Tag Archives: Jr.

The Eternal Target

Robert Hubbell is the author of one of the newsletters that appear in my inbox each weekday; some months ago, my sister recommended that I add him to my daily read and I can echo her endorsement.

Hubbell recently considered the anti-Semitism displayed by one of RFK, Jr.’s many conspiracy theories–this one, that the Chinese had “bio-engineered”  COVID  to disproportionately target Caucasians and Black people., while immunizing Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people.

As Hubbell wrote

Over the weekend, we learned that Kennedy’s conspiratorial thinking regarding the origins of Covid and the (alleged) evils of vaccines led him to the place where many conspiracy theories seem to inevitably land—blaming “the Jews” for the world’s problems. Most conspiracy theories begin by blaming the ubiquitous and anonymous “they”, which inexorably morphs over time to “liberal elites,” then “Bill Gates and George Soros,” and then “the Jews.”

 I sure wish we Jews were as powerful as these conspiracy-addled  lunatics clearly think we are. (Really, if I had a space laser, don’t you think I’d have used it against some of these nutcases by now??)

In Hubbell’s subsequent discussion of Junior’s “bioweapon” theories, he meticulously examined the ignorance it required.

He claims that the Chinese and American governments are developing “ethnic bioweapons.” The notion that governments are building bioweapons that will selectively attack people based on their “ethnicity” is a delusion based on monumental ignorance about DNA, biology, race, ethnicity, science, politics, and reality. It is the stuff of 1950s comic books, adolescent imagination, and Nazi eugenics—which is how sheer stupidity morphs into absolute evil in the reality free cauldron of conspiracy theories.

Hubbell examined RFK,Jr.’s “copious documentation” (so that we don’t have to), and found that–to the extent any legitimate documentation exists regarding “ethnic bioweapons”– “it relates to the fear that some government might exploit the gene editing technology CRSPR/Cas9 to develop ethnic bioweapons in the future.”

Rather obviously, a concern about what might occur  sometime in the future is not “evidence” that U.S. and China are developing bioweapons targeted at various genetic groups.

What struck me about this particular eruption of anti-Semitism–and Hubbell’s ability to demonstrate the ignorance that prompted it–was an insight it prompted about the nature of conspiracy theories in general: people who don’t understand the world they inhabit, and who are unable to tolerate the ambiguities resulting from that lack of understanding, are desperate for answers and explanations they can comprehend.

Conspiracy theories provide those answers. (So do some religions.)

Are LGBTQ people more visible than they used to be? There must be more of them, and that means that some groups–librarians and Drag Queens among them– are “grooming” children and turning them gay.

Are the FBI and Department of Justice closing in on Donald Trump’s myriad crimes? That’s convincing evidence that those federal agencies have been “weaponized” against Republicans.

Did your 87-year-old grandfather die a month after getting a COVID vaccine? Was your sister-in-law’s next-door neighbor’s brother’s child diagnosed as autistic after getting her measles vaccine? Aha! Evidence that vaccines are dangerous.

Are you a man who’s unable to get a date? (Okay, unable to get laid?) It isn’t because you’re unattractive or unpleasant (or nuts). As your fellow Incels will tell you, it’s evidence that “women’s lib” groups have poisoned relations between the sexes.

Is your life not unfolding in ways you had hoped? Are your children behaving in ways that you disapprove? It’s evidence that some shadowy group–probably the Jews–is running the world in ways that disadvantage good White Christians like you…

I’m sure readers of this blog can add to the list….

There is a reason for the growing political and social gap between educated and uneducated Americans. And by “educated” I don’t mean people with degrees; I mean people who read books and newspapers, open themselves to the lessons of history, and respect science and technical expertise. Educated people are humans who recognize–and have learned to live with– the inevitable ambiguities of modern life. They are people who understand that the world is a complicated place, that we humans are still learning about causes and effects, and there are many questions we can’t answer.

They are people who can tell the difference between evidence and fantasy, and are comfortable saying “I don’t know.”

Other people–those who are frantic for simple answers and desperate for someone or some group  to blame for their distress– cope by adopting fantasies that justify their fear and hatred of the “other.”

Today’s America evidently has a lot of them. Until their fevers subside, they can and do make life for the rest of us very uncomfortable–and for some of us “others,” very unsafe.

 

 

 

Shaming The Name

I guess it’s time to talk about RFK, Jr.

I met Junior once, many years ago. He’d come to Indianapolis to speak at a dinner for an environmental group. At the time, he was known for his work to clean up the Hudson River. He sat at our table and played footsie with an attractive woman at the table.  Given what we now know about JFK, I  just assumed lechery ran in the family.

These days, his behaviors are far more bizarre, and his quixotic entry into the Presidential sweepstakes has elicited commentary from reporters who would otherwise ignore a crank candidate.

Allow me to share some of that recent coverage.

The New Republic reports that Junior is sharing the podium with Trump, DeSantis and Nikki Haley at an event sponsored by Moms for Liberty, a group known for book-banning, and attacks on teachers and  LGBTQ citizens, among other things.

Maybe he’s running on the wrong ticket….

There have been multiple reports that his candidacy is being promoted by rich, white, conspiracy-pushing figures who have a media presence.  Elon Musk, for example, is evidently using Twitter’s algorithms to advance Junior’s anti-vaccine agenda.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has pointed out that RFK Jr.’s “top backers are Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, Roger Stone. He’s a creation of the world of MAGA.”

I knew he was a big anti-vax guy. But seeing some of his recent stuff, I didn’t grasp how far off the trail he’s gone. He’s basically on board with all the conspiracy theories that animate MAGA. Vaccine denial is only one of them. For the moment he’s putting up decent primary support numbers, overwhelmingly because of the name.

The website Popular Information criticized the “pernicious elite preoccupation” with Junior, pointing to the number of lives likely to be lost by his spread of discredited, manipulated and cherry-picked vaccine disinformation.

In the Washington Post, Eugene Robinson weighed in:

If Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s name were Robert F. Smith Jr., he would be written off as an anti-vaccine nutjob. His pedigree is enough to make some Democrats give his presidential campaign a look — and they will find that he is indeed an anti-vaccine nutjob and that he often sounds a lot like a MAGA Republican.
 
This will come as a disappointment to the right-wing media outlets, unhinged conspiracy theorists and faux-libertarian billionaires who are doing their best to pretend Kennedy’s delusionary candidacy is a viable challenge to President Biden.

Robinson focuses largely on the lethal consequences of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. He quotes Junior’s siblings, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Joseph P. Kennedy II, who wrote in a 2019 Politico article that Junior’s anti-vaccine ravings are “dangerous misinformation” that endanger public health and put children at risk.

Robinson also notes that the crazy doesn’t stop there.

For a while, he crusaded against 5G internet technology, claiming it damages human DNA and is a secret tool of mass surveillance. He has accused Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates of working to develop an “injectable chip” that would allow, once again, mass surveillance. These are sentiments more commonly expressed on a street corner, at loud volume, while wearing a tinfoil hat.

Kennedy has said he believes that the CIA was behind the 1963 assassination of his uncle President John F. Kennedy and that there is “very convincing” evidence the CIA was also responsible for the assassination of his father, Robert F. Kennedy, in 1968. (Back here in the real world, JFK was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald and RFK was killed by Sirhan Sirhan.) Asked by Rogan whether he, too, could be a target of CIA assassins, Kennedy said, “I gotta be careful. I’m aware of that, you know, I’m aware of that danger.” He added, “I take precautions.”

He also claims that “chemicals in the waters”  cause transgenderism…

In the same vein, in a NYT column, Bret Stephens wrote

Kennedy is a crank…. He has said the C.I.A. killed his uncle and possibly his father, that George W. Bush stole the 2004 election, and that Covid vaccines are a Bill Gates and Anthony Fauci self-enrichment scheme. He repeats Kremlin propaganda points, like the notion that the war in Ukraine is actually “a U.S. war against Russia.” He has nice things to say about Tucker Carlson.

There is much, much more, but probably the most pertinent point is the one made by Eugene Robinson: if this guy’s name was Robert F. Smith, Jr., he would be ignored as just another lunatic. It is only because he comes from a famous family, only because he has a pedigree, that he is currently a “useful idiot” for the MAGA supporters desperate to peel away the votes of naive Americans who might vote for the Kennedy name.

Which he shames.

I Know It’s Tacky To Laugh…

I’ve seen several references to this…event…in Texas, but I think Juanita Jean–she of the World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Shop, Inc.–has the best description. She titles it “I Love Yew, Texas.”

Well see, the QAnon people are coming to Dallas because there’s gonna be a slamdinger of a show!

Some staunch believers of QAnon think that JFK Jr is in fact alive and well, and plans to make a return to public service and announce a tilt at the White House as vice president on the ticket of Mr Trump, who has not yet announced a 2024 run but is widely considered by many to be the favourite to win the Republican nomination if he does so.

And it’s not just JFK, Jr – it’s the entire Kennedy clan showing up. However, it’s not clear if it’s all of them or just the dead ones. Word is that they are meeting on the grassy knoll, except they spelled it grassy noel, which in Texas translates to Christmas in the wheat fields.

Her best line, though, invokes Indiana’s former embarrassing Governor.

And if you’re wondering who comes back from the dead to be vice president, you need only look as far as Mike Pence. So there ya are.

Actually, I’ve been mulling over the fact that, in January, Mike Pence actually did something admirable–he refused to take part in the coup attempt. He followed the law, and refused to refuse to certify ballots. (Granted, when it comes to Mike Pence, the bar for “admirable” is very low…) As long as I’ve known him (and that is ever since we were both Republican candidates for Congress in the 1980s, so a long time) it is the only admirable thing I’ve ever seen him do–and the irony is that in today’s GOP, doing the right thing and respecting the rule of law has probably been the kiss of death to his presidential ambitions. (Not that I think those ambitions were very realistic in any event, but then, who would have  thought anyone would vote for the pussy-grabber…?)

Democrats are constantly being criticized for “elitism,” for “looking down on” unsophisticated/uneducated /rural “real Americans.” I think this is largely a bum rap: I don’t know any liberals who sneer at people simply because they lack a degree or live in a rural  area or even because they vote Republican. I do know people (and I’ll admit to being one of them) who shake our heads and perhaps even snicker at folks who look for Hillary Clinton’s child trafficking headquarters in the (non-existent) basement of a pizza parlor, or who blame California wildfires on Jewish space lasers, or who ingest horse dewormer rather than listening to their doctors and getting vaccinated…Admittedly, the people who turn up at protests with grossly misspelled signs also get a chuckle .

And forgive me if I fail to take seriously the QAnon lunatics who traveled to the “grassy noel” to await the reincarnation or whatever of JFK, Jr.

Let’s be candid: Today’s GOP is profoundly unserious about governing. Its base is filled with crackpots of various kinds, and the party’s elected officials and political leaders are virtually all spineless panderers to those crackpots. Thanks to gerrymandering, vote suppression and weaponizing of the filibuster, they’ve managed to prevent Congress from engaging in anything resembling actual governing.

If we couldn’t laugh, we’d cry.

 

 

 

It Isn’t Hypocrisy–It’s Worse. Much Worse.

In a comment a few days ago, Gerald posted a link to Raw Story, headlined “Why Evangelicals Won’t Care about Jerry Falwell Jr.’s apparent sex scandal.”

Presumably, they also won’t care about the self-dealing, corruption and similar behaviors that were the focus of a preceding expose in Politico. 

What I found fascinating about the Raw Story version wasn’t the detailed enumeration of Falwell’s multiple unChristian behaviors. His full-throated support for Trump had already provided ample evidence that the publicly-espoused values of his brand of Christianity were bogus. What I found interesting–and hopeful–was the publication’s willingness to identify the actual values of that brand.

The article began with evidence of Falwell’s sexual kinkiness and financial improprieties–and a prediction that none of it would matter to his followers.

The pretense that the religious right was motivated by faith and morality was dropped — or should have been — when white evangelicals flocked to vote for Trump in greater numbers than they did for George W. Bush, who if he was convincing about little else, was convincingly a man of faith.

Here’s the thing: The real purpose of the Christian conservative movement is to uphold white supremacy and patriarchy, full stop. As long as Falwell Jr. keeps that up — as his father did before him — his flock will stick with him just as they’ve stuck with Trump, a thrice-married chronic adulterer who has bragged about sexual assault on tape.

The article went on to debunk the evident belief of the whistleblowers who shared the information with Politico that Falwell Senior had been a better, more authentic Christian.

The elder Jerry Falwell was a bigot through and through, and his version of Christianity was primarily, if not solely, about rationalizing a white supremacist, misogynistic and homophobic worldview.

Falwell first rose to fame as a Baptist minister due to his stalwart opposition to civil rights, which he called“a terrible violation of human and private property rights.” He declared that the 1964 Civil Rights Act “should be considered civil wrongs rather than civil rights.” He also once declared, in response to the historic Brown v. Board of Education case, that if the Supreme Court “had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made.”

Falwell Senior made little effort to hide his racism. He criticized Martin Luther King, Jr. for political activism, despite his own equally political activities. The article also reports what scholars have recognized for some time: the attacks on LGBTQ citizens and women’s reproductive rights were intended to divert attention from the racism that was less politically palatable.

Falwell became even more politically involved  when the federal government under Jimmy Carter stripped tax-exempt status from all-white private schools, which Liberty University was at the time. To punish Carter, Falwell helped form the Moral Majority in 1980 to support Republicans and defeat Democrats. He and other organizers shrewdly pivoted away from open support for segregation and opposition to civil rights toward the more politically palatable politics (at the time) of opposition to feminism and LGBT rights. Falwell would try to distance himself from his past by claiming later to oppose segregation, but he kept finding himself on the wrong side of history, such as when he supported South Africa’s apartheid government.

So Jerry Falwell Jr. isn’t straying from his father’s legacy, but expanding it. From the beginning, it’s always been about white supremacy and patriarchal control. The sanctimony was just plastered over these ugly intentions to give all that hate a holy makeover.

So why isn’t this behavior properly called hypocrisy?

Despite the repeated, strenuous efforts of liberals to point out the hypocrisy, Trump’s support on the Christian right never seems to weaken. That’s because it was never, ever — not for one moment, even at the height of the George W. Bush era of big-time Bible-thumping — about sincere religious conviction. It was always about white supremacy and patriarchy. To call this “hypocrisy” misses the point, in a sense, because to be hypocrites Christian conservatives would have had to believe in something larger than their own bigotries to begin with.

Bingo.