Van Badham (2021) Quanon and On: A Short and Shocking History of Internet Conspiracy Cults.

‘We elected a meme.’

Conspiracy beliefs eat you from the inside. I know this having been brought up a Roman Catholic. Guardian journalist Van Badham tells the reader her book is about two things, i) the internet, ii) belief. It was personal for her.

‘My interest in the internet’s extremist underworld resulted from my experience of its attacks…I found myself on the very public online radar of misogynists, racists, homophobes and outright fascists. I was the subject of attack videos and hateful memes and subject to constant trolling. In the wake of online attacks came offline too. Parcels of anonymous materials began to appear on my doorstep; my Twitter account was hacked; I was stalked, harassed and attacked in the street. International Neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer published a hit piece with my photograph and a written incitement to run me over in a car.’

I naively believed that at the soon to be President Trump’s rallies the cries of ‘Lock her up! Lock her up!’ was regarding the Democratic Party’s servers being tapped by the Russian state (FSB) and information about her email accounts being passed to followers of the moron’s moron. She’d acted illegally in not securing them, which was a potentially criminal act (but we all know rich people don’t get prosecuted).  Hillary Clinton publicly apologised. But Trump’s followers wanted her locked up for what I thought was a minor misdemeanour. What I didn’t realise was when she ordered pizza, it was a code word for children to be delivered to her and her paedophilic followers, who would rape and eat them. They would also milk them for a substance, a by-product of fear that would give them eternal life. #PizzaGate wasn’t about pizzas. Badham shows that any relationship with badly scripted B-movies and The Matrix is intentional and unintentional.

The $4 million damages awarded against Alex Jones— his defence costs running at $49 million— were the standout tag for public and political theatre. The right-wing profiteer who said the Sandy Hook school shootings were a hoax, and helped propagate the lie using his site InfoWars as an internet megaphone amplifying lie after lie for personal gain was forced to recant.

Jones’s highly priced attorneys made school-boy errors. They released two years’ worth of text messages from his phone to his legal adversaries and then failed to claim client privilege. A counterpoint to Stop the Steal.

Infowars website was making $800 000 a day from merchandising was one of the facts revealed. His net worth $279 million revealed to the parents of a family of a six-year old boy shot and killed and targeted as liars by Jones’s trolling followers.

Alex Jones, like Trump with ‘Stop the Steal’, ran on paranoia and promoted self-serving lies, all the way to the bank, and beyond the Presidency. The show is still running.

Alex Jones was quick to apologise to the bereaved parents of Sandyhook children. He was willing to admit ‘the attack was ‘one hundred percent real’.

Jones also admitted #PizzaGate was a lie. The Ping Pong restaurant run by James Alefantis in Washington, DC, did not have dungeons and basements which ran underground and fed the voracious appetites of Hillary Clinton and her cabal for very young children, who they liked to torture before eating. #PizzaGate: The Bigger Picture on YouTube.

His YouTube messages to his tens of thousands of followers that he was going down there to investigate was also a lie. He’d no intention of visiting. Online activists, digital soldiers, kept the churn going, until Edgar Madison Welch from Salisbury, North Carolina did visit with rifle in hand. He sent a text message to his girlfriend and children. He was ‘Raiding a pedo ring, possibly sacrificing the lives of a few for the lives of many. Standing up against a corrupt regime that kidnaps, tortures and rapes babies and children in our own backyard.’ In other words, Madison Welch was being heroic.

Jones was also forced to apologise for perpetuating lies that a yogurt factory was also a centre for supporting child rapists and the spread of tuberculosis.    

19th August 2020, Joe Biden was announced as the Democratic candidate that would run against Donald J. Trump in the forthcoming election—which he, of course, stole, if you believe the 45th President of the United States and his dim-witted followers.

In the White House, the moron’s moron was asked at a press conference what he thought about QAnon and its followers on social media (and indeed in the White House itself when they invaded it in an attempt to shut down Congress and lynch the Vice President of the disUnited States, Mike Pence).

‘They are people who love their country,’ was the moron’s moron’s reply. Meme speech follows familiar patterns.

When the call came Ashli Babbet and Rosanne Boyland came to Washington, DC, like Maddison Walsh because they saw themselves as heroic. They were willing to die. And they did. Yet they were disowned by QAnon as false-flags. Later to be lionised.

Who or what is QAnon? Van Badham suggests it may have been Steve Bannon. The government insider who played Deepthroat in the deep web of 4chan and 8chan. Or it might have been someone from Breitbart or Cambridge Analytica. Certainly, they had help from Russian FSB. Lieutenant General Flynn is put in the frame. Both received pardons from the then President Trump. Or it may have been lawyers such as Rudy Giuliani. Or it might have been all of them. It didn’t really matter. QAnon went silent after Trump. It helped create a meme as President.

Silicon Valley pioneered computer software to get you clicking on cute cats doing silly things. You became the product. You are part of Big Data sets and A/B testing on server farms.

Amazon, for example, identified me as part of the tens of millions who bought and read Donna Tart’s The Goldfinch. Ninety percent of us finished it.

Amazon knows I’m a sucker for books. I’m also part of the millions of buyers who bought Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Piketty shot down the idea of a trickle-down economics being a shell game using offshore companies to hide profits and help create an ideology that was based on lies. But we lost the propaganda war, by us I mean the poor people that are reliant on wages as their sole source of income and who get to retire when they reach between sixty and sixty-eight (if we’re not dead first). The French economist urged governments to tax the rich. The two leading candidates of the Tory Party vie with each other to go in the other direction. Taxing the poor has always been popular in certain elite groups that don’t eat children.

But Amazon also knows I’m the exception to the rule. Only three percent of those who started Piketty’s book, finished it. I’m glossing over that I forget more than I remember and in an examination I’d fail, but Amazon doesn’t know this. It just quantifies pages turned. And I’m a page turner.

But I’m also part of the growing minority that believes we are living in the end of times. Unchecked global warming will end civilisation in the next fifty years. A YouGov pole at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic found that almost a third of those questioned anticipated a life-changing disaster in their lifetime.

A 2019 survey found that almost half of those polled in US, UK, France and Italy belief that civilisation will collapse in the years to come.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/aug/06/change-is-coming-meet-the-englishman-prepping-for-climate-apocalypse-in-an-old-german-barracks

Conspiracy theories thrive in such an environment of fear. It’s not what you think, but what you feel. Van Badham’s prescient book came out before Alex Jones’s trial. In a way it vindicates her work, but nobody is listening to things they don’t want to hear is the real message of this book. QAnon metamorphoses into something more right-wing and hateful and will go on and on destroying lives. Jones shows were the money and political influence lies. It’s not surprising his phone records have been subpoenaed by Congress investigating the role the 45th President had in insurrection and civil disobedience in Washington, DC.   

Reporting Trump’s First Year: The Forth Estate, BBC 9pm, BBC iPlayer, director and producer Liz Garbus.

reporting trumps first year.jpg

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0b8lfjh/reporting-trumps-first-year-the-fourth-estate-series-1-1-the-first-100-days

The twin problems of Donald J Trump are entwined. Firstly, he is Donald J Trump. Secondly, he is in office as President of the United States.  This four-part documentary follows reporters in the New York Times as they cover the newly inaugurated President. Much of news in online before it reaches print, as is shown here.

Too late. Trump moves faster than any documentary crew and we already feel we know everything we need to know about him. What should be must-see viewing is in reality a yawn fest.

The Fourth Estate and New York Times, in particular, also have a bit of catching up to do. Dewey defeats Trauman, for example, was a banner on the Chicago Tribune, 3rd November 1948. But Harry S Trauman was elected President. A victory none of the print media that helped set trends then saw coming and for many of the same reasons they assumed Hillary Clinton would follow Barack Obama as the forty-fifth President. They didn’t look closely enough at what was happening on the ground.

The comparisons end there. Harry Trauman was a humble working-class man of the people, who took his nation through the years of the Korean War. Let’s hope there’s not another war, and that’s not a given with such a narcissistic psychopath in charge of the most powerful nation on earth’s armoury, or God help us, Armageddon is a possibility.

The Observer front page on the same as day Garbus’s documentary is shown on BBC 2 leads with the headline UK rabbi in genocide warning to Trump. A sidebar announces ‘Dehumanisation has ended in atrocities. May urged to attack child separation policy.’ We all know what happened on the United States and Mexican border. As we all know about Cambridge Analytica stealing data, Russian interference in the election, gaming Facebook and allegations of Trump being human.  Children at the border were separated from their parents. Some of them filmed crying in child-proof cages. One version of this and I can’t be sure of this because I originally heard it on the radio, while driving, was these were child actors. I’d guess that came from Kirsten Nielsen, one of Trump’s mouthpieces. It was even by Trump standards an incredibly stupid thing to say. The picture of a naked nine-year-old girl, Phan Thị Kim Phúc OOnt, burning from Napalm during the Vietnam War led to a similar world-wide backlash. Trump’s eventual step back is partial and grudged, awaiting applause for his humanity.

Trump builds walls and hides behind them, but he loves the camera to be on him. Ronald Reagan, that old B-movie actor from before the Cold War era, knew when to stop acting. He stepped back from his anti-Soviet rhetoric and didn’t go ahead with planned Nato manoeuvres in 1983, when the Russian’s believed they would come under attack. It was on par with the Cuban Missile Crisis.   Trump cannot stop being Trump.

I had plans to write a longer piece around William Empson’s seven types of ambiguity. I’d sketched some ideas working on Trump’s seven types of idiocy. But really, that’s an underestimate. Trump always surprises us. Not in a good way. A human magnet for misery and for all that’s wrong in the world. Watch this programme if you want to learn about the New York Times. As for Trump…I’m weary, weary of him, but it’s impossible to look away.  That’s the whole point of Trumpism.

Risk, BBC 2 10pm, directed by Laura Poitras

risk.jpg

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b095vnpx/risk

I didn’t like Julian Assange after watching this programme, but I didn’t have to spend six or seven years filming him and his cult of followers, much of the time in the Ecuadorian Embassy, as director Laura Poitras did. It’s unusual for a director to speak directly to the audience with her misgivings about Assange’s motives as Poitras does. It’s the equivalent of actors breaking the third wall, while in character, and speaking directly to the audience from the stage. Poitras feels she’s being played and used by Assange and I think she’s probably right.

Assange reminds me of a slicker version of the moron’s moron in the Whitehouse, Donald J Trump. Ironically, Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange is fingered as the patsy behind leaks from Hillary Clinton’s email server while she was Secretary of State in the Obama administration and prior to running in the Presidential election against Trump. In 2011, the opening shots of Risk set in Norfolk (England) has Julian Assage having one of his team phoning the Secretary of State and asking to speak to Hilary Clinton. It creates drama for the camera. But if I phone up Buckingham Palace and ask to speak to Prince Charles the likelihood of me being able to do so would be extremely slim. I’d be speaking to one of his  flunkies. Predictably, that’s what happens. Assanges’s flunky speaks on the phone to Clinton’s flunky. But it’s claimed as a moral victory for Assange, because as leverage he claims to have access to 700 000 classified documents, 250 000 United States documents classified as secret. ‘We don’t have a problem,’ he says. ‘You have a problem’ when we release them onto the internet, which he did.

Fast forward to June 2017.  James Comey then director of the FBI testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that there had been a sustained cyber-attack on the Whitehouse by a foreign power, Russia, that had close links with the Trump administration. Comey was sacked by Trump, allegedly for leaking state documents.

I googled a question. ‘What is Wikipedia?’   ‘Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia, written collaboratively by the people who use it. It is a special type of website designed to make collaboration easy, called a wiki.’

Wikipedia tells me about Wikileaks: [It is] an international non-profit organisation that publishes secret information, news leaks,[6] and classified media provided by anonymous sources.[7] Its website, initiated in 2006 in Iceland by the organisation Sunshine Press,[8] claims a database of 10 million documents in 10 years since its launch.[9] Julian Assange, an Australian Internet activist, is generally described as its founder, editor-in-chief, and director.[10]

 

The group has released a number of prominent document dumps. Early releases included documentation of equipment expenditures and holdings in the Afghanistan war and a report informing a corruption investigation in Kenya.[11] In April 2010, WikiLeaks released the so-called Collateral Murder footage from the 12 July 2007 Baghdad airstrike in which Iraqi journalists were among those killed. Other releases in 2010 included the Afghan War Diary and the “Iraq War Logs”. The latter allowed the mapping of 109,032 deaths in “significant” attacks by insurgents in Iraq that had been reported to Multi-National Force – Iraq, including about 15,000 that had not been previously published.[12][13] In 2010, Wikileaks also released the U.S. State Department diplomatic “cables”, classified cables that had been sent to the U.S. State Department. In April 2011, WikiLeaks began publishing 779 secret files relating to prisoners detained in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.[14]

 

During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, WikiLeaks released emails and other documents from the Democratic National Committee and from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta suggesting impropriety against fellow Democratic Party candidate senator Bernie Sanders, among other issues. These releases caused significant embarrassment to the Clinton campaign, and to Hillary Clinton, and is speculated to have contributed to the Democratic Party’s loss’.

The motto of Google is famously, ‘don’t be evil.’ The motto of Wikileaks, ‘We open governments’. The promise of transparency is always an easy selling point. Assange was teenage cyber hacker uncovering those hidden secrets of government departments. These are the guys that are wearing the white hats, cyber writing what was wrong and bringing it to the light.

Google’s dictum, of course doesn’t extend to paying taxes to governments or allowing competition. Algorithms rule the world. What you don’t see is what you get. Google are appealing a 2.4 billion Euros fine by the European competition commissioner for among other things favouring, not surprisingly, its own online shopping services. Facebook were fined 110 million Euros for using Whatsapp accounts as a Trojan horse for data mining individual’s preferences.  Apple, the richest company in the world, which provides much of the hardware to allow the software to date mine, was fined 13 billion Euros for having an effective corporation tax of 0.005% in Ireland. If you want to know how much power Apple has the ‘Double Irish’ wasn’t that the Irish Government wasn’t being cheated of tax, but they claimed they didn’t want the fine levied. The openness of a free society does not extend to the largely American conglomerates that peddle power and claim no allegiance (in theory) to any one nation. Donald J Trump, of course, spent almost all of his campaign funds of $90 million on Facebook fake news and tweaking accounts of potential backers and voters.

When we look at the power of transparency in post truth society, what do we see looking back at us but our own image. Assange holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy for six years, we know he’s a celebrity because we see Lady Ga Ga visiting him. The twin charges of rape in Sweden have been dropped. He claims this as a victory. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is a Latin phrase found in the work of the Roman poet Juvenal from his Satires (Satire VI, lines 347–348). It is literally translated as ‘Who will guard the guards themselves?’

Juvenal was referring to sex scandals. Like misogyny and a hatred of government that’s something that runs through these high-tech companies and is in the foreground of the moron’s moron and Assange’s cabal. The guards that the rich Roman’s paid to watch their wives and keep them having sex with others, were the ones they were fucking. Transparency is always a good thing, but let’s start with ourselves. Truth is often not plain and rarely simple. I’m with Assange for greater transparency, but I don’t want less government, I want more. I want to tax the Trumps and those hi-tech boys that deceive us and manipulate the truth and mix it with lies. If that sounds familiar, remember those things called bonds. A bond was something established something you could trust.  There derivatives financial weapons of mass destruction. They were in plain sight. No need to hide them. Transparency wasn’t an issue. Complexity was. But somehow, in one of the richest countries in the world, the poorest members who had the least stake in the 2008 implosion, took the biggest hit and took the blame. Welfare. In a Post-Truth world propaganda has its roots in a lack of transparency, but more in a lack of power. Those without power know what’s coming and how they’re going to be hurt, but can’t do anything about it.  Assange might have opened up a Pandora box, but if you look who is in the White House and look at Russia and Turkey and Syria, what has he done? I don’t know. But I don’t like him. That’s my truth. We don’t judge things rationally. Again and again it’s been proven empirically we feel first and think when we need to later and construct a truth around it.

 

Quote

Kurt Vonnegut: President of the United States.

lkurt vonnegut “From the Collection of the Artist.”

Kurt Vonnegut turns up in the most unlikely of places. I’m not familiar with his writing, but I’m reading a book by Michael Lewis Liar’s Poker in which the author quotes Vonnegut below to describe how the bond market works to distort reality, and  to make it seem normal, a theme the everyman Billy Pilgrim’s character stumbles into in his Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5.

 There is a magic moment, during which a man has surrendered a treasure, and during which the man who has to receive it has not done so. An alert lawyer [read bond trader] will make that moment his own, possessing that treasure for a magic microsecond, taking a little of it and passing it on.

This bring to mind the way coinage used to be debased when it was precious metals made out of a substance equal to value of the currency, for example, either gold or silver, and it was an offence against the king or ruler to shave a coin. Now New York and London Stock exchanges are one of the greatest industries, in monetary terms, devised by man, and when it fails thousands of billions of pounds of public money needs to be spent to keep the foul-smelling water of commerce drinkable for the rest of us.

In Slaughterhouse 5, Billy Pilgrim finds himself in a shop that sells porn, but he’s more interested in a badly written sci-fi book used as a front to make it seem like a respectable book store. The book is written by an author he knows and admires Kilgore Trout. The narrative in Kilgore’s book matches Pilgrim’s own experience of being abducted by the Tranfalmadorians and is about a man and woman kidnapped by extra-terrestrials and taken to another planet, Zircon-212, and put on display in a zoo. He has another of his epiphanies that underpin the wisdom of the book.

These fictitious people in the zoo had a big board supposedly showing stock market quotations and commodity prices along the wall of their habitat, and a news ticker, and a telephone that was supposedly connected to a brokerage on Earth. The creatures on Zircon-212 told their captives that they had invested a million dollars for them back on Earth and it was up to them to manage it so that they would be fabulously wealthy when they were returned to Earth.

The telephone and the big board were all fakes of course. They were simply stimulants to make the Earthlings perform vividly for the crowds at the zoo…

The Earthlings did very well on paper. That was part of the rigging, of course…The news ticker reminded them that the President of the United States had declared National Prayer Week and that everybody should pray. The Earthlings had had a bad week on the market before that. They had lost a small fortune in olive oil futures. So they gave praying a whirl.

It worked. Olive oil went up.

Billy Pilgrim’s ability to transcend time and travel backwards and forwards showed him the fickle fiction of such fortunes. He followed the traditional path to wealth by marrying the obese boss’s daughter nobody else wants to marry, including Billy.

But there is a prophetic touch in the car stickers Billy Pilgrim passes sporting the message Reagan for President. Vonnegut’s novel was published in 1969. He had no way of knowing that the friend of Bonzo—and I don’t mean George W—would actually become President. Not even Vonnegut could have imagined that.

To take a further jump in time and imagine a woman President in Hillary Clinton –perhaps? Vonnegut imagined a world in which the fire-bombing of Dresden with conventional weapons with a power more lethal than the atomic age of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a war crime and unjustifiable. Hillary Clinton’s big message and big sell to the American people that the American future depend on equality of opportunity and is certainly far more left wing than the big two political parties in Britain offer:

To ensure a child born in the hills of Appalachia or the Rio Grande valley grows up with the same shot of success as Charlotte [Clinton] will.

Vonnegut’s character, Howard W Campbell, an American playwright that aligned himself with the Nazi Party strips the hubris of such messages to the bone.  Campbell writes a monograph that Billy Pilgrim gets to read. The reader looking over his character’s shoulder gets to read it too and assess its validity.

America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor and urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humourist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor, but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone one with power or gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters…asking this cruel question, ‘if you’re so smart how come you’re not rich?’

Their most destructive untruth is it is very easy to make money. They will in fact not acknowledge how hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those without money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have to do less for the poor publicly and privately.

I’m beginning to believe that Vonnegut and Billy Pilgrim were time-travellers and they’ve jumped in their spaceship and landed here in April 2015. If Vonnegut can pluck Billy Pilgrim from the ether, the Tranfalmadorians and their zoo, then perhaps we can pluck Vonnegut from death and elect him President of the United States, or even Britain. I’d vote for him.

http://unbound.co.uk/books/lily-poole