Alex Henderson

How Fox News is now defending QAnon

Supporters of the far-right QAnon conspiracy cult were among the extremists who violently stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, inspiring national security experts to voice concerns about QAnon possibly making inroads in the military and law enforcement. But some pundits at Fox News, including Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, don't view QAnon as a threat and are now defending the movement by equating criticism of QAnon with attacks on free speech.

Carlson, during one of his angry rants on Tuesday night, mocked the idea that QAnon is dangerous.

"The real threat is a forbidden idea," Carlson said mockingly. "It's something called QAnon."

Carlson went on to show a collage of cable news clips describing QAnon's extremism before suggesting that those attacking QAnon are promoting "tyranny."

"No democratic government can ever tell you what to think," Carlson told viewers. "Your mind belongs to you. It is yours and yours alone."

This was a non-sequitur. The clips he had showed included media figures sharing fears and concerns about the belief system, not a call for the government to "tell you what to think."

Carlson went on to denounce QAnon critics as a "mob of censors, hysterics and Jacobin destroyers, all working on behalf of entrenched power to take total control of everything."

In a rant of her own, Ingraham showed a clip of Jen Psaki — the new White House press secretary under President Joe Biden — telling reporters that the National Security Council will try to determine "how the government can share information" on efforts to "prevent radicalization" and "disrupt violent extremist networks." And Ingraham tried to spin Psaki's announcement not as an effort to prevent domestic terrorism, but as a crackdown on conservatives in general.

"Republicans need to step up in unison and demand that the Defense Department and the Biden administration clearly define what they think constitutes extremism," Ingraham declared. "Now, if a member of the military voted for Trump, does that make him an extremist? Now, what if someone complains on Facebook that the federal government wastes a lot of money? Is she an extremist? What if they say that Roe v. Wade should be overturned? Or what if they participate in the March for Life?"

Ingraham continued, "What if they're conservative Baptists — they believe that sex outside of marriage is immoral? Is that extremist? What if they have guns at home and they're lifetime NRA members? Will they now be considered extremists or even terrorists? We deserve to know. You see where this is destined to lead. And it is certainly not to a freer and more united America."

By suggesting there's no way to target the threat from violent extremist ideologies like QAnon without targeting other conventional conservatives, Ingraham, too, offered more cover for the conspiracist movement.

'Evil was in my house': New audio exposes pro-Trump attorney’s disturbing arguments with ex-associates

Known for his lawsuits with fellow conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell, Atlanta-based Lin Wood is among the far-right attorneys who tried to help former President Donald Trump overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election — and he even proposed, in a December 1 tweet, that Trump "declare martial law." Law & Crime has been reporting on Wood's legal battle with three former law partners, and the website has posted some older audio that sheds light on that case.

Law & Crime reporter Adam Klasfeld explains, "Long before becoming the face of former President Donald Trump's post-election conspiracy theories, lawyer Lin Wood had been embroiled in an acrimonious spat with his former lawyers, who claimed to have caught his 'erratic, hostile, abusive, and threatening' behavior on tape. Several of those recordings became public for the first time on Tuesday with the release of Law &Crime's new podcast, 'Objections.'"

The three former law partners that Klasfeld is referring to are Nicole Wade, Jonathan Grunberg and Taylor Wilson, who left the firm L. Lin Wood, P.C. and started their own firm, Wade, Grunberg & Wilson, LLC. In a legal brief, the attorneys allege that Wood physically attacked Grunberg and Wilson.

Klasfeld notes, "Wood's former law partners claimed they had him caught on tape confessing to assaulting them, threatening them in profane rants, and asserting that he may be 'Christ coming back for a second time in the form of an imperfect man.'"

In one of the recordings Law & Crime has posted, Wood is hard saying, "I have apologized to Taylor when I pushed him. It was like evil was in my house."

In other audio, Wood is heard mentioning Wilson and saying, "Taylor Wilson, your former partner, who you have abused and treated like a dog, repeatedly for weeks, if not months."

Grunberg, Klasfeld notes, has alleged that Wood made anti-Semitic remarks about him, describing the attorney as a "Chilean Jewish fucking crook."

Wood's clients have included Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia congresswoman known for supporting QAnon, Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse, and the late Herman Cain, who ran for president in 2012. The attorney's Twitter account was suspended following the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building by far-right insurrectionists.

Noam Chomsky slams 'liberal American intellectuals' for refusing to admit US is a 'leading terrorist state'

Although left-wing author Noam Chomsky was glad to see former President Donald Trump voted out of office in 2020, that doesn't mean that he doesn't have some vehement criticisms of the Democratic Party and American liberalism — including Democratic views on foreign policy. And during a recent interview with progressive journalist/author Chris Hedges, Chomsky stressed that American liberals have a hard time admitting how bad U.S. foreign policy can be.

Chomsky, now 92, appeared on Hedges' show, "On Contact," which airs on RT America — the U.S. division of the Russian cable news outlet RT. Hedges, like Chomsky, has been extremely critical of the Democratic Party.

"Just as you can't get the Republican mobs to admit that the election was lost," Chomsky told Hedges, "you can't get liberal American intellectuals to recognize that the United States is a leading terrorist state."

Chomsky told Hedges that throughout its history, the U.S. has had a belligerent and imperialistic foreign policy. And he notes some examples of U.S. foreign policy being condemned in other countries — for example, the International Court of Justice slamming the Reagan Administration's intervention in Nicaragua during the 1980s as a violation of international law.

"What the Reagan Administration was doing was the peak of terrorism by our own definitions," Chomsky told Hedges. "But the New York Times ran an editorial saying we can dismiss the judgment of the Court because it's a hostile forum. Why is it a hostile forum? Because it condemned the U.S."

Chomsky also slammed U.S. intervention in Cuba, noting its actions during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. "It was a serious terrorist war that almost led to the destruction of the world," Chomsky told Hedges.

Economist Paul Krugman analyzes Biden’s new treasury secretary — and he’s mostly optimistic

On Monday evening, January 25, the U.S. Senate, in an 84-15 vote, confirmed former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as secretary of the U.S. Treasury Department. Liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman analyzes President Joe Biden's new treasury secretary in a Twitter thread posted the following morning — and his thoughts are generally positive.

Krugman notes that Yellen will be the United States' first female treasury secretary and that she brings to the Treasury Department a "huge change in personal style from her predecessor," Steven Mnuchin, who served as treasury secretary under the Trump Administration. And according to Krugman, one of Yellen's positive traits is that she isn't an ultra-obsessive budget hawk.

In the past, Krugman writes, the 74-year-old Yellen "was especially inclined to wait for actual evidence of inflation, as opposed to assuming that it must be coming…. In the current context, this means that she's not likely to say 'Eek! Debt!' as opposed to looking for evidence that debt and spending are actually problems."

Krugman, in his New York Times column, has been stressing that given the severity of the coronavirus recession in the U.S., aggressive stimulus is needed — even if it means having a federal deficit for the time being. According to Krugman, the damage that COVID-19 has inflicted on the U.S. economy calls for New Deal-style economics, not Milton Friedman economics.

Tweeting an article that Yellen wrote with economist George Akerlof for the Quarterly Journal of Economics back in 1990, Krugman points out that she "helped lay the foundations for behavioral macroeconomics — macro based on observation of how people actually act, not how maximization says they should act."

According to Krugman, Yellen "is, of course, part of a team — and it's a huge contrast with the outgoing team. Basically, to have been part of Team Trump you had to have gotten the last financial crisis wrong; Team Biden, reassuringly, is composed of people who got it right."

After serving as president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve from 2004-2010, Yellen became vice chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve under President Barack Obama in 2010 and replaced Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chair in 2014.

Trump campaign paid over $2.7 million to those behind infamous Jan. 6 'Save America Rally': report

Hours before a violent mob of pro-Trump extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, then-President Donald Trump and his allies spoke at a so-called "Save America Rally" in Washington, D.C. According to a study by the Center for Responsive Politics issued on January 22, the rally's organizers received millions of dollars from Trump's reelection campaign.

"Trump's campaign disclosed paying more than $2.7 million to the individuals and firms behind the January 6 rally," the Center for Responsive Politics' Anna Massoglia reports. "But (Federal Election Commission) disclosures do not necessarily provide a complete picture of the campaign's financial dealings since so much of its spending was routed through shell companies, making it difficult to know who the campaign paid and when."

The National Parks Service permit for the Save America Rally, Massoglia notes, lists Maggie Mulvaney — a niece of former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney — as a "VIP lead" for the event. The Trump campaign, according to Massoglia, paid her "at least $138,000 through November 2020."

Others listed on the rally permit, Massoglia reports, include Megan Powers (who was the campaign's director of operations) and Caroline Wren, a long-time GOP fundraiser. Powers, according to Massoglia, "was paid around $290,000 by Trump's campaign while on its payroll from February 2019 through at least November 2020, FEC records show" — and Wren "received at least $20,000 from the campaign each month as its national finance consultant for its joint fundraising committee with the Republican National Committee, totaling $170,000 from March through November."

"The rally's production manager is listed as Justin Caporale, the Trump campaign's advance director who received more than $144,000 in direct payroll payments from the campaign in the one-year period leading up to November 2020," Massoglia explains. "Caporale's business partner, Tim Unes, was the rally stage manager and was paid more than $117,000 by the Trump campaign through at least November 2020. Event Strategies Inc., their firm, was paid more than $1.7 million from Trump's campaign and joint fundraising committee."

Massoglia adds, "Trump-affiliated dark money group America First Policies paid the firm another $2.1 million from 2018 to 2019, the most recent years for which data is available. America First Policies' tax returns obtained by OpenSecrets show it also provided funding to Women for America First, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that submitted the rally's permit records to the National Park Service."

The organizers of the Save America Rally and the far-right insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6 were hoping to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden's Electoral College victory in the 2020 presidential election. Regardless, the certification went ahead as planned, and Biden was sworn in as president on January 20.

'American democracy's most dangerous enemy': Author says appetite for 'fascism' rages on in post-Trump GOP

During Donald Trump's four years as president of the United States, many Never Trump conservatives argued that Trump's movement was not motivated by traditional conservatism and a belief in smaller government, but by a longing for authoritarianism. Trump's presidency, much to the delight of Never Trumpers, ended on January 20 when President Joe Biden was sworn in. But author/attorney Richard North Patterson, in an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on January 26, warns that an appetite for fascism is still alive and well in the Republican Party.

"Social science suggests that a majority of Trump voters are instinctive authoritarians," Patterson explains. "But one cannot separate Trumpism from the inherent character of the party which spawned him…. The word 'fascist' too often precedes anti-historical histrionics, but the term is useful in deconstructing the devolution of Republicanism into the minoritarian-authoritarian saboteur of pluralist democracy."

Patterson goes on to say that efforts to overturn the democratic results of the 2020 presidential election underscore the authoritarian nature of Trump's movement.

"Consider the predicates of nascent fascism," Patterson writes. "Trump relentlessly exploited a sense of decline, humiliation and victimization among marginalized Whites, even as he evoked America's loss of strength and purity. His supporters' 'redemptive violence' at our capital was preceded in Michigan, as one example, by armed incursion the state legislature and an abortive effort to kidnap and execute the governor. While claiming to protect democracy, the GOP persistently undermines the right of disfavored groups to vote."

Patterson notes that although there was no truth to Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, that didn't stop countless Republicans from promoting them.

"Classical fascism conditions its followers to accept 'the big lie' which unifies their discontents and justifies their leaders' actions," Patterson explains. "So, in 2020, did the GOP. Granted that the big Republican lie did not equal Hitler's poisonous assertion that perfidious Jews stabbed Germany in the back, but the GOP's lie to its base was, nonetheless, breathtakingly ambitious: that an unfathomable conspiracy involving thousands of state and local officials and judges, many Republicans, had stolen the presidency from Donald Trump — from them."

Patterson notes some dangerous trends in the post-Trump Administration GOP — for example, he points out, "polling shows that a full one-third of Trump supporters" believe that the violent "mob" that stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6 "represented their grievances." And he adds that "more broadly, half of the (Republican) Party's electorate believes that GOP lawmakers did not go far enough in attempting to overturn the election."

"One envisions Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and Tom Cotton competing with Donald Trump, Jr. for the Republican nomination in 2024, with Nikki Haley straining to put an anodyne non-White veneer on the party's authoritarian meta-narrative," Patterson argues. "It is far too little to say that the GOP has lost its way. Quite deliberately, it has become American democracy's most dangerous enemy."

Global politics expert explains why it’s so hard to ‘deprogram’ Trumpian conspiracy theorists

The word "deprogramming" is typically used in connection with extremist religious cults such as the Unification Church, the Tony & Susan Alamo Christian Foundation or Jim Jones' the People's Temple, but cults can be political as well — for example, the QAnon movement. Political science expert Brian Klaas, in a Washington Post op-ed published on January 25, lays out some reasons why it is so difficult to "deprogram" Americans who have embraced far-right political cults and outlandish conspiracy theories.

"For the past four years, the United States was governed by a conspiracy theorist in chief," explains Klaas, who teaches global politics at University College London. "Whether by retweeting QAnon accounts from the Oval Office or painting himself as the victim of shadowy 'deep state' plots at rallies, President Donald Trump injected the toxin of baseless conspiratorial thinking straight into America's political bloodstream. On January 6, America saw how far that venom had spread as a ragtag group of militias, racist extremists and flag-waving disciples of Trumpism stormed the Capitol."

The January 6 "insurrectionists," Klaas adds, had certain things in common: they were "unified by their support for Trump" and were also "conspiracy theorists."

"There is no doubt: the United States has a serious problem with pathological political delusions," Klaas warns. "So, do we have any hope of deprogramming the millions of Americans who are devoted to dangerous lunacy? Don't hold your breath….. Once people have gone far enough down the rabbit hole of conspiratorial thinking, it can be nearly impossible to get them back out."

Klaas goes on to list some reasons why it is so difficult to "deprogram" conspiracy theorists. According to Klaas, "First, conspiracy theorists are far more likely to have a Manichaean worldview, meaning they interpret everything as a battle between good and evil….. Second, those who seek to debunk conspiracy theories are precisely the people that true believers distrust…. Third, these organized mass delusions are designed to resist debunking."

There's a joke among critics of far-right conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones that goes something like this: what did the Alex Jones listener say when told that there is no New World Order? The listener said, "Yeah, that's what the New World Order wants you to think." It's a joke, but it speaks to one of the important points Klaas makes in his op-ed — that when someone pushes back against conspiracy theorists, they sometimes respond by digging in even more.

A variety of media outlets, from CNN and MSNBC to Mother Jones and The Nation, have been relentless when it comes to debunking the far-right conspiracy theories that came from the Trump Administration and its sycophants. But Klaas notes that "if someone believes the media is controlled by sinister but unseen puppet masters, fact- checks from CNN will never convince them they're wrong."

"For the past four years," Klaas notes, "those who have worked hardest to dispel QAnon believers of their fantasies are the very people that 'Anons' trust least: anti-Trump academics like me, news outlets such as the Post and politicians who they believe to be co-opted by the 'deep state.' Political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler have documented the risks of a backfire effect, in which correcting misperceptions actually ends up entrenching them. In the world of conspiratorial thinking, the harder the pushback, the greater the proof that a coverup is afoot."

According to Klaas, the "rise of social media" has made it much easier for far-right conspiracy theorists to live in a bubble.

"Bowling alone has been replaced by tweeting together — a cardboard cutout for real social interaction, but one that has a seductive allure to millions of people," Klaas warns. "Many of the fanatics who stormed the Capitol were neither poor nor social misfits, but rather, had found a digital community to augment or replace their offline one. We can no longer pretend that conspiracy theorists are beneath our attention. They've shown they have tremendous capacity to inflict damage on society."

Klaas discussed his Post op-ed during a January 26 appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." Watch the video below:

'Coalition Of Reality' Needed To Combat Conspiracy Theories, Says Writer | Morning Joe | MSNBC www.youtube.com

'Could doom the GOP to minority status': ​WSJ slams Arizona Republicans' recent 'meltdown'

Under the direction of far-right Kelli Ward, the Arizona GOP has passed resolutions censuring three Arizona Republicans — Gov. Doug Ducey, Cindy McCain and former Sen. Jeff Flake — for failing to live up their Trumpian standards. And the Wall Street Journal's conservative editorial board slammed the resolution in a blistering editorial published over the weekend.

As the WSJ's editorial board sees it, this type of purity test can only marginalize the Republican Party in the months ahead.

"The resolutions have little practical effect," the editorial board explains, "but they symbolize the party divisions that could doom the GOP to minority status nationwide for years. Ms. Ward, who has run twice for Senate and lost, was endorsed for party chair this past week by Donald Trump. Mr. Trump, now decamped to Mar-a-Lago, is contemplating revenge against everyone in the GOP he blames for his defeat."

Ward is angry with McCain, widow of the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, and Flake because both of them endorsed Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Ducey, unlike McCain and Flake, favored Trump. But when Biden won the election, Ducey acknowledged him as president-elect and refused to join Trump in contesting the election results in Arizona — one of the states Biden won. Ducey, much to the chagrin of Trump and Ward, certified Arizona's election results.

"Sensible parties that lose elections try to reunite in opposition even while they debate policy differences and examine why they lost," the WSJ editorial board emphasizes. "They don't excommunicate people who could help rebuild a majority. Mr. Flake and Ms. McCain found Mr. Trump's behavior as president unacceptable, but they were hardly alone. Mr. Trump didn't lose because Republicans betrayed him. He lost because he alienated too many voters in Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona who liked his policies but disliked his tumultuous leadership."

The Arizona GOP has suffered three major disappoints in statewide races in recent years, including losing two U.S. Senate seats. Once a GOP stronghold closely identified with the conservatism of Sen. Barry Goldwater and his successor, John McCain, Arizona now has two centrist Democratic U.S. senators — Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Sen. Mark Kelly — and Trump's loss to Biden in Arizona in 2020 was another major blow.

"The attack on Mr. Ducey is simply bizarre," the WSJ's editorial board writes. "The governor has a strong conservative record and will finish his second term in 2022. Senate Republicans have been hoping to recruit him to run against newly elected Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, who must run again in 2022 because he is filling former Sen. McCain's uncompleted term."

The editorial board goes on to say, "The Arizona meltdown illustrates Mr. Trump's potential as a former president to damage the GOP for years. He blames Mr. Ducey for not challenging Arizona's electoral votes for Joe Biden, though the governor had no legal grounds for doing so. The Trump campaign's ballot complaints lacked significant evidence, and a challenge lost in court."

The Journal's editorial board concludes its editorial by stressing that if Republicans continue to engage in Trumpian purity tests like the ones coming from the Arizona GOP, they are going to have even more disappointments in the future.

"If Republicans want to keep losing elections," the board warns, "they'll keep fighting over 2020 and Donald Trump instead of looking to the future."

Ex-Mueller prosecutor reveals gaps in the pardons for Trump's allies that could come back to bite them

As expected, former President Donald Trump pardoned a long list of cronies during his final weeks in office, including Paul Manafort, his former 2016 campaign manager, and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. Andrew Weissmann, who served as a lead prosecutor for then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office from 2017-2019, offers a legal analysis and critique of Trump's "abuse of the pardon power" in an article for Just Security.

And according to Weissmann, Trump hasn't necessarily saved Manafort and Bannon from all legal exposure.

"In issuing his pardons, Trump, true to form, followed no process," Weissmann explains. "He did not seek to identify those most worthy of the use of the clemency process. Instead, his abuse of this constitutional power has led many to deplore the expansive executive authority, although it can be a means of meting out justice when wielded impartially and even-handedly to the most deserving after due consideration of the interests of numerous parties."

Some of Trump's pardons, Weissmann notes, were "exceedingly broad" — for example, the pardon of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

"Flynn's pardon on Nov. 25, 2020 covers most any crime one can imagine, clearly seeking to leave no room for now holding Flynn to account for his past felonious conduct," Weissmann observes. "But oddly, not all of Trump's pardons followed the Flynn model. Indeed, many are narrowly drawn.

Weissmann cites Trump's Manafort pardon as an example of one that is "narrowly drawn." In Manafort's case, Weissmann writes, the "pardon is solely for the crimes of conviction: eight in the Eastern District of Virginia and two in the District of Columbia." And according to Weissmann, "That leaves numerous crimes as to which Manafort can still be prosecuted, as in Virginia, there were ten hung counts."

"In Washington," Weissmann adds, "the situation is even more wide open. In that district, Manafort pleaded to a superseding information containing two conspiracy charges, while the entire underlying indictment — containing numerous crimes, from money laundering to witness tampering to violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act — now remains open to prosecution, as there was no conviction for those charges."

Another pardon Weissmann considers "narrowly drawn" is Trump's pardon of Bannon. In Weissmann's view, Bannon still has legal exposure despite the pardon Trump issued on his last full day in office.

Trump's Bannon pardon, according to Weissman, "applies to the pending 'offenses charged,' and not the underlying conduct, as it pardons Bannon for the specific counts charged."

"It also pardons crimes that could be charged for the underlying conduct under Chapter 95 of Title 18 of the United States Code — basically, racketeering type charges," Weissmann writes. "But that clearly leaves — unpardoned — numerous potential federal charges, such as mail and wire fraud. It is rare that a prosecutor charges all such counts that could be charged, as it would overwhelm a jury and is unnecessary to increasing a sentence upon conviction."

White House press secretary shuts down Fox News' bogus attack on Biden

When Jen Psaki, the new White House press secretary under President Joe Biden, held a briefing on Monday, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy accused Biden of having a double standard when it comes to travel restrictions in response to the coronavirus pandemic. And Psaki quickly laid out the flaws in Doocy's argument.

Doocy told Psaki that when former President Donald Trump imposed travel restrictions on people entering the U.S. from China in 2020, Biden "called it xenophobic and fear-mongering." But now, Doocy added, "President Biden is putting travel restrictions on people coming in from other countries."

Psaki told Doocy, "I don't think that's quite a fair articulation. The president has been clear that he felt the Muslim ban was xenophobic; he overturned the Muslim ban. He also, though, has supported…. travel restrictions in order to keep the American people safe, to ensure that we are keeping the pandemic under control. That's been part of his policy."

The White House press secretary added, "But he was critical of the former president for having a policy that was not more comprehensive than travel restrictions, and he conveyed at the time — and more recently — the importance of having a multi-faceted approach: mask-wearing, vaccine distribution, funding in order to get 100 million shots in the arms of Americans in the first 100 days. Not just travel restrictions."

Politifact has addressed Biden's use of the words "fear-mongering" and "xenophobic" in connection with Trump's travel policy last year. Despite the fact that it has become conventional wisdom in right-wing media that Biden attacked travels bans as xenophobic, the fact checker determined such claims are "mostly false." On Jan. 31, Biden said, "This is no time for Donald Trump's record of hysteria, xenophobia, hysterical xenophobia, and fear-mongering to lead the way instead of science." And on March 18, 2020, Biden tweeted:

According to Politifact, "Biden has not directly said that the restrictions were xenophobic. Around the time the Trump administration announced the travel restriction, Biden said that Trump had a 'record of hysteria, xenophobia and fear-mongering.' Biden used the phrase 'xenophobic' in reply to a Trump tweet about limiting entry to travelers from China and in which he described the coronavirus as the 'Chinese virus.'"

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