens of QAnon supporters running this year for Congress – including several who have won Republican primaries in Oregon and Georgia – QAnon is knocking on the door of mainstream politics, and has done so with the president’s help.

Marjorie Taylor Greene won that Georgian primary. She says Trump will defeat that deep-state cabal of Jewish bankers and Hillary Clinton, and Tom Hanks too, who worship Satan and run that child pornography and child sex-trafficking operation out of that pizza shop in Northern Virginia, and who are actual cannibals who cook and eat some of those children too. Michael Flynn still tweets that out to the world, and Trump does want Flynn back as his national security advisor. Obama had warned Trump about Flynn. That guy is nuts. And that made Trump like Flynn even more. Obama had said that Flynn was nothing but trouble, and that was enough for Trump. Flynn was in.

But this is odd stuff:

QAnon’s origins are murky. In October 2017, a post appeared on the 4Chan message board from an anonymous account calling itself “Q Clearance Patriot.” This poster, who became known simply as “Q,” claimed to be an intelligence officer with access to classified information about a war Mr. Trump was waging against the global cabal.

According to QAnon lore, Mr. Trump was recruited by top military generals to run for president in 2016 in order to break up the cabal’s criminal conspiracy, end its control of politics and the media, and bring its members to justice.

Yes, Tom Hanks must die. Trump knows that, or just for the fun of it posts tweets that say so:

For years, Mr. Trump and his campaign have flirted with the QAnon movement. Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, has interviewed supporters in her role as a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, creating footage that was later promoted to Mr. Trump’s supporters.

“If you could say one thing to the president, what would you say?” Ms. McEnany said to a supporter outside a campaign rally in February as several attendees shouted, “Q!” The two talked about what it meant to be a “digital soldier” for Mr. Trump.

“Who is Q?” the man replied. Ms. McEnany said that she would pass the message along.

For his part, the president has often reposted QAnon-centric content into his Twitter feed.

That’s what Obama was getting at. Trump tweets this nonsense. Trump tweets all the time. What about the job of the presidency?

And then things got stranger, as Zack Beauchamp reports here:

Laura Loomer is a former contributor to the conspiracy site Infowars and a self-described “proud Islamophobe.” She is famous for, among other things, spreading conspiracy theories about mass shootings and demanding that Uber and Lyft stop allowing Muslims to work as drivers. She has been banned from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, PayPal, Venmo, and GoFundMe for violating their policies on hate speech.

On Tuesday night, she won the Republican nomination for Congress in Florida’s 21st Congressional District – the stretch of southeastern Florida where President Trump is registered to vote. And on Wednesday morning, the president voiced his support, tweeting about Loomer’s victory five separate times.

“Great going Laura,” Trump wrote in one tweet. “You have a great chance against a Pelosi puppet!”

No, she doesn’t, but that’s cold comfort:

Loomer does not, in fact, have a great chance. FL-21 has been represented by a Democrat since 2013 and is generally seen as a safe seat for the party. It would likely take a massive Republican wave election for Loomer to unseat incumbent Rep. Lois Frankel, which seems exceptionally unlikely in 2020.

But her victory is telling nonetheless. In a healthy political party, extremists who cheer the deaths of migrants and were arrested for trespassing on the California governor’s mansion while wearing a sombrero wouldn’t get more than a handful of votes. Instead, Loomer was endorsed by two sitting members of Congress – Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) – and feted by the president himself.

Loomer is now part of a group of fringe Republicans winning congressional primaries in 2020, the most notable of whom is Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia-based believer in the QAnon conspiracy theory, who won in a safe Republican district and is very likely heading to Congress.

So at the moment the Democrats were speaking of experience and character and empathy, the Republicans were quite happy with this woman:

Loomer isn’t a household name for most Americans. But she’s been a presence in the conservative media ecosystem for quite some time.

She first attracted attention in 2015 when, as a college senior at Barry University in South Florida, she secretly filmed a meeting with administrators in which she attempted to form a campus club supporting ISIS. The video was released by Project Veritas, the conservative group that specializes in (questionably edited) sting videos.

Loomer worked for Project Veritas during the 2016 presidential campaign and learned to build a career out of political stunts. She grabbed the national spotlight June 2017 when she stormed the stage at a performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in New York that dressed the Roman general like Donald Trump. The disruption earned Loomer a booking on Sean Hannity’s show.

“You were making a very strong point. I applaud you for what you’ve done,” Hannity told her.

And that made her a star:

In 2018, Loomer teamed up with the conspiracy site Infowars to cover the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. She had suggested in a tweet that the students there speaking out against gun violence were plants: “it’s obvious these kids are reading a screen or notes someone else wrote for them.” In May 2018, after a school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, Loomer went even further – suggesting in a tweet that the entire thing was staged.

“The doctor speaking to media outside the hospital in Santa Fe, TX where victims of a school shooting were taken today said they just had a ‘mass casualty drill’ at the hospital around the same time of the school drill,” she wrote. “I’m sorry, but I can’t help but notice these ‘coincidences.'”

And then she became a martyr:

This particular cocktail of hate speech and conspiracy theory misinformation became the hallmark of Loomer’s political style, prompting the bans from major social media platforms. The straw that broke the camel’s back, on Twitter for example, came in November 2018 when Loomer tweeted that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) supported female genital mutilation because she is Muslim. In response to the ban, which came a year after Twitter stripped her blue check mark as punishment for similar false and offensive claims, Loomer physically chained herself to Twitter’s headquarters in New York while wearing a Nazi-style yellow star (Loomer is Jewish).

Since these bans, alleged social media censorship of conservatives has become Loomer’s cause du jour. She’s found allies in popular far-right publications like Breitbart as well as in Washington. In December 2019, President Trump retweeted a Loomer supporter calling for donations to her campaign.

Dana Milbank sees where this has led:

You might think Republican Party leaders would be calling in the white coats. But there was Roger Stone, the Trump confidant whose prison sentence the president recently commuted, at Loomer’s victory party, calling her the “Joan of Arc of the conservative movement.” Loomer told supporters that Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel congratulated her as a “political rock star.” The state and county GOP embraced her publicly.

And that’s that:

This is the new face of the Republican Party. Next week, Republicans, at a convention featuring the couple who waved guns at racial-justice demonstrators walking past their mansion, will re-nominate Trump, an avid purveyor of conspiracy theories. And the down-ballot nominees show how pervasive the party’s Trump-induced madness has become.

Nineteen Republican candidates and one independent who have embraced the QAnon conspiracy theory have secured spots on the November ballot, according to a tally by Alex Kaplan of the liberal watchdog Media Matters for America. Overall, Kaplan has identified 76 QAnon-affiliated candidates running for Congress this election cycle.

This really is the new face of the Republican Party, now fully Donald Trump’s party. Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t, and this is proof of his casual indifference to the actual job at hand. Obama said what had to be said.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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