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Games Without Frontiers

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Nancy Smash isn’t messing around:

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has said it is possible that members of Congress could face prosecution if found to have “aided and abetted” the violent attack on the Capitol earlier this month that left five people dead.

“Justice is called for as we address insurrection perpetrated against the Capitol last week,” the Democratic speaker told reporters on Friday.

“If, in fact, it is found that members of Congress were accomplices to this insurrection,” the Democratic speaker said, “if they aided and abetted the crime, there may have to be actions taken beyond the Congress in terms of prosecution for that.”

Pelosi’s comments came after Mikie Sherrill, a Democratic congresswoman of New Jersey, said she saw colleagues leading groups on “reconnaissance” tours of the Capitol a day before the riot.

More than 30 Democrats have signed on to a letter, spearheaded by Sherrill, seeking more information about the tours that took place at the Capitol on 5 January.

A critical factor fueling the insurrection ten days ago was the sense of total impunity driving it. This impunity is closely connected to the entire aura of kidding on the square that has always characterized Trump and Trumpism. Sure Donald Trump talked like a fascist but he wasn’t really a fascist.

I mean come on, are you saying that the president of the United States is a fascist? That 74 million (this is converted to 75 million by some weird informal right wing rhetorical protocol) Americans voted to re-elect someone who you’re seriously calling a fascist? Don’t you realize that’s practically tantamount to declaring the Republican party a fascist party?

Very Serious People don’t talk like that. Don’t you want to be a Very Serious Person?

Until about 17 seconds ago, both Donald Trump’s completely open embrace of ethno-nationalist authoritarianism and the cult of personality centered on him that this embrace created were still treated as basically jokes by most if not all elite discourse in the United States. Sure, it was uncomfortable and distasteful and maybe even a little disturbing, but it wasn’t serious.

I mean it wasn’t like we weren’t going to have a peaceful transfer of power on January 20th. Because the Institutions Had Held, and anyway Donald Trump and his tens of millions of devotees weren’t really serious.

And in a sense this elite delusion wasn’t even delusional. There’s a sense in which Donald Trump isn’t serious, because a pathologically narcissistic sociopath can’t be serious about the stuff presidents are supposed to be serious about — political ideas, actually governing, moral leadership, all that stuff — because he can’t be serious about anything except his own self-aggrandizement.

And there’s also a sense in which even many of Trump’s most fanatical followers aren’t serious either — it’s all for the 4chan lulz, it’s all to troll the libs, it’s all ultimately a big reality television social media internet game, played by people who don’t ultimately take that game all that seriously. Because they’re white, mainly, which means they believe they have the privilege — and they’re often confirmed in this belief — of acting like what they do in life doesn’t really count against them.

Donald Trump’s entire life is nothing but a monument to the belief that it is possible to live a consequence-free existence, which is the real reason his followers adore him. This is why so many of his devotees are in genuine shock that they’re being held accountable for their actions. They want a pardon too! (It also helps that so many of them are genuine morons. For example Nick Fuentes is telling the insurrectionists to destroy their phones).

But it turns out that games can go too far, and then suddenly it does count.

. . . Mookie in comments points out that Bill Maher’s schtick and show are perfect examples of the elite insouciance this post is referencing:

I had told my mom the last several years that while Maher was absolutely correct on the slow moving coup thing he has really dug in his heels on platforming more and more awful people at a time when that was becoming more and more dangerous. 15 years ago you can argue it was all fun and games when he would have on cranks, charlatans, and bigots to argue with (I for one enjoyed his show for many years), but as those same people gained more and more power it become more and more dangerous. This plus his outlook becoming more and more just about the threat of “cancel culture” really has made him miss the forest for the trees and become more of an asshole crank than he used to be.

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fxer
14 hours ago
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> Donald Trump’s entire life is nothing but a monument to the belief that it is possible to live a consequence-free existence, which is the real reason his followers adore him. This is why so many of his devotees are in genuine shock that they’re being held accountable for their actions.

Though I’d point out nobody has actually been held accountable, there’ve been some arrests and charges but don’t count those eggs yet
Bend, Oregon
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Giuliani selling pardons for $2 million a pop

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Raaaar! Raaar? RAR!

“Allegedly.”

The funniest current development in the destruction of liberal democracy in America is that Rudy is going to be Trump’s lead lawyer in the second impeachment trial, even though Trump has already told him he’s not going to pay for the legal bills Giuliani has already incurred, and indeed may not even reimburse him for travel expenses.

Of course Rudy expects to get paid in a different form of currency. The pardons issued over the next 71 hours are going to be something to see.

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fxer
14 hours ago
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Anyone got a pool on the most egregious pardons coming? Luckily Weinstein was convicted on state charges...
Bend, Oregon
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How the Trump/Hawley/Cruz/McCarthy sedition riots went down

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It must be said that the nation’s major news outlets have risen to the occasion in light of the riots, and this video timeline assembled by the Post is extraordinary stuff:

To reconstruct the pandemonium inside the Capitol for the video above, The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and hundreds of videos, some of which were exclusively obtained. By synchronizing the footage and locating some of the camera angles within a digital 3-D model of the building, The Post was able to map the rioters’ movements and assess how close they came to lawmakers — in some cases feet apart or separated only by a handful of vastly outnumbered police officers.

The Post used a facial-recognition algorithm that differentiates individual faces — it does not identify people — to estimate that at least 300 rioters were present in footage taken inside the Capitol while police were struggling to evacuate lawmakers. The actual number of rioters is probably greater, since the footage analyzed by The Post did not capture everyone in the building.

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fxer
14 hours ago
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Bend, Oregon
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Cletus on the Upper East Side

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This is a sad little profile of an upmarket QAnon freak:

Every morning, Valerie Gilbert, a Harvard-educated writer and actress, wakes up in her Upper East Side apartment; feeds her dog, Milo, and her cats, Marlena and Celeste; brews a cup of coffee; and sits down at her oval dining room table.

Then, she opens her laptop and begins fighting the global cabal.

Ms. Gilbert, 57, is a believer in QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy theory. Like all QAnon faithful, she is convinced that the world is run by a Satanic group of pedophiles that includes top Democrats and Hollywood elites, and that President Trump has spent years leading a top-secret mission to bring these evildoers to justice.

She unspools this web of falsehoods on her Facebook page, where she posts dozens of times a day, often sharing links from right-wing sites like Breitbart and The Epoch Times or QAnon memes she has pulled off Twitter. On a recent day, her feed included a rant against Covid-19 lockdowns, a grainy meme accusing Congress of “high treason,” a post calling Lady Gaga a Satanist and a claim that “covfefe,” a typo that Mr. Trump accidentally tweeted three years ago, was a coded intelligence message.

“I’m the meme queen,” Ms. Gilbert told me. “I won’t produce them, but I share a mean meme, and I’m kind of raw.”

The profile goes on to share the familiar story of a lonely, isolated person going down various Internet rabbit holes and ending up in a community of sorts: a community of crazy people and those who grift them, true, but still a kind of cyber-place to belong:

“This is not just young, male incels who live in their parents’ basements and can’t get a real job,” said Mike Rothschild, a conspiracy theory researcher who is writing a book about QAnon. “QAnon gives you a target to point your anger at, and it gives you something to do about it. That’s something that can appeal to anyone who is disaffected in any way.”

What attracts Ms. Gilbert and many other people to QAnon isn’t just the content of the conspiracy theory itself. It’s the community and sense of mission it provides. New QAnon believers are invited to chat rooms and group texts, and their posts are showered with likes and retweets. They make friends, and are told that they are not lonely Facebook addicts squinting at zoomed-in paparazzi photos, but patriots gathering “intel” for a righteous revolution.

This social element also means that QAnon followers aren’t likely to be persuaded out of their beliefs with logic and reason alone.

“These people aren’t drooling, mind-controlled cultists,” Mr. Rothschild said. “People who are in Q like it. They like being part of it. You can’t debunk and fact-check your way out of this, because these people don’t want to leave.”

The story doesn’t reference it, but there’s an interesting split taking place on the insurrectionist wing of American right wing politics at the moment, between the QAnon denizens, who “trust the plan” and therefore tend not to want to actually do anything beyond post on crazy cat lady Facebook pages, and the Proud Boy types who more than suspect that, if something drastic isn’t done, Joe Biden actually is going to become president three days from now after all.

As for QAnon, the movement will splinter this week, when the Great Disappointment happens: some adherents will naturally claim that Biden’s inauguration is all still somehow part of the plan, others will move on to other Internet conspiratorial rabbit holes (Flat Earthers are always accepting new members), and a few will be jolted back into something resembling reality, although I’m pretty sure Gilbert won’t be among them.

End note: Here are a few sociological detail from the piece I found particularly piquant:

Over a series of conversations, I learned that she had a longstanding suspicion of elites dating back to her Harvard days, when she felt out of place among people she considered snobby rich kids. As an adult, she joined the anti-establishment left, advocating animal rights and supporting the Standing Rock oil pipeline protests. She admired the hacktivist group Anonymous, and looked up to whistle-blowers like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. She was a registered Democrat for most of her life, but she voted for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, in the 2016 presidential election after deciding that both major parties were corrupt.

Ms. Gilbert’s path to QAnon began in 2016 when WikiLeaks posted a trove of hacked emails from the Clinton campaign. Shortly after, she started seeing posts on social media about something called #Pizzagate. She had dabbled in conspiracy theories before, but Pizzagate — which falsely posited that powerful Democrats were running a child sex-trafficking ring out of a Washington pizza parlor, and that all of this was detailed in code in the Clinton emails — blew her mind. If it was true, she thought, it would connect all of her suspicions about elites, and explain the horrible truths they had been covering up.

That Gilbert went to the Dalton School and now lives on the Upper East Side with no visible means of support makes her complaints about the snobby rich kids at Harvard College seem just a bit discordant. And of course her subsequent political hegira is a common enough one on the coupon-clipping putative left.

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fxer
20 hours ago
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> “People who are in Q like it. They like being part of it. You can’t debunk and fact-check your way out of this, because these people don’t want to leave.”
Bend, Oregon
duerig
15 hours ago
Similarly, there is broad research showing that individual terrorists are bonded into their organization because of the comradeship and sense of purpose rather than actually caring about the stated goals of the organization. Q is just another terrorist organization in this regard. These are social organizations first and foremost. And it is the social ties that bind.
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It doesn’t make a difference to me what a man does for a living

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But your business is, ah, a little dangerous:

Loews Hotels announced Saturday that it won’t host a planned fundraiser next month for Sen. Josh Hawley at one of its Florida properties.

“We are horrified and opposed to the events at the Capitol and all who supported and incited the actions,” the company said in a statement posted to Twitter. “In light of those events and for the safety of our guests and team members, we have informed the host of the Feb. fundraiser that it will no longer be held at Loews Hotels.”

While the statement doesn’t mention the Missouri Republican by name, a political action committee affiliated with Hawley’s re-election, Fighting for Missouri PAC, was scheduled to hold a Valentine’s Day weekend fundraiser for the senator Feb. 12-15 at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando, Fla., near the Universal Orlando theme park.

“Please join Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) for a Fun-Filled-Family-Friendly Orlando Weekend Event,” a flier for the event read.

How is Josh Hawley handling the fact that he’s become, in the eyes of corporate America, the senatorial face of the insurrection?

Hawley blasted Loews’ decision in a statement, saying he wouldn’t “bow to left wing corporate pressure.”

“If these corporations don’t want conservatives to speak, they should just be honest about it,” Hawley said. “But to equate leading a debate on the floor of the Senate with inciting violence is a lie, and it’s dangerous.”

The phase “left-wing corporate pressure” captures, I think why this particular episode of Fascism For Dummies — although fascism by its very nature is always for dummies — isn’t working out so well for Hawley and the rest of the insurrectionists.

Again, almost the entire basis of criticisms of “political correctness” and “cancel culture” is that conservatives want to live a consequence-free existence, and therefore squeal like stuck pigs whenever they don’t get their way. In particular, free speech, for them, means they have the freedom for them to say whatever they want, while never suffering any adverse effects of any kind for saying those things.

Contemporary American conservatism takes the world view and emotional development of an overly indulged dull-normal child, and transmogrifies it into an ideology, with that ideology being, once you strip away all the pretentious citations to 4th century theologians and the like, reducible to the idea that conservatives are oppressed because they are (occasionally) held responsible for their words and actions.

The January 6th insurrection has made the preposterousness of that pose so self-evident that even corporate America, which normally doesn’t know or care what a paying customer does for a living, is deciding that what Hawley et. al. are hawking is ultimately bad for business.

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fxer
21 hours ago
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Bend, Oregon
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Trump’s Twitter and Facebook ban is working. One stat shows it.

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What Trump’s Twitter page looked like before it was permanently suspended. | Photo Illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Trump’s deplatforming has already slowed the spread of election misinformation.

In the wake of the deadly January 6 riot at the US Capitol that President Donald Trump heavily promoted on social media, platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and others finally moved to ban the president.

The result? A sudden drop in the online spread of election misinformation.

According to research by Zignal Labs, which the Washington Post reported on Saturday, online misinformation about election fraud plunged 73 percent in the weeklong period following Twitter’s decision to ban Trump on January 8.

Which means that, to the extent that the move and the related scrubbing of right-wing conspiracy accounts were aimed at curbing disinformation, the ban appears to be working. Not only has the spread of misinformation slowed, the research indicates online discussion around the topics that motivated the Capitol riot has also diminished.

“Zignal found that the use of hashtags affiliated with the Capitol riot also dipped considerably,” writes the Post, summarizing Zignal’s research. “Mentions of the hashtag #FightforTrump, which was widely deployed across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media services in the week before the rally, dropped 95 percent. #HoldTheLine and the term ‘March for Trump’ also fell more than 95 percent.”

The leading argument against banning Trump was that despite the conspiracy theories, smears, and misinformation he spent years spreading on Twitter and other platforms, as president of the United States, it was important for social media companies to allow him to freely communicate with the public.

But that line of thinking became more tenuous in the weeks following Trump’s election loss to Joe Biden, as the president’s posts increasingly fixated on spreading lies about the election being stolen from him and on fomenting unrest, including promoting the January 6 “Stop the Steal” protest that preceded the violent takeover of the Capitol.

The breaking point finally came in the days following the violence. Instead of unequivocally denouncing the rioters, Trump defended them, writing in a tweet he posted as law enforcement was still trying to clear the Capitol on January 6 that “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away.”

(Hours earlier, Trump had posted a tweet attacking Vice President Mike Pence even as rioters, some of them chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” came perilously close to encountering the vice president while he was being hastily evacuated from the Senate chamber.)

Then, on January 8, Trump posted a tweet announcing he wouldn’t be attending President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20. Twitter permanently suspended Trump’s account hours later, writing in a blog post that his inauguration tweet was being interpreted online by his supporters as “encouragement to those potentially considering violent acts that the Inauguration would be a ‘safe’ target, as he will not be attending.”

(Facebook has so far only suspended Trump’s account through the end of his presidential term.)

In the eight days since, Trump has resorted to releasing tweet-like statements through the White House press office. He’s characterized the moves by Facebook, Twitter, and others as an attack on free speech, but at no point has he retracted, or apologized for spreading, misinformation about the election — nor has he acknowledged the reality that Biden’s victory over him was legitimate.

Trump has reportedly considered opening an account on Parler, a social media platform favored by conservatives and many on the far-right for its lax approach to moderating content, where extremism flourishes.

But Amazon dropped Parler from its web-hosting service following revelations that Trump supporters had used it as a forum to organize the Capitol riot, and it’s unclear whether it’ll ever get back online.

Meanwhile, reports swirl that Trump is spending his last days in the White House isolated and embittered. It turns out that watching cable news isn’t as fun when you can’t provide live commentary about it to your tens of millions of Twitter followers. Nor, apparently, does misinformation thrive when the biggest purveyors of it are deplatformed.

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fxer
1 day ago
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Bend, Oregon
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JimB
1 day ago
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"Not only has the spread of misinformation slowed, the research indicates online discussion around the topics that motivated the Capitol riot has also diminished."
But is that because his followers have also left for other non-monitored platforms?
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