American Consequences - October 2020

A Liberal Landslide

The Disappearing Middle Class

America Is Already at War

TILSON

GORKA

REGAN

AMERICAN CONSEQUENCES

I D E A S T H A T M A T T E R

E D I T E D B Y P . J . O ’ R O U R K E

OCTOBER 2 0 2 0

HOWTHE FUTURE LOOKS TO THE LOSING PARTY AMERICA IN SHAMBLES?

INSIDE THIS ISSUE

T his month in American Consequences , we’ve got all the political and financial doom and gloom your stomach can handle... Always a beacon of light in our cloudy political skies, Editor in Chief P.J. O’Rourke makes his case for why ill-informed citizens should just stay home on November 3. And he also explains why it really doesn’t matter who wins... Have you noticed conspiracy theories are popping up everywhere these days? Globe- trotting American Consequences writer Kim Iskyan details how, in this world of COVID-19 and election stress, folks are grasping at straws to try to explain these crazy times... Never one to mince words, author and radio host Sebastian Gorka writes America is already at war, with riots raging in our streets and racial tensions rocking an already fragile nation. Dr. Ron Paul tells us COVID-19 isn’t the real pandemic – it’s debt... And if Congress doesn’t stop its spending, the coming economic crisis will be even worse. And what happened to America’s white- picket-fence dreams? Executive Editor Trish Regan tackles the issue of today’s disappearing middle class and how that will impact the upcoming election.

Speaking of November 3... It’s no secret President Trump ruffles some news-outlet feathers. New American Consequences contributor Jason Rantz dives into why the media is Trump’s real 2020 election opponent. Author Geoffrey Norman poses a great question – if the political and financial experts keep getting it wrong, maybe we should start listening to the crackpots... who seem to be getting it right. Now, these pages aren’t filled with only impending despair... Financial guru Whitney Tilson writes if there’s a liberal landslide this election, certain market sectors will skyrocket. And when the pandemic shut down sports betting, day trading surged... with regular folks “buying stocks like they’re in a casino”... Dr. Steve Sjuggerud explains why that signals his long-touted Melt Up is finally here (which means the Melt Down can’t be far behind). Finally, Buck Sexton details the very- plausible scenario that there’s no winner on Election Day, or even the weeks after... which will send the name-calling and stolen-election allegations into overdrive. Is it 2021 yet? Regards, Laura Greaver Managing Editor, American Consequences

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October 2020

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CONTENTS OCTOBER 2020 : ISSUE 38 LOST? CLICK HERE

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AMERICAN CONSEQUENCES

Inside This Issue BY LAURA GREAVER

52 Keep In the Vote BY P.J. O'ROURKE

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Editor in Chief: P.J. O’Rourke Publisher: Jamison Miller Executive Editors: Trish Regan, Buck Sexton

Letter From the Editor BY P.J. O'ROURKE

56 The Middle Class Squeeze BY TRISH REGAN

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12 From Our Inbox

66 Debt Is the Real Pandemic BY DR. RON PAUL

18 Conspiracy Theories in 2020 BY KIM ISKYAN

Managing Editor: Laura Greaver Creative Director: Erica Wood Contributing Editors: Richard Haass, Sebastian Gorka PhD, Kim Iskyan, Geoffrey Norman, Dr. Ron Paul, Jason Rantz, Dr. Steve Sjuggerud, Whitney Tilson Advertising: Ricky D'Andrea, Jill Peterson Editorial feedback: feedback@americanconsequences.com Published by:

70 Playing With Fire

BY DR. STEVE SJUGGERUD

26 America Is Already at War BY SEBASTIAN GORKA PHD

76 The UN's Unhappy Birthday BY RICHARD HAASS

32 A Liberal Landslide BYWHITNEY TILSON

80 The Final Word

BY BUCK SEXTON

38 The Media: Trump's 2020 Opponent BY JASON RANTZ

84 Featured Contributors

46 Experts Vs. Crackpots

BY GEOFFREY NORMAN

American Consequences

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From Editor in Chief P.J. O’Rourke

ITDOESN'T MATTERWHOWINS

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October 2020

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

We the people put the wind in the sails, or at least we blow a lot of hot air at them.

ur ship of state is an old- fashioned square-rigged treasure galleon, but with a crew of 16 million. That’s the number of people employed by America’s federal, state, and

Ruth Bader Ginsburg comes to Amy Coney Barrett and Clarence Thomas in their dreams and convinces them to join People For the American Way – “Left full rudder!” But somebody still has to go around convincing the ship of state’s 16 million crew members – busy battening hatches, furling mainsails, weighing anchors, shivering timbers, and whatever else it is that sailors do on sailboats – to get with the program and make sure something happens with the steering gear. Trump hasn’t had much luck in the past four years. And Biden strikes me as being about as effective as The Skipper, captain of the S.S. Minnow on Gilligan’s Island . We do have a “deep state” in America, but mostly in the sense that grand political plans usually walk the plank and wind up in Davey Jones’ Locker. (Or beached on Gilligan’s Island – a “shallow state” can wreck plans too.) Meanwhile, America drifts where the ebb and flow of circumstance take it.

local governments. This makes for a vessel three times the size of Norway (population 5,375,000). We the people put the wind in the sails, or at least we blow a lot of hot air at them. But the ship itself remains as hard to launch, maneuver, turn around, or dock as Scandinavia... especially since there’s no one steering. Of course, in theory, there’s a captain – the president. But that’s just one of the helmsmen. There are also 435 congressmen, 100 senators, and nine Supreme Court justices with their hands on the wheel. Let’s assume that this gang of jack-tars trying to steer all agree on which direction the boat should go. (That has never happened but, for fun, let’s say it does.) Trump gets reelected, holds the Senate, and retakes the House – “Right full rudder!” Or Biden wins, keeps the House, takes the Senate, and the ghost of

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America is an enormous ship of state, too big and complicated for any single person to control it...

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The two most important of all political issues – war and the economy – also take their own course, independent of our domestic partisan politics. The political parties claim to be able to navigate us around or through war hazards and economic crises... But the pilots they bring on board are often hopeless landlubbers looking through the wrong end of the telescope with their nautical charts upside down. (I’d say we’ve got two of them on offer this November 3.) In fact, Republicans and Democrats often take us to exactly where you’d expect they wouldn’t... If there ever was a pattern... you think you know what party is what, then that party goes all whatchamajigger. For the past 150 years, the most broadly punishing financial panics, business recessions, and economic depressions have begun while for-the-love-of-money Republican presidents were in power, rather than when share-the-wealth Democrats were in charge: • The Long Depression of 1873-1879 – Ulysses S. Grant • Panic of 1882 – Chester Alan Arthur • Panic of 1893 – Benjamin Harrison • Panic of 1907 – Theodore Roosevelt (Ok, trust-busting TR was tough on big business so maybe we can blame this on his inner Democrat.)

• The Great Depression – Herbert Hoover • Stagflation of 1973-1975 – Richard Nixon • Dot-com Bubble Burst – George W. Bush • The Great Recession – W. again To add perplexity to paradox, during most of the 20th century it was the internationalist, peace-loving, why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along Democrats, not the bellicose, saber-rattling Republicans who sent the nation into combat: • WWI – Woodrow Wilson, who’d been elected on the promise he’d keep us out. • WWII – FDR, who’d been elected promising something similar, though less of it. • Korea – Truman (who, in fairness, made no such promises). • Vietnam – JFK and LBJ. The pattern became proverbial. “Elect a Republican, get a depression. Elect a Democrat, get a war.” Of course, since then, the pattern has gotten mixed up, with Republicans taking the lead in sending troops to godforsaken places and Democrats doing their best to impoverish us all with high taxes, social spending, regulatory interference, and vows to implement lots more of all three. If there ever was a pattern... you think you know what party is what, then that party goes all whatchamajigger. First it was the Democrats who favored low tariffs and free trade, then it was the Republicans. First it was the Republicans who supported racial equality, then the Democrats took over. Democrats used to be able to count on blue- collar workers, then there was nothing left to count. Southerners once were “yellow dog

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October 2020

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Democrats.” They’d “vote for a yellow dog” rather than vote Republican, then southerners elected the mutt. John F. Kennedy lowered taxes. George H. W. raised them. History teaches us a lesson... that there is no lesson. War and the economy are chaos theory without the theory... War and the economy both possess such an infinity of causative factors and such a boundlessness of effective results that cause-and-effect analysis should be confined to Poly Sci and Econ classes and then the classroom doors should be locked from the outside. The creation of wealth contains too many instances of happenstance to be claimed as a partisan issue. One less Henry Ford and I’d have a pair of yoked oxen in my carport... instead there’s a Volvo. The destruction of wealth can be equally unaccountable. A wild turkey ran out in the road in front of my 16-year-old son (who’d had his driver’s license for three whole days) and he rammed the Volvo into a tree. War is that wild turkey... I’ve been hunting turkeys for years. Why are they so smart when I’ve got my gun in the woods? Why are they so dumb when they’ve got my son in a car? And how do we respond to those turkeys overseas who think they’re so smart that they start a dumb war? I’m not sure that either Biden or Trump would propose the policy I proposed to my son: “ Hit the turkey! For the price of a car wash we can have Thanksgiving dinner.” And I’m also not sure I care how this election turns out. One thing I know for certain is that COVID-19 will have its vote counted.

A virus doesn’t have a brain, so it may be a Democrat. On the other hand, this virus is mean enough to be a Republican. Novel coronavirus probably doesn’t care how this election turns out either. Trump has done some useful work pumping the tax and regulatory bilges on our ship of state. But he also blows the Twitter foghorn at all hours of the day and night (although the fog seems to be mostly in his own head). This is making us passengers sleepless and irritable and testy with each other. His treatment of illegal immigrant stowaways has been more hard-hearted but no more hard-headed than the previous administration’s. Plus Trump keeps throwing the ship’s senior officers overboard. Biden promises... Well, what doesn’t he promise? He’ll keelhaul the people who usually sit at the Captain’s Table, put everybody in steerage into first-class cabins, make sure the ship’s hull is biodegradable, and sail it straight into the hurricane of climate change.

History teaches us a lesson... that there is no lesson.

Scary. Board the lifeboats. Persons and disadvantaged children first. But will anybody be listening when Biden gives his orders? And will he remember to give them? Taxes will rise if Biden wins. But neither candidate shows any signs of stemming the cancerous growth of the federal debt and

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deficit. And the cost of unleashed inflation, loss of the U.S. dollar as the international reserve currency, and subsequent steep devaluation may make the cost of higher taxes look trivial. You can hire a tax accountant to keep your taxes down, but you’d have to hire the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marines to keep foreign governments buying up U.S. Treasury bonds. It may be important who gets to appoint federal judges. But when you make a lifetime judicial appointment, it can be hard to make sure that square judge stays in the square hole where he or she has been pegged. They’re lawyers. Lawyers are trained to go round and round. Lawyers are, after all, members of the only respectable profession that’s paid to betray its cause. Wednesday: Attorney for the defendant, Antelope v. Cheetah. Thursday: Attorney for the plaintiff, Wildebeest v. Lion. They’re like doctors who treat their patients by day and take their patients to super- spreader events by night. Americans are not “all in the same boat” on a single vessel headed to a certain destination by

Justice Earl Warren in 1954 to counterbalance a Supreme Court otherwise filled with FDR and Truman appointees. The Warren Court, with the help of another Ike Justice William J. Brennan, went on to be the most liberal in American history (albeit often in a good way, such as Brown v. The Board of education). Both candidates are one-term presidents. Trump because he’s at the end of his term limits. Biden because he’s at the end of his rope. Second-term presidencies are famous for failing to do much more than what was done in the first term. Single-term presidencies are famous for failing, period. But the main reason for my not caring much about how this election turns out is the way I see my country... I personally don’t view America as an enormous ship of state. Or, if it is, it’s one where we all get to jump ship whenever we want. Americans are not “all in the same boat” on a single vessel headed to a certain destination by way of a particular route. America is a flotilla of small craft – 328 million of them. Our freedom allows us to each have our own skiff, dinghy, canoe, kayak, barge, freighter, yacht, or jet ski. Some are fast and powerful. Others are a little leaky with only one oar. But we are all our own commanders... And we go where we damn well please. The candidates are little figures on a distant shore. At best they might build a lighthouse, and at worst they’re just beach bums. But however they turn out, when we hoist our Jolly Rogers and head out to sea, they’ll be landlocked in the White House.

way of a particular route. America is a flotilla of small craft – 328 million of them.

Chief Justice John Roberts gave Obamacare a pass. RBG and Antonin Scalia were best friends. She had a surprisingly libertarian/ conservative record on legal process and procedure. Eisenhower appointed Chief

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FROM OUR INBOX

The Hong Kong piece was excellent. At the time the Brits cavalierly handed the city to the People’s Republic of China, my only question, like yours, was how long assimilation would take. Can you imagine Churchill doing that?! Please keep being a voice of reason in this “Big Bang” the U.S.A. is experiencing. There are a few of us listening, albeit it probably too old and tired to do much about it. P.S.: Serious question... Is there anyone in politics today who is a beacon of light, someone with integrity, clarity of thinking and dynamic leadership ability? If so, perhaps you can do a column on him/her. – Chris S. P.J. O’Rourke response: Chris, thank you very much for your kind words. Writing is a bit of a lonely job sometimes – it’s not like there’s a studio audience applauding (or even booing) while you’re at your keyboard. A shout-out from a reader means a lot to a writer. Please know how much I appreciate it. Like you, I can’t imagine Churchill doing what was done to Hong Kong. But I can imagine, all too well, either the president or his election opponent doing something of that kind to people whom we are supposed to be protecting. As to your serious question... My short answer would be, “No.” My longer answer would be, “No, damn it.” There are some people in politics with integrity, some with clarity of thinking, and some with dynamic leadership ability. But finding

Re: American Consequences Welcomes Trish Regan Trish, I miss watching you on Fox. So glad I get to read your stories again! – Betty B. So happy to find Trish Regan here... I subscribed immediately. Thank you! – S.J. Liked you on Fox, like you know. Keep up the good work! – David M. Trish Regan response : It’s wonderful to have so many supportive readers here! Thank you, and I’m thrilled to be able to connect with you in these new mediums. Keep me posted and let me know what you think of this month’s piece on the increasing challenges of our American middle class. Re: P.J. on Covering the 1997 Hong Kong ‘Handover’ Just a note to thank you for American Consequences. I have enjoyed your writing since reading Parliament of Whores 20+ years ago. It should be required reading for every high school junior or senior. (At one time, the language would have been considered inappropriate for that age group, but they hear much worse in their music, videos, TV, etc.).

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P.J. O’Rourke comment: Alan, thanks for motivating us to write. Wow, UC Berkeley in the “Kent State Spring” of 1970! You had a real ringside seat at the circus of nonsense, but at least you had the good sense to remain in the audience. I was down in the sawdust jumping out of the tiny car full of clowns. On the other hand, I was a grad student (I’m a year older than you) at a school that was only tepidly political, Johns Hopkins, and the Baltimore police were too lazy to do anything but tear gas us. Even then, they’d take no account of the prevailing winds and usually wound up tear gassing themselves. So I was probably safer doing my pratfalls than you were as a spectator. As you point out, the only big difference between the destructive folly of then and the destructive folly of now is that 50 years ago no one with any legitimate influence or authority – in the media or in politics – was egging us on. Now (if you’ll excuse me for mixing my metaphors) every team in the league of vandals, no matter how lousy they play, has a large squad of official cheerleaders. Meanwhile, I’ll be sure to pass on your compliments to CRO X. He’s not only a great businessman but a great citizen and a great guy. Re: Have We Won the War? Kudos to American Consequences for another great addition to their staff, Sebastian Gorka. Right on the heels of the stellar Trish Regan signing up, American Consequences now has a true Murderer’s (Of Socialism) Rowwith Gorka, Regan and the American Consequences veterans Alice

a politician who combines all three is like finding a baseball player who can pitch a no-hitter, hit homeruns, and play first base. People like that do exist. (I count myself lucky to have lived long enough to see two of them elected president – Eisenhower and Reagan.) But if people like that are involved in politics at the moment, they’re still, politically speaking, playing in the minors. Re: The Joy of Rioting PJ, I read all your issues and both learn and am entertained – especially by your commentaries which I appreciate since a good amount of humor is needed in our present world. Your “Joy of Rioting” brought back memories of my years in UC Berkeley 1965-1970 (we are about the same age), and as a bystander I can’t forget the emotions and how crowd mentality takes over so quickly... especially since the Oakland Police in those days were anything but professional or knowing how to handle crowds and the rioters were of unified anti-Vietnam and People’s Park mentality! I suppose not much has changed in many ways except nowwe have “leaders” and pervasive media that exacerbate the phenomena. I also appreciated the Chief Risk Office X article because he tells it like it is and in our current siege of divisiveness in our country, we need to focus much more on the reality and facts and much less on the hyperbole and lies we get. Thanks for motivating me to write and I look forward to the next issue! – Alan

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FROM OUR INBOX

have to change the Constitution for me to run! – DrG Re: Russia’s Endgame Isn’t What You Think It Is – It’s Worse I’ve asked this question often, with no answer ever given... How has Russia interfered in U.S. elections? – Jim L. Kim Iskyan response: Hi Jim – thanks for your question. Russia did – and is continuing to do – what it does best: muddy the waters with propaganda that’s designed to confuse, frighten, and puzzle Americans, while making them doubt the integrity of their own institutions and of democracy more broadly. They’ve done this through creating heavily slanted and false content including articles,

Lloyd... and the future president of the U.S. Buck Sexton – all of them individuals deeply steeped for many years in the realms of which they write, whose articles are loaded with actual information instead of drive- by snark that turns out to be based on not just shallowness but usually falsehoods... Enjoying and clinging to the AMERICAN tradition... – Gary S. Sebastian Gorka response: Thanks, Gary. I’m ecstatic to be part of the AC team with all the patriots you list. “Murderers (of Socialism) Row?” Well I haven’t heard that one before, but as the child of a man tortured and imprisoned by a Communist regime, I like it. However, as for your support of Buck Sexton for president, I presume that’s purely because you know I wasn’t born in the U.S. and we’d

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October 2020

don’t have much money or any real remaining influence... well, I’m pretty excited about the bang I’ve gotten for my buck in helping make the world’s sole superpower a deeply divided, highly politicized, dysfunctional mess. Re: The One Thing Everyone in America Can Agree On... It’s a revelation that Buck is on staff at American Consequences. Glad I signed up for the emails. Buck is right in step with my own take on the debate, right down the line. I especially like that analysis of Trump: “... even to his most ardent supporters, has a gruff, free-wheeling style on stage against an opponent.” That is exactly what I like about him. I wanted to find a previous president in my experience to compare him to; the closest I could get was Harry Truman. But I was just a kid when Harry was president so the details are hazy – I guess

videos, memes, Twitter messages, Facebook ads and posts, and many other mediums and messages. It’s very likely that you – and every other person who’s read the news, visited Facebook or YouTube, or just plain existed online – have been exposed to what’s cleverly disguised propaganda. There’s really no question about what Russia’s been doing. (And if you believe Vladimir Putin’s protests of innocence, I not only have a little bridge in San Francisco that I’d be happy to sell you... I also have a modestly sized palace in downtown Moscow that’s just off a big square that I’d also be prepared to part with for the right price!) There is space for debate about its impact – which of course is a completely subjective assessment. But as I wrote, if I’m Russia and I’m looking to have some impact on global geopolitics, and I

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FROM OUR INBOX

Donald would rudely interrupt, often with a personal insult, and Joe would be jolted out of his canned-answer haze. Joe would come alive, or nearly so, and for an angry and indigent moment or two Joe would look – almost – like a plausible candidate. Re: Blackout... ThenWorld War III Trish, Very good article and update that even with the North Korean threat having subsided, the china threat has now risen, in spite of President Trump making it a priority. Not sure if you have read the fiction work of ‘One Second After’ byWilliam Forstchen, but it’s the best book of that genre concerning what would happen if we actually had an EMP strike us. By the way, really enjoying your work here and even with all the reading I do, I try not to miss your contributions. – Brian M. Excellent article, Trish. Thanks. I HIGHLY recommend the book, “One Second After” byWilliam Forstchen. It’s a detailed look at what would likely happen aftermath. Please keep writing. – Dave S. Trish Regan Response: I will definitely check out the book. It’s a pretty alarming thing to think about... And while Washington and the media get carried away with the daily drama of whatever happens to be in the news cycle, there are some real concerns and threats to our nation out there. Thank you for reading the piece and for your One Second After recommendation .

I had an affinity for him because he looked and sounded a lot like my father, who happened to be a Republican. – Mac H. Buck Sexton Response: Dear Mac, Thanks so much for the words of support! And clearly, since you see the political scene as I do, you’re a man of great wisdom and taste. As for Trump’s style, I think it’s very hard to find even a close approximation of him from previous presidents. His background, the way he speaks, the loose cannon (that somehow still hits bullseyes) on Twitter – it’s all really pretty unprecedented. It was enough to shock the world with a win in 2016. Let’s hope it’s enough this time around, too. I would love to hear PJ’s response to the Presidential debate. – Dale M. P.J. O’Rourke Comment: Dale, I’ve seen more substantive arguments take place on barroom floors with fists and boots. And at least none of those lasted for 90 minutes. I kept wishing Chris Wallace were a bigger guy so that – like bartenders of yore – he could grab the two of them by their shirt collars and belt loops and heave them out the door. But, to be a little more calmly analytical about the spectacle, I thought Trump did himself a huge disservice by not letting Biden drone on. Joe was showing every sign of being as fatally boring as Hillary Clinton with his stupidly tedious platform positions addressing everything from additional hand sanitizer in public restrooms to making the weather better. Yet each time that Joe started to send the viewers off to sleep (dreaming of voting for anybody but Joe),

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October 2020

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October 2020

By Kim Iskyan

UNDERGROUND IDEAS ARE SURFACING EVERYWHERE

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F rom claims that Elvis is still alive to theories that NASA faked the moon landing, Americans have always loved their conspiracy theories... But add in a global coronavirus pandemic and a tumultuous presidential election to an already angry and divided nation and you’ve got the perfect breeding ground for wild conspiracy theories and fanatics who adamantly believe in them.

• About half of Americans think the government is hiding information about the 9/11 attacks. In 2006, around one-third thought the administration of George W. Bush had planned, or knowingly allowed, the 9/11 attacks. • In 2009, about one-third of Americans subscribed to the “birther” conspiracy (the promotion of which helped propel Donald Trump to the White House) that Barack Obama is a foreign citizen – who became president in violation of the U.S. Constitution. • There have been 2,032 Bigfoot sightings in Washington state... and 109 sightings of a Loch Ness-like monster in a lake in Montana. Fourteen percent of Americans think that these types of creatures exist, and 31% of Americans believe in ghosts. • An international survey found 17% of respondents believed so-called “chemtrail” conspiracy theories that the white lines in the sky trailing behind jet planes aren’t cloud-like plumes of water vapor – but rather evidence of a devious plot to poison the environment or control the weather. Many conspiracy theories are just harmless good fun, life in Never-Never Land filtered through the National Enquirer . Speculating about who probed what foreign body in a desert in New Mexico is innocuous enough... (One in five Americans believe that beings from outer space have visited Earth anyway.) And stories are how humans communicate, after all. Long before basketball star Kyrie Irving talked about the Earth being flat a

A conspiracy theory, according to academic expert Joe Uscinki, tries to explain an event that “cites as a main causal factor, a small group of powerful persons (the conspirators) acting in secret for their own benefit, against the common good.” That’s a big tent, allowing almost everyone to subscribe to at least a few conspiracy theories. Some are so much a part of our cultural fiber that we might not even think of our assumed facts as conspiracy theories at all. For example... Many conspiracy theories are just harmless good fun, life in Never-Never Land filtered through the National Enquirer. • A mid-March poll found that 54% of people surveyed think that the 1% of wealthiest Americans secretly control the U.S. government... and 43% subscribe to the notion of a Deep State. • Around 90% of Americans – decades after the fact – think that the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy was a conspiracy and then covered up by the government.

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A Pew Research survey from June found that a quarter of American adults see at least some truth in the idea that the coronavirus was “intentionally planned by powerful people.” And it’s 48% of Americans with a high school diploma or less who subscribe to the theory (15% of people with a post-graduate degree buy into the coronavirus-was-planned notion). Hundreds of thousands of dead Americans could still be alive today if not for the deadly coronavirus-related conspiracy theories that have persuaded people to not wear facemasks.

few years ago (before apologizing to science teachers for his comments), Thag the Ugly Neanderthal was telling stories around the fire. He had theories to explain the unknown – why he felt warm when that bright star was shining, the best way to catch a zebra, or why Thaga the Lady Neanderthal was avoiding him. Of course, they weren’t called “conspiracy theories” back then... That term – according to one conspiracy theory – was coined by the CIA in 1967 to try to discredit doubters of the official line about the death of President John F. Kennedy. Conspiracy theories have evolved to be fundamentally political in nature. And while they can be a fun yarn, they can also – and increasingly do – undermine government, cultivate distrust in institutions and society, create artificial divisions between groups, and push us toward Lord of the Flies meets Mad Max . As Time magazine explained... The facts that should anchor a sense of shared reality are meaningless to [people who parrot conspiracy theories]; the news developments that might ordinarily inform [them] fall on deaf ears... They are impervious to messaging, advertising or data. They aren’t just infected with conspiracy; they appear to be inoculated against reality. Democracy relies on an informed and engaged public responding in rational ways to the real-life facts and challenges before us. But a growing number of Americans are untethered from that. And there’s a very real (and big) cost to that...

Conspiracy theories have evolved to be fundamentally political in nature... and push us toward Lord of the Flies meets Mad Max .

The thing is, almost anyone is prone to conspiracy thinking – which is just interpreting events and information through the dark prism of shadowy conspiracies. When these beliefs are supported and reinforced by others in a group – a political affiliation, members of the same church, your neighbors, wacky Uncle Earl – something that you might at first dismiss as ridiculous can suddenly seem eminently reasonable. It’s social proof at its most toxic. People stray toward conspiracy theories when they feel vulnerable and threatened. It’s easier to blame the Illuminati (a secret global cabal that runs the world – or so 15% of Americans believe) for why you can’t make your car payment, than to grapple with the real reasons

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for your cash-flow problems. Subscribing to the idea that the coronavirus was created in a lab in China turns facemask resistance into an act of patriotism. And in the world of COVID-19, stress, uncertainty, and powerlessness is our daily diet. That’s why it increasingly feels as if conspiracy theories are increasingly the currency of thought and communication. In the world of COVID-19, stress, uncertainty, and powerlessness is our daily diet. That’s why it increasingly feels as if conspiracy theories are increasingly the currency of thought and communication. Why? It’s easy to blame social media. Uscinski argues that’s not the case, though, in a recent article in The Atlantic ... A common misconception is that the Internet, and social media in particular, is responsible for the seeming proliferation of conspiracy theories in American political culture. But while these platforms make spreading any idea easier and more efficient, the Internet is but a tool for disseminating a human concoction. For the most part, social scientists have yet to find evidence that conspiracy beliefs have increased in the Internet age. Part of the reason conspiracy theories spread so quickly – and are so intoxicatingly compelling – is that sometimes, conspiracies

How to create a conspiracy theory, in four easy steps... Think of something that many people don’t understand, can’t control, feel threatened by, or that inspires a strong emotional response . The universe is your oyster... coronavirus, 9/11, Hillary Clinton, the earth’s roundness, Sandy Hook, your cable company’s hold music, vaccines, O.J., the lunar landing... Make up a story that “explains” the object of disaffection . It should have what Uscinski calls a “strategic logic,” and focuses on threat or danger. A nodding relationship to reality is not required. Remember the words of American journalist and social critic H.L. Mencken: “No one in this world... has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.” Even if you’re not in it for the money, it’s a good motto for all enterprising conspiracy theorists. Weave in someone rich, famous, infamous, or well-known so that he is doing something secretly that advances his own aims and hurts everyone else. Bonus points for figures who inspire jealousy or disdain – by dint of wealth or geekiness or political affiliation – like, say, George Soros, Anthony Fauci, Bill Gates, or Kamala Harris. Douse the narrative in the gasoline of viral-ness . Research in late May found that almost half of all Twitter accounts talking about COVID-19 were bots. YouTube, with its “Up Next” recommendation algorithm, is potentially a conspiracy-theory “gateway drug,” Wired magazine wrote. And don’t forget Facebook, the granddaddy of all

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aren’t just theories. Coincidence and randomness and the unexpected, and actual conspiracies (or their kissing cousin, cover- ups), are real... Watergate (which brought down Richard Nixon) and VW’s emissions scandal (a cover-up of an effort to fool pollution regulators) and doubts surrounding Theranos (a bogus blood-testing company) all started as someone’s pet wacko idea – a conspiracy theory that was true. But there’s a big difference with those... In order to uncover real conspiracies, investigative journalists, lawyers, scientists, and others work hard. They develop a hypothesis, they cultivate sources, conduct research, and search for proof and evidence. If they don’t find sufficient proof of the hypothesis, they give it up and move on. Or it is real... And that’s how Pulitzer Prizes are won, investors lose money, Sean Hannity gets excited, people go to jail, and presidents wave goodbye for the last time as they helicopter off the White House lawn. There’s a big distinction between this kind of actual research... and the “research” that, say, my Facebook ex-friend claimed was behind his posts that Bill Gates is plotting to use a COVID-19 vaccine as a cover to inject Americans with microchips. (By the way, around a quarter of Americans believe this, according to a Yahoo News/YouGov poll from May.) He’d gotten sucked down the YouTube rabbit hole... Watching a few videos online, though, doesn’t make anyone an expert on anything other than watching videos on YouTube. So how can you prevent your brain from being hijacked by conspiracy theories – and

preserve and protect the essence of democracy and society – by insulating yourself and your loved ones from them? A few tips... Learn to identify them . A conspiracy theory has a compelling internal, circular logic that is airtight. As a psychologist writing in The Conversation explained...

Conspiracy theories are essentially irrefutable: logical contradictions,

evidence showing the opposite, even the complete absence of proof have no bearing on the conspiratorial explanation because they can always be accounted for in terms of the conspiracy. The lack of proof about a plot, or any positive proof against its existence, is turned around and taken as evidence of the craftiness of the secret cabal behind the conspiracy. It is seen as confirmation of the conspirators’ ability to conceal their machinations. If you find yourself on a logical merry-go- round when pondering a theory, it’s a warning sign. Just because a theory is tight as a drum doesn’t mean there’s anything inside... Apply a filter of personal experience and logic . Some things that make sense when a guy wearing scrubs who says he’s a doctor fast-talks on YouTube, or which might make for good Hollywood, don’t hold up to scrutiny. My Facebook ex-friend didn’t bother to figure that even someone as clever as Bill Gates can’t come up with a microchip so small that, when injected into the human body, it wouldn’t cause an embolism. And even if he could, such a chip wouldn’t have the battery power to last for long.

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Most conspiracy theories are complicated – that’s why they’re such good stories. Reality is (usually) simple... And if it’s raining and you see a flash of light outside, it’s more likely to be lightning than the local power station blowing up in a sea of sparks – or a UFO landing in the front yard. Often, conspiracy theories assume a level of secrecy, organization, and discipline that are impossible in the real world. A Deep State of Illuminati bureaucrats that is hell-bent on derailing the agenda of President Donald Trump would suggest that thousands of hyper-coordinated people are unified in total secrecy around a single agenda that they execute flawlessly and without anyone else knowing... But could a government – regardless of political party – that is so absurdly large (2 million employees) and complicated (budget: $4.8 trillion) ever muster the expertise, Use Occam’s Razor . This is the principle that the simplest explanation for something is usually the correct one. Most conspiracy theories are complicated – that’s why they’re such good stories. Reality is (usually) simple... If Little Johnny has a fever after going to the playground, he probably picked up a bad germ on the monkey bars. It’s unlikely that parent with COVID-19 on the bench nearby went over to Johnny and coughed in his face... Or that Johnny has an intestinal worm from bottled water he drank yesterday.

coordination, and organization to create a government within a government? The reality is that the federal government bureaucracy is ignorant of the intentions of whomever happens to be inhabiting the White House. It’s going to do whatever it’s going to do – which is the same as it’s ever done. One man’s Deep State is another man’s big bumbling blob of bureaucracy that will sabotage anyone with a notion of changing it. Of course, sometimes the more complicated explanation is true. To understand when, context matters. “When you hear hoofbeats behind you, in most cases you should think horses, not zebras – unless you are out on the African savannah,” explains mental model master Shane Parish of Farnam Street. The simple explanation was to believe that Bernie Madoff was an investment genius who could generate consistently strong returns for decades... But the reality – that he had created a $65 billion Ponzi scheme – took a lot of work to unravel. Remember that there is only one reality. In an era of deep fakes and fake news, reality can feel like a house of mirrors, or like a grown-up Choose Your Own Adventure book where we can decide our own reality. But reality is crazy already. In an age of conspiracy theories, we’re crazy on steroids. It’s up to each of us to stay anchored... to prevent something even worse.

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October 2020

AMERICA IS ALREADY ATWAR

Sebastian Gorka PhD

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fter September 11, 2001, I spent more than 12 years helping our warfighters understand America’s enemies. My audience included the SEALs, the Green Berets, the United States Special Operations Command, and various elements of the Intelligence Community. Whether it was at Dam Neck, Fort Bragg, Tampa, or Langley, the task was the same... get inside the mind of those who want to destroy America. Understand the ideologies and strategies that inform their actions and analyze their tactics and operations so that those who wear the cloth of the Republic can predict what they will do next and neutralize them before they can do it. I never expected to have to apply all that I learned in those years to my fellow Americans instead of jihadists and agents of inimical foreign states. But now I do... We all do. Antifa and Black Lives Matter may not be the same as Al Qaeda or the Quds Force, but many share the same foundational belief – America is evil and as such must be destroyed and rebuilt... or just destroyed. How can we know this? As Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel is rumored to have said, “When someone says he wants to kill you, believe them.”

Antifa’s strategic goal is clear. They are the reborn communist organization created to fight fascist brownshirts on the streets of Berlin in the Weimar years. But with the Third Reich a long-gone memory, their target today is America as founded – USA as a free nation – where dissension from the orthodoxy of identity politics and racism will not be countenanced. As for BLM, this newer organization was founded by proud self-professed Marxists, and in the words of their New York leader, leave no doubt as to their intent... “If this country doesn’t give us what we what, then we will burn down the system and replace it.” How on Earth did we get here? How did the world’s most powerful market democracy devolve to a point where 70% of millennials would prefer to live in a socialist or communist America?

 CLICK HERE TO READ THE WEB VERSION

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AMERICA IS ALREADY ATWAR

With the realization that neither Antifa or BLM believe in the maintenance of America as we know it, we have satisfied one part of Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu’s formula for victory in war: “Know your enemy – and what they want.” Now there are two strategic questions left... First, how on Earth did we get here? How did the world’s most powerful market democracy devolve to a point where 70% of millennials would prefer to live in a socialist or communist America? And what can those who took an oath to defend our Republic from all enemies “foreign and domestic” do about it? Or all our fellow Americans for whom the Pledge of Allegiance isn’t just a quaint recitation mouthed at formal events? For the question of how we arrived here... well, my editors have given me a word count limit of just 2,000 words. Perhaps it would be easiest to provide a reading list of the seminal works which explain how we have been systematically eroded as a robust nation from within by a coterie of seditious academics, cultural influencers, and “community activists.” But instead, let me share with you the details of an autobiography of a child whose parents escaped Nazi and then communist dictatorships... This story will help us understand what has happened to the greatest “experiment in democracy” the world has ever seen. Andrew Breitbart was not born conservative. As the Churchillian aphorism on youth and naïveté teaches us, few are. The adopted son of Jewish parents, Breitbart spent his college years as a binge-drinking, pot-smoking apolitical “student” who was on the cusp of

dropping out. Then the Left viciously went after a black man in a national campaign that changed Breitbart (and America) forever. That man was Clarence Thomas... Thomas grew up in true poverty, but through sheer perseverance, became a lawyer and a judge. (For the incredible story of his journey from destitution to the Supreme Court, Michael Pack’s recently released movie Created Equal is an essential viewing.) Then he was picked as a nominee to the highest court in the land, only to face a Democrat assault, led by none other than Joe Biden, a public spectacle that Justice Thomas would describe during the televised hearings as a “high-tech lynching.” The unfounded accusations of sexual impropriety and media-facilitated character assassination acted as a cathartic catalyst for Breitbart. As he chronicles in Righteous Indignation , from one day to the next, the scales fell from his eyes and he realized that the Left was acting in concert to attack exactly the type of person they said they stood for... a member of the underprivileged minority. Why? Because he dared not to fall in line and sing from the Democrat hymn sheet – for Clarence Thomas was a pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment conservative who loved his country. Here is the gist of how America lost its way, or rather, how the greatest nation ever created by man was sabotaged and now stands on the precipice of an internal war...

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