The OMG Show.

I expect we’re all going to want to talk about today’s J6 hearing in comments, so I’ll keep this brief.

You know what detail pierced me the most? The one that rang truest, for better or worse? When Cassidy Hutchinson saw the valet going to clean up after the president’s temper tantrum, she grabbed a towel to help. She was aide to the White House chief of staff, but when she saw a mess she did what every woman — or almost every woman, at least the ones with mothers like mine — automatically does: She moved to clean it up. Because women are raised to clean up after themselves, and everybody else. I know there are exceptions, but I never check out of a hotel room without making sure no one left a wet towel on the bed, that all the dirty towels are in a pile for easy pickup, and any trash is in the wastebasket, etc. And I leave a tenner for the maid.

I’m also 1,000 percent convinced that this pig we allowed into the White House has been violent with every woman unfortunate enough to get close to him, including his own daughter. The story Ivana told about him raping her because he was mad his stupid hair-fixing surgery went wrong? I always took that with a grain of salt, because she’s as vile and stupid as he is, but not any more. A man who throws plates against the wall like an infant is capable of much worse violence. As we’re so often told, rape is violence, not sex, and it makes perfect sense that’s how he’d express himself.

A man in his 70s, physically attacking his own security detail. Imagine that.

I know it’s fashionable to beat up on Maggie Haberman, without whom we wouldn’t know a fraction of much of what we know about Trump, but indulge me here:

And:

At least some of the help is turning on their old bosses. Hi, Melania:

Again, not that Stephanie Grisham is anyone to admire. I’m struck, over and over again, how low the bar has fallen that we elevate a woman who went to work for Mark Meadows as a heroine, but a heroine she is.

The world makes no sense to me anymore. Let’s talk about it.

Posted at 5:17 pm in Current events | 3 Comments
 

Yep, still angry.

Well.

I was going to take a quick few minutes to update the blog on Friday morning, and then, well, you know what happened. I decided to wait through the weekend, just to see how it went. A few things are coming clear:

** Ginni Thomas was the draft leaker, maybe even without her husband’s knowledge (although probably not). Getting the opinion out weeks earlier pushed Kavanaugh into the majority. As someone said on Twitter, we’ll know it was her when no one else is publicly named (or the name leaks, ha ha) and punished for it.

** Speaking of Boof Kavanaugh, how amusing that his opinion had that air of brushing off his hands and walking away, having left abortion “to the states.” :::imagine another bitter chuckle here::: Not for nothing are the Republicans talking about national anti-abortion legislation. Already.

** Meanwhile, we know who the real victim is. Yes, Rudy Giuliani.

Photo editing mine. But you gotta love New York City, where a guy picking up a few essentials at the ShopRite can get a chance to lay hands on one of the biggest assholes on the planet (at the moment, anyway):

The ex-mayor told ABC the slap felt like “somebody shot me,” and, “Luckily, I”m a 78-year-old who is in pretty good shape.

“If I wasn’t, I would have hit the ground and probably cracked my skull.”

The former federal prosecutor told The Post he felt it was his duty to call the cops — likening the decision to his tough-on-crime policies as mayor.

“I say to myself, ‘You know something? I gotta get this guy arrested,’ ” he said. “I talk about ‘broken windows’ theory all the time. You can’t let the little things go.

Jesus, what a douchebag.

I was listening to some NPR egghead today when my inner feminist rose up and growled. It was the eighteenth mention of “pregnant person” that did it. Look, I know this is the new term of art, that trans men might need abortions someday too, but goddamnit: THIS IS ABOUT WOMEN. Uterus-havers, who may have sex with sperm producers, whether by choice or force, and get pregnant when they don’t want to be. Women, in other words. Sorry, I’m just not in the mood for language policing right now. We’re here arguing about incrementalism, and Republicans incrementaled a constitutional right right out from under us.

Fuck all this shit. Yeah, I’m still pissed. And will be, for a while.

Posted at 8:50 pm in Current events | 41 Comments
 

They planned what?

I see the comments on Tuesday’s hearings are starting to come in on the previous post, so here’s a new one:

OMG these fucking hearings.

For me, the record scratch was when the former chair of the state GOP said this, of the Michigan fake electors:

“He told me that the Michigan Republican electors were planning to meet in the Capitol and hide overnight so that they could fulfill the role of casting their vote per law in the Michigan chambers, and I told him in no uncertain terms that that was insane and inappropriate.”

The He here was a lawyer working with the Trump team. Under state law, they have to cast their votes in the Capitol building itself, and that was their plan. I am happy with the headline I wrote for this brief I banged out about it: Sedition Sleepover: Michigan Fake Electors Considered ‘Hiding In The Capitol Overnight’ To Get Inside

One of these clowns was 81 years old. It would have served this crew right to have him get chest pains in the middle of it all. As it was, they didn’t sleep over and instead walked as a group to the Capitol and asked to be admitted. The state trooper at the door told them they weren’t on the list, and to get lost.

The Freep dug up its old video of that priceless moment. I don’t think I’ve heard the word “constitution” spoken so much in my life.

Later this week I take my training for the next election. I asked to be moved to the absentee counting boards, which I predict will be less action-packed than in 2020, but you never know. We’ll see what they tell us in training.

Beyond Laura Cox’s mic drop on the sleepover, I think the most excruciating part was listening to Trump harangue Raffensberger about Georgia. The depth of this man’s willful ignorance is mind-boggling. Unfortunately, he has so many enablers, reality doesn’t penetrate his thick skull.

I owe thanks to whoever posted the story about Marvella Bayh the other day, which I finally got around to reading yesterday. Marvella was the wife of the late former senator Birch Bayh, a Hoosier Democrat and maybe the very last Hoosier Democrat (although his son, Evan, served as governor and senator himself, but voted like a Republican). Bayh Senior was instrumental in passing Title IX and two count ’em two constitutional amendments. Imagine that: A U.S. Senate that actually passes laws and gets shit done. The mind boggles.

I think Title IX would be a non-starter in today’s climate. I really do.

OK, midweek blog update done. I should talk about the Texas police cowards, but I don’t have the spirit for it right now. You guys, feel free.

Posted at 5:57 pm in Current events | 74 Comments
 

Rich people on film.

I think it was during the first year of the pandemic, all of us spending too much time on our phones and devices, that Fathers Day came along and Kate said, not entirely seriously but maybe not, that she felt bad about her gift, which was something like a home-cooked dinner and time together.

Why, I asked. He’s delighted to spend time with you, and the dinner was lovely.

“Some girl on Instagram wrote a song about her father, recorded it and put it to a slide show of pictures and videos of them together as she was growing up,” she said.

Ladies and gentlemen: Social media.

This morning I had the weekend shift for Deadline Detroit, and I aggregated (summarized, basically) a story based on the Instagram posting of a swimsuit model who became engaged to the Lions’ quarterback. I was struck by how…Instagrammy the whole weekend seemed to be; he popped the question on vacation in Cabo, and arranged to have all her friends flown in (PJ, natch), and they partied and celebrated and took 10 million photos and videos and it all came together in a very photogenic fashion.

I guess because I have worked with photographers my whole career, I always imagine what’s behind the fourth wall. I can understand wanting to memorialize a significant moment, but knowing the way photographers can bark orders, I can’t understand inviting one to a fairly intimate moment. Like this, say:

Honestly, I see this sort of thing everywhere, life not lived so much as lived for some fantasy audience, who will see, admire and envy you on social media. I also know, for public people, that social media is in some sense inescapable, but I hate to see people who can’t afford aspiring to what is, frankly, an unattainable life for nearly all of them.

And of course, the kings of tech not only brought this plague upon us, but now they’re ruining other things, too. Our newspaper carrier gave us a copy of the Wall Street Journal on Friday by mistake. We used to subscribe, years ago, and I remembered the Friday features section as a somewhat amusing catalog of rich people problems, and indulgences. Sometime before 9/11, there was a story on people who book name-brand entertainers for private parties, for example. I always looked for the YOLO quote, which was something like, “Yeah, it cost $100,000 to book Tom Jones, but mom and dad only have a 40th anniversary once.”

Anyway, for some reason the Friday features section was called Mansion, yes really, and the lead story was about the ruination of Malibu. People think Malibu is exclusively rich people, and it is, but it wasn’t always. Seriously:

About three decades ago, Beverly Hills native Andy Stern moved to the nearby beach city of Malibu to raise his young family. He quickly came to know all his neighbors, he said, recalling block parties with children pouring onto the streets to play together.

Now Mr. Stern—a two-time Malibu mayor and Coldwell Banker Realty real-estate agent—said he barely sees his neighbors in the Broad Beach area, because they are rarely there. The families that once lived in the neighborhood have largely been replaced by celebrities and billionaires, such as the Chicago-born real-estate billionaire Sam Zell, Miami Heat President Pat Riley and Torstein Hagen, the Norwegian billionaire founder of Viking Cruises, property records show. Mr. Stern said many of his neighbors own two, three or even four other homes, visiting Malibu only periodically while their houses there sit empty for much of the year.

This was the problem people talked about when I wrote about subsidized housing in Aspen, back in the day, for Bridge.

If it weren’t for the housing program, there wouldn’t be a single bartender, teacher, ski instructor or even doctor who would afford to live there. What’s more, the town would be empty all but a few weeks a year — maybe even two weeks, since that’s when the rich people who own houses there come in for skiing, around the holidays. And now Malibu is the same way? You don’t say. They don’t live there because they live everywhere, and can’t possibly live in a hotel when they’re somewhere. Rich people ruin everything.

Not to bring you down in the waning hours of Fathers Day. It really was a nice weekend, even though I spent a fair amount of it cleaning up construction dust. But there was also strawberries, bike rides, a boxing class and a haircut. A good haircut, too. No pictures, though — I have terrible Helmet Head at the moment.

Let’s go into the week and enjoy it best we can.

Posted at 9:16 pm in Current events, Popculch | 31 Comments
 

Mike F*ing Pence.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, or has read me for 10 minutes, that I hold no great regard for Mike Pence. I will always think of him as a haircut and an empty suit, and remember him primarily as a talk-radio host, because that’s what he was when I lived in Indiana.

He had a late morning spot on WIBC, the big talker in Indianapolis, and occasionally I would hear his show in my car in Fort Wayne, if atmospheric conditions are right and I was on the right side of town. He has described himself as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf,” but that means nothing — he was at least as far right as Limbaugh, but maybe couched his views in slightly, slightly more polite language.

That he made it to Congress was mainly a matter of name recognition, etc., and to the governorship, ditto. Indiana’s Democrats are thin on the ground, and once Evan Bayh stepped aside, that was pretty much the bench. But still, Pence barely beat — Googling… — John Gregg to win in 2012, and was on his way to defeat in 2016 when he was saved from obscurity by Donald Trump.

I will never, ever forget the images burned into my brain from early in the Trump term, of the shameless bootlicking, led by Pence, at every public appearance. How could we forget that first cabinet meeting? Sickening.

So while I am not inclined to do a 180 after all we’ve learned about the one good thing Pence did in his four years as vice president, I will say this: What a crazy-ass world we live in, when it’s saved by a boot-licking toady like him.

Yes, I just watched the Thursday hearing. Is this not the rancid cherry on the shit sundae, or what?

Eastman emailed Giuliani to ask that he be “on the pardon list, if that is still in the works,” after Herschmann warned him to get a criminal lawyer.

If this is the reputation laundry that eventually makes Pence the 2024 nominee, and he is helped into office by Trump worshippers now serving at the state level, why, wouldn’t that be ironic, eh?

It’s 91 degrees outside, what else was I going to do this afternoon? The heat is supposed to ease, somewhat, tomorrow, and even more so on Saturday, which is good-good news, if you ask me.

Then back up into the 90s next week. Ah well, it’s summer in a time of catastrophic climate change. Can’t have everything.

Sorry I’ve been scarce this week. We’re having work done on the house, and it’s…loud. Also disruptive. But I’m still here, reading comments, glad to see all your smiling faces there. Keep it up. And have a great weekend.

Posted at 4:20 pm in Current events | 48 Comments
 

More notes from Crazytown.

Well. That was something.

I’m talking about the J6 hearing, of course. I couldn’t hear every word, because the contractors are finally here — after a 10-month wait, more or less — to do our bathrooms, and today was demo day. But between the jackhammers? Unreal, even though I didn’t learn anything really new. Rudy Giuliani is a drunk. (Everyone knows that.) Every person with two brain cells to rub together in the Trump inner circle knew he lost the election fair and square. (Another thing everyone knows.) Bill Barr’s testimony in particular should do damage, but won’t. The people who most need to know this aren’t paying attention. You can lead a horse to water, etc.

Imagine if you’d been one of the chumps who actually sent money for the “election defense fund.” It would be hard to admit you’d been conned. So you would stick your fingers in your ears and say NAH NAH NAH as loud as you could.

Gannett, which owns the Freep, has decreed that it wants to de-emphasize opinion journalism. Very very bad idea, that, reminiscent of the time a Knight Ridder executive told me he didn’t think people wanted restaurant reviews, but rather news about restaurants. (They want both.) He thought a critic shouldn’t talk about what they thought of the food, because after all, everyone has different taste, but rather what the decor was like, the prices, the parking situation. This would be a terrible mistake, in my opinion, because it would probably reduce the appearance of columns like these, which correctly points out that while we now know virtually no one other than the president believed the Big Lie, all of the surviving Republican candidates for governor of Michigan…do:

Earlier this month, when Michigan Radio’s Rick Pluta asked GOP candidates participating in their party’s first gubernatorial debate if they’d “accept the results of the August primary and the election in November as a fair and accurate reflection of the will of the voters,” only one committed to do so.

The rest agreed it’s too early to say whether the candidate who gets the most votes in those elections should be considered the legitimate winner.

…Now, less than two years later, impugning the legitimacy of the electoral process has become the Republican norm. The presumption is that any Democratic victory must be the product of electoral fraud, administrative error, or rigged voting machines.

This heads-I-win-tails-you-cheated mantra belies the confident attitude Michigan Republicans like to project as they approach this year’s mid-term elections. If a GOP comeback is as inevitable as GOP leaders assert, why are they so busy concocting excuses for defeat?

Exactly.

One piece of bloggage today, because I guess I’m working today after all. David Hogg grows up:

Hogg has learned that conservatives are more disciplined and proactive than liberals, and they tend to stay focused on a single goal rather than try to do everything at once. He and his fellow liberal activists too often find themselves reacting to outrages, he says, “timing the market” rather than building new political structures from the ground up. He cites conservative organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Federalist Society, and the Heritage Foundation. “Liberals are organized the way that a bunch of six-year olds doing a group project together with a bunch of crayons are,” he says. “Conservatives are organized like SEAL Team Six.”

Hogg now thinks that curbing gun violence is going to require a multi-year, three-pronged strategy: focusing on state-level activism; expanding the movement to include responsible gun owners and moderate Republicans; and changing the culture around gun ownership in the United States.

‘fraid so, kiddo. Good luck anyway.

Also, on edit: Wow, Yellowstone.

Posted at 2:28 pm in Current events | 42 Comments
 

Another crazy week.

Well, that was something, last night, wasn’t it? Unfortunately, when I look through my various news feeds and contacts, looking for evidence that even one MAGAt watched, I get crickets. There was a brief shower last night, followed by a double rainbow, and I see copious evidence that everyone ran outside to get a picture, but pay attention to Liz Cheney? Not much.

I didn’t see the whole thing in real time (Kate had a gig, a repro-rights fundraiser.) But I listened to as much of it as I could on the radio and reconstructed the parts I missed afterward. My favorite moment was Ivanka’s hostage video, which apparently put her back on a first-name-last-name basis with dear ol’ dad:

Yesterday was wild all around. One of the remaining five GOP gubernatorial hopefuls in the race was arrested on J6 charges. I’m confident this will put him way out in front of the field.

Whattaguy:

Earlier this year, he appeared at a meet-the-candidates forum, and told the crowd that they should pay attention to what’s going on in their polling place, and if they see something they don’t like, to just march over to the tabulator and yank the cord out of the wall. As the person who ran the tabulator the last couple elections, I would add: Don’t do that.

It seems there is plenty to talk about, and I have a podcast taping to prep for. (This prep involves taking a shower.) Carry on. And have a great weekend. Here’s a picture of a hummingbird perched in one of our backyard trees to get you feeling weekend-y.

Posted at 9:13 am in Current events | 50 Comments
 

Get me rewrite.

The Columbus Dispatch wasn’t a great newspaper when I worked there. After I left, it got better, a lot better. (I hope my departure didn’t have anything to do with that.) But even in the darkest days of being the Disgrace, as it was called, when the publisher commissioned hit pieces and the cartoonists drew ethnic stereotypes in cartoons and all the rest of it, I don’t think we ever did anything like this:

I mean, if I had written that headline, I’d have put a period after “Go get one.” There’s no sense in writing declarative-sentence headlines (of which I approve, btw) without properly punctuating them.

It’s kinda funny. The URL suggests the original headline was “Wendy’s Strawberry Frosty is out. Here’s how to order one” (again with no period). Maybe the powers that be thought that was stupid, because presumably the answer is, “Go to Wendy’s and say, ‘Gimme one-a them new strawberry Frosties.'”

Wendy’s is a local company; most Ohioans know that. When I was there, Wendy’s executives would sometimes leave the company and start their own fast-food restaurants, which led to an embarrassment of riches for people who, say, lived alone and didn’t cook much, i.e. me and sometimes Jeff Borden. There was one called G.D. Ritzy’s — their thing was griddle-style burgers and high-quality ice cream. Some of these efforts seemed to follow the Wendy’s founding model. Dave Thomas was a simple soul whose favorite food was hamburgers, so he set out to make a better one. Apparently the G.D. Ritzy founder loved smashburgers and ice cream for dessert. It didn’t succeed, but it was resurrected just a few years ago by the founder’s sons. One location, same basic menu, same idea. Fat and salt for dinner, followed by fat and sugar for dessert.

Then there was a place just a block or two away from the four-flat that Borden and I occupied, called Big Bite. It was pita-style sandwiches on flatbread. I always ordered the Big Natural, because it had more vegetables in it. Later I learned what the term “big naturals” means in the world of pornography, and I don’t think I could eat another one.

Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips had a big presence around town, and was one of Dave Thomas’ gigs before he started Wendy’s. Then there were the longtime brands — White Castle, and about a million other imitators. Can’t forget Skyline Chili, which oozed up I-71 from Cincinnati.

Back to this stupid story:

“We’re always listening to our fans and as the most-requested item, it was a no-brainer for us to bring the Strawberry Frosty to the menu this season,” said Carl Loredo, chief marketing officer for The Wendy’s Company, in a statement.

The Strawberry Frosty is available through July 3. Wendy’s is also offering a Summer Strawberry Chicken Salad, which combines sliced strawberries, bacon, grilled chicken, a crispy lettuce and spring mix. It’s topped with an Italian cheese blend, candied almonds and a sweet Champagne vinaigrette.

I like the way Champagne is capitalized, because surely this vinaigrette is only made with the real thing, from the Champagne region of France. Also, “a crispy lettuce and spring mix.”

It goes on and on like this. I give up.

Oh well.

And now we face Wednesday. I hope yours goes well. Why not order a refreshing strawberry Frosty? They’re only available for a limited time.

Posted at 10:00 pm in Media | 40 Comments
 

John v. Amber.

I paid zero, and I do mean zero attention to the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial. I don’t have cable, for one, and while I understand that the trial was live-streamed over the internet, I refused to engage. Depp is one of those celebrities who, if I saw them in an airport, I wouldn’t think of engaging with; I mean, I’ve seen him here and there in this and that, but I’m too old to think about him as a lust object, and I can’t think of a single question I might want him to answer.

As for his ex-wife, I wouldn’t even recognize her as famous. Pretty and blonde, because so many actresses are, but otherwise, a tabula rasa.

As such, I welcomed the chance to ignore, completely, a news event and not feel guilty about it.

I’m starting to gather this was a mistake.

I should have known when I started seeing #JusticeforJohnny trending among a few MAGA accounts I keep tabs on. I should have known when, late in the trial, the role of certain so-called Influencers began getting MSM coverage. I should have known when I finally did pay attention, and learned this was a defamation trial, based on an op-ed Heard wrote that didn’t even mention Depp. I should have known.

Then the verdict came in, and well, now I know. Anything TikTok plays a leading role in should be assumed moronic and toxic on its face. These damage awards are fucking insane, like the time a Columbus jury found one pornographer defamed another pornographer and awarded him $40 million.

It was later knocked down to $4 million, and Bob Guccione’s plans to use the settlement money to build an Atlantic City casino were stopped at the steel-girder stage. I’m sure someone else took over the project, which was notable also for the fact it was constructed around a single residential house, the proverbial stubborn homeowner who wouldn’t sell for any reason. Googling…and someone did take over the project. None other than Donald Trump. Speaking of pornography.

I hope Amber gets her award knocked down on appeal.

Sorry I’ve been scarce of late. No time, no ideas, rather stare at the horizon and wait for some Eastern religion-type enlightenment wash over me.

So here’s this, for Monday.

Posted at 1:56 pm in Current events, Popculch | 27 Comments
 

Faithless.

A year or so before I signed on in Fort Wayne, the News-Sentinel ran a long investigation of a religious group called the Faith Assembly. They were a cult, I guess, with one charismatic leader, Hobart Freeman. They were at their peak in the early/mid-’80s.

Their weird kink was, they rejected medicine. All of it, from an aspirin to insulin, and even eyeglasses. It was all evil. Just pray harder! they believed, and if someone died, it was God’s will.

And they did die, a lot of them, something like 52 preventable deaths among the congregation. The diabetics went first, of course, followed by the heart patients. Indiana authorities decided hey, you can believe whatever you want, folks, enjoy the other side. Unfortunately, adherents applied these beliefs to young children, and they died, too, often of very painful illnesses like meningitis or pneumonia. That’s when the prosecutors said Enough, and began taking parents to court and charging them with negligent homicide. The trials had started by the time I joined the paper, and it seemed a week didn’t go by without a photo on Page One of crying white parents hugging one another in court one last time before being taken away to separate prisons.

After a while, Freeman died, of a preventable illness if I recall correctly. Ah, yes, here it is, and thanks Wikipedia: “Freeman died at his Shoe Lake home of bronchial pneumonia and congestive heart failure complicated by an ulcerated gangrenous leg, which in the weeks preceding had forced him to preach sitting down. He had refused all medical help, even to the removal of the bandages so his leg could be cleaned.” He was 64.

Gross. Imagine what that guy smelled like at the end.

I’d read that story before I joined the paper, months before. In a weird twist, I was working night cops on a Friday and making the rounds of the police station, which was still wide open for the most part. I walked into the juvenile division to check the reports and overheard a detective talking to a judge on the phone. They’d received a call from a woman who had just given birth at home to twins, prematurely. One was dead and the other struggling, and she wanted to know if it was legal to bury the dead one in a shoebox in the back yard. The police wanted an emergency order to take the other one to a hospital. The couple was in an Ohio offshoot of the Faith Assembly, with a different leader, but the same beliefs.

Anyway, I was reading the New York Times magazine story about the anti-vaccination movement, which has snowballed since Covid. It did not make me feel better:

Although it is convenient to refer to anti-vaccine efforts as a “movement,” there really is no single movement. Rather, disparate interests are converging on a single issue. Many reject the “anti-vaccine” label altogether, claiming instead to be “pro-vaccine choice,” “pro-safe vaccine” or “vaccine skeptical.” For some, there may be a way to make money by pushing the notion that vaccines are dangerous. For politicians and commentators, the “tyranny” of vaccine mandates can offer a political rallying cry. For states like Russia, which has disseminated both pro- and anti-vaccine messages on social media in other countries, vaccines are another target for informational warfare. For conspiracy-minded private citizens, vaccine misinformation can be a way to make sense of the world, even if the explanations they arrive at are often nightmarish and bizarre.

There was a long section on Robert F. Kennedy Jr., of course:

Kennedy’s current position has moved away from scientific claims toward an even more unsettling assertion. Vaccine mandates and government efforts to manage the pandemic, he argues, are a form of totalitarian oppression. “We have witnessed over the past 20 months,” he said in a recent speech, “a coup d’état against democracy and the demolition, the controlled demolition, of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”

…“What we’re seeing today is what I call turnkey totalitarianism,” he told his audience. “They are putting into place all these technological mechanisms for control that we’ve never seen before.” He continued: “Even in Hitler’s Germany you could cross the Alps into Switzerland. You could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did.” But no longer, he suggested: “The mechanisms are being put in place that will make it so that none of us can run and none of us can hide.”

And the movement’s skill with manipulating social-media platforms:

California-based anti-vaccine groups had long used the hashtag #cdcwhistleblower on Twitter, a reference to the spurious claims of C.D.C. malfeasance that would be central to Wakefield’s conspiratorial documentary “Vaxxed.” But the hashtag only occasionally traveled beyond the confines of the anti-vaccine crowd. So different hashtags with broader appeal — #TCOT (top conservatives on Twitter), #2A (Second Amendment) and even #blm (Black Lives Matter) — were included in tweets. The tactic paid off. According to an analysis by DiResta and Gilad Lotan, a data scientist, there had not been much overlap between what they call “Tea Party conservative” and “antivax” Twitter before 2015. But around this time, a new space emerged between the two realms, a domain they labeled “vaccine choice” Twitter. Its participants were obsessed with the ideas of freedom and government overreach.

These online groups, quite small in number, proved to be very adept at leveraging the viral potential of social media to make themselves seem large. Although surveys have repeatedly indicated that the great majority of parents support vaccination, these activists fostered, DiResta says, “a perception among the public that everyone was opposed to this policy.” To her dismay, some California Republican politicians adopted this new rhetoric of “parental choice,” despite the fact that SB277 had several Republican co-sponsors. They seemed to have sensed a wedge issue, she says, “an opportunity to differentiate themselves from Democrats,” who held a majority in the Legislature. “It was pure cynicism.” Many of their own children were vaccinated, she points out. But the rhetoric galvanized people in a way that previous anti-vaccine messaging hadn’t.

And I thought: We’re there, aren’t we? The Faith Assembly is no longer a lunatic church in Nowhere, Indiana. It’s everywhere. From Hobart Freeman’s gangrenous leg a thousand poison blossoms bloomed, and wave among us. I think of this bag of meat lying in intensive care for seven weeks before dying, and am awed by the patience of those who had to care for her. As I write this, four candidates for governor are on Mackinac Island, preparing for a “debate.” All oppose vaccine mandates of any kind (but all support making abortion illegal, in all cases).

It’s stuff like this that makes me want to just give up on this stupid fucking country. Instead, I intend to meet a couple of friends for dinner tonight, and de-stress a little. It’s almost Friday. And I don’t belong to the Faith Assembly.

Have a great weekend, all. Keep your sunny side up.

Posted at 4:10 pm in Current events | 48 Comments