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By now you might have seen today’s headlines about the incoming NRA president and former Iran/Contra scandal villain Oliver North. He claimed that school shootings were in part made worse by an epidemic of drugged kids who have been prescribed Ritalin.

His claim, without mentioning any kind of supporting evidence, isn’t just more unfounded fearmongering from a group who uniformly throws science to the dustbin when it’s counter to their objectives. It’s also copying a tried and true method of distraction used whenever things go wrong. Why? Because it’s exactly like the silly links that are pushed by the (generally anti-science) vaccine fearing crowd who are convinced that such things lead to autism.

Meanwhile, people who study this stuff say Ritalin leads to mostly calmer behavior in children. But North doesn’t seem to care. He has a new bogey man that will be argued about for years to come as a surrogate for gun control. Just like vaccines leading to Autism.

Does it matter at all that there’s no such link? That North grabbed this idea out of thin air? Nope, not a whisker. That’s the beauty of the Republican voter these days. They are usually too uninformed and disinterested to look this stuff up – or they do – on partisan and non academic sources, so now Ritalin is responsible for the violence and if we can just solve that problem there won’t be any more school shootings.

President Trump asked Bill Gates about forming a commission to investigate the link between vaccines and autism. Gates told him there is no link and that’s a “dead end”.

So one of the richest men in the world, and one who’s committed to donating the lion’s share of his vast wealth to charity, is forced to counsel the president that the people whispering conspiracy theories in his ear are full of crapola. Proof that disinformation reaches the highest levels, even if in this case, that happens to be our own Mr. Bean, President Trump.

I’m not an authority on autism or vaccines, but let’s face it: I’m going to trust the opinion of Bill Gates, the worlds most respected philanthropist, over that of the politicians who scorn academia like our hapless leader – who also had to ask the Gates to explain the difference between HIV and HPV – twice.

Once again, conservatives have willfully chosen to believe their politicians over academics and believe fake news and fake information. So now a whole army of innocently, stupid people are afraid to vaccinate because, you know, autism.

Oh, and we should hurry to fix the REAL problem we have in this country causing all the violence – Ritalin – before school shootings become horrific and commonplace!

The death toll is now at 50 in the new Palestinian protests. Many shot by Israeli snipers tasked with defending the border wall from breach. What did we gain from all of this? a big fat nothing.

But what did we lose? Well, let’s see – we certainly lost the respect from the world, who collectively turned their backs on this predictable situation. Well, not everyone to be fair. I think Guatemala and Paraguay both followed us into this dark and stupid adventure, but pretty much everyone else called it collective nonsense and refused to be part of it.

We also haven’t done Israel any favors. There’s nothing to be gained by them – no financial or geopolitical advantages to speak of. Perhaps those on the right consider a TON of bad press a win for Israel as bodies of stone throwing teenagers are carried away by makeshift ambulances in front of the camera? Oh, sure, the hawks are happy, but only because they enjoy poking the bear. Not because they actually gained anything either.

Meanwhile America is determined to self immolate. After pulling out of the Paris agreement, then announcing the breaking of America’s word in the Iran accord, we now have followed up with a third gut punch by stirring up the Middle East hornet’s nest and adding more blood to the feud.

We also gave up our impartiality with this reckless maneuver. The Palestinians will now never allow the US to mediate peace. But to be fair, Trump had already thumbed his nose at the Palestinians anyway having previously named Jared Kushner as Middle East peace head honcho – a questionable choice given that he’s Jewish. Full disclosure – I’m a Jew as well. But let’s be real: it’s hard to imagine a Jew successfully mediating between Jews and Muslims. Predictably things have not improved with this move.

So the peace the process has been shot and left for dead by the Trump clan and the world once again think’s we’re run by drunken monkeys. You can disagree with me, and call this ‘winning’ if you want, but the middle east is a mess and no one trusts America to lead in a responsible way. I’m not sure how much more winning we can take. To me, this is just poor American leadership. An adventure with no purpose, no goal and no definable winners.

Under Donald Trump and more generally over the last several years the right wing media is driving us off a cliff, and we may be witnessing the end of our republic as we know it. I know that sounds dire, but I’m certainly not the first person to echo this sentiment and ignoring it isn’t an option.

Fuelled by angry right wing conservatives hell bent on arresting social progress, conspiracy theories have not only gained ground in the right’s main stream consciousness, they are threatening to become the mainstream itself. Last week, Rep. Devin Nunes, a serial abuser of his office’s power, released a partisan memo written by his staff over objections by both the DOJ and the FBI due to misleading content. The purpose of the memo was obvious to everyone: discredit the FBI as a left wing bastion of corruption, and delegitimize the Russia investigation and the man running it.

As people are beginning to understand that the United States is increasingly becoming an alt reality state, the power of such partisan antics begins to come into focus. Watching Fox News and then MSNBC, one could not help but notice the different way these two stations covered the same story. Fox’s master propagandist and president of the Donald Trump Sycophant Fan Club, Sean Hannity, artfully painted a picture of a situation so much worse than Watergate that Nixon’s crimes seemed trivial by comparison. Meanwhile, MSNBC and the rest of us looked at the memo and shrugged. Trump’s own FBI and DOJ said it was misleading. The contents were partisan nonsense so the memo was not worth reading.

The point in all of this is that we live in different universes, where people who get their information from what can only be called pure propaganda outlets have no idea there’s a counter narrative that in many cases is far closer to reality. Reading right wing message boards, it’s clear that the commenters seem to indicate that there really is a huge problem in both the FBI and the DOJ, that various people are going to jail, and that it’s only a matter of time before the whole thing comes to light.

Meanwhile, the cumulative effect of the out-of-control right wing spin machine is that we’re becoming dangerously divided in numerous and insidious ways that threaten all of us, and our most trusted institutions are under assault.

  • The conservatives, furious over social change in the country’s perception of gay marriage and abortion have turned on our judiciary. They coined the term ‘activist judge’ and the phrase ‘legislating from the bench’ to describe unpopular decisions. At first, it seemed overly dramatic yet mostly harmless. But years later, this dangerous spin has taken hold and now judges in certain parts of the country or certain courts are supposedly suspect. Trump took this concept to an extreme during his election campaign where he openly questioned the loyalties of an American born judge because of his parent’s country of origin.
  • Conservatives have declared war on the media, the cornerstone of our democracy by calling them collectively the ‘opposition party’ and ‘ the enemy’. Let’s not underestimate the power of the media. The media is best used in a democracy to shine a light on corruption and without it, state issued propaganda can control dissent. One only needs to look at the pure fabrications coming from Fox News to understand the power here, and conservatives are manipulating that power daily with their disparaging attacks on what they have derisively termed the “MSM”, an acronym we all know today as a result of their long-term efforts to sew doubt about reporting by what previously were simply our nation’s respected news institutions. CNN, NBC, CBS and others are all under attack by the conservatives in this country as purveyors of the newly minted “fake news” label purveyed most frequently by the president himself.
  • As mentioned above, conservatives have now taken aim at law enforcement agencies like the FBI and Justice Department. In an effort to shield Donald Trump from the consequences of having likely worked with a foreign government to win the election, they are willing to sew doubt in the minds of voters about our two most important law enforcement agencies we have in the country.
  • Conservatives have routinely complained about the primary and general election voting systems, calling them rigged, among other things even when they win elections. When they lose, there’s no doubt that their voices will be raised to fever pitch, much like the supporters of Roy Moore who recently refused to concede defeat in his campaign for Senator in Alabama.
  • Conservatives has used Fox News and other news outlets to drum up conspiracy theories about political opponents. Evil Arizona sheriff Joe Apriao is pushing the fake birther theory, and calls for Hillary Clinton and others to be jailed over an above board uranium deal are just the latest nonsense to permeate right wing airspace. Meanwhile, Fox and others would have you believe the “Deep State” is a real thing, and out to sabotage Trump.

What was once a curious sideshow is become a dangerous and destabilizing force in the country. Propaganda this sinister works to give conservatives the right to claim any investigation by the FBI is biased against them. Any unpopular judicial ruling is biased against them. The media is hopelessly biased against them, and of course the voting system and the very government itself is an infested den of bias by left wing agitators who are biased against them.

This kind of talk lays the groundwork for people to claim just about anything with a degree of impunity, much as the environment Trump has created for himself. Trump recently claimed it was treasonous not to applaud his state of the union speech. This is where we’ve arrived. Meanwhile his outrageous utterances often carry no real consequence other than to incite, but loom dangerously over us as his vitriol spreads dissention among his angry band of gun toting right-wing followers.

It’s time to take action. Right wing news like Fox New, Breitbart and others are taking this beyond a line where things could get out of their control. They are irresponsible and dangerous. Hannity is a purveyor of dangerous propaganda that eventually could lead some to commit acts of violence in this country on an scale few imagine today. One cannot incite millions of people night after night with cries of “1000 time worse than Watergate” without someone (or maybe lots of someones) beginning to take action against their perceived enemies like this shot-up pizzeria. It’s one thing to report the news and it’s another thing to make it up and twist it to manipulate sheepish viewers. It’s also incredibly short sighted. We don’t need the kinds of problems that come with a country where public perception of our institutions is so eroded that no one trusts the police, the judges, the media, the vote, or the government. That’s a recipe for the end in both of our mutually exclusive universes, but that’s where conservatives seem to be leading us.

Interestingly, instead of blaming each other for the shutdown, congress is blaming Trump. Everyone is basically blaming Trump. Which makes sense. He’s not a deal maker (that’s just puffery from Trump himself and his campaign). As a politician, he’s a despot. And you can’t dictate terms to either side of a US budget negotiation as a despot, even if you are president. You can lead, if you know how. But Trump doesn’t ever lead. He tweets. So there’s an impasse but voters know who the real villain is: The tweeter in chief.

By November, this shutdown will be forgotten. The news cycle churns swiftly and between now and November, there’s likely to be about 100 things Trump says or does that infuriate, insult and appall. Let’s face it, we won’t even remember if the Shutdown occurred this year by voting time. But people will remember Trump, and his foul mouth, disgusting ideas and mostly vile agenda.

Over the weekend was the second woman’s march. It drew crowds so large, Facebook memes sprung up with various views from cities around the country and world. Trump mocked them in tweet, and while the shutdown is likely to be forgotten by the time the election draws near, again, Trump will not be. And while he takes glee at poking the giant the eye with his stick, his day will come. If the size of the woman’s march in any indication, it will be soon.

President Trump once again proved he’s not the right guy for the job, this time by humiliating himself with his blatantly racist comments. We want more people from Norway? Presumably so he can date their daughters after Melania wilts. But aside from that, the racism is pretty clear. No good people can possibly come from Haiti or Africa or anywhere there are brown people, so why let any of them in?

I’ll be honest. Trump has been around public life for years and has dealt with people of all stripes during his long career. As much as I detest him, his demagoguery and race baiting, I always saw it more as politically opportunistic with a racist base than how he personally feels about various classes of people. I guess I was wrong, which doesn’t really break my heart to discover. I see it for what it is. He really doesn’t like dark people all that much.

Shocker.

Conservatives, while wrapped in the flag, never seem miss an opportunity to bash the ‘mainstream media’ or MSM as it’s referred to by some. They call it biased, and lately just claim it’s ‘fake news’, a term that is used to describe pretty much anything said by the Trump administration and their merry band of propagandists, but is nevertheless used by the aforementioned to discredit legitimate journalism.

But I love the mainstream media because I understand what the country would be like without them. Like them or not, they are the closest thing we have to a ‘check and balance’ on government power at all levels, and without them we might as well just give up on the country altogether because we’ll never again poses the tools necessary to vet our information.

You can hate the MSM, but whether you like them or not, we can all agree that the mainstream media is accountable. Large media organizations like ABC, NBC, CBS are accountable to voters and viewers alike. They are accountable to politicians who claim foul when misinformation is sometimes accidentally disseminated. And they are accountable to advertisers who sometimes pull ads over objectionable content and would certainly pull ads if the content was deemed to be willfully dishonest.

Consider the alternative to MSM. No mainstream media means a complete lack of any kind of third party accountability. It means hollow and unaccountable standards for (and I use the term loosely) ‘journalists’ like Project Veritas hack and convict James O’Keefe who thinks lying to advance his belief system is fair game. We already have this problem with right wing rags pushing conspiracy theories to gullible conservatives who love the red meat subject matter but lack the critical thinking skills to correctly filter the noise from the actual news. No, former president Obama is not a Kenyan Muslim who hates America.

Without the MSM, how would people be able to determine what news to believe? Accountability is critical for our democracy and we should honor and protect it as such. Once the mainstream media is gone, what does that leave you with? Hyper partisan hack news organizations like Breitbart and Fox that act as de facto state media for the administration, and a virtual Wild West of so-called and deceptively named (and again, I use the term loosely) ‘news’ outlets with a wide spectrum of dubious journalistic standards that includes everything from innuendo to outright lies.

Attacks on the mainstream media weaken the only verifiable sources of independent news that exist on earth. Without them, the only official news we would get to hear would be from our government and subject to their willful deception and propaganda. Who wants that? During Obama we could trust most of what the government said. Under Trump, we can’t trust anything. So it’s no surprise they consider the media the enemy. They actually ARE the enemy of the Trump administration, and for good reason. They are the only bulwark between Trump’s constant blather or twitter lies and the actual truth of what happens in the world.

So when you hear someone disrespecting the MSM, correct them. Remind them that without the mainstream news, they would be at the mercy of the government to disseminate any news they saw fit without any checks or independent verification. We should protect the MSM with our very lives, even before we protect our own government. For a government without this kind of check is on it’s way to becoming a dictatorship sooner or later. The MSM is the ultimate check on power and without them every bit of information becomes suspect.