Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.
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Reprinted with permission from AlterNet
Michael Flynn is always in the news for the worst reasons.
Today, it's because of the former Trump advisor's feud with Lin Wood and the leaking of messages and audio recording during which he calls QAnon “total nonsense” as well as a CIA psy-op. Last time, he was calling for a single religion in the United States. Time before that, QAnon members accused him of being a Satanist for a sermon at a church drawing from a former New Age apocalyptic leader.
Next time, it may be for something worse. In any case, everything Flynn has been doing suggests that QAnon or not, his audience, his rhetoric and his goals are far more concrete and far more sinister than the mocking media coverage suggests. Let’s start in September.
On September 17, Flynn was at the “Opening the Heavens” Conference at the Lord of Hosts Church in Omaha, Nebraska. That event claimed to be “an annual, multi-day event where the prophetic heart of God and the manifestation of His supernatural power are demonstrated to those in attendance and [those] viewing online around the world!”Flynn spoke alongside a number of “prophetic” pastors, including Gene Bailey, executive director of Kenneth Copeland ministries, whose spiritual warfare preaching got the heavy-metal treatment last year.
Flynn’s speech made news due to QAnon’s reaction to it. It was said to be Satanic, ironic given QAnon’s resemblance to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. Flynn’s speech resembled a 1984 sermon by Elizabeth Clare Prophet, founder of the Church Universal and Triumphant, a New Age apocalyptic group best known for their move to bunkers in Montana to await a prophesied nuclear apocalypse in 1990. Not only was it a failed doomsday cult, but it was a theosophic movement, something associated with Lucifer by its 18th-century founder.
Flynn said he felt called to St. Michael, the archangel and his namesake. While the link between Prophet and Flynn is interesting, the text of Flynn’s “Archangel Prayer” is all by itself not so great:
We are your instrument
Of those sevenfold rays
And all your archangels, all of them
We will not retreat, we will not retreat
We will stand our ground
We will not fear to speak
We will be the instrument of your will
Whatever it is
In your name, and in the names of your legions
We are freeborn, and shall remain freeborn
And we shall not be enslaved by any foe
Within or without
So help me God.
“Seven rays” is a concept used in theosophy and in the Summit Lighthouse. Prophet’s prayer to Archangel Michael, which people have compared Flynn’s sermon, is not only part of the theosophic movement, but an aggressively anti-Communist talk, ending:
Archangel Michael, Stand with me!
Save my child!
Save my household!
Save my nation and bind those Communist hordes!
Others can analyze the I AM movement and its issues, but the use of militant religious language and the comparison to an aggressively apocalyptic, anti-Communist doomsday cult is bad enough.
Then in early November, Flynn and Wood had a series of exchanges -- people have focused on the audio recording of Flynn calling QAnon a CIA disinfo operation — but more worrying was the fact that he told Wood, on November 3, to read an article proving QAnon is a fraud.Why more worrying? Because it was written by Hal Turner, a neo-Nazi radio host who’s promoted various QAnon conspiracies and served time for threatening elected officials -- he advocated murder repeatedly. The article is incredibly scary. It included this passage:
The Trump Anon believers want SOMEBODY ELSE to do it for them. Well, I’ve said this before and I will say it again now: Nobody is coming to save them/us. Nobody is coming to save the country. If you want something done, you gotta do it yourself. And until someone (but not me) decides that it is finally time to throw away all the comforts of this life, and brutally slaughter the people who are doing all these things, (and by “slaughter” I mean exactly that) then all these things will continue, unabated, to the destruction of our country and our oh-so-comfy lives.
This is standard Turner fare -- to preserve white nationalist power, people have to murder others, including elected officials -- but to have someone with Flynn’s background and his elite status within QAnon conspiracy and other movements promoting it is infinitely more terrifying than the entertainment value of seeing him bashing QAnon.A week later Flynn and Wood were in Springfield, Missouri, at a “Preserving America” event billed as “Come and listen to America’s tier-1 patriot speakers and learn about preserving America under the Constitution.” Outside of the Springfield News-Leader, it garnered little press -- but one local sheriff attending claimed he had, “A great conversation with General Flynn. He wanted me to know the American Sheriff is the last line of defense for our freedom. I agree!”
Flynn has spoken with Richard Mack for the “Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association” podcast, an anti-government extremist group that works to recruit sheriffs into the “patriot” militia movement. The comment should be taken in that light.
Then there is Flynn’s ongoing “Reawaken America” tour, the most recent news items before the Wood blowup. On November 13, the tour was at the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, John Hagee’s church.Hagee is an apocalypse-minded Christian Zionist and his son and executive pastor of the church, Matt, was on stage for the event. The “Reawaken America Tour,” a QAnon speaking tour, has numerous pastors presenting -– Dave Scarlett, Mark Burns, Phil Hotsenpiller, Leon Benjamin, Greg Locke, Jackson Lahmeyer, Brian Gibson among them. All have pushed the Big Lie and Christian Nationalism.
On stage, Flynn said, “if we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God, and one religion under God.” The clip got widespread media play, but it is much more important in that broader context. “Reawaken America” has events in Dallas in December at Elevate Life Church in Frisco, where Pastor Keith Craft runs men-only “Warrior Nights,” dresses in militant garb, and mocks mask-wearing and the government.
In February, they’ll be at Trinity Gospel Temple in Canton, Ohio, where Pastor Dave Lombardi tweeted out on November 3: “‘King Cyrus’ will prevail! Christian principles will prevail!,” and “the ‘Walls of Jericho’ will fall tonight! The Gospel message will prevail! The March continues!”
Both ideas have violent overtones — the fall of the walls of Jericho is followed by the massacre of all inhabitants. “King Cyrus,” a reference here to Donald Trump, destroyed the empire of the Babylonians.
These events are linking congregations nationwide in a specific project -- to build an ultranationalist Christian right to control of America.
Flynn’s fall events show it is not as simple as whether or not he’s a grifter who pretends to believe in QAnon. He is. He’s a fraud. He’s corrupt. And we already knew this. But he’s also a corrupt fanatic, who believes in overthrowing the government and imposing a theocracy. He certainly seems comfortable reading and promoting neo-Nazi articles advocating the literal slaughter of enemies while doing so.
Stop laughing at Michael Flynn.
Driving him out of QAnon is great, but the other groups he’s engaged with, the other ideologies he’s a part of, are no laughing matter.
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Reprinted with permission from Media Matters
With research by Jasmine Geonzon and Cydney Hargis
Since the World Health Organization designated the omicron variant of the coronavirus a “variant of concern” last Friday, right-wing media have rushed to spread unfounded conspiracy theories, raising suspicion about the variant’s origin and denouncing the public response as a money and power grab.
Last week, news of the omicron variant’s many mutations began to cause concern among public health experts and government officials, prompting travel restrictions in numerous countries. While knowledge of the variant remains limited, research suggests that its mutations indicate a potentially increased risk of reinfection. As of now, the scientific community simply doesn’t know key pieces of information, like whether the illnesses caused by the variant are milder or more severe than earlier variants, or whether it can evade current vaccines. According to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the process of answering these questions could take another two or three weeks.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, President Joe Biden said that the new variant was “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” and that the public response would be done “not with shutdowns or lockdowns but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing, and more.”
Right-wing media responded to the news by pushing narratives which suggest that the mere announcement of omicron’s existence has sinister motives driven by money and power. They also used the new development to ramp up their opposition to basic public health measures.
Throughout the pandemic, right-wing media have repeatedly undermined public health measures by attacking vaccines and masks and by downplaying the risk of previous coronavirus variants. With research on omicron still ongoing, conservative media took the opportunity to mislead their audiences about both the new variant and the emerging public health response. Here are some of the ways right-wing media continue to spread unfounded skepticism in response to the omicron variant:
Right-wing commentators claim the variant is a political distraction
- Right-wing commentator John Cardillo sarcastically invoked “coincidences” while discussing new developments about the virus, claiming that the “omnicrom” variant was announced to counter claims that low vaccination rates in Africa were somehow connected to low case counts.
- Human Events senior editor and prolific conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec implied that the new variant was announced in order to distract from the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, the alleged accomplice of the accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein who killed himself in 2019.
- Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo appeared Monday on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom and seemingly tied the announcement of the omicron variant to the Biden administration’s efforts to bring down the price of oil. (Bartiromo has long been one of Fox’s worst conspiracy theorists.
MARIA BARTIROMO (FOX BUSINESS ANCHOR): This omicron variant was quite convenient for the move in oil prices. Oil prices sold off 13 percent. In a day, 13 percent is extraordinary.
...People are wondering why we had such a reaction. Remember President Biden wants to try to get oil prices lower and he did not have any luck with his releasing 50 million barrels from the strategic petroleum reserve. That did squat to the price of gasoline and yet once the omicron variant and all the panic that ensued happened on Friday, that did the trick to send oil prices lower.
- Fox host Pete Hegseth claimed on Tuesday night’s edition of Fox News Primetime: “So what is a failing political party to do in order to get back in America's good graces or regain political advantage? Maybe create a panic and try to exploit it? Could the left be using omicron to continue their forced vaccine push on freedom-loving Americans?”
Right-wing pundits also claim the omicron variant is a scheme to sell more vaccines
- Conservative host Candace Owens tweeted a message on Saturday claiming that drug companies would keep developing a never-ending series of vaccines, accentuating her point with a series of clown face emojis. (Even if this scenario did turn out to be true — and there is some reason to be optimistic that it might not — that would make the COVID-19 vaccines no different from other shots for seasonal flu variants.)
- Posobiec tweeted on Sunday that “the variants and boosters are just a new form of consumerism,” adding that “Pfizer is just using [multi-level marketing] tactics on a national scale.”
- Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe said: “Profits and power - the two reasons our response to COVID has been so moronic.” (Boothe previously said on a Fox show that she was refusing to get vaccinated “as a giant middle finger to Joe Biden's tyranny.”)
- Fox News host Laura Ingraham claimed on Monday that “two shots plus a booster, that whole special drink wasn't an easy sell — enter omicron.”
They falsely claim the variant is part of a scheme for new lockdownsRight-wing commentator Jesse Kelly claimed on Friday that the COVID-19 response had been “all about power and money,” further adding: “The leaders of the West love coronavirus. Love it. They have a vested interest in keeping it going forever.”
- Ricochet editor Bethany Mandel sarcastically congratulated “public school unions who got a new variant just in time to extend their Christmas holidays.”
- On Monday morning, Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro warned of a “global lockdown with every new possible variant” and further added: “Hard not to watch what's happening in terms of government response to Omicron and not conclude that the lockdowns are a feature, not a bug.”
- Even after Biden said on Monday afternoon that he was not looking to enact widespread lockdowns, some Fox figures continued pushing paranoid rhetoric about such lockdowns or other forms of purported government tyranny on the channel:
- Fox Nation host Lara Logan said on Monday night’s edition of Fox News Primetime: “People see that there's no justification for what is being done. So, as they're being exposed, and the control is slipping away, lo and behold, another variant surfaces, and nobody should be surprised by that, because there will be more variants until the end of time. We'll never be free of them.”
- In response to the White House’s call for vaccination as the way to avoid lockdowns, Fox prime-time host Tucker Carlson suggested the omicron variant was part of a “campaign to demonize a group of powerless Americans — to transform them into kulaks, objects of state-sponsored hate in their own country.” (The term “kulak” referred historically to small peasant landowners in Russia, who were violently persecuted by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.)
- On Tuesday morning, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade dishonestly claimed: “President Biden, if he wants to go back to the well on mandates and restrictions and lockdowns, he didn't learn anything from his off-year election.”
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