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Monday, December 09, 2019

Trump's Money Grubbing Grifters Turn On Each Other


If there's one quality that defines Donald Trump and his cronies, it's that every single one of them is out to line their pockets by manipulating Trump's delusional flock. Whether they're getting paid to speak at rallies, hocking pro-Trump merch, or making fundraising appeals, every single one of them is hooked on the easy cash of bleeding Trump's zealots dry.

Only now, they have a problem: They're stuck on a stale narrative with no new material to sell and a restive audience that's both finite and fracturing.

Enter Donald Trump and his chief deplorables: former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, and Trump's ragtag crew of QAnon cultists who no longer even agree on who's giving the marching orders.

All of them have avidly entertained a vicious mix of conspiracy theories, scapegoating, and far-right extremism that has begun to turn inward and eat its own, according to a delicious piece by TheWashington Post's Drew Harwell.

Flynn, once a QAnon icon, alienated the delusional flock after calling their quackery "jumbled nonsense." Powell and Wood, both facing possible disbarment alongside owing roughly $175,000 in legal fees for their election trickery, have turned on each other. Even Trump isn't immune, with some of his acolytes labeling him a sellout "vaccine salesman" for plugging the booster shot. The fact that Trump mysteriously canceled his Jan. 6 press conference was an even further blow.

For many Americans, much of the far-right sniping is taking place out of sight as these provocateurs skewer each other on podcasts, social media, and right-wing chat forums. But for those following the right, it's a virtual feast of infighting.

The warring factions are mainly the result of a power vacuum now that Trump isn't dominating the mediascape and the perennially inaccurate soothsayer Q has gone silent.

“In the absence of a president like Trump and in the absence of a figure like Q, there’s this void where nobody knows who to follow,” explained Sara Aniano, a Monmouth University graduate student who studies far-right rhetoric and conspiracy theories. “At one point it seemed like Q was gospel. Now there’s a million different bibles, and no one knows which one is most accurate."

Good news! They're all crap. There, that was easy.

One of the first shoes to drop came when a newly acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse went on Fox News in November and accused his former attorney, Wood, a QAnon agitator, of being "insane" and fundraising off his court case for his "own benefit."

Wood quickly turned on everyone. Wood used the chat service Telegram to question whether Rittenhouse is “literally under the supervision and control of a ‘director?’"—whatever that means. He tagged right-wing media personalities Tucker Carlson, Dan Bongino, Sean Hannity, and Charlie Kirk as the “Deep State members of the media," and said he's considering suing some of them for airing Rittenhouse's claims allegedly without contacting him.

Wood also posted a recording of a phone call with Flynn, who dismisses QAnon as either kooky "nonsense" or a "CIA operation." (Gasp.) Anyway, looks like Wood has a recording habit—surely that's comforting to his former partners in crime.

Of course, both Wood and Powell got excoriated by a federal judge in Michigan for committing a "profound abuse of judicial process," ordering them to cough up the attorney fees incurred by the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan while defending their wildly bogus election lawsuit.

But if Wood is hurting, Powell is in a world of hurt, facing defamation lawsuits by Dominion Voting Systems that could result in billions in damages.

Not surprisingly, all of Trump's chief deplorables have developed their own brands of conspiracy merch. Depending on one's preferences, they can get Powell's “Release the Kraken: Defending the Republic” drink tumblers; Wood's “#FightBack” unisex fleece hoodies; or Flynn's "General Flynn: #FightLikeAFlynn” women’s racerback tank tops.

But the QAnon fracturing among a now leaderless cult is perhaps one of the most interesting post-2020 developments. When the infamous "storm" that would restore Trump to power and lay waste to all his enemies failed to manifest, the cult went into freefall.

Some followers have dropped the "Q," now simply referring to themselves as "anons" while essentially clinging to the same credo. As Q promoters like Flynn get unmasked and Wood casts the sect as "likely a Deep State operation," believers have been left to argue over who to trust and whether people like Flynn and Wood are friend or foe.

One gathering of QAnon cultists spent more than a month camped out in Dallas awaiting the supposed return of President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963, and his son John F. Kennedy Jr., who perished in a plane crash in 1999. The pair were expected to reinstate Trump to power (because who's more JFK-esque than Trump?).

But for any Trumper dependent on the grift, they must continue to string along as many Q followers as possible.

QAnon is “the easiest money that you could possibly make if you don’t have a conscience, but there’s only a certain number of people you can fleece. It’s not a renewable resource,” said Mike Rothschild, author of the QAnon book, The Storm Is Upon Us. “The fact that they’re all mad at each other, that’s all a byproduct of the fact that they’re just desperate for money, and there’s only a certain amount,” he added.

The bright side of all this right-wing tumult is the potential for a far-right implosion. Instead of Trump's cultists being united in an us-versus-them battle against American democracy, they're increasingly engaged in a circular firing squad that is indeed existential. And while many true believers will never be dissuaded, the threat they pose to the republic cracks a little bit more with each new fissure.

Article reprinted with permission from Daily Kos


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