Barry’s Blog # 353: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part Fourteen

America will have a Presidential President again in Joe Biden. – The New Yorker

How does that phrase land on your soul? Are you cheering the downfall of the fascist Trumpus (as I certainly am) and a step back from the precipice of irreversible climate change? Are you celebrating a return to “normalcy”? Or are you one of the millions of people who rejected him but apparently still supported his policies?

On 11/7 Biden was declared the winner – not officially, by the government, but by the four major media networks, who in our American mythology have asserted the superior moral function traditionally held by the clergy. On the 11th, I took a short walk around my Oakland neighborhood and saw twelve American flags hanging from front porches. Sure, it was Veteran’s Day, but most of them had been up for several days in a mass expression of that same mythology.

Republican corruption: The oligarchs were also celebrating something – their tax breaks, their complicit Senate and their captive judiciary – and it began to appear that they no longer have any use for their useful idiot. Fox News was the first network to call Arizona for Biden (days before the others) and refused to retract that decision even when Trumpus personally called Rupert Murdoch. Laura Ingraham announced that Trumpus should accept defeat “with grace and composure,” while Fox suspended the horrid Jeanine Pirro for insisting that the election had been rigged.

Republican leaders criticized his frivolous lawsuits and piously insisted that all ballots should be counted! Most seemed to be content with the results, but Newt Gingrich continued stoking the QAnon-fueled fires of hatred and anti-semitism. The election was “a left-wing power grab, financed by people like George Soros…”

The national state of anxiety will continue at least until December 14th, when the electoral college votes to certify Biden’s election. Prior to that date, all states must officially select their electors by December 8th. Until then, any state legislature (26 of them have republican majorities) can theoretically override the popular vote and appoint any electors they like.

Trumpus was keeping notions like this alive with over 130 fundraising post-election emails (by 11/10), along with demands for recounts and dozens of bogus lawsuits (15 in Pennsylvania alone), so as to maintain the charged emotional state of his supporters, who, despite their privileges, continue to see themselves as victims. And he was doing this not because there are any real possibilities of changed results, but because, a con man to the end, he can still soak them for more money, with half of all donations (in fine print) going to pay down his election debt. And, as David Cay Johnston writes, Trumpus

…will be in a position to exact revenge, a word that by his own account is his entire life philosophy... (through) firing officials, issuing pardons to friends and family and other acts Trump can do great damage between now and Inauguration Day, when his shield against criminal prosecution vanishes. He can also hobble the transition to a Biden administration.

However, everything changed by 11/8 when it became clear that both of Georgia’s Senate seats (and the Republican Senate majority) were still in play and would go to January runoffs. Republican leaders quickly reversed course and supported Trumpus’ refusal to concede, joining him in his attempt to arouse the faithful. On 11/10, Mike Pompeo announced, “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.” At least four Republican Senate and House candidates who’d lost by wide margins also refused to concede. The deluge of lies had its effect: 70 percent of Republicans now say they don’t believe the election was free and fair (up from 35% only two weeks ago).

Trumpus Jr., Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and others brought the con job out into the open by reminding Republican-dominated state legislatures that they can still override the popular vote in their states. Can these “faithless electors” really do this? Snopes fact checkers think not:

Any state’s legislature could, theoretically, pass a law setting out a new method for designating presidential electors other than popular vote. However, they would have to enact such a law prior to Election Day; they could not retroactively change, or just disregard, their current laws to defy the will of voters. State election laws and regulations must be established and in place prior to Election Day — they cannot be improvised or instituted on an ad hoc basis after the fact.

David Sirota writes:

Republicans would have to get not one but many of the five Biden states with GOP legislatures to try to ignore the popular vote…Congress would also have a role to play deciding which electors to recognize, which gives the House Democratic majority some leverage. And it’s not clear that any of the maneuvers would hold up in court…

Snopes, however, adds a qualification:

… the law is only relevant to the extent that is it enforceable. If Republican-dominated legislatures were determined to flout their state laws regarding the designation of electors, and a Republican-controlled Senate were willing to facilitate the scheme, and a conservative judiciary were compliant in upholding the results, then such a plot might indeed succeed.

And if such madness were to reach the Supreme Court, it would encounter three justices who worked directly on the Bush v. Gore case that stole the 2000 election and led directly to the “War on Terror.”

Meanwhile, if the media are the moral gatekeepers of our society, the lawful gatekeeper is the nonpartisan General Services Administration, which is supposed to acknowledge the winner of the election and assist him financially in the transition. Its head, a Trumpus appointee, is refusing to do so.  

Boston, 1976

But really, beyond the obvious moral and social justice issues and all the hard work and money spent, exactly why are people so emotionally moved at the possibility that Trumpus might steal the election? Perhaps the answer lies in the mythology of American innocence and the anthropology of American nationalism. Ever since the end of the Civil War, non-violent, rational, polite, good-natured acknowledgement of the transfer of power has been our quadrennial, ritual expression of our shared sense of national purpose.

At least for good-hearted liberals, who still maintain a naïve belief in the inviolability of our institutions (one of those institutions is education, and we’ll look at that in the next installment), to call the will of the voters into question in this manner is to question our entire identity. In this post-modern world, where ideology and grand narratives of meaning have mostly lost their attraction, just exactly who are we if not Americans, and who are Americans if we aren’t free and equal and if we don’t share our traditional democratic ideals and aspirations? Why, as believers in our national religion – Americanism – do we call ourselves patriots, unlike people in most other countries who use the more appropriate term – nationalists?

In their profoundly important book, Blood Sacrifice and the Nation, Carolyn Marvin and David Ingle write that Presidential elections are “contrived fertility rites of mating between the people and a leader” in which we periodically announce the rebirth of our democratic institutions, those social agreements that remind us of who we are and what makes us different from other people. The very fact of uncertainty “heightens ritual by investing it with consequence.” In this context, the flag

…has a visual power and presence for its believers that is comparable to the medieval crucifix…the sacred object of the religion of patriotism…It represents the sacrificed bodies of its devotees just as the cross, the sacred object of Christianity, represents the body sacrificed to a Christian god…

In Christianity the revivified totem is the risen Christ. In American nationalism the transformed totem is the soldier resurrected in the raised flag. On the basis of his sacrifice the nation is rejuvenated. As the embodiment of sacrifice, the flag has transforming power. Certain acts cannot be performed except in its presence. It must be kept whole and perfect, as holy things are…

…What counts for the survival of the group is what we will do in public on its behalf while congregants bear witness…The sanctity of national symbols is protected by treating them gesturally as sacred, even while we insist in language that they are not. And when the god commands it, we must perform the ritual sacrifice, war, that sustains the group.

I think it will be – a long time from now – an indication that this society has matured when we begin to see fewer national flags and more Earth flags.

Is there a sense of anxiety expressed in our flag display? Here’s one more quote of theirs, on the significance of proper election procedure:

The losing candidate is an immediate sacrifice. The inaugural includes the ritual death of the old king whose willing submission defines democratic procedure.

It’s nearly a week since the networks called the election for Biden. And now it’s been several days since Trumpus cranked up the anxiety levels once again by not only refusing to concede, but by (for his own reasons, of course) pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes (It’s rigged!).

Now it occurs to me that those flags around my neighborhood are not only gestures of celebration. Perhaps they are prayer flags.

Next: Part Fifteen, Democratic Corruption

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Barry’s Blog # 352: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part Thirteen

Part Thirteen – El Dia de los Muertos

Republican Corruption: By claiming that Trumpus is leading in the polls and repeating his claims that he can only lose through foul play, conservative media are setting the stage for potential violence. Trumpus Jr. has called for “every able-bodied man and woman to join Army for Trump’s election security operation.” A private mercenary group, Atlas Aegis, has recruited former soldiers to watch polling places in Minnesota. Police pepper-sprayed Black people at a peaceful rally in North Carolina, literally preventing them from voting. Armed thugs threatened a Biden campaign bus, forcing cancellation of an event in Texas, and Trumpus praised them. Michigan’s Attorney General proclaimed a ban on guns at polling places, but sheriffs and police announced that they would refuse to enforce it. A caravan of Trumpus supporters temporarily blocked people from voting in Southern California. As if they needed any more encouragement, Trumpus bellowed:

That’s why they’re talking about the 25th Amendment, right? Three weeks. Three weeks in, Joe’s shot! Let’s go, Kamala, you ready? Most liberal person in the Senate. She makes Bernie Sanders look like a serious conservative.

Brett Kavanaugh handed down an opinion shamelessly justifying voter suppression and setting a precedent for the Supreme Court to intervene in a disputed election. The Republicans claim to have an army of lawyers on election day who already have over 300 lawsuits underway in 44 states to try to stop the counting of mail-in ballots.

Polling, the good news: Women are trending strongly to the left, contributing to the largest gender gap since they began to vote a hundred years ago. The bad news: Partially due to the Democrats’ incomprehensible refusal to fully value them, Latino men continue to trend more conservative, and Biden’s average lead among Latinos in Florida is 9 points lower than Hillary Clinton’s was at this time four years ago.

Early voting, the good news: 95 million people have already voted, the majority of them Democrats. Over a quarter of them appear to be new or infrequent voters. Blacks and younger people are turning out in higher numbers than in 2016.

The bad news: We have no idea how many of those votes are being rejected. But we do know what Greg Palast has been telling us. Nearly seventeen million Americans – one in twelve of all previously registered voters – have been purged from the voter rolls, and many of them have never been informed of the fact. What we’ll never know is how many people have stood or will stand in line for hours only to be surprised to learn that they will not be allowed to vote:

In total, no less than 5,872,857 ballots were cast and never counted in 2016. In addition, a minimum of 1,982,071 voters were blocked from casting their ballots. That is a total of 7,854,928 votes and voters left uncounted.

According to the US Civil Rights Commission, the chance your vote will be disqualified as “spoiled” is 900 percent more likely if you’re Black than if you’re white. As I’ve been arguing from my series on that election, the only way we’ll be able to gauge the extent of the voter suppression and the computer fraud is to carefully study the discrepancy between the official results and the exit polls.

Exit polls are the State Department’s own “gold standard” used to measure the honesty of – and in several cases – decertify elections in other countries, such as Nicaragua and Uganda. Our own Agency for International Development (a well-known front for the CIA) has stated: “A discrepancy between the aggregated choices reported by voters and the official results may suggest, but not prove, that results have been tampered with.” Indeed.

George W. Bush was never elected President. In 2000, exit polls gave Al Gore the win in Florida. In 2004 they gave John Kerry the win in Ohio, but its Secretary of State had complete control of the electronic voting machines and almost certainly flipped the vote, giving the election to Bush. Do you remember how exit polls showed Kerry with a huge lead that mysteriously evaporated in the evening – after the polls closed? Do you remember how, at almost exactly the same moment, the U.S. refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Ukrainian election – because of the exit polls?

So how, asks Palast, could these professinal statisticians with decades of experience get exit polls so wrong? Answer: they didn’t. The polls in Florida in 2000 were accurate. That’s because exit pollsters can only ask, “How did you vote?” What they don’t ask, and can’t, is, “Was your vote counted?”

Wisconsin, by the way, uses machines that have been banned in California precisely because they are easy to tamper with. Other machines come with special “ballot protection” software to prevent this sort of thing. But in 2004, Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell gave specific instructions to disable that software.

In 2016 exit polls were conducted in 28 states. In 23 of them the discrepancies between the exit polls and the vote count favored Trump. In 13 of them those discrepancies exceeded the margin of error.  

In a week or two, we may have to recall that Edison Research, the company that conducts exit polling for the mainstream media, has admitted that it massages its exit poll data once official vote counts have been released to align the exit poll numbers with the electronic vote totals. Indeed, the whole argument about vote flipping is possible only because researchers have been able to post those exit polls before Edison can change them.

May this not be necessary. May this election be a step back from the precipice of irreversible climate change. May Biden win so early and by such a wide margin – despite the millions of Democratic votes that will not be counted – that neither right-wing mobs, nor right-wing lawyers, nor the Supreme Court can contest the results. And, despite his own history, may he respond to the real needs of suffering people. It could happen, all of it.

If it doesn’t happen, check the exit poll discrepancies where Republicans control the vote counting apparatus. Watch how quickly the Democrats blame their own left wing. Watch how the pollsters blame their mistakes on “hidden Trump voters.” Notice how soon the New York Times recommends that next time, the Democrats should move further to the center. And check your belief in the myth of American innocence.

In the meantime, check how the last-minute, high-rolling gamblers are betting, and what Trumpus’ “liaison for Christian policy,” Pastor Frank Amedia is predicting:

God has heard the prayer of repentance from this nation and God’s people. He told us the other night while we we’re praying, five plus five…‘If we just add 5 percentage points to every state, to every senator, and to the president, and take away five from the opposition, from those who are not pro-life, who are not lined up with the kingdom of God, that’s 10. Ten is the fullness of God, five plus five.

He also predicts that if Biden wins (moo it be so),

Wait until animalism (sic) becomes acceptable and somebody can marry a cow and have perverse sex with them. You think I’m laughing. That’s what’s going to come.

Read Part Fourteen Here.

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Barry’s Blog # 351: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part Twelve

Could you imagine if I lose? I’m not going to feel so good. Maybe I’ll have to leave the country…I could raise more money. I would be the world’s greatest fundraiser, but I just don’t want to do it. – Trumpus, 10/15

Existing emotional instability or psychotic tendencies may be aggravated by corticosteroids. – Warning label for Dexamethasone, Trumpus’ anti-Covid medicine.

Thank you so much for your leadership. – Diane Feinstein to Lindsay Graham, concluding the Amy Coney Barrett hearing.

I am the least racist person in this room. – Trumpus, second debate

Republican Corruption: Trumpus continued to play the old Nazi strategy, accusing his opponents of things that the Republicans themselves are doing or planning to do, especially voter fraud. He mocked Biden for vowing to “listen to the scientists”; accused him of leading an “organized crime family”; demanded his arrest along with that of Obama and the Clintons; called Kamala Harris a “monster”; insulted Dr. Fauci (“a disaster”), reporters (“criminal” and “a radical left Democrat”), CNN (“bastards”) and Michigan governor Gretchen Witmer, refusing to condemn the militia terrorists who had planned to kidnap her.

The Vice-Presidential debate revealed little other than, as wrote, “You can’t have a real debate if one party refuses to follow the rules” – such as actually answering the questions – and moderators can’t or won’t enforce them. It did reveal that Pence – and, soon after, Amy Coney Barrett – like their boss, would not commit to supporting a peaceful transfer of power.

California Republicans installed bogus ballot drop-off boxes and refused to remove them. USPS agents raided the home of a QAnon-supporting postal worker and found a massive amount of undelivered mail. The Postal Service itself still hasn’t reversed its election mail slowdown, despite multiple court orders. Sheldon Adelson, whose company had received $700 million in tax cuts, donated another $75 million to Trumpus.

The Supreme Court: Since Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation was a foregone conclusion, the least the Democratic Senators might have done was ask serious questions that she couldn’t avoid answering, and they didn’t. The broader issue is what a Biden presidency and a Democratic Senate might do to offset the majority of reactionaries on the court. So far, Biden has allowed Trumpus to set the terms, accusing him of planning to “pack the court.” The real issue, however, is that for three decades or more, the Republicans have done exactly that, from the Supreme down through the various levels of federal judgeships. Mitch McConnell blocked over a hundred of Obama’s nominations. This contributed to a long-term situation in which all but six of the 114 justices to sit on the court have been white men. Trumpus has filled 200 judicial vacancies with 85% white and 76% male appointees. Today, nearly 60% of all sitting federal judges are white men.

Early Voting, The Good News: The well-publicized news of Republican voter suppression tactics may cause some people to stay home in despair. But in the short run, these plans appear to have backfired, motivating vast numbers of people to vote early. Over fifty million have endured the long waits to cast their ballots in numbers that dwarf all previous elections, and it appears that the great majority are Democrats. 

The Bad News: No one knows how many people leave without voting because they can’t tolerate the long lines, caused by the fact that Republicans have closed 1,688 polling places in the last six years, primarily in minority neighborhoods. Over five million Americans remain disenfranchised and unable to vote.

In several places, those who remain in line have endured insults and threats not seen since the Jim Crow era. In Memphis, a poll worker was fired for turning away early voters wearing Black Lives Matter shirts. A Miami policeman packed a gun and wore a Trumpus face mask inside a polling place. In primarily Black and Hispanic East Dallas only one in six voting machines were working. In Virginia, Trumpus thugs tried to obstruct people from entering a polling site. This was clearly a dry-run for November 3rd.

Democratic Corruption: Dianne Feinstein praised Lindsay Graham’s leadership of the Barrett hearings, going so far as to hug him. Was this an ironic gesture or just what it looked like – one old conservative acknowledging that she shares 80% of her values with another? Or, more ominously, did her hug reveal Biden’s actual priorities? In September, he had chirped, “I’m not opposed to the justice…She seems like a very fine person.” Perhaps even more ominously, it was reported than Biden was vetting various Republicans for positions in his post-Trumpus cabinet.

The role of the FBI: Trumpus attempted to smear Biden with accusations about his son Hunter in a story with so many holes that even Fox News wouldn’t touch it. FBI Director Wray dismissed it as part of a Russian disinformation campaign. Given the prevalence of fake news, especially around the Russiagate narrative, I certainly don’t know if the allegations are bogus. The point is that here – and by breaking up the kidnapping attempt on Gretchen Wittmer – the FBI is, once again, getting involved in the election. We recall James Comey’s announcement that he was investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails just eleven days before the 2016 election. No one knows what any of this means. Anyone who says they do has their own agenda. But in broader terms, it fuels my own speculation that this election – like every election since at least 1964 – is essentially nothing more than a food fight between various elements within the ruling class. These are people who agree on 95% of foreign policy issues and 75% of domestic issues. These are people who are divided into those who prefer to provoke China and those who prefer to provoke Russia.

Do either of these guys really want to be elected? For Trumpus, see his “Maybe I’ll have to Leave the country” quote. As for Biden, see anything in the “Democratic corruption” section above.

An October Surprise? These things have happened with such regularity over the years that the phrase itself has attained cliché status. Every day now, minor surprises are assaulting us, but the really big one – provoking of a military confrontation with Iran remains a strong possibility. On October 9th Trumpus bellowed to Rush Limbaugh, “If you fuck around with us, if you do something bad to us, we are going to do things to you that have never been done before!”

Some of these October surprises may or may not have swayed earlier elections. But even talking about them can divert our attention from something more profound – the November Surprise of massive computer fraud in each of the 26 states that have Republican Secretaries of State. You may want to review my argument about this in Part One of this series, or in my discussion of the 2016 election. The discrepancies between the official results and the exit polls revealed then the extent of this criminal behavior, and they will next month as well.

Republican Secretaries of State in Red

Hidden Trumpers? Biden signs are everywhere in my city of Oakland, along with countless BLM signs, and zero Trumpus signs. However, Trumpus did receive around 5% of the vote here in 2016. We can assume that very few of them were cast in (primarily Black) West Oakland or in (primarily Brown) East Oakland. So most of those votes came from the more affluent white neighborhoods like mine. If we assume the same 5% this time, then it follows that perhaps a fifth of my neighbors will do so, and that many of them are either afraid or ashamed to advertise their preferences – or to even tell pollsters.

Their votes of course will be meaningless in calculating California’s electoral votes, just as Biden supporters in Mississippi might as well stay home. But this does bring up the question of what social scientists refer to as social desirability bias. And opinions vary. Right-wing sites like this one quote a survey finding that 11.7% of Republicans said they would not report their true opinions on telephone polls, compared to 5.4% of Democrats. 

Unsurprisingly, writers on liberal sites such as Ariel Edwards-Levy argue the opposite:

…researchers spent a lot of time in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential vote looking for evidence of a cadre of “shy Trump voters” big enough to swing an election. Most didn’t come away with much evidence…The most common version of the shy Trump voter theory rests on the idea of social desirability bias ― that a significant bloc of Trump voters was uncomfortable enough about sharing opinions with pollsters to either feign indecision or to lie about their preferences…we know that this isn’t a systematic issue for all polling on Republican candidates…If support for Trump was uniquely stigmatized, you’d expect him to outperform his polls more than other Republican candidates did theirs…Trump outperformed his estimates by an average 1.4 percentage points in 2016, compared with a virtually identical 1.3 points for GOP Senate candidates.

Jonah Goldberg concurs:

A postmortem by the polling industry went looking for significant numbers of SMAGAs and came up empty. If people were afraid to tell the truth to pollsters, there should have been a gap between results from polls conducted by humans and machines. There wasn’t.

Pollsters long ago debated the possibility of a “Bradley effect” in biracial elections, but conclusions are conflicted.

Can hidden Trumpers explain the discrepancies between the exit polls and the official results? Perhaps in Oakland, but not in most national elections for the last twenty years, unless we posit that Republicans have been dishonest with pollsters since long before Trumpus. A web search found little or no mention of “hidden Romney voters”, “hidden McCain voters” or “hidden Bush voters”, yet similar poll discrepancies were reported in all those elections (especially in 2004). And most certainly not in the 2020 Democratic primaries, where (as I showed in Part Three) these same discrepancies appeared between Biden and Sanders in state after state.

Why am I dwelling on this? Because this was the way pollsters explained the discrepancies in 2016, when the Democrats gave a hundred million people no reason to vote for them, and it is the only argument against outright computer fraud, despite anecdotal statements by Democrats who saw their electronic votes switching to republican. (To be fair, Republican voters claimed exactly the opposite.)

After Trumpus’ electoral college victory I asked: Why, despite the polls favoring Clinton, did the vast majority of high-rolling, last-minute gamblers bet on Trump?

Yes, this was reported in the mainstream media, but no one seems to have paid it much attention, except for other gamblers…Did they think that the FBI revelations would sway large numbers of voters? Or did they know that millions of people would not be able to vote – or that their votes would not be counted? We might also ask, as Fitrakis and Wasserman do: “Those who dismiss such warnings as ‘conspiracy theory’ might confront this simple question: ‘How will the electronic vote count in the 2016 election be verified?’ The answer is simple: ‘It can’t be.’

There will most certainly be a November surprise, although it may not be large enough to overcome Biden’s lead, maybe only enough to ensure GOP dominance at local levels. If it does cause Biden to lose, the Dems and the MSM will blame the Left, and they will point to silent Trumpers to explain the inevitable poll discrepancies. Why won’t they bring up computer fraud? Because they do it themselves when they can get away with it. For some deeply insightful – and darkly funny – insight into whom to actually blame, read Lee Camp’s “Top 10 People to Blame if Joe Biden Loses (It’s Not The Left)”.

The polls, as we all know, show Biden with a large lead, and most gamblers agree. Quite a few of them, however, seem to be happy taking the odds. On this site, they’re betting on Trumpus. What do they know that we don’t?

I can’t end on such a sour note, so here’s Rebecca Solnit on the difference between optimism and hope:

The tricky thing about hope is to not confuse it with optimism. Optimism is confidence that you know the future and it requires nothing of you. It’s a mirror image of pessimism, which likewise assumes it knows the future, only pessimism’s future is dismal and not up to us either. Hope is a sense of possibility within the uncertainty of a future that does not yet exist, but that we are making by our actions…I’ve modified the slogan, hope for the best, prepare for the worst to: Hope and work for the best (and also be prepared to wrestle with the worst if it arises). You have to believe in the worst to diminish its chances of coming to pass. Maybe this time around we believe it because to some degree we’ve lived it.

Read Part Thirteen Here.

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Barry’s Blog # 355: Breathing Together, Part Eight of Eight


…he is constantly being squeezed between the world and his idea of the world. Better to have a broken head – why surrender his corner on the truth? Better just to go crazy. – Stephen Dobyns

All things depend on each other. Everything breathes together. – Plotinus

When we encounter betrayal or disillusionment and refuse the opportunity for soul work, we can easily leap from devotion to disgust, as our love-hate relationship with celebrities reveals. But then we are likely to search for a new devotion. It’s been said that there are no more virulent anti-communists than former leftists (Lyndon LaRouche and David Horowitz come to mind), or more vocal anti-Catholics than former Catholics. And if another ideology doesn’t fill the void, substance abuse can be an overwhelming attraction, as in the story I posted above.

If we pay attention – if we can discriminate – we may see that life always presents the need and the opportunity to reframe our obsessions. How do we do that? By looking past the literal to the symbolic. If we survive the era of Trumpus, we may well discover a new meta-narrative. Perhaps it will have something to do with the return of the Goddess, or the Whole Earth, as I speculate in Chapter 12 of my book. But any new story can quickly become yet another belief system.

As we accelerate the return from monotheistic back to pagan thinking, we may discover something entirely different. Rather than connecting the dots to justify our helplessness in a grand narrative of control, we may well begin to pursue mini-narratives in the form of questions, such as: What have I been called to do? What gift must I manifest, without which the world would be less for? What god or goddess did I come here to serve? What is my responsibility to the other world, and to those who come after me?

The year 2020 began with a virus that attacks our ability to breathe and progressed with a grisly murder in which a policeman prevented a Black man from breathing. In California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Colorado, massive forest fires have made it a year in which we all have to struggle to take a healthy breath. We can only breathe together in virtual spaces.

Cultural survival may require us to cook the word “conspire” down to its essence – to breathe together – and then reframe it further, into the Hawaiian ritual of “Ha.” This is a mutual greeting that recognizes and welcomes the Other. Two persons press the bridges of their noses together, inhale and exchange the breath of life. To ancient Hawaiians the breath was the key to good health and possessed mana (spiritual power). On their deathbeds, elders often passed down wisdom to their chosen successors with this ritual. May we all aspire to creating the kind of society that inspires our children rather than condemning them to more of the same.

And we can also reframe the idea of gatekeeper, from one who figuratively stands at the entrance – the threshold – to the world of acceptable discourse, charged with the responsibility of maintaining its borders and deciding who is pure enough to be admitted. In many indigenous societies some people straddle two worlds and mediate between them. Such people, comfortable in liminality, serve the community by guiding people in transition from one state to another. Many Native Americans use the term “two-spirit” to describe persons of unconventional sexual or gender orientation, while in West Africa words describing them actually translate as “gatekeeper.” Sobonfu Somé explains:

Without gatekeepers, there is no access to other worlds…They are mediators between the two genders…There are many gates that link a village to other worlds. The only people who have access to all these gates are the gatekeepers…They have one foot in all the other worlds and other foot here…Without them, the gates to the other world would be shut. On the other side of these gates lies the spirit world…Gatekeepers are in constant communication with beings who live there, who have the ability to teach us how to deal with ritual…Gatekeeping is part of one’s life purpose, announced before birth and developed through rigorous initiatory training to ensure that its power is not misused.

So let’s imagine a culture that invites a return to a ritual relationship with the Earth, with ancestors, with Spirit, with strangers; a culture that perceives the Other not as a threat but as one who arrives bearing gifts; a culture that respects the wisdom of the past but also welcomes the young and those on the margins. Imagine some people being called from birth – from before birth – to heal the divide between worlds so as to welcome the potential of each person, including the potential to re-imagine the world, rather than to exclude those who question inherited Truths. Let’s imagine a world not dominated by the Western, crusading, monotheistic urge to enforce those Truths on others, but one that appreciates these insights from the far East:

Since everything is but an apparition,

Perfect in being what it is, having nothing

to do with good or bad, acceptance or rejection,

One may well burst out in laughter.  – Long Chen Pa

If you love the sacred and despise the ordinary,

You are still bobbing on the ocean of delusion.  – Lin-Chi

Leave your front door and your back door open.

Allow your thoughts to come and go.

Just don’t serve them tea. – Shunryu Suzuki

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Barry’s Blog # 354: Breathing Together, Part Seven of Eight

Responding to New Age Conspiracists

Who is he, who even were truth on his tongue, his way of speaking it would make truth almost as offensive as falsehood? –  Herman Melville

A fanatic is someone who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject. – Winston Churchill

In America the legacy of violent crusading is channeled through our unique emphasis on individualism, and, I would add, our narcissism: What is true for me, what saved my soul, is necessarily true for you as well, and it would save your soul as well. You should believe what I believe. This is the potent, underlying assumption of all religious proselytizers, because it serves to cover up their own ambivalence and anxiety. In other words, if they can convince you to accept Jesus (or Q), their own beliefs are validated.

Remembering Hillman: we are all psychologically Christian. This also explains the rigidity behind some of our secular disputes. The examples in middle class consumer culture are endless: clothing styles, therapy or exercise styles, doctors or healing modalities – and especially diet. What helped me with my problem would help you with your problem. Am I exaggerating? Consider your last Thanksgiving dinner conversation with a vegan relative you hadn’t seen in years, or if you prefer, an advocate of the paleo diet. When believers suggest — a little too often — that you would be better off converting to their way of thinking, this is a form of fanaticism. And it can only exist in a monotheistic universe where we assume only one correct way to be, and taken to its logical conclusion, it becomes jihad, or crusade. Ironically, fanatic derives from fanum (“temple, shrine, consecrated place”).

I’ve been suggesting that critical thinking, or discrimination is the key. Not in the monotheistic sense that divides the chosen from the fallen, but discrimination in the Buddhist sense of clear comprehension of reality. So I’ve devised a somewhat poetic response to discrimination-challenged NACs:

1 – Admit that we are all gatekeepers. In 2005, Stephen Colbert coined the word “truthiness.” He said, “We’re not talking about the truth; we’re talking about something that seems like truth — the truth we want to exist.” No matter how far out on the margins anyone is, there is always someone further out, and we each determine where the boundaries are. Behind the justifiable but still monotheistic hunger for Truth, we find a deeper but smaller truth, the Pagan wisdom that there is no Truth, only various truths. Or, as the great physicist Niels Bohr said: “The opposite of a correct statement is a falsehood, but the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”

2 – Believe nothing; entertain possibilities. Thanks to Caroline Casey for this insight. We are talking about stories that could be true, or not. Like all myths, they are stories we tell about other people but which in fact – always – are about ourselves. We project the stories we need to hear about ourselves onto celebrities (our substitutes for the pagan gods), or upon the shadow of celebrity, those who will not reveal their identities, or those who claim to have knowledge of the shadows. Only in our demythologized age, when myths no longer serve the deep needs of the soul, do stories about truth become concretized, literalized into affirmations of belief. Indigenous people who are still held in living mythologies and rituals understand that stories are meant to provoke increasingly deeper questions, to drop us into the work of the soul, not to provide simplistic answers. “That is how he grows,” says Rilke, “by being defeated, decisively, by constantly greater beings.” Stories are meant to entertain us. As I write in Chapter Ten:

Our primary leisure activity is entertainment, being passively entertained. Certainly, we deserve relaxation and restoration. But why does it seem so unrewarding; and despite this, why do we constantly repeat the experience, as if something might change and our longing be fulfilled?

Entertain means “to hold together.” But what does “together” refer to, subject or object? Two or more subjects can hold something in common. Or, one subject could hold two or more objects. Finally, a community, several subjects, could hold mutually exclusive concepts – the tension of the opposites – in a ritual container such as tragic drama, and suffer together. I suggest that the original meaning of entertainment was ritual renewal of the community though shared suffering. (Ancient) Athenian audiences did exactly that; viewing the clash of unbearable contradictions, they held that tension and wept together. They emerged spent but renewed, purged of their anxieties for a while.

3 – Follow the money. In searching for truths in America one’s first question must always be Cui bono?Who profits? Other ways to frame it would be: Does this theory come from the bottom up or from the top down? Whom does it serve? Does it merely appear to come from the bottom up? If you are getting your political information from “wellness influencers” are they also selling stuff on their websites?

Anchoring ourselves in this perspective, we automatically align ourselves with the masses of suffering humanity. Then it becomes easy to see that behind most so-called “populist” movements of the Right are some very wealthy people. Quite simply, there would be no Tea Party – and hence, no Trumpus presidency or QAnon – without the massive infusions of money provided by the Koch brothers and other billionaires.

To take their bait, once such sponsors are revealed, and still accept the proposition that the mega-rich have anything in common with these people besides their racism is to lack any discrimination. But to accept the challenge to discriminate, it becomes possible to realize that the only Deep State that Trumpus is trying to destroy are agencies that regulate his friends’ businesses.

4 – Judge a tree by its fruit. Even if at this late date you still harbor notions that Trumpus is out to destroy the Deep State, just consider the scoundrels he has always surrounded himself with, from his original mentor Roy Cohn to New York and Russian mobsters to the corrupt bankers and anti-regulators dedicated to serving Big Business. For a while, David Icke’s website featured a banner reading, “President Trump needs your help. Sign the petition to build the wall!”

To judge what the tree really thinks, look at what other trees think of it. During the 2018 Florida Gubernatorial campaign, the Republican Ron DeSantis made outrageous public statements but denied their obvious racist nature in debates with the Democrat Andrew Gillum, who countered with:

…he’s got neo-Nazis helping him out in the state. He has spoken at racist conferences…I’m not calling Mr. Desantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.

Similarly, it doesn’t matter if Icke purports to hold certain progressive views; anti-Semites love him, and that’s all we ought to know.

5 – Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Just as there is no overarching, grand Truth, no one is perfect except for the archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, and this is the source of the cult of celebrity which so characterizes our age.

So we can’t expect our purveyors of information to precisely share our versions of reality. At the same time, a certain general consistency in philosophy ought to produce general consistency in specific views. Consider Rand Paul, who occasionally criticizes America’s imperial wars from the libertarian perspective, but who would also ban all abortions. Can someone favor banning a woman’s freedom of choice – choice! – and still claim that they love freedom? Or is that freedom simply freedom from taxes? It’s all about discrimination.

Of course, elements within the Bush administration had prior knowledge of the 9-11 attacks, but that doesn’t mean that they take their orders from Reptile people. The fact that Alex Jones questions the official narrative – or that he gives Dr. Andrew Wakefield airtime opportunities to respond to his “debunkers” is no reason to believe other claims of his (Film of the Moon landings were faked! Democrats and Communists plot “white genocide” attacks!) Jones’ major product, like that of all right-wing conspiracy theorists from the early Puritans to Tucker Carlson, is fear. And his major cures range from scapegoating Black people to nutritional supplements and gold investments (follow that money again).

6 – People do cruel things because they are cruel, sick – and, ultimately, traumatized – people, not as representatives of racial or ethnic groups. Life is hard because rich people want to be even richer, and they don’t care about you. All mass shooters act on their own, even if the vast majority of them are white males with similar, right-wing views. This was true long before QAnon, and it’s true now. And it’s all about white privilege.

At this point, my good-hearted friend will ask, “What about George Soros?” His name is often at the center of the connect-the-dots charts, which emphasize his Jewish identity first and his billionaire status second. My friend has probably never heard of Jewish right-wing billionaires such as Paul Singer, Bernard Marcus or Sheldon Adelson, who just gave Trumpus another $75 million. Nor does he realize that the Soros narrative – and the huge uptick in worldwide anti-Semitism associated with it – was created by two long-time Republican (and, yes, Jewish) dirty tricksters, who ironically were also advisors to Benjamin Netanyahu. You can’t make this stuff up.

7 – The Lyndon Johnson trick in reverse, as told by Hunter S. Thompson:

…(in) one of Lyndon Johnson’s early campaigns in Texas. The race was close and Johnson was getting worried. Finally he told his campaign manager to start a massive rumor campaign about his opponent’s life-long habit of enjoying carnal knowledge of his own barnyard sows. “Christ, we can’t get away calling him a pig-fucker,” the campaign manager protested. “Nobody’s going to believe a thing like that.” “I know,” Johnson replied.  “But let’s make the sonofabitch deny it.”

In reversing this tale, we recall the line from Hamlet: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Do actual non-racists ever have to deny accusations that they are racists.

Trumpus: “I’m the least racist person anybody is going to meet.”

Icke: “I’m one of the least racist people on Earth…”

To be fair, we should note that Icke, unlike Trumpus, has consistently pointed out that he is an anti-Zionist. And this issue drops us back into the false equivalency muck, where Republicans – and, sadly, most elected Democrats – accuse even pacifist critics of Israel of being anti-Semitic and continue to demonize the BDS movement. So, referring back to Andrew Gillum’s statement (“I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist”), we can only ask whether admitted racists consider Icke an ally. In this sense, his own beliefs are irrelevant. And would an articulate anti-Zionist ever have anything whatsoever in common with such a pro-Israeli imperialist as Trumpus?

The only thing that broken clocks have in common with each other are their brokenness.

8 – It’s not my circus, not my monkey. We have to ask ourselves: Do I really need to spend any more time obsessing with this stuff? Is it doing me, my loved ones or the world any good at all? Why am I concerned with global (or inter-galactic) issues over which, admittedly, I have no control, when I could actually have some influence in local issues? And: why would these groups be going to such elaborate and expensive lengths to control the world when to a very great extent, they (as corporate monoliths) already do?

As Jeremy Lent writes, there are in fact corporate conspiracies that we don’t need to explain by reference to reptile people. And the most critical of them all is the heavily funded refusal to acknowledge the threat of climate change and the very real possibility of extinction.

Discriminate! Yes, 5G may be dangerous, because no cellular transmission technologies have been adequately tested – not because evil scientists created it to enhance the coronavirus and justify a one-world government. When you feel that sense of certainty coming on, take a breath.

Certainty is a rigidly mythic position, and opposites are surprisingly similar. To leap from one certainty to another skips the holy ground of uncertainty, of not knowing, of humility, into which genuinely new information can come. What unites the pundits of all persuasions is their certainty. This is not to patronize but to challenge those who cleave to meta-narratives that clearly no longer serve them. In the 20th century we have seen plenty of evidence that those who have done so often reached the depths of profound disillusionment, as in this true story. In archetypal terms, Hillman referred to this experience as betrayal, and he saw it as a prelude to soul-work. Or, as Rumi says:

When school or mosque, tower or minaret get torn down,

Then dervishes may begin their community.

Only when faithfulness turns to betrayal and betrayal into trust

Can any human being become part of the truth.

But betrayal and disillusionment do not necessarily lead to increased self-awareness. Too often, popular culture offers us another attractive meta-narrative or ideology to fill the void. However, at any moment – and New Age people ought to understand this – we can actually choose to disengage ourselves from belief systems and courageously ground ourselves in this post-modern, very uncertain world. Then we can “believe nothing – entertain possibilities.”

Read the conclusion, Part Eight here.

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Barry’s Blog # 353: Breathing Together, Part Six of Eight

Why Are Americans So Obsessed with Pedophilia?

It is well that war is so terrible. We would grow too fond of it. – Robert E. Lee

You can’t stop me. I spend 30,000 men a month. – Napoleon

I would rather have a dead son than a disobedient one. – Martin Luther

Anybody who tells you that he has some way of leading you to spiritual enlightenment is like somebody who picks your pocket and sells you your own watch. – Alan Watts

We need to address this question from four perspectives:

1 – Psychology

It is certainly possible that some NACs who may be high on empathy and low on boundaries, especially women, are abuse survivors themselves, and that the highly publicized pedophilia within the Catholic Church has triggered old memories of trauma for thousands of people. However, outside the safe, ritual container of therapy, the urge to reveal the truth may be overcome by denial and projection. Psychologist David Bakan writes, “Some things are simply too terrible to think about if one believes them. Thus one does not believe them in order to make it possible to think about them.”

These ego defenses also make it possible to ignore their loyal support of Trumpus, a man who brags about abusing women. Another ego defense – idealization – is the way we keep the secret that our entire culture is built upon the symbolic sacrifice of our children, a theme I’ll return to below.

2 – History and sociology

Conspiracies centering on the vulnerability of children are neither new nor distinctly American. Wild claims of Jews killing Christian children and using their blood in rituals – the “blood libel” – date back to at least the 12th century, and long before that the Roman authorities accused Christians themselves of performing similar rites. So we certainly ought to ask why child-abuse paranoia explodes into public consciousness at certain moments?

The Jewish Blood Libel

In the 1980s the McMartin preschool accusations, with their similarities to last year’s “Pizzagate” narrative, provoked a national spectacle during which scores of people were accused – wrongly, it turned out – of sex crimes against children. The continuities between these two cases suggest a broader explanation for pedophile conspiracies: they’re an outgrowth of reactionary politics.

Richard Beck locates the roots of the McMartin conspiracy theory in the social progress of the previous decade, particularly – and ironically – in the gains won by women. Ali Breland writes that the idea of day care has always held a prominent place in right-wing demonology, that it was a communist plot to destroy the traditional family:

In 1971, President Richard Nixon vetoed the Comprehensive Child Development Act, which would’ve established a national day-care system…By the time Judy Johnson came forward in 1983 with allegations that a teacher at the McMartin preschool had molested her child, the country had been primed to assume the worst by more than a decade of child-care fearmongering.

It wasn’t just the movement of women into the workplace that created the conditions for a reactionary panic. There were other cultural forces at work. The anti-rape campaign of the 1970s, historian Philip Jenkins writes in Moral Panic, had “formulated the concepts and vocabulary that would become integral to child-protection ideology,” in particular a “refusal to disbelieve” victims. The repressed-­memory movement of that era had created a therapeutic consensus surrounding kids’ claims of molestation: “Be willing to believe the unbelievable,” as the self-help book The Courage to Heal put it…And the anti-cult movement of the late 1970s had raised the specter of satanic cabals engaging in human sacrifice and other sinister behavior…

If women’s entry into the workplace in the latter half of the 20th century triggered deep anxieties about the decay of traditional gender roles and the family unit, in the 21st century it was same-sex marriage, growing acceptance of transgender rights, and the seeming cultural hegemony of a social justice agenda.

The new accusations have shifted from individual, male preschool teachers to an entire class of liberals and globalists, many of whom (Epstein, Soros, Dershowitz, Weinstein) are Jews. Chip Berlet writes: “In all Western culture, you can argue that all conspiracy theories, no matter how diverse, come from the idea of the Jews abducting children.” 

But QAnon has added a new and more secular factor, as Amanda Marcotte writes:

Evangelical Christianity played the same role for conservatives in the pre-Trump years, letting them feel holy and moral despite openly backing politicians who promoted immoral policies. But it came with a bunch of downsides, like being made to feel guilty for premarital sex, divorce or even (as Falwell Jr. found out) drinking and partying. With QAnon, you get to sleep in on Sunday and have all the sex you like, without giving up that pious assertion of moral superiority or the presumption of secret knowledge. 

Again, we can’t help but notice the unmistakable smell of money – and the con man, as Eddie Kim writes:

…“Save Our Children Initiative” is fighting to “end sex trafficking” by…asking for sponsorships and selling a $35 T-shirt…revenue from the shirts will go to an unspecified “charitable organization” that is “supporting funding towards increasing the survivors [sic].”…the founders don’t appear to have any experience in child advocacy work; one is a Trump-supporting fitness and lifestyle influencer, while the other runs a custom apparel-printing shop…

My essay “The Con Man” traces the intersections of religion, capitalism, consumerism and the unique confluence of optimism and naivete in the American psyche: “No con man can succeed without a ‘mark,’ however, and this is where American myth re-enters the conversation.” The source of any con man’s power to trick us comes from our own willingness to be tricked. /

3 – Politics and Morality

Many of the Q supporters obsessed with pedophilia have undoubtedly emerged from the same evangelical ranks that have crusaded for decades against abortion rights while simultaneously voting against programs intended to care for poor children (who, in public perception, are often perceived as brown or black). This privileged, even willful ignorance allows them to resolve the cognitive dissonance that arises from the conflict between the legitimate desire to lessen suffering on the one hand, and outright racism on the other.

Beyond their own dissonance, their concerns about child abuse and trafficking are a deep insult to Black people, whose ancestors really were raped and trafficked in the hundreds of thousands; to Native Americans, whose ancestors were stolen in the thousands as children and confined to prisons, otherwise known as “boarding schools;” to contemporary Native American women (at least 5,600 of whom the FBI listed as “disappeared” last year); to Japanese Americans, whose ancestors were sent as children to concentration camps, otherwise known as “relocation camps;” and to the thousands of Latinx children currently held in cages by ICE and the Border Patrol because their parents illegally entered the U.S. looking for work or legally applying for asylum.

Ironically, the Q-inspired paranoia has motivated so many good-hearted people to become active that they actually get in the way of activists who fight the real problem by clogging up phone lines, confusing their fundraising efforts, and interfering with social media campaigns. 

4 – Mythology

History reflects mythology. The misplaced concern about pedophilia rests upon and has re-energized an immensely old story in which boys are groomed by their elders to offer up their bodies in the great ritual sacrifice of war. Here are two essays of mine that refer to it: Redeeming the World and The Hero Must Die.

The myth of the killing of the children is our culture’s most fundamental mythic narrative, as I describe in Chapter Six. We idealize the family as the ultimate “safe container.” Yet we experience the breakdown of myth and the loss of initiation rituals most directly in the crimes and betrayals that adults inflict upon children. Myth suggests that it has always been this way – or at least since the triumph of patriarchy.

Child sacrifice is a common Old Testament theme. Jehovah accused the Israelites: “… you slaughtered my children and presented them as offerings!” Like the pagans, they “shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the altars of Canaan…”

Most significantly, Abraham – father of Judeo-Christian-Moslem monotheism – prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac to prove his loyalty to God. Bruce Chilton writes, “Different versions of Genesis 22 circulated in an immensely varied tradition called the Aqedah or ‘Binding’ of Isaac in Rabbinic sources and – with key changes – in both Christian and Islamic texts.”

From our point of view, it doesn’t matter that Jehovah stopped the sacrifice, only that Abraham was willing. Indeed, in some later versions of the myth, Isaac was indeed killed, and he came to embody the only sacrifice acceptable to God. Generally, however, the patriarchs couldn’t openly admit that they were capable of such barbarism, so they projected child sacrifice onto the gods – such as Moloch – of other people.


In the Christian version, this same God confirmed the centrality of this most fundamental theme of Western culture when he abandoned his only son. When the crucified Jesus asked, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” he was quoting the ancient Psalm 22, which acknowledged centuries of abuse, betrayal and the profound depression – or unquenchable desire for vengeance – that results. Whether Hebrew or Greek, patriarchs feared rivals among their subjects or children, pursued the most terrible of initiations and slaughtered the innocent, while the survivors became killers themselves.

These stories are absolutely central to Western consciousness. They describe basic father-son relationships and indicate how long it has been since initiation rituals broke down. Once, the fathers used to kill the sons symbolically so that they might grow into authentic men. For at least three millennia, however, the patriarchs have conducted pseudo-initiations, feeding their sons into the infinite maw of literalized violence. Indeed, it was their great genius – and primordial crime – to extend child- sacrifice from the family to the state. Boys eventually were forced to participate in the sacrifice. No longer surrendering to symbolic death, they learned to, in a sense, overcome death by inflicting it on others.

Ultimately, sacrifice – dying for the cause – became as important as physical survival. Martyrdom became an ethical virtue that every believer must be prepared to emulate. Chilton writes:

Uniquely among the religions of the world, the three that center on Abraham have made the willingness to offer the lives of children – an action they all symbolize with versions of the Aqedah – a central virtue for the faithful as a whole.

When the state replaces the fathers, boys must become patriots (Latin: pater, father) to become men. Those who most excel in this madness become sociopathic killers and mentors to future generations. Such fathers feel pride, but they also fear the possibility of being overthrown. Thus their initiations always contain both a threat and a deal: You will sacrifice your emotions and relational capacity, submit to our authority in all matters and become our mirror image. In exchange you may physically and sexually dominate your women, your children — and the Earth — as we abuse you.

Yet don’t we idealize our children? Parents commonly deny their own needs so that the children might have a better future, and government demonizes and punishes those suspected of harming them. We go to war so the children may be free. The deeper truth is that we love children because the archetypal child symbolizes rebirth, transformation and innocence. Christ said that to enter the kingdom one must be as innocent as those whose minds and bodies are still undivided by civilization.

The image of the child personifies the lost unity all adults long for. However, to recover that unity requires long and painful work, as D. H. Lawrence knew:

I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self,
and the wounds to the soul take a long, long time, only time can help
and patience, and a certain difficult repentance.

So the image of the child evokes something else: the suffering to be endured on the road back to wholeness, and the grief over what we have lost. Consequently, many adults are compelled to destroy that image, to remove it from consciousness and replace it with idealization. Why else would we emphasize family values and threats to “the children” while destroying social programs that keep families together, or punish children simply because their parents are poor? This can only happen in a society that is deeply ambivalent about its own children.

Lloyd de Mause begins his survey of the vast literature on European child-raising: “The history of childhood is a nightmare from which we have only recently begun to awake.” Christians long believed that children were inherently perverse: “The new-born babe is full of the stains and pollution of sin, which it inherits from our first parents through our loins.” They required extreme discipline and early baptism, which used to include actual exorcism of the Devil. Initiation rites became literalized in child abuse, with customs ranging from tight swaddling and steel collars to foot binding, genital circumcision and rape.

There is considerable evidence of the literal killing of both illegitimate children (at least as late as the 19th century) and legitimate ones, especially girls, in Europe. As a result, there was a large imbalance of males over females well into the Middle Ages. By the sixteenth century, the new religious dogma of Calvinism flowed seamlessly into the older myth of the killing of the children. Now, the patriarchs had a perfect excuse for their culture-wide abuse of their children: children deserved it, because they were bad by nature.

Physical and sexual abuse was so common that most children born prior to the 18th century were what would today be termed “battered children.” However, the medical syndrome itself didn’t arise among doctors until 1962, when regular use of x-rays revealed widespread multiple fractures in the limbs of small children who were too young to complain verbally.

What kind of men do these patterns traditionally produce? De Mause argues that war and genocide do “…not occur in the absence of widespread early abuse and neglect,” that nations with abusive and punitive childrearing practices emphasize military solutions and state violence in resolving social conflicts. Or they produce other men who, in reaction to this legacy, live lives of quiet, unsatisfied desperation and conformism, disconnected from their natural gifts and callings.

What kind of women do these patterns traditionally produce until very recently? Lives lived in fear of their fathers, husbands and all adult men, repressed ambivalence toward their sons and grief for their daughters; lives of constrained possibilities and impossible dreams of sovereignty.

“Americans,” writes James Hillman, “love the idea of childhood no matter how brutal or vacuous their actual childhoods may have been.” Finally, we idealize childhood because our actual childhood did not serve its purpose, which was to provide a container of welcome into the world that would be the necessary precursor for initiation into mature adulthood. Without such preparation, we assume that alienation is the true nature of maturity.

And if humans have no true animating spark, neither does the natural world. So generation after generation of young men are socialized to project their own need for rebirth onto the world and set out to literally destroy it. This is how Patriarchy perpetuates itself. In each generation, millions of abused children identify with their adult oppressors and become violent perpetrators themselves. In a demythologized world, they have no choice but to act out the myths of the killing of the children on a massive scale, or to glorify those who do.

Can it be any wonder that we are periodically unable to keep ourselves from displacing our rage – and our complicity – of this ancient condition onto some convenient scapegoat, in hopes that he might take our sins way with him into the wilderness?

Read Part Seven here.

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Barry’s Blog # 352: Breathing Together, Part Five of Eight

Part Five: Save the Children!

I see it (the New Age movement) fundamentally shaped by an impulse to the irrational…it seems to lack any critical evaluation of itself. – Terence McKenna 

The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight. – Joseph Campbell

In March of 2020, a book with no stated author – QAnon: An Invitation to the Great Awakening – entered the list of the top 75 of all books recently sold on Amazon. It alleged that Hollywood celebrities and top Democrats rape, torture and murder large numbers of children, often to drain “adrenochrome,” a substance that allegedly keeps them alive.

In August NBC described a group that had formed in July:

“Freedom for the Children” has organized more than 60 rallies in 26 states and Canada…local media coverage of the events has been widespread and credulous, almost never mentioning the events’ QAnon connections. Indeed, many of the signs seen at rallies ask why the media is reporting on COVID-19 or Black Lives Matter protests instead of “the real pandemic” of missing children.

Most of the organizers and attendees appear to be women. Annie Kelly, who studies digital extremism, notes:

…there’s something about QAnon that makes it stand out in the world of Trump-adjacent online groups: Its ranks are populated by a noticeably high percentage of women. Many of the congressional candidates who have voiced their support for QAnon are women…Even more alarming are the believers who have demonstrated their willingness to hurt people…Plenty of far-right conspiracy theorists, such as the neo-Nazi believers in “white genocide,” make similar claims about defending children but cannot point to such gender diversity across their ranks. So what is going on?

…At the heart of QAnon lies an undeniably frightening ethos that demands harsh punishment, even execution, for its ever-growing list of political enemies. History teaches us that sex panics do not end well for society’s most vulnerable minorities…(Rejecting QAnon) becomes more personally and politically difficult if the theory’s adherents look less like our traditional conception of fascists and more like ordinary concerned mothers taking a stand for child sex abuse victims.

Kaitlyn Tiffany (“The Women Making Conspiracy Theories Beautiful”) claims that Instagram is a major site of misinformation:

Instagram—more than any other major social platform—shows each of its users exactly what they want to see. It’s a habitual, ritualistic space where people (like me) go for examples of how to be happy and well liked…Time spent there is reciprocal, a never-ending exchange of sweet words and the heart icons that are the only possible way to instantly respond to a piece of content on the platform. Instagram is women’s work, as it demands skills they’ve historically been compelled to excel at: presenting as lovely, presenting as desirable, presenting as good, safe, nonthreatening. All of which, of course, are valuable appearances for a dangerous conspiracy theory to have.

She quotes Becca Lewis, who studies online political subcultures,

It’s a huge misconception that disinformation and conspiracy theorizing happens only in fringe spaces, or dark corners of the internet…much of this content is being disseminated by super popular accounts with absolutely mainstream aesthetics.

White-supremacist internet personalities use similar tactics. Their Instagram accounts may be completely free of extremist rhetoric and dedicated instead to dreamy engagement photos and romantic vacations. Then they draw followers to YouTube, where they tell how they’d come to believe in various white-nationalist, far-right causes, and conspiracy theories.

If you’re able to make this covetable, beautiful aesthetic and then attach these conspiracy theories to it, that normalizes the conspiracy theories in a very specific way that Instagram is particularly good for…Of course, it’s hard to say what’s orchestrated and what’s genuine on Instagram. But the effect is the same…

With the election approaching, this business is happening in real time, and much may already be outdated by the time I post it.

By August 2020, the major social media platforms realized the nature of this particular con and limited the reach of most Q-derived sites (along, we note, with many legitimate progressive sites). Quickly, Q leaders urged their followers to drop the “QAnon” label and instead publicize their crusade against the secret cabal of baby-eating politicians.

The anonymous Q account…wrote an uncharacteristically unambiguous message to adherents last week: “Deploy camouflage. Drop all references re: ‘Q’ ‘Qanon’ etc. to avoid ban/termination…_censorship install. Algos [sniffers] bypass.”

Some high-profile QAnon influencers with hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers took down their accounts and scrubbed any mentions of QAnon to avoid the ban. Other accounts were able to amplify and co-opt #SaveOurChildren and its related language by creating a large and unprecedented flurry of posts and activity. “This is not about pedophilia,” said Whitney Phillips, co-author of the book, You Are Here: A Field Guide for Navigating Polarized Speech, Conspiracy Theories and Our Polluted Media Landscape. “This is not about child protection. This is about a conspiracy theory that’s trying to couch itself in other terms to get more people involved and sympathetic…”

By September, because it takes a con-man to know a con, Trumpus’ own people quickly got into the act, announcing that the federal government would award over $100 million in grants to target human trafficking. The problem is real, of course, but the announcement was clearly pure politics. However, in an ironic twist on the concern for the children, some Q followers are endangering actual children. Will Sommer writes:

Police and court records have lately revealed a…clandestine network comprising QAnon conspiracy theorists, fringe legal figures…and even Republican politicians…This network has allegedly encouraged and inspired other QAnon believers, especially parents, to commit crimes, including kidnapping…often by targeting parents who have lost custody of their children or fear they will.

Timothy Holmseth’s profile grew this spring, when he became the leading “source” for viral claims that tens of thousands of abused “mole children” had been rescued from underground prisons underneath New York City…While on the run, Holmseth recorded a video urging his fans to shoot child protective services staffers who come to their homes…postulating that Child Protective Services are abducting children for sex-crime networks raises the risks for agency workers, the families, and the children involved in the cases.

Q-sponsored pedophilia obsession is a massive con, fabricated by right-wingers to manipulate large numbers of people, a majority of them female followers of New Age wellness influencers. On the other hand, the Jeffrey Epstein story reminds us that child sexual abuse certainly does occur among the powerful.

But the deeply emotional obsession with it reveals projection and or displacement on many levels. So we can’t stop here. We need to look into the historical/sociological, psychological, political and ultimately the mythological factors that make so many Americans uniquely susceptible to these machinations.

Read Part Six here.

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Barry’s Blog # 350: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part Eleven

I have never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure. – Mark Twain.

The period from mid-September through the first week of October were bookended by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and Trumpus’ illness.

Republican Corruption: The release of Trumpus’ taxes revealed years of no payments at all, income from undeclared foreign sources, massive debts to unknown creditors, gargantuan conflict-of-interest problems when they come due soon, and the likelihood of outright fraud. It was revealed that he had described war veterans as “suckers and losers” and that his 2016 campaign had identified 3.5 million Black Americans as voters they wanted to suppress through Facebook logarithms.

Republican plans to wreck the election continued quite openly. Trumpus hinted at his plans to use phony claims about “fraud” as cover to keep election officials from counting all the ballots after Election Day and repeatedly refused to promise that he’d step down peacefully if he lost. Right wing operatives were everywhere in the swing states, openly attempting to restrict the vote. A judge struck down their plan to allow only 1 ballot box in each Ohio county. But Governor Greg Abbot simply avoided the courts entirely and effectively handed Texas over to Trumpus by ordering all Texas counties to do exactly that. Harris County (population: 4 million, including Houston) will have exactly one drop-off box.

A pro-Trumpus militant Group has allegedly recruited thousands of police, soldiers and assorted thugs to monitor and harass voters in Black and Latinx neighborhoods. Even the FBI – certainly no friend to people of color – is now preparing for a “violent extremist threat” posed by anti-government militia whose members have advocated for a “race war.”

But why are Trumpus and Barr being so open – almost bragging – about their plans to steal the election? The answer, like their plans, is right in front of us. Polls indicate that Democrats are less likely to vote if they believe Trump will steal the election, something Republicans are banking on. Those voters are most assuredly people of color, who understand the long tradition of American white mob violence quite well, writes John Feffer:

Whether it was the displacement and massacre of Native Americans, the horrors that slaveowners inflicted on African Americans, the wave of lynching that followed Reconstruction, the bloodletting of Red Summer around World War I, the murders conducted by the Ku Klux Klan and other extremist organizations, or even everyday resistance to federal policies like school desegregation, gangs of Americans have repeatedly taken the law into their own hands on behalf of white supremacy.

This puts the Dems in a tight spot. While it is absolutely vital to raise the alarm, amplifying Trumpus’ promise to sow chaos serves his goal of suppressing Democratic turnout. So, as these bastards learned over many generations in the South (although they were Democrats then), the threat of voter suppression is itself a form of voter suppression.

Liberals were shocked. His base, if they noticed at all, approved.

Ginsburg’s body was hardly cold before Trumpus named her replacement. As I mentioned above, they had already used strong-arm tactics (under Roger Stone) to steal the 2000 election, and Amy Coney Barrett had been a member of his team, providing some of the wacky legal arguments that helped sway the Supreme Court. For twenty years, she has quietly epitomized the bizarre confluence of Christian zealotry and mob tactics that characterizes these people. Aside from the certainty that her presence on the court will destroy Obamacare, abortion rights and same-sex marriage, Trumpus will expect her support if the election is disputed.

Democratic Corruption: Analysts have posed this question about Trumpus for four years: can his corruption be distinguished from his incompetence? Is he an idiot, or does he simply play one on TV? It’s time to ask the same question of the Democrats. On September 22nd, Biden made his loyalties crystal clear, telling interviewers that no one earning up to $400,000 would see their taxes raised by “one cent” and following that with “I beat the socialist!…Do I look like a socialist?”

By the way, we are not talking about a 6-3 split on the court if she joins it; we’re really talking about 7-2 (unless the Dems win the Senate and expand the size of the court), since the liberal Stephen Breyer turned 82 in August.

But, again, if we simply blame Republicans for this state of affairs, we miss the real story. The federal courts would not play such a large political role if the Democrats had been serious about winning at the local level. Their nearly exclusive focus on winning the Presidency had resulted in the loss (under Obama alone) of over 900 seats in state legislatures and the Congress. “The fact that the Democrats mishandled this situation so badly”, writes Margaret Kimberley of the Black Agenda Report, “is one of the reasons they have deified the late justice Ginsburg. They have to divert attention from the mess they created.”

… the Democrats are now…behaving with the same lackadaisical attitude that cost them the 2016 election. In the must-win  state of Michigan, the Biden campaign has no in-person voter outreach, and no one that people who want to help can talk to…an on the ground campaign doesn’t really exist…Of course, Hillary Clinton raised more money than Donald Trump, but four years of propaganda have rendered most Democrats incapable of critical thought. They believe that repeating a losing strategy will somehow work this time around.

The First Debate: I see three critical points. The first is that the mainstream media framed the debate itself, not Trumpus, as deplorable. The next day, my local paper, the liberal San Francisco Chronicle proclaimed: “First Debate devolves into debacle,” rather than “Trump wrecks debate.” For contrast with normal years, you may want to read my earlier essay, The Ritual of the Presidential Debate.

The second is that relative to almost any election in memory, most people have already decided whom they prefer, or hate less. This year, the “undecided moderates” who are the traditional targets of most rhetoric and advertising are an endangered species. The largest bloc of undecided voters are the one hundred million people who haven’t decided if it is worth voting at all. The Republicans are doing everything possible to keep them from deciding to vote, while the Democrats want them to vote but not become active in the future or put any pressure for real reforms on a Democratic Congress.

This leads to my third point. Trumpus knows he’s losing in the polls (for what they’re worth), and he knows what he needs to do to win, including having a Fox News “journalist” as moderator who consistently framed his questions from a right-wing perspective. His intention, well-rehearsed and certainly gleaned from the study of focus groups (see below), was quite clear: to provoke such a hot mess that large numbers of people would not only quickly change the channel but give up in disgust on the whole process.

His intention, precisely as with his studied refusal to condemn white supremacy, was literally to suppress the vote. Well, that’s my opinion, but I found it confirmed across the spectrum. On the left, Caitlin Johnstone wrote:

You seriously could not have designed a more perfect display to do everything we’ve been told for years that Russian propagandists are trying to do: depress the vote, encourage support for third parties, weaken public trust in America’s institutions…

On the right, Frank Luntz (who certainly knows more than he let on) claimed to have found a dozen undecideds for a focus group – and to have been as shocked as anyone else: “This debate has actually convinced some undecided voters not to vote at all.”

Part of that strategy was to provoke Biden into a no-win situation – continue to act the spineless wimp, always willing to come more than halfway, or take the bait and add to the chaos. Still, who can deny that it felt good to see the old geezer show some cojones?

Then Trumpus got Covid (and knowingly exposed large numbers of people). The news immediately set loose an astonishing range of speculation, fear, chaos, rejoicing, incrimination, flip-flop announcements from his own doctors, and full-on looniness from the QAnon crowd. Was this the long-awaited October Surprise or merely a very convenient distraction? Or both? Michael Moore wrote,Trump being diagnosed with COVID is about the best thing that could have happened to him right now. So much so, in fact, that I pretty sincerely doubt that it’s true.” Some of his speculations:

— He can control the news cycle and get lots of free publicity.

— He can opt out of the next debate without repercussions.

— He’s going to be cured by a new drug that will make him and his cronies billions.

— He doesn’t have it but will “recover” very quickly to show how Covid is overblown.

— He’s planning to drop out of the race and be replaced by Pence, who will then pardon him.

“Don’t even pretend you can’t believe he’d lie about it,” wrote Moore.” Indeed, many people had predicted weeks before that Trumpus would claim to get – and be quickly cured – from Covid.

But his doctors claimed to be using a treatment plan normally used only for the severely ill, leading many to suggest that he was sicker than they were letting on. Meanwhile, at least two Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee contracted Covid, raising questions about the timing of the Barrett hearings. The Republicans vowed to continue, even if they have to change the rules.

Biden hung up his cojones. Predictably, the Democratic leadership and the usual media pundits took the high road with faux-Christian charity, praying for Trumpus’ recovery and even removing their negative advertising (even as the Republicans specifically refused to do so). Johnstone would have none of this:

Do these seem like the sentiments of a media class who believes Donald Trump poses an urgent existential threat and must be defeated at all cost?…Would you stop fighting someone who was trying to kill you with every weapon at your disposal just because they got sick?… It turns out all that unprecedented hysterical shrieking about a Russian Nazi in the White House was just political hyperbole…They’ve never seen Trump as a uniquely menacing threat, they see him as what he is: a garden variety corrupt American president who is evil in more or less the same ways the other corrupt American presidents are evil. They see him as a part of the establishment they serve, advancing more or less the same agendas…

All kinds of broad, quotable philosophy went around the web. Here’s my favorite: The country is being asked to pray for their abuser and being shamed for not feeling sorry for him.

After just a few days Trumpus, having “controlled the news cycle and got lots of free publicity,” left the hospital, claiming to have been miraculously cured, removing his mask and telling the public not to fear the virus. He received no charity bump, though, as Biden’s poll lead increased. Perhaps there really still were/are lots of undecided voters. Or perhaps some committed Trumpus voters changed their minds.

The only thing that is sure is that the nation is in utter chaos – a deeply archetypal, ritual image. The King suffers from a wound in his groin (symbolic of the capacity to generate new life), and our Parsifal is a holy fool. We know from world mythology that chaos is the necessary precursor to the re-stabilizing of cosmos, the ordering of culture. But chaos can just as easily lead to even deeper chaos. It does not by any means predict a straight line toward a happy ending. Its primary characteristic is a most profound not-knowing.

Read Part Twelve here.

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Barry’s Blog # 349: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part Ten

Republican corruption: The ACLU of Georgia revealed that as recently as 2019 the state had purged nearly 200,000 citizens for moving from the addresses on their voter registration applications – none of whom had actually moved. Mitch McConnell quietly rammed through several more extreme right-wingers to lifetime federal judgeships — people who will oversee future elections. And in the topsy-turvy drama of Florida ex-felons, A federal appeals court ruled that they must pay all fines and legal fees before they can regain their right to vote. The fix – in the form of a revived poll tax – was back in.

But despite the massive evidence of GOP plans to steal the election, wrote Fairness and Accuracy in Media, the usual mainstream giants (New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, etc)  were still very reluctant “to straightforwardly report the fact that Trump is trying to do so.” A rare exception is Greg Sargent, who writes, “Trump isn’t trying to win…He’s trying to get within cheating distance.”

The corruption of the Democrats (and a liberal writer): Bob Woodward is a very rich and influential man. He doesn’t need either the income or the fame that another book may bring him. His new one revealed that Trumpus knew about the consequences of the coronavirus in February and deliberately chose not to speak publicly about it. Liberals, of course, were shocked, but few seemed concerned that Woodward waited six months “…to be sure that Trump’s private comments…were accurate.” That decision most certainly contributed to the deaths of tens of thousands. We expect nothing less from Trumpus. But, wrote William Pitt:

By trading people’s lives for a larger payday, by waiting months to divulge vital information that could have forced a COVID course correction out of this administration, the man who helped take down Richard Nixon a half-century ago chose in this instance to afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable.

Well over a week after the news broke that Woodward had waited so long to release the audio, everyone’s favorite liberal, Stephen Colbert, had him on his show for a very lengthy interview. At that point, the only newsworthy question was “Why did you wait?” But Colbert, who works for CBS, never asked it. Instead, they wallowed in the usual stuff: Trumpus is bad. Shocking.

Yes, we hope for a Biden victory. But in terms of on-going narratives, the career bureaucrats, lobbyists, superdelegates and officials in safe districts who make up the inner circles of the DNC have created a win-win dynamic in their ongoing attempt to marginalize progressives, including significant efforts to keep Green Party candidates off the ballot in several states. (Nothing illegal here, just hardball politics – outside of the Democratic insistence on the evils of voter suppression).

Sanders supporters will receive no credit for helping a Biden victory and all the blame if he loses, writes Keaton Weiss:

If they win in November, they’ll be sure to cite their appeals to senior citizens and college-educated whites, two traditionally conservative constituencies, as their reason for victory. In this version of events, they will tout their strategy of reaching out to the “Biden Republicans,” as Rahm Emanuel gleefully termed them, and shunning the left flank of their party…

But here’s the true evil genius of their plan: if they lose, they’ll pretend that they couldn’t successfully distance themselves from Leftists in all of the ways they actually did…they’ll no doubt blame Black Lives Matter for scaring away the affluent suburbanites…They’ll say that progressives were too loudmouthed in their advocacy for Medicare for All and the Green New Deal…They’ll say that calls to defund the police alienated center-left city dwellers…They’ll say that Bernie Sanders’ and AOC’s rise to prominence made it impossible for Democrats to shake the socialist label…they will surely be able to scapegoat progressives and push them out of their coalition; and that’s their paramount goal. So even in this version of events, they still get the sundae (crushing the Left), just without the cherry on top (defeating Trump).

Liberal innocence: This is no reason to remain disengaged. Of course, Trumpus must be removed. But Liberals must also remove something – their innocence about the American empire and America’s good intentions in the world, and their colossal ignorance about how the military budget is the unspoken basis of all discussions about government funding priorities. Whenever you hear Biden ask, Yes, but how are we going to pay for it?, know that both he and his media questioner are colluding in a very deadly game, one that will likely destroy his chances for election.

The Military-Industrial Complex appears to be enjoying this food fight between two gangs within the ruling class. Caitlin Johnstone writes:

In a recent interview…Biden said that it’s likely that America’s bloated military budget will not only remain at its current size but may actually increase under his presidency… (He) has been consistently out-hawking Trump on foreign policy by attacking him for insufficient aggression toward VenezuelaChinaNorth KoreaSyriaCuba, and of course RussiaThe Wall Street Journal’s Walter Russell Mead writes, “Democrats haven’t been this hawkish on Russia since the Kennedy administration.”

Indeed if wars are planned it seems entirely likely that they will happen regardless of what oligarchic puppet happens to be sitting in the Oval Office after January 20th, just like the escalations that were scheduled to begin against Russia under Hillary Clinton ended up getting rolled out anyway under Trump despite his vocal opposition to them…US presidents reliably campaign as doves and govern as hawks; Trump did itObama did it, even Bush did it…Still it’s hard to look at all the sabre rattling Biden and his team of ventriloquists have been doing on the campaign trail without getting the distinct impression that some major international escalations are being planned.

The stunningly incomprehensible decision to ignore Latinx Democrats: The headline “Donald Trump says Ted Cruz is on his list of potential second-term Supreme Court picks” (yes, that “Lyin’ Ted”) provoked guffaws among liberals, but they should have seen it as a warning.

In a related development, it was reported that the Democrats have been missing yet another big chance to increase turnout. Eleanor Eagan writes:

At U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a complete failure, or perhaps unwillingness, to adapt to changing conditions during the pandemic slowed new naturalizations such that hundreds of thousands who may have otherwise been able to vote this year will not be able to…For more than 70 days, it did not offer naturalization ceremonies or visa and asylum interviews…each day without naturalization ceremonies translated into “2,100 potential new voters” being disenfranchised…House Democrats’ response can only be described as muted…at no point was it clear that this was a top priority around which they were organizing a serious opposition effort.

And there have been plenty of other warnings:

Biden’s Latino outreach is under fire: ‘I can’t tell what their strategy is’

Democrats Worry Joe Biden Is Taking Latino Voters for Granted

Biden’s Lethal Latino Problem

“The Latino vote is not being taken seriously”

Biden is Losing Latino Support in South Florida, Which Could Sway Election

Joe Biden struggling with Latino voters in key state Florida, polls show

Polls show Biden lagging among Latinos in close Florida race

By the way, I must continually remind you that when we factor in voter suppression and computer fraud (which, as usual, none of these writers are doing), if the polls say a race is “close,” it really won’t be. “Close” means Trumpus wins easily. There is no universe in which Biden can afford “close.”

This issue is such an absolute scandal of completely avoidable and apparently deliberate stupidity that in political terms, we can only make sense of it by reference to the win-win dynamic I just mentioned. In psychological terms, it slides right into “Boy psychology.”

Boy psychology: do either of these candidates really want to be President? Why, at age 79, does Biden still work his ass off to become President but not take his foot off the emergency brake? And was Trumpus just flat out daring Bob Woodward way back in February to out him as an unrepentant, serial liar with no vestige of human empathy and not even any concern for the implications of the pandemic and the economic depression on his own chances for re-election?

How do we resolve the obvious contradiction between the obvious Republican plans to steal the election and my speculations about Trumpus’ equally obvious desire to be caught and punished? In practical terms it hardly matters, but I insist that what may be true on one level of consciousness is often balanced by its opposite on a more unconscious level.

But also again, I have to say that in terms of practical results, there is no equivalence here. Regardless of his unconscious preferences, Trumpus doesn’t have to do anything to win. Biden must act. He must wholeheartedly embrace the Green New deal, the Latino voting block, and most especially, Medicare For All, or he – and we – will lose.

Read Part Eleven Here.

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Barry’s Blog # 348: A Mythologist Looks at the 2020 Election, Part Nine

Let’s look at developments in a half dozen themes that I’ve been emphasizing.

The corruption of the Republicans continues unabated. Each day brings new revelations. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe announced that he would be scaling back election security briefings. Trumpus encouraged North Carolina residents to vote twice. He doubled down on his praise of white supremacist violence while repeating the old fascist strategy of claiming that his opponents will do (cheat in the election) exactly what he will certainly do.

Liberals were shocked. Shocked!

There was some good news. The ACLU, citing investigations by Greg Palast, blocked the wildly inaccurate and deeply racist “Crosscheck” voter purge program in at least one state, Indiana. And Markey defeated Kennedy in Massachusetts, proving that Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement is the kiss of death among young progressives.

But Palast offered some terrifying speculations, which I summarize:

Unless Biden wins in a clear and early landslide, the election may not be determined on November 3rd but during the following week, when far-right gangs disrupt vote count centers. If they are successful in enough places, they will prevent several states from certifying the count, and neither candidate will receive the necessary electoral college votes. Then, according to Amendment 12 of the Constitution, the election will be decided in the House, with each state getting one vote. Since Republicans have majority delegations in 26 states, Trumpus wins. Is this scenario too far-fetched? It can’t happen here? Well it already has, in Florida in 2000, under the direction of Roger Stone.


The corruption of the Democrats: Unfortunately, another progressive, Alex Morse, lost, due in large part to an anti-gay backlash set in motion by the College Democrats of the University of Massachusetts. Yes, you read that correctly. University. Democrats. Massachusetts. Meanwhile, Biden touted Rick Snyder’s endorsement, which one writer called his “most toxic endorsement yet”.

Liberal innocence: More polls and graphs such as these regularly show that Biden’s lead among likely voters remains strong. May it be so. But as usual, they never mention anything about Republican dirty tricks, in other words, whether those votes will actually be counted. Yet another memoir by a former Trumpus insider appeared, from Michael Cohen. And yet again, liberals – and liberal journalists – were shocked. Literally: Alternet’s headline was Shocking details from Michael Cohen tell-all book revealed after Washington Post obtained a copy! (my exclamation point).

We have been here before. Just as we’d like to think that Biden’s earnest call to our better natures would be enough to motivate most people, so we’d like to think that in some mythic America, the prospect of being shamed by the god-fearing citizenry would be enough to restrain the behavior of all but the most sociopathic of criminals. We would really like to think that sociopaths, assassins, fear mongers and organized crime bosses don’t run our government. Cohen’s book will have no effect on Trumpus’ base, since only liberals are likely to read it.  

The continuing revelations (and, sure as the sun rises, they will continue to continue) of Republican corruption are not impacting the election itself because shaming no longer works. Corruption has been normalized. After five years it’s quite clear Trumpus supporters don’t care. Some so desperately believe in him that they accept his regular denials and accusations at face value; others actually seem to boast of his crimes, interpreting them (Q-style) as proof of his actions against the Deep State.

There was a brief time when convincing citizens to act – to do the right thing – by appealing to their sense of shame actually worked. Shaming the public into supporting the civil rights movement was a successful political strategy from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s, when the economy was growing, White people still had positive if patronizing attitudes toward Black people and post-assassination cynicism had not yet alienated millions from civic engagement. For more on this issue, read my essays The Civil Rights Movement in American Myth and John F. Kennedy and America’s Obsession With Innocence.

As recently as the last years of the Obama administration, the phrase “Don’t shoot! Hands up!” – a clear acknowledgement of the legal, non-violent, non-threatening nature of anti-racist activism – had no effect on either police behavior or right-wing attitudes toward people of color. Police murders of unarmed POC continued at the same rates, not only because murderous cops were rarely held accountable, but also because they had grown up in a shame-less culture, in which conservative politicians and preachers had laid the groundwork for pride in hatred. When Trumpus arrived to give haters permission he was merely stating directly what his predecessors had been hinting at since the days of Barry Goldwater.

Here is the mythological truth: Every year, America proudly rewards its security forces for sacrificing thousands of scapegoats, as I write here: now, the only people who react negatively to new proof that American democracy no longer works (if it ever did) are the same innocent liberals who have been continually shocked by Trumpus for five years.

In lectures or radio interviews, I often ask a trick question: When did you lose your innocence? After the usual replies (JFK, 9/11, etc), I ask, When did you lose it again? In this context, to be shocked is the painful experience of having one’s cherished beliefs demolished. But when innocence is the foundation of a belief system, when a culture no longer offers its young people the initiatory rituals that affirm their unique gifts and permanently erase their childhood innocence, people live lives of denial and perpetual childishness. When a tear in the fabric of the myth of innocence appears, it quickly closes back up, and each loss of innocence, no matter how old we are or how often it happens, feels like the first time.

The Military-Industrial Complex reaffirmed, even after the news of Trumpus’ insults about American war dead (“losers and suckers”), that the generals and the arms merchants would thrive under either party.

Over 100 former staff members for Senator John McCain endorsed Biden, writes Scott Horton, “Explicitly Because He’s Worse on War”. Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido (who had received a bipartisan standing ovation at the last State of the Union address) said he is counting on U.S. plans to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro no matter who wins the election. Thirty-four Democrats with military-intelligence backgrounds won their primaries for the House, as well as three Senate candidates.

The stunningly incomprehensible decision to ignore Latinx Democrats: No news is bad news. The DNC lurched on after the convention with no apologies or explanations. This is political suicide, plain and simple. In February a poll indicated that 73% of Latinxs said they were “certain” to vote in November. However, after Biden secured the nomination, that number dropped to 60%. It has rebounded somewhat since then, but not up to the earlier figure. Two-thirds of them will support Biden – if they can find places to vote.

Boy psychology: do either of these candidates really want to be President? Political scientists accurately describeTrumpus’s fear mongering as an ugly but rational strategy going back to the Jim Crow years. But his hate mongering and worse, his violence mongering are unique in presidential politics, representing a wild gamble that they will garner him enough support. In conjunction with voter suppression, computer fraud and Biden’s mistakes it could work. But this is no monolithic universe; what may appear to be appropriate (if evil) realpolitik at one level of motivation may at another level be deliberate, adolescent provocation, upping of the ante, and ultimately a cry for help. Stop me!

Meanwhile, a pre-convention poll claimed that 56% of likely Biden supporters are voting for him because “He Is Not Trump,” proof that he still hasn’t offered anything positive, let alone progressive, to the 100 million other people who, once again, probably won’t vote. I doubt if, during the convention, appeals to our better nature – and moderate Republicans – changed much of that reality.

Once again, we have to wonder not simply whether the Democrats are repeating the failed strategy of appealing to suburbanites while shunning progressives, but whether this guy really wants to get elected. If we can agree that four more years of Trumpus would certainly destroy our last chance to prevent global environmental collapse, not to mention a 7-2 Republican majority on the Supreme Court, then we can at least wonder whether the future of humanity depends on Joe Biden’s unconscious desire for failure. Ralph Nader writes:

Biden should be thirty points ahead in the polls against the delusional, falsifying, lawless, selected occupant of the White House…Instead, Biden’s lead is in single digits and he is having a hard time getting the offensive Trump on the defense.

Trumpus goes low, doing everything possible to provoke violence and arouse his base (the predatory imagination manipulating the paranoid imagination), praising the Kenosha killer, while Biden’s strategy of going high would be a fine strategy in a normal world. But idealistic language without actual progressive policies sounds insincere, because it is. People are not stupid if they are apathetic about voting, and treating them as if they are only makes things worse.

Let’s face it: Biden is uninspiring in both style and substance, while Trumpus makes crazy people crazier and more likely to act. Michael Moore, who was so enthusiastic about Kamala Harris only a month ago, is now saying that that “enthusiasm for Trump is off the charts” in the swing states and he’s mentioning polls indicating that the race is tightening. Whom to believe?

I hope he’s wrong, but he was right four years ago.

Do polls (other than exit polls) tell us anything at all? Why haven’t we heard of polls that ask, If you are not planning to vote, would you change your mind and vote Democratic if Biden announced that he is supporting Medicare For All? One reason we haven’t is that polls question likely voters, but this begs the question. To me, it’s the elephant in the national living room, and it’s growing larger by the day.

One hundred million non-voters, the majority of whom are young, have no health insurance and are one paycheck away from being evicted (if they have jobs at all). If one tenth of them voted, the result would be a Democratic landslide. WTF?

Biden’s one chance, and one only, to win: Trumpus’ incendiary language is effective, and Biden’s isn’t. Still, I predict that Biden would succeed – again, if this were a normal election without the certainty of massive fraud. For what it’s worth, here are two predictions:

To win, Biden will need a solid ten-point lead in most of the battleground states on election day. And even if he does, voter fraud will make it quite close, the Dems won’t flip the Senate, and Trumpus, at the very least, will contest the results.

OR: Biden announces his support of MFA, makes it the core of his campaign and enters election day with a lead so huge that no Republican dirty tricks can change it.

One hundred million non-voters. Biden still has time to motivate them. If he doesn’t, well, I guess he’ll get what he really wants, and deserves.

Read Part Ten here.

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