I wasn't a huge fan of Jim "Mad Dog" Mattis, the former Trump Regime Defense Secretary whose presence in the cabinet had the effect of making the regime look almost legitimate if not normal. But on Thursday, on a webcast hosted by former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers, Mattis admitted that Trump is a national security threat to the country, accusing Trump of "fomenting" the coup attempt that resulted in the sacking of the Capitol and 5 deaths. Mattis said Trump exemplified the "internal threats" faced by the U.S. that should be viewed "with every bit as much gravity as the external problems, and perhaps more so." He said he was referring to "the lack of unity on the consensual underpinnings of our democracy, and what we saw on Jan. 6, fomented by a sitting president."
One of the most cracked of the Trumpist crackpots is far right Georgia conspiracy theory attorney Lin Wood. It's amazing to that he and others like him have law licenses. His may soon be suspended or revoked. And for a perfectly good reason: Wood is obviously severely insane but he has refused to submit to a mental health evaluation. The State Bar of Georgia told him he needs a psychological by a professional and Wood, claiming he's being persecuted for exercising his right of free speech, threatened to sue them.
Reuters reported that the standoff comes "weeks after Wood, an Atlanta-based defamation litigator, was banned from Twitter, where he regularly embraced conspiracy theories. A Delaware state judge earlier this month blocked Wood from representing former Trump adviser Carter Page, calling claims Wood made on Twitter about U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts 'too disgusting and outrageous to repeat.'"
This morning, the NY Times introduced its readers to Lenka Perron, a seemingly normalish woman with 3 teenaged kids in suburban Detroit, working as an insurance business consultant, someone you're probably never hear of again. She was a Bernie supporter who wound up a Trump devotee. Perron should have also had professional psychiatric help, not because she's a Republican but because she was a QAnon Republican. Was... she's recovered now, which is what The Times article was about-- that and looking into "what will happen with the followers of QAnon and other anti-establishment conspiracy theories that have been bending Americans’ perceptions of reality" now that Trump has been rejected for a second term.
Unfortunately, even though it would appear that only a moron could possibly entertain QAnon for more than 5 minutes, "experts believe that some form of the QAnon conspiracy theory will remain deeply embedded in the nation’s culture by simply morphing to incorporate the new developments, as it has before. QAnon believers are part of a broader swath of Americans who are immersed in conspiracy theories... The theories can be malevolent, causing real-life damage to people who end up in their cross hairs: the parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook mass shooting who have been harassed by conspiracists, or a Washington pizza restaurant shot up by a man who had come to take down a child trafficking ring he believed was housed inside. Q sweatshirts dotted the crowd that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6."
But while much has been said about how people descend into this world, little is known about how they get out. Those who do leave are often filled with shame. Sometimes their addiction was so severe that they have become estranged from family and friends.
The theories seem crazy to Ms. Perron now, but looking back, she understands how they drew her in. They were comforting, a way to get her bearings in a chaotic world that felt increasingly unequal and rigged against middle-class people like her. These stories offered agency: Evil cabals could be defeated. A diffuse sense that things were out of her control could not.
The theories were fiction, but they hooked into an emotional vulnerability that sprang from something real. For Ms. Perron, it was a feeling that the Democratic Party had betrayed her after a lifetime of trusting it deeply.
Her immigrant family, from the former Yugoslavia, were union Democrats in working-class Detroit who had seen their middle-class lifestyle decline after the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. As an inspector for the insurance industry, she spent decades in factories seeing union jobs wither. Still, she stayed with the party because she believed it was fighting for her. When Bernie Sanders became a presidential candidate she found him electrifying.
“He put into words what I couldn’t figure out but I was seeing around me,” said Ms. Perron, who is now 55. “The middle class was shrinking. The 1 percent and corporations having more control and taking more of the money.”
She felt sure the Democratic establishment would back him, and she began volunteering for his campaign, meeting many new friends in the movement. But she felt that the news media was barely covering him. Then he lost the 2016 primary. When she began reading through leaked emails that fall, it looked to her like the party establishment had conspired to block him.
She spent weeks combing through the emails, hacked from Mr. Podesta, the Democratic National Committee and Mrs. Clinton. Her stunned discovery enraged her and put her on the path to conspiracy theories and, eventually, QAnon.
...The community was growing, and also going to darker places. Ms. Perron remembers watching and sharing videos appearing to link a Washington pizza parlor to Mr. Podesta, Mrs. Clinton and a child sex trafficking ring. The dots were hazy, but she and her newfound friends on Facebook and Reddit drew bright lines connecting them. It sounds crazy now, she said, but at the time it felt so real and disturbing that sometimes she felt physically ill.
...“Q managed to make us feel special, that we were being given very critical information that basically was going to save all that is good in the world and the United States,” she said. “We felt we were coming from a place of moral superiority. We were part of a special club.”
Meanwhile, her family was eating takeout all the time since she had stopped cooking and her stress levels had shot up, causing her blood pressure medication to stop working. Her doctor, worried, doubled her dose.
People who tried to talk her out of the conspiracy theories by sending her factual information only made it worse.
“Facts are not facts anymore,” Ms. Perron said. “They are highly powerful, nefarious people putting out messaging to keep us as docile as sheep.”
As the months went on, the claims she was seeing grew more outlandish. There were slickly produced videos of cannibalism and Satanism within the Democratic Party.
“The people I got to know on social media, they started to look stranger and act stranger and I didn’t want to be like that,” she said.
Mr. Trump himself was a source of doubt. Q presented him as a brilliant mastermind, and for a while she accepted that. But it became harder to reconcile that persona with what she observed in real life.
...When she first left QAnon, she felt a lot of shame and guilt. It was also humbling: Ms. Perron, who has a master’s degree, had looked down on Scientologists as people who believed crazy things. But there she was.
But she has come to appreciate the experience. She has talked to her children about what she went through, and has learned to identify conspiracy dependence in others. She agreed to speak for this article to help others who are still in the throes of QAnon.
...Trump may be gone from government, but Ms. Perron believes that the ground is still fertile for conspiracy theories because many of the underlying conditions are the same: widespread distrust of authority, anger at powerful figures in politics and in the news media, and growing income inequality.
Unless there are major changes, Ms. Perron said, the craving will continue.
“Trump just used us and our fear,” she said. “When you are no longer living in fear, you are no longer prone to believe this stuff. I don’t think we are anywhere near that yet.”
In his Times column yesterday, Paul Krugman wrote that "The Republican Party is stuck, probably irreversibly, in a doom loop of bizarro. If the Trump-incited Capitol insurrection didn’t snap the party back to sanity-- and it didn’t-- nothing will." Do you think he literally means "sanity?" I do. He wrote, "About the bizarro: Even I had some lingering hope that the Republican establishment might try to end Trumpism. But such hopes died this week. On Tuesday Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, who has said that Donald Trump’s role in fomenting the insurrection was impeachable, voted for a measure that would have declared a Trump trial unconstitutional because he’s no longer in office. (Most constitutional scholars disagree.) On Thursday Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader-- who still hasn’t conceded that Joe Biden legitimately won the presidency, but did declare that Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack on Congress-- visited Mar-a-Lago, presumably to make amends. In other words, the G.O.P.’s national leadership, after briefly flirting with sense, has surrendered to the fantasies of the fringe. Cowardice rules." Krugman worries about the dangers this poses for the country.
Like Perron above, he wonders how this happened "to what was once the party of Dwight Eisenhower... Political scientists argue that traditional forces of moderation have been weakened by factors like the nationalization of politics and the rise of partisan media, notably Fox News" and sees a slippery slope that eventually leads to seemingly rational people "believing that all Democrats are Satanist pedophiles." It goes back to Newt Gingrich and was greatly enhanced by Trump, a self-serving conspiracy monger himself. "[T]he cowardice of the Republican establishment has sealed the deal. One of America’s two major political parties has parted ways with facts, logic and democracy, and it’s not coming back."