Friday Reads: A House Divided

Norah Neilson-Gray

Good Day Sky Dancers!

We continue to find more about just exactly how violent the insurrectionists were as they were attacking the Capitol. We’ve also found that Republicans are eager to remove access to voting seeing it as the only path to remaining front and center in the culture wars as a white nationalist christianist party while being a minority party.   The third thing we learned yesterday was that election interference from foreign countries hostile to the US and democracy are moving the process along.

Anne Applebaum writes this lede for The Atlantic: The Science of Making Americans Hurt Their Own Country. A new report lays bare why Russian disinformation succeeds.” Konstantin Kilimnik figures prominently. He was core to passing Russian disinformation to Rudy Gulliani in 2020.

When I read the report, my instinctive reaction was I know all of this already. No wonder the story is familiar—most of it appeared in newspapers as it was unfolding. Giuliani’s contacts with Derkach can’t be described as an open secret, because they weren’t secret at all. In 2019 the two men appeared together on the One American News Network, a far-right channel that breathlessly described Derkach as part of a group of “actual whistleblowers,” talked about the “impeachment hoax,” and referred to the FBI’s “personal hatred for Donald Trump.” Giuliani and Derkach provided the channel with doctored tapes and other material designed to create the impression that Biden was somehow involved in corruption in Ukraine.

Kilimnik, too, has become an old and familiar face in American politics, one that appears in election after election. During the 2016 campaign, Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, passed polling information to him. Although this fact turned up in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the 2016 election, nobody has ever explained why Kilimnik wanted this polling information or what he might have done with it. Now here he is, back again, front and center in 2020. The new report says that—in addition to providing kompromat to OANN—Kilimnik, Derkach, and others “met with and provided materials to Trump administration–linked US persons to advocate for formal investigations; hired a US firm to petition US officials; and attempted to make contact with several senior US officials.”

All of that helps explain why my second reaction was If I know this already, and none of it seems to matter, then something is seriously wrong with the American political system. If the link between Russian security services and the stories about the Biden family was bleedingly obvious at the time, why did anyone go along with it? Why were American journalists, American politicians, and the American president’s advisers messing around with Russian intelligence agents?

Self Portrait with Cloud & Cigarette
Joan Brown

That’s the question we keep asking here.  It was obvious.  Why were so many drawn into the narrrative.  Applebaum continues.

The problem is not only the outgrowth of the peculiar climate created by Donald Trump—however simple and satisfying such an explanation might be. Think, for a moment, about why the Russian state indulges in this kind of activity, year in and year out, despite the political costs and the risk of sanctions: Because it’s very cheap, it’s very easy, and a lot of evidence suggests that it works.

For decades now, Russian security services have studied a concept called “reflexive control”—the science of how to get your enemies to make mistakes. To be successful, practitioners must first analyze their opponents deeply, to understand where they get their information and why they trust it; then they need to find ways of playing with those trusted sources, in order to insert errors and mistakes. This way of thinking has huge implications for the military; consider how a piece of incorrect information might get a general to make a mistake. But it works in politics too. The Russian security services have now studied us and worked out (it probably wasn’t very hard) that large numbers of Americans—not only Fox News pundits and OANN broadcasters but also members of Congress—are very happy to accept sensational information, however tainted, from any source that happens to provide it. As long as it suits their partisan frames, and as long as it can be used against their opponents, they don’t care who invented it or for what purpose.

In other words, there’s an eager market here for all those false narratives. It’s basically a group of Republican White Men of a certain flavor of Christianity eager to maintaing Patriarchy and Hegemony.  They’re desperate and they’re doing whatever they can to fight the changing US demographics.   Hence, nearly every republican-controlled statehouse in the country is rushing through Jim Crow Redux.  This is at the roots of the insurrection, the elevation of Trumpism, and the total Republican Meltdown about every Mexican or South American that shows up at the border. Racism, Sexism and Xenobia is all they have any more.

Self-portrait Zinaida Serebriakova 1921

The Washington Post‘s David Ignatious has this analysis and opinion this morning. “Russia’s disinformation campaign will keep rolling, as long as Republicans are gullible enough”.

The most startling conclusion that emerges from the intelligence reports is that Republicans close to Trump continued to peddle Moscow’s line even after they were warned about the Russian disinformation campaign. They eagerly took the bait.

One persistent pro-Kremlin manipulator was Andriy Derkach, a Ukrainian legislator who the first report alleged “has ties to Russian officials as well as Russia’s intelligence services.” Derkach met in Kyiv on Dec. 5, 2019, with Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, to pass disinformation about Biden. Haines noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin “had purview over the activities” of Derkach.

The intelligence community warned the White House back then, in December 2019, that “Giuliani was the target of an influence operation by Russian intelligence,” according to a story 10 months later in The Post.

Self Portrait, Joni Mitchell,

Maybe both the press and social media outlets are beginning to come around to this nonsense. This is from CNBC: Twitter suspends GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene as Democrats push to expel her from Congress.”

Twitter has once again suspended the account of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., her office said Friday, as dozens of House Democrats move to expel the conspiracy-embracing lawmaker from Congress.

Greene, who has previously promoted the baseless pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy and supported calls for violence against Democrats, said in a campaign message that Twitter suspended her account around 1 a.m. Friday “without explanation,” her office told CNBC.

Greene’s account is locked for 12 hours, according to that campaign message.

Spokespeople for Twitter did not immediately confirm the suspension or provide comment on Greene’s claims.

Twitter had previously temporarily suspended Greene in January for spreading misinformation.

Greene’s office raised suspicions about the timing of the social media giant’s latest action, which allegedly came hours before Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., introduced a resolution to expel Greene from Congress. There was no immediate evidence to back up the suspicions.

Amrita Sher-Gil · Self Portrait · 1933

We’re finding more about the Capitol Insurrectionsists. We knew they were violent but any one watching the news last night saw it first hand.  This is from NPR: “Yes, Capitol Rioters Were Armed. Here Are The Weapons Prosecutors Say They Used”.

In the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, a popular narrative has emerged: that because rioters did not fire guns that day, they were not really “armed.”

But a review of the federal charges against the alleged rioters shows that they did come armed, and with a variety of weapons: stun guns, pepper spray, baseball bats and flagpoles wielded as clubs. An additional suspect also allegedly planted pipe bombs by the headquarters of the Democratic and Republican parties the night before the riot and remains at large.

Those weapons brought violence and chaos to the Capitol. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died one day after two rioters allegedly sprayed him and other officers with what prosecutors describe as an “unknown chemical substance.” Four other people in the crowd died in the insurrection, and more than 100 police officers suffered injuries, including cracked ribs, gouged eyes and shattered spinal disks.

Some supporters of former President Donald Trump have argued that the dangerousness of the Capitol rioters has been overblown. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has said, for example, “This didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me.”

Natalia Goncharova

Then there is this little bit of news from VIce :Trump Official Charged In Capitol Riot Has Family Ties to Argentina’s Military Junta.  Federico “Freddie” Klein, a Trump appointee, repeatedly praised the Argentinian military junta of the 1970s and 80s while working at the State Department.”  Look, another one of those very nice people on both sides.

A Trump administration official who’s been charged with playing a major role in the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol had a history of praising a military dictatorship that seized power in a coup—and close family ties to that junta.

Federico “Freddie” Klein, a former mid-level political appointee at the State Department who sits in jail awaiting a trial for his role in the riots, repeatedly praised the Argentinian military junta of the late 1970s and early 1980s while working at the State Department, according to three former colleagues.

“He had warm feelings about the Argentine junta. His father’s Argentine, and he expressed some frustration about how history remembers that brutal dictatorship,” one former State Department official who’d heard Klein praise the junta told VICE News.

It turns out that those views may run in the family.

Klein’s uncle Guillermo Walter Klein Jr. was a senior economic official in the Argentine military junta shortly after came to power in 1976. While he pushed through drastic neoliberal economic reforms, the military and its allies were busy murdering as many as 30,000 Argentine students, trade union organizers and other dissidents. And he may not have been the only relative with pro-junta views.

Bob Cox, a former newspaper editor in Argentina, told VICE News that he knew both Walter and Federico, Freddie’s father—and while he hadn’t met Freddie, who was born in the U.S. in 1978, Cox said was “not a bit surprised” about his alleged involvement in the insurrection given his father’s and uncle’s politics.

“There is a connection of the belief that you use military force, if you can. That ran in the family,” he said.

A number of Argentina experts—as well as some of Freddie Klein’s former colleagues — noted unsettling parallels between his family’s support for a right-wing coup that toppled a democratically elected regime in Argentina and Freddie’s own alleged role in the attempted pro-Trump coup at the Capitol on January 6.

So, I don’t know what we’re going to do about it but I do believe that media coverage is still part of the primary cause and effect as well as solution. Then there’s the still wild wild frontier approach adopted early on by social media prior to them becoming a force in merchandising and monetizing everything.  Let’s not even think about the Dark Web. At the heart of this is that these Republicans officials are willing to do anything to stay in power including push false narratives to their gullible base.  That’s not the way a democracy is supposed to work.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

11 Comments on “Friday Reads: A House Divided”

  1. dakinikat says:

    Hope you have a very very good day!

    • Enheduanna says:

      Harold and Maude is one of my favorites, too. I rarely like to rewatch movies but this one was like playing a much-loved record over and over. Cat Steven’s score was part of that of course. It was playing at a little art-house theatre near me when it came out and a friend worked there, so he let us in several times. LOL

  2. quixote says:

    Indeed. The pattern that people *like* the lies is becoming very noticeable. People aren’t actually taken in, or hoodwinked, or accidentally pulled into youtube rabbit holes.

    They actively seek out the most “interesting” (read far out) inputs that provide confirmation bias.

    Unfortunately, it’s not just Republicans or Republican congresscritters who suffer from it. Although they’re definitely a big solid blob of the most determined perps.

    Specifically Repub congresscritters have obviously been grabbing the stuff with both hands to use it to get or maintain power. And so far, no consequences. Because they’ve been successful in using it to get power. Which bodes really really really ill for the future.

    • dakinikat says:

      i have a cousin and a friend that I actively and continually ask them where the hell they read that. It usually turns out they were looking for sources–spurious or otherwise–to justify their views. When I had one tell me I just asked a friend of Chinese descent if she was offended by the term chinese virus and she said no so I don’t think it’s racist I wanted to scream.

  3. dakinikat says:

    Guess who brought the infection vector with them?

  4. NW Luna says:

  5. djmm says:

    Love the self portraits!

    If Democrats were playing footsie with the Russians, the way Republicans have done, Republicans would be shouting from the rooftops. They would demand investigations. They would threaten to charge people with being traitors.

    Why is it that Democrats only get outraged by sexual misconduct allegations — before they are fully investigated — against their/our own?