Thursday Reads: Trump Anxiety, QAnon, and the Manafort TrialPosted: August 2, 2018
Ever since my mom had her stroke, I’ve been struggling more than ever in dealing with Trump news. When I sit down to write a post, I feel paralyzed by feelings of fear, dread and disgust. The only thing that keeps me going is knowing that I’m not alone. I think the majority of Americans are feeling something like this even if they’re not following the news as closely as we do.
Shoppers are increasingly looking at workbooks that help them cope with anxiety, Barnes & Noble senior director of merchandising, Liz Hardwell, said in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon. Although times may be tough, wrought with political tension, “the good news is that book buyers across the country are also looking for solutions to their stress,” she said.
Top-selling titles, based on the bookseller’s sales data, include “The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook” by Edmund Bourne, “The Anxiety Toolkit: Strategies for Fine-Tuning Your Mind and Moving Past Your Stuck Points” by Alice Boyes, and “The Anxiety and Worry Workbook: The Cognitive Behavioral Solution” by David Clark and Aaron Beck.
New York-based Barnes & Noble…said the state of California has had the largest increase in interest in anxiety books in stores over the past year. The next largest increases were in Michigan and Massachusetts. Meanwhile, shoppers in Texas, North Carolina and Florida had the biggest decrease in interest in anxiety books, according to the bookseller’s sales data.
That has to be related to Trump, right? The highest interest books about anxiety is in blue states and the lowest in red states.
Of course the Trumpists have their own sources of anxiety, but their fears are based on fake “news.” I tried to read this Washington Post article yesterday, and had to stop for fear my head would explode: The mystery of ‘Q’: How an anonymous conspiracy-monger launched a movement (if the person exists).
From somewhere in the vast and mysterious “deep state,” a dissident agent rises up to give the people cryptic clues about how their heroic president will push back the forces of evil and make America great again. The renegade informant is known only as “Q,” and if such a person actually exists, it’s not in a movie, but somewhere in the Washington bureaucracy.
Energized by Q’s complex web of conspiracy notions about the forces aligned against President Trump, Q’s followers have spread virally both online and now out in real life, too, forming a movement known as QAnon that is making itself visible at Trump’s rallies and other public gatherings.
QAnon is something old — the latest in a string of conspiracy ideas that take hold of the public’s imagination in times of social stress and technological change. And QAnon is something new — a leaderless popular movement made up of people who believe in no one and therefore are willing to believe almost anything.
Apparently, these Q people think they are getting secret messages from things Trump says or does.
To believers, Q is a pseudonym for a well-placed U.S. government agent who is posting online distress messages and bits of intel, known as “bread crumbs,” in an effort to save the country — and Trump — from hostile forces within the government. Q’s missives started appearing last October on 4chan, the mostly anonymous website where fringe ideas incubate and blossom.
In messages written in a telegraphic, cryptic style, Q called on Americans to rally behind Trump as he planned a counteraction against forces that would investigate him and remove him from office. Some QAnon followers believe Trump himself inspired their movement with a comment he made last October at a photo session with military leaders. The president pointed to the officers’ uniforms and said, “You know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”
In far-flung corners of the Internet, some speculated that that storm was a counterstrike against the deep state. Then along came Q to turn that speculation into concrete predictions — of the arrest of Hillary Clinton, of a roundup of anti-Trump liberals, of a crackdown on child-sex-trafficking rings.
There’s much more at the link, if you can manage to wade through all the crazy. These people are turning up with their Q signs and T-shirts at Trump rallies, as you could see in the news coverage of the Tampa rally this week.
This story at the Daily Beast is really wacky: QAnon, the Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theorists, Now Believe JFK Jr. Faked His Death to Become Their Leader.
Believers in the bizarre pro-Trump conspiracy theory called QAnon were out in force at the president’s rally in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday, waving signs and cut-outs of the letter “Q” in front of the television cameras.
The surprisingly large number of Trump supporters who believe in the off-the-wall conspiracy theory and the attendant media attention marks a new height for QAnon, which grew from the internet swamps of 4Chan and 8Chan….
For QAnon believers, special counsel Robert Mueller isn’t really investigating the Trump campaign—he’s actually working with Trump to take down a cabal of deep-state plotters and pedophiles. Soon, QAnon fans believe, Trump will team up with the military to throw top Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama into Guantanamo Bay.
But what QAnon believers actually believe is constantly changing. After taking advantage of the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich and promoting dangerous ideas like Pizzagate, QAnon supporters have found a new tragedy to exploit: the death of John F. Kennedy Jr., son of the late president.
Until July, QAnon supporters believed that “Q,” the anonymous online forum poster whose cryptic clues make up the conspiracy theory, was a high-ranking Trump administration official, or maybe even Trump himself. But now, a good portion of QAnon believers have become convinced that Q is none other than JFK Jr, even though he died in a plane crash nearly 20 years ago.
Click on the link to read the rest.
In other news, today is day three of the first Paul Manafort trial. Some interesting reads:
Franklin Foer at The Atlantic: A Hell of a Performance by Paul Manafort.
A week ago, while lawyers futzed with pretrial motions, Manafort arrived in court wearing a green jumpsuit. But the trial is the show of his lifetime. His oversize frame is once again permitted to occupy a suit—a fact that everyone in the courtroom incessantly noticed, given how much of the afternoon’s testimony came from his former clothiers, one of whom described submitting Manafort invoices that exceeded $800,000.
Whatever the outward signs that Paul Manafort is experiencing public torment, the presence of other men in tailored suits seems to have allowed Manafort to elevate himself into a strange sense of ease. The most compelling drama of the trial so far is watching Manafort comport himself. And the spectacle is pure Manafort.
He stands trial for abusing money he received as a world-renowned political consultant. Jurors have heard from witnesses who have described him as a master craftsman of public image; old colleagues have testified to his narrative gifts. These talents were so often used to smooth over the reputations of awful men—the kleptocrats, strongmen, and oligarchs whom he ingratiated with the American elite. Now, it’s his own image and his own narrative that he must manage, with an audience of expressionless jurors tucked away at the side of the room. And as the jury of his peers comes and goes from the room, Manafort makes a point of flashing his well-buffed smile. It’s the look of a man projecting confidence. It’s kind of convincing.
Foer, who has followed Manafort’s corrupt career for many years, describes a man who may believe he’ll get away with his criminality one more time:
When Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors laid out their case in opening arguments, they correctly diagnosed Manafort’s sense of impunity. He’d kept right on scheming, they argued, because he believed that he would get away with it. Today, the presiding judge in the case, T. S. Ellis III, made a point of constantly chiding the government. He blamed prosecutors for describing Manafort’s clients as “oligarchs,” a term he called unfairly “pejorative.”
The Republican-appointed judge warned Mueller’s team against trying Manafort for “his lavish lifestyle.” As Manafort heard these arguments, I watched him from across the room. I saw him gazing ever so thoughtfully and detected a flicker of something else, too. In that moment, it wasn’t” hard to imagine him believing that he might just get away with it one more time.
Read the whole thing at The Atlantic.
TPM has posted photos of Manafort’s Fancy Clothes, Including The Ostrich Jacket.
If there was anything prosecutors at Paul Manafort’s trial were trying to impress on the jury Wednesday, it’s that he liked to spend money wired from his foreign bank accounts on fancy things — items that could not conceivably be considered business expenses and thus tax deductible.
Things like a $21,000 Limited Edition black titanium Royal Way watch with crystal, a Mercedes Benz for his wife, and a $15,000 jacket made of ostrich. Judge T.S. Ellis was not a fan of the prosecution’s focus on Manafort’s lavish lifestyle, and would often cut off questioning if it delved too into the details of the luxury items Manafort was purchasing, allegedly with income he failed to discloAse on federal tax forms and money he wired from foreign bank counts that he didn’t report to the U.S. government….
Luckily, photos of Manafort’s high-end apparel, taken during a FBI raid of his home last summer, were made public by Special Counsel Robert Mueller Wednesday.
Check out the photos at TPM.
Yesterday, prosecutors said they weren’t sure they would call Rick Gates as a witness. Today they announced that he will appear. Again, from TPM:
A day after giving a coy answer to the judge about whether it would call Rick Gates as a witness, the prosecution confirmed Thursday that the plan remains for Gates to testify in the ongoing Virginia trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
“We have every intention to call him as witness,” prosecutor Greg Andres said in court before the jury was ushered into the room.For months, Gates has been shaping up to be the key government witness in the case, after he agreed in February to cooperate with investigators. Gates was a longtime protege of Manafort’s, and was originally indicted with him by separate federal grand juries in Virginia and Washington, DC.
During opening statements, Manafort’s lawyer signaled his defense would largely be built on not only tearing down Gates’ credibility but pinning the blame for alleged financial misdeeds on Gates, including claiming that Gates embezzled money from Manafort.
One more Manafort-related article by Dana Millbank: The deep cynicism of Bernie Sanders’s chief strategist.
Tad Devine, during his run as chief strategist for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, railed against the corrupting influence of money in politics.
He repeatedly echoed the Sanders message that “our economy is rigged,” that “special interests” buy politicians, that “all of the new wealth is going to the top of America,” that there is a “corrupt system of campaign finance” of which Hillary Clinton offered an “egregious” example. Sanders, by contrast, “supported the little guy.”
Those who heard Devine’s interviews and watched his Sanders TV ads therefore may be surprised to know that, in the years and months leading up to the Sanders presidential campaign, Devine was making gobs of money to secure the election of one of the world’s most corrupt political figures and then his allies.
Thanks to Robert S. Mueller III’s prosecution of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman and sometime business associate of Devine, we now have an unusual glimpse into the role the Democratic ad man had in electing and preserving the power of Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovych, a crooked pro-Putin autocrat. Though American political consultants routinely rake in cash from foreign leaders — even shady ones — Devine’s seamless pivot from advocate for antidemocratic thug to champion of a principled democratic reformer shows extraordinary flexibility.
Of course we all knew Bernie was fraud all along; I wonder if the media will ask him to rationalize his choice of Devine to run his 2016 campaign?
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?