Your Trump/Russia Briefing

January 9, 2018

in Opinion

Originally posted to Facebook in January 2018.

So the Russia investigation story is now overspilling in so many headlines going in different directions that even I, who reads the news for a couple of hours every day, can now no longer keep up with it all. But if you would like a basic primer on why the Trump administration is burning down, here’s an overview:

1. Russia has been trying to interfere with multiple electoral processes throughout the world, and they interfered in the 2016 US Presidential election to promote Trump using a combination of methods, including cyber attacks, fake news reports, manipulating social media adverting, and using US citizens both knowing and ignorant as foreign intelligence agents.

2. It’s reasonably evident now that Donald Trump, and his family (especially Jared Kushner), and his associates, have been happily money-laundering through their real estate businesses for Russian and other foreign citizens, going back decades.

3. No-one in the Trump family knows anything about politics or good governance and this has made them incredibly susceptible to being used by other much smarter people to commit various crimes and take onto their teams various shady people with highly shady links to foreign powers and businessmen who should never in a million years have been let through the door had anyone so much as bothered to Google them.

4. Whatever Trump’s knowledge of the Russian conspiracy to interfere in the election on his behalf, he definitely knows that one shufty through his tax returns is going to turn up all kinds of highly dodgy stuff and is absolutely determined to try to stop this from happening. Because he has spent his entire life in a family owned business where he can tell anyone to do whatever he wants, he cannot conceive that he can’t just tell federal employees to do whatever he wants.

5. Trump’s efforts to shut up the investigation have been crude, blatant, extensively paper trailed, and would embarrass a mafia Don. Lets be fair to them – he has only been held back from a serious constitutional crisis so far by a string of Republican or Republican-appointed lawyers and staffers immolating their own careers to try to stop him. At some point, they will run out.

6. People are going to jail. The only question is whom and on what charge. Four people have already been indicted and there’s going to be more.

7. It’s fairly unlikely that Donald Trump will actually be prosecuted or indicted while in office, or even once he leaves, whether in 2020 or sooner. For all his disgusting venal self-congratulatory man-baby boorishness, he’s the President of the United States of America and American patriots fetishise that office and try to honour the people who hold it, however unworthy. But if he does get indicted, it’ll be for money-laundering and not for obstruction of justice.

8. I’d put his chances of being impeached though at about 50-50. Ultimately this a political move that to succeed would require an atmosphere of bipartisanship that does not currently exist, but might do after a catastrophic mid-term for the Republican Party.

9. There are four Russia investigations running simultaneously, and they cover the actions and dealings of over 270 people so far. This is not even close to the middle of being done.

10. None of this will have any effect on the willingness of Republican voters to continue to elect people who keep sticking their hands together with the PrittStick.

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Originally posted to Facebook, 13th November 2016.

‘Make America Great Again’ could just have easily referred to a platform built on free college education, equality before the law, universal healthcare, or TARP, or Barack Obama’s action to save the American auto industry. The handwringing on the part of liberals about whether the left did this is partially true in that we have failed to fight science with science – the right in America and Europe have gotten to where they are by the simple repetition of ideas and phrases hammered home so hard and so often that even people who consider themselves progressive instinctively think in their terms. The idea that Hillary Clinton is fundamentally dishonest, for example, is a narrative that was handed to you by the climate-change-denying, tax-cutting, intelligent-design-wielding right and which has no basis in reality (look at Politifact), but has simply been repeated so often for the last twenty years it has become fact. To the point where people on the left feel proud to say it because it makes them feel all cool and subversive.

That’s how the right feel, too.

Did you know American evangelical Christian support for environmental regulation and combatting climate change has increased dramatically in recent years? Its because a group of pastors actively agreed to stop talking about ‘dominion over the earth’ and to start instead talking about ‘creation care’. Did you know that in the aftermath of the 2004 presidential election, the American campaigns for same-sex marriage realised their message of same-sex marriage as a civil right wasn’t resonating, so they retooled their argument around LGBT people being able to experience love, commitment and families ‘just like yours’. Messages that were picked up and amplified by massive organised constituencies. Ten years later… The ideas didn’t change, just the conceptual framework around them.

I don’t think we need to accept racism and intolerance. But if you were actually listening to what the people who voted for racism and intolerance have to say, not pandering, like literally listening, you would notice the extent to which their defence of almost any of their stated views is a repetition of simple propaganda lines that are agreed upon, shared and stated over and over again by right wing politicians and media outlets.

I haven’t met many Trump supporters, but one I did this summer, on being asked how he could support someone who had done x, responded with what I, Hack, realised was a verbatim quotation of two lines from Donald Trump’s speech the day before. He didn’t even seem to notice.

I believe the left have superior ideas about things like ‘equality of opportunity’ and ‘justice for all’ and ‘black people being human beings’ but let’s face it, the right has wiped the floor with us all around the world because their packaging looks really awesome and exciting and it has our name on it in really cool bubble pen.

The modern use of the word ‘propaganda’ was developed by the Soviets. They used their propaganda to persuade millions of people to support the overthrow of their own government and try out a completely different political system, which was an amazing achievement when you think about the circumstances then and the state of communist writing now. It’s time to recognize that the left have better memes but our propaganda lines promoted in them are really lame. ‘You suck if you voted Donald Trump’ isn’t a message, it’s an insult. ‘I’m With Her [Platform of Incremental Change]’ doesn’t secretly thrill me. Not the way ‘Yes We Can’ chanted by tens of thousands did. Not the way ‘Feel the Bern’ did.

But these were about people, not ideas.

If we’re going to live in a post-factual era, then we need some new lefty post-facts. Some sexy, simple, conceptual mindworms that get into your software architecture and prevent you from conceiving of a world that is both righteous and has people living without access to clean drinking water and vaccines.

That’s what I’m going to work on now. The book’s already been written (It’s called Don’t Think of an Elephant! And I’m sure many others have been written I haven’t read) and the theory’s done, but we need to start committing ourselves to implementing what we’ve learned from this election: you can get elected President of the United States of America if you just make your sentences short and simple enough that people can’t think of anything else. Even if those sentences describe ideas that make absolutely no sense.

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