Saturday, November 5, 2016

Russia & the FBI: strange bedfellows in dirty election tricks

In the last week we’ve learned that a faction of the FBI wants to elect Trump… 

That, before deciding to announce he was looking into more emails that may not have anything to do with Hillary Clinton, the Director of the FBI quashed an announcement that Russia may have deep ties to the Trump campaign… 

That a Fox News anchor admitted to lying when he said an indictment of Hillary Clinton was imminent… 

That the National Enquirer bought a story of a Playboy model who had an affair with Donald Trump while he was married to Melania and then refused to publish it… 

That the mainstream news media has completely ignored a rape charge against Donald Trump, the impending trial against Trump University and the whopper Trump told about Clinton’s immigration plans… 

That an Ohio judge has ordered the Republican Party and the Trump campaign to cease and desist their voter suppression activities… 

For the most part, the mainstream news media ignores the mounting negative news about Donald Trump in favor of features that downplay the enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton or explore the reasons that certain groups like the Donald. 

And the polls are tightening, the result of what is no doubt the independent nefarious efforts of the FBI, the Russian government, the Republican Party and the mainstream news media. 

We know what each of them wants: 

A faction of the FBI, apparently including the Director, are “evil clown Republicans” (the equivalent of “yellow dog Democrats,” you know, will vote for any Republican, even an evil clown!) and seem more beholden to party than country. Perhaps the FBI is making a play to become the special security agency for a Trump Administration, seeing that virtually every former leader of the other agencies and departments of security plus every living ex-president is supporting Hillary. I’m not the first to smell the evil stench of J. Edgar Hoover. 

Russia would rather have the vain and unstable Donald Trump as president of the nation serving as the largest impediment to Russian global aspirations.  

The establishment wing of the Republican Party really doesn’t care what happens to the country, as long as taxes are cut even further on the incomes of the ultra-wealthy. They’re quite happy to continue bedding with racists and those who would deny women control over their own bodies if it means they can keep taking more and more of the country’s wealth. 

As to the mainstream news media—I think their ultra-wealthy owners and operators realize that Trump is dangerously delusional, but fear Democratic control of both houses, which would bring the higher taxes on the wealthy that they would hate so much. They are therefore trying to thread the needle—say enough of the truth about Trump to keep him from winning, but falsely malign Clinton enough to keep her from achieving the landslide that will give Democrats control of the Senate and House. 

You can see the mass media trying to get cute in the way they have adjusted their campaigns according to the changing spread in the polls. When Clinton had a healthy lead after the convention the mainstream media created false equivalencies, did not report Trump’s many lies, underplayed Trump scandals and gave Trump spokespersons free reign. When the race got close, they started calling the Trumpites on their lies and exaggerations, were more complimentary of Hillary Clinton and focused on Trump’s sexual assaults.  After the debates in which Clinton trounced Trump and widened her lead to a landslide, the mainstream news media once again started giving favorable coverage to Trumpty-Dumpty and paying too much attention to yet the latest iteration in the longest running non-scandal in history, Hillary’s emails.  

We know what the FBI and Russia want. We know what Republicans want. And we know what the news media wants. 

The question is, what do the American people want?

A seasoned competent leader with the most progressive agenda in American history or a mentally unbalanced, racist sexual assaulter with no real knowledge of the issue whose program will bankrupt the country, send the global economy into a depression and gut the middle class?




Monday, October 31, 2016

Major TV advertiser appeals to alt-right by cleaning up Pepe the Frog + Comey apologists make no sense

By Marc Jampole

It’s bad enough that Stephen Bannon, a major figure of the racist, Nazi-loving alt-right is directing the campaign of a major political candidate. Now it appears that one of the largest advertisers on TV is working a sanitized version of a symbol of the alt-right into a much-repeated commercial. The ugliest part is…it’s Volkswagen, a German company that should be more sensitive to the nuances of racial coding and cultural symbols.

The alt-right, as most readers will already know, is a loose collection of fringe organizations, angry individuals, chatrooms and websites advocating white supremacy, white nationalism, Islamophobia, anti-feminism, homophobia, antisemitism, white male superiority and nativism. The alt-right tends to be very anti-government and pro-guns.

One unofficial symbol of the alt-right is a cartoon character named Pepe the Frog, an anthropomorphized amphibian. Originally a black-and-white line drawing, Pepe quickly transformed to deep green with brown lips. He is often depicted as a frog’s head on a human body, but often he has a frog body.

A quick perusal of the Internet will reveal Pepe’s image in a large number of frightening contexts, including:
  • With the legend “You will always be a n****r”
  • Pepe dressed as a Nazi SS officer saying “Feels good.”
  • Pepe in a KKK white hood and robe
  • Pepe with a Hitler stubby moustache saying, “Kill Jews man”
  • A collage photo of Pepe with Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, long-time racist provocateur Roger Stone and Trump’s sons.
  • Pepe covered in Nazi insignia with the number 14 over his left eyelid and 88 over his right eyelid; to alt-righters 14 is a numeric shorthand for “we must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children” and 88 means “Heil Hitler.”
  • Pepe wearing a Trump button and making fun of a Mexican family on the other side of a metal fence.

These and many other posters incorporating Pepe explain why the Anti-Defamation League has designated Pepe as a symbol of hate. Pepe’s creator has also vehemently condemned the racist and nativist uses to which the icon has been put.

But Volkswagen evidently didn’t get the memo, or is quietly trying to appeal to alt-righters.

The narrative of the TV ad for the 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, a four-wheel station wagon, plays out wordlessly, first to ambient sound and then to Eddie Rabbit’s “Driving My Life Away”: A millennial male with the requisite very short beard is gazing at a frog in a terrarium in his work cube. His boss knocks on the glass wall of the cube and gives him a “get that frog out of here” gesture. In the next shot, our hero is driving his Golf Alltrack out of a parking structure and into the street, onto the highway and into a woodsy road to a pond in the middle of a forest. We see the frog in a pond looking tearfully at the car. The final shots are of the guy driving the VW with the frog on the dash looking as happy as a clam, or perhaps a pollywog.  “Oooh, I’m drivin’ my life a way, looking for a better….” Fadeout.

The frog looks completely like a frog in form, but it has the emotional life and expressiveness of a human, just like Pepe. He is attracted to doing something that makes young men feel good, just like Pepe (although in the case of Pepe, some of those things are socially unacceptable outside a small circle of white male supremacists). The frog hangs out with young white men, just like Pepe does. He has the same evocative eyes as Pepe does.

Don’t you think it’s a little more than coincidental that Volkswagen comes out with a commercial targeted at rural-loving (and therefore probably white) young men using an anthropomorphized frog who interacts with humans round the same time that an anthropomorphized frog who interacts with humans becomes a symbol of a political movement filled with rural-loving young white men? There were certainly a number of other terrarium animals with which the commercial’s cool dude could have bonded over the same love of driving a VW: newt, turtle, snake or a gerbil. It could have been a bird, which would have underscored the motif of speed and freedom.

But Volkswagen selected a frog that will remind some of Pepe. Especially those who know and love Pepe because he’s the same kind of, n-hating, immigrant bashing good-old boy that they are.

Marketing departments do a tremendous amount of work analyzing key branding elements, such as color, spokesperson and certainly an animal that’s going to act human. I’m sure focus groups with their target market loved the frog. I’m equally sure that someone did a thorough Internet search. When I searched for “frog” in Google, Pepe did not come up in the first five pages of results, but when I searched for “frog symbol,” Pepe as an alt-right icon comes up on the first page. Moreover, it is incredulous to think that of all the dozens of people to work on the ad—marketing managers, product managers, writers, directors, market researchers, advertising placement specialists, et. al.—none had read any of the hundreds of stories in the news media about Pepe the alt-right Frog, especially when it became an issue in the Trump campaign. 

We might be able to give Volkswagen the benefit of the doubt and say its staff didn’t do their homework, but that doesn’t explain why it didn’t pull the ad as soon as the mainstream media began covering Pepe.

I’m fairly certain that Volkswagen goes out of its way not to appeal to Nazi-lovers in its home market. Why would do so in the United States? Answer is…money.

Changing the topic to the election campaign that I promised myself I would not cover again until November 9…

Those who sympathize with FBI Director Comey after he sent his weaseled letter about potentially finding more Hillary emails assert that the life-long Republican Comey would have risked being accused of a cover-up if he waited until after the election and something important turned out to be on the Weiner computer.

What these Comey supporters are really saying is that the Director was right to put his own job above the fairness of the political process. Comey must have known the mainstream and right-wing news media would pick up this large, juicy shank of veal like a pack of dogs that haven’t seen a bone in months. The only conclusion if you follow the line of the apologists is that he preferred to definitely affect the election as opposed to being accused of possible doing it after the fact.

Consider, too, the low likelihood that any of these emails will make a difference in the original conclusion: all information suggests that they’re probably duplicates of what we have already seen. Based on this low likelihood of relevancy, all Comey had to do was write a CYA memo to Attorney General Loretta Lynch saying he agreed with her recommendation to follow standard operating procedure and wait until the  emails had been examined to make an announcement.

My conclusion: Comey is either a senseless puppet of the Republicans or an active participant in the second attempt to use dirty tricks to sway this election (the first being by the Russian government).

If Trump should win, it would mean that every Republican president since Reagan except for Bush I would have been elected because of dirty tricks: Nixon, by making a deal with South Vietnam to block peace negotiations; Reagan with his deal to have Iran not send home the hostages before the elections; Bush II’s brother’s nefarious voter suppression and miscounting in Florida that won the 2000 election. And now this incredibly well-timed but probably baseless smear of Hillary by the Republican Director of the FBI.