The Propaganda Loop Comes Full Circle

Eight takes on a busy day

Happy Thursday. Eight takes from a consequential day.

**

The loop is now complete

In the youth of our Dissolution, we worried about foreign disinformation.

We worried about Russian fake news, bots, and troll factories. We were troubled by the prospect that malicious foreign actors would spread conspiracy theories and division.

How silly. As it turned out we have met the enemy and he is us. And he is legion.

Our current sludge of disinformation, bilge, and crackpottery is thoroughly domestic, amplified by a million voices on social media, national networks, and until recently, the White House itself.

And now it has come full circle, as Russian President Vladimir Putin, feeds back our homegrown disinformation. Dana Milbank notes the symmetry: “For the past few years, Republicans in Congress have echoed Russian propaganda. On Wednesday, in Geneva, Vladimir Putin returned the favor: He echoed Republican propaganda.”

With unconcealed relish, the Russians have adopted the talking points of right-wing media about January 6.

The first sign of trouble came a week ago, when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sounded a bit like a far-right Republican when talking about the insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Lavrov told reporters last Monday that the Kremlin is "following with interest" the "persecution" of those "accused of the riots on Jan. 6."

Putin has amplified the point, insisting that the January 6 insurrectionists are not looters or thieves." Many of the suspects, Putin said, have been hit with "very harsh charges.... Why is that?"

Yesterday, Putin took the opportunity to emphasize the point. Asked about his repression of political dissent, Putin put on a bravura performance of whataboutism.

“As for who is killing whom or are throwing whom in jail, people came to the U.S. Congress with political demands,” Putin said. “Over 400 people had criminal charges placed on them. They face prison sentences. … They’re being called domestic terrorists.”

Putin specifically cited Ashli Babbitt, a rioter who was fatally shot by police while trying to break into an area close to lawmakers.

“One person was simply shot on the spot by the police, although they were not threatening the police with any weapons. In many countries, the same thing happens that happens in our country,” Putin said.

Afterward President Biden called the comparison, “ridiculous,” as indeed it was. But the whole episode showed how our political world has devolved in just a few years.


Normality has become newsworthy.

As Susan Glasser wrote: “Joe Biden Just Had a Summit with Vladimir Putin and Nothing Crazy Happened.”

That actually felt like a big deal.

**

Irony remains thoroughly dead.

The RNC put out a press release denouncing Biden for meeting with Putin, and other GOPers followed suit.

The Trump confidant Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, told Hannity that Biden was practicing “appeasement” of Putin. Mike Pompeo, Trump’s former Secretary of State, said on the same show that refusing to hold a joint press conference with Putin—as Trump had—was an admission of “enormous weakness” on Biden’s part. During the summit, three Republican senators—Ted Cruz, John Barrasso, and Ron Johnson—put out a joint statement that said Biden was “sending a message of weakness and appeasement to our adversaries, encouraging and emboldening them.”

As Winston Churchill might say, AYFKM? The past does not exist, and memory, like happiness (to paraphrase Putin) is an illusion. Helsinki is erased, and the entire Trump presidency ret-conned before our eyes.

**

Cognitive dissonance is your friend.

The point is that many folks in the MAGAverse believe it all… simultaneously. Hannah Arendt explained the phenomenon this way:

In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and nothing was true...

As our colleague Tim Miller writes in today’s Bulwark:

For Beattie and Carlson and Hemingway, their narrative doesn’t have to make sense. None of the different stories and arguments need to tie together.

Because the lies are a demonstration of power.

The lies are a signal that as long as you are on the right side, there are no red lines. That anything goes. That no matter what you do, you will be excused and the other will be blamed.

Like every other part of Trumpism, the newest 1/6 lie is an expression of the only question that matters for the new right: кто кого?

**

Yes, they were serious about overturning the election

Via the Wapo: “New documents and emails reveal how far the president and his supporters were willing to go to try to keep Donald Trump in office in a frenzied three-week stretch that tested Justice Department leaders.”

Remember: A clown with flamethrower, still has a flamethrower.

**

The epic hypocrisy of the “Blue Lives Matter” GOP

“GOP congressman refuses to shake hands with D.C. police officer who protected the Capitol on Jan. 6”

Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.), who voted against awarding police officers the Congressional Gold Medal for their bravery in protecting the U.S. Capitol against violent, pro-Trump rioters on Jan. 6, refused to shake hands with D.C. police officer Michael Fanone on Wednesday.

Fanone was beaten unconscious after he voluntarily rushed to the Capitol to help defend it from those who breached the building. He suffered a concussion and a mild heart attack. In the months since, Fanone has been one of the leading voices pushing back against Republicans who have sought to downplay the severity of what happened Jan. 6.

Fanone, joined by Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, returned to the Capitol on Wednesday, the day after 21 House Republicans voted against the Gold Medal resolution, in an effort to meet them and tell his story.

**

I had some thoughts.

Meanwhile, a peaceful tourism update.

**

Two big tests for bipartisanship

On Wednesday, compromises were floated on voting rights and infrastructure.

A bipartisan group of senators sketching out an infrastructure proposal expanded their base of support Wednesday, even as they continue to haggle over how to pay for billions of dollars in new spending in line with President Biden’s vision for a massive overhaul of the nation’s public works system.

The initial framework, written by the likes of Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and seven other senators, falls far short of the sweeping infrastructure proposal that Biden has pitched, yet aims to try to satisfy the president’s hunger for bipartisanship.

But their efforts received a big boost Wednesday, when 11 more senators joined the original 10 and said they supported the still-unreleased blueprint of a deal. The group now includes 11 Republicans, nine Democrats and one independent who caucuses with the Democrats. All told, they account for a fifth of the entire chamber.

Over at Slate, Richard Hasen argues that Democrats should grab the voting rights deal Joe Manchin is offering. And here is one promising sign:

Unfortunately, we can probably expect blowback from both the MAGAverse and progressives to both deals. Is it too much to hope for a burst of sanity?

**

They can move fast, when they want to.

But the idiocy remains.

**

This was a flagrant act of journalism:


Quick Hits

1. Pennsylvania’s Conspiracy Kiss-Up Contest

Amanda Carpenter writes in today’s Bulwark writes that candidates for the state’s two major 2022 races embrace Trump’s big election lie.

With Governor Tom Wolf term limited and Senator Pat Toomey not running for re-election, Pennsylvania has two major statewide offices up for grabs in 2022. Both the governorship and the senate seat are powerful perches that could be used to influence the outcome of the 2024 presidential election. Naturally, the Republican candidates vying for these seats are openly seeking Donald Trump’s endorsement—and he wants something in return: an Arizona-style audit in their state.


2. A Nonsensical Case Against NATO

Brian Stewart in today’s Bulwark:

[Stephen] Wertheim’s indictment of NATO as a force for division and war reveals that he is not merely confused, but has grown wholly untethered from reality. Wertheim juxtaposes the “warranted” deployment of U.S. military power in the Middle East with America’s prolonged commitment to European peace and security. The old continent, Wertheim contends, could get by well enough in a world without American primacy. In a statement that deserves to be remembered for the ages, he writes that “Europe is stable and affluent, far removed from its warring past.” Ever wonder why?


3. Federal Laws Against Pot Are on Borrowed Time

Daniel McGraw, in this morning’s Bulwark:

Biden’s sense of inevitability is justified: Bills before the House and Senate seem likely to pass in some form or fashion before the 2022 mid-term elections. The numbers have moved into the area where backtracking is no longer possible. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that 60 percent of Americans think that marijuana should be legal for both recreational and medical use, while an additional 31 percent are in favor of medicinal use only. Majorities of every age group except those 75 and older think both uses should be legal. Surprisingly, even 87 percent of Republicans go along with supporting both legal or medicinal only.

In a total of 16 states plus Washington, D.C., it is now legal to light up; 36 states in total have approved medicinal use. Even the legislatures of Texas and Louisiana have passed expansions of medical marijuana use in the last session, and will be signed shortly by their governors.


Cheap Shots

The New Normal.