Truth or Consequences

  • Why Republicans would want to defund the IRS, the DOJ, and the FBI;
  • Cory Doctorow’s quick take on this theme in his latest novel;
  • A new book about fearmongering;
  • How conspiracy theories are driven by profit, not truth or honesty or consequences.

Republicans want to defund the IRS and the DOJ and the FBI, and prevent the government from trying to control disinformation on social media. Why would they be doing all these things?

Politico, 5 Jul 2023: Inside the House GOP’s plan to go after FBI and DOJ, subtitled “Republicans are escalating a multi-pronged fight against their two biggest political boogeymen. It goes far beyond just trying to impeach Attorney General Merrick Garland.”

House Republicans are taking their fight with the FBI and Justice Department to a new level — weighing punitive steps against both agencies that would have been unfathomable a decade ago.

The question is, what are they trying to get away with? Of course, they’re extremely tribalistic when it comes to perception of who has committed what crimes. Or are they besotted with conspiracy theories? Consider this, that suggests they know exactly what they’re doing:

Washington Post, Dana Milbank, 14 Jul 2023: Opinion | Republicans celebrate their successful deception of voters

An honest man visited the House of lies this week. He did not like what he found there.

“Insane.” “Absurd.” “Ludicrous.” Those are the actual words FBI Director Christopher Wray used to describe House Republicans’ crackpot conspiracy theories.

“The American people fully understand,” Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) informed Wray at Wednesday’s hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, “… that you have personally worked to weaponize the FBI against conservatives.”

Right. Hageman, the election denier who ousted Liz Cheney in a primary, would have you believe that Wray — senior political appointee in the George W. Bush Justice Department, clerk to a noted conservative judge, contributor to the Federalist Society, Donald Trump-appointed head of the FBI — is part of a conspiracy to persecute conservatives. “The idea that I’m biased against conservatives seems somewhat insane to me, given my own personal background,” he replied.

Milbank later comments about Wray’s responses:

Good for him. But here’s what’s especially insane, absurd and ludicrous: No matter how many refutations Wray and others provide, Republicans are persuading people to believe their lies — and they are proud of the deception.

Milbank notes how unpopular the FBI now is with Republican voters.

Now why would that have happened? Well, maybe it’s because they’ve been fed an endless diet of lies and conspiracy theories about the FBI by elected Republicans and their Murdoch mouthpieces. These lies — and similar ones told about the Justice Department, public health agencies, the IRS and even the military — serve Republicans’ short-term interest of discrediting the Biden administration. But the lies are also destroying the right’s support for the most basic functions of government that even conservatives long supported, such as law and order and national defense. Maybe that’s the goal.

Now, the arsonists are admiring the ashes.

Many more examples follow, concluding with the “poison pills” Republicans got into the defense spending bill. Referring to an anti-diversity amendment applying to the US military, the essay ends,

A better leader would have rejected such attempts to besmirch the mighty U.S. military. But McCarthy couldn’t tell the conspiracy peddlers to take a hike. He needs their votes to keep his job. And so he gave them votes on a long list of poison pill amendments — abortion, diversity, transgender rights and more — that instantly turned the defense authorization bill from a bipartisan triumph into a partisan donnybrook.

Running the House must be exhausting when even the easy things get tripped up by the never-ending lies. It would be so much easier just to tell the truth.

It’s long been noted that Republicans pass laws favorable to the wealthy because the wealthy are huge donors to Republicans, and vice versa. But that to win votes in national elections, Republicans pander to social conservatives, then throw them periodic bones (like these amendments) to keep them happy, while actually being more concerned with passing legislation to benefit the wealthy (like defunding the IRS so the wealthy can get away with tax fraud), their donors. Now they seem equally concerned with passing legislation to make it easier to spread conspiracy theories– a new way of manipulating conservative voters.


Part way through Cory Doctorow’s new novel RED TEAM BLUES, about a “forensic accountant” who’s savvy in the ways of governments and of corporations trying to hide money, he visits San Francisco, and notes the many homeless on the streets.

How could a city this rich be this poor? I mean, I knew: all you needed was financial secrecy so the wealthy could hide their riches from taxation and then loose lobbying rules so they could convert their winnings into wealth-friendly policies.

Republicans of course would blame “liberal social policies” for the homeless, but it’s not that simple, or even the least bit accurate. Cory Doctorow is very savvy, himself. This is a great book, with much insight into crypto-currency and money laundering and the ways of the world, though it’s barely science fiction.


Here’s a review of a book about fearmongering, which is basically what Republicans are doing by ginning up conspiracy theories about coastal elites trying to steal the children of honest red-state patriots.

NY Times, Elizabeth Williamson, 11 Jul 2023: Suspecting Clandestine Plots Behind Every Door, subtitled “In ‘Under the Eye of Power,’ Colin Dickey unearths the long, disturbing history of fearmongering in American politics and culture.”

America’s DNA is etched with the belief that we are an exceptional yet vulnerable nation, under threat by powerful secret groups “conspiring to pervert the will of the people and the rule of law,” Dickey writes. History bristles with examples of citizens and their elected leaders hijacking public discourse by tarring — sometimes literally — perceived enemies of the American project. Unfortunately, we have willfully forgotten most of this warped history, rendering us constantly surprised by the next imagined peril.

Dickey demolishes this misconception with a three-century tour of the concocted plots and panics that flared in America amid social upheaval, economic downturn and cultural turmoil. Protestants, Catholics and Jews, enslaved people, immigrants and gay people, trade unionists and corporate elites, the conservative right, activist left and many others have been demonized by deluded Americans and the leaders who stir moral outrage for political gain.

“Conspiracy theories, after all, feed on historical amnesia,” Dickey writes. “They depend on your belief that what is happening now has never happened before.”

You can fool some of the people all of the time.


And here’s another angle on how and why conspiracy theories spread.

Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 30 Jun 2023: Shutting down the right-wing rabbit hole is possible: First, follow the money, subtitled “Schools and parents are suing social media giants over their ‘addictive’ algorithms. Can that force a reckoning?”

This is about adults as much as children. Marcotte begins with an anecdote about “Ann” and her husband, who went from apolitical in 2002 to a committed followers of conspiracy theories by 2017.

Ann’s journey is one that untold numbers of people have endured in recent years: watching a loved one become radicalized through online disinformation. Once such people have disappeared down the proverbial “rabbit hole,” it can sometimes be impossible to get them back. Preventing people from falling into the disinformation abyss in the first place is obviously crucial — and the good news is that prevention is possible. Experts already know a lot about both why and how people get radicalized, but the difficult part is interrupting the process by which vulnerable people are exposed to ever more vicious propaganda that lures them into the darkest caverns of social media.

The key to countering this is to realize that the social media platforms care more about making money, than truth or honesty or consequences. (This would be an indictment of unregulated capitalism.)

In the fall of 2021, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen began to release reams of internal company documents exposing all manner of embarrassing secrets: Facebook had knowingly let disinformation flourish on its platform, had turned a blind eye to hate speech and overt incitements to violence, and deliberately targeted underage users, despite internal research showing that social media overuse could be dangerous to minors.

“There were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook,” Haugen told “60 Minutes.” “Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money.”

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