Fox's New 'Working-Class' Theme Song Is Just A Confederate Dog Whistle

Fox's New 'Working-Class' Theme Song Is Just A Confederate Dog Whistle

Foxbot Martha McCallum opened last night’s first Republican primary debate with a reference to a new country music hit, Rich Men North of Richmond. In a question addressed to Ron DeSantis, she said: “It is by a singer from Farmville, Virginia, named Oliver Anthony — his lyrics speak of alienation, of deep frustration with the state of government and of this country. So, Governor DeSantis, why is this song striking such a nerve in this country right now?”

This opening softball gave DeSantis an opportunity to spew stale Republican pablum about gummint spending, blaming Congress and “trillions and trillions of dollars” and “those rich men north of Richmond” who “ have put us in this situation.”

He did not, of course, take the moment to ask McCallum why oligarch Rupert Murdoch’s mega-messaging machine, always in service to corporate profits and vulture capitalists, is promoting a so-called working class anthem. Has the desiccated Aussie turned Woody Guthrie in his dotage?

Virginia-based country singer Oliver Anthony wrote "Rich Men North of Richmond" and released it as a music video on Youtube two weeks ago. Anthony, born Christopher Anthony Lunsford, affects a mountain man look, with a bushy red-beard and t-shirt and in the video he delivers a folksy song in a simple musical style, strumming a resonator acoustic guitar. He claims to “sit pretty dead center down the aisle on politics” (a position that, it must be said, in today’s America always suggests an inclination to the right).

The song racked up 36 million views in a few weeks, amplified and enabled by Fox anchor Laura Ingraham, Matt Walsh, and other rightist influencers. They have described the song, per the New York Times, as “an authentic expression of working-class struggle.”

The spectacle of a corporatist messaging leviathan like Fox promoting a song about working class struggle is risible enough. But let’s look at this piece of all-American music for a moment.

Start with the title: "Rich Men North of Richmond." Most analyses of the song have taken this to refer to Washington, DC, and its tax-grabbin’ crypto-socialists. I’ll buy that. But what is Richmond in this context? Richmond is the former capital of the Confederacy. Anthony could have titled his tune "Rich Men North of Farmville," where he lives. Or he could, more accurately have titled it without geographical borders, including wherever the one percent lives and works, from Palo Alto to Dallas to New York City.

But no, he did not. That’s because “rich men” up “north” whistles to the tune of the Lost Cause and its racist argument that the Civil War wasn’t fought over sadistic enslavement of Black humans but was an economic struggle between moral, agrarian southerners and northern bankers and industrialists.

Now, take a look at the lyrics: “If you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds/Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds.” And: “I wish politicians would look out for miners,” Mr. Anthony sings, “and not just minors on an island somewhere. Lord, we got folks in the street, ain’t got nothin’ to eat, and the obese milkin’ welfare.”

The obese, fudge-eating welfare queen, “milkin’” the system was first introduced into American politics by the modern GOP’s godfather Ronald Reagan, whose presidency marked the dividing line between an America with a strong middle class and unionized labor, and an increasingly dystopic era marked by wealth inequality and related class resentment.

It is a fact that Reagan destroyed the labor movement when he fired the air traffic controllers. He also unleashed deregulated vulture capitalists, and cut taxes - tax cuts which he sold to the public with the white identity politics poster girl of the welfare queen.

Who are the “rich men north of Richmond” of whom Mr. Anthony sings? Foxbots and the eight people on the debate stage last night apparently believe - and I have to assume they are right - that Mr. Anthony’s northern rich men are led by President Biden, the man who tried to forgive student loan debt, releasing young Americans from indentured servitude for the first thirty years of their post-college lives.

The true “rich men north of Richmond” are of course men like right wing corporate tool Leonard Leo, “the most powerful man in Washington,” per the Washington Post. Leo was recently bequeathed $1.6 billion by another rich man north of Richmond, Chicago electronics magnate Barre Seid — the largest single tranche of dark money ever passed from a private citizen to a political operative in American history.

Since the secret gift was revealed, researchers have been trying to figure out how Mr. Leo plans to spend this treasure. He appears to be spreading it around to organization that work to block or reverse every modest gain progressives win for the working people of America. He is also apparently under investigation for mishandling $100 million of it, in circular payments to himself and cronies. Even before he cashed the windfall, Leo was one of corporate America’s best friends in Washington. Better known for his crazed opposition to abortion, he was also packing the federal judiciary with men and women whose rulings are never in favor of the working class and who are shaping, via the courts, America into a high-tech Dickensian hell.

The truth is the US of the 1950s, the real days of American Greatness, the yore that MAGAs long to revive, were the heyday of unionized labor and high taxes. In 2016, as MAGA was rising, the Berkeley Economic Review published an essay called “Back When America Was Socialist.” It is full of facts and figures and graphs providing ample evidence that the days of American greatness were more like Denmark today. (I recommend everyone download and read it, in case you come across a MAGA-curious relative or friend who can still be reasoned with.)

In the 1950s and 1960s, the highest tax rate was 91 percent. Today, the top tax rate is 37 percent but the top one percent pay only 26.8 percent income tax on average, a grotesque re-ordering of power and a Biblical scale money-grab from the top, almost all of it engineered by Republican leaders.

And the working men whose dismal days Mr. Anthony sings of? He blames their plight on the rich men of Washington, instead of the party whose hero smashed the unions that once gave blue collar workers a level of dignity and security.

From Berkeley Economic Review:

Blue collar work that had once been unviable for a family lifestyle became sustainable throughout the 1950s and 60s. Manufacturing jobs allowed for a middle class income. Productivity abounded for such manufacturing. Mild business cycles meant more sustained income and greater satisfaction among laborers.
Because of strong labor unions and high tax rates on corporations and high income earners, the income generated by these productivity increases was broadly shared among business owners and their workers. Because labor unions were strong, they were able to negotiate wage increases that allowed workers to reap the benefits of the technology they were using which ensured more equitable distribution of income throughout corporations. Today, it is largely the shareholders and business owners that reap any benefits borne from increased productivity.

"Rich Men North of Richmond" is the second recent hit country hit/dog whistle of the summer. In “Try That in a Small Town,” Jason Aldean wink-winks at the sundown towns where Blacks had to be out before dark or be killed. What makes the song even more abhorrent is that Aldean was singing on stage in Las Vegas when a gunman who had exercised his 2A right to legally create a personal arsenal of machine guns, killed 58 and wounding almost 500 people - the worst mass shooting in America.

In "Small Town," Aldean celebrates the power of his inherited grampa’s gun to set things right if anyone (protestors, BLM, antifa?) drops by his small town to “cuss out a cop, spit in his face, stomp on the flag and light it up.”

Got a gun that my granddad gave me
They say one day they're gonna round up
Well, that shit might fly in the city, good luck

These are the lyrics set to the tunes that will soon score Trump’s second coronation by the Republican Party.

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Nina Burleigh is a a journalist, author, documentary producer, and publisher ofAmerican Political Freakshow, a Substack on politics. Her journalism has been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Airmail, and New York. She is the author of seven books including most recently Virus: Vaccinations, the CDC, and the Hijacking of America's Response to the Pandemic and an adjunct professor at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

Reckoning With The GOP Racketeers (And Their Crooked Boss)

Reckoning With The GOP Racketeers (And Their Crooked Boss)

Nineteen accused: Trump, Giuliani, Eastman, Meadows, Chesebro, Clark, Ellis, Smith, Cheeley, Roman, Shafer, Still, Lee, Floyd, Kutti, Powell, Latham, Hall, Hampton.

Thirty more unnamed, un-indicted co-conspirators .

Forty-one counts, starting with the mobster one -- RICO. The Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization charge.

Typically, racketeering involves thugs with nicknames like Joey Bananas, Willie Icepick, Scarface, and crimes like narcotics, human trafficking, or money laundering. This RICO case has been filed against 15 men and four women with power, money, influence, law degrees, and law licenses, many of them duly sworn to serve the American public.

Whatever happens, the indictment strips these people of their veneer of respectability. Trump’s gang are alleged to have committed a variety of dirty state crimes in the furtherance of their corrupt organization’s coup scheme: forgery or false documents and statements, soliciting or impersonating public officers, racketeering, perjury, computer tampering.

Nineteen people. The number is a surprise. We didn’t expect it. But we could also ask: Only 19?

As a nation, we have witnessed in real time, in our time, public debasement and individual cowardice on an epic if not epochal scale. Isn’t the entire Republican Party, and their powerful messaging cronies at Fox, implicated in this racket and at least morally culpable? The leaders, McConnell, McCarthy, Ronna McDaniel, their bloated millionaire amplifiers, Murdoch, Hannity, Carlson, and the hundreds of senators and representatives in Washington and thousands of minions around the states —- all in lockstep with the scheme. Look what they did to their own courageous few. Kinzinger, Cheney, banished. Raffensberger, living with death threats.

The party’s collective failure of ethical leadership when confronted with Trump’s venality and corruption is so profound, so archetypal, that it requires a modern day Shakespeare or Sophocles to effectively engrave it into literary history.

“Just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen,” Trump said to the acting attorney general, according to the indictment.

The collusion implied in that remark, the failure of leadership, the collective cravenness in the face of this avatar of amorality, was evident from the very first GOP presidential primary debate, in fall 2015.

He had such star power. Television loved his nicknames and quips and Sinatra croon and vulgarity. It is a measure of our debased era that almost no one one really bothered with the substance of who he was, how little he cared for the country or the office he was seeking, how little respect he had for its people.

Trump bragged at that first debate about how cleverly he had abandoned Atlantic City when his casino business crashed. "I had the good sense, and I've gotten a lot of credit in the financial pages — seven years ago, I left Atlantic City before it totally cratered," he boasted. "And I made a lot of money in Atlantic City, and I'm very proud of it."

Take the money and run. Those riches did not trickle down. At that point, 39,000 people lived in the town he called “a disaster.” Unemployment was 13.8 percent, the 10th highest in the nation. The mortgage foreclosure rate was America's highest.

I went down to Atlantic City a few weeks after that debate to see for myself what the “crater” looked like. An historic East Coast summer destination, now a bit shabby, sacrificed to Mammon when the New Jersey legislature legalized gambling in the hope of pulling a little money into the public till for roads and schools. Everyone worked in or for the casino business, or the restaurants, which were mostly empty.

Keith Harris, an administrative assistant at the Asbury United Methodist Church's community center, which fed Atlantic City's poor, told me “lots of people do feel he jumped ship and left a lot of us high and dry." Other people told me small vendors who had supplied things like pianos or carpets had been forced into bankruptcy themselves. The contractors that survived understood Trump never paid the final installment on his contracts.

Shafting vendors was just another “smart” move.

The Republican Party’s example of failed leadership, its obeisance to a conman at best, at worst a Prince of Lies, in exchange for power, will be taught to schoolchildren, if this country survives. Which —- thanks to the hard work of people like Fani Willis, the courage of way too few Republicans like Raffensberger, and the decent citizens of the grand juries who gave their time sitting in chairs in public buildings in Atlanta when they could have been fishing or golfing or going to their own jobs, concentrating on the complicated details of an audacious scheme, an octopus of illegality, for no reward, just because it was their civic duty —- it may well do.

Please consider subscribing to American Political Freakshow, from which this is reprinted with permission.

Nina Burleigh is a a journalist, author, documentary producer, and publisher ofAmerican Political Freakshow, a Substack on politics. Her journalism has been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Airmail, and New York. She is the author of seven books including most recently Virus: Vaccinations, the CDC, and the Hijacking of America's Response to the Pandemic and an adjunct professor at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

Alabama Racists, Thinktank Fascists And The Menace To Democracy

Alabama Racists, Thinktank Fascists And The Menace To Democracy

By now everyone’s seen it. A shirtless white dude in shorts attacks a Black man in some kind of uniform, soon joined by several other white men and a woman, who pound and pummel the Black man onto a dock. Then, Black men and women run to the dock and start pummeling the whites. Cops arrive and disperse, arrest, charge a few of the instigators. Video goes viral.

Welcome to summer in America!

Videos like “Alabama dock brawl” are archetypal imagery of the USA, enraging us, and meeting the expectations of the rest of the world. Often viewed out of context, without any understanding of what happened just before the iPhone started to record, or what happened after, they raise righteous rage, provoke online swarms, and often enough, result in job losses or even arrests for the perps (if civilians; if cops, maybe not).

We know exactly what happened on the dock thanks to a precise account delivered by the Montgomery police chief. The brawlers tied their pontoon to a dock berth reserved for a commercial pleasure boat carrying some 200 people on a dinner cruise. When the captain of the cruise asked them by bullhorn to move, they responded with “obscene gestures and curses.” After 45 minutes, the commercial captain sent his second in command, the Black man in uniform, to shore, where he untied the party pontoon himself.

Violence ensued.

The Alabama dock brawl happened during the same week that The New Republic published a terrific investigative essay about an association of white men who form the braintrust of America’s fascist movement. Hundreds of millions of eyeballs have landed on the viral video, but a minuscule fraction of that number have read Katherine Stewart’s article about the Claremont Institute.

And that’s too bad because the video and the article belong together.

The Claremont Institute is not affiliated with the Claremont Colleges or the city of Claremont, California, where it is based. It is financed by big rightwing donor cash, one of many rightist think tanks polluting our national politics with lawsuits and normalizing and amplifying extremist influence. While their brethren in the right-wing brain trust business like Heritage and Cato at least nominally toe the democracy line, Claremont is out-of-the-closet fascist. It is run by and offers a platform to white men Stewart calls “pseudo-classicists” for their reverence for the mores of ancient Rome and the Bronze Age, when might made right, dictators ran the world, and the weak or conquered were enslaved.

Claremont’s intellects wouldn’t dirty their hands punching a man on an Alabama dock, but they do openly advocate for the rights of the racist boaters who would. The essence of the Claremont philosophy is that America is a free country -- free for white men. White men’s freedom is hampered by regulations administered by the “bug men” of “the administrative state” which represents women and minorities and which must be smashed so that white men can again dock their pontoons wherever the hell they want. If a Black man in a uniform tells them to move it, they can and even must resort to violence, punch him in the face, because the only people in uniform that they should respect are white and male.

Claremont’s men don’t walk around in flip-flops and shorts and guzzle beer on cheap pontoons. They wear suits and ties, travel on billionaire dime and probably jet, and write briefs and books and manifestos against racial equality, against democracy, against feminism, and for military dictatorship.

They scorn our multi-cultural, multi-gender, multi-colored society, they celebrate misogyny, they have bizarre ideas about manhood. They are the Josh Hawleys of the American intelligentsia. (“Run Josh Run” is a Claremont hero.) One of their board members, lawyer John Eastman, was a chief Big Lie coup plotter, and is now an unnamed co-conspirator in the January 6 federal case against Trump.

Please read Stewart’s brilliant article, which besides revealing shocking and odious views, names the billionaire donors behind these human tools. Reading it, one begins to understand just how a modern nation like Argentina got around to kidnapping and shoving dissidents off helicopters into the ocean. Meet the men creating the legal and ethical framework for turning America into exactly that.

A few choice passages:

On violence

The Claremont Institute’s seeming embrace of political violence against the government of the United States is not limited to Eastman’s efforts to whip up the mob that gathered at the Ellipse in preparation for the assault on the Capitol, nor can it be excused as mere metaphorical excess in the war of ideas. “Given the promise of tyranny, conservative intellectuals must openly ally with the AR-15 crowd,” argues author Kevin Slack, a professor at Hillsdale College, in a lengthy book excerpt published in Claremont’s online magazine, The American Mind. “Able-bodied men, no longer isolated, are returning to republican manliness in a culture of physical fitness and responsible weaponry. They are buying AR-15s and Glock 17s and training with their friends, not FBI-infiltrated militias or online strangers but trustworthy lifelong friends to build a community alongside.”

On Women

Boise State University political philosophy professor named Scott Yenor [delivered] a speech at the National Conservatism Conference in Orlando, Florida, in which he characterized women with professional aspirations as “medicated, meddlesome, and quarrelsome.” Yenor’s views could hardly have been news to Claremont. Six months previously, the institute had invited him to deliver a keynote on “Feminism and the American Future.” Yenor seized the opportunity to inveigh against women’s pursuit of economic security and a satisfactory sex life. He maligned the “pernicious trajectory of feminism” and argued that it is “fatal to family life and fatal to the country.” … Claremont hired Yenor to be the think tank’s inaugural senior director of state coalitions for its new center in Tallahassee, Florida.

On race and a master race

In an interview with Jack Murphy, who was a Lincoln Fellow at Claremont, REN has this to say about the Black Lives Matter protesters of 2020: “All of these people look the same. I mean, they are hideously ugly, malformed people.” REN’s publisher, as it happens, is Antelope Hill Publishing, otherwise known for its Nazi and white nationalist titles, such as Michael, a novel written by the young—I kid you not—Joseph Goebbels (“Antelope Hill Publishing is proud to present a new English edition….”).

Please consider subscribing to American Political Freakshow, from which this is reprinted with permission.

Nina Burleigh is a a journalist, author, documentary producer, and publisher ofAmerican Political Freakshow, a Substack on politics. Her journalism has been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Airmail, and New York. She is the author of seven books including most recently Virus: Vaccinations, the CDC, and the Hijacking of America's Response to the Pandemic and an adjunct professor at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

Why Would Billionaire Thiel Care How And When Women Ovulate?

Why Would Billionaire Thiel Care How And When Women Ovulate?

This week, your freakshow will not go down to the dirty tent but uphill, to a carbon fiber cage designed on the principles of Japanese minimalism. Here, female ushers, mute and sleek, pad around in black bearing trays of sushi. The creature on display in the corner is a little shy, very rich, and extremely dangerous in the litigious sense. So we’ll just stand at the door and try not to disturb him too much, while he concentrates on ways to use his money to transform America into a 21st Century model of medieval autocracy.

Peter Thiel, billionaire venture capitalist and co-founder of PayPal, is one of the more politically active members of the so-called Pay pal Mafia, the dozen or so men who got filthy rich off some of the major apps. Now he’s using some of his pelf to help American women adjust to their new handmaiden status.

In the publishing world, Thiel is regarded as particularly terrifying for having destroyed an entire media company in a fit of spite because it outed him as gay. He covertly financed a lawsuit (not his own) that bankrupted Gawker Media.

Thiel is now fully out of the closet, having proclaimed his sexual orientation to the MAGA rabble at Trump’s Cleveland nominating convention in 2016, to, it must be said, tepid applause. He is married to a man with whom he shares some children.

One fascinating facet of his freakishness is the disconnect between his private life and his support for the political movement that just engineered the legalization of discrimination against gay people. Of course, unlike most gay Americans, Thiel’s fortune ensures he has a legion of minions to pick up takeout from enterprises that now can legally refuse to serve him.

Thiel was born in Germany in 1967, to conservative Evangelical Christian parents (according to his biographer - he has denied their political leanings). He first came to the United States as an infant, then, like fellow PayPal mafioso Elon Musk, lived in South Africa, where his dad developed a uranium mine. The family moved back to California in the 1980s, where Thiel went to high school and college. At Stanford, he distinguished himself advocating what at the time looked like insanely out of step political philosophy, especially regarding women. In 2009, Thiel wrote that the extension of the vote to women in the 1920s “rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ an oxymoron.”

Now that philosophy has leaked into the mainstream. Even if it hadn’t, Thiel has enough money and power to ensure we don’t laugh at nutty regressive ideas anymore.

As American women endure forced pregnancies under the Dobbs ruling - achieved arguably thanks to financiers like him who put Trump in power - Thiel is now dabbling in women’s “health care” and women’s media.

He runs three hedge funds, a giant crypto-surveillance enterprise that works with the Defense Department, and has poured seed money into a variety of ventures including a weird medical enterprise experimenting with juvenile blood plasma to reverse aging. But now he has poured $200 million into Recharge Capital, a fund that seeks “investment and roll-up opportunities in the women’s fertility value chain across Southeast Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East” with a focus on international fertility tourism and “menstrual wellness.”

These clinics will not, of course, replace Planned Parenthood, which for decades provided legal abortions and desperately needed low-cost contraception to millions of women. Planned Parenthood is gutted by Dobbs and before that years of right wing assaults - both physical and financial. PP clinics are increasingly replaced in major American cities across the country with weird “pregnancy centers” that at best push junk science about the dangers of hormonal birth control and at worst, endanger women whose problem pregnancies can kill them.

It’s no exaggeration to point out that political extremism has shoved American women, medically, back into the Stone Age. Now, in that vacuum of decent women’s health care, Thiel and his ilk see financial opportunity.

Thiel is also bankrolling other efforts to, what I would call pink up American women, get ‘em back in line with lollipops, cheerleader skirts, and ponytails, including an online magazine aimed at cuteservative women called Evie, that pushes junk science about contraception, along with tips for how women can embrace their biological differences from men -- which apparently include rejecting employment, self reliance, and taking advantage of technology and medical advances that enable reproductive choice.

Thiel is also financing the 28 app, a period tracking application.The magazine encourages women to manipulate their periods and control fertility through exercise, diet, and tracking.

Now, all this begs a question: Why does a gay man care about how and when women use birth control? Thiel's regressive notions about women belong to a larger trend on the upswing in our society that is as old as the patriarchy itself: the enduring obsession with the procreative power of women and the need to control it.

Real women are supposed to know their place in the patriarchy, including trusting nature over technology when it comes to their bodies.

Right-wing women often repeat the lie that feminists hate themselves or hate men, and that feminism forced women to deny their maternal instincts. In fact, feminism merely suggested that women have a choice. That choice, of course, has been ripped out at the root by Dobbs and any vestige of it eradicated if hormonal birth control can be discouraged or, incredible as it may seem, outlawed by extremist judges.

Thiel’s interest in women’s health care also belongs to a movement in Silicon Valley sometimes called Pronatalism. This Cult of Breeding glorifies traditional gender roles and is practically Mormon in effect: De facto practitioner Elon Musk, for example, has spawned ten children with three different women and he’s barely 50.

At its creepy core, pronatalism aims to breed more "master race" babies from the sperm of the supposed geniuses who happened to be standing nearby with math degrees when Steve Jobs invented the iPhone.

Pronatalism and its insistence on women’s position way down the hierarchy is part of an intellectual movement related to Catholic extremism, toward hierarchy and autocracy being seriously promoted within certain intellectual circles.

The “common good” constitutional law theory proposes a return to something like monarchy and it isn’t a notion emanating from the kooks at Claremont, but from legal scholar Cornelius Adrian Comstock Vermeule at Harvard’s “Center for Human Flourishing.” The center is financed by the right-wing Templeton Foundation.

Like Vermeule, most of the thinkers in this space either advance or admire medieval Catholic extremist positions. Some of these “tradCaths” not only support autocratic leadership but also advocate physical punishment of women who dare to try to control their own destinies. If you want to burn out your eyeballs on Opus Dei doctrine, check out platforms like the Josias Blog and Notre Dame’s blog.

Be warned: These guys love Latin.

Thiel is also involved with, and possibly financing a pair of fascist-adjacent female podcasters. The droll, downtown hipster girls on Red Scare giggle over racist memes, and worship and often quote Thiel’s political philosopher Curtis Yarvin (google his nom de guerre Mencius Moldbug if you want to know more about this freak).

The girls (one of whom identifies as a “tradcath”) recently suggested on one episode that menstruating women be barred from going to work during their periods. They are not alone in advancing the notion that women get back in the kitchen and bedroom. The hard right now seriously advocates that women shouldn’t work at all. “Women are at the vanguard of perverting the medical profession by advocating the teaching of woke ideologies in medical schools, placing these ideologies on an equal footing with medical education,” influencer Dennis Prager opined in a column headlined “Women are Disproportionately Hurting Our Country.”

This truly bizarre, antediluvian, anti-feminist ideology has a hold on 21st Century America. Why? It is part of the extreme backlash against women’s gains achieved over the last generation. The invention of the hormonal birth control pill (and newer better versions in the form of implants) broke down the biological prison walls in which our foremothers existed since the species evolved.

You don’t get away that easily, women.

Nina Burleigh is a a journalist, author, documentary producer, and publisher ofAmerican Political Freakshow, a Substack on politics. Her journalism has been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Airmail, and New York. She is the author of seven books including most recently Virus: Vaccinations, the CDC, and the Hijacking of America's Response to the Pandemic and an adjunct professor at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

Please consider subscribing to American Political Freakshow, from which this is reprinted with permission.

Sand Trap: Saudi Golf Coup Spotlights Our Servility To 'Sovereign' Wealth

Sand Trap: Saudi Golf Coup Spotlights Our Servility To 'Sovereign' Wealth

This week's spectacle is an easy outing. You don't even need to walk behind the greasy tent to see this Freakshow. Just plop down on a golf cart. Enjoy the manicured grassy knolls. Inhale the green smell of money.

Now, get out your binoculars. Observe sunscreen-slathered, perspiring American men dancing with swords over by the sand trap.

The news that the red, white, and blue PGA is joining Saudi Arabia's LIV golf league was reported with the same awe that one might expect of a cratering asteroid hit. The merger "shocked" the sports world. It got more attention than the blown Ukrainian dam that now threatens Europe's largest nuclear power plant. As a headline, it was barely supplanted by the East Coast smoke-ocalypse.

But should we be shocked?

Golf courses are little freak shows of networked white guys who build shopping malls and don't read many books. The Former Guy, paunchy, rich, entitled, is the avatar of the sport. To afford the toys and the greens, most must rank in the above $75,000 annual income range, usually much, much higher. They're the MAGA donor/voter sweet spot.

The PGA-LIV merger is about something bigger than the hypocrisy of the golf pros, bigger than whatever politics and deals lesser men discuss between holes.

The capitulation of this American pro sport is just another example of our culture's total abjection to concentrated wealth. The Saudi royals control a $700 million sovereign wealth fund called the Public Investment Fund, or PIF. At least a trillion dollars, is parked in an Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund under the control of a few descendants of desert tribal leaders whose forebears couldn't read just a generation ago.

For comparison, Apple is valued at a trillion dollars.

The Gulf fortunes are dirty money drilled out of the desert in the form of climate-destroying fossil fuel. When a small group of people controls that much money, the source no longer matters, and the owners can literally do anything. They can torture and kill a journalist in front of the whole world. They can starve Yemeni babies to death and bomb the hell out of an ancient city on TV, and no one will do a damn thing.

The takeover of American golf is just one strategic move in a larger game of washing the human rights stain away. Sport-washing. Art-washing. Green-washing, Tech-washing, and fempowerment-washing.

Sometimes these ops look too risible to take seriously. The United Arab Emirates, where royal princesses are locked up like medieval Rapunzels, has a "Dubai Women Establishment," led by various female members of the royal clan. In its literature, this body notes that women in Dubai can vote, that there are women in the government, and an all-female police force is being created.

These feints do get taken seriously, as oceans of cash erase laughter, critics, truth-tellers, memory, even satire. Those who persists in pointing at the emperor's new clothes can go to the dungeon for a long time.

Before we get to that, though, let's remember that American sports corruption is nothing new. Besides the epic sexual harassment and abuse of women that goes like apple pie with pro ball, billionaire team owners regularly fleece the American taxpayer. Who pays for the new stadiums planted like shiny spaceships from Planet Money in neighborhoods with crumbling schools, no grocery stores, gun violence, squalor?

We bought them.

Since 2000, American taxpayers have blown $4.3 billion to build professional sports stadiums and arenas. When they come to the trough, team owners and their lackeys always argue that new stadiums will provide economic growth for a city. Economists and urban planners disagree. After a season of NFL and Washington football team deflecting sexual harassment complaints, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Don Beyer (D-VA) reintroduced a bill titled the "No Tax Subsidies for Stadiums Act" that would turn off the spigot, effective immediately upon enactment.

The bill has not been considered, let alone enacted. Expect an asteroid hit before that happens.

Back to Gulf golf.

Pro golfers who resisted the LIV's king's-ransom contracts (golfer Phil Mickelson, for example, signed for $200 million—an offer any of us might have had a hard time turning down) very rightly called out the country's abysmal human rights record.

The resisters were, of course, thinking of the very public torture/murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi henchmen chopped off his fingers before strangling him , burning his body, and washing the ashes down a drain in the lamb barbecue pit at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

That is probably all the evidence we need regarding the limitless impunity the wealth fund enjoys. But the Kingdom's dungeons are populated with men and women whose names you have never heard of, whose only crime is speech. Last year, a Saudi court sentenced a woman named Nourah bint Saeed al-Qahtani to 45 years in prison. A "Specialized Criminal Court convicted her of 'using the Internet to tear the [country's] social fabric' and 'violating the public order by using social media,' according to court documents. That sentence followed a 34-year sentence handed down to another woman for tweeting. "Only weeks after this month's shocking 34-year sentence of Salma al-Shehab, al-Qahtani's 45-year sentence, apparently for simply tweeting her opinions, shows how emboldened Saudi authorities feel to punish even the mildest criticism from its citizens," said Abdullah Alaoudh, Director of Research for the Gulf Region at Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), at the time.

These autocracies steal people’s lives over mere tweets and blogged words. Jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was released in 2021, after ten years and a disgusting public flogging. So was Saudi women's rights activist Loujain al Hathloul after being, according to her family, tortured while imprisoned for advocating for women's right to drive. Al Hathloul is now suing the Saudi government and some US intelligence operatives for an illegal spying operation paid for by the UAE. The UAE firm is called The Dark Matter Group. The name should trigger a global end-of-irony alert or be logged as further evidence that we have, as a species, wormholed ourselves into a parallel universe based on a Marvel comic book.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based organization that advocates against surveillance and is handling Al Hathloul's case: "Al Hathloul is among the victims of an illegal spying program created and run by former U.S. intelligence operatives, including the three defendants named in the lawsuit, who worked for a U.S. company hired by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the wake of the Arab Spring protests to identify and monitor activists, journalists, rival foreign leaders, and perceived political enemies."

The hacking of Al Hathloul's phone was part of the UAE's widespread and systematic attack against human rights defenders, activists, and other perceived critics of the UAE and Saudi Arabia. According to her lawyers, the Emirati regime used information hacked from Hathloul's phone to arrest and extradite her to Saudi Arabia.

The Gulf royals' cybersurveillance addiction is well known. Eighteen human rights groups recently implored Microsoft to back out of a plan to build a regional cloud center in Saudi Arabia. “There is an enormous risk” that Saudi authorities may obtain access to data stored in Microsoft's cloud data center, thus posing unique and direct threats to human rights and privacy, the human rights groups said.

The leaders are keenly aware of what the West wants to see. The image of Saudi Arabia is stage-managed by the world's greatest masters of slick storytelling and high-end reputation enhancement, the dervishes of damage control. This sleight of hand is pulled off with vast sums of borderless wealth. Soon enough, people who spectate American golf will forget who owns it.

What does hundreds of billions or a trillion dollars in a single sovereign wealth fund controlled by a few buy besides golf? Bankers, engineering firms, architects, luxury realtors, movie stars, artists, white-shoe lawyers. Managers and "creatives" across the globe salivate for these cash deals. The hoard buys protectors who paper over a medieval system based on the bedrock principle that unregulated females will destroy the social fabric. If the possessors of that money do something untoward, legions of men and women at the world's biggest public relations and law firms in New York and Washington and London form a virtual phalanx around them.


Nina Burleigh is a a journalist, author, documentary producer, and publisher ofAmerican Political Freakshow, a Substack on politics. Her journalism has been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Airmail, and New York. She is the author of seven books including most recently Virus: Vaccinations, the CDC, and the Hijacking of America's Response to the Pandemic and an adjunct professor at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

Please consider subscribing to American Political Freakshow, from which this is reprinted with permission.

The Children's Hour: Why So Many Proto-Fascists Are Also Pedophiles

The Children's Hour: Why So Many Proto-Fascists Are Also Pedophiles

Ladies and gentlemen, please follow me to a corner of the American Freakshow tent where a group of tubby white guys who got into politics as family values Republicans hang their heads in shame. Faith-based to a thinning hair, while sipping Diet Cokes at local Trump campaign strategy meetings, or representing conservatives in Congress and state legislatures, they were apparently lining up sex with teens and children or -- eek -- flicking through child porn.

If you hang out in right-wing social media silos, you have no problem believing that the Democratic Party is teeming with baby-abusing demons and witches, fanged affiliates of the George Soros global elite pedophile cabal. You have seen Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene shrieking about liberal groomers whenever a TV camera points her way. Perhaps you even belong to QAnon, the fascist movement/religion that holds Donald Trump was sent to Earth to rescue trafficked children. As of last year a majority -- 52 percent -- of Republicans believed in its central tenet, that top Democrats are involved in sex trafficking rings.

Out here, outside the silos, we find this obsession baffling. Why do our proto-fascists see pedophiles under every proverbial bed?

Quite possibly, it’s because they do see them all the time - in broad daylight, in their own ranks.

I’ve always believed that if you prick a rock-ribbed conservative, the kink oozes out. Bullwhips and dominatrices, shoe fetishes, latex, all of it, smashed back in the closet. But what I didn’t see coming was the simultaneous emergence of men whose craving for juvenile flesh is on display and sometimes leads them to prison, belonging to a political party devoted to fanning the flames of a moral panic about the other side trafficking children.

The recent news of Stop The Steal organizer Ali Alexander’s habit of grooming teenage boys for sex -- he solicited dick pics from a number of them by text — got me thinking about this crazy confluence of desire and denial among the hard right herd.

A casual search hauls up an astonishing number of rightist characters from Dixie to DC to the Dakotas who have quite recently, many within the last five years, resigned from office or political jobs, or pled guilty, or been convicted, and are in prison. I’ll flip thorough the rogue’s galley quickly and then discuss what this is. Details are lurid. If you really want more, links are in the resource list at the end.

In Washington, last April, a jury convicted anti-abortion activists and former Republican National Committee staff member, Ruben Verastigui, was caught in a federal sting of a ring of men that traded child porn, including of babies. He admitted to possession of 152 videos and 50 images of child pornography and to receiving and distributing sexual depictions of children. He is serving a 12 and a half year prison sentence.

Two months ago, in Minnesota, a jury convicted Republican political operative Anton Lazzaro of seven counts involving child sex trafficking of 15 and 16 year old girls. Lazzaro “conspired with others to recruit and solicit six people under the age of 18 to engage in commercial sex” between May and December of 2020. Some of the victims testified that he would take them to his luxury Minneapolis condo and feed them Everclear, a 190 proof booze. Each of the seven counts carries a ten year mandatory sentence.

In Oklahoma, former Republican state senator Ralph Shortey was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison in 2018, on a child sex trafficking charge. Shortey was a county campaign coordinator for Trump in 2016. He pled guilty to child sex trafficking after being accused of soliciting sex from a 17-year-old boy in March. Shortey had voted for a measure the Oklahoma legislature passed that would allow business owners to discriminate against gay people.

Clockwise from top left: Folmer, Neal, Lazzaro, Pressler, Moore, Verastigui, Shortey, Koskan. Center: Trump kissing a teen.Image from American Political Freakshow

In Pennsylvania in 2019, Republican state senator Mike Folmer resigned after being arrested and charged with possession of child porn for uploading images to a Tumblr account in 2019. He spent a year in prison and now must keep authorities apprised of his whereabouts.

In Tennessee last May, federal prosecutors charged Putnam County Commissioner Jimmy Ray Neal with possession and distribution of child pornography. He allegedly went by the handle “Tennesseemaster” on an app used to share pictures of pre-pubescent children.

Last November, Joel Koskan, running for the third time as a Republican candidate for the South Dakota legislature, was charged with felony child abuse, after a family member reported that he groomed, molested, and raped her for years, starting when she was 12.

One state closer to Canada, in North Dakota, last spring, the state’s longest serving state senator, Ray Holmberg, resigned after reports that he exchanged a stream of text messages with a man jailed on child porn charges. Holmberg exchanged 72 text messages with Nicholas James Morgan-Derosier, who prosecutors say possessed several thousand images and videos depicting sexually abused children and took two children under the age of 10 from Minnesota to his Grand Forks home, with the intent of sexually abusing them. Holmberg said he couldn’t recall, but thought the texts exchanges were about a patio.

In Texas, anti-gay activist and one-time chairman of the Houston area Republican Party, Jared Woodfill, conceded in a deposition that he ignored complaints about the behavior of his law partner, the Baptist preacher Paul Pressler, with young men. A young man accused Pressler of repeatedly raping him in a church youth group. Woodfill had been informed that the preacher was a predator, who liked to tell young men lewd stories about men “naked on beaches” trying to lure them to skinny dip at his ranch.

In 2020, Trump campaign operative George Nader pled guilty to child porn and sex trafficking and was sentenced to ten years in prison. Prosecutors accused him of possessing pornographic images of children including some featuring toddler-age boys, baby goats, and other farm animals, and of arranging to transport a 14-year-old boy from the Czech Republic to his Washington home.

Trumpworld was creepy with men who had a thing for teens, starting with 45 himself. Alabama’s 2018 U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, was a notorious teen-girl harasser. Six women accused him of pursuing sex with them when they were as young as 14. Moore was so aggressive toward high school girls that a local mall actually banned him, according to the New York Times.

The revelations did not lose him Trump’s endorsement.

An Uncle Fester getting gnarled hands on a nubile is nothing new in conservative circles. The OG of Republican perviness was the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC), whose sex with a 15-year-old produced a child when he was in his 20s, and who went on to marry women one half and one third his age. Former Rep. Dennis Hastert, the longest serving Republican House Speaker, pled guilty to trying to pay a almost a million dollars in hush money to a teen wrestler he sexually abused while a wrestling coach in Illinois between 1965 bands 1981. At least six Republican Congressmen pleaded with the judge to give him leniency.

Is it just a coincidence that the rash of recent arrests and revelations about Republicans came in the wake of the election of a man who has bragged about walking in on half-naked Miss Teen USA’s getting dressed when they were in his pageants? Might there be something in the MAGA water?

Fascist author and pseudonymous Twitter personality Bronze Age Pervert, intellectual leader of young rightists, in his book Bronze Age Mindset, classifies humanity into three categories: superior men who "desire one thing above all, ever-flowing eternal fame among mortals," natural “bugmen,” dullards and serfs who make up the majority of men, and an intermediate class who alternate between serving the natural aristocracy and enforcing the hierarchy. In the Bronze Age Mindset, women “drain” men of their vitality and are responsible for all the world’s problems.

In the actual Bronze Age, slavery was common, girls were marriageable at 12 and probably younger, first cousins married each other, and females had little agency about who they had sex with. BAP, as he’s known, doesn’t explicitly say it, but an element of the Bronze Age Mindset’s vital male is that he be free to do what he wants with and to the bodies of “lesser” people - usually women, but also, perhaps, children, male or female.

This fantasy appeals beyond incel circles. As feminism empowered adult women, it has become more difficult to carry them off into proverbial caves. Are these self-considered superior men - -the Matt Gaetzes of the world, say -- turning to younger and younger girls?

The right studiously ignores this flaw in their project of elevating the neolithic male model. They blame liberals for a supposed epidemic of child sexualization, while in their ranks, sex criminals are going to prison.

State and federal laws apparently haven’t caught up with the Neanderthal trend.

I am not the first to point out that moral panics, like QAnon’s about children, erupt regularly in response to threatening social change. I recommend terrific discussions about how women going to work gave rise to Satanic panic hysteria in day care centers during the 1980s on the Conspirituality podcast. There are also many great essays, including one in Mother Jones, from which I excerpt:

With Pizzagate and QAnon, the molesters have changed from day-care workers to the liberal elite, and the politics behind the theories now are more explicitly spelled out. But the general context is more or less the same: conservative retrenchment after a period of progressive social gains. If women’s entry into the workplace in the latter half of the 20th century triggered deep anxieties about the decay of traditional gender roles and the family unit, in the 21st century it was same-sex marriage, growing acceptance of transgender rights, and the seeming cultural hegemony of a social justice agenda.

The twisted reality of conservative attitudes toward sex, women and children means that even as their ranks are infiltrated with pervs, they consistently use supposed dangers to women and children as a political cudgel against the other side. “I’ve noticed an alarming pattern when it comes to Judge Jackson’s treatment of sex offenders, especially those preying on children,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) tweeted before the Ketanji Brown Jackson Supreme Court confirmation hearings. “Judge Jackson has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker.”

In fact that was a lie.

Republicans are the strongest defenders of Lolita-loving state laws allowing child marriage. Between 2000 and 2018, 300,000 girls between age 15 and 17 were married in the U.S. A significant portion of them -- 60,000 -- were under the age of sexual consent in their states. “Run Josh Run” Hawley hails from the great state of Missouri, which just happens to be a “destination wedding spot for 15-year-old brides,” per the Kansas City Star.

Hawley’s Deliverance home state had such lax laws about girl-man marriage that between 2000 and 2014, thousands of children were legally married there, many of them impregnated teens. The state recently increased its legal marriage age to 16, against the objections of legislators who openly supported child marriage. During recent debate about anti-transgender care legislation, one of them, Sen. Mike Moon, doubled down again apropos of parents’ rights to marry off (heterosexually of course) their children, whenever they want. Moon, who had voted no on the bill to raise the marriage age from 15 to 16, asked the legislature, “Do you know any kids who have been married at age 12?” When one of his colleagues replied, “I don’t need to.,” Moon -- a Republican, of course -- replied: “I do, and guess what, they’re still married.”

Related resources

Mike Folmer

Ruben Verastigui

Ralph Shortey

Woodfill and Pressler

Joel Koskan

George Nader

Jimmy Ray Neal

Ray Holmberg

Ali Alexander

Rep. Mike Moon

Conspirituality podcast (I recommend the episodes on “Michelle Remembers” and recovered memory connections to Satanic panics.

Strom Thurmond’s Lolita

Mother Jonesessay on moral panics

Child marriage in America

Nina Burleigh is a a journalist, author, documentary producer, and publisher ofAmerican Political Freakshow, a Substack on politics. Her journalism has been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Airmail, and New York. She is the author of seven books including most recently Virus: Vaccinations, the CDC, and the Hijacking of America's Response to the Pandemic and an adjunct professor at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

Please consider subscribing to American Political Freakshow, from which this is reprinted with permission.

Transforming The United States Into The Republic Of Gilead

Transforming The United States Into The Republic Of Gilead

Ever since the early morning hours of November 9, 2016, standing in a ballroom with red-hatted Trump election celebrants in the New York Hilton, I’ve been waiting for this moment. This eruption of misogyny, unlike any since perhaps the witch trials and the burnings of midwives at the stake, was only a matter of time.

As shocking, as wildly insulting as that pussy-grabber winning the presidency was to American women and girls, it was just the beginning of what appears to be a long season of sadism.

Who Let The Dogs Out?

The election of Donald Trump signaled a cutting of the chain-link fence behind which something drooling and ferocious had been waiting. Unfortunately, what most of us didn’t fully grasp then was just how powerful that force of (male) nature was. Too late we understood that it had been long licking its wounds in a dark corner gathering strength. We sensed it for years, of course, but we didn’t know just how feral and hungry it might prove to be.

Remember the things that once had the power to shock us? They seem so meh now:American voters electing to the highest office in the land someone credibly accused of sexual harassment and assault, on record advising a younger man to “grab ’em by the pussy.” And that was after a presidential campaign in which he and his supporters had showered his female (“rhymes with witch”) opponent with profane misogynistic abuse.

Soon, The Donald and his followers had normalized everyday misogyny, celebrating their leader’s tendency to reduce all women to strip-club sexual attractiveness. Mini-Trumps sprouted in lesser elected positions across the country, publicly calling elected women or those campaigning for office witches and worse. We even got used to the seating of a new rightist Supreme Court with, for added insult, one new justice credibly accused of sexual assault and another a member of a religious cult that called women “handmaidens.”

Meh, meh. That, too, it turns out, was just the beginning.

We’re now living in the after-times of all that the Trump years unleashed.

In 1991, Susan Faludi wrote a book, Backlash:The Undeclared War Against Women, chronicling the ways in which the patriarchy was then fighting to reverse the gains made by our mothers and grandmothers. They were the ones who had braved public scorn in their struggle to pull American women out of their assigned roles as pointy-bra-wearing, breathy vixens consigned to housewifery or professional lives as secretaries, nurses, or at best teachers.

Faludi was spot on, of course. Sadly, though, the backlash of the 1980s she chronicled would prove to be just a prologue. Having had it named for us, you might think we could have checked that backlash and maintained momentum toward gender equality. Who in the 1990s could have imagined a day when elected men in at least 25 states would be legally enabled to force raped women to give birth or prevent doctors from performing procedures to save women likely to die of pregnancy? Who could have predicted the level of hatred toward women embodied in those very statutes and openly spoken of without shame or hesitation by elected leaders?

Obviously, we should have known better.

The change that felt so natural to those of us who came of age between 1970 and the turn of the century was not natural to them. Not even faintly. Never in recorded history had there been such an upending of patriarchal power as in the years when we grew up. We tend to take it all for granted, but the challenge to male power from the successes of second-wave feminism (and access to birth-control options) was indeed unique.

The facts speak for themselves: A majority of women now work outside the home, and we outnumber men in college attendance, too — signaling even greater numbers of women who should be able to rely economically on themselves instead of male partners. American women were enabled to escape lives of utter dependence on men, precisely because we had access to contraceptives and abortion, and for the first time in history were able to control if, when, and with whom we would bear children.

All that represented serious, deeply meaningful change. It altered the way young women and young men interacted, sexually and socially. Admittedly, we are still far from parity. The development of Silicon Valley, another economic revolution like the industrial one, created a new flood of male-only economic dynasties that once again shut out women (who weren’t wives) from the upper reaches of the economy. But the trend lines in general were upending eons of power relations between men and women at the most intimate, domestic level.

It was only a matter of time — and we should have known it — before such advances provoked the beast. The election of Donald Trump provided a green light for the release of sick, dark fantasies of revenge and a resurgence of the apparently ineradicable urge among some men to rule women utterly and completely.

The Predator’s Ball

I’ve always found the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale to be unwatchable, misogynistic torture porn. As a young English major in the 1980s, I read Margaret Atwood’s novel. I understood it then as a dystopic satire on the theocratic woman-controlling impulses already bubbling up around the edges of American society, which that Canadian writer had creatively taken to their logical conclusion.

The streaming series, however, was something else. The graphic and repeated scenes of actress Elisabeth Moss’s subjection as Offred, including the rapes and various bloody mutilations and punishments visited on her and her sister handmaidens, all converged into a category of visual titillation that went straight to the amygdala. I could imagine men who didn’t find such visual crap as impossible to watch as I did.

The fact that the producers were men had, I’m sure, something to do with the tone.

But today, the horror is this: it’s not confined to a Hulu series anymore. The extreme right in American politics is openly working off the playbook of Atwood’s fictional Republic of Gilead. Its urge is to construct an all-American theocracy in which the Old Testament Biblical rights of men to control women as reproductive chattel are restored to them.

There was a time not that long ago when American women could assume our foes were safely isolated in pockets of lunacy like Missouri, where 2012 Republican Senate nominee Todd Akin famously suggested that rape can sometimes prevent pregnancy. Another example: Nevada, where a 2010 anti-abortion Tea Party candidate explained her “no exceptions for incest” position by suggesting that girls impregnated by their own fathers should remember that “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

We laughed at them then. But the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade has emboldened those freaks to leave their hidey-holes and, as Dr. Phil might put it, open up about their true feelings.

Let’s start with Charlie Kirk, Jr., the co-founder of Turning Point USA (TPUSA), which exists mainly to bus conservative college students to fill seats at Trump rallies or form media-attracting long lines to shake hands with Marjorie Taylor Greene and harass progressive college professors.

Kirk has a podcast and a massive social media following. On June 24, in the giddy aftermath of the Roe decision, he gushed about his feelings to his 1.7 million Twitter followers this way (italics mine): “Notice who is marching in the streets: single, unmarried, mostly white, college educated women. Frankly it’s foolish to call conservatives racist — who we actually can’t stand are angry, liberal, white women.”

He was probably disappointed when he only garnered 6,860 likes.

Kirk and his fellow travelers seem to be engaged in a competition to revile women. A few months before Roe was overturned, former NFL football player and Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Minnesota Matt Birk actually got a twofer by slamming working women and supporting rapists simultaneously. Abortion rights, he said, lead to working women who then “go to the rape card” if abortion is restricted. He added: “It’s not over. Our culture loudly but also stealthily promotes abortion. Telling women they should look a certain way, have careers, all these things.”

Have careers, and all these things.

At Charlie Kirk’s recent TPUSA convention in Tampa, Florida, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz brayed to a roomful of young men and women this way: “Why is it that the women with the least likelihood of getting pregnant are the ones most worried about having abortions? Nobody wants to impregnate you if you look like a thumb.” (Try to imagine the pasted-on cheerleader smiles of the women in his audience listening to that.)

Who cares about words, though, when sticks and stones — and laws — actually break our bones (or cause us to bleed to death)? Straight from the Gilead playbook, the theocrats are trying to force women who need abortions to stay within the restrictive borders of their states. You don’t even need to imagine how closely this tracks with scenes in Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale. A liberal/left-leaning political advocacy group, Meidas Touch, has created a little video clip to help you see it all too graphically.

In the past few weeks alone:

Texas Attorney General and indicted securities fraudster Ken Paxton sued the federal government to stop the implementation of the Biden administration’s requirement that abortions be performed in case of emergency, when the life of a mother is at stake. Texas is officially on record now, working in the courts to make sure women likely to die of pregnancy actually do so.

Idaho Republicans rejected a measure to allow a life-saving abortion. The man behind the proposal to criminalize all abortions from the moment of conception, Scott Herndon, is running unopposed for a state senate seat. He called it a “declaration of the right to life for reborn children.”

Or look to Texas again for proof that “pro-life” care for the “pre-born” child is a lie and not the real reason for the race to control uteri. A recent Texas Tribune/ProPublicainvestigation revealed that ironclad anti-abortion Texas is one of just a few states that doesn’t allow Medicaid coverage for a full year after a poor woman gives birth. How caring!

Democratic and progressive strategists and speechwriters don’t have to look far to find outrageous anecdotes. When President Biden mentioned a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim forced to travel to Indiana for an abortion, the rightwing info-silo, including the Wall Street Journal, promptly cast doubt on the very existence of the child and the rape. When the alleged rapist was arrested, theocrats continued to offer up treacly, sick excuses, dripping with sanctimony, for why even children should be forced to give birth.

“She would have had the baby and, as many women who have had babies as a result of rape, we would hope that she would understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child,” pro-life lawyer and former Indiana deputy attorney general Jim Bopp typically toldPolitico. He was, of course, speaking of that 10 year-old whose medical care he would have wanted to prohibit in his state.

Reports of the post-Roeeffects of care withheld are starting to hit the national news, with bleeding women and those with deadly infections having to wait for legal analyses or travel to distant places to find doctors. As one physician who narrowly saved the life of a miscarrying woman in Texas (having had to wait for the fetal heartbeat to finally stop) put it: “The patient developed complications, required surgery, lost multiple liters of blood, and had to be put on a breathing machine.” Her life was indeed saved, but in our new post-Roe world, barely.

The Disunited States Of Pro-Choice

There is no doubt in my mind (nor in Margaret Atwood’s) that we’re now witnessing a real-life attempt to construct her once-fictional Republic of Gilead in our country. It will be complete with forced birth and rape as a means of master-race reproduction — plus lots and lots of female blood.

On the upside, the insane depredations, verbal and legal, being visited on women in these post-Roe months have already handed the Democrats a wealth of material from which to craft effective messages and potentially gain an edge in the coming midterm elections. The question is: Does the party have the will and skill to do it? If past is prologue, we can’t be sure.

For too long, the onus has been on women to figure out how to protect themselves from fanatical political misogyny. For example, when it comes to abortion, feminist activists have long urged women to “tell” their stories. Some are now bemoaning the fact that not enough of us did so before the Supreme Court overturned Roe.

The logic here is that if more women talked openly about their experiences, we would “normalize” that procedure. But is that true? Why should women have to “share” personal information in order to sustain our privacy, a right we actually possess, whether secured by law or not?

Our abortion stories couldn’t convert Justice Amy Coney Barrett or deter any other fanatical fetal rights activists from their appointed task before Roe was overturned. And why, in any case, should women ever have to discuss personal reproductive options and decisions outside a doctor’s office?

There is one exception. Survivors of illegal abortions do a service to the cause by sharing these stories. I recommend, for instance, French writer Annie Ernaux’s book The Happening, a short chronicle of her botched back-alley abortion in Paris in 1964. That bloody, terrifying account ranks with the most harrowing war stories ever written.

When abortion is relegated to dirty back rooms, women’s bodies become literal combat zones. The most resonant line among many comes when Ernaux describes the searing pain of a fake doctor inserting a tube into her uterus to start the process. “At that point I killed my mother inside me,” she writes.

A legion of organizations is now coalescing to assist women who will need abortions in the half of America where they’ll be faced with the same horrific choice Ernaux survived. (Some of those efforts are aggregated here and here.)

Doctors, to their credit, seem to be stepping up for women. The American Medical Association (AMA) issued a strong statement opposing the politicization of reproductive medicine. Its president, Jack Resneck, has warned lawmakers of the challenges they’re creating for doctors. The problem is, it might not matter. Like the American Bar Association’s declining influence in the selection of federal judges — unprecedented numbers of Trump’s appointees were deemed unqualified by that group — the AMA has limited influence in a world where significant numbers of the info-silo’ed believe Covid-19 is a hoax and the vaccines for it contain tracking microchips.

Politically, doctors aren’t going to save us anyway. For too long, even at the greatest women’s march of my adult lifetime, the anti-Trump protest in Washington on January 17, 2017, women have presented a disunited front. The history of the fracturing of the women’s movement is long and sad. Discussions of it are fraught territory, mined with political IEDs that I’d rather avoid. I’ll only say this: Why is it that Congress instantly got moving on the gay marriage law after Roe was overturned (and yes, I’m for it!), when it can’t even get the basics for women passed in the federal Women’s Health Protection act. (The Senate has blocked it twice already.)

The answer, at least in part: advocacy solely for women is always easier to defeat than advocacy for issues that also involve men.

Furthermore, we’re weakened from the inside. As Pamela Paul pointed out in a controversial post-Roe New York Timesop-ed on the erasing of women, even Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the ACLU have stopped using the word “women” in discussing abortion in favor of phrases like “pregnant people” or “birthing people.” That the very definition of women is now added to decades of the slicing and dicing of women’s groups into narrower and narrower subdivisions of identity only weakens the movement.

It’s true that heterosexual white women are historically privileged over women of color or of different sexual orientations. But if we can’t even agree that all “women” are ultimately people born with a uterus — a subset of human beings who, whatever our differences in terms of class, race, or ethnicity, share the utterly exceptional, unique challenge of being impregnable — we are going to lose this war.

Copyright 2022 Nina Burleigh

Nina Burleigh is an American political journalist and the author of seven books. Her latest isVirus: Vaccinations, the CDC, and the Hijacking of America's Response to the Pandemic(an updated paperback version was published in July by Seven Stories Press), a real-life thriller that delves into the official malfeasance behind America’s pandemic chaos and the triumph of science in an era of conspiracy theories and contempt for experts.

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch

Here’s Who Got Rich From Trump’s Disastrous Response To The Pandemic

Here’s Who Got Rich From Trump’s Disastrous Response To The Pandemic

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch

Now that we're all unmasking and the economy seems set to roar into the 2020s, what will we remember about how disastrously, how malignantly, the Trump administration behaved as the pandemic took hold? And will anyone be held to account for it?

The instinct to forget pandemics, as I've pointed out when it came to the 1918 "Spanish flu," has historically been strong indeed. In these years, the urge to forget official malfeasance and move on has, it turns out, been at least as strong. Washington's failure to investigate and bring to account those who led the nation and ultimately the world into the folly of the Iraq War may be the most egregious recent example of this.

In the end, that's why I wrote my new book Virus — to memorialize a clear and accessible historical record of the deliberate and deadly decision-making that swept us all into a kind of hell. I had the urge to try to stop what happened to us from being instantly buried in the next round of daily reporting or, as appears likely now, relegated to the occasional voluminous government or foundation report on how to do things better.

In the early months of 2020, as rumors of distant death morphed into announcements of an imminent pandemic, followed by a patchwork of state and local lockdowns, most Americans were too stunned by daily events to absorb the bigger picture. Memories of those days still click by like surreal snapshots: prepper shopping, toilet-paper hoarders, forklifts moving bodies into refrigerated trucks, and a capricious leader on TV night after endless night talking about quack cures, his own ratings, and how he "liked the numbers low." Meanwhile, he left desperate states to compete with each other for badly needed protective gear.

What looked like chaos or ad hoc decision-making by an improbably elected fraudster president was, in fact, deeply rooted in ideology; specifically, in the belief that the job of the government was neither to exercise leadership, nor activate government agencies to assist the American people. It was to promote private industry and its profits as the solution to anything and everything pandemic.

That ideology led to profiteering, politicized science, and mass death. Now, as the pandemic wanes (at least for the time being, though not necessarily for the unvaccinated) in this country, it deserves an investigation. Somewhere between almost 600,000 and more than 900,000Americans have died so far from Covid-19, a significant number of those deaths unnecessary, as even the former administration's medical expert, Dr Deborah Birx, has said.

The virus arrived in America after the Trump administration — steered by right-wing Heritage Foundation policy wonks and their donor-class comrades — had already laid waste to key agencies like Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control. Their instant response to the pandemic was to similarly sideline government emergency-management experts, put inexperienced 20-something volunteers in charge of finding and distributing protective gear, and circulate lists of possible suppliers — one of whom, typically enough, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur with no medical contracting experience, snagged a cool $86-million contract from the state of New York for ventilators he would never deliver.

While most of the country hunkered down in a state of stunned paralysis, a faction of Trumpworld recognized the pandemic not for what it took away — human lives and livelihoods — but for what it offered. The chaos of the moment allowed them to road-test their dream system, to prove once and for all that the forces of supply and demand, the instinct to make a buck, could do a better job managing a natural disaster than the government of the United States and its bureaucrats.

Is any of this likely to be investigated? Will anyone be held accountable for what appears to have been a response deliberately mismanaged by religious zealots and crony capitalists, crews equally cynical about expertise, science, and the government's ability to prevent or ameliorate disaster?

What We Don't Know About The Trump Pandemic Disaster

Here, as a start, is a rundown of where inquiries into that disaster now stand.

Buried in the alphabet soup of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act is the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), established in March 2020 to keep track of the federal money (by now $5.5 trillion) that was to be spent on the pandemic. It's a consortium of agency inspector generals, headed by Michael Horowitz, a career Department of Justice lawyer. His name will be familiar to anyone who followed the Trump-Russia investigations. He produced a report in 2019 that — to the dismay of Trump's supporters — failed to conclude that the FBI had begun investigating connections between Vladimir Putin's Russia and the Trump campaign without legal cause and as a political dirty trick.

PRAC is authorized to conduct oversight of pandemic-related emergency spending of any sort. Its inspector generals have already issued nearly 200 pandemic-related oversight reports and charged 474 people with trying to steal more than $569 million. (Details in its quarterly reports are available online.)

While PRAC has been genuinely nonpartisan in its acts, its focus so far has been on the small fry of the pandemic era, not the truly big fish. In its most recent semi-annual report, for example, it makes clear that 55 percent of its charges had to do with fraud in the Paycheck Protection Program and 40 percent were related to fraudulent unemployment assistance claims. Among the bigger PRAC successes: charging a Texas man in a $24-million Covid-relief fraudulent loan scheme last October and seven men in another fraud scheme in which they used their ill-gotten pandemic gains to buy, among other things, a Porsche and a Lamborghini.

The CARES Act also authorized the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to monitor the federal response to the pandemic. Its most recent semi-annual report included 16 recommendations in selected public-health areas like testing, vaccines, and therapeutics, only one of which has so far been implemented. A source at the GAO told me that a report on some contracting irregularities can be expected this summer.

So far, such government self-assessments have shown little appetite for dealing with the true cronyism, profiteering, and disastrous politicization of the federal pandemic response by Trump's minions. Among the schemes begging for a deeper look is Operation Airbridge. Led by the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, it was an attempt to use federal funds to underwrite the air-shipping costs of private companies in an effort to speed the delivery of the kinds of personal protective equipment that were in such short supply last spring. That unorthodox effort included large no-bid contracts granted to a small group of private health-care companies without restrictions on pricing or even on where the desperately needed products were to be delivered.

In the spring of 2020, as hospital workers began popping up on social media and network news programs clad only in garbage bags and makeshift or reused face masks, sometimes in tears and pleading for help, the White House maintained its focus on private enterprise as the way out of the disaster. The administration called for volunteers to staff what would become another public/private bonanza, the White House Covid-19 Supply Chain Task Force, also helmed by Trump family fixer, Jared Kushner.

We don't know what, if anything, Kushner's group actually accomplished. The audacity of the former administration's disregard for federal rules and regulations coupled with the scale of the no-bid contracts they issued certainly attracted political pushback at the time. Democrats and civil-society groups in Washington filed requests for more information about how such contracts had eluded federal guidelines, and where the supplies actually went.

It's possible, however, that we may never know.

Ventilating Money

In April 2020, a group of Democratic senators led by Elizabeth Warren, citing the administration's secrecy, opened an investigation into the operation. They sent a letter to the six Operation Airbridge beneficiary health-care giants — Cardinal Health, Concordance, Henry Schein, McKesson, Medline, and Owens & Minor — requesting explanations for reports of "political favoritism, cronyism, and price-gouging" in the ongoing supply effort. "Taxpayers have shelled out tens of millions of dollars on this secretive project and they deserve to know whether it actually helped get critical supplies to the areas most in need," Warren said that June.

Three of the six suppliers did, in the end, give the senators copies of memorandums of agreement (MOAs) indicating that they "had complete discretion about how to distribute supplies across hotspot counties" and that "nothing in the MOAs appears to prevent a supplier from sending all of its supplies designated for hotspots to just a single customer in one of the hotspots." The government hadn't, in fact, put any kind of conditions on the cost for that protective equipment and the Trump Justice Department would insist that it was none of its business how suppliers arrived at the prices they charged for it.

Using taxpayer funds to grease private enrichment was, of course, a Trump family tradition, going back to the Eisenhower years when Donald's father, Fred, fleeced the government of millions of dollars in loans aimed at housing World War II veterans. Hauled down to Capitol Hill to explain himself, the New York builder was unrepentant, arguing that a loophole in the law allowed for his private gain and, under such circumstances, only a fool would have left all that money on the table.

What, from the outside, came to look like White House inspired chaos — of which Operation Airbridge was just one example — should, in fact, be seen as a deliberate effort to disengage the federal government and leave the blame and the logistics problems to Covid-afflicted states, at the time mostly run by Democrats.

On March 24, 2020, for instance, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo begged the federal government to help get more ventilators for what was clearly going to be a surge of coronavirus patients. (New York City's health-care system was already overwhelmed by then.) At the time, hooking patients up to ventilators seemed like the best way to go, though doctors later realized that, for many patients, the tricky disease could be foiled earlier with anticlotting and steroid medication.

"How can you have New Yorkers possibly dying because they can't get a ventilator?" asked Cuomo. Three days later, Trump tweeted, "General Motors must… start making ventilators, now! Ford, get going on ventilators, fast!"

Yaron Oren-Pines, an electrical engineer for tech firms like Google, tweeted back at the president, "We can supply ICU ventilators, invasive and non-invasive." Within days, he turned up on a list vetted by Kushner's team of volunteers and, at their recommendation, officials in New York closed a deal with him.

The only problem: Oren-Pines had no ventilators and had never been in the medical supply business. When he failed to deliver on the $86 million deal, Wells Fargo froze his account and New York canceled the order, demanding the money back, though by summer 2020, it had yet to collect a final $10 million.

The Great Forgetting?

In addition to making various large or politically well-connected health-care companies far wealthier, the administration also lavished staggering billions on a small group of Big Pharma firms for Operation Warp Speed, the project it backed to develop vaccines and medicines to treat Covid-19. Those contracts, too, were written outside normal government channels and the companies themselves were chosen by a panel of industry insiders without any oversight. Many of them stood to (and did) profit from the soaring stock prices of those firms when the news about clinical trial successes was released.

In November 2020, to launch an investigation into that situation, Senator Warren teamed up with Representative Katie Porter (D-CA) to request copies of all federal contracts for Covid-19 therapeutics and vaccines. "The American people," they stated, "deserve to know that the federal government is using their tax dollars to develop Covid-19 medical products at the best possible price for the public — not to line the pockets of wealthy companies by cutting corners in consumer protection, pricing, and quality."

Warren raised questions about a Department of Health and Human Services deal with Gilead Sciences for the pandemic therapeutic remdesivir (part of the "cocktail" of drugs administered to Donald Trump and other Republican insiders like Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani when they got Covid). HHS had indeed acquired a large supply of remdesivir at an exorbitant cost to American taxpayers and Gilead itself would charge American hospitals $3,200 per treatment for it, $860 more than its price in other developed countries.

In addition to Warren, who sent a letter to the administration requesting information on HHS's pricing negotiations with Gilead for the drug, other people also stood up. Whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA), for instance, filed a whistleblower complaint alleging that Dr. Robert Kadlec, a Trump HHS political appointee, had engaged in multiple schemes to funnel contracts to politically connected companies — and that this had begun even before the pandemic was even a reality. According to Bright, Kadlec then pushed him out of the government, despite the fact that federal law officially protects whistleblowers.

In his complaint, among other things, Bright alleged that in 2017, a Kadlec friend and Big Pharma consultant pressured the agency to maintain a contract with a company owned by a friend of Jared Kushner's, even after an independent review determined it should be cancelled. Bright testified before Congress, and the fate of his whistleblower suit remains to be litigated.

As for the rest of the inquiries, so far, money and power appear to have eluded the investigators. It's unclear whether Senator Warren's and Representative Porter's requests met with any response from the former administration, or even whether they've continued their inquiry into Big Pharma and no-bid contracting. They have made no further announcements and neither office replied to requests for updates.

You won't be surprised to learn, I'm sure, that the name "Jared Kushner" is so far not to be found in GAO or PRAC reports.

The best chance for public accountability — if not legal liability — might be the House of Representatives, especially its Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, launched in April 2020. The Trump administration blew off its subpoenas for former HHS Secretary Alex Azar and then-CDC Director Robert Redfield to testify in December 2020, and blocked documents and witnesses related to politicized data, testing, and supply shortages, among other areas of inquiry. But the subcommittee did manage to expose emails from Trump political appointees, revealing efforts to skew CDC data. It is also investigating some whopping no-bid or sole-contractor deals that the former administration cut with preferred businesses. One was a $354-million four-year contract awarded on a non-competitive basis to PHLOW, which was incorporated in January 2020 to manufacture generic medicines to fight Covid. It's the largest contract ever awarded by BARDA and includes a 10-year option worth $812 million.

And the House has continued to seek transparency. According to a Brookings House Oversight Tracker, as of March 2021, 30 percent of congressional oversight letters and 40 percent of its hearings were related to the federal government's pandemic response. But there are signs that the Biden administration, while more cooperative, is not eager to force agencies to comply with requests the previous administration ignored.

My sense is that the emergency created by the insurrection at the Capitol last January and the desperate need of the new Biden administration to have palpable policy achievements in order to do well in election 2022 has taken the steam out of any inclination to dig deeper into the profiteering, cronyism, political scheming, and chaos with which the Trump administration met the Covid-19 virus. It went far deeper than an article like this can possibly indicate, leaving so many hundreds of thousands of potentially unnecessary deaths in its wake.

Think of it as a memory hole, still brimming with schemes and money.

Nina Burleigh, a TomDispatch regular, is a journalist of American politics and the author of six previous books. Her seventh, Virus: Vaccinations, the CDC, and the Hijacking of America's Response to the Pandemic(just published by Seven Stories Press) is a real-life thriller that delves into the official malfeasance behind America's pandemic chaos and the triumph of science in an era of conspiracy theories and contempt for experts.

The World Is Temporarily Closed

Why We Forgot Past Pandemics — And Must Remember This One

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch

The second Moderna shot made me sick — as predicted. A 24-hour touch of what an alarmed immune system feels like left me all the more grateful for my good fortune in avoiding the real thing and for being alive at a time when science had devised a 95 percent effective vaccine in record time.

To distract myself from the fever as I tried to sleep, I visualized strands of synthetic messenger RNA floating into my cells to produce the alien spike protein that attracted my warrior T-cells. I drifted off envisioning an epic micro-battle underway in my blood and had a series of weird nightmares. At about 2 a.m., I woke up sweating, disoriented, and fixated on a grim image from one of the studies I had consulted while writing my own upcoming book, Virus: Vaccinations, the CDC, and the Hijacking of America's Response to the Pandemic, on the Covid-19 chaos of our moment. In his Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine's Greatest Lifesaver, Arthur Allen described how, in the days of ignorance — not so very long ago — doctors prescribed "hot air baths" for the feverish victims of deadly epidemics of smallpox or yellow fever, clamping them under woolen covers in closed rooms with the windows shut.

Mildly claustrophobic in the best of times, my mind then scrabbled to other forms of medical persecution I'd recently learned about. In the American colonies of the early 18th century, for example, whether or not to take the Jenner cowpox vaccine was a matter of religious concern. Puritans were taught that they would interfere with God's will if they altered disease outcomes. To expiate that sin, or more likely out of sheer ignorance, medical doctors of the day decreed that the vaccine would only work after weeks of purging, including ingesting mercury, which besides making people drool and have diarrhea, also loosened their teeth. "Inoculation meant three weeks of daily vomiting, purges, sweats, fevers," Allen wrote.

To clear my thoughts, to forget, I opened my window, let in the winter air, and breathed deep. I then leaned out into the clean black sky of the pandemic months, the starlight brighter since the jets stopped flying and we ceased driving, as well as burning so much coal.

Silence. An inkling of what the world might be like without us.

Chilled, I lay back down and wondered: What will the future think of us in this time? Will people recoil in horror as I had just done in recalling, in feverish technicolor, the medically ignorant generations that came before us?

The Glorious Dead

When America reached the half-million-dead mark from Covid-19 at the end of February, reports compared the number to our war dead. The pandemic had by then killed more Americans than had died in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined — and it wasn't done with us yet. But the Covid dead had not marched into battle. They had gone off to their jobs as bus drivers and nurses and store clerks, or hugged a grandchild, or been too close to a health-care worker who arrived at a nursing home via the subway.

Every November 11, on Veterans Day, our world still remembers and celebrates the moment World War I officially ended. But the last great pandemic, the influenza epidemic of 1918-1920 that became known as "the Spanish flu" (though it wasn't faintly Spain's fault, since it probably began in the United States), which infected half a billion people on a far less populated planet, killing an estimated 50 million to 100 million of them — including more soldiers than were slaughtered in that monumental war — fell into a collective memory hole.

When it was over, our grandparents and great-grandparents turned away and didn't look back. They simply dropped it from memory. Donald Trump's grandfather's death from the Spanish flu in 1919 changed the fortunes of his family forever, yet Trump never spoke of it — even while confronting a similar natural disaster. Such a forgetting wasn't just Trumpian aberrance; it was a cultural phenomenon.

That virus, unlike Covid-19, mainly killed young healthy people. But there are eerie, even uncanny, similarities between the American experience of that pandemic and this one. In the summer of 1919, just after the third deadly wave, American cities erupted in race riots. As with the summer of 2020, the 1919 riots were sparked by an incident in the Midwest: a Chicago mob stoned a black teenager who dared to swim off a Lake Michigan beach whites had unofficially declared whites-only. The boy drowned and, in the ensuing week of rioting, 23 blacks and 15 whites died. The riots spread across the country to Washington, D.C., and cities in Nebraska, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas, with Black veterans who had served in World War I returning home to second-class treatment and an increase in Ku Klux Klan lynchings.

As today, there were similar controversies then over the wearing of masks and not gathering in significant numbers to celebrate Thanksgiving. As in 2020-2021, so in 1918-1919, frontline medics were traumatized. The virus killed within hours or a few days in a particularly lurid way. People bled from their noses, mouths, and ears, then drowned in the fluid that so copiously built up in their lungs. The mattresses on which they perished were soaked in blood and other bodily fluids.

Doctors and nurses could do nothing but bear witness to the suffering, much like the front-liners in Wuhan and then New York City in the coronavirus pandemic's early days. Unlike today, perhaps because it was wartime and any display of weakness was considered bad, the newspapers of the time also barely covered the suffering of individuals, according to Alex Navarro, editor-in-chief of the University of Michigan'sInfluenza Encyclopedia about the 1918 pandemic. Strangely enough, even medical books in the following years barely covered the virus.

Medical anthropologist Martha Louise Lincoln believes the tendency to look forward — and away from disaster — is also an American trait. "Collectively, we obviously wrongly shared a feeling that Americans would be fine," Lincoln said of the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. "I think that's in part because of the way we're conditioned to remember history… Even though American history is full of painful losses, we don't take them in."

Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland argues that pandemic forgetting is a human response to seemingly pointless loss, as opposed to a soldier's death. "A mass illness does not invite that kind of remembering," he wrote. "The bereaved cannot console themselves that the dead made a sacrifice for some higher cause, or even that they were victims of an epic moral event, because they did not and were not."

Instead, to die of Covid-19 is just rotten luck, something for all of us to forget.

Who Will Ask Rich Men To Sacrifice?

Given the absence of dead heroes and a certain all-American resistance to pointless tragedy, there are other reasons we, as Americans, might not look back to 2020 and this year as well. For one thing, pandemic profiteering was so gross and widespread that to consider it closely, even in retrospect, might lead to demands for wholesale change that no one in authority, no one in this (or possibly any other recent U.S. government) would be prepared or motivated to undertake.

In just the pandemic year 2020, this country's billionaires managed to add at least a trillion dollars to their already sizable wealth in a land of ever more grotesque inequality. Amazon's Jeff Bezos alone packed in another $70 billion that year, while so many other Americans were locked down and draining savings or unemployment funds. The CEOs of the companies that produced the medical milestone mRNA vaccines reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in profits by timing stock moves to press releases about vaccine efficacy.

No one today dares ask such rich men to sacrifice for the rest of us or for the rest of the world.

The pandemic might, of course, have offered an opportunity for the government and corporate leaders to reconsider the shareholder model of for-profit medicine. Instead, taxpayer money continued to flow in staggering quantities to a small group of capitalists with almost no strings attached and little transparency.

A nation brought to its knees may not have the resources, let alone the will, to accurately remember how it all happened. Congress is now investigating some of the Trump administration's pandemic deals. The House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis has uncovered clear evidence of its attempts to cook and politicize data. And Senator Elizabeth Warren led somewhat fruitful efforts to expose deals between the Trump administration and a small number of health-care companies. But sorting through the chaos of capitalist mischief as the pandemic hit, all those no-bid contracts cut without agency oversight, with nothing more than a White House stamp of approval affixed to them, will undoubtedly prove an Augean stables of a task.

In addition, looking too closely at the tsunami of money poured into Big Pharma that ultimately did produce effective vaccines could well seem churlish in retrospect. The very success of the vaccines may blunt the memory of that other overwhelming effect of the pandemic, which was to blow a hole in America's already faded reputation as a health-care leader and as a society in which equality (financial or otherwise) meant anything at all.

Forgetting might prove all too comfortable, even if remembering could prompt a rebalancing of priorities from, for instance, the military-industrial complex, which has received somewhere between 40 percent and 70 percent of the U.S. discretionary budget over the last half century, to public health, which got three percent to six percent of that budget in those same years.

The Most Medically Protected Generation

For most Americans, the history of the 1918 flu shares space in that ever-larger tomb of oblivion with the history of other diseases of our great-grandparents' time that vaccines have now eradicated.

Until the 20th century, very few people survived childhood without either witnessing or actually suffering from the agonies inflicted by infectious diseases. Parents routinely lost children to disease; people regularly died at home. Survivors — our great-grandparents — were intimately acquainted with the sights, smells, and sounds associated with the stages of death.

Viewed from above, vaccines are a massive success story. They've been helping us live longer and in states of safety that would have been unimaginable little more than a century ago. In 1900, U.S. life expectancy was 46 years for men and 48 for women. Someone born in 2019 can expect to live to between 75 and 80 years old, although due to health inequities, lifespans vary depending on race, ethnicity, and gender.

The scale of change has been dramatic, but it can be hard to see. We belong to the most medically protected generation in human history and that protection has made us both complacent and risk averse.

The history of 20th-century vaccine developments has long seesawed between remarkable advances in medical science and conspiracy theories and distrust engendered by its accidents or failures. Almost every new vaccine has been accompanied by reports of risks, side effects, and sometimes terrible accidents, at least one involving tens of thousands of sickened people.

Children, however, are now successfully jabbed with serums that create antibodies to hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis — all diseases that well into the 20th century spread through communities, killing babies or permanently damaging health. A number of those are diseases that today's parents can barely pronounce, let alone remember.

Remembering Is The Way Forward

The catastrophe of the Spanish flu globally and in this country (where perhaps 675,000 Americans were estimated to have died from it) had, until Covid-19 came along, been dropped in a remarkable manner from American memory and history. It lacked memorial plaques or a day of remembrance, though it did leave a modest mark on literature. Pale Horse, Pale Rider, Katherine Anne Porter's elegiac short story, for instance, focused on how the flu extinguished a brief wartime love affair between two young people in New York City.

We are very likely to overcome the virus at some point in the not-too-distant future. As hard as it might be to imagine right now, the menace that shut down the world will, in the coming years, undoubtedly be brought to heel by vaccines on a planetary scale.

And in this, we've been very, very lucky. Covid-19 is relatively benign compared with an emergent virus with the death rates of a MERS or Ebola or even, it seems, that 1918 flu. As a species, we will survive this one. It's been bad — it still is, with cases and hospitalizations remaining on the rise in parts of this country — but it could have been so much worse. Sociologist and writer Zeynep Tufekci has termed it "a starter pandemic." There's probably worse ahead in a planet that's under incredible stress in so many different ways.

Under the circumstances, it's important that we not drop this pandemic from memory as we did the 1918 one. We should remember this moment and what it feels like because the number of pathogens waiting to jump from mammals to us is believed to be alarmingly large. Worse yet, modern human activity has made us potentially more, not less, vulnerable to another pandemic. A University of Liverpool study published in February 2021 found at least 40 times more mammal species could be infected with coronavirus strains than were previously known. Such a virus could easily recombine with any of them and then be passed on to humanity, a fact researchers deemed an immediate public health threat.

In reality, we may be entering a new "era of pandemics." So suggests a study produced during an "urgent virtual workshop" convened in October 2020 by the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (ISPBES) to investigate the links between the risk of pandemics and the degradation of nature. Due to climate change, intense agriculture, unsustainable trade, the misuse of land, and nature-disrupting production and consumption habits, more than five new infectious diseases emerge in people every year, any one of which could potentially spark a pandemic.

That ISPBES study predicted that "future pandemics will emerge more often, spread more rapidly, do more damage to the world economy, and kill more people than Covid-19, unless there is a transformative change in the global approach to dealing with infectious diseases."

Is our species capable of such a change? My inner misanthrope says no, but certainly the odds improve if we don't delete this pandemic from history like the last one. This, after all, is the first pandemic in which the Internet enabled us to bear witness not only to the panic, illness, and deaths around us, but to the suffering of our entire species in every part of the globe in real time. Because of that alone, it will be difficult to evade the memory of this collective experience and, with it, the reminder that we are all made of the same vulnerable stuff.

Nina Burleigh is a journalist of American politics and the author of six previous books. Her seventh, Virus: Vaccinations, the CDC, and the Hijacking of America's Response to the Pandemic(Seven Stories Press, to be published May 18th) is a real-life thriller that delves into the official malfeasance behind America's pandemic chaos and the triumph of science in an era of conspiracy theories and contempt for experts.

How That 'Karen' Meme Benefits The Right

How That 'Karen' Meme Benefits The Right

Reprinted with permission from Gen.

I am late to the Karens, which probably makes me Karen-ish - that is, white, middle class, middle-aged, female, college-educated, from Midwestern suburbia, and too distracted to notice. So, when I noticed a Tweeted video that called an obnoxious, mask-defying white woman a "Karen" I asked whether there might not be some actual Karens who did not act like that. I was stupefied at the hostile replies, including one that simply stated, "Because you're fucking white."

I shouldn't have been surprised because targeted abuse of white middle class women of a certain age is sort of the last allowable PC taboo. Online, neither male nor female progressives have a problem with a meme that stereotypes white middle-aged women as entitled, whiny, and stupid at best, racist and obscenely privileged at worst.

One would never see, for example, progressives - or even standard issue conservatives - using "Mohammed" in public as a catchall for terrorists. Everyone accepts that there are lots of Mohammeds who are decent law-abiding men.

Similarly, only the most extreme racists would apply a common African American name to signify and trash the group.

Today, we can't even call the most aggressively offensive president in modern American history, who also happens to be obese, "fat" without being called out for fat-shaming.

But it has never been politically incorrect to trash women as women - that is, women who cannot claim to belong to another disadvantaged group by virtue of race, body weight, sexual preference, or disability.

The tendency to divide women into Cool Girls and uncool women has a long history in art, culture and politics. But in the Trump era, this division has been stoked to the great benefit of the regressive, racist, misogynist forces on the right.

Righteous anger at white women in the Trump resistance originates in the exit polls in November 2016, indicating that 52 percent of white women voted for Trump. Only much later did actual vote counts reveal that white women went 47 percent for Trump, 45 percent for Clinton, still outrageous, but closer to a statistical tie, and only reported much later.

The Trump election was first and foremost, a kick in the face to women. The disastrous effects of the regime on women's rights in law, on the job, and in American society have yet to be fully assessed. Because of what came after - governmental chaos, Nazis on the march, brown children in cages - the problem of Trump to 51 percent of the population receded in relative importance.

But women did not forget. Harvard sociologist Theda Skocpol's studies into the grassroots Trump resistance communities finds middle aged white females have constituted a wide majority among both activists and leadership in groups they studied in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Building on research begun after the Trump inauguration and into the lead-up to 2018 midterms. Skocpol and a team in early 2019 surveyed resistance networks in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin. They found (italics mine) "most participants in resistance groups are middle-aged or older white college-educated women," while male members of local groups were "often partners or friends of the female members," and leadership teams were either all-female or (in two instances) include a woman teamed up with one or two men.

"The 'who" of local anti-Trump organizing is very clear and may come as a surprise to some," Skocpol with colleagues Leah Gose and Vanessa Williamson write in a paper published in Upending American Politics: Polarizing Parties, Ideological Elites and Citizen Activists from the Tea Party to the Anti-Trump Resistance ( Oxford, 2020). "Although national media outlets and researchers have studied national resistance organizations often suggest that anti-Trump activities are spearhead by young people and Americans from minority backgrounds, the vast majority of grassroots resistance group leaders and members are actually white, middle class, college educated women ranging in age from their thirties and forties to retirement years."

The researchers estimated that "across all states and places we know, from two-thirds to 90 percent of volunteer resistance activists are female, white and college-educated.

Political reporters have generally ignored this fact, except for a blip of interest just before the midterms, like this one from the Pacific Standard.

Misogyny has been a problem for the American progressive movement since women eschewed housekeeping and mothering to join men in the revolutionary Sixties. They signed up to fight for civil rights first, but they joined a movement that treated women so abysmally it belied the goals of social justice at which it claimed to aim.

In the anti-war movement, when women objected to being relegated to service roles like typing, a male Berkeley organizer could reply, "Let them eat cock." And get a roomful of guffaws. Civil rights leader Stokely Carmichael famously said, "What is the position of women in SNCC? The position of women in SNCC is prone." At a 1969 convention of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Black Panther Rufus Chaka Walls announced that power for women in the Panthers was limited to "pussy power." When some audience members started chanting "fight male chauvinism!" Walls shouted "Superman was a punk because he never tried to fuck Lois Lane!"

The ideological grandmothers to the progressive women in the Democratic Party today were abused worker bees, assigned traditionally female work like typing or administrative duties, subject to sexual harassment, and ridiculed if they asked for more power. The women's liberation movement was born out of this milieu. If women were oppressed, the New Left reasoned, their problems paled against those of disempowered brown people all over the world. Women's demands could be dealt with after the class struggle had been won. In serving this openly sexist movement with docility as a kind of expiation for white privilege, the women of the New Left practiced intersectional feminism before it was cool.

Over the last half century, progressives achieved some – but not enough - change. Women helped elect the first black President. A gay man ran for president in a major party primary. But the failures of Democratic female presidential aspirations and the breadth of the me-too revelations across the political spectrum have exposed just how little has improved in half a century for women of any race.

The Karens meme was first served up on that smorgasbord of woman-hatred, Reddit, home to adherents of the men's movement, egging on an angry ex-husband whining about an ex named Karen. Reddit's "FuckYouKaren" thread is still replenished regularly with cruelly captioned random pictures of white middle aged women and their ugly haircuts.

The Karen meme is the latest iteration of progressives willing to diss middle aged white women. The Karens are, of course, the most uncool in the hierarchy of cool.

But that's only part of it. There is something more political and malignant afoot. Stereotyping all white women over the age of 30 as incapable of possessing the compassionate imagination to side with the poor and brown (see the recent attack on a novel on Latinx immigrants by a white woman), or just being entitled crypto-racists, serves the right's purposes very nicely. It drives a wedge between two demographics that ought to be natural allies in the Trump resistance - African Americans of all genders and progressive white women of all ages, a significant percentage of whom revile Donald Trump.

The Karen meme especially benefits the right in 2020 because the Trump campaign has long been worried about losing suburban women. Trump is not on target to win the white female vote this time out. Fifty-two percent of white women support Biden, 41 percent Trump (compared to 56 percent of white men, Trump's true base) in latest Quinnipiac poll. According to some assessments, Trump has the lowest approval rating among women of any President since polls began tracking it in the Eisenhower era.

How better to get some of them back than to stoke progressive misogyny and drive a wedge in the resistance? Divide and Conquer 101, a tactic that never fails to stump the diverse left.

Through the mid-20th century, the Democratic Party was the home of the white working class male, with all of the toxic masculinity and racism that goes with that demographic, until they bolted for Ronald Reagan. Ever since 1980, a majority of men have voted Republican for president, while Democratic presidential candidates have won the majority of the female vote. In return, the party's presidential nominees have always supported women's reproductive freedom. But the party's attitudes about women in power have genealogical roots in a misogynist recent past.

Progressive women today field misogynistic attacks from their male comrades, in a way that women on the right never do. In 2020, Sanders' supporters meme'd Elizabeth Warren's face into a mask hiding Hillary Clinton. When the Nevada Culinary Workers of America union criticized Sanders' Medicare for All plan, Sanders' supporters called two female union leaders "whore," "bitch," "corrupt," and "fascist," and then doxxed the women, publishing home addresses and phone numbers.

For anyone paying attention to the Hillary-hate from the left in 2016, this was nothing new. After she dropped out, Warren accused Sanders of not controlling the "organized nastiness" among his supporters. "I'm talking about some really ugly stuff that went on," she said. "It's not just about me." To his credit, Sanders denounced the attacks on Warren and her campaign by those claiming to support him, saying he was "aghast" and "disgusted" by them. But it is also likely that Sanders has a blind spot for sexism, having got his start as an activist in the movement that preferred its women, if not prone, then typing and handling the bills.

Why is misogyny on the political left towards its own women so virulent? The right has an outlet for its misogyny through the antics of toxically masculine Trump and his commodified Vegas show-girl-porn star feminine ideal, exemplified by fashion cypher Melania and bleached and botoxed Foxbots.

The left's misogynists channel their anti-feminist instincts into things like the social media funnel of the Karen meme, taking a common woman's name from a certain era - a name that, it must be said, could be either black or white - and transforming it into a pejorative specifically for white suburban women who, in fact, might well be comrades in arms in the fight against Trumpism. The abuse arguably discourages women from speaking out and participating in the resistance, and serves as a sort of online version of the Saudi religious police whose sticks keep women out of the public square.

This is why I believe the first woman President will come from the right. As progressive women fought for civil rights and against the war, conservatives got behind Phyllis Schlafly, who built a power base promoting traditional female roles, and destroying the ERA. Schlafly's political granddaughters are the millennial women of Trump, women like Trump Senior Advisor Ivanka who give lip service to "empowerment" but work to make their own power palatable to threatened men by literally hobbling themselves in spike heels, adhering to the patriarchy and supporting limits on other women's freedom.

The women of the left today have no similarly effective way to entice retrograde men on their side to be comfortable with their power. They continue to be unsung worker bees of the progressive movement, scorned for whiteness, age, ridiculous clothes and laughable haircuts, and still taking it on the chin for the cause.

Nina Burleigh is an author and national journalist whose latest book, on the Trump women, will be released updated in paperback this fall. www.ninaburleigh.com

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