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Tag: america first

As Putin Sinks Into Infamy, He's Taking Down Trump Republicans Too

As I write, a 40-mile long convoy of Russian “peacekeepers” — i.e., tanks, armored personnel carriers and mobile artillery — is approaching Kiev with the clear intent of bludgeoning the Ukrainian people into surrender. The dead-eyed little killer in the Kremlin is too fearful to back down.

Even so, it’s not going to happen. Vladimir Putin’s forces can besiege the Ukrainian capital and demolish its monuments—albeit at a fearful cost to Russia’s conscript army--but overcoming the patriotic determination of its people appears beyond his capacity. So far, Putin’s invasion has accomplished two things: making Ukraine an international symbol of democracy and the Russian gangster state an international pariah.

And a bankrupt pariah at that.

Already, the reputation of Russia’s vaunted army has been tarnished in a display of logistical incompetence that’s left its forces out of fuel, stranded, and at the mercy of Ukrainian irregulars. TheWashington Post reports that “[m]ultiple videos from around the country have portrayed scenes of burned Russian tanks, dead Russian soldiers and captured Russians, some barely out of their teens, making plaintive calls home to their parents.”

They’re mainly draftees, you know. Evidently, many had no idea they were being ordered to invade. Putin has little regard for Russian lives either.

Furthermore, even if Putin’s forces were to capture or kill Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, they will have first succeeded in transforming him into a heroic avatar: A living symbol of freedom who has used his skills as a TV performer to rally his people against Kremlin brutality.

Frankly, it’s hard to imagine how Putin’s rule survives the consequences of his enormous blunder. "When dictators rule for decades,” former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul has said “they (1) stop listening to advisors, (2) become disconnected from reality, (3) spend a lot of time alone, and (4) overreach. This is exactly what has happened to Putin."

McFaul also tweeted that he’s “confident in predicting that Putin's evil invasion of Ukraine marks the beginning of the end of Putin's dictatorship and Putinism in Russia. No moral person can support this heinous war. There are millions of moral people in Russia.”

Frankly, it’s good to be reminded. All across Europe, athletes are refusing to play against Russian teams.

In Moscow, however, the costs of dissent are high. Putin’s political rivals keep falling out of tall buildings and finding deadly toxins in their underwear. Chances are he’s just bluffing about Russia’s nuclear arsenal, like a barroom brawler demanding his friends restrain him. Nevertheless, should the tyrant’s rage and paranoia make him order a nuclear strike, I suspect that patriotic Russian officers would refuse.

And that could indeed be the end of him.

Closer to home, Trump Republicans are having trouble remembering which side they’re on, much less recalling that their hero was impeached for trying to blackmail President Zelensky into conjuring a phony investigation of Joe Biden. Trump also froze military aid to Ukraine, and even echoed Kremlin propaganda that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 American election.

Eric Boehlert points out that on Fox News, whose commentators are regularly featured on Russian state TV, a smirking “Laura Ingraham mocked…Zelensky’s passionate plea for peace as a ‘pathetic display’ from a ‘defeated man.’ Tucker Carlson announced, ‘No one on this show is…rooting for the Ukrainians for that matter,’ insisting Putin ‘just wants to keep his western borders secure.’” Celebrity author and Ohio GOP Senate candidate J.D Vance said, “I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or the other.”

After the political winds shifted, Vance did too.

This is who they are, America. Remember them.

Meanwhile, over on the moron wing of the Republican Party, the inimitable Marjorie Taylor Greene spoke at a white supremacist rally in Orlando whose organizers led cheers for Russia.

“Putin, Putin, Putin!” chanted the crowd.

Greene later feigned ignorance of the group’s views.

It hasn’t been but a month since J.D. Vance, who once called Trump an “idiot” and compared his fan base to opioid addicts, declared himself “honored” to accept her endorsement.

Today’s white nationalists are the spiritual (and sometimes literal) descendants of the 1930s “America First” movement, which held pro-Nazi rallies at Madison Square Garden right up until Pearl Harbor.

So, yes, America, we’ve seen this movie before.

Then there’s the great man himself. Even as the tanks rolled, Donald J. Trump called Vladimir Putin “savvy,” and a “genius.” Speaking at a Florida fund-raiser, he portrayed the Russian invasion as a clever real estate transaction.

“He’s taken over a country for $2 worth of sanctions,” Trump said, “taking over a country — really a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people — and just walking right in.”

The man is a moral imbecile.

Now he says that if he were president Russia wouldn’t have dared, this guy who all but sent Putin an engraved invitation.

Media Must Stop Whitewashing Republican Worship Of Dictator Putin

American politicians cheerleading a dictator as he sends tanks into a neighboring country and bombs a sovereign nation ought to be a huge news story. The fact that portions of a major U.S. political party, and its aligned media outlets, sanction Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine represents a stunning turning point for the Republican Party and how this country traditionally deals with foreign crises.

Assigning its loyalty and admiration to the Kremlin instead of the West Wing, key parts of the GOP, led by Trump who called Putin’s move “genius,” is embracing a truly radical worldview. But that’s not how the treasonous behavior is being portrayed by the press, which for days has matter-of-factly described the GOP as being “divided” over the prospect of a tyrannical Russian leader — his adversaries regularly end up dead — launching an invasion.

Ho-hum language abounds. There’s been a “split,” the New York Times reports, suggesting that Republicans who turn a blind eye to Putin’s invasion are merely “America First” “isolationists.” The party is facing “foreign policy factionalism,” Politico insisted. It’s sending “mixed messages,” NBC News announced, which went on to describe the GOP’s pro-Putin wing as “a newer brand of America Firsters,” “Republican doves,” and “the libertarian right” which has an “anti-interventionist strain.” None of that accurately describes this unprecedented trend in American politics of endorsing murderous autocrats.

More pedestrian presentation from NBC:

The fissures point to a growing divide in the Republican Party, between traditional foreign policy hawks who have advocated for a more confrontational U.S. posture to the Russian strongman and a Trump-aligned “MAGA” faction that has expressed some sympathy for Putin's tactics or described them as effective.

The Washington Post on Wednesday suggested it was a “novel phenomenon” that a portion of a U.S. political party was siding with the Kremlin over the White House. Novel? The Post article didn’t quote one Democrat or one expert on the rise of authoritarianism to put the GOP’s shocking behavior in context.

The Beltway press treats this as if it were nothing more than an inter-party squabble over taxes or immigration policy, not portions of the party tacitly supporting the largest land invasion in Europe since World War II, a possibly brutal blitzkrieg that could leave thousands of civilians dead. And spearheaded, ironically, by the former Soviet Union, which for decades served as the epicenter of right wing suspicion and hostility; the proverbial Evil Empire.

Today’s kind words for Putin would be like in 1990 after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait, if the Democratic Party had been “divided” over whether the deadly incursion was a good thing or a bad thing, and the D.C. press shrugging and treating it as normal political posturing. In truth, if a single elected Democratic official had even breathed a sentence of support for Hussein back then it would have been a huge story and created a maelstrom of media trouble for the party. Yet Republicans singing Putin’s praise in 2022 is treated as no big deal.

It’s the latest example of the media constantly normalizing reckless conservative behavior. “Trump’s own giddy rush to side with a foreign leader who is proving to be an enemy of the United States and the West is shocking even by Trump’s self-serving standards,” CNN’s Stephen Collinson wrote. It’s “shocking” if you haven’t covered politics for the last six years.

The Putin appeasement coverage also lacks key context — what does this mean that one of America’s two major political parties supports a tyrant who invades his neighbor without cause? A U.S. party that politely regurgitates Kremlin talking points and embraces institutional appeasement for Putin, who in the previous decade stridently defended a Syrian regime that killed tens of thousands of its people in a civil war.

It’s not a minor faction either. Thanks to Trump’s worshipful embrace of Putin for years, 62 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents insist Putin is “a stronger leader” than Biden, according to a recent poll.

The GOP’s Putin bromance actually began under President Barack Obama, when Republicans and the right-wing media marveled at Putin’s political prowess. (Matt Drudge: “Putin is the leader of the free world.”) Why the sudden Republican attraction? Putin (a “macho man”) was defying the U.S. with regards to Syria and when Russia invaded Crimea.

Today it’s not just about oppositional politics — it’s not the GOP conveniently and temporarily embracing Putin because he’s squaring off against another Democratic president. Instead, it’s genuine admiration of an undemocratic strongman imposing his will, which is exactly why Republicans slavishly supported Trump for four years. This is another glimpse into the growing, and unapologetic, undemocratic movement within the GOP — and the press portrays it as normal.

That’s why Trump’s former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who is rumored to have presidential ambitions, told Fox News that Putin is “a very talented statesman” with “lots of gifts," adding, “He knows how to use power. We should respect that.” It’s why the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, former Gov. Eric Greitens, warned about “bloodthirsty Washington elites" and their "warmongering” against Russia.

And it’s why Tucker Carlson tells his millions of Fox News viewers each night that Biden is the one who needlessly provoked Russia, and that Ukraine is not a country worth saving.

Stop whitewashing the madness.

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Today's Republican Party Emits Sinister Echoes Of 'America First'


When Donald Trump first adopted “America First” as a slogan for his movement, it was unclear whether he had done so from sheer ignorance of its disgraced history or as a slyly malevolent tribute.

Now, as Trump and his far-right acolytes like Fox News’ Tucker Carlson try to drum up support for Vladimir Putin and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, that old phrase eerily resonates with its original sinister intensity. Goose-stepping in line with European neo-fascists who oppose liberal democracy and seek to impose authoritarian rule, the Trumpists are serving Russia first against America and our Western allies.

Suddenly the disturbing parallels between “America First” during the 1930s and the “America First” propagandizing of today are all too clear. Then and now, a global wave of authoritarian movements and governments posed a mortal threat to democracy here and around the world. Then and now, hostile foreign powers reached deep into the United States through political proxies whose influence was at once obvious and subtle. Then and now, those forces wrapped themselves in the American flag and insisted that they were super-patriotic, the defenders of hearth and home against “alien” influences.

Of course, not every member or leader of the original America First organization, founded in 1940 to oppose US entry into World War II, was a fascist or a Nazi sympathizer; indeed, many were sincere and respectable, who were pacifists or wanted to avoid another war in Europe. But their naivete and isolationism enabled the enormous Nazi spy agencies in Berlin, which sent agents into America First to take over its local chapters and transform the entire operation into a vehicle for anti-Semitism, sedition, and vile slurs against President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Brazenly pro-Hitler organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Silver Shirts, and the American Bund (founded as the “Friends of Hitler”) directed their members to join America First as a front for treasonous plotting. They penetrated American institutions, with particular success in the Republican Senate and House caucuses – and at the same time recruited platoons of criminal thugs, not unlike the Proud Boys, into “Christian Front” militia groups that engaged in street violence. Their attempts to undermine the Roosevelt administration only ended after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

The Axis propaganda apparatus, operating as the “World Service” press agency, looks laughably primitive in comparison with the media now exploited by Russian intelligence and its proxies. While mass media has advanced far beyond the technologies available back then, the themes exploited by the enemies of democracy are remarkably consistent: not only the dog whistles of anti-Semitism, but also the demonization of racial minorities, the paranoid attitudes toward democratic government, the populist fury toward “elites,” and the promotion of outlandish conspiracy theories and smears.

When Hitler’s war machine began its rampage across Europe, starting with Poland in 1939, the voices of “America First” laid blame on everyone except the Nazi dictator. If America went to war, they insisted, the fault would lie with the British, the Jews, the international bankers, and especially Roosevelt, who was disparaged as a liar and worse. Today, as Putin attempts to overthrow an elected democratic government and impose a puppet regime in Kiev, the right-wing noise blames President Biden, Hillary Clinton, environmentalists, gays, and literally anybody except the Russian dictator.

One lingering question about Trump – and those who line up with him and Putin – is to what extent they are sponsored by the Kremlin or are simply “useful idiots.” The mystery of Trump’s relationship to Russia still remains to be fully explored.

To students of history, however, the behavior of Trump and his sycophants is darkly familiar. Across media and politics, the fans of our own authoritarian demagogue at Mar-a-Lago and his admired friend in Moscow are doing Russia’s dirty work here. In the 1930s, more than a few of the America First leaders like Charles Lindbergh were in thrall to Hitler. Now, Tucker Carlson is in thrall to the Hungarian authoritarian Orban and to the would-be czar Putin. What the American Firsters have in common then and now is hostility to liberal democracy.

Standing against them, then and now, has always meant upholding real American values. The talk is over—the test has come.

White Nationalists And Republicans Drive Anti-Semitism With COVID Conspiracies

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

In many ways, anti-Semitism and conspiracism are twins with common origins: The original conspiracy theory is the "blood libel" (claiming Jews use the blood of Gentile babies for matzoh) that arose in medieval times, and the ur-conspiracy theory of the 20th century is the "Protocols of the Seven Elders of Zion" hoax claiming a cabal of Jews secretly run the world. Where conspiracism thrives, so does anti-Semitism.

So it's unsurprising to see that the COVID denialist conspiracy theories flourishing online are also driving people to anti-Semitism. The most recent examples include public officials—all conservative Republicans—ranging from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to Arizona State Sen. Wendy Rogers, promoting anti-Semitic tropes while embracing conspiracy theories related to the pandemic. At the same time, overt white nationalists like Nick Fuentes have gone all-in promoting anti-vaccination propaganda that is likewise deeply anti-Semitic.

A paid spokesperson for DeSantis named Christina Pushaw fired out a tweet this week suggesting that the Jewish Rothschild family—whose name has been woven into antisemitic conspiracism since the era of the "Protocols" in the 1920s — was part of a plot to draw European nations into the "Green Pass" vaccination system. Pushaw suggested that a business visit by a member of the Rothschild family with the prime minister of Georgia (which recently joined the "Green Pass" system) was evidence of this plot, writing ironically: "No weird conspiracy stuff here!"

Pushaw later denied any antisemitic intent, claiming that she was instead criticizing the Georgia prime minister "for intentionally fueling conspiracy theories to troll Green Pass opponents."

Rogers, an Arizona legislator already notorious for promoting QAnon conspiracy-cult nonsense and defending Donald Trump's phony claims of a stolen election, also fired off a tweet this week saying: "Retweet if you are a pure blood."

This is a reference to the spreading meme among COVID denialists identifying people who are unvaccinated as "pure bloods"—a la the eugenicist belief in racial purity through one's bloodlines, which is now best known in popular culture through J.K. Rowling's fantasy Harry Potter books, in which the villainous devotees of the evil Lord Voldemort identify using similar terms. Many anti-health-measure conspiracists believe the COVID vaccines permanently taint recipients' blood.

Rogers is no stranger to antisemitism. She frequently makes reference to antisemitic theories that liberal financier George Soros, a Jewish man, is the "puppet master" secretly manipulating mainstream Democrats and leftists—including a recent tweet referring to "Soros puppets."

Overt white nationalists also have adopted the anti-vaccination cause as a recruitment tool. Far-right "Groyper" leader Nick Fuentes—who has "jokingly" denied the Holocaust and compared Jews burnt in concentration camps to cookies in an oven, and recently opined: "I don't see Jews as Europeans and I don't see them as part of Western civilization, particularly because they are not Christians"—in particular has seized on the issue.

Fuentes recently held anti-vaccine rallies in the New York City area, including an event in Staten Island at which he railed: "I'm wearing this bulletproof vest here today, because they're gonna have to kill me before I get this vaccine!"

The next day, Fuentes attempted to latch onto a similar rally in downtown Manhattan, but found that even the anti-vaccine crowd had disowned him: "It's unfortunate that we had to separate from this crowd over there," Fuentes told the group of "Groypers" who had turned out to participate. "It's very troubling because it seems like the people over there, like a lot of people in the city, they hate us more than they hate the vaccine."

The role of right-wing media in whitewashing the role of these extremists in the spread of COVID denialism also became apparent as a result of Fuentes' participation: Fox News originally reported that white nationalists were part of the rally, and included an Anti-Defamation League description of Fuentes' America First organization. But the network then entirely scrubbed that information from later versions of the story when Fuentes and his cohorts complained loudly on social media.

"Fox News using ADL talking points about me and AF," Fuentes wrote on Telegram. "Scum."

A report last month from Hope Not Hate found that COVID denialism was acting as a recruitment gateway to broader antisemitic beliefs. It found that content posted with the hashtags #rothschildfamily, #synagogueofsatan and #soros was viewed 25.1 million times on TikTok in half a year—and was similarly widespread at Facebook and Twitter.

The report found that the now-defunct 4chan site, particularly its /pol/ section, contained the most antisemitic slurs of any platform. However, the encrypted chat site Telegram is now becoming the site with the most voluminous and vicious antisemitism, with numerous antisemitic channels, some boasting tens of thousands of members.

The report explained:

While conspiracy thinking fuels extremism of all kinds, in particular it can function as a slip road towards antisemitism and Holocaust denial, especially as far-right activists are actively attempting to exploit these networks. While conspiracy ideologies have always formed part of the social and political backdrop, the recent fever pitch has posed challenges to social cohesion and a heightened threat to Jewish people and other minoritised communities.

The report's authors also observed a close connection between the amount of antisemitism on a platform and how lightly or loosely it is moderated: the less restrictive the moderation, the greater and louder the antisemitism.

This is now a problem on every social media platform. Jewish creators on TikTok have complained that they face a deluge of antisemitism on the platform, and they are often targeted by groups who mass-report their accounts in order to get them temporarily banned.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a breeding ground for far-right extremism and conspiracism since its outbreak in early 2020, particularly serving as a recruitment and organizing nexus for extremists, as well as a fundraising pretext for the many scam operators working within that sphere. And social media, particularly Facebook, have been notoriously ineffective at reeling in the problem.

The Hope Not Hate report recommends, among other steps, that social media companies simply ban antisemitism across all their platforms entirely. "While explicitly disallowing antisemitism in a platform's community guidelines does not mean that it will vanish from the platform, it is a useful first step to tackle the issue," the report concludes, noting that "antisemites change the nature, style and extremeness of their antisemitism depending on the guidelines of the platform they are operating on. Specifically banning antisemitism, and other forms of racism, will allow for more robust enforcement against antisemites and result in less overt and extreme forms of antisemitism being seen by Jewish users of the platform, thereby reducing the harm they will experience as users."

Gaetz And Greene’s ‘America First’ Tour Booted Out Of Three Venues

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The leaders of the Republican Party—Rep. Matt Gaetz and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene—have been touring the nation. Whether this is part of Gaetz's plans for expanding his sex trafficking ring, Greene's recruiting drive for terrorists, or simply a cash grab by both, isn't clear (except for the part where it definitely is a cash grab). What is clear is that it's a keen demonstration of the GOP is making a "star" out of anyone who is merely willing to be disgusting on a regular basis.

As a quick reminder, Greene was taken off her House committee assignments for continually promoting the Big Lie in a way that encouraged violence, and downplaying the events of January. 6. Meanwhile, Gaetz is under investigation for his involvement in a multi-state scheme to recruit young women, provide them with fake IDs, and jet them around the country for sex in exchange for cash and prizes—a scheme that is complicated by the fact that at least one of these women was underage. Both these things together, and you have the makings of a modern Republican dream team.

The two have been touring the country making appearances that allow their followers to own the libs by showing that they don't care about details like rape or insurrection, so long as they get to hear jokes about Nancy Pelosi and watch Gaetz sputter on in his obsession with AOC. They also have been talking up a proposed political caucus to defend "Anglo-Saxon" culture by strictly limiting immigration.

But a funny thing has happened when it comes to the West Coast edition of the Gaetz and Greene show. Funny in the "ha ha" sense. Because nobody wants them. For the third time in a week, venues have put out the Not Welcome mat, leaving the pair looking for somewhere to gestate their hate supposedly right on the eve of their next appearance.

The plan was to slide into Orange County, home to John Wayne Airport and a Republican Party that regularly plays up ideas that everyone who is not from Orange County is descending into a morass of immigrant-fueled crime. So … not the worst possible fit.

Then, as the Orange County Register reported, the Laguna Hills event center found out who was actually going to be heading up the "America First" rally slated for their venue, and cancelled. That was strike one.

With the event scheduled for Saturday, July 17 (as in yesterday), Greene's team scrambled and found another venue in nearby Riverside. Only that proved to be a very short-lived booking. On Friday evening, the Riverside Convention Center said "no thanks".

That left Gaetz and Greene with less than 24 hours to find somewhere that could hold all their hate. How madly they worked the phones isn't clear, but they found a place wiling to take them in Anaheim. And then, less than eight hours before show time, that connection went up in smoke.

Just think. Whenever and wherever Gaetz and Greene actually find a place willing to let them in, they'll have so many more cancel culture jokes to tell. Maybe they can just go straight to Mar-a-Lago. They should feel right at home there, for so many reasons.

Rep. Gosar Reiterates Support For Neo-Nazi ‘America First’ Group

During this year's Conservative Political Action Conference held in Orlando, Florida, Rep. Paul Gosar,( R-AZ), and former Rep Steve King of Iowa spoke at the nearby America First Political Action Conference, where AFPAC founder Nick Fuentes delivered white nationalist and Christian nationalist messages.

Having a sitting member of Congress address AFPAC gave a credibility boost to Fuentes's efforts to recruit young conservatives to his far-right ideology. And Gosar's appearance on AFPAC's stage wasn't the last of it.

Gosar, who sat through Fuentes' speech emphasizing the importance of preserving a white "demographic core," praising the Jan. 6 insurrection as "awesome," and mocking Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn's disability, met with Fuentes the next day.

Gosar responded to criticism by saying that he denounced "white racism," but a week after the conference, he posted a tweet containing a slogan frequently repeated at AFPAC: "America First is inevitable."

An op-ed in the Arizona Republic condemned Republican officials' silence on Gosar's appearance at AFPAC. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), already on the outs with Trump supporters, was one of the few Republicans to criticize Gosar for appearing at the "clearly racist" AFPAC event.

Gosar skipped a House vote on the COVID-19 relief package to make it to Florida in time for his AFPAC appearance. Although Fuentes' record of bigotry and extremism has led to him being banned from CPAC and some social media platforms, Gosar's appearance at AFPAC did not disqualify him from speaking at CPAC the following day.

Prior to the conference, the hard-right Gosar was a promoter of Trump's false stolen-election claims and a supporter of the "Stop the Steal" movement. MSNBC's Steve Benen noted Tuesday that "House Administration Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) issued a 2,000-page report late last week 'exposing thousands of social media posts by GOP lawmakers attacking the presidential election and spreading lies before and after the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol by Donald Trump supporters seeking to overturn the results.'" Gosar's messages took up 177 pages.

As Benen reported, Gosar has a history of extremist rhetoric. A few years ago, Gosar visited an Arizona chapter of the Oath Keepers. When asked if the U.S. was headed for civil war, Gosar reportedly replied, "We're in it. We just haven't started shooting at each other yet." Oath Keepers' founder Stewart Rhodes, who repeatedly warned that militias would wage bloody civil war if Trump did not remain in power, was identified by federal prosecutors this week as playing a role in the January 6 insurrection.

A month before Gosar's appearance at AFPAC, a New York Times article on Republican representatives' associations with extremists noted:

In July, Mr. Gosar, a dentist, posed for a picture with a member of the Proud Boys. Two years earlier, he spoke at a rally for a jailed leader of Britain's anti-immigrant fringe in London, where he vilified Muslim immigrants as a "scourge." And in 2014, he traveled to Nevada to support the armed standoff between law enforcement and supporters of the cattle rancher Cliven Bundy, who had refused to stop trespassing on federal lands.

On Thursday, the Southern Poverty Law Center published its report on the AFPAC gathering, detailing speakers' white nationalist rhetoric.


Reprinted with permission from Right Wing Watch

Why Dr. Seuss Would Have Despised His Right-Wing 'Defenders'

It is hard to imagine anything more exhausting than the constant indignation of so-called conservatives, who somehow sustain a state of rigid, barking anger over the direction of American culture. To them, every advance for human rights represents the imminent end of civilization, and every small effort to assuage historical injuries signals the twilight of liberty.

These crank crusades always have multiple objectives, both political and commercial. On the political side, the Republicans are desperate to distract us from the roaring successes of President Joe Biden's administration, whose program of vaccine production and distribution and pandemic relief legislation are about to rescue the nation from former President Donald Trump's lingering disasters. And on the commercial side, there is nothing like a cultural jihad to separate fools from their money.

The propaganda phrase of the moment is "cancel culture," a terrifying phenomenon manifested just this week in the supposed liquidation of Dr. Seuss. If you believe what you hear on Fox News Channel, the late author of dozens of classic books beloved by children and adults alike — and many other works of art in film and cartooning — is on the verge of being censored, erased, and vilified. Who is doing these terrible things? According to Fox and various other right-wing outlets, this assault is the work of "them," a suitably vague category that encompasses liberals, tech companies, Democrats, and probably Joe Biden himself.

Of course, if you believe what you hear on Fox News, then you are, by definition, a dupe.

The actual event that provoked all the outrage over Dr. Seuss has nothing to do with Biden, Democrats or any other favorite Fox villains. The Seuss estate, which oversees the 60 books and other properties he left to posterity, decided to pull a half-dozen of them because their content includes dated and offensive stereotypes.

When you remember that his first book was published more than 80 years ago, that dissonance seems almost inevitable. The estate's decision, a sensible response to changing standards, was plainly designed to protect both the Seuss brand and the memory of Theodor Seuss Geisel as a liberal humanist. It is the opposite of "canceling" Dr. Seuss. And anyone who wants to read the old titles can still find them.

The Seuss non-scandal is a fine example of misdirection and distraction, and a powerful indication that Republicans really have nothing to say for themselves. This time, the consequences are harmless, mainly the further enrichment of the Seuss estate as gullible Americans flood Amazon with orders for his books, which they evidently fear are about to be torched by "the radical left."

The irony is that Dr. Seuss was himself a lifelong Democrat whose advocacy of liberal causes dated back to the New Deal, when he drew scores of blistering cartoons for the left-leaning daily New York newspaper PM, usually on the subject of Republican perfidy. He despised Hitler, Mussolini, Charles Lindbergh, and the original "America First" movement; he deplored racism and anti-Semitism; and he served patriotically in the war against fascism. He would have low regard for the Trumpists who are now misusing his good name.

While Dr. Seuss avoided the kind of moralizing that repels young readers, his stories and poems often grappled with contemporary issues, from authoritarianism (Yertle the Turtle) and racial equality (The Sneetches) to environmental degradation (The Lorax) and even materialism (How the Grinch Stole Christmas!).

What his books were really about is learning, everything from vocabulary words to personal and societal integrity. He wasn't afraid of change or changing his mind, which is why it seems likely that, were he alive today, he'd want to revise or withdraw offensive content he created so long ago. After World War II, he came to regret his own racially charged contributions to anti-Japanese propaganda, which is said to be why he dedicated Horton Hears A Who! — an allegory about the U.S. occupation of Japan — to a Japanese friend.

In short, the right-wing pundits and personalities leaping to "defend" Dr. Seuss now could learn a lot from reading him. Being who they are, they probably won't.

But you and your kids still can.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

When Matt Gaetz Met Up With White Nationalists At CPAC

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Trumpist Republican politicians like Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz appear to be mimicking their role model's ability to send comforting signals out to white nationalists while managing to keep them at arm's length for the sake of plausible deniability. He showed how it's done this past weekend at the Conservative Political Action Committee's annual convention in Orlando.

A cluster of young white nationalists attending the simultaneous America First Political Action Committee convention—organized by notorious "Groyper Army" leader Nicholas Fuentes—invaded the CPAC gathering, where Fuentes has been banned, on Saturday. They managed to find Gaetz, who took photos with one of the group's leaders—an outspoken neo-Nazi who uses the nom de plume "Speckzo"—and briefly conversed with them, apparently acknowledging his familiarity with Fuentes.

The video of the interaction shows one of the Groypers asking Gaetz if he was familiar with Fuentes. Gaetz made an indistinct reply while walking away with an aide, pointing a raised index finger in the direction of the young men.

Gaetz has a history of such dalliances with far-right extremists. In 2018, he invited notorious white nationalist Chuck Johnson to the State of the Union address, giving Johnson one of his tickets to the event. Gaetz claimed disingenuously that Johnson had just happened to drop by his office the day before to discuss their mutual political interests—which Johnson claimed were marijuana, bitcoin, Trump, and animal welfare—and a spare ticket had become available.

In 2019, Gaetz hired a white nationalist named Darren Beattie to work in his office as a speechwriter. Beattie had been previously fired from the Trump administration after his connections to white-nationalist organizations was exposed. Beattie later was appointed by Trump to an international commission that oversees preservation of Holocaust-related historical sites, much to the dismay of the Anti-Defamation League. Gaetz later ran into trouble with House ethics rules for using taxpayer funds for Beattie's salary.

Fuentes himself had attempted to enter the CPAC convention hall last Saturday with a group of fellow "Groypers," but was turned away by organizers and security. "CPAC sucks. It's gay," Fuentes told the people who had gathered to watch the confrontation. "We made our point. Masks don't work. CPAC is gay. They're not conservative."

As Twitter user Sarlacc Attack posted afterward, a number of the Groypers posted photos and videos from their excursion on Telegram. One of the most prolific of these is the man who uses the "Speckzo" pseudonym, who posted photos of himself with both Gaetz and Fuentes.

"Speckzo," whose identity is currently unknown but who has boasted on social media that he lives in New York and makes $100,000 annually from his online video rants, is noteworthy for openly embracing Nazism, denying the Holocaust, and expressing sympathy for Adolf Hitler. He also has said he considers electoral democracy a failure, blaming women's suffrage and allowing poor people to vote, adding that he considers monarchy the best political system. In one of his online rants, he also defended the enslavement of Black people, claiming they were better off under the system of slavery.

"Speckzo" also managed to get a selfie portrait with Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, who addressed the America First crowd on Saturday, a day after sharing a panel at CPAC.

Fuentes' "Groyper Army" has been intimately involved in the extremist right's efforts to keep Trump in the presidency. Fuentes—who vowed to "destroy the GOP" if it failed to defend Trump adequately—spoke at both pro-Trump "Stop the Steal" rallies in Washington, D.C., on November 14 and on December 12, accompanied by his followers, and was present on January 6 at the pro-Trump rally preceding the attack on the U.S. Capitol. A member of the "Groyper Army," 22-year-old Riley Williams of Pennsylvania, faces multiple charges for her role in the January 6 insurrection, and is believed to have stolen a laptop computer from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office.

Gaetz no doubt will claim he had no idea who he was posing with on Saturday and brush off the association. But the problematic aspect of the selfies he took is less who he associates with, but instead the kind of people who seek out his approval.