Conversations with Charlie (11/17/2021)

Conversation 11:

Charlie’s Wednesday’s podcast had him talking with David Priess of Lawfare discussing some of the worst figures mulling around on the right to far right (Nov. 17, 2021).

Charlie opens by telling David he had the following figures he wanted to talk about on the podcast with him. They are Paul Gosar, Mike Lindell, Chris Christie, Michael Flynn, and Sidney Powell. 

To which David replies: “my spleen hurts.”

It is just a fresh batch of fresh hell and crazy that appears to be growing.

There are going to be those, Charlie admits, who will see all of this as getting a bit repetitive. Charlie counters with a poignant Orwellian quotation: “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” This is a point Charlie wants to emphasize for the continued scrutiny of things appear to be the same things we are always covering.

Stories are often right in front of us, you don’t need new stories.

Why?

Not because we’re repeating ourselves but because these things won’t go away, they are still a problem we should pay attention to when our culture these days is so easily able to forget.

According to Charlie, sometimes we have to stop and pay attention to the central reality of our political world, that which is right in front of our nose. They don’t go away because we move on or ignore them.


Mike Lindell

He recently had an interview with former president Donald Trump, who did in a tuxedo (which felt weird). It was just a crazy interview with two crazy old men. In particular, Lindell keeps opening his mouth and sounding more and more like he has lost touch with reality, particularly after the 2020 election loss of Trump..

Charlie points out that in a normal world, Mike Lindell’s behavior over this past year would have resulted in someone close to him, a relative or what not, seeking to check in on him, find out if he was okay or off medications or just needing professional help.

However, in our twisted reality, he is instead sitting down for an interview with Donald Trump, former president of the United States.

He doesn’t need to be interviewing Donald Trump or anything else for that matter, he needs an intervention.

Charlie and David’s views, and it is one I agree with, is that Lindell appears to be going through a prolonged manic episode. It is so bad that is seems to be bordering on edge of being possessed by insanity in many ways.

He continues to rant and rave about election fraud and delusional beliefs in somehow the 2020 election will be overturned and Trump reinstated. It is crazy cult leader type of behavior honestly.

But perhaps the worst part of this and everything else is that when one looks to the Republican party, to supposed sane adults in the room, what are they doing?

Nothing.

In fact, they seem fully intent on trying to put Trump himself back in office despite all his reckless craziness.

This is one of those obvious things, right in front of our noses that we have a hard time, as Orwell noted, paying attention to in the end. Republicans should be moving on from Trump, but because they crave power and want it back and see Trump as a vehicle (despite all the baggage) to it, they indulge it. In fact, there are more than quite a few who encourage it if not actively believe what Trump believes.

What is worse is that those “true believers” are moving into the upper echelons of the Republican party, along side those who are silent, those who just play along (facilitators), and those who just kiss up to Trump (sycophants). 

It is all terribly stupid and dangerous mixture.

There is a fantastic analogy offered up to explain and reinforce the Orwell quotation about why we need to pay attention to these things right in front of us that are dangerous.

Imagine it is realized that there is an asteroid hurtling towards Earth and it is going to wipe out all life. For the first week in our media culture we would talk about it constantly and relentlessly. However, and this is really sad, come week 2, there would be those who would look at those still talking seriously about the asteroid and question “why are you still talking about that?” They might tell you, pretending its not serious, to “move on” and “it’s not that big of a deal.” If you are still talking about it you must just be obsessed or suffer from Asteroid Derangement Syndrome.

This of course ignore the fact that there is STILL an asteroid hurtling at us.


Paul Gosar

It is a strange sign of the times, the Bizzarro world of the Republican party that  the same House members who expelled Liz Cheney from leadership for having principles and calling out the lies are going to stand up and defend Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona against his censure and removal from committees for retweeting a violent anime video depicting violence against AOC and President Joe Biden.

When Charlie and David are talking about this it had not been voted on yet, but it did and Gosar was censured. Republican representatives Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney broke GOP ranks to censure Gosar.

Those who came to Gosar’s defense had some truly awful arguments that were quite weak and pathetic in trying to defend him. Matt Gaetz tried to say this was just fiction and not a big deal, perhaps he should tell Sen. Ted Cruz to get over Big Bird then. Lauren Boebert, who is riff with her own controversy and corruption, took the opportunity to go on a horribly hateful and fictious rant against Rep. Ilhan Omar and Eric Swalwell in order to try and deflect for Gosar. A lot of it was just a garbage bin on fire.

Paul Gosar has continued to dismiss the violent intent behind this video and has refused to apologize for it, even though, as I might add, being an elected official with that kind of prestige and power this behavior really should be ground for resignation. He should just leave office if he wants to be just another far right Twitter troll. tNo wonder none of his siblings don’t like him.

The real insult comes when he thinks people are dumb and will accept the excuse that he posted that violent alteration of an anime video in order, in his words, to engage a younger audience. This is the flimsiest crap of an excuse because that’s not what he shared, it’s not why he cared about sharing it. He cared about sharing it for exactly what most assume he did it for: to be a troll and engage in the growing threats of violence in our culture wars.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rebuttal speech was quite a pinpointed rebuttal, way better than the ad hominem diarrhea that came out of Rep. Boebert’s mouth.


Chris Christie

Then there is Chris Christie and his amazing publicity tour that appears to have access to all the major TV shows out there. It’s like everyone wants to talk to him. Why? Because he authored a book and is seeking to position himself as a better future for the Republican party.

The problem is no matter how hard he tries he remains a hypocrite with Trump. This is the man who first endorsed him in 2016 and helped bring him into mainstream legitimacy. And when he is confronted or questioned or pressed on this and his mistake he evades. 

David tells Charlie he feels there is a connection between Chris Christie and Paul Gosar, particularly as it pertains to our attention economy. 

It’s not the substance of what you say that matters anymore, it’s the fact that you’re getting out there and forcing everybody to pay attention to you regardless of what you are saying. 

It’s the same situation and media trap that Trump exploited of the media in his 2015-16 presidential campaign. 

All of this, particularly with Chris Christie, is designed to help him pave over his past mistakes. He is just shouting out a version of “Look at me! I think Trump is bad! I think Trump is crazy! I think I’m a better  choice for the party but please make sure you ignore the fact that when I was actually in a position to make real decisions I rolled over for Trump”. This is the man who doesn’t make hard or tough decisions, he falls in line and simply chases his own political opportunism.

Both Christie and Gosar are engaged in this attention seeking behavior, like Trump. It’s not about good press or bad press for any of them, it’s all about a “please pay attention to me, please let everybody think I’m relevant” position some part of their soul apparently can’t do without. It’s desperation, and it’s killing our country on so many levels with its rippling damage.

All of this reflects badly on us, the American people, who reward those who pay attention to the bright shiny objects around us. 


Media Criticism

This is the same deep-seated cause behind our hatred of the media. 

If it is not a partisan critique (and that is symbiotic too), criticism of media usually tends to focus on the ways the MSM and all media sensationalize, focus on sensational stories, new while ignoring other, perhaps less riveting stories. 

The problem is the media, the media + audience which is us. We are part of the problem. The media in many ways is a reflection of what we, the audience, indicate to them we want by where we focus our attention, our eyeballs on our screens. 

Our culture is addicted to controversy. We love it. We hate it. We will not admit that we do both and we will only pretend like “Oh, I hate it! I don’t like it!” without ever admitting our own fault and complicity. We are an addicts.

This “need for attention” may sometimes produce something that is newsworthy, but for the most part it is a drowning out of the “real” news that we should be paying attention to because there’s something sexier or more violent or more controversial or more destructive that will capture our attention instead. 

All media are guilty. The partisan breakdown means there are far right and far left media groups fighting for attention and in the middle, more traditional news sources have to compete with them and join in similar sensational tactics. The problem we have is that we failed to recognize that that gravitation to those things in the media that we get mad at is the result of them catering to our own emotional immaturity and impulses.


Michael Flynn

Here is a guy, who having followed some of the crazy conspiracy stuff out there, including QAnon, has never left my view in many respects. It is almost hard to remember that Michael Flynn is a former three-star general, national security advisor to Trump (short stay), and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

Charlie and David discuss reporting that has come out through Jonathan Karl’s new book discussing that Flynn had a very active role in trying to subvert the 2020 election. 

Someone who used to work under Flynn and was still at the DOJ received a call from him that portrayed Flynn as manic and unhinged. He tried to convince this official to engage in illegal behavior to seize ballots in order to protect Trump. He was ignored. This is the man who lied to the FBI, plead guilty, turned to fight the conviction, and then got pardoned by Trump.

Flynn is dangerous because he’s a step beyond the normal sycophant, this is a man who is talking about having “one nation under one religion” and all kinds of Christian supremacist nonsense. What is worse is that having been high in positions of power, Flynn is dangerous because he appears very willing to possibly commit treason perhaps if he thinks it could benefit a particular partisan cause or side he is on.

Michael Flynn’s interference isn’t the craziest part to come out from Jonathan Karl’s book, there is also Flynn’s former lawyer. 


Sidney Powell

The same DOJ official who was contacted by Flynn was also contacted by Sidney Powell, another deeply entrenched (now) QAnon crazy person.

Apparently, she tried to pressure the same official that Flynn did into illegal action by spinning for him a bogus media conspiracy story that the CIA Director Gina Haspel was injured in Germany shortly after the election and taken into custody while on a clandestine mission for the president.

Supposedly she’s been on a secret CIA Mission to recover a server in Germany that contained information proving Trump had won the election. Supposedly she was on a secret mission when she was injured and captured according to Powell. Powell wanted the DOJ official to authorize a special mission to rescue her. 

I guess my first thought here would be: “Is someone punking me? Really?!?”

Sidney Powell wanted a DOJ official to order a special ops mission to get Haspel and the clandestine server recover. Nonsense.

This isn’t just bad information or misinformation; this is bat shit crazy stuff.

It’s so absurd that if Hollywood would reject this story if this was proposed as a movie.

This stuff  goes all the way back to Bannon and Trump’s former Acting Chief of Staff Mark Meadows who are both refusing to participate with the January 6 committee and turnover information. The information is still finding its way out and it is looking to be incredibly damaging and threatening to our country. But the Republican party is all in on standing by their man Trump. Jeez.


The sad part is that there are lots of Republicans who know better or are silent on the matter and just go along with it. That is terrifying. I guess they’ll just sit on the ship’s decks while it sinks or pretend it’s all fine as the asteroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere repeating that classic now meme of the dog in a room on fire saying, “This is fine.”

Much of this is the direct consequences of negative partisanship. What can we honestly expect when opposing sides invest much of their energy into completely demonizing the other side? As Charlie notes, you get a get out of jail free card for whatever bad behavior you commit as long as you don’t give ground to the opposition or as you would call them “the enemy.” It is a commitment to the ultimate ends justify the means approach.

With political violence and threats of it on the rise, America is finding out that there is a staggering lack or deficiency of leadership in our political structures on a national level, at least not any that isn’t already demonized. There is also a strong lack of people willing to stand up and call it out behavior and rhetoric that is driving us apart and towards our own demise.

A case in point is the guy who turned CRT into bogyman, Christopher Ruffo, who tweeted a serious bit of scary rhetoric that Charlie responded to on Twitter.

Rather than have a disagreement and talk about in search for nuance in answers, the gut check is just to go straight for emotional fader is the mantra of our current cultural political age.

It’s a normalization of coup like behavior and the all or nothing mentality is not one like cult behavior that is just frightening and more needs to be done to push back.

All for now.

J C Evans


LISTEN FOR YOURSELF:

The Bulwark Podcast: “David Priess: It Wasn’t a Hoax”

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