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Unraveling the dark and tangled origins of the QAnon myth

February 1, 2021 in Blogs

By Lindsay Beyerstein

The cult of QAnon is at a crossroads. Adherents of the conspiracy theory/new religious movement convinced themselves that Donald Trump was poised to purge the cannibal pedophile cabal and its traitorous enablers in a cleansing burst of political violence. But with Joe Biden in the White House, and Capitol rioters facing charges for their insurrection of January 6, prophecy has apparently failed. QAnon has been banished from major social media platforms. You can’t even sell Q merch on Etsy anymore. True believers are struggling to make sense of it all. Q himself has fallen silent. It has been over a month since his last dispatch to the faithful.

In just three years, QAnon has exploded from an anonymous post on 4chan to a household word. The FBI has declared QAnon a domestic terrorist threat and the QAnon ideology has been the impetus for numerous terrorist attacks, not even counting the major role played by QAnon adherents in the assault on the US Capitol. QAnon has fractured families and destroyed lives. Astonishingly, we still don’t know who Q is.

The enduring mystery of Q’s identity has led to speculation about QAnon being an influence operation, (aka a psyop). Which raises the question of who’s supposedly running this operation. QAnon’s critics typically blame Russia or an alliance of Russia and Trump’s inner circle. Disillusioned former QAnon sympathizers including Trump advisor Steve Bannon have also embraced a version of the psyop theory, claiming that QAnon was a deep state hoax designed to fool patriots.

Whatever role Russia may have played in promoting this conspiracy theory, the real problem is that there’s a huge market in the United States for conspiracy theories that promise the violent overthrow of democracy.

Influence operations are typically military- or intelligence-led efforts to shape how a population thinks or feels without resorting to physical force.

Russian intelligence operates within the vast QAnon ecosystem but QAnon is a home-grown phenomenon, deeply rooted in American prejudices and preoccupations. QAnon and its forerunner Pizzagate were forged on 4Chan, a crucible of both the Alt-Right and American conspiracy culture. Understanding the racist, ultranationalist, conspiratorial culture of /pol is key to understanding the likely origins of QAnon. It’s also important to understand how contemporary conspiracy theorizing incorporates and elaborates on older conspiratorial themes.

Q is old conspiracies made new

Many of the central tenets of QAnon are retreads of the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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A Harvard professor argues the Trump mob's siege fits the Framers' 'paradigmatic case of treason'

February 1, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial is set to begin next week, and senators will be asked to decide whether or not he committed “incitement to insurrection.” While Trump has previously been accused by various commenters of “treason” on multiple fronts, in uses of the term usually dismissed by experts, the charge of treason has been largely absent from the debate around the Capitol attack. But in a recent piece of The New Yorker., Harvard University law professor Jeannie Suk Gersen, discussing Trump’s impeachment and the events of Jan. 6, argued that the term may be more apt than ever.

Gerson cited the work of Carlton F. W. Larson, a law professor at the University of California at Davis, who has argued that there are many unethical acts and impeachable offenses that don’t qualify as treason. Certain corners have frequently accused Trump of “treason” in the Russia investigation, the Ukraine impeachment, and other matters, but Larson has been reticent to apply that label as a technical, legal, and historical matter.

Gersen wrote: “But the insurrection of Jan. 6 changed his answer, at least with regard to Trump’s followers who attacked the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress’ certification of the election.”

She explained:

… to the Framers, such an insurrection was a paradigmatic case of treason. The founding-era Chief Justice John Marshall held in the treason trial of Aaron Burr that levying war entails “the employment of actual force” by “a warlike assemblage, carrying the appearance of force, and in a situation to practice hostility.” If some of those who attacked the Capitol assembled in order to incapacitate Congress—perhaps even by kidnapping or killing lawmakers—then their actions could be construed as an attempt to overthrow the government, and federal prosecutors could plausibly consider treason charges. As Larson put it, “At some point, you have to say, if that’s not levying war against the United States, then what on earth is?”

The United States’ Founding Fathers, Gersen noted, “gave treason a narrow definition” and “made it extremely difficult to prove” because it is such a serious offense. And Gersen wemt on to explain that “since the Capitol insurrection, there has been little talk of treason charges — adding that according to Larson, that is because “everybody now tends to think of treason as mostly aiding foreign enemies.”

Gersen wrote, “A treason case against Trump …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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A journalist explains the 3 bad choices Republican officials are left with post-Trump

February 1, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

When House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy went to Mar-a-Lago last week to meet with former President Donald Trump, it was obvious that he didn’t view Trumpism as a thing of the past. Journalist Joan E. Greve examines Trump’s hold on the GOP in an article published by The Guardian this week, noting the frustrations of some conservatives who wish Republicans could move on from Trumpism.

“Donald Trump may have left the White House, but his shadow still looms large in Washington and the Republican Party as the Senate prepares for his second impeachment trial,” Greve explains. “The 50 Republicans in the Senate are grappling with how to appease Trump’s supporters, who still make up a hefty share of the Party’s base, while acknowledging that the former president incited the 6 January attack on the U.S. Capitol.”

Republicans in Congress, Greve adds, find themselves “tethered to Trump” even though he “oversaw the loss of both chambers of Congress and the White House.”

“Trump’s continued power over Republican lawmakers was on full display last week, as 45 senators voted to pre-emptively dismiss the impeachment trial,” Greve observes. “The senators avoided defending Trump’s behavior on 6 January, instead arguing that it was unconstitutional to impeach a former president.” (Trump was, in fact, impeached by the House while he was president. The Senate refused to start the trial until after he was out of office.)

But according to conservative CNN pundit Tara Setmayer — a former Republican activist who left the GOP in November — that Senate vote was “the most craven example” of Republicans in Congress being unwilling to stand up to Trump.

Setmayer told The Guardian, “It really is mind-boggling when you look at how many opportunities the party has had to take the exit ramp and get away from Trumpism. The result has become that the Republican Party now is an anti-democratic, illiberal, pro-seditionist party.”

Greve points out that Republicans are still terrified of Trump because he remains “overwhelmingly popular with the party’s base,” noting that a recent NBC News poll — one taken after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building — found that 87% of Republicans still approved of Trump’s performance as president.

According to Greve, “Trump’s popularity has left Republican lawmakers with three main options: stay in the former president’s good graces, leave office, or risk getting primaried by a Trumpian opponent. …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The disturbing and cruel psychology of Marjorie Taylor Greene

February 1, 2021 in Blogs

By John Stoehr

Indulge me please while I dwell another day on Marjorie Taylor Greene, the House Republican and subject of Friday’s Editorial Board. I want to discuss her hostile confrontation of David Hogg, the teenager who saw friends and classmates being murdered in the 2018 Parkland massacre. A year later, Greene stalked Hogg while he was walking down a Washington street. She demanded he defend his gun-reform advocacy. She later called him “a coward” in the pay of George Soros. She said the “radical gun control agenda David Hogg was pushing” made him a “little Hitler.”

Consider what it took for someone to do this. Consider what a grown woman has to do psychologically to look into the eyes of a teenager who witnessed unimaginable suffering, and call him “a coward.” Most of us possess a sense of empathy. Most of us, even if we’re champions of the Second Amendment, could not tolerate knowing that we’ve compounded a young man’s pain. Most of us would recoil instantly. “Oh my God!” most of us would say. “I’m so sorry! Go ahead and say whatever you want!”

What if suffering does not arouse empathy? What if, for a lot of people, it isn’t something to ease. It’s something to punish. It’s something, on recognizing it, that enrages them more.

Not so for Marjorie Taylor Greene. Unlike most people who cannot tolerate knowing that they’ve compounded a young man’s pain, Greene was capable of maligning Hogg even after looking him in the eye. She was capable of recognizing his pain, then of adding to it. “Coward,” she said. “Little Hitler,” she said. Hogg’s suffering wasn’t something to recoil from, as it would be for most people with a sense of empathy. It was something arousing such animosity it turned a teenaged boy into Greene’s enemy.

This is not to say Greene does not have empathy. This is to say she’s capable of overriding it. This matters greatly to our national politics. You hear it said frequently there’s so much hate in the world because there’s so little empathy. (This tends to be a liberal view of a problematic, unpredictable, often violent world.) But what if suffering does not arouse empathy? What if, for a lot of Americans, it isn’t something to ease. It’s something to punish. It’s something, on recognizing it, that enrages them more.

To understand how this is possible, consider the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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White House press secretary hilariously takes the wind out of a reporter, 'conservative Twitter' and Trump

February 1, 2021 in Blogs

By The New Civil Rights Movement

Less than two weeks into the new Biden administration White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki is earning a reputation as a no-nonsense, no rumor-mongering, no guff leader in the briefing room who is determined to set an appropriate tone.

On Monday one reporter asked about President Joe Biden meeting with Republicans on a COVID relief bill today. He tried to stir up trouble. It didn’t go over well.

“There are Democrats who are seeing that the first meeting the President is having face-to-face with lawmakers is with Republicans and not Democrats. Why is the White House doing that?” asked CBS News’ Ed O’Keefe.

“Are there any specific Democrats you want to call out?” Psaki offered.

“No, but it’s been talked about,” he replied.

“Just people talking about it in hallways? Ok,” Psaki responded, effectively though politely dismissing the question he couldn’t back up, and sending a strong message to the press that gossip won’t be entertained in the briefing room.

Taking another polite jab at critics, Psaki also noted that last week she was getting attacked by the right for not lying or making up answers, but promising reporters if she didn’t have an answer for them she would “circle back later.”

On Monday, she kept her word, telling them, “I often note, ‘I’m going to circle back’ — I hate to disappoint conservative Twitter, but I’m going to circle back on a number of things,” and proceeded to – invalidating the criticism from right wing social media extremists.

Fox News host Sean Hannity’s website described her remarks by falsely claiming she “confused millions.”

“White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confused millions of Americans during her daily press briefing Monday; saying she was going to ‘disappoint Conservative Twitter’ by ‘circling back on a number of things.’”

(There probably are not “millions” even watching the White House press briefing.)

And finally, another reporter asked if the disgraced former president, Donald Trump, being banned from Twitter had made her job, and the administration’s job, easier.

“This may be hard to believe. We don’t spend a lot of time thinking about or talking about President Trump here, former President Trump, to be very clear,” she replied.

“I can’t say we miss him on Twitter.”

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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7 Boundary-Breaking Black TV Shows

February 1, 2021 in History

By Damarys Ocaña Perez

These shows helped broaden the range of African American experiences portrayed on television.

African Americans have appeared on television as long as the medium has been around. In fact, the first Black person on TV may have been Broadway star Ethel Waters, who hosted a one-off variety show on NBC on June 14, 1939, when television was still being developed. The medium evolved over the next decade as TVs became a household fixture, but roles for Black actors did not, with most being relegated to playing servants or providing comic relief.

Waters herself would make history in 1950 as the first African American to star in a show, Beulah, a sitcom about a maid serving a bungling white family, who got her employers out of scrapes in every episode. But the show, like its contemporary, Amos and Andy, relied heavily on caricatures of Black characters for laughs. Waters soon left the show, marking the beginning of a struggle to have Black lives and experiences portrayed in significant and accurate ways.

Since then, actors, producers and writers have created and starred in shows that pushed boundaries and broke barriers. Many shows also reflected what was going on in the country at large, from the civil rights era to the election of President Barack Obama, and beyond. Below are seven shows that helped move the needle in offering more rounded portrayals of African Americans and their experiences.

Julia (1968-1971)

Diahann Carroll as Julia, January 1968

Broadway star Diahann Carroll became the first African American woman to receive an Emmy nomination in 1969, for her role as a widowed middle-class nurse raising a small son in the suburbs. Although the sitcom, which largely avoided tackling social and racial topics, was lambasted at the time by critics who said it did not reflect the lives of most Black Americans, Julia is now nevertheless considered groundbreaking. Carroll went on to join the cast of the popular primetime soap opera Dynasty in 1984 as the series only Black recurring character.

Soul Train (1971-2006)


Don Cornelius and the Soul Train Dancers doing the signature Soul Train show ending by shouting “LOVE, PEACE AND SOUL” on episode 396, airing June 26, 1982.

Former journalist Don Cornelius may have seemed an unlikely person to bring a music-dance show to TV, but in wanting to showcase Black positivity on a national scale, he created a lasting legacy. Soul …read more

Source: HISTORY