Kennedy Can't Resist The Adulation Of His True Political Base: Online Cranks

Robert F Kennedy, Jr. cannot help himself. In his quixotic bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, he initially sought to distance himself from the 15-year crusade against vaccines that has defined him as a public figure. But this week he reverted to form, making outrageous claims during a panel discussion that he convened with fellow antivaxers and advertised on his campaign channels.

“I do not believe that infectious disease is an enormous threat to human health,” Kennedy said on the livestream, a bold statement in the wake of more than a million excess deaths in the US in its first two years. Kennedy also pledged to target medical journals and defund epidemiology if elected, according to Rolling Stone.

And that was just the beginning.

He falsely claimed that vaccine research created HIV, the Spanish flu, and Lyme disease. He has previously insinuated that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, and that the only reason all reputable scientists think it does is because his nemesis, White House covid czar, Anthony Fauci nixed funding for research into alternative theories.

When Kennedy threw his hat into the ring, many observers were surprised that his campaign website was silent on the vaccine issue, as the candidate sought to rebrand himself as a normal Democrat who criticizes corporate power while reminding boomers of his dead relatives.

The reputational rehab was never going to be easy.

Kennedy made his name as an antivaxer by doggedly promoting the debunked link between vaccines and autism. The pandemic dramatically raised Kennedy’s profile as an opponent of public health measures and vaccine mandates. He published a bestselling book that spins an elaborate and baseless conspiracy theory about how Fauci knowingly denied Americans access to effective covid treatments because the vaccine couldn’t be authorized if treatments were available. In fact, Kennedy’s pet therapies were tested and found worthless and had there been an effective drug treatment for covid, it would have made no effect on the vaccine’s approval process.

Vanity Fair dubbed him “the antivax icon of America’s nightmares.” A well-earned moniker, given that Kennedy founded Children’s Health Defense (CHD), the most influential antivax group in the country. CHD stoked panic about the measles vaccine in Samoa and helped cause an outbreak that killed about 50 babies and toddlers.

During the pandemic, Kennedy became notorious for likening vaccine mandates to the Holocaust. Kennedy is also a prolific spreader of conspiracy theories, including the rumor that 5G networks are being used to “harvest our data and control our behavior.” What’s more, former Donald Trump advisor Steven Bannon keeps bragging about how he convinced Kennedy to run to spread the antivax gospel.

Despite his aspirations to court normie Democrats, Kennedy can’t resist the adulation of his real base – online cranks.

The pandemic made Kennedy a superstar on the right and he prefers the fawning attention of conspiracy-minded podcaster Joe Rogan to the slightly tougher questions of the beltway media. Kennedy’s antivax antics on the campaign trail ramped up sharply after his appearance on Rogan’s show. The candidate also got drawn into a bizarre harassment campaign of vaccine scientist Peter Hotez, who declined to debate Kennedy on Rogan’s show, on the grounds any debate with Kennedy would devolve into the Jerry Springer Show. Billionaires like Elon Musk rushed in to defend Kennedy and smear Hotez. Hotez was deluged with abuse online and antivax YouTubers even showed up at his home.

This week Kennedy got the band back together, convening a panel on public health featuring some of the antivax movement’s most notorious figures, which he promoted through official campaign channels. Kennedy’s guests included fellow members of the Disinformation Dozen, a rogues gallery that’s collectively responsible for the majority of online antivax content. One of his guests, Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, testified before the Ohio state legislature that Covid vaccines make people magnetic and create “5G interfaces” to link our bodies to cellular networks.

"You can put a key on their forehead, it sticks,” Tenpenny told Ohio legislators in 2021, “You can put spoons and forks all over and they can stick because now we think there is a metal piece to that."

Perhaps Kennedy is returning to his antivax roots because the rest of his program is at odds with the Democratic base. He rejects common sense gun reform and instead blames school shootings on antidepressants; he dismisses US defense aid to Ukraine as a NATO proxy war against Russia; he refuses to criticize Donald Trump and says he’s proud the former president likes him.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Elon Musk's Big Twitter Reveal Is Nothing More Than Vaporware

Elon Musk's Big Twitter Reveal Is Nothing More Than Vaporware

Last week, Chief Twit Elon Musk enlisted Substacker Matt Taibbi to recap Twitter’s handling of the “Hunter Biden laptop” story based on archived corporate emails that Musk now owns.

It already seems like a lifetime ago, but in October 2020, weeks before the presidential election, the New York Post published a story about a disk image allegedly taken from a laptop that Hunter Biden had abandoned at a repair shop in Delaware.

Twitter temporarily blocked the story because it included personally identifiable information that they suspected had been hacked. Republicans said it was horribly partisan to the Donald Trump campaign of colluding with the Russians, even though the disk image came from Rudy Giuliani who had been very publicly pumping Russian agents for dirt on Hunter Biden for months.

Musk played the hype man and teased Taibbi’s tweetstorm as the scandal of the century. This was to be the second – hell, the third – coming of Watergate, Iran-Contra, and Deflategate all rolled into one. Musk claimed these emails showed that Twitter had colluded with the government to help Joe Biden.

As usual, Musk’s pitch was crowd-pleasing vaporware. Taibbi actually described how Twitter executives blocked the New York Post story all by themselves, adding that he’d seen “no evidence of any government involvement.”

Taibbi shared emails that confirmed what we already knew: Twitter execs froze access to the story because they were worried it was part of a Russian attack on the election. Twitter had been repeatedly warned by Trump’s FBI to be on the alert for hack and leak operations associated with a political campaign and possibly starring Hunter Biden. The New York Post story checked all those boxes.

In 2016, Russian state hackers leaked emails they’d stolen from the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign. The attack weakened Clinton and may even have cost her the election. In early 2020, Donald Trump was impeached for trying to force Ukraine to announce a fake investigation into none other than Hunter Biden. To make matters worse, the New York Post story was based on a disk image supplied by Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s main point of contact with Russian agents in Ukraine.

Far from showing a Borg determined to help Joe Biden at all costs, Taibbi’s cache of emails shows a lively debate in the Twitter C-suite as execs tried to balance freedom of the press against election integrity and national security. They blocked the story for violating Twitter’s ban on “hacked materials” bearing personally identifying information because the New York Post story included images with unredacted emails and phone numbers. The trouble was, there was no proof the data was hacked. There still isn’t. But the whole thing stank worse than an illegal Twitter flophouse.

Twitter was in a tough spot because Giuliani claimed that Hunter’s data was abandoned, not hacked. Then again, no reasonable person would take Giuliani’s word for that. If Hunter’s data had been hacked, Giuliani had a vested interest in concealing that fact. The emails show that Twitter execs used the ban to buy time while they conducted their own investigation.

History has vindicated Twitter’s caution. In 2021, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had personally authorized a major interference campaign for the 2020 election based on conspiracy theories about the Biden family and Ukraine. The FBI investigated Giuliani for his role in Ukraine, but ultimately wasn’t charged, primarily because although his efforts helped both Russia and Trump, he got paid only by Trump.

This saga would prompt any reasonable person to think how Twitter’s rules could be crafted to better address the next foreign attack on our elections. Unfortunately, Elon Musk is not a reasonable person.

He’s a raging egomaniac who seized upon his former employees’ good-faith efforts to handle an unprecedented threat as a pretext to make twitter ground zero for foreign intelligence agencies to attack American democracy.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

House Republicans Preparing To Recycle Rudy's Kremlin Disinformation

House Republicans Preparing To Recycle Rudy's Kremlin Disinformation

We’ve been warned. When the Republicans take control of the House, it’s going to be all Hunter’s laptop, all the time.

Despite haughty GOP denials, the laptop story is probably a cover for another Russian hack and leak operation, and the Republicans are gleefully laundering it.

Republicans have browbeaten various social media execs – who are surely nervous about being called before GOP committees – into saying they were wrong to throttle access to what everyone correctly assumed was foreign election interference laundered through Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and election interference go-to-guy Rudy Giuliani.

Various major media outlets have authenticated a small percentage of the data dump as having belonged to Hunter Biden. But that’s exactly what you’d expect in a hack and leak operation. The question is whether the data were really abandoned by Hunter Biden or whether they were uploaded to that laptop as a pretext for trafficking in stolen secrets.

“That’s Rudy”

In October 2020, weeks before the general election, the New York Post ran a story about what Rudy Giuliani claimed was a hard drive abandoned by Hunter Biden at a computer repair shop in Wilmington, Delaware.

Over 50 retired intelligence pros signed an open letter arguing that L’Affaire MacBook bore all the hallmarks of Russian disinfo. Twitter’s former head of safety said this week that the story set off “every single one of my finely tuned [Russian intelligence] hack and leak campaign alarm bells."

Conveniently, the former shop owner who gave the data to Giuliani is legally blind, so he can’t say whether the man who dropped off the machines was Hunter Biden. He’s also a frothing conspiracy theorist who was unable to tell a straight story about the provenance of the laptop.

We know Vladimir Putin personally directed a campaign of interference in the 2020 elections that focused on feeding anti-Biden propaganda to influential Americans, including members of Trump’s inner circle, according to a 2021 report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The report doesn’t name names, but contains enough clues to identify Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, as the useful idiot in chief.

This time, the collusion between Trump and the Russians was right out in the open. With Trump’s support, Giuliani spent much of 2019 ostentatiously shuttling to Ukraine and huddling with Kremlin-linked oligarchs, including an active Russian agent who was later sanctioned by Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s Treasury Department for interference in the 2020 election.

Data from Hunter Biden’s computer were on the market in Kyiv around the time Giuliani went disinfo-shopping. As you recall, Giuliani was searching for dirt in Ukraine because Hunter Biden sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma Holdings, which, according to that ODNI report, was hacked by the Russian spy service known as the GRU in late 2019.

Multiple US intelligence agencies repeatedly and explicitly warned Donald Trump in 2019 that Giuliani’s bottomless thirst for dirt on the Bidens made him the target of a Russian intelligence operation. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien warned Trump that any information Giuliani brought back from his Ukraine junket should be considered “contaminated” by the Russians. Trump reportedly shrugged and said, “That’s Rudy.”

Stolen and dumped

Let’s not forget Trump’s first impeachment was the result of a desperate bid to wring dirt out of the Ukrainians. Trump froze congressionally authorized defense aid to Ukraine in order to strong-arm the country’s new president into announcing a bogus investigation into Hunter Biden.

Republicans have falsely claimed that forensic analyses have proven that the data was found on a laptop that Hunter Biden abandoned at a repair shop in Delaware. These analyses have shown that some of the materials were produced by Hunter Biden. But that’s how hack and leak attacks work.

In a hack and leak, data is stolen and dumped.

A largely genuine trove of stolen data is also the perfect place to hide forged or stolen elements, which enjoy unearned credibility because they’re packaged with real stuff. That’s why the victims of hack and leaks are advised never to confirm the authenticity of anything.

The attackers are counting on the public to draw the erroneous conclusion that, because some things are genuine, the whole package is real, and – most importantly – that it came from where the cover story says it came from, be that an imaginary collective of good-hearted “hacktivists” or a computer repair shop in Delaware. Anywhere but the GRU.

The GRU is notorious for hacking and leaking.

A GRU unit known as FancyBear or APT128 famously deployed this tactic against the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016. They also targeted George Soros, the World Anti-Doping Agency, scientists investigating the poisoning of a former Russian agent, and countless others. For particularly high-value targets, GRU combines hacking with good-old-fashioned stalking, following their targets around, hoping to catch them using insecure hotel wifi.

Isn’t it a crazy coincidence that a disk image of “Hunter Biden’s laptop” was revealed to the world by the same guy who we know was the main conduit for Russian disinformation about the Bidens? A guy who has also been investigated for other kinds of election interference on behalf of Trump.

If you believe that, I’ve got an extended warranty to sell you.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Oath Keepers Plotting To Continue Insurrection

Newly Revealed Texts Show Oath Keepers Plot To Continue Insurrection

Oath Keeper William Todd Wilson of North Carolina pleaded guilty last week to seditious conspiracy. He is the third member of the rightwing group to do so.

The Oath Keepers is an umbrella organization of heavily armed anti-government extremists led by former Ron Paul aide Stewart Rhodes. The group preferentially recruits members with police or military experience. It encourages members to disobey laws they regard as unconstitutional.

The Oath Keepers are known for showing up heavily armed to emotionally charged events, often under the guise of providing security. They participated in protests against Covid restrictions as well as in the so-called “Stop the Steal” rallies promoting the lie of election fraud against Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

On January 6, the Oath Keepers served as bodyguards for MAGA VIPs, including Republican operative and convicted felon Roger Stone. A total of 11 Oath Keepers have been charged with seditious conspiracy for their role in the J6 insurrectionAnother Oath Keeper facing the same charge recently submitted 337 pages of text messages, podcast transcripts and other materials in his motion for pretrial release.

This newly public trove of documents is a resource for those seeking to understand the Oath Keepers’ plans for January 6, their activities on that day, and their alleged conspiracy to keep on fighting to overturn the election after the insurrection failed.

One of the more intriguing details is that some of the Oath Keepers believed newly elected Republican member of Congress and former presidential physician Dr. Ronny Jackson was in trouble during and needed their protection.

Jackson had made fiery remarks at the Ellipse immediately before the assault on the Capitol, but he was trapped with the other legislators during the attack. It’s unclear how he made his way back there.

“Dr. Ronnie Jackson – on the move. Needs protection. If anyone inside cover him. He has critical data to protect,” an unnamed Oath Keeper texted the group chat, as the mob roamed the building.

“Give him my cell,” replied Rhodes.

Needless to say, the House Select Committee is curious about how the Oath Keeper knew that Jackson needed help, and what “critical data” the Oath Keeper thought he was safeguarding. The committee sent Jackson a letter on May 2, asking to meet with him to discuss these issues. Jackson has refused to cooperate. He denies knowing any Oath Keepers and his spokesperson speculated, rather implausibly, that the Oath Keepers were just talking about him because he’s so famous.

It was no secret that Rhodes and the Oath Keepers had long intended to support Donald Trump if he declared martial law.

Indeed, Rhodes claimed in late 2020 that he had already massed troops and weapons in the Washington, D.C. area to support Donald Trump if he did that. The text trove shows the Oath Keepers followed through on that plan.

The encrypted texts also show the Oath Keepers spending a lot of time scheming about what weapons they could bring to D.C. without violating the city’s strict gun laws so that they wouldn’t get arrested before Trump could declare martial law. Blades under 3 inches in length, lead pipe and bicycle helmets were all identified as legal weapons.

Meanwhile, the Oath Keepers had stashed an arsenal in a hotel room in Virginia, waiting for Donald Trump to give them the order to rise up.

The chats show the Oath Keepers were spoiling for a fight with antifascists. They openly hoped that violence by anti-fascist protesters would give Trump the pretext he needed to invoke martial law.

The text trove gives no clear indication that the Oath Keepers showed up on J6 expecting to overrun the Capitol. However, the record suggests that Rhodes may have made a spur-of-the-moment decision to throw his troops at the Capitol building when it became clear that Mike Pence had refused to steal the election from the podium and Donald Trump had yet to invoke martial law.

The record shows that Rhodes summoned his troops to the Capitol as the mob converged on the building. “All I see Trump doing is complaining. I see no intent by him to do anything. So the patriots are taking it into their own hands. They’ve had enough,” Rhodes told the chat.

Whereupon Oath Keepers in tactical gear formed two single-file “stack” formations and surged towards the Capitol.

The Oath Keepers’ conspiracy to restore Trump to power does not appear to have ended after the authorities reclaimed the Capitol building.

Oath Keeper and self-proclaimed seditionist William Todd Wilson told a federal court on Wednesday that, after the attack, he heard Rhodes talking on the phone to someone whom Rhodes believed had a direct line to Trump. Whoever it was reportedly denied Rhodes’ demand to speak to the president.

Rhodes has pleaded not guilty and a disbarred lawyer associated with his defense asserts that the Oath Keepers had no way to communicate with Trump.

The text trove seems to confirm that Rhodes and his cronies had every intention of continuing the insurrection past certification day. On the evening of January 6, the Oath Keepers’ group chat commiserated over the failed attack, shared videos and vowed to fight on.

“We need a new ‘Declaration of Defiance,’” someone suggested.

“Already working on it,” Rhodes wrote back.

“After Action Reports" will be dated 1/21/21” messaged another Oath Keeper, appending an unspecified emoji. January 21, 2021, would be the day after Inauguration Day,

“Be very careful and mindful that anything you say can and will be used against you,” Rhodes replied.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Select Committee Depicts Meadows As Point Man

Select Committee Depicts Meadows As Point Man In Trump Coup

The House Select Committee on January 6 filed a motion in court arguing that Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows should be compelled to testify about his role in the plot to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The filing uses Meadows’ text messages and witness testimony to paint a detailed picture of Meadows as Trump’s insurrection point man.

Meadows was subpoenaed to testify before the committee in December, but at the last minute he announced that he’d had a change of heart. In true Trumpian fashion, rather than showing up to testify, Meadows sued the committee.

There are no facts in dispute.

Either Meadows has to testify or he doesn’t. Therefore, the committee asked the judge to dispense with the formality of a trial and simply rule on that question.

In their motion, the committee had to explain why Meadows’ claims of executive privilege are worthless. In order to make that case, the committee painted a detailed picture of what Meadows was up to in the weeks before the insurrection.

The record shows that Meadows coordinated with a clique of far-right members of Congress and outside operatives to hype election fraud lies and pressure the Department of Justice to validate those lies.

The affirmation of the nation’s top law enforcement agency would then be used to pressure legislatures in states that Biden won into calling themselves back into session to send fake Trump electors in place of the real Biden delegates.

The committee argues in effect that Meadows doesn’t have executive privilege because he was operating either as a campaign staffer or as a criminal, since his attempts to influence the election would constitute blatant violations of the Hatch Act if he acted as a federal official.

The 26 exhibits attached to the motion include some of the 2,319 text messages from Meadows’ personal phone that the former chief of staff had already handed over, plus excerpts from the testimony of various J6 witnesses, including Trump aide Jason Miller and Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchison.

Indeed, the exhibits are so voluminous that one suspects the committee is taking advantage of the filing to get some shocking details into the public record.

And not a moment too soon.

Hutchison told committee investigators that Meadows schemed with a clique of far-right representatives that included US Reps. Scott Perry, Jim Jordan and Louie Gohmert. The group’s role was to identify and amplify election fraud conspiracy theories.

Armed with these baseless allegations, the clique badgered Justice Department officials to investigate and validate the claims so that they could be used to pressure state legislatures into overriding the will of the people and sending Trump electors in place of those duly pledged to Biden.

The officials found no evidence of significant fraud in any state, but Trump and his allies kept pushing. “Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen,” Trump said, according to notes taken by former senior Justice Department official Richard Donoghue and shared with the Times for a story that ran last December.

Donoghue later told the committee that he and his colleagues narrowly talked Trump out of firing the acting attorney general and replacing him with Jeff Clark, a toady who had never tried a criminal case, but who promised to throw the agency’s credibility behind the lies.

Meadows and Clark allegedly planned to use the fraud allegations to pressure the GOP-controlled legislatures of the Biden swing states to call themselves back into session to pick Republican electors.

The exhibits show that Meadows and his merry band of insurrectionists were big promoters of a John Eastman-esque pseudo-legal theory whereby Mike Pence could somehow send the election back to the states.

Gohmert even tried and failed to sue Pence in federal court to force him to act on a version of the Eastman plan to steal the election during the certification ceremony.

This filing sheds light on what the J6 committee has learned.

The good news is that they are getting closer to Trump, uncovering the machinations of high-level elected officials.

The bad news is that compelling members of Congress to testify will be time-consuming and difficult.

The clock is ticking for the committee.

Printed with permission from Alternet.

Former Stone Aide Confirms GOP Plot To Steal 2020 Election

Former Stone Aide Confirms GOP Plot To Steal 2020 Election

A recording made by a disgruntled election conspiracist is the strongest evidence yet that operatives in Donald Trump’s orbit summoned supporters to Washington on January 6 for the express purpose of coercing lawmakers into overturning the 2020 election.

News broke late Tuesday afternoon, whereupon this bombshell of a story was promptly buried under an avalanche of other news.

The main characters aren’t household names, but this story is every bit as important as the earlier revelation that Donald Trump, Jr, was pushing a detailed plan for a coup to his father’s chief of staff before the election had even been decided. And it’s even more important than the late-breaking news that Sen. Mike Lee talked up Trump lawyer John Eastman’s plan for a procedural coup in late November.

The star of the secret recording is Jason Sullivan, one-time aide to dirty trickster and longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone.

Sullivan told the Times he was invited to speak by a group of anti-vaccine activists, who were planning a permitted event in the capital on January 6. (By amazing coincidence, Stone was scheduled to speak at an anti-vax event on the afternoon of January 6, an engagement he missed, for reasons that are surely of great interest to the January 6th committee.)

The call was made a week before the insurrection.

Sullivan repeatedly urged the other callers to intimidate the lawmakers who were meeting to certify the election. He told them they needed to make them feel like the people were “breathing down their neck.”

“If we make the people inside that building sweat and they understand that they may not be able to walk in the streets any longer if they do the wrong thing, then maybe they’ll do the right thing,” Sullivan said.

“We have to put that pressure there.”

This recording was made by a woman named Staci Burk, a former school board official turned election conspiracist. Burk filed an anonymous affidavit supporting one of Trump lawyer Sidney Powell’s many election conspiracy theories. Whereupon heavily armed paramilitary operatives calling themselves the 1st Amendment Praetorian (1AP) moved into her home for several weeks, ostensibly to guard her. Burk told the Times a 1AP member joined the call, and she made the recording because the armed men were making her feel unsafe. Members of 1AP were in the capital during the insurrection and members of the group have been subpoenaed by the House Select Committee.

This recording partially corroborates previous claims by Ali Alexander, another one of Roger Stone’s associates. He said he schemed with members of the Congress to gather a crowd to pressure lawmakers into overturning the election during the certification ceremony.

In a video made before the insurrection, Ali Alexander claimed that he and Reps. Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs, and Paul Gosar “schemed up putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting.”

The video circulated on social media but was later deleted. The plan was to “change the hearts and the minds of Republicans who were in that body, hearing our loud roar from outside,” Ali Alexander said.

The Sullivan call proves there was an inside-outside game on January 6.

The inside game was the procedural coup devised by John Eastman that was unfolding inside the Capitol on January 6th as GOP legislators raised spurious claims of election fraud to overturn a free and fair election.

The outside game was the mob deliberately assembled in order to pressure legislators to go along with Trump’s illegal scheme.

Far-Right Thinktank Wrote Bloody-Minded ‘Wargame’ For Trump Coup

Far-Right Thinktank Wrote Bloody-Minded ‘Wargame’ For Trump Coup

The Trump advisor who wrote the infamous pseudo-legal justification for overturning the 2020 election also helped to create a blueprint for what Donald Trump could do to hang onto power by force.

John Eastman joined a couple dozen right-wing operatives in simulating the aftermath of a closely contested election. The report was published in mid-October 2020 and co-sponsored by the Claremont Institute, the think tank where Eastman works.

The authors of the report are clear their simulation had a very serious purpose: to prepare real public officials for real violence in the event of a disputed election. The authors say they fully expected the necessary preparations to crush dissent would be perceived as the run-up to a military coup. But in their view, that couldn't be helped. It was important to come up with legal justifications for overwhelming political violence before the election, they said.

The report is a blueprint for how Donald Trump could fuse federal power, local police, and criminal gangs like the Proud Boys to hang onto power. It seems to foreshadow Eastman's plan for a procedural coup on January 6, except projected onto Biden supporters.

The Claremont simulation started from the assumption that left wing violence was a "near-certainty" and that Trump's Defense Department, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security must be prepared to crush Biden supporters in the event of a contested election.

The simulation starts from the following half-baked premise: All the networks call the contest for Biden on Election Night, because he appears to have won Texas, bringing his electoral vote total to 270.

Somehow, all the networks fail to notice that Russia had taken the entire electoral apparatus of Texas offline before all the votes came in. (This wouldn't get past Steve Kornacki, let me tell you.) Texas goes back in the "too close to call" column. Biden is still two electoral votes ahead, but the nation explodes with rioting and arson by "antifa" and Black Lives Matter. Fourteen police officers are shot on election night.

Thus begins Choose Your Own Adventure: Death Squads. There's an elaborate procedural and legal backstory about how an uncertain Election Night metastasizes into a constitutional crisis to be worked out probably by the Supreme Court, but I won't bore you with it because it's obviously a figleaf. This is a manual for state violence.

With the nation in flames, the players have Trump's Department of Defense deploy military personnel carriers to multiple states, which local mayors rudely call "tanks." These pesky mayors aren't cooperating with the Trump administration's desire to clamp down on dissent.

So, their police departments go completely rogue and join forces with the Trump administration. The NYPD seems to have overthrown Bill De Blasio. The Chicago Police Union refuses to protect Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Federal law enforcement with no identifying insignias encircle the White House to defend it with heat rays. The Proud Boys, Three Percenters and Oath Keepers form posses to "assist."

Tellingly, Eastman and his fellow players assume that pro-Biden forces will try to gather at the Capitol on January 6. So they thwart their political adversaries by tracking their phones, setting up police checkpoints and using Trump's Homeland Security fusion centers to identify and detain their leaders. The players protect the Capitol with an army of federal agents, snipers and of course more heat rays. Trump's FBI hunts down more antifa leaders in the DC suburbs.

War games often reveal more about the players than they do about the future, and this exercise is no exception. The report shows that John Eastman and his confederates expected a disputed election would set off a wave of civil unrest that would culminate in the US Capitol on January 6, supported by insurrections at key state houses that same day. The report projected this strategy onto Biden supporters, but that's exactly what Trump confederates did on January 6.

A showdown on January 6 might feel inevitable in retrospect, given the horrific events of that day. But it wasn't an obvious choice. January 6 was the date of the certification of the presidential election, which has historically been a pro-forma affair. Results have already been decided.

The states have certified their election results, the Electoral College already has voted, and all that's left to be done is the little ceremony during which the Congress counts the electoral votes. It doesn't make sense to have your last stand to win a contested election after the results are already set in stone, unless you think you can change them.

John Eastman did in fact come up with a crackpot legal excuse for how Mike Pence could throw the election to Trump. His argument was to the law as creationism is to biology, but it was good enough for Trump. We know Trump pressured Pence to act on Eastman's advice. Eastman shared a dais with Trump as well as Rudy Giuliani at the rally immediately before the siege. The crowd was chanting "Hang Mike Pence," because Pence had refused to comply with Eastman's scheme.

Eastman later claimed he wasn't serious about the memo, but the results of this simulation suggests he and fellow right-wingers had sized up the certification of the presidential election as their moment to stage a procedural coup with physical reinforcements waiting.

Proud Boys at the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021.

Have Trump Republicans Lost Control Of Their Paramilitary Thugs?

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Recently, an exclusive Reuters report claimed the FBI has little evidence of a single overarching plot to overturn the election on January 6. The headline: "FBI finds scant evidence US Capitol attack was coordinated — sources." The story kicked off a self-serving game of telephone by right-wingers spinning an already threadbare dispatch into ever-more exculpatory narratives. Steve Bannon pronounced it a "massive win" while Republican Senate hopeful JD Vance tweeted, "Another narrative collapses." These strained readings of the report culminated in the bizarre Washington Examiner headline: "FBI confirms there was no insurrection."

In fact, the government has already uncovered far-reaching conspiracies to attack the Capitol and stop the certification of the election. It alleges that three major paramilitary groups — the Oath Keepers, The Proud Boys, and the Three Percenters — conspired within their own ranks to commit violence to keep Donald Trump in power. In addition to plotting within their own ranks, these groups reportedly coordinated with each other. The point that Reuters' anonymous sources were making was that there is as-yet little evidence these paramilitary operations were part of a single overarching plot orchestrated by a "civilian" leader, like Trump confidante and self-proclaimed dirty trickster Roger Stone. Maybe the paramilitaries acted on their own. This is a truly terrifying possibility given it would indicate the civilian wing of the Republican Party has finally lost control of the party's paramilitary wing.

Members and associates of the Oath Keepers militia have already pleaded guilty to conspiring to disrupt the certification of the election, and many others are working their way through the courts on similar charges. The government alleges extensive coordination among the Oath Keepers in the run-up to January 6 and ongoing communication with their leader while they stormed the Capitol. Multiple Proud Boys have also been charged with conspiracy and other serious offenses stemming from the assault on the Capitol. The government alleges, and independent media reports confirm, that teams of Oath Keepers and Proud Boys were in the vanguard of the assault on the Capitol.

Moreover, all three paramilitary groups were an integral part of the Trumpist "Stop the Steal" movement that staged a series of violent protests to intimidate election officials in swing states, cement the myth of voter fraud, legitimize the Trump team's frivolous legal challenges and radicalize supporters. "Stop the Steal" had an established M.O. by January 6: besiege public officials and attempt to bully them into certifying the contest for Trump based on wild allegations of voter fraud and the ever-present threat of violence.

There's no question that the civilian architects of "Stop the Steal" wanted to intimidate the lawmakers certifying the election. Organizer Ali Alexander explained his plan was to put "maximum pressure" on the lawmakers in a bid to coerce the GOP representatives they had not been able to lobby to join their cause. "If they [certify the election], everyone can guess what me and 500,000 others will do to that building," Alexander tweeted on Dec. 30. "1776 is *always* an option""

"I want to hear a huge shout-out for Enrique and the Proud Boys right now," "Stop the Steal" organizer Cindy Chafian commanded the crowd gathered in Washington on January 5 on the eve of the certification of the election. Chafian went on to thank the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters and other paramilitary groups as unsung heroes. "I'm tired of the left telling us we can't talk about them," Chafian said.

Chafian was referring to Enrique Tarrio, the supreme leader of the Proud Boys, who had been scheduled to speak at the gathering, but found himself unable to attend because he'd been arrested two days earlier for burning a Black Lives Matter flag at a previous "Stop the Steal" rally in Washington. Chafian's fellow speaker, Cordie Williams thundered that, "Enrique is in jail right now for burning a flag that bastardizes everything we stand for, it makes me sick."

The "Stop the Steal" slogan was coined by Stone in 2016 and revived by his protegé Ali Alexander to transmute lies about election fraud into incandescent rage that it hoped to harness to keep Donald Trump in power. "'Stop the Steal' is a highly coordinated partisan political operation intent on bringing together conspiracy theorists, militias, hate groups, and Trump supporters to attack the integrity of our election," Ben Decker, the CEO and founder of Memetica, a digital investigations consultancy, told CNN in November of 2020.

As the votes were being counted, Alexander organized a series of armed, violent protests in swing states geared at intimidating state election officials. The Oath Keepers provided security for "Stop the Steal" organizers, including Stone. The Proud Boys turned out in force to brutalize counter-protesters and even organized their own protest at the home of United States Senator Marco Rubio to pressure him not to certify. Stone addressed the crowd by speaker phone.

Tarrio and other high-ranking Proud Boys were so close to Stone they were allowed to post to his social media accounts. Stone was even kicked off instagram for his ties to the Proud Boys. Stone was so accustomed to surrounding himself with Proud Boys that The Daily Beast proclaimed the neo-fascist street brawlers "Roger Stone's Personal Army" in 2019.

Stone and Alexander's longstanding relationships with the paramilitaries are tantalizing circumstantial evidence, but hard proof that they or any "civilian" ordered shock troops to attack the Capitol remains elusive.

Stone and Alexander like to cast themselves as skilled operatives very much in control, even as they deny responsibility for the violence swirling around them. But if Reuters' sources are correct, they paint a very different picture: That Stone, Alexander and all their Republican allies and enablers are ineffectual dupes who have lost control of the toxic forces they sought to command.

Man holding the Qanon symbol

Why The QAnon Cult Is Obsessed With Child Trafficking And Kiddie Porn

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Ben Gibson, a failed Republican congressional candidate who shared QAnon content on social media, was arrested in December on four counts of child pornography. A few months earlier, Joshua Jennings was arrested on first-degree murder charges for allegedly killing his girlfriend's 10-month-old daughter. Investigators found that Jennings had plastered the QAnon associated #savethechildren hashtag all over his Facebook wall, interspersed with rants about killing pedophiles.

The central tenet of QAnon is that a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles controls all major institutions that must be cleansed by Donald J. Trump in a wave of purifying violence. Given that, it's odd that the faithful are so tolerant of child sexual exploitation in Trumpland itself. Trump used to party with billionaire child sex criminal Jeffery Epstein, and in 2002 described the financier as "a terrific guy," adding: "It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side."

George Nader, high-ranking diplomatic advisor to Donald Trump and QAnon favorite General Mike Flynn, is serving 10 years in prison for child pornography and trafficking a minor for sex. Ruben Verastigui, a senior digital strategist for the Trump campaign, was arrested in early February on federal child pornography charges. Trump's 2016 Oklahoma campaign chair and a Trump delegate from Kentucky are currently doing time for child trafficking.

QAnon's preoccupation with child porn is a result of overlapping themes in chan culture, conspiracy culture, Evangelical culture, and parenting/wellness culture. The theory gelled in poorly moderated spaces where actual child porn and jokes about it were a fact of life.

QAnon was born in the fetid swamps of 4chan imageboard, where the speech was free and child porn was available to those who knew where to look. Child porn was officially against the rules, but the chans were founded as forums for unbridled free speech, so their moderation protocols are purposefully lax. Pedophilia jokes and tropes fit 4chan's shock-jock ethos. The unofficial mascot of 4chan is a character known as Pedobear.

Needless to say, the vast majority of chan users are not pedophiles, but a loosely moderated, anonymous imageboard dedicated to pushing the limits of free speech will inevitably attract more than its share of unsavory characters.

Pizzagate, the forerunner to QAnon, came about because 4chan users read John Podesta's hacked emails and mistook Podesta's genuine love of food for a coded language that was already in circulation on 4chan.

"Pizzagate exists because 4chan users had slang for child porn, like 'cheese pizza' (derived from 'CP')," explains Q Origins, the anonymous researcher who pieces together the prehistory of QAnon on the Q Origins Project Twitter feed, "This is why those same people glommed on to the idea that pizza was pedophile slang."

"Q" of QAnon fame was one of many chan users ("anons") who posed as anonymous government insiders doling out cryptic clues for readers of 4chan's Politically Incorrect board, /pol/. This genre was so common that anons nicknamed it "LARPing" (a derisive comparison to "swords and shields" live action role-playing). LARPers like FBIAnon and MegaAnon explored many of the same themes as QAnon, but never went mainstream. Q Origins speculates that QAnon has a life beyond the chans because of Q's ability to tone down the overt racism and sexism of /pol/ to a level closer to what you'd see on Fox News.

QAnon draws on all the conspiracy theories that came before it. Crimes against children, specifically ritualistic atrocities, figure prominently in conspiracy theories throughout history. You can hear the echo of Blood Libel allegations against the Jews in QAnon's belief in a Satanic cabal of child abusers.

Like all conspiracy theories, QAnon reflects the hopes and fears of its co-creators. If you spend a lot of time on an imageboard that's saturated with pedophilia references and studded with actual child porn, child porn probably seems like even more of a threat than it does to the average person.

The early QAnon evangelists brought the fledgling faith to the larger world, starting with YouTube and Alex Jones' media empire, InfoWars. This was a critical step in QAnon going mainstream. Chans are an insular world that is only navigable by people with a fair amount of technical sophistication and a high tolerance for obscenity and abuse. QAnon's spread across more user-friendly platforms, particularly Facebook, brought the theory to a normie audience, including evangelical Christians.

Evangelicals played a key role in fomenting a moral panic over imaginary child sex abuse in daycares in the 1980s and 1990s while overlooking sex abuse in their own churches. It's comforting to imagine that children are abused by The Other when the reality is that most children are abused by the people closest to them.

QAnon's focus on child trafficking also became a powerful recruiting feature as the conspiracy theory spread online within the massive parenting and wellness subcultures. Appeals to #savethechildren resonated with moms and some dads who wouldn't otherwise have been interested in QAnon. After all, every 21st-century parent worries about child abuse. Everyone's against child sex trafficking. It's a lot more socially acceptable to share content that's ostensibly about stopping trafficking than it is to talk about the other side of QAnon, the prophecy of political violence and authoritarian rule.