They were trying to avoid a problem by looking the other way

There are plenty of reasons to hate Bill Clinton. What does this have to do with it?

Today’s Hell World features an interview with Jared Holt of Right Wing Watch (also check out his Sh!tpost podcast) about the imminent arrival of the first QAnon supporter in Congress.

Hold on a minute though.

The Willamette Week confirmed with the USPS that they have “removed four blue boxes from Portland, and 27 from Eugene this week.” That doesn’t sound good man.

“The reason we're doing it is because of declining mail volume,” USPS spokesman Ernie Swanson told them. “Ever since the pandemic came along, people are mailing less for some reason.”


“Swanson said the directive came from USPS headquarters about a week ago and that boxes are probably being removed nationwide.”

Don’t worry though I’ve seen a lot of elected Democrats on Twitter instructing us to spread awareness of the looming election crisis and the dismantling of the USPS before our eyes to benefit Trump so we should be fine.

If you didn’t read this Hell World from our man the postal carrier the other day it’s still worth looking at. Thanks to Adam Conover who is good and others for sharing it.

In other recent Hell World reminders earlier this week I sent out to paid subscribers this interview with Parick Hruby in which I tried to figure out what the fuck is going on with college football right now. Hruby is a dogged advocate for reforming college sports and eliminating the abusive concept of amateurism that prevents athletes from accessing labor rights that most of the rest of us enjoy.

…The players put out a series of demands. It started with health and safety. They wanted to know if players opt out if they can keep their scholarships. They wanted to know if they got covid while playing and had long term medical problems would the cost of that be covered. So those demands seem very reasonable. There are other demands too. They want a seat at the table. The big demand they’re making was we want 50% of the revenue. I think that is what probably freaked people in college sports administration out.

That’s new right?

That is new. That’s the real big danger point for this industry. Look, they spend hundreds of millions of dollars fighting athletes being able to exercise the basic rights under the “amateur system” that most of us take for granted and that most of us have a right to as American citizens. To be able to negotiate for compensation for example. The college sports industry has been fighting that in court for decades. They are in Congress right now trying to get weasels like Marco Rubio to pass legislation that would effectively make amateurism a matter of federal law and would prevent college athletes from being able to make money off their image and likeness, which is their inherent property.

So that’s something the people in college football don't want to change because it benefits them financially. To have athletes come out and say we want this, during a time when they have a lot of leverage, is pretty smart.

Also David Roth popped by in the middle of the interview to share some of this thoughts on the matter. Subscribe and read it here.

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Look I want to be clear I am not falling for the Ed Markey is my dad and my friend trap because he’s a politician like any other. Better than most by far to be sure but still a politician. But this ad man. This is a very good ad.

And that final line. Saying that to a Kennedy in Massachusetts is basically go fuck your mother shit right there.

Here’s a nice piece by Andrew Paul on Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven which came out twenty years ago this year jesus christ.

Lift Your Skinny Fists remains Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s most prophetic work, a balancing act of human creation and spirituality, of forces and emotions bigger than ourselves. The music the group creates is structured upon deconstruction, building antennas to the heavens only to have them collapse in on themselves, contradictions spinning within contradictions.

At long last I found way my back to therapy this morning for the first time since the pandemic began and it was fine it was basically shooting the shit with someone for an hour which sometimes is what therapy is supposed to be but one thing that stuck out to me was that my new therapist has the thickest Massachusetts accent I have heard spoken in a long time — like imagine someone getting shit faced and getting stuck up to their tits in a cranberry bog and screaming at their cousins that it was all Jeter’s fault —  and I can’t decide if that’s a good or bad thing. There’s certainly something comforting about hearing the voice you grew up with reflected back to you in a way that engenders instinctual trust and fellowship but it’s also always the same voice you’ve heard people be shitty with your entire life too so who fucking knows. I wonder if that type of thing is behind how we tend to stereotype the erudite and intelligent therapist caricature as having like the Frasier Brahmin accent or the Freudian one or the upper class British weenie voice because if they speak like that they must know things we don’t already know being from places we aren’t from.

In other personal developments I started working at the local food pantry in my town this week and this will have been obvious to many but I haven’t done hours of manual labor in a long time like that stacking shelves and packing bags and shit and it turns out I am a soft little pampered baby with delicate hands like a prince who loves to ask father for one more turkish delight sir.

It may be time to take QAnony seriously. Actually it’s way beyond the time for that but with the imminent election of an actual member of the ever-growing conspiracy theory set to head to Congress this year it’s time for those of us who’ve sort of been pushing off caring about it to pay attention.

The candidate in question is Marjorie Taylor Greene who sounds like a Salad Fingers hallucination and who won her primary runoff in Georgia's 14th district this week. Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins two of the best reporters on this beat have pieces out today on Greene including one unearthing posts in which she “wrote favorably of the QAnon conspiracy theory, suggested that Hillary Clinton murdered her political enemies, and ruminated on whether mass shootings were orchestrated to dismantle the Second Amendment.” The second tracks how the pandemic and anti-mask conspiracies have helped fuel the movement’s rise and the role social media and Facebook in particular have played.

Collins writes in the piece above:

"I believe that we actually are living amidst another pandemic — a trauma pandemic," Foley Martinez said. "America right now is very unstable. It feels precarious. People are carrying huge amounts of stress, both financial and personal."

"People in these situations want something that has very clear rules, where there's a very clear definition of enemies; friends and foes," Foley Martinez added. "There's an allure to it, a feeling of empowerment when people are feeling abjectly disempowered."

In a QAnon world, where those enforcing mask mandates are perceived as part of a movement that includes Satanic child sacrifices, that good-versus-evil narrative can provide a strange sort of comfort. Doing the opposite of public health advice can give conspiracy theorists a sense of control.

One interesting development that Jared Holt another great reporter in this space writes about today is how some Republicans have actually come out against Q following Greene’s win.

It’s probably too little too late though lol! Oh well.

Considering that I’ve been watching an old friend become lost to all of this the past year and that it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon I spoke with Holt today to see where things stand and whether or not there’s anything that can or should be done about it.

Obviously I’ve known about QAnon for a few years, but I’ve mostly been trying to ignore it. Like, ah that’s a whole other fucking thing.  Those guys Jared and Ben Collins and them have their eye on it. I’m not going to let it be my problem, you know? Is it really time for it to start being everyone’s problem, or where are we?

It’s hard to say that it’s not everybody’s problem now that we have someone who believes this stuff and is unapologetic about it going to Congress. We’re in a bit of a pickle now, and a lot of that is because for so long, the old thought process of reporting failed us. This idea that by exposing it and reporting on it we’re just amplifying it and giving it more exposure, I think, can safely be said now was incorrect. There weren't enough people, there weren’t enough Republicans and political world figures getting out in front of it, denouncing it, disproving it, whatever. We’re in a mess now.

Some people have been comparing it to the sneaky rise of the Tea Party. But as crazy as they were, or are, that’s a type of mindset you can at least understand, right? The type of things they were talking about were shitty, but were within the traditional bounds. This is different from that right?

Right. I do think it’s fair to compare the way QAnon has risen in the public consciousness to the Tea Party, but equivating the Tea Party’s ideas with QAnon’s is not quite fair. I saw a New York Times piece that argued along those lines. While it did a great job of articulating that point and explaining that QAnon people believe in a demonic sex cult running the world, and the Tea Party were for low taxes and had the bither element, but QAnon is a different monster entirely...

With this woman Greene in Georgia… Look, tons of cranks go to Congress. Is she really worse than some of the absolutely insane shitheads we send typically?

We have plenty of insane people in Congress. You’ve got Matt Gaetz going on InfoWars complaining about being called a conspiracy theorist, that sort of thing. Greene is different in the sheer intensity and volume and material that exists that shows her in settings with conspiracy theories, particularly some of the most far fetched ones that exist online. It would be one thing to see all those published by a place called InfoWars, because that is their speciality. But to hear all of that coming out one person is particularly alarming. There’s a lot to be said about Republicans flirting with this stuff, or offering a tacit approval of this stuff, but it seems from all the material that’s out there that Greene is a true believer. There’s the cynical approach we see where politicians will engage with this stuff to get some votes… but it’s different. One one hand you have these politicians playing to these people or seeking the support and approval of these people, but in Greene’s case she is one of these people.

I know she has a lengthy list of greatest hits, but what are some things she’s said that are alarming.

Most recently I saw it come out that she questioned whether a plane crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11, which it definitely did. People died.

Yeah but did you see the plane?

Not personally no.

So how can you be sure?

I guess I wasn’t there. But she’s made a lot of inflammatory remarks about Muslims seeking office and wanting to implement Sharia law, that sort of thing. A lot of this is out there, but it’s kind of one of those situations where if you and I thought of a conspiracy theory, there’s a decent, above 50% chance, that you could find somewhere she’s embraced at it some point.

A couple Republicans have pushed back against it all this week as you wrote.

The editors at National Review… Rep Denver Riggleman called QAnon mental gonorrhea…

That’s a good line.

A pretty good turn of phrase. Adam Kinziger in Illinois didn’t mention Greene by name, but he did come out against QAnon, saying it’s a fabrication, these conspiracies have no place in Congress. What it seems like is that Republicans have buried their head in the sand, and now they’re in a situation where there is no avoiding it. Barring some insane switch in the electorate in Georgia, which is not likely, Greene will go to Congress.

They were trying to avoid a problem by looking the other way. It doesn’t matter if you look the other way when a train is coming down the tracks. Eventually they got plowed over. Now you’ve got dozens of candidates running for Congress, and some of them, unlike hers, where the election is safe, they at least have a viable path. We’re quickly approaching where the consequences of having part of the electorate believe this stuff, and candidates who believe this stuff, is going to get very real very fast.  Even these condemnations, as I wrote in my piece, are really too little too late. QAnon has been around for three years. There was plenty of time to get ahead of it, denounce it, debunk it. But it’s here now. We can kick and scream and pretend like it's not, but a lot of the problem is that they chose to do nothing for so long.

Of course Trump praised her right?

And this isn’t new. Trump has retweeted QAnon accounts. A lot of his close acolytes like Mike Flynn, Carter Page, Roger Stone… These sort of cronies that are seen as heroes to the conspiratorial right fighting the deep state, they’ve all come out and flirted with QAnon in their own way too. Instead of Republicans coming out and saying This has no place in the party… you’ve got the president sitting on the toilet on his phone saying Well, actually…

A lot of those guys are crazy, but when I see those type of guys doing that, what I think is, obviously these guys suck, but I don’t think they’re dumb enough to believe this stuff. I think they’re just trying to find support from any corner they can. There are going to be plenty of true believers, but also those types of guys who think this is an activated base of support that we can very easily get on our side by speaking some weird spell and they’ll follow us to the ends of the earth.

Absolutely. Even just the digital presence. This is a community online that is highly engaged, very insular, and extremely loud… At this point they’ve set themselves up to be a chunk of the right electorate the same way any other single issue voters would be. I think a lot of these politicians at best maybe don’t want to alienate people who would otherwise vote for them, and at worst might see this and make a cynical ploy to tap into an additional army that will volunteer and harass people on their behalf.

What role has Facebook played in spreading this?

A lot of the community building has been on Facebook because you can make closed groups, you can do live broadcasting in a way that’s a bit more efficient. If Twitter is the propaganda realm, Facebook is the community building. From what’s been reported, Facebook was aware of this and made a cowardly decision to not do much about it.

Jesus Christ. Man, I lost a buddy to this shit. I’ve been seeing it coming for a couple years, but not quite as intensely until the past few months. The quarantine has really fucked with people in a lot of different ways. It’s really sad to watch. There’s no reasoning with these people, some of whom were, until recently, smart, rational people.

It’s really heartbreaking. The way that a lot of the influencers in the community operate in their very nature is by isolating people from their surroundings, like friends and family who might share real news sources that would debunk it. And when people become isolated, especially during quarantine when they’re lonely, this is fuel on the fire. People I’ve known in my personal life have plugged into this stuff. I’ve tried to talk to a few of them, but part of the problem is there’s not really a tried and true way to de-radicalize people off conspiracy theories. There's plenty of stuff out there on how to de-radicalize people from hate. I cover the far right a lot, and there’s tons of resources for getting people out of nationalism or the anti-immigrant movement, just disproving their hateful biases through exposure and that sort of thing. But with conspiracy theories, because a lot of them build and build on each other, there’s not a lot to do to get people off of this stuff. It ends up being a very long process, even if it does ever work.

I can’t even get people I love to stop watching Fox News. This is like Fox News on expert level.

If Fox News is Guitar Hero, this is Through the Fire and the Flames on expert mode.

Alright well what the fuck do we do? I don’t know how to deal with this shit. I don’t know if any of you guys do either. Is this just one of those things where we say Well, we’re fucked, and it’s just going to keep getting worse?

In the spirit of the late great Charlie Daniels I will say that QAnon ain’t going away!

Oh god.

We have passed the point of preventing this from growing into something concerning. The time for concern was, frankly, a couple years ago. Now it’s unavoidable. In my mind, I think the onus currently is on tech platforms. So many people are coming into contact with this stuff through social media, various hashtags. It’s incumbent on these companies to try to mitigate that, or, at the very least, to not put it into somebody’s feed. Banning certain hashtags isn’t going to end QAnon, but it’s such an open wound in our political realm right now. The first thing before we can think about healing that wound or repairing the damage is to stop the bleeding. Tech platforms are in a position to be the most effective at sort of cauterizing that wound, and maybe, at the very least, slowing down the speed at which the stuff is spreading. Allowing people who specialize in intervention or debunking stuff to have a little more time to try to repair this in whatever way they can think of.

Well I certainly have faith the tech platforms will do the right things.

Mark Zuckerberg is a shining beacon of ethics. I’m sure he’ll get right on it.

I get the appeal of conspiracy theories and being in on something. But it seems so weird that there literally is a sex trafficking ring implicating some of the most powerful people in the world, and somehow that’s not really part of it as far as I understand? The other thing I don’t get is all these people who want to hate George Soros or Bill Gates for some fake thing. Why don’t they use that energy for just hating them for being regular garden variety billionaires?  There’s a lot of satisfaction to be found in that. Why does it have to be things that they're not doing?

Right. I was having a conversation with a friend from back home who got into it. I tried to make that point to him. There are plenty of totally valid reasons to hate Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or whoever. Why not hate them for that? Why does it have to be a satanic child sacrificing stuff with no proof? I was just met with accusations I was trying to cover up these horrible crimes, so I don’t know if I have a great answer other than to apologize for my role in the Clinton cabal. But I think about that a lot. Bill Clinton ate a child’s face off? Well Bill Clinton is pretty terrible in a lot of respects. There are plenty of reasons to hate Bill Clinton. What does this have to do with it? Another element of QAnon that I don’t think is discussed enough is it’s sort of linked to the Satanic Panic of the 80s and early 90s, and the different ways punk and metal was portrayed as demonic. There has always been this thing in our country where people have this supernatural belief that there are demonic forces at work in plain sight every day. QAnon really leverages that kind of idea that’s been lurking in the public consciousness for decades, and weaponizes it in a specifically political way. I don’t know that there’s so much true belief on a tangible level that any of these people decoding riddles are actually going to end child trafficking, it’s more just an expression of this idea that’s been floating around for a long time in various aspects of American culture.

Ok well thank you. Just for the record for any QAnon supporters, I hate most of the same people you do, and I would be fine seeing them go to jail… just for slightly different reasons. So please don’t come after me.

I hope that works for you Luke.