Tuesday, January 23, 2018


I'm fascinated by the Nunes secret-memo-that-proves-Obama-spied-on-Trump, but no-fair-asking-me-to-show-it-to-you thing, to which I briefly alluded in Monday's column. Mainly it's about the traction the story has found at the highest levels of the conservative movement, despite its profoundly unconservative premise. It's one thing for Infowars crackpots to tout an alleged copy of this memo (the prologue, "Update: Despite media claims to the contrary, our congressional sources confirmed..." tells you all you need to know), but quite another for actual Republican Congressmen like Steve King and Mark Meadows to serve as barkers for the fraud. I mean, King and Meadows are shitheels, but in olden times one would have expected the dignity of the office to prevent them for behaving this way out in public -- at least since the humiliation of Joe McCarthy made it unfashionable. (Update: And now they've got a GOP Senator raving about a Secret Society on TV.)

But it sure is in fashion now. And while a lot of the hooey conservatives have been spreading is of the old, expected variety -- Clinton crime family, Obama the Muslim traitor, George Soros and Saul Alinsky made babies and I saw one of the babies and the baby looked at me, etc. -- stuff like the Nunes memo is of the "Deep State" variety of conspiracy thinking, positing that a permanent government of spies, bureaucrats, and other unelected lever-pullers is subverting the will of the (not-quite-majority of the) people, while brave truth-tellers like Nunes and Trump (and Seth Rich, Julian Assange, et alia) try to bring the whole rotten apparatus down.

This strikes me as a really new propaganda frontier for them to be getting into -- and not because it's any more difficult to believe than their usual nonsense; in fact, on its face it's easier to believe, because there really are government agencies that are only semi-accountable to democracy. And though it's a total howl that conservatives, with their long history of authoritarianism, are suddenly bitching about a meddling FBI and CIA, it's not the hypocrisy that gets me. After all, this is America, where political movements only reform when they find it in their electoral interest to do so. There's nothing intrinsically weird about conservatives going all Jim Garrison -- look at James O'Keefe.

No, the real weirdness of the current situation is this: Conservative nonsense is usually at least based on the traditional values of the movement. Their Obama fantasies are based on their racism; their Hillary Clinton fetish, on their sexism; and their Soros-Alinsky-Frankfurt School shtick on the notion that the America dream cannot succumb to self-generated flaws because it has none, and can only be brought down by Satanic, foreign conspiracies.

But turning against the nation's intelligence agencies -- the guys who helped them fight, sometimes with extreme prejudice, the Communists, the hippies, the Black Panthers et alia -- that's not just a change in tactics; that's something like a psychotic break.

Speaking of which, now we have this I'm-not-saying-it-was-aliens from Rush Limbaugh (h/t Ana Marie Cox):
What if the intel on the war in Iraq was another disinformation campaign, to damage another Republican president?... 
What if the quote-unquote "intelligence community" misrepresented, on purpose, the degree to which Hussein had WMDs?... 
What if Saddam weapons of mass destruction was also a false narrative designed to -- what, did it ultimately embarrass Bush? Did it weaken the US military? Did it -- whatever it did, I mean, it opened the doors for the Democrats to literally destroy his presidency in the second term, which is what they did.
Again, once upon a time I assumed such a brain-melting idea as the Democrats using the CIA to trick Bush into the Iraq War would be beneath a popular radio star like Limbaugh -- the proof being that he never tried it before, presumably because even his numbskull listeners would assume he'd lost it. But in our new age he apparently thinks it's worth a shot.

I'm trying to imagine where this all leads and I have to admit I'm stumped. I'm used to them being full of shit, and had supposed the effect of having the Prince of Lies as a party leader had just made them even more full of shit, but this goes beyond mere shamelessness into schizophrenia. The one thing that sort of reassures me is that they haven't flipped on anything significant -- like, they show no sign of genuine interest in the plight of the poor and underprivileged, and Lord knows they're still doing what they can to destroy representative democracy. So maybe this is a difference of degree rather than of kind -- after all, since Americans are conspiracy nuts, one secret society is as good as any other. But if they start advocating for a universal basic income -- I mean for real, not as some kind of lame thought experiment -- all bets are off.

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