Archives for category: Insane

Andrew Tobias blogs occasionally, usually around 1 a.m., and he usually has interesting perspectives on politics, culture, and economics. This is a good one:

The Madness Of Crowds

More than a third of Republicans believe the QAnon conspiracy that Donald Trump is waging a secret war against a shadowy cabal of paedophile cannibals is “mostly true” . . .

So, for the record:

>  No Democrat I know has eaten children or worshipped Satan.

>  Though some Republicans deny it, the Parkland massacre — like the Holocaust — was real.

>  The 9/11 attackers really did crash American flight 77 into the Pentagon.

>  The Clintons did not murder John Kennedy, Jr.

>  I’ve met George Soros.  He’s done more to champion freedom and democracy around the world than anyone I can think of.  The idea that he used space lasers to light California’s forest fires is insane.

As is the idea that someone who believes these things would have been endorsed by the leader of the Republican party; would have been elected; and would be appointed by her Republican colleagues to the Education Committee.

The difference between our fringe and theirs is that our “fringe” fights (peacefully) to give the average American a better deal:  Higher wages.  Consumer protections.  Health care.  A habitable planet for their kids.  Crazy s–t like that.

Their fringe beats Capitol Police with American flags, wears Camp Auschwitz t-shirts, and seeks to murder the House Speaker and Vice President.

To which their leader, watching gleefully on TV, eventually responds: “Go home.  I love you.  You are very special people.

Their fringe are evangelicals — especially the one African American in the crowd the camera dutifully zooms in on — who just laugh at the notion Joe Biden could have won.  (WATCH!)

Because who who better embodies Christ’s teachings than Trump?

The first crowd madness we are living through is the madness of those who’ve been conned into believing Trump and Putin are the ones to be trusted — the good guys in this tale — while the 84 million who voted for Biden are somehow in league with the devil.

[BONUS: Tips on deprogramming a QAnon cultist.]

I don’t pretend to understand the QAnon cult, but it seems to believe that the federal government is controlled by satanic pedophiles and that Trump was the one who would root them out. They apparently held massive online events to watch the dramatic overturning of Joe Biden on Inauguration Day and the triumphant return of Trump.

According to this article in Huffington Post, many in the cult expressed confusion and disappointment when “the storm” didn’t happen. Some thought they had been duped, others urged patience.

Since there has recently been an efflorescence of Trump enthusiasts commenting on this blog, perhaps one will show up to explain what happened and why their hero is luxuriating in Palm Beach instead of leading their battle against dark forces.

I posted this article last fall. It explains why QAnon Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene ran unopposed for election in Georgia. Her allies literally drove her opponent out of the race and out of the state with death threats. His life was destroyed. This is not the way democracy works. This is the way fascism works.

The post starts like this:

Stephanie McCrummen wrote this story in the Washington Post about what happened when Kevin Van Ausdal ran against a member of QAnon in a Congressional district in Georgia.

There was a time when Kevin Van Ausdal had not yet been called a “loser” and “a disgrace” and hustled out of Georgia. He had not yet punched a wall, or been labeled a “communist,” or a person “who’d probably cry like a baby if you put a gun in his face.” He did not yet know who was going to be the Republican nominee for Congress in his conservative district in northwestern Georgia: the well-known local neurosurgeon, or the woman he knew vaguely as a person who had openly promoted conspiracies including something about a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles.

Anything still seemed possible in the spring of 2020, including the notion that he, Kevin Van Ausdal, a 35-year-old political novice who wanted to “bring civility back to Washington” might have a shot at becoming a U.S. congressman.

So one day in March, he drove his Honda to the gold-domed state capitol in Atlanta, used his IRS refund to pay the $5,220 filing fee and became the only Democrat running for a House seat in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, which Donald Trump won by 27 points in the 2016 presidential election.

He hired a local campaign manager named Vinny Olsziewski, who had handled school board races and a couple of congressionals.

He came up with a slogan — “Save the American Dream” — and posted his first campaign ad, a one-minute slide show of snapshots with voters set to colonial fife-and-drum music.

He gave one of the first public interviews he had ever given in his life, about anything, on a YouTube show called Destiny, and when the host asked, “How do you appeal to these people while still holding onto what you believe in?” Kevin answered, “It’s all about common sense and reaching across the aisle. That’s what politics is supposed to be like.”

The House Republican conference just indulged in a sick joke: It assigned Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to the House Education and Labor Committee. Rep. Greene has identified with the bizarre QAnon conspiracy theorists who believe that Democrats and large sectors of the federal government are controlled by a Satanic ring of pedophiles. She has endorsed the vile claim that the massacres at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, and at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, were staged or “false flag” operations, intended to build political support for gun control.

Andrew Ujifusa of Education Week reports:

A Washington Post story on Jan. 22 highlighted how, in response to a 2018 comment on Facebook that recent school shootings weren’t real, now-U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said, “That’s all true.” She expressed a similar sentiment about the 2018 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Facebook in a separate comment that year that the social-media site later removed. 

Several advocacy groups that support robust gun-control measures, including March For Our Lives-Parkland, Moms Demand Action, and Everytown for Gun Safety have called on Greene to resign in light of those comments, the Post reported. 

Greene also has made national headlines for months due to her support for QAnon, the name used for a range of conspiracy theories that have been termed a domestic terrorist threat by the FBI.

In response to questions from Education Week about Rep. Greene’s education priorities and concerns about her past comments on school shootings, spokesman Nick Dyer did not address her comments on the shootings.

“Congresswoman Greene is excited to join the House Education and Labor Committee. Rep. Greene is ready to get to work to reopen every school in America, expand school choice, protect homeschooling, champion religious freedom for student and teachers, and prevent men and boys from unfairly competing with women and girls in sports,” Dyer said in an email.

Earlier this month, Greene announced her support for legislation that would require schools to prevent “biological males” from competing in women’s sports, in order to demonstrate compliance with federal Title IX law...

A relatively large share of the Republicans slated to join the committee are freshmen. In fact, out of 24 total GOP members due to join the committee, 11 just started their first terms in Congress; go here for the list of new members about to join the panel. (Republicans announced new appointments to the committee on Monday, but technically they won’t be official until the GOP conference and full House approves them.)

Another prominent GOP freshman on the list is Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., who spoke at Trump’s Jan. 6 rally in front of the White House shortly before a mob attacked the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers were voting to certify the presidential election results.

Our democracy is in peril. A significant number of GOP senators oppose any accountability for a president who invited violent terrorists to attack the U.S. Capitol, vandalize it, and threaten the lives of Vice President Pence, Speaker Pelosi and other members of Congress.

Two members of the House of Representatives belong to QAnon, the group that believes Trump was battling a Satanic ring of pedophiles.

One of the QAnon members, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, posted or liked tweets that called for the assasination of leading members of Congress.

Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene repeatedly indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019 before being elected to Congress, a CNN KFile review of hundreds of posts and comments from Greene’s Facebook page shows.

Mass insanity or just a handful of unhinged zealots?

Although the bizarre conspiracy theory group called QAnon has only two members elected to Congress, it has two members in Congress. That was not a typo. The KKK–so far as we know–does not have any members in Congress. Nor do the Proud Boys. But QAnon seems to have a strange power over the Republican party, so much so that most of its members voted to overturn a fair and free and amply verified presidential election.

One of the two major parties has succumbed to a cult with a mad ideology.

The Washington Post describes the curious hold that QAnon has over the Republican party in this article.

The siege on the U.S. Capitol played out as a QAnon fantasy made real: The faithful rose up in their thousands, summoned to Washington by their leader, President Trump. They seized the people’s house as politicians cowered under desks. Hordes wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the “Q” symbol and toting Trump flags closed in to deliver justice, armed with zip-tie handcuffs and rope and guns.

The “#Storm” envisioned on far-right message boards had arrived. And two women who had died in the rampage — both QAnon devotees — had become what some were calling the first martyrs of the cause.

The siege ended with police retaking the Capitol and Trump being rebuked and losing his Twitter account. But the failed insurrection marked a grim milestone in how the paranoid conspiracy theory QAnon has radicalized Americans, reshaped the Republican Party and gained a forceful grip on right-wing belief.

Born in the Internet’s fever swamps, QAnon played an unmistakable role in energizing rioters during the real-world attack on Jan. 6. A man in a “Q” T-shirt led the breach of the Senate, while a shirtless, fur-clad believer known as the “Q Shaman” posed for photographers in the Senate chamber. Twitter later purged more than 70,000 accounts associated with the conspiracy theory, in an acknowledgment of the online potency of QAnon.

The baseless conspiracy theory, which imagines Trump in a battle with a cabal of deep-state saboteurs who worship Satan and traffic children for sex, helped drive the day’s events and facilitate organized attacks. A pro-Trump mob overwhelmed Capitol Police officers, injuring dozens, and one officer later died as a result. One woman was fatally shot by police inside the Capitol. Three others in the crowd died of medical emergencies.

QAnon devotees joined with extremist group members and white supremacists at the Capitol assault after finding one another on Internet sanctuaries: the conservative forums of and Parler; the anonymous extremist channels of 8kun and Telegram; and the social media giants of Facebook and Twitter, which have scrambled in recent months to prevent devotees from organizing on their sites.

Washington Post reporter Kate Newsome and photographer Joy Sharon Yi went inside the riot, inside the mob, inside the Capitol. Newsome was shouted at and vilified by protestors when they asked her where she worked. She told them. “F— you! Fake News!” She maintained her calm.

Brian Stelter has an always interesting show on CNN on Sunday mornings, where he discusses the media. He is not a “both sides” commentator.

Watch this powerful analysis of the “mass “”radicalization” promoted by Trump and his baseless conspiracy theories. Trump allies talk about martial law, overturning the election, seizing voting machines.

Bottom line: Our democracy was known for years as highly stable. No more. We are in trouble.

Our democracy is under attack by the man who took an oath to protect the Constitution. Donald Trump gave a 46-minute speech denouncing the outcome of the election, which he insists was fraudulent despite the fact that his own Attorney General concluded that the Department of Justice did not find evidence of widespread fraud that would change the outcome of the election. Trump’s legal team has filed dozens of lawsuits, almost all of which were rejected in court by judges of both parties, including judges appointed by Trump. The few cases that went in Trump’s favor were over minor issues that did not affect the outcome of the election in any state.

The Washington Post reported on Trump’s speech:

Escalating his attack on democracy from within the White House, President Trump on Wednesday distributed an astonishing 46-minute video rant filled with baseless allegations of voter fraud and outright falsehoods in which he declared the nation’s election system “under coordinated assault and siege” and argued that it was “statistically impossible” for him to have lost to President-elect Joe Biden.

Standing behind the presidential lectern in the Diplomatic Reception Room and flanked by the flags of his office and of the country whose Constitution he swore an oath to uphold, Trump tried to leverage the power of the presidency to subvert the vote and overturn the election results.

The rambling and bellicose monologue — which Trump said “may be the most important speech I’ve ever made” and was delivered direct-to-camera with no audience — underscored his desperation to reverse the outcome of his election loss after a month of failed legal challenges and as some key states already have certified Biden’s victory.

The president’s latest salvo came a day after his attorney general, William P. Barr, said the Justice Department had found no evidence of voting fraud that could have changed the outcome of the election.

Trump delivered in person many of the claims he previously has advanced on social media or that his lawyers have brought on his behalf in courts, which have been debunked or summarily dismissed because there is no evidence to support them.
Trump claimed in Wednesday’s video, again without evidence, that “corrupt forces” had stuffed ballot boxes with fraudulent votes. He claimed the fraud was “massive” and “on a scale never seen before.” He called on the Supreme Court to “do what’s right for our country,” which he suggested entailed terminating hundreds of thousands of votes so that “I very easily win in all states.”

Although Trump last week authorized his administration to cooperate with Biden’s transition, he still has refused to concede. With Wednesday’s remarks, the president intensified his protest of the results and threatened to disrupt the nation’s long history of a peaceful transfer of power.

This election was rigged. Everybody knows it,” Trump said. He added, “Our country needs somebody to say, ‘You’re right.’ . . . If we don’t root out the fraud, the tremendous and horrible fraud that’s taken place in our 2020 election, we don’t have a country anymore.”

Trump also claimed that Dominion Voting Systems, which manufactures voting machines used in many states, was “very suspect” and that many voters who pressed the button for “Trump” had their votes counted for Biden. There is no evidence that votes were in any way compromised, and Dominion has said there is no merit to Trump’s claims.

Biden decisively won the election with 306 electoral college votes to Trump’s 232. In the national popular vote, Biden leads with 80.9 million to Trump’s 74 million, a difference of 4.4 percentage points and nearly 7 million votes.

A majority of states already have certified their results ahead of the Dec. 14 meeting of the electoral college to finalize the national result. Those states include Georgia, which delivered Biden one of his narrowest victories and where officials conducted a hand recount that still had Biden winning by about 13,000 votes.
Trump’s video Wednesday represented his most comprehensive remarks yet about the election and came after he has spent the month since the election largely hidden from public view, save for a handful of official appearances and a call-in appearance on Fox News Channel.

Any hope that the president might be slowly coming to grips with his loss and accepting the fact that Biden will be sworn in as president on Jan. 20 was dashed by his combative and emphatic tone, which amounted to a call to arms to his supporters. The fight is paying dividends so far, with Trump’s political operation using a blizzard of misleading appeals to supporters to raise more than $170 million since Election Day on Nov. 3.

As he invariably has throughout his presidency, Trump spun an alternate reality. Although his words actually worked to undermine democracy, he cast himself as the protector of democracy, saying his single greatest achievement as president would be to restore “voter integrity for our nation.”

Trump released a two-minute edited version of the video on Twitter, which the social media company labeled as “disputed,” and included a link to the full 46-minute video on Facebook, where the company applied a label explaining that voting by mail has long been trustworthy and that voter fraud is “extremely rare.”

As Trump released his video, his personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, was in Michigan making a similar case to state legislators and citizens there. The former New York mayor alleged at a video news conference in Lansing that there were extensive voting irregularities in the state, largely in Detroit, a majority-Black city that voted heavily for Biden. Giuliani claimed a similar pattern of fraud emerged in several other large urban centers with municipal governments controlled by Democrats.

“It was a plan to steal this election,” Giuliani said.
There is no evidence to support this claim. Giuliani cited affidavits that had been used in lawsuits that have so far been rejected in the state.

Giuliani gave a pugilistic exhortation to Trump supporters at the late afternoon press conference.
“We have to fight. The president does not intend to give up,” he said, urging Michigan Republicans to put “pressure on state legislators” to uphold their constitutional obligation to decide state results in a disputed presidential election.

“You have to get them to remember that their oath to the constitution sometimes requires being criticized,” Giuliani added. “It sometimes even requires being threatened. But you don’t back off of an oath because a vote is too hard.”

On Wednesday evening, Giuliani and Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis made similar arguments before a Michigan House panel. In her opening statement, Ellis referred to Trump’s video message and said the state legislature has a constitutional mandate “not to allow a corrupt” election. She said the nation’s founders provided “a tool — state legislators — to combat corruption” in elections.

That interpretation of a constitutional mandate is disputed by many election experts, who nonetheless worry that it could lead some state legislators to attempt to overturn certified election results.

Norm Eisen, a former Obama appointee who serves as counsel to the bipartisan Voter Protection Program, called that interpretation “constitutional disinformation that has no basis in law.”

This activity comes as Trump prepares to visit Georgia on Saturday to hold a campaign rally for Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both Republicans facing runoff elections on Jan. 5.

Trump’s baseless allegations of voter fraud in Georgia have roiled the race, with Republicans divided over whether to trust the election system or, as former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell argued, stay home in protest.

Powell led a rally in a northern Atlanta suburb Wednesday in which she exhorted hundreds of the president’s supporters not to participate in the Senate runoffs, in part because she said the state’s voting machines are not trustworthy.

“I would encourage all Georgians to make it known that you will not vote at all unless your vote is secure,” Powell said. “There should not be a runoff. Certainly not on Dominion machines.”

Powell claimed falsely that Dominion machines were rigged to weight Biden’s votes more heavily than Trump’s, that a hand recount was a sham, and that state and local election officials have been destroying ballots and other evidence of fraud. She has presented no proof of her claims.

L. Lin Wood, another Trump ally who helped lead Wednesday’s event, made similarly baseless claims.
“We’re not going to vote on your damn machines made in China,” Wood said. “We’re going to vote on machines made in the USA!”

Wood took aim at just about every state Republican leader in Georgia, including Perdue, Loeffler, Gov. Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and the state party chair, David Shafer, even though some of them have stood by Trump and echoed his false claims of fraud.

“If they don’t fight for Donald Trump, including Loeffler and Perdue, send them all home!” Wood exclaimed to the crowd. “You are criminals!”

Led by Trump and his base, QAnon conspiracy theorists are targeting Georgia in their effort to overturn the 2020 election. We are heading into Cloud CuckooLand in American politics.

This story by Drew Harrell explains why Georgia election official was so angry. Read it to the end. It appeared in the Washington Post:

In her legal quest to reverse the reality of last month’s election, President Trump’s recently disavowed attorney Sidney Powell has gained a strange new ally: the longtime administrator of the message board 8kun, the QAnon conspiracy theory’s Internet home.
Powell on Tuesday filed an affidavit from Ron Watkins, the son of 8kun’s owner Jim Watkins, in a Georgia lawsuit alleging that Dominion Voting Systems machines used in the election had been corrupted as part of a sprawling voter-fraud conspiracy.
Powell has claimed that a diabolical scheme backed by global communists had invisibly shifted votes with help from a mysterious computer algorithm pioneered by the long-dead Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez — a wild story debunked by fact-checkers as a “fantasy parade” and devoid of proof.
No real evidence was included in Watkins’s affidavit, either. But Watkins, who said in the affidavit that he lives in Japan, nevertheless speculated that — based on his recent reading of the Dominion software’s online user guide — it may be “within the realm of possibility” for a biased poll worker to fraudulently switch votes.

Watkins’s affidavit marks one of the first official connections between a notable player in the QAnon conspiracy universe and Trump’s muddled multistate legal campaign, which some of the president’s allies have labeled, in the words of Chris Christie, a “national embarrassment.”
Many similar Trump-QAnon overtures have already played out on TV and social media since the election nearly one month ago. Watkins made similar allegations in an unchallenged segment on the far-right One America News network, which Trump retweeted to his 88 million followers last month.

Powell and her client Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, are effectively celebrities to QAnon loyalists, who posit online that both will soon help “release the Kraken” and expose a bombshell that could salvage a Trump second term, vanquish his enemies and unveil the hidden machinations of a communist conspiracy.
Since claiming to have resigned last month from 8kun, Watkins has devoted much of his online activity to claims about unfounded suspicions regarding Dominion, an 18-year-old voting-technology company whose computer programs, ballot printers and other products are used by elections officials in 28 states. Trump and his supporters have loudly attacked the Denver-based company as having contributed in some unproved way to steal the vote.

In a lengthy rebuttal last week, Dominion said that Powell’s claims were nonsensical: Manual recounts, machine tests and independent audits had reaffirmed that the voting systems had given accurate, undistorted results. Her “wild and reckless allegations,” the company added, were “not only demonstrably false” but had “led to stalking, harassment, and death threats to Dominion employees.”

In his affidavit, Watkins called himself an information security expert with nine years of experience as a “network and information defense analyst” and security engineer. But he did not mention that his experience had come largely through 8kun, the site once called 8chan that was knocked offline for nearly three months last year.

The message board is infamous for its anonymous threads of racist bile and extremist threats, and the site was used by gunmen to announce and celebrate three fatal attacks last year — at an El Paso Walmart, a San Diego-area synagogue and a New Zealand mosque.

Major web-services providers that form the Internet’s backbone have refused to work with the site, with one executive telling The Washington Post last year that Watkins’s site had facilitated “mass shootings and extreme hate speech with intolerable consequences.”

Ron Watkins holds an exalted role in QAnon’s online sphere of influence: He and his father are among the few people who can verify posts from Q, the conspiracy theory’s unnamed prophet (and a self-proclaimed government agent with top-secret clearance) who claims to post solely on 8kun. (The strange arrangement has fueled unproved theories that the Watkinses have helped write Q’s posts, or are Q themselves, which both men deny.)

Q has posted more than 4,000 times since 2017, but only three times since the election, sparking a mix of anxiety and faith-based recommitment among QAnon believers.

Attorney General William P. Barr said on Tuesday that investigators with the FBI and Justice Department hadn’t “seen anything to substantiate” the claims of mass voter fraud.

But Watkins and his supporters have continued to hunt for clues to support the unproven claims of a secret Dominion scheme.

Shortly after midnight Tuesday, Watkins posted what he called “a smoking-gun video” of a Dominion worker manipulating Georgia voting data by “plugging an elections USB drive into an external laptop … then suspiciously walking away.”

The undated video — which was recorded at a distance and includes a man and woman offering ongoing commentary of the “nerd boy” as he works inside an election office — shows nothing even remotely conclusive of voter fraud: The man uses a computer and a thumb drive, all of it very obviously caught on camera.

But Watkins’s messages nevertheless kicked QAnon-echoing accounts and online Trump supporters into conspiracy-theory overdrive. Many began sharing the name of a Georgia man they believed had been captured on the video, after they’d zoomed in on the man’s identification badge. A number of accounts on Twitter, 8kun and other pro-Trump websites shared links to the man’s possible LinkedIn profile, phone numbers, home address and personal details, including a photo of him as a groomsman in a friend’s wedding in 2018.

A Dominion representative said the company wouldn’t comment on alleged employee matters or safety issues, but that it was working to report all threats to law enforcement.

Watkins did not respond to questions, and a woman he had thanked on Twitter for sharing the original video said she had “no comment about anything.”

The man’s name and identifying information is still bouncing around the Web, with some people calling for his imprisonment, torture or execution. For several hours on Tuesday, just typing in the first two letters of his name into Twitter would automatically complete the rest of his name. One tweet includes his name and said he is “guilty of treason” and added, alongside an animated image of a hanging noose: “May God have mercy on your soul.”

Gabriel Sterling, a top official with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, addressed the threat in a fiery news conference Tuesday afternoon and called out Trump and Republican senators for not condemning the violent language. Sterling said the man caught on camera had been transferring a report to a county computer so he could read it.

“It’s all gone too far. All of it,” he said. “This 20-year-old contractor for a voting system company [was] just trying to do this job,” he added. “His family is getting harassed now. There’s a noose out there with his name on it. And it’s not right. … This kid took a job. He just took a job, and it’s just wrong.”