For The New GOP It’s All About Repeating Simple Lies

In his latest book, retired United States Army lieutenant general Michael Flynn,* includes the following quote from Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels:

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

Flynn then tells a big lie hoping readers will believe it.

The Citizen’s Guide to Fifth Generation Warfare, Session 1: Introduction to 5GW published December 2022, is an important piece of propaganda to examine. In the small book — 6-inch by 6-inch format, 182 pages –is warning everyone who will listen of the inevitable impending doom awaiting our country.

Fortunately, though, like a televangelist preacher who can assure you a spot in heaven with a $25 monthly donation — and for an additional $5 upgrade your heavenly palace for all of eternity — Flynn knows the truth and for less than $30 he will share it. Well, at least the First Session in his all you will need to know survival series.

Despite my obvious disdain for televangelists and Flynn, the book is worth a read especially for progressives and liberals. The book is a concise look at the propaganda being pushed and mainstreamed by the far-Right. And it is written in a way so the reader understands that even though their ‘neighbor isn’t the enemy,’ they also know that, if that neighbor is a liberal or progressive, they are, in fact, the enemy,

As far as propaganda techniques the book uses, it is the same approach used, on social media, by radicalized GOP elected officials. The book is written in a social media format — condensing complex issues down to mere paragraphs as the reader is expected to trust Flynn’s so-called expertise. But every chapter, every paragraph lands in the same place: the Left is destroying the country and the solution is to implement seven key policies. These are: parental rights, border security, election integrity, medical freedom, religious freedom, defund UniParty members and remove them with a fair election.

Of course, what the far-Right is advocating is: the destruction and privatization of public education, demonization of asylum seekers, disenfranchising voters, destruction of community, legalized attacks on the LGBQT+ community, and using a made-up term to push a narrative that both parties are the same and that only the fringe elements (think Freedom Caucus) are true Patriots.

Flynn’s strategy is admittedly effective because he has reduced seven complex issues down to sound bites — slogans that can be pushed, and amplified, on social media.

The strategy, though, is just a modernization of movements like the John Birch Society, McCarthyism, and the antisemitic American First movement from the WWII era. Just like those movements taught followers to fear, and hate, the Deep State actors and the shadowy government working to destroy their freedom as these entities work tirelessly to adopt that (ever popular with CTs) globalist agenda, so does Flynn. The only way to avoid this is, as Flynn and these groups teach, is to listen to them because they are true Patriots with the inside scoop.

He Gave Up Everything For You!

After giving the reader a list of terms and definitions to understand, in Chapter 1, Flynn jumps right into the battle for the American mind in Chapter 2. He writes:

“The primary goal is to control people indirectly, since indirect control reduces the chance of rebellion against the controlling group or individual. Overtness exposes the manipulator. Instead, the goal is to control conditions insidiously and use psychologically effective messaging to frame the perspective of the situation. This in turn manipulates the attitudes of the populace and consequently influences their behavior at will.”

Flynn also reminds reader that the Deep State persecuted former president Donald J. Trump (a man who was also highly skilled in peddling conspiracies). This persecution lie is still perpetuated by members of the new GOP who view Trump as a Messiah figure.

And, in this regard, Flynn is just reemphasizing a piece of propaganda currently posted on the JBS website. They write,

“When President Trump was first elected, he sent shock waves through the globalist community that Americanism, not globalism, is our credo. Yet, those in the Deep State continue to do whatever they can to block “America First”. America is once again in need of its patriots to help protect freedom and sovereignty. May we count on your help?”

Repackaging Old Ideas

The core message of the book is simple. Secret powerful individuals are moving the country toward the Great Reset. Flynn describes the Great Reset as a 2-step revolution. The country will transition from capitalism to socialism then from socialism to communism. The idea, birthed in the early 1900s, amplified during the Cold War, remains a favorite of far-Right politicians because of its appeal to those individuals who see a demon lurking inside every moment of progress,

Even though hardworking Americans** will undoubtedly plop down the $30 for the book, they could save some cash and purchase a used copy of None Dare Call It Conspiracy by Gary Allen, another American who had the inside scoop on the truth. In his 1972 work, Allen writes,

Why are the super-rich for socialism? Don’t they have the most to lose?…The idea that socialism is a share-the-wealth program is strictly a confidence game to get the people to surrender their freedom to an all-powerful collectivist government. While the insiders tell us we are building a paradise on earth, we are actually constructing a jail for ourselves.”

And The Answer Is …

Allen’s book sold a respectable four million copies in 1972 so there has the market appeal is not new, but where Flynn’s work differs from Allen’s is in its approach. Both books are written in the mass publication techniques of their time. This means Flynn’s book uses smaller content blocks of content, adapting for the shorter attention span of American readers.

However, Flynn deviates from a straightforward rehashing of these conspiracy theories by incorporating a homework section at the end of each of the nine chapters. This approach, for me, is reminiscent of the fundamental Christian Bible study books I received during my youth. Flynn’s questions (just like the ones in those Bible lessons) are worded in a manner that the only possible answer is the one Flynn supplies. This abandonment of critical thinking will, to a serious reader, undercuts the book’s legitimacy.

*Flynn co-authors this book with Boone Cutler, SGT, U.S. Army (retired)

**Of course, hardworking Americans who know their country’s history will save their money. They already know that no far-Right political movement in the U.S. has done anything to improve a worker’s life. Every right, or benefit, American workers enjoy — from those standardized 8-hour workdays, overtime pay or even the elimination of kids being permitted to mine coal — were the direct result of liberal and/or progressive movements.

Note: For those who choose to read the book, it is, in essence, a concise cheat sheet of the lies being pushed by the new GOP.

Categories: My America

Sandy Hook, Republicans and the Mainstreaming of Conspiracies

In January 2016 — three years and one month after 6-year-old Noah Pozner was murdered at Sandy Hook his father Lenny was enjoying a day with Noah’s two sisters. The pleasant day was interrupted by phone calls from an unknown number. Four calls in five minutes. Lenny listened to the first message and closed his phone returning to his daughters. Later that evening, at home, he put on headphones, so his daughters could not hear, and played the rest of the messages. The first two said:

Did you hide your imaginary son in the attic?

Are you still fucking him, you fucking Jew bastard?

Sandy Hook: Ground Zero For Post-Truth World

As a lifelong Southwest rural Ohio resident, I’m accustomed to red hats, Fuck Joe Biden flags, and conspiracy theories posted on Facebook. In 2020 I read them in the comment section of the Preble County Health Department. Today I read them in the comment section of Ohio GOP politicians who represent Southwest Ohio. Some, though, are not in the comment section. They are posted by the GOP politician. The willingness to spread, and not silence, these lies prompted me to read Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth by Elizabeth Williamson.

It’s a long read — 450 pages — and the first four or five chapters are difficult. Williamson does an excellent job forcing the reader to face this dark moment in American history. But the book, as the title suggest, is also a deep dive into the danger conspiracies pose to our democracy. Williamson interviews amateur conspiracy theorists and online agitators. She interviews attorneys and reports on academic research and political theorists. She also, of course, interviews Alex Jones and his ex-wife Kelly, the pair who built a financial empire at Infowars — on the bodies of murdered kids.

Due to the book’s length, and the depth of the reporting, I won’t write a traditional book review. However, it is important to note one of the main heroes is Lenny. Williamson details Lenny’s years-long battle to end the conspiracies — culminating with his courtroom victories against Alex Jones.

GOP Leverages Conspiracies

As Williamson weaves Lenny’s story — and the story of other Sandy Hook families — together she builds her argument that Jones may have laid the groundwork for a post-truth world, but conservative politicians like Ted Cruz and charlatans like Donald Trump — whose Big Lie is lifted from the Infowars playbook — perfected the game.

Trump rose to power posting whataboutisms, insinuations and conspiracies and, after he was elected, he pushed even more conspiracies. In 2017 when many hoped he would transition to becoming more presidential, Newtown officials sent him a letter asking him to publicly acknowledge the Sandy Hook massacre occurred — town officials thought it might silence the hoaxers. Trump ignored the letter.

It will be a 2018 U.S. Congressional hearing about Sandy Hook that further underscores the lack of humanity, accepted as normal, by the GOP.

When a father, whose daughter was murdered at Sandy Hook, is asked to testify before Congress, Cruz shows there is no bottom. The father, one of Alex Jones’ first targets, moved to Oregon in the aftermath of the mass shooting, yet years after the murders — and 3,000 miles away from the crime scene — he is confronted on a public street near his home by a hoaxer ginned up on YouTube conspiracy videos. But Cruz, unconcerned about the man’s plight, begins his questioning — first by mangling the slain girl’s name — then by using his time, not to better understand Sandy Hook, but to push conspiracy theories that conservatives were being silenced on social media (despite Ben Shapiro receiving the most daily interactions on Facebook.)

Sandy Hook, The Big Lie, The Insurrection

Countless GOP minions would promote the Big Lie (that the election was stolen) and this led to the January 6 Insurrection. In the aftermath of the attack, 147 GOP politicians would vote to overthrow the election. Although immoral, this is unsurprising. As a Standford University professor Williamson quotes in the book says,

“For those who are pushing the fraud narrative, the actual truth is beside the point. The idea that the election was stolen is becoming a tribe-defining belief. It’s not about proving something at this point. It’s about showing fealty to a particular description of reality.”

This is visible in Southwest Ohio. GOP representatives currently in office took to social media, on Jan. 7, 2021, in the aftermath of the violent attack to condemn the Insurrection. On the first anniversary, in 2022, they were mute. The lie mainstreamed by the GOP. It may be Lenny’s attorney who best explains why.

“A large portion of our political culture has perhaps correctly deduced that there are things that are way more useful, more potent, and more powerful than truth.”

What’s Next?

Surveys show 70 percent of Americans get their political news from social media — a troubling trend. But even more troubling when you understand that social media’s bread and butter is content that generates outrage. The more outlandish, the greater the interactions, so algorithms push the content, further amplifying outrage. This is why nearly every post by Jim Jordan, a Republication Congressman from Ohio, follows a basic format:

  • Name a legitimate problem
  • Offer no viable solution
  • End with a polarizing statement (for Jordan its often ‘Joe Biden’s America’)

Jordan, who is unskilled at legislating, but highly skilled at provocation, now has an ally on Twitter. With Twitter firmly under the control of a billionaire oligarch — whose understand the monetary value of controlling content — a new wave of misinformation and outrage is unfolding.

It’s detrimental to our freedom because angry, confused and misinformed voters are the easiest to manipulate.

Williamson does offers suggestions, and if you only have time to read part of her book, just read that section (at the end of the book). A major part of the solution, she says, is de-platforming bad actors. As she, and others, have reported, the origin of the Covid vaccine misinformation campaign — those lies peddled by GOP politicians — can be traced back to 12 entities*. As Williamson notes, deplatforming those 12 would have saved lives. Another approach is following in the footsteps of Lenny. Lenny educated himself on U.S. laws. He wrote op-eds. He filed complaints with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google to have content removed. He sued Alex Jones (and won). He painstakingly, and humanely, confronted hoaxers online. He concludes stronger regulation of social media companies is needed. He would know. His personal information — everything: social security numbers, cell phones numbers and home addresses – is online. That’s how the demented conspiracy theorist was able to leave those disturbing messages on his voice mail. It’s why credible threats on his life occurred.

The attack on his freedom was caused by bad actors protected by bad public policies.

Ending this assault on freedom begins at the local level. State and local politicians — including members of the U.S. Congress — need their feet held to the fire whenever they amplify conspiracies. And, if they choose not to confront conspiracies posted in the comment section of their posts — call them out while also posting the correct information. But more importantly create new content streams. Write posts. Write op-eds exposing their lies. Because, in a country where the fathers, mothers, grandparents and siblings are denied the freedom to visit a murdered child’s grave we deserve elected officials with the moral courage to silence the voices of bad actors.

If we, as individuals, let the lies go unchecked the U.S. will be controlled by a political party that lacks the integrity to confront George Santos.

*Sorry to break it to you but your local commissioner or state representative did not do exhaustive Covid vaccine research — or even have an original thought — they just pushed Covid misinformation spoon fed to them by conspiracy theorists.

Categories: Conspiracy | Tags: , ,

‘Believe Me’ Examines Evangelical Loyality To Trump

Raised in an evangelical church, I was deeply interested in reading Believe Me: The Evangelical Road To Trump by historian John Fea.

Fea, a self-described evangelical (as the book jacket cover notes) was not surprised when 81 percent of evangelicals supported Trump. Instead he argues, it was the ‘logical outcome of a long-standing evangelical approach to public life.’ An approach Fea describes as,

‘the politics of fear, the pursuit of worldly power, and a nostalgic longing for an American past.’

The relatively short  book (191 pages — hardback edition) explains those three pursuits.

Politics of Fear

As a child, I learned firsthand this element of the movement. Raised during the Cold War era, I remember as a 8 or 9-year-old child waking up from nightmares where I was facing a Communist firing squad. These dreams were fueled by our minister stating, from the pulpit, that ‘when (not if) the Russians took over’ they would ask everyone if they believed ‘Jesus was the Christ.’ Those who said yes, would be executed (but go to heaven). Those who said no would survive, but spend eternity in Hell.

Fea bypasses personal anecdotes and, instead, looks at America’s history and shows the various fears that captivate evangelicals. These fears began with an unhealthy view of Native Americans in New England — even those who converted to Christianity. The fears progress through every era of our history. Fear was behind the evangelicals support of the Know-Nothing (American) Party of the mid-1800s. Evangelicals supported the party mainly out of their fear of immigrants. Fear was drove the movement to add ‘under God’ to the pledge and our coinage. In the current era, fear was the motivating factor behind the aversion to president Barack Obama — whose progressive policies moved society at a pace that panicked evangelicals.

But, as Fea demonstrates, many of the fears have no basis in fact (like Obama being a secret Muslim). This, however, does not prevent unscrupulous politicians from exploiting the misinformation. But, it may have been the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage that really galvanized evangelicals in their opposition to Obama. As Fea notes,

“Rod Dreher, an Eastern Orthodox Christian with a large evangelical following, offered a more apocalyptic response to the legalization of same-sex marriage…. Dreher echoed what many ordinary evangelicals were feeling. ‘We are living in a post-Christian nation. LBGT activists and their fellow travelers really will be coming after social conservatives…adding that believers in traditional marriages ‘are going to have to live as exiles in their own country.'”

Pursuit of Power

In this section, Fea pulls no punches concerning the inner circle of evangelicals who advise Trump. He refers to them as court evangelicals — a reference to medieval times when ‘holy men’ advised kings. As Fea notes, though, not much has changed from the medieval era since, then as now, few spoke the truth for fear of losing access to power.

Fea builds a case that Trump is using the evangelicals to pursue his own agenda. Fea quotes A. R. Bernard, who abandoned Trump after Charlottesville (2017). Bernard said the advisers had little power, noting that ‘meetings (with Trump) took place, but nothing substantive was discussed.’

But, a bigger role this advisory group has, Fea reveals, is to explain Trump’s moral failures to followers. Fea writes,

“Falwell Jr. claims that Trump called him immediately after the infamous Access Hollywood tape was released to the public… (Falwell) implied that Trump was looking to Falwell for help in smoothing things over with evangelical voters who might be disgusted by these revelations.”

Fea notes that the court evangelicals come from three sources: the Religious Right, followers of the Prosperity Gospel, and members of the Independent Network Charismatics. One minister who receives considerable space (and justifiability so) is Robert Jeffress. Jeffress encouraged Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem — because of Jeffress’ belief that, in doing do, a biblical prophecy would be fulfilled.

Make America Great Again

This section opens with a discussion Fea had with a black minister — a minister that opened Fea’s eyes to the reality there is no historical place for Blacks to look back on when America was great. The current era, as bad as it is with modern-day lynching — White officers gunning down unarmed Black men without repercussion — is the best time in their history.

Fea, the historian, while acknowledging the hypocrisy of the ‘again’ statement (with regards to minorities) moves forward by skillfully breaking down the reality that there is no great era in U.S. history.

Since Trump never (by design) alludes to a specific era, Fea attempts to reconstruct from Trump’s words what era he may be referring to — and, comes to the conclusion, that many of us have, that Trump is simply referring to times when Whites were favored even more than they are today.

Fea concludes his book with an example of American Christians who built their legacy on hope, humility and history — championing it as a better way to interact in our diverse society.

Rated 4/5. This book is an excellent candidate for a weekend read. Those who practice the Christian faith will find the depth of Christian philosophy enlightening. Those who enjoy American history will find the narrative — and logic — easy to follow even if they are not familiar with the tenets of evangelicalism. Those who want ‘their country back’ will find a sliver of hope that, at least, one evangelical is pushing back against the madness.

Categories: Books I have read, Politics, Religion