Category: Internet

How Much Did Trolling Really Lead to Trump?

The following is an archived story from Medium. As people try to understand the narrative of how Donald Trump was elected President, a few conspiracy theories are becoming commonplace (and some, including the Russian interference narrative, due to a slow trickle of corroborating evidence). Remember, while reading this and thinking about conspiracy theories in general, it is possible to look at evidence and determine a finding different from that of the evidence’s original proponent. It is also possible to ignore evidence, it just happens to be pretty intellectually dishonest. What is nearly impossible to prove is that a specific set of factors caused an event to occur.

4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump

Trump’s younger supporters know he’s an incompetent joke; in fact, that’s why they support him.

Written by Dale Beran (Medium) Originally Published February 14, 2017

1. Born from Something Awful
Around 2005 or so a strange link started showing up in my old webcomic’s referral logs. This new site I didn’t understand. It was a bulletin board, but its system of navigation was opaque. Counter intuitively, you had to hit “reply” to read a thread. Moreover, the content was bizarre nonsense.
The site, if you hadn’t guessed, was 4chan.org. It was an offshoot of a different message board which I also knew from my referral logs, “Something Awful”, at the time, an online community of a few hundred nerds who liked comics, video games, and well, nerds things. But unlike boards with similar content, Something Awful skewed toward dark jokes. I had an account at Something Awful, which I used sometimes to post in threads about my comic.
4chan had been created by a 15 year old Something Awful user named Christopher Poole (whose 4chan mod name was “m00t”). Poole had adapted a type of Japanese bulletin board software which was difficult to understand at first, but once learned, was far more fun to post in than the traditional American format used by S.A., as a result the site became popular very quickly.
These days, 4chan appears in the news almost weekly. This past week, there were riots at Berkeley in the wake of the scheduled lecture by their most prominent supporter, Milo Yiannopoulos. The week before that neo-Nazi Richard Spencer pointed to his 4chan inspired Pepe the Frog pin, about to explain the significance when an anti-fascist protester punched him in the face. The week before that, 4chan claimed (falsely) it had fabricated the so called Trump “Kompromat”. And the week before that, in the wake of the fire at Ghost Ship, 4chan decided to make war on “liberal safe spaces” and DIY venues across the country.
How did we get here? What is 4chan exactly? And how did a website about anime become the avant garde of the far right? Mixed up with fascist movements, international intrigue, and Trump iconography? How do we interpret it all?
At the very beginning, 4chan met once a year in only one place in the world: Baltimore, Maryland at the anime convention, Otakon. As a nerdy teen growing up in Baltimore in the 90s, I had wandered into Otakon much like I had later wandered into 4chan, just when it was starting. I also attended Otakon in the mid-aughts when 4chan met there, likewise to promote my webcomic.
As someone who has witnessed 4chan grow from a group of adolescent boys who could fit into a single room at my local anime convention to a worldwide coalition of right wing extremists (which is still somehow also a message board about anime), I feel I have some obligation to explain.
This essay is an attempt to untangle the threads of 4chan and the far right.

2. Anon Steps Out to Fight Lord Xenu
In the beginning I didn’t pay all that much attention 4chan. I knew they were a group of teen anime fans who met to party awkwardly like so many other teens at nerd-themed conventions. But around 2008 I realized I wanted to do a story on them. Their user base had grown exponentially and it was obvious they were about to explode into the mainstream. (Much to the dismay of its millions of users, who tried in vain desperation to keep it a secret.)
The key to 4chan’s popularity (and what distinguished it from its progenitor Something Awful) was the Japanese bulletin board Poole had adapted for English use. People had so much fun using it, threads became ephemeral, growing wildly within seconds, then disappearing minutes later, pushed out of the way and into oblivion by new threads and so forth ad infinitum 24/7. Perhaps the most appealing part for users was that you didn’t have to make an account. The software displayed a default name for posters who didn’t sign up — which was everyone. On all those millions upon millions of posts the author’s name was simply, “Anonymous”. Users began referring to each other by that name. “Hi Anon here,” posts would begin. And so Anonymous was born.
Now 4chan is often explained as being responsible for some early popular memes like “rickrolling”. But this is an understatement. 4chan invented the meme as we use it today. At the time, one of the few places you saw memes was there. The white Impact font with the black outlines, that was them (via S.A.). Terms like “win” and “epic” and “fail” were all created or popularized on 4chan, used there for years before they became a ubiquitous part of the culture. The very method of how gifs and images are interspersed with dialogue in Slack or now iMessage or wherever is deeply 4chanian. In other words, the site left a profound impression on how we as a culture behave and interact.
In 2008, I wrote the site’s teenage founder, Poole, whose contact was at the top of the site, asking for an interview. He never wrote back. Then I saw 4chan was meeting, not in Baltimore, but a few blocks from my apartment in New York, in fact, in many cities around the world. They had planned to protest the church of Scientology.
Why this group of nerdy boys had pivoted from meeting at my local anime convention and goofing off to protesting Scientology is an interesting question.
To answer it, we must look a little closer at 4chan’s system of values. To those with a passing knowledge of 4chan it’s strange to think of it having a value system. And indeed it did try its mightiest to be nihilistic, to hate, to deny, to shrug, to laugh off everything as a joke like all teenage boys do (the board was mostly young men). This effort was of course impossible. The attempts to be “random”, like a Rorschach test, painted a portrait of exactly who they were, the voids filled in with their identity, their interests, their tastes. The result was that 4chan had a culture as complex as any other society of millions of people, anonymous or no. There were things it loved, things it hated, ways of being and acting that met with approval and disapproval in the group.
In fact, it codified its value system in a series of “rules”. Like everything it did, these were constructed piecemeal from pop culture. Rule #1 was taken from Fight Club’s Rule # 1, “Don’t talk about 4chan”. All the rules had a Lord of the Flies vibe to them, that is to say, they were very obviously created by a bullying and anarchic society of adolescent boys — or at least, men with the mindset of boys — particularly lonely, sex starved man-boys, who according to their own frequent jokes about the subject, lived in their parents’ basement. (Poole himself lived in his parents’ basement well after the initial success of the the site.) They were obsessed with Japanese culture and, naturally enough, there was already a term for people like them in Japan, hikikomori — — meaning “pulling inward, or being confined” — teens and adults who withdrew from society into fantasy worlds constructed by anime, video games, and now the internet. And of course, it’s relevant to note here the themes of Fight Club itself, a film about a male collective who regains their masculinity through extreme acts after it has been debased by modern corporate culture.
Also like adolescent boys, 4chan users were deeply sensitive and guarded. They disguised their own sensitivity (namely, their fear that they would be, “forever alone”) by extreme insensitivity. The rules, like everything else, were always half in jest. Everything had to be a done with at least a twinkle of winking irony. This was an escape route, a way of never having to admit to your peers that you were in fact expressing something from your heart, in other words — that you were indeed vulnerable. No matter what a user did or said, he could always say it was “for the lulz” (lols). Like (by comparison the tame and sophisticated precursor) “Something Awful” board that spawned it, 4chan defined itself by being insensitive to suffering in that way only people who have never really suffered can — that is to say, young people, mostly young men, protected by a cloak of anonymity. The accepted standard was a sort of libertarian “free speech” banner, in which isolated man-boys asserted their right to do or say anything no matter someone else’s feelings. This meant generally posting pornography, swastikas, racial slurs, and content that reveled in harm to other people.
Before 4chan’s dispute with Scientology it had banded together for practical jokes they had called “raids”. The board would flood particular chat rooms or online networks. Thousands of 4chan users would appear in the virtual child’s world Habbo Hotel to cause chaos, for no other reason than that it was an amusing way to pass their near limitless idle time (or as they would phrase it, “for the lulz”).
During the raids, they would enforce “Rule 1”, and conceal the very fact of 4chan. An ongoing joke was to claim they were from a rival site, newgrounds.com. The Scientology “protest” was also in large part a “raid”. Videos were made directed at Scientology pretending “Anonymous” was a shadowy and powerful cabal, something akin to Hydra from Marvel comic books. Since no one knew who Anonymous was at the time, they could pretend they were anything. This meant that there was another more serious component in the protest. The part that wasn’t a joke was an experiment in political power. What could they do with their numbers? Could they actually destroy Scientology? If not, how far could they get? There wasn’t a consensus of course. Many on 4chan expressed indignation and rage at the protests. They were afraid that “Rule #1” would be broken; 4chan would be outed — and as a consequence — the only community in which they had found acceptance would disappear.
The morning of the protest was a brutally cold Saturday. My roommate and I, bleary-eyed, boarded the subway and took it two stops to Times Square. We had a vague feeling we were being trolled.
“No way these nerds are leaving their parents’ basements…” my roommate grumbled as we ascended up the NQR steps. Times Square was abandoned. Not even the tourists were out. All you could see was the trash billowing about on the streets. Then we turned the corner on to 46th street and to our astonishment several hundred people were screaming and shouting, cordoned off in front of the Scientology building. Anonymous. Every one. They all wore masks, mostly Guy Fawkes masks, inspired by the Wachowski sisters’ adaptation of a comic book. This was, in comic book parlance, the mask’s “first appearance” (IRL). I interviewed the perplexed Scientologist standing between the columns of his temple. He was wearing a gleaming silver suit, the threads iridescent. He looked horrified and perplexed.
“These are terrorists,” he insisted, of course having no idea who they were, which was message board users. “This is a terrorist organization. And we are religion protected by the First Amendment.” Then he handed me a packet, surprisingly thick, full of glossy pamphlets about Scientology, like something you might get from a college admissions office.
I interviewed a pimply faced boy, his Guy Fawkes mask pulled up over long, curly, orange locks.
“How was this protest organized?” I asked.
“It was organized on a site called newgrounds.com” he answered.
“Is the protest a joke or serious?”
“It’s serious business.” he replied. Serious business was a meme, a joke on 4chan. And so it went down the line, “anonymous” protestors, all 4chan users, following Rule #1, trying to conceal 4chan from me, and obscure the source of the joke, just like a real life “raid” into a chatroom, hiding their motivations behind a mirrored chamber of repeated memes. Habbo Hotel by way of Lord Xenu. Xenu was Scientology’s ultimate revelatory secret, the intergalactic space ruler who seeded earth in the primeval past. So Anon chanted his name as a meme. It was their only real political statement: all information was free now that we had the internet. Scientology acolytes the same age, handing out copies of Dianetics, stopped up their ears.
When the protest broke up (it was scheduled to end at noon), a nerd dressed like Neo from The Matrix in a long black duster shouted, “Now back to our parents’ basements!” and the whole crowd laughed.
4chan’s first day out. The Scientology protests of 2008 off Broadway.

3. New Horizons
The peculiar thing about the Scientology protest was how little 4chan cared about Scientology. The original cause of the dispute had to do with 4chan’s access to “lulz” on the internet. Scientology had removed a funny video featuring Tom Cruise rambling incoherently about Scientology. 4chan believed this had interfered with their unlimited right to post anything (and keep it) on the internet. There was a moral component to their protest, but it was tangential at best.
When, several years later, Occupy Wall Street came to Zuccotti Park, it too only tangentially touched upon 4chan’s political interests and complaints. 4chan was libertarian. During the 2008 presidential election, it supported Ron Paul (replacing its traditional greeting “sup /b/” with “ron paul /b/”). 4chan wanted the right to do as it pleased and not much else. Where large organized systems like corporations, the government, or Scientology, interfered with that “right”, they opposed them. Anonymous attacked corporations like Paypal and American Express, not because of their corporateness, but because they had frozen the assets of Julian Assange who had similar beliefs about the freedom to distribute information on the internet.
At Occupy Wall Street, 4channers were a distinct minority. Now and again someone in a Guy Fawkes mask would voice libertarian ideas among a group of radical leftists discussing socialism.
However, despite not being on the left, Anonymous is often conflated or confused with the leftist Occupy movement. For example, in the T.V. series Mr. Robot, a group of clandestine anonymous hackers (“F Society”) releases a video that is clearly derived from 4chan’s/Anonymous’ video for the Scientology protests. The hackers in Mr. Robot, who wear masks similar to those of 4chan’s Guy Fawkes mask, want to destroy the corporate hegemony and free everyone from their debt, student or otherwise. That is to say, they have the agenda of Occupy Wall Street.
The absurdity here shouldn’t go without note. Emulating fiction from T.V. and comic books, 4chan forum go-ers pretended to be an international cabal of powerful hackers. Then almost a decade later, a T.V. show about a fictional cabal of powerful hackers copies their video, closing the loop.
An image saved off 4chan in February of 2011 by me, the lurking author.
By the end of 2011, 4chan had finally been outed. Subsequently, the group splintered in a sense; anyone could and did pick up the banner of Anonymous. Hackers labeling themselves as such pursued different agendas, some anti-corporate, some truly noble — like helping convict the Steubenville rapists. But philanthropic and anti-corporate hacking was not at the heart of what 4chan was about. It had started and always was in some way about the “lulz”, using the computer for entertainment, for passing the time. Perhaps there was a moment when it could have been something else, a shining possibility that emerged on the horizon in one of those magical revolutionary moments in which all things are possible, like Occupy Wall Street itself. But, it was not to be. At least, not yet.
4chan was now spread along a network of websites and IRC channels of which 4chan.org was one. The press often lamented how, like Occupy Wall Street, they could not define Anonymous. No one person represented it. But this same reasoning could also be used to make the opposite point. If no definition existed for Anonymous, why were millions of people identifying as one of the group? Just because the borders were as amorphous as a cloud, didn’t mean it wasn’t as large or real as one. It was still united by a common culture and set of values, fuzzy around the edges, but solid at the core. And what was this solid core that defined it? The same thing it had always been.
It was still a group of hikikomori — a group of primarily young males who spent a lot of the time at the computer, so much so they had retreated into virtual worlds of games, T.V., and now the networks of the internet. This was where most or all of their interaction, social or otherwise took place. The real world, by contrast, above their mother’s basements, was a place they did not succeed, perhaps a place they did not fundamentally understand.
An early 4chan meme made from a screenshot of 4chan.
This, of course, did not describe everyone, but it was the bulk of the bell curve. Sometimes, while meeting virtually to commiserate about the problem, 4chan sought to fix it. For example, 4chan created a /fit/ board, teaching “Anons” how to exercise and groom themselves. The advice was so basic, it was endearing. (“You have to shower once a day” etc.) There were professionals and successful people on the board who used it only for amusement. And there were hackers who did indeed use their knowledge of virtual worlds to effect substantive change in the real one. But the core of the culture remained more or less unchanged. It was a culture that celebrated failure — that from the very beginning encouraged anyone who posted to “become an hero” (their term for killing themselves, and sometimes others in the bargain). And 4chan’s next big effort reflected that. In fact, it was such a big deal for them because, after all their groping for a prank that might become a cause 4chan cared about, they finally hit on one that expressed their strange, unique complaints.

4. Gamergate: Anon Defends his Safe Spaces
It’s difficult to recall what started Gamergate because, like much of 4chan-style content, it never made sense on the surface. The mind tends to discard such things as nonsense. Nonetheless, there was a beginning. In 2014, a jilted lover claimed his ex-girlfriend had been unfaithful to him. He tried to prove to the internet that he was wronged in an embarrassing and incoherent blog post. The target of his post, his ex, happened to be a female game developer.
Soon 4chan and other like minded men who felt wronged by women, took up the rallying cry. The effort somehow moved from lurid interest in a particular woman’s sex life to a critique of video games. Gamergaters believed that “SJWs” (Social Justice Warriors) were adding unwanted elements into their video games, namely things which promoted gender equality.
Strangely enough, they believed this was happening not because video game creators and the video game press were interested in making and reviewing games that dealt with these issues, but because there was a grand conspiracy perpetrated by a few activists to change video games.
While this whirling connective tissue of nonsense doesn’t seem to make much sense at first glance (and indeed, much of the game-making community and the press in general struggled to understand it). It makes perfect sense if we look at this New York Times story about how more than 16% percent of men in the nation are unemployed.
Again, here we can understand this group as people who have failed at the real world and have checked out of it and into the fantasy worlds of internet forums and videos games. These are men without jobs, without prospects, and by extension (so they declaimed) without girlfriends. Their only recourse, the only place they feel effective, is the safe, perfectly cultivated worlds of the games they enter. By consequence of their defeat, the distant, abstract concept of women in the flesh makes them feel humiliated and rejected. Yet, in the one space they feel they can escape the realities of this, the world of the video game, here (to them, it seems) women want to assert their presence and power.
If this sounds hard to believe, take for example Milo Yiannopoulos, the “Technology Editor” at Breitbart News, whose scheduled lecture this month at Berkeley spawned massive riots and protests. Yiannopoulos rose to prominence via Gamergate. He is not a “technology” editor because he compares the chip architectures of competing graphics cards. Rather the “tech” here is code for the fact that his audience is the vast population of sad young men who have retreated to internet communities. Likewise the mainstream press sometimes describes him as troll as a way of capturing his vague association with 4chan. This term, too, is inaccurate. He is 4chan at its most earnest, after all these men have finally discovered their issue — the thing that unites them — their failure and powerlessness literally embodied (to them) by women.
Yiannopoulos is depicted as the last on the right in an Instagram image posted by Donald Trump in September of 2016.
Yiannopoulos’ rambling “arguments” against feminism, are not arguments at all, as much as pep talks, ways of making these dis-empowered men feel empowered by discarding the symbol of their failure — women. As an openly gay man, he argues that men no longer need be interested in women, that they can and should walk away from the female sex en masse. For example in a long incoherent set of bullet points on feminism he states:
The rise of feminism has fatally coincided with the rise of video games, internet porn, and, sometime in the near future, sex robots. With all these options available, and the growing perils of real-world relationships, men are simply walking away.
Here Yiannopoulos has inverted what has actually happened to make his audience feel good. Men who have retreated to video games and internet porn can now characterize their helpless flight as an empowered conscious choice to reject women for something else. In other words, it justifies a lifestyle which in their hearts they previously regarded helplessly as a mark of shame.
Gamergate at last (unlike Habbo Hotel, Scientology, Paypal, or Occupy Wall Street) was a “raid” that mattered, that wasn’t just a fun lark to pass the time or a winking joke. Here was another issue (besides “let me do what I want on the internet all the time”) that spoke to the bulk of 4chan users.
Anon was going to get “SJW”s (ie. empowered women) out of their safe spaces — video games — the place from which they retreated from women by indulging in fantasies in which they were in control (that is to say, ones which demeaned women).
However, their efforts failed, not so much for lack of trying (though there’s that, too) but because the campaign itself was a fantasy. Gamergate was, quite poetically, defined by the campaigners poor-reality testing. The people carrying it out did not interact with real life all that much, only the virtual escapist worlds of video games, message boards, and anime.
And thus the campaign proceeded like the video game it wasn’t. Menus of “target lists” were drawn up, their enemies (mostly women they wanted to harrass) labelled “warriors”. 4chan users pretended a furious amount of mouse clicking and virtual action would somehow translate into a concrete reward appearing in their computer screens, like it does, say, in World of Warcraft.
Namely, gamergaters believed that online sleuthing would uncover a tangible conspiracy about how game creators colluded to further a “Social Justice Warrior” agenda. Among many others, they hacked the Skype account of the indie game developer I was working for at the time, presumably reading our conversations about the game we were making looking for the moment when we uttered “now to further the secret SJW agenda”. What they found instead was my boss patiently explaining to me the best ways to make a video game. One of the cardinal rules was that every action the user takes must have a carefully calibrated system of escalating rewards. Complete a level, get a cut scene. Video games in this sense, are meticulously constructed to make sure the user is entertained at every moment through a challenge-reward system.
All that work cracking Skype accounts with wordlists did not yield the tangible reward of evidence of a cabal. The real world behaves differently than a video game. There were shades of grey. It disappointed. What you did and what you got for your efforts were muddled. It was more challenging than the safe spaces of a video game, carefully crafted to accommodate gamers and make them feel — well, the exact opposite of how they felt interacting in the real world — effective. In the fantasy world of the game, actions achieved ends.
It was almost as if all these disaffected young men were waiting for a figure to come along who, having achieved nothing in his life, pretended as though he had achieved everything, who by using the tools of fantasy, could transmute their loserdom (in 4chan parlance, their “fail”), into “win”.

5. Trump: the Loser who Won
Another vintage 4chan meme from the author’s personal collection.
In Bukowski’s novel Factotum, the main character, Hank Chinaski, drifts through various demeaning blue-collar jobs until he ends up working the stockroom of an autoparts store. The job is no better than any of the others, except for one important difference: It ends early enough for Chinaski and another worker, Manny, to race to the track for the last bet of the day. Soon the other workers in the warehouse hear of the scheme and ask Hank to put down their bets, too.
At first Hank objects. He doesn’t have time to make their petty bets before the track closes. But Manny has a different idea.
“We don’t bet their money, we keep their money.” he tells Hank.
“Suppose they win?” Hank asks.
“They won’t win. They always pick the wrong horse. They have a way of always picking the wrong horse.”
“Suppose they bet our horse?”
“Then we know we’ve got the wrong horse.”
Soon Chinaski and Manny are flush with money, not from working for the $1.25 an hour at the warehouse or even making smart bets themselves, but for taking the money of the other workers and not betting it. That is after all, why those same men handing over their bets work in the factory; they are defined by their bad decisions, by the capacity for always getting a bad deal. Their wages and their bets are both examples of the same thing.
Trump, of course, has made his fortune in a similar manner, with casinos, correspondence courses, and pageants, swindling money out of aspiring-millionaire blue collar workers, selling them not a bill of goods, but the hope of a bill of goods, the glitz and glamour of success, to people who don’t win, or in Trump’s parlance, “don’t win anymore.” As if once, in the mythic past he invented, they did once and soon will again, since at the heart of what he promised was, “you’ll win so much you’ll get sick of winning”. In other words, if we are to understand Trump supporters, we can view them at the core as losers — people who never ever bet on the right horse — Trump, of course, being the signal example, the man obsessed with “losers” who, seemingly was going to be remembered as one of the biggest losers in history — until he won.
The older generation of Trump supporters the press often focuses on, the so called “forgotten white working class”, are in this sense easier to explain since they fit into the schema of a 1950s-style electorate. Like the factory workers in Factotum, the baby boomers were promised pensions and prosperity, but received instead simply the promises. Here the narrative is simple. The workers were promised something and someone (the politicians? the economy? the system itself?) never delivered. Their horse never came in.
This telling of the story ignores the fact that, as Trump often points out, “it was a bad deal”. The real story is not that the promise was never fulfilled. Manny and Hank’s deal with the workers was the same as the factory’s deal with them: the empty promise was the bargain. The real story is not that the horse didn’t come in, it’s that the bet was never placed.
In the third presidential debate, Hillary evoked her conservative father as a way of appealing to the electorate, “My father was a small-businessman.” she said. “He worked really hard… And so what I believe is the more we can do the middle class, the more we can invest in you…”
No one noted how wildly outdated Clinton’s picture of the average voter was (her father, a suburban business man in the 50s) because we are used to every politician holding up the same faded 65 year old snapshot anytime he or she regards the American electorate. Just like how images of Christmas on Coke bottles and catalogs are forever stuck in the 30s and 40s, so we expect politics to be eternally frozen in the 1950s. That is to say, as a nation still (somehow!) defined by its baby boomers, we understand this era as the baseline for understanding ourselves, considering it, “where we are from”.
But what does the American electorate look like if we put down the snapshot? Peel away how we perceive ourselves from what we actually are? How has that image of a 1950s business man who owns his own home in the suburbs changed after decades of declines in wages, middle classdom, and home ownership?
To younger generations who never had such jobs, who had only the mythology of such jobs (rather a whimsical snapshot of the 1950s frozen in time by America’s ideology) this part of the narrative is clear. America, and perhaps existence itself is a cascade of empty promises and advertisements — that is to say, fantasy worlds, expectations that will never be realized “IRL”, but perhaps consumed briefly in small snatches of commodified pleasure.
Thus these Trump supporters hold a different sort of ideology, not one of “when will my horse come in”, but a trolling self-effacing, “I know my horse will never come in”. That is to say, younger Trump supporters know they are handing their money to someone who will never place their bets — only his own — because, after all, it’s plain as day there was never any other option.
In this sense, Trump’s incompetent, variable, and ridiculous behavior is the central pillar upon which his younger support rests.
Such an idea — one of utter contemptuous despair — is embodied in one image more than any other, one storied personage who has become a(n) hero to millions, the voice of a generation.
I am speaking, of course, of Pepe the Frog.

6. Trump the Frog
When Hillary’s campaign “explained” that Trump’s use of silly cartoon frog Pepe was a symbol of hate, it seemed to be yet another freakish oddity in a parade of horribles that was campaign 2016. Much of the attention at the time was focused on the question of: well, was he? Efforts to save Pepe got underway. Journalists, still falling for the same tricks of 2006, cited “anonymous” (that is to say, from 4chan) sources claiming they had invented the idea as a prank.
But there was little talk of why Pepe of all things? Was Pepe indeed meaningless? Another flotsam of senseless meme nonsense flung out of the “dumpster fire” of team Trump?
Pepe, like so many memes, was born on the “random” boards of 4chan’s /b/ (“b” for random) circa 2007, picked out of a webcomic by Matt Furie to become a macro. But why was he picked? We know now that 4chan’s actions are neither meaningless, “random”, or empty because they are labelled a “prank”.
Viewed through the lens of the people first posting him, Pepe makes nothing but sense. The original comic panels from which Pepe is excerpted feature him getting caught peeing with his pants pulled all the way down, his ass hanging out. Surprisingly, he is unashamed of this, “feels good man” he tells his roommate.
The grotesque, frowning, sleepy eyed, out of shape, swamp dweller, peeing with his pants pulled down because-it-feels-good-man frog is an ideology, one which steers into the skid of its own patheticness. Pepe symbolizes embracing your loserdom, owning it. That is to say, it is what all the millions of forum-goers of 4chan met to commune about. It is, in other words, a value system, one reveling in deplorableness and being pridefully dispossessed. It is a culture of hopelessness, of knowing “the system is rigged”. But instead of fight the response is flight, knowing you’re trapped in your circumstances is cause to celebrate. For these young men, voting Trump is not a solution, but a new spiteful prank.
We know, by this point, that Trump is funny. Even to us leftists, horrified by his every move, he is hilarious. Someone who is all brash confidence and then outrageously incompetent at everything he does is — from an objective standpoint — comedy gold. Someone who accuses his enemies of the faults he at that very moment is portraying is comedy gold. But, strangely, as the left realized after the election, pointing out Trump was a joke was not helpful. In fact, Trump’s farcical nature didn’t seem to be a liability, rather, to his supporters, it was an asset.
All the left’s mockery of Trump served to reinforce his message as not only an outsider, but as an expression of rage, despair, and ultimate pathetic Pepe-style hopelessness.
4chan value system, like Trump’s ideology, is obsessed with masculine competition (and the subsequent humiliation when the competition is lost). Note the terms 4chan invented, now so popular among grade schoolers everywhere: “fail” and “win”, “alpha” males and “beta cucks”. This system is defined by its childlike innocence, that is to say, the inventor’s inexperience with any sort of “IRL” romantic interaction. And like Trump, since these men wear their insecurities on their sleeve, they fling these insults in wild rabid bursts at everyone else.
Trump the loser, the outsider, the hot mess, the pathetic joke, embodies this duality. Trump represents both the alpha and the beta. He is a successful person who, as the left often notes, is also the exact opposite — a grotesque loser, sensitive and prideful about his outsider status, ready at the drop of a hat to go on the attack, self-obsessed, selfish, abrogating, unquestioning of his own mansplaining and spreading, so insecure he must assault women. In other words, to paraphrase Truman Capote, he is someone with his nose pressed so hard up against the glass he looks ridiculous. And for this reason, (because he knows he is substanceless) he must constantly re-affirm his own ego. Or as Errol Morris put it, quoting Borges, he is a “labyrinth with no center”.
But, what the left doesn’t realize is, this is not a problem for Trump’s supporters, rather, the reason why they support him.
Trump supporters voted for the con-man, the labyrinth with no center, because the labyrinth with no center is how they feel, how they feel the world works around them. A labyrinth with no center is a perfect description of their mother’s basement with a terminal to an endless array of escapist fantasy worlds.
Trump’s bizarre, inconstant, incompetent, embarrassing, ridiculous behavior — what the left (naturally) perceives as his weaknesses — are to his supporters his strengths.
In other words, Trump is 4chan.
Trump is steering into the skid embodied.
Trump is Pepe.
Trump is loserdom embraced.
Trump is the loser who has won, the pathetic little frog on the big strong body.
Trump’s ventures of course, represent this fantasy: this hope that the working man, against the odds dictated by his knowledge, experience, or hard work will one day strike it rich — Trump University, late night real estate schemes, the casinos. Trump himself, who inherited his wealth, represents the classic lucky sap.
But Trump also equally represents the knowledge that all of that is a lie, a scam that’s much older than you are, a fantasy that we can dwell in though it will never become true, like a video game.
Trump, in other words, is a way of owning and celebrating being taken advantage of.
Trump embodies buying the losing bet that will never be placed.
He is both despair and cruel arrogant dismissal, the fantasy of winning and the pain of losing mingled into one potion.
For this reason, the left should stop expecting Trump’s supporters to be upset when he doesn’t fulfill his promises.
Support for Trump is an acknowledgement that the promise is empty.
He is both the “promise” (the labyrinth”, the “alpha”) and the empty center (“the promise betrayed”, the “beta”), in a sublime, hilarious, combination that perfectly reflects the worldview of his supporters.
In other words, we can append a third category to the two classically understood division of Trump supporters:
1) Generally older people who naively believe Trump will “make America great again”, that is to say, return it to its 1950s ideal evoked by both Trump and Clinton.
2) The 1 percent, who know this promise is empty, but also know it will be beneficial to short term business interests.
3) Younger members of the 99 percent, like Anon, who also know this promise is empty, but who support Trump as a defiant expression of despair.

7. The Un-rarest Pepes of Them All
As I said when I began this essay, because I work in comics, video games, and animation, I’ve watched 4chan grow from a group of people who could fit inside a single room to a worldwide collective.
But I should also note there’s another reason I was there from the beginning. It’s because, like so many young writers, journalists, and artists that are now despised by 4chan, I’m an inch away from their demographic.
When my father died after I left college in 2004, the last of my family’s wealth evaporated. And ever since then, I have lived well below the poverty line. (Even now, though I work as a Professor, this is true). But I had the benefit of an education.
It was not too difficult for me to imagine an alternate version of myself that didn’t happen to have that. Like the men in those studies, I drifted unemployed and unemployable for many years in my 20s. Often when I did have a job, I quit, realizing that, in fact, laboring behind the counter in the service economy for minimum wage paid less than sitting at home idle in front of my PC, waiting for a gig in the gig economy, posting and selling comics, or trading virtual items in online games.
And I knew, I was on balance, luckier than most. My private school and private college education was the deviation from the norm. My chances were better than the majority of people my age. Yet here I was stone broke. All I owned (and still own) is my college debt. So it wasn’t a surprise there were a teeming mass of people out there who knew with fatalistic certainty that there was no way out. Why not then retreat into your parents’ basements? And instead of despairing over trying and failing, celebrate not-trying? Celebrate retreating into the fantasy worlds of the computer. Steer into the skid — Pepe style. Own it. And why wouldn’t they retreat to a place like 4chan? To let their resentment and failures curdle into something solid?

8. 4chan vs. Gender
In a previous essay about contemporary counter-culture, I mentioned Barbara Ehrenreich’s The Hearts of Men, a feminist critique that discusses how gender roles bind and control men. Ehrenreich writes about how, in post-war hyper-capitalist 1950s America (the baseline America to which both Trump and Hillary harken back) a new role was invented for men. A man’s wage and his Playboy “bachelor pad” linked his earning potential to his role as a ladies man. This replaced a previous, more conservative ideology in which your earning potential meant you were able to support a wife and children. These two schemes, Ehrenreich maintained, are still the dominant ideas that control men’s behavior in the U.S.
As she pointed out, only “hipsters” managed to break and destroy this schema — the first and most famous ones being the wife-leaving beats, whose sexual adventures both gay and straight were totally disconnected from their earning potential and all societal expectations. They were dead broke (“Dharma”) bums, who much to the frustration of the pro-capitalist Hefner-style playboys, got laid all the time despite being stone broke and sometimes gay to boot. In other words, their enjoyment of life and sex was decoupled from the ideological demands of capitalism.
Recall the central themes of Gamergate: women represent Anon’s “beta” failure in capitalism. Anons have achieved neither of these ideological ideals; they are not playboys with bachelor pads or wage earners with families. If the U.S. were in fact what it pretended to be, that is to say, the best way to become either the playboy or the family man, Anon would not exist. But it is this gap between ideological expectation and cruel reality which created him. Instead, Anon resides in the very opposite of bachelor pads: his mother’s basement. We learned from the New Yorker profile of the alt-right leader Mike Cernovich, that he broadcasts from his girlfriend’s parent’s house, letting his male viewers believe the pool in the background of his webcasts is his, not theirs.
Video games were Anons’ way to retreat from this painful reminder of his failure, a failure which was literally embodied by women — whose physical attainment is the end goal of both ideologies. Gamergate was a pained cry, that here too, even unto their escapist fantasies, empowered women, like the mythological furies, were hounding them.
We can see now why several weeks ago 4chan went to “war” with artists and their “safe spaces”, trying to shut down music and arts venues across the country. What’s striking is how close the populations of 4chan and those who wanted to shut down the “safe spaces” are. The artists themselves are young people on the fringes of the economy who are also immersed in romantic fantasy. The main difference is that the artists have learned different ways to cope with the same problem. Instead of residing in their mother’s basements, they created ways to live together cheaply in warehouse spaces.
By contrasting 4chan with their self-proclaimed enemy, their counter-culture counterparts, we can see that, though demographically they are so similar, the real difference is introduced here — at the thorny of issue of the girlfriend. 4chan’s self-described “beta” males are trapped in this ideology, hating their counterparts whose key difference is a willingness, like the beatniks of old, to slough off the “gender binary” and live how they please.
But rather than take this as reason to be ever more contemptuous of Anons and their misogyny, the left should regard Anon/the deplorables as a failure on its part, a terrific mangling of the left’s own arguments that has resulted in alienating the very group of people who could be the most helped by their ideas, if not the most convinced.
To the deplorables, whose central complaint is one of masculine frailty, pride, and failure — to deny their identities as men is to deny their complaint. They are a group who define themselves by their powerlessness, by being trapped into defeat. But if they are to accept the left’s viewpoint, they must accept that the problem at core of their being is all in their heads. That is to say, the left’s viewpoint of sexual-difference-as-illusion is exactly what they don’t want to hear — that they have cornered themselves into their mother’s basements.
The left does more than simply declare their opposing viewpoint wrong, the radical idea of sex/gender-as-illusion denies their viewpoint an existence. To the left, a complaint stemming from being a man is null space, lying outside the realm of what it will acknowledge as true.
The irony here, of course, is the radical idea of sexual-difference-as-illusion is meant to solve the deplorables’ problem. It was created to liberate those who are oppressed by the concept of sexual difference by dispelling it as a cloud of pure ideas. But to these powerless men, it’s as if the left were addressing their issue by saying in an Orwellian manner, “There’s no such thing as your problem! Problem solved!”
Here the notion of sexual-difference-as-illusion is not performing the work it was built to do, rather the opposite. Ironically, it works to convince alienated men that sex/gender has marked them as unique sort of outsider/failures, who cannot be accepted even into the multicultural coalitions that define themselves by their capacity for acceptance. In this way, 4chan’s virulent hatred of gender-bending “safe spaces”, though not justified, makes at least a perverse sort of sense, one tangled in wounded masculine pride.

9. Can Pepe be un Nazi-fied?
In Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, she notes that the inevitable result of a society built around the endless accumulation of middle class wealth is a man “degraded into a cog in the power-accumulating machine, free to console himself with sublime thoughts about the ultimate destiny of the machine, which itself is constructed in such a way that it can devour the globe simply by following its own inherent law.”
Such a picture of man, as a helpless cog in the vast juggernaut of society that grinds on to mangle everyone in its path, is not particularly new to us. In fact, it exists as a sort of folkloric way of understanding our modern condition, popping up again and again in our myths about escaping such a fate. Hollywood’s new hero is often one who must dramatically capitulate with an evil, hegemonic regime to stand against it. In the latest re-telling of the anti-fascist fable Star Wars, a hero must invent and build the fascist Death Star in order to destroy it. In the children’s story, The Hunger Games, the would be revolutionary Katniss must do everything the regime tells her so that she may ultimately effect its annihilation. And indeed, in the previously mentioned Anonymous-inspired T.V series Mr. Robot, the main character, a revolutionary hacker, works in a cubicle job in service of the an evil corporation (so tired is this cliche it must be playfully named “Evil Corp”) that dominates almost all aspects of life.
As both Sanders and the philosopher Slavoj Zizek noted after Sanders lost the primaries, left and right are in some sense outdated ideas. The new division in politics is those who favor the current global hegemony and those who are against it. Like the Hollywood heroes, right and left have been competing to become this new radical anti-status quo party. And so far, in both Europe and America, the right has won, implying that, as Arendt predicted, the powerlessness created by bourgeoisie systems of capitalist exploitation might once again implode into far right totalitarianism.
However, as we have seen, the right’s anti-feminist message is one that only provides a momentary sense of relief (“you are acting powerful by retreating into video games and the internet!”) but like scratching a mosquito bite, it ultimately causes more dissatisfaction. That is to say, the only solution they can offer is, “keep retreating!” Likewise, Trump and the mocking cruel anguish he represents is not a genuine solution to the electorate’s powerlessness, but rather, simply the one closest at hand.
An adult does not freeze in mute horror when a child throws a tantrum. Nor do we generally regard such emotional outbursts as meaningless. Likewise, the left should not be paralyzed with horror by the deplorables, but rather view them of as a symptom of a larger problem, one which only the left can truly solve.

BULLSHIT DETECTION 101

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Warning, this post will use the word “bullshit” a lot. Like, a lot!

 

At this point, it doesn’t really matter which of the various tips and tricks you use to prevent yourself from passively believing bullshit as long as you do something and start now. The Internet, and social media in particular, have made the old ways of avoiding cranks and crack pots nearly impossible. Rather than seeing them screaming on the streets or in front of you at Wendy’s reciting the Magna Carta to the manager they are online explaining their demon alien 9/11 conspiracy theory on YouTube with flashy graphics and/or an oddly compelling one-sided argument. So now, rather than crossing the street, averting your eyes, or quietly praying that the crank will get out of line so you can order your meal, you watch and listen to unmitigated nonsense in the comfort of your own home, thinking “hmm, maybe Monster energy drinks are from Satan or evil demon aliens did 9/11 to distract America from Obama being the secret gay muslim Antichrist.” Oh, just in case you think I am making up the above example …

 

Here ya go! Not that flashy or compelling, but one example among many.

Well, say you never fell that far down the rabbit-hole, but every day the line between what’s real and what is ideological twaddle is growing more and more blurry. Though the causes are many and various, the solutions are as well. Pick from as many as you can, both here and in the list of external links at the bottom, but make this be the year you that you stop letting bullshit infect your brain.

I call myself a “recovering conspiracy theorist,” it’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but it does describe my past acceptance of various ideologically driven hypothetical bullshit and rejection of cold-hard facts that disagreed with my point-of-view. This meant that I accepted the premise of an elite establishment covertly holding the reigns of global power while puppet regimes conduct what appeared to be a legitimate system of governance … but only when my side wasn’t in power. This internal bias blinded me to facts that made my political stances inconvenient. I quickly accepted, and vigorously argued for, any kernel of semi-plausible concept that could insulate me from those less-than-palletable facts. In essence, I was able to see the world in simpler ideological terms due to a thick layer of bullshit as insulation.

I use myself as an example because, once I realized I was operating within a system of unmitigated hyperbole and baseless hypotheticals that support my opinions but are not supported by facts, I had to make a decision. I had to decide if the truth mattered. That is the question most people don’t realize they have to ask themselves every time they spread a rumor or forward a link or meme that seems believable and is either for their ideology or vilifies someone in the opposition … every time, they have to ask themselves “Do I want to be honest and thoughtful in what I put out in the world, or am I okay being full of shit?”

Bullshit Detection 101

Part 1: Know thy Self, and thine own bullshit

Being full of shit is easy. Being honest, truthful, and thoughtful is hard. I should know, I was a well-renowned bullshit artist in my day (which is a separate thing altogether from being a conspiracy theorist, believe me). I had more than a few people call me on my bullshit, that’s because they had adequate levels of bullshit detection, still more had no ability to sniff out the BS and fell victim. Just because I spewed out a lot of bullshit didn’t mean I was immune to putting my foot in it. That old phrase “You can’t bullshit a bullshitter” is, in my opinion, total bullshit. Luckily, there are tools at our collective disposal.

The first step in bullshit detection, working hard to not being full of shit yourself.

The internal sources of bullshit may be the hardest to detect. The most important thing to remember is that everyone has biases. The bias a person has may come from early childhood experience,  the biases of family members or significant others, or developed over a period of months or years. Even though everyone has some biases, that doesn’t mean that everyone lets their biases go unchecked. The best way of checking internal bias is to know what those biases are and take regular effort to challenge those biased assumptions with factual information and strive to be honest with one’s self. When you take an honest inventory of your beliefs, where they come from and the effects they have on you or others, it is possible to take steps towards improvement and, thus, a better bullshit detector (yes, this sounds a bit like a 12-step program, but the only Higher Power I am promoting here is the Truth).

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Here’s a quote from a dead guy, but it’s really just an opinion.

 

Being honest with yourself may be hard to accomplish, but it’s worth it.

 

Part 2: Discerning Between Information, Misinformation, and Disinformation.

Yes, there are different types of bullshit.

First off, it is important to describe factual information before we talk about what is not factual. Briefly, a fact-based claim is any claim backed by factual evidence that is not skewed to mislead.

No matter what the source is, disinformation is the deliberate misrepresentation to mislead others. Russian dezinformatsiya (disinformation) took misleading stories to an art form. Dezinformatsiya was artful propaganda meant to delude the general public into believing what was not true. Regardless of the source, with the recent increase in awareness that fake news stories can have to influence the public, a deeper understanding of this type of bullshit is needed. One thing that is extremely important to understand is that disinformation is not a one-to-one exchange; it’s spread through various channels, many of whom having no inkling of the falsity of the claims they are promoting. Unwitting news agencies, friends, neighbors, and colleagues could all be spreading bullshit unbeknownst to you and to them. Even before it gets to word-of-mouth (or social media post), there’s layers to the shit.

 

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This is all before it hits your uncle’s Facebook page.

 

Now, the unwitting carriers of bullshit are obviously not intentionally trying to mislead you. Far from it. They heard or saw some article of news or gossip and are repeating it as fact. The unfortunate thing here is that the skills you practice as a good detector of bullshit may put you in conflict with your friendly bullshit carriers. It’s not your job to tell your friend that what they are saying is bullshit, at least not until you have made absolutely sure whether the thing they are saying is true or false.

Here’s how to proceed.

 

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Be nice to the kitteh and tell us where you heard it!

 

When a person makes a wildly sensational claim, the first thing you should do is ask where this information came from. If they cite there source as “a friend of a friend,” then you should deem the claim non-verifiable and, since you can’t prove it to be true, disregard.

If their source is a news story, then it is normally a good idea to actually find that news story and read it, don’t just believe it out of hand. See what sources that news story use. If they are claiming that, for instance Obama is a secret muslim (a popular one for the last few years), and the news article cites a few sketchy memes, a rambling YouTube video, and/or another article with no credible sources; it is probably time to disregard.

 

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I can’t just take your word for it. That’s not how we do things anymore.

 

 

Okay, say you saw what you thought was pretty good evidence. The memes and YouTube vids were pretty convincing! Well, you may well be believing a one-sided skewed view of a subject. If you seek truth and not just reassurance, it is necessary to try to disprove a claim, not simply to reinforce it. Most memes are one-sided. All conspiracy YouTube videos are one-sided, even though they pretend to be “just asking questions” (eg. “Is Queen Elizabeth an immortal shapeshifter and the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s The Jabberwocky?”). The problem is a lack of falsifiability, or ability for a claim to be proven false. The use of cherry-picked coincidences, loose-associations, numerology and magical thinking or coincidental timing as “proof” leaves anyone to make any claim and use any means they choose to “prove” that claim. In this world, nothing is real, all fantasy is just as “true” as the fundamental laws of nature. In that case, why take a plane when you can teleport?

If a claim of any magnitude cannot be either proven with evidence, or made falsifiable with evidence, it should most likely be disregarded. Just because a person is misinformed, or heard a hypothetical that they believed wholeheartedly, doesn’t mean that they are stupid. We all have the capacity to believe bullshit from time to time, and should treat each other with respect. If a claim is made that you know to be wrong, it may be appropriate to tell the person making the claim of your awareness, but that doesn’t mean that they will listen.

 

Part 3: WTF Internet?

All of the above examples can happen in real interactions and online. The massive disinformation and conspiracy theories are remarkably similar to small town gossip or rumors. A lie can spread faster than the truth. This is not something the Internet created. The Internet, especially with the advent of social media, just made the process go a lot further and faster.

Before the telephone and telegraph, people had to meet in person or write letters to spread rumors. Books and broadsides promoted conspiracy theories, but at a much slower pace than we have today. Before television, it was generally text or still images used to add depth to a sensational story. Before the Internet, however, people still were very able to promote propaganda, sow the seeds of scapegoating and witch hunts. It isn’t as if echo-chambers were invented by Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. Now, a flashy combination of text and image, spoken word and videos with swift transitions and slash-cut edits can dazzle the subconscious while slyly persuading the reader and/or viewer. It is more than human consciousness has ever had to contend with before.

That’s not to say that the Internet is not also the source of immense new tools for bullshit detection. Google Scholar allows for up-to-date scientific fact-checking materials, some of it beyond the pay-wall but not all. Basic science facts are available through trustworthy websites.

Efforts are being made now to expose fake news purveyors, but that will never really be enough. Everyone needs to strive for greater information literacy and critical discernment. In other words, knowing when more information is required and when something is complete bullshit.

Good Luck.

 

External Resources:

Scott Berkun’s blog “How to Detect Bullshit.

Baloney Detection Kit” adapted from Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World.

YOUR BALONEY DETECTION KIT SUCKS” is a vital and modern rebuttal to Sagan’s “Baloney Detection Kit” (using some of the best hyperbole there is, but still a relevant refutation). Remember, logical fallacies are only relevant when dealing with rational arguments, or arguing people.

On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit” by Pennycook, Cheyne, et al. 2015.

An anonymously created public Google Doc giving a list of fake and hoax news sites.

Neil Postman’s “Bullshit and the Art of Crap-Detection

The Bla Bla Meter” helps you take a good look at your own writing (and the writing of others) and see how much bullshit filler and nonsense is in it.

Here is a plugin for several browsers that helps warn of questionable sources.

… And a CBC news story on the creator of the plugin.

When all else fails, including all the advice above, revisit the Golden Sentences of Democrates. A few examples include:

It is beautiful to impede an unjust man; but, if this be not possible, it is beautiful not to act in conjunction with him.

It is necessary to be a speaker of the truth, and not to be loquacious.

Fools frequently become wise under the pressure of misfortunes.

Infected by Thread: Morgellons, Echo-Chambers and Aggregate Social Movements

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It could almost be said that considering the issue of Morgellons is irrelevant, but it isn’t. It illustrates a fundamental flaw in contemporary information culture and its effects.

Morgellons is another in a long line of internet inspired imaginary illnesses. Wi-fi allergy, electromagnetic radiation poisoning, and the ever-popular vaccine related illnesses that have been promoted vigorously online for years. Morgellons is just another example. The Morgellons, as they are called by those who believe they or someone they know has them, are sores that contain foreign matter, specifically thread or wire. The belief is that this foreign matter is some sort of viral infection and not the introduction of foreign matter due to improper care of sores. The sores, for their part, are believed to be connected to these ‘filamentous organisms’ (strings or fibers) burrowing itself intentionally into the skin.

Now, if you read that and thought to yourself that this must be a joke … it is not!

People believe that Morgellons exist and that they are infected by these sentient fibers. What’s more, they have successfully petitioned legitimate medical professionals into investigating their perceived symptoms. WebMD launched its page on the subject in 2015, as did Mayo Clinic on April 1st. The CDC concluded that this ‘unexplained dermopathy‘ had a highly probable causal link to the patients’ mental state.

Neuropsychological testing revealed a substantial number of study participants who scored highly in screening tests for one or more co-existing psychiatric or addictive conditions, including depression, somatic concerns (an indicator of preoccupation with health issues), and drug use.

Despite the apparently obvious psychological diagnosis, delusional parasitosis, the echo-chamber of self-diagnosed cases, their more enabling significant others, and the web of alternative medicine profiteers invariably find one another and create a localized community and economy; even more concisely unified by the rejection of their claims by the so-called ‘establishment’ medical community.

It just so happens, though, that the number of social media echo-chambers is increasing to a state approaching critical mass. Individual echo-chambers tend to push members to further extremity of belief. This extremism should, necessarily, separate them from the mean of social life. This is becoming less and less the case and the reason is due, in part, to the fact that so many of these echo-chambers have similar views as to why they’re boutique issues and often nonsensical beliefs are not accepted within the mainstream of society. The answer, of course, is a vast conspiracy.

Say there are ten such independent communities online. Some believe they are being gang-stalked, others believe that they are allergic to electromagnetism, etc. They all feel that they are being deliberately ignored, or worse; harassed, by the powers that be. The Establishment, as they are known, is doing it to them and making it seem like they are crazy for speaking out. Those ten independent online communities can be seen, then, as a part of the growing aggregate anti-establishment social movement.

A quick search of Morgellons on Facebook shows 3,950 members in the largest group at this time. The largest gang-stalking group has 84,975 members. Electromagnetic sensitivity and wi-fi allergy are, understandably, not as popular in Facebook groups but well over 1,000 people were talking about the subject (something Facebook counts includes even if there is not a community group formed on the website). These numbers are fairly small, until you consider combining them with the number of people who believe that vaccines cause autism, that 9/11 was planned and executed by the U.S. Government, or any number of beliefs that necessarily create a fundamental distrust with the ‘Establishment’ powers that be.

The argument that all these beliefs are part of a larger social movement should not exactly news to anyone who thinks critically about conspiracy theories and their effect on society. Even culling these groups together and calling them an aggregate social movement is really just a turn of the phrase expressing something that seems self-evident. The new real takeaway should be that these hypothetical-illnesses-turned-radical-anti-establishment communities are not only growing and proving resistant to facts and research but that their number should only be expected to grow. The likelihood exists that a handful imaginary illnesses may eventually become commonplace, even normalized, in this modern and increasingly unscientifically oriented information society.

Why, you may ask, is this happening?

Maybe it’s obvious. The internet, itself, is a catalyst for social change, and that change has been both life-saving and disastrous. No greater information gathering and disbursing tool has forum has existed in the entirety of human history. And everyone’s invited; everyone with access to the internet has the ability to promote any belief they have, no matter how unfounded. The internet has proven also to be the most effective means for people to find each other and convince one another that their delusions are real by virtue of having other people say that they are.

If the question you were asking was actually, “Why does it matter?” then consider the cost of appeasing these disparate groups. That their needs are being met, or in dealing with the aftermath of their mistakes, hospital costs should be expected to soar and necessary services will be diverted in dealing with them. The fact that mental health services are so scant in modern-day America, for instance, means that all of these people with either flood emergency rooms or urgent care facilities or go doctor hunting until they find someone who will nod along with their delusion. The most likely end of which being not a medical professional, but a guru or healer willing to bilk the person and perhaps their family for all they can. As mental health remains an issue the Federal Government refuses to fund, and people with the internet self-diagnose delusional ailments as factual virus or allergy, nothing short of an exponential rise in such phenomena should be expected.

Blood of the Gods?

As with most conspiracy theories, the Rh Negative conspiracy theory has been interpreted and absorbed into Christian, Secular, and New Age conspiracy worldviews. This is a typical example of scientific ignorance turning into mystical pseudoscience,  and of how any pseudoscientific claim can become proof of a “big conspiracy” when belief is met with facts. At the center of the crazed Rh Negative freakout are basic misinterpretations of simple science, a poorly chosen term that caught on, and, for many, simply the will to believe.

RH NEGATIVE BLOOD = BLOOD OF THE GODS”

Will Rogers, MT33, PhD, B.S., AA., CPT, CLC*

*credentials could not be independently authenticated.

The belief in a divine blood type is simple enough, but first, you have to believe in a few specifics; namely, divinity and its literal physical transfer by blood. Seems simple enough, but not all religious tenets hold to this and even fewer scientific tenets (none, to be exact). Rather than being a subset of fringe or theoretical hematology, this is a byproduct of lay research without the aid of an actual expert or historian to correct those faulty assumptions any researcher can make without proper guidance and insight.

The Facts of the “factor.” The Rhesus or Rh factor, is an antigen that exists on the surface of red blood cells in most people. When  discussing the four general blood types, A, B, O and AB, they are also labeled as being with or without the Rh antigen, positive or negative. This references the Rhesus factor of the blood, either with or without the Rhesus factor. 85% of people are Rh+ and the remaining are, thus, Rh-. Rh factor is most relevant medically with regard to blood transfusions and during pregnancy as an Rh factor mix-match between mother and child can cause Rhesus (or Rh) disease. The danger during childbirth is what gave Rh Factor its name. When the first serum to prevent this disease (which was at the time unnamed) was produced and tested it was done using blood from a rhesus macaque monkey, and the blood factor the serum was derived from retained the name rhesus (Rh). Though Rh disease can have severe consequences for infant mortality if untreated, this is where the known impacts of Rh negative disposition end.

It is not clear when the belief in a super extra-normal or metaphysical attribution was first given to Rh negative blood. The first mention I can find occurred in an October 1976 issue of UFO’s Ancient Astronaut Magazine, in an article titled Blood of the Gods. A concise synopsis of the article would be, ‘my family has rhesus negative (Rh-) in our genetics and very high IQs, we may have alien DNA.’ The author mistakenly claims the Rhesus Factor is so named due to the factor being present in rhesus monkeys, having not known the history that gave the antigen serum and, thus, the blood factor their names. The article continues to claim that the Basque region of Spain boasts a higher than average Rh- population and suggests this may have been an alien colony. Aside from some gentle boasting and subtle racializing, this article is the first known print example of claiming Rh negative’s spooky alien derivations.

Now, the premise Rh Negative blood being somehow superhuman, apparently means very different things depending on what you believe and whether you have the Rh factor or not. The Rh Negative Registry Website lists several “origin theories” (none of which they endorse, per se). These include alien and mythic racial bloodlines, and a bloodline descending from Jesus. There are theories that involve Cro-Magnon Man, Four Jewish Mothers, Ancient Egyptians, Nazis and Scandinavians. All this is fun nonsensical chatter … until someone gets hurt!

To those who are Rh+ (or anyone who has no idea what their blood type and factor may be but just hear weird stuff about bloodlines and aliens), the various origin theories have led to peculiar fears and suspicions. Namely, the fear that Rh- people are human/alien hybrids. This proves to be a concern for some people with Rh negative blood who are being accused of being hybrids. This produces the potential for a real modern-day witchhunt that is already playing out online in chatrooms of conspiracy theory websites. Hopefully, education can stave off the potential for such violence, which is part of the reason for the Rh Negative Registry Website.

This is not a hypothetical threat, this is a real life problem that has already resulted in violence. Remember the movie They Live? Kyle Odom did. Kyle Odom also wrote a 21-page manifesto in which he explained why he needed to shoot Idaho pastor Tim Remington. A week after Pastor Tim conducted a very public prayer invocation at a campaign rally for then Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz, Tim was targeted and and shot multiple times by Odom. Odom, a former marine, later sent out a Facebook post explaining his motive, Pastor Tim was a Martian.

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Odom’s thoughts on Rh factor are not immediately known, but his belief in Martian mind-control and manipulation were well documented in his manifesto. Odom was later arrested after a manhunt and Pastor Tim recovered and returned to his church in Idaho, but the threat of violence based on total nonsense still exists.

As an aside, folks that believe in alien origin often use this story as a way of describing racial and ethnic difference, sometimes in the same breath as misquoting Bible verse and Apocrypha.

There is a significant religious conspiracy theory that centers on Rh- as well, but it may be less dangerous and more nonsensical than the threat of folks like Kyle Odom. The quote from Dr. Will Rogers (again, his credentials could not be independently verified) appeared at the beginning of a long, rambling Facebook post, replete with loose-associations and various Bible verses taken out of context. Here is a bit more of his post (read if you dare or scroll past):

The Secret Book of John

IS THIS THE SOURCE OF RH NEGATIVE BLOOD???????????

IRON AND CLAY SHOULD NOT MIX…………but they did
(Celestial / Fallen Angels and Terrestrial / Homo Sapiens )
“And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.” –Daniel 2:43(KJV)
Where did the Rh negatives come from? Why does the body of an Rh negative mother carrying an Rh positive child reject her own offspring?

If two Rh-Negative people try to have a baby it will usually die or be born a “BLUE Baby”, because it is not processing oxygen properly. That’s why they are called “Blue-Bloods” approximately 5% of the Earth’s population are currently Rh-Negatives.
From man’s primitive point of view, THESE creatures WERE gods! But that was early man’s point of view. Where they really gods? The ancient stories tell us, BUT, THESE STORIES WHERE TAKEN OUT OF THE BIBLE!

Rh-negative women and men have several”Unusual Traits” that Rh-positives don’t have. Some call these attributes…………….REPTILIAN!
Your blood type; A, B, AB, O / neg or pos is given to you so you can make an
ATONEMENT, TO COVER, TO PURGE, TO MAKE RECONCILIATION,TO PACIFY, ATONE OR PIT A TENT
OVER YOUR SOUL.
WHY?? What did your soul do that it needs make an atonement????????
That’s why the blood of Yahushuwah / Jesus was and is so important!
Rh-negative women and men have several “Unusual Traits” that Rh-positives don’t. Some call them “Reptilian Traits”.

WHERE DOES Rh Negative Blood come from? Most people with RH-negative blood have certain characteristics that seem to be common among the majority. Here is a brief list of the most common.
¨ Extra vertebra.
¨ Higher than average IQ
¨ More sensitive vision and other senses.
¨ Lower body temperature
¨ Higher blood pressure
¨ Increased occurrence of psychic/intuitive abilities
¨ Predominantly blue, green, or Hazel eyes
¨ Red or reddish hair
¨ Has increased sensitivity to heat and sunlight
¨ Cannot be cloned
¨ Alien Abduction and other unexplained phenomenon

A person with type O negative blood is considered to be a “Universal Donor”….ie….
UNIVERSAL BLOOD or original blood. It means YOUR BLOOD can be given to man, mankind (a kind of man) and human (hue=color or bent man),regardless of their blood type, without causing a transfusion reaction. “O” NEGATIVE BLOOD is………
OTHER WORLDLY ….IE …..NOT OF THIS WORLD!!!!!!!!

This collection of odd pseudo-science and pseudo-religious conjecture marks some of the more confusing claims about Rh- people and the Rh Negative blood factor. The belief that Rhesus Negative really means non-primate (which, again, was due to simple choice in nomenclature; read here and here) has led to several wild assumptions. The potential confusion that such a misnomer could cause, I am sure, they had not foreseen. Here’s hoping that the conflation of Rh Negative blood and extra-human origins ends or, at the very least, does not result in the harm of anyone, regardless of their blood type.

Full disclosure: I still have no idea of my blood type.

Election 2016: Candidates and Conspiracy Theories

UPDATE: This post was originally written 7 months before the November Election. There is no chance that I could fit even a tenth of the conspiracy theory related content that has become newsworthy in that time. Needless to say, a post-election update may be in order. I would hope that interested parties would read previous posts and archival material about the proliferation of “psuedo-political scientific” bullshit, the Hillary Clinton reptoid conspiracists, the story of who the “Blacks for Trump” are, and the most complete list of conspiracies connected to or attributable to Donald Trump and lesser known presidential candidate, Jill Stein.

The 2016 American Presidential Election has not only been one of the most bombastic in the country’s history. Starting out early, with speculation for Hillary Clinton’s potential Presidential bid beginning as early as September of 2013, and remaining a constant subject of media attention thereafter. It was the GOP side which at its peak boasted 17 candidates running for the nomination, including now famously forgotten candidates as Jim Gilmore, and Bobby Jindal, that started Presidential speculative mockery in a July 2013 New Republic article that mentioned Republican ‘wacko birds’ considering their bids; including Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, and promoted New Republic’s most favored candidate, Peter King (who did not end up running after all).

Back then, Donald Trump was only used as a way to mock other famous loonies that may clog the airwaves:

Making a play for the Donald Trump slot (the celebrity who only threatened to run) is Ted Nugent. No, really, Ted Nugent, who once brandished two machine guns onstage at a concert, shouting, “Hey, Hillary! You might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.”

So, it is amazing that a little under 3 years later, 22 major Presidential candidates came, and only 4 remain: Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Ted Cruz. With all the rancor, speculation, and shady underhanded discourse this Presidential election has brought with it, let’s have some more! Shall we?

 

The Conspiracist’s Choice?

Who do 9/11 Conspiracy Theorists, Anti-Vaxxers, Anti-Illuminati, and the elite of fringe ideologues want for their 2016 Presidential candidate?  I feel like the answer is so painfully obvious at this point that delaying the answer would seem pointless.

It is, as you expected, Donald Trump.

donald-trumpThe smug demented fuck.

The folks that have endorsed Donald Trump are, by and large, the same people who believe that the world is run by a shadow government of elites who wield power from behind closed doors. Why? Because Donald trump is an elite who has wielded power from behind closed doors.

I am not making this up. The conspiracist sees in Trump one who ‘played the game’ and ‘knows the game’ but is, for whatever reason, willing to ‘change the game.’

The cavalcade of famous Trump supporters reads as a who’s who of the famously crazy. Jon Voight (actor), Aaron Carter (pop singer), Mike Tyson (retired boxer and Muslim), Jean-Claude Van Damme (a naturalized American citizen), Kid Rock (American bad-ass), Jesse James (American Outlaw ‘author’), Dennis Rodman, Gary Busey, Hulk Hogan, and Ted Nugent. The list goes on, but the reality is that all of these people see in Trump what most everyone else sees in him, a demented megalomaniac and demagogue. The only difference being that they like that about him.

Trump has also become the outspoken demagogue of choice for anti-Muslim sentiment.

 

Foremost for conspiracy theory aficionados is Alex Jones, who dedicated several InfoWars articles and videos to extolling both tacit support and explicit shade at major opponents to the Trump campaign. The InfoWars.com interview with the GOP candidate on December 3rd, 2015 made Trump look presidential by virtue of Alex Jones’ lunacy. Jones’ interview with elderly Conservative scion Phyllis Schlafly was picked up as a funny-come-disgusting story by Right Wing Watch when he asked the leading question “Does [Trump] smell like Reagan to you?” Jones, for his part, has also made it a point to denounce the other ‘anti-establishment’ candidate in the election, Bernie Sanders, by saying his supporters need to have their “jaws broken.”

It wasn’t always smiles and ‘smells’ from conspiracists for Trump. Early on, Trump was accused of being a ‘plant’ or an electoral ‘false flag’ by conspiracy theorists convinced that his real mission was to destroy the hopes of a Republican President in 2016 and ensure the election for Democrat Hillary Clinton. The Hill’s Brent Budowsky penned an opinion piece on this subject on August 6, 2015. Jeb Bush, during the nadir of his candidacy, floated the theory publicly and two days later it was the subject of a BBC article on the American electoral process.

The difference between conspiracists endorsing Trump and conspiracy theories being promoted by the likes of political candidates, pundits and wonks should be notable. The fact is that this is the type of emotion and mental gymnastics needed to deal with an existential situation in which Donald Trump is running for President and doing well, whether his candidacy was ever fake or not.

Trump himself is a very conspirative thinker. Regularly entertaining conspiracy theories, such as the suspected murder of Justice Antonin Scalia, and regularly using conspirative language in an accusatory manner. During his time in the March 29th CNN Town Hall, Trump has suggested that the GOP establishment is treating him unfairly and that Ted Cruz had planted supporters in a crowd of what was supposed to be undecided voters, specifically calling audience members who booed him “Cruz supporters.” The only conspiracy theories Trump doesn’t seem to enjoy, are the ones that implicate him.

Then there’s the possibility that Trump is experiencing the early stages of Alzheimer’s, how’s that for a conspiracy theory?

 

Conspiracism for a New Generation.

If the Far Right has found their ideological mirror image in Donald Trump, then it could be safe to say that the Far Left has been edging ever closer to its own reflection.

I am referring, of course, to Bernie Sanders.

Surowiecki-Bernie-Sanders-Healthcare-1200Bernie proudly leaning to the Left.

Even though Politico describes Sanders as “the most prominent conspiracy theorist in America,” this claim (mostly an attention getting one-liner) takes Sanders’ simplistic view of economics and regularly repeated rhetoric that the economy is ‘rigged’ at face value. Even though Sanders’ foisting the lion’s share of economic blame on the nameless and faceless ‘Wall Street,’ this is not the reason his candidacy is worthy of consideration for it’s conspirative nature.

Bernie Sanders, save us from your fans!

Sure, like most people, Bernie Sanders may take some liberties with his rhetoric. I am pretty sure no political candidate does not. Sitting at the hard center of Bernie’s political movement are young people, many who are not comfortable with ‘establishment politics’ and many of whom are also learning to deal with the various set-backs endemic of a political campaign season through that all-powerful cognitive management device: the conspiracy theory.

When a narrow defeat met Sanders in the Iowa caucus, Bernie Sanders supporters raged on Reddit and suggested that Des Moines votes were rigged for Clinton and speculating on how she won six coin tosses (resulting in her tacit victory). On Twitter, the crowd suggested the Microsoft voting machines played a role in the defeat (hearkening back to 2000 Presidential Election in which election devices and irregularities were suspected by conspiracists supporting Al Gore).

Little over a month later, and Bernie Sanders voters have; suggested Hillary Clinton supporters have infiltrated the Sanders camp, voter fraud is causing various caucus defeats, and that Democratic leadership has it in for Bernie Sanders. Some suggest that Bernie supporters’ essential take-over of a Donald Trump rally in Chicago, originally hailed as a Progressive political coup, was in fact the world of so-called ‘Hill Shills’ when the event backfired, apparently hurting Sanders in that weeks’ primaries.

The conspiracist tendencies and poor reputation of Bernie’s early deciders showed itself quite early on. A documented attempt to sway reaction polling for the first Democratic Debate by Sanders supporters was thwarted, to which they reacted with indignation and the conviction that they and Bernie were the victims of a conspiracy. An apparent Twitter War between Hillary supporters and Bernie supporters also yielded some very unseemly press, first via the BBC, and later Cosmopolitan and others began reporting on the #BernieBros that have become a blight to the Sanders campaign image.

Of course, all of this is objectively a politics-as-usual issue. Conspiracy theories seem to have a firmly embedded place in the American Democratic system (if only in the mind’s of the runner-up’s base). Whether Bernie Sanders likes it or not, his anti-Establishment campaign has generated a significant amount of fairly commonplace knee-jerk reactions and ‘establishment conspiracy theories.’

The Female Suspect.

If there is one thing Hillary Clinton has been able to boast about, it has been that she has been attacked by Republicans for over 25 years. And, yes, she has boasted about that. A few times. It seems as if she is using that as one of her campaign talking points. Could it be that being one of the most distrusted, suspected, accused (accursed) candidates can end up being a selling point?

Hillary Clinton is banking on it!

clinton-benghaziBenghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi …

Yes, if you have been following American politics within the past 25 years, you have probably heard about this feminazi. Ever since her appearance in the National political spectrum as the first First Lady to be significantly politically active during her husband’s tenure in the White House, Republicans and Right Wing pundits have attacked Hillary Clinton for everything from her decision to maintain her maiden name, to her decision to hyphenate her maiden and married names, to her decision to drop her maiden name, and then of course there is the constant accusation that she has a (Muslim) lesbian lover.

The list of potential conspiracy theories, scandals (be they truths, half-truths, or down-right lies) is too great to list. Benghazi. So much of the fervor from the Right has been centered around one event. Benghazi. That story which was to be her Achilles Heal eventually fizzled into nothing more than a long drawn out narrative of a Fog of War scenario. Benghazi, talk about Benghazi! Rather than focus on the decades of material before Clinton’s 11 hours of testimony regarding Benghazi on October 22, 2015, I will instead focus on the various Hillary Clinton conspiracy theories that have developed within the past six months alone.

In January, The Oregonian posted “11 Hillary Clinton conspiracy theories that could dog her during the general election” which was essentially a list of potential digs that the Trump campaign may have on Clinton if they are head-to-head in the General Election. These range from the e-mail scandal containing a potential money laundering component, to her personal server placing American intelligence operatives at risk, to the suggestion that Clinton is being ‘positive’ towards President Obama so that she may be granted a Presidential pardon should the e-mail scandal lead to charges. This article mainly quotes Donald Trump or paraphrases FoxNews and maintains that hilariously unhinged Right Wing aesthetic we have all come to expect from the Tea Party class of the GOP.

Oh, let’s not forget Rush Limbaugh. He is still alive and still hates Hillary Clinton with a fiery passion. His latest rants claim that Bernie Sanders is not playing dirty-pool politics because he is afraid Hillary will have him suicided (a reference to an older conspiracy theory, also popularized by Limbaugh, that the Clintons had their lawyer, Vince Foster, killed and made it look like a suicide).

From the Left, or from the anti-Hillary left as it were, a growing suspicion that ‘establishment’ politics and other ‘establishment’ entities have a specific yen for a President Hillary and, thus, are pulling strings to prevent any likelihood of a President Sanders. This has played out over months in some of the most likely places you would expect people to shout obscenities into the ether: The Internet. When Twitter algorithms didn’t promote the #WhichHillary hashtag story, meant to show Clinton as a flip-flopping political opportunist with little integrity whatsoever and to promote awareness that Clinton used the phrase “super-predators” to describe Black youths as somehow engineered to commit violent crime, Bernie Sanders’ supporters including the group Guerilla Socialists cried foul (primarily because they were cited by Twitter for spamming).

Of course, the real story of Hillary conspiracy theories isn’t the actual Left or Right leaning narratives. The true power of the conspirative mind is unleashed in brutal fury through the anti-Hillary meme! Image and text flow together with such beauty as to make the viewer think that the conclusion that is drawn from the image may truly be the stuff of ‘common sense.’

Below are a brief selection of conspiracy-related anti-Hillary memes, for a full selection check Google.com.

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Of course, if we are on the subject of memes, we have to turn away from Hillary Clinton and toward …

The Canadian.

If there is one thing that the GOP establishment, the Democrats, the vast majority of Americans and Donald Trump can all agree on it’s that Ted Cruz is a suspicious character. They just can’t seem to agree on what to suspect him of.

This is one case where Donald Trump’s is not the most outrageous claim. Not even close.

Trump’s assertion, by way of innuendo, that Ted Cruz is a Canadian citizen is based on the fact that Cruz was born in Canada to an American citizen was one that echoed years of ongoing ‘birtherism’ surrounding the Texas Senator. Though Trump suggests that Cruz’s election would be “tied up in the courts” for years, the whole subject died down within the course of a few days after Cruz, various legal scholars, and public opinion seemed to unite in asserting the illogic and illegality of the claim.

Well, that’s not what this blog is about.

The Internet, again, has brought the election into a new level of surreality. This time, the major benefactor is Él Canadían Ted Cruz, or should we say, The Zodiac Killer? A meme-based conspiracy theory that neither has the ring of truth, nor the mere feasibility that would required to keep a normal conspiracy theory going (Cruz was a baby during the time of the Zodiac murders) has led to an explosion of hilarious auxiliary memes due to one thing: Florida.

March 14, 2013, @RedpillAmerica posts joke on Twitter eluding to Cruz announcing he is the Zodiac.

February-March 2016, Cruz Zodiac jokes and memes pick on on Twitter.

February 25, 2016, Public Policy Polling release results of poll ahead of Florida GOP Primary stating “38% of Florida voters think it’s possible that Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer. 10% say he for sure is, and another 28% say that they are just not sure. Cruz is exonerated from being a toddler serial killer by 62% of the Sunshine State populace.”

2odiac CruzA 2016 Cruz Campaign Flyer

After the revelation that Florida, by and large, doesn’t get the joke … all internet hell broke loose. Memes of Cruz as everyone from Grampa Munster from the 1960s television show The Munsters, to Mrs. Doubtfire, to Rob Kardashian, to Michael Sweet; lead singer of Christian Hair Metal Band Stryper.

 

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ted_cruz_stryper_meme-620x412

 

As if this weren’t enough crazy for one candidate, there is also the little matter of the conspiracy theories that this guy buys, or bought, into.

If you follow Right Wing American lunacy you may remember a little multi-state military drill called Jade Helm 15. Jade Helm 15 was a military preparedness drill with joint military branch cooperation and coordinated through the SOC (Special Operations Command), but what Ted Cruz and many other Tea Partier GOP and assorted Right-wing folks (especially in Texas) suspected was an absolute arrest of all civil liberties, the removal of all rights, the confiscation of all weapons by the Federal Government through the guise of Martial Law and that all good, hard-working American Patriots would be rounded up and detained in makeshift Fema Camps in caverns dug under Wal-Mart Superstores (no, fucking really, this was what they thought). Though the military training mission came and went without martial law declared and no mass-detainment of the citizenry, the insanity did lead to the arrest of three North Carolina men attempting to launch a massive domestic terror plot, and caused one fearful man to shoot at military personnel (at great distance) outside of Camp Shelby, Mississippi.

Ted Cruz made it a point to state that he “reached out to the pentagon” to ensure that Jade Helm 15 was on the up-and-up because he claimed he “[understood] the reason for concern and uncertainty, because when the federal government has not demonstrated itself to be trustworthy in this administration, the natural consequence is that many citizens don’t trust what it is saying.”

In other words, lack of trust leads to wildly outlandish claims seeming feasible. That, Senator Cruz, is how you get an American Presidential candidate who stands accused of being a Canadian-Cuban immigrant and/or the Zodiac Killer.

 

Errata

John Kasich is still running for the GOP Nomination. As with most things in this 2016 Presidential Election cycle, Kasich-related conspiracy theories are neither as loud or as interesting as those of the other candidates.

635707550955479453-20150624-bp-kasich-01Here he is, waiting in the shadows.

One conspiracy theory remains, and will as long as he the Ohio Governor is still in the running; the theory that there is a conspiracy to keep John Kasich in the running. It’s more-or-less a given that Kasich and his supporters are itching to post a primary victory outside of his home state, which he is also the Governor of. It is also, a fairly believable narrative, considering how loathed both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are of the GOP establishment. It would seem that Kasich is the only remaining candidate to retain the tone and content of the Republican Party in any way.

It may well also be that Kasich is going to lose the next few primaries, miserably.

That would make the ‘President Kasich Conspiracy’ end abruptly. With it, for all intents and purposes, would as well be the ‘Establishment’ that is the Grand ol’ Party.

If Trump was, in fact, a Clinton plant; the darkest deed has been done. An implosion of the GOP has been signed, sealed and delivered at the hands of, as John Kasich often puts them, ‘Sychophants.’ The results of the next few months will be the stuff of myth and legend for aeons to come, perhaps showing themselves to be the true path of Democracy; straight into the gutter.

If you are interested in understanding the workings of an evermore interconnected and conspiracy-minded populous (i.e. the American polity), however, this is perhaps one of the best possible times to be alive.

Some Future Time: Conspiracy Theory and Timestamp Snafu

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 6.35.58 PM

It may be sad. It may be infuriating. It is inevitable. Within 24 hours of the Paris Attacks, people around the world began to look for clues, anything really, that they could point to to show that the attacks were a hoax. It happens after every major European terror attack and will continue to do so. The reason; some people refuse to believe that such a thing can happen without it being ‘part of the plan.’

A recent article on BosniaPress.info initiated a regular conspiracist claim regarding the timeline of information release when tragedy occurs. The article headline claims ‘Paris Attack Reported on WIKIPEDIA and TWITTER before it happened.’ The story was immediately picked up by Reddit users via r/conspiracy and proliferated within the hours following the Paris Attacks that took the lives of at least 120.

Given the regularity of such claims being made immediately after events contested by conspiracists as ‘false flag operations’ or hoaxes of some sort, let us consider the internet timestamp.

The BosniaPress story utilizes a static time (CET) for a basis of its claim that twitter user @pzbooks posted about the Paris Attacks before they occurred, thus insinuating that the attacks were pre-planned by someone connected to that Twitter handle. The Twitter handle was registered, as per the BosniaPress story, to an IP address in the United Kingdom. The image on the front of the news article sites a time stamp of 11/11/2015 at 19:44 (2 days before the attacks). Central European Time (CET) is the timezone for Bosnia and for France. The attacks began around 21:16 CET. The UK IP address that is cited is the IP that edited earlier versions of the Wikipedia page. The same IP is then, surreptitiously,  linked to the Twitter account mentioned above which has since been disabled.  The Wiki page, as of 11/13/15 @ 23:06 CET is the earliest linked evidence that the BosniaPress article cites. They claim that earlier edits to the Wiki page showed privileged information that could not yet be known. They cite the mention of PM Hollande declaring a state of emergency at 23:58 on the 23:06 version of the Wiki page. Though the time listed seems to be a red flag to anyone looking for mistakes with the intent to claim a conspiracy, the information source was taken from the UK news source, The Guardian. The Guardian page sourced was regularly posting updated information regarding the Paris Attacks the day of. The French PM’s declaration of state of emergency (per the Wiki page) occurred at 23:58 (CET) and was posted on Wikipedia via a UK Ip address citing UK news agency info at 23:06 GMT (or CET+1). This may confuse some folks, but even Wikipedia can be confusing sometimes.

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As for the Twitter handle, @pzbooks. It has since been disabled. The Reddit community did a bit of review of this twitter handle and found that it seemingly takes unrelated news stories and merges them to post regularly irrelevant tweets. One redditor on the thread r/conspiracy noted

“Okay, as much as I would love a legit false-flag “smoking gun”, this seems to be the best detective work so far in the thread.”

I’m not saying don’t look for conspiracies, but there is no smoking gun (or ‘smoking time stamp’) here.

Post Script:

YouTube Video regarding @pzbooks, thank you, Miep!

For additional claims that the Paris Attacks were a false-flag, see here. Don’t be surprised if you hear more about this in the months to come.

Remember That Time Alex Jones Tried to Start a Y2K Riot?

Remember That Time Alex Jones Tried to Start a Y2K Riot?

Matt Novak