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The OMFGVIRUS myth is cracking as even the CDC now acknowledges the death rate for Covid-19 is orders of magnitude lower than the apocalyptic future they once predicted for the nation. Unfortunately, it's too late - Americans have become quivering fear-addicts, desperate for their fix, devolving into semi-human pod people who literally screech and point, Invasion-of-the-Body-Snatchers-style, at the unmasked. The virus is disappearing from the UK so fast they don't know if they'll be able to rush what's sure to be an appallingly toxic vaccine to market - quel dommage!  - but that’s OK, there will always be a government ready & willing to use perfectly healthy populations as guinea pigs for the disturbing experiments of the pharmaceutical companies that fill their campaign coffers. It’s one big happy circle-jerk, & you’re not invited, except when it comes time to start forcibly penetrating people. With needles, you pervert, who do you think they are, Alan Dershowitz?

May 18: You’re with us or you’re with the virus; eeevil ChiComs; pod people run wild; have some moar fear

Democrat-linked group blames anti-lockdown protesters for virus' spread after tracking their phones

**'Made in China' increasingly unpopular as Trump puffs up China trade war

**Social distancing innovations ensure 'new normal' will be anything but

US Covid-19 death toll cracks 90,000 (let's pretend comorbidities don't exist, shall we?)

May 19: Reverse Robin Hood says what? Cuomo kills Grandma; entrapment extravaganza

JPMorgan CEO preemptively dodges the guillotine with phony show of caring about inequality

Cuomo holds NY healthcare system hostage, stepping up demands for federal bailout $

Declassified memo sheds light on Comey's 'no-suspicion' pursuit of Flynn 

May 20: American opportunism run amok; pigs, fish, & bears, oh my!

Covid-19 robocalls push lockdown-addled Americans over the edge - after stealing $13.4mn of their money

Defense Intelligence Agency pours cold water on Pompeo's claim Iran opposes Afghan peace

PETA stages bizarre, hypocritical in-game protest of fishing in Nintendo's Animal Crossing

PragerU relegated to 'reduced visibility' on Facebook after mythbusting polar bear video

May 21: Feminist misogyny; Joe Drool; FBI has a hammer; Americans don’t trust Fox Henhouse Guards Inc

**Disingenuous "feminist" attacks on Lana Del Rey prove her right better than she ever could

Trump 'destroys anything he touches,' says a slurring, subdued Biden

Corpus Christi naval air station shooting linked to terrorism by FBI

Americans' trust in Covid-19 vaccine sinks as more comprehend unsafe timetable & political points

May 22: Virtue-signal to victory; grab ‘em & jab ‘em; see plane crash; lockdowns kill 

**UC system ditches standardized tests in lawsuit dodge masquerading as grasp at ‘woke’ cred

UK judges rule state can vaccinate foster kids against their parents’ wishes

CCTV video shows PIA plane that crashed in Karachi explode

**We’ve known for weeks that lockdown suicides would outnumber Covid-19 deaths. Why was it ignored?

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Fear and uncertainty have dominated the media coverage of the Covid-19 epidemic. The novel coronavirus is depicted not as a pedestrian pathogen certain to be beaten into submission by the miracles of modern science any day now, but as an invisible evil lurking everywhere, formidable enough to inspire a respectful terror even in the leading lights of the medical establishment. And in case Americans had any doubt about how they were supposed to regard this new viral threat, the establishment talking heads many rely upon for the self-assured delivery of their news have swapped their usual swagger for apprehension. Amid this ‘confidence vacuum,’ the popular response to the pandemic has taken on a religious cast. Protective measures like masks have taken on a talismanic quality, hand-washing has been elevated to a ritual performance, and a cult built on naming and shaming ‘heretics’ has seized the minds of many - while their rights are quietly stripped away and a paternalistic police state substituted in their place.

Unable to see the microscopic “enemy” they are told threatens the lives of them and their family and deprived of a scientifically proven cure, individuals seeking deliverance from Covid-19 are left with only their faith that the protective measures prescribed by health experts –our scientific priest class– can keep it at bay. If it ended there, the Corona Cult would merely be a curiosity - humans have turned to religion in troubled times since before written history began. But its dark side has already reared its ugly head - those who buck the new orthodoxy are already being blamed for the plague.

We've been here before. In the Middle Ages, pious peasants were kept in line by priests who told them God was watching their every move. When a plague appeared, it was interpreted as divine punishment, the wrath of God visited upon a sinful population. Those who wished to stand out as especially devout whipped themselves in public, or wore painful garments called “hair shirts” - in both cases with the aim of ‘mortifying the flesh,’ literally ‘putting to death’ their sinful natures.

It’s no coincidence that self-flagellation reached its height of popularity during the Black Plague. It was assumed by its practitioners that if they underwent penance by inflicting pain on themselves, they would be spared the God-given pain of the plague. Those who publicly refused to participate in the religious rituals of the day were called out as infidels, heretics, witches or other servants of the devil. They might be chased out of town; many were tortured and even killed, often in shockingly gruesome ways, as the centuries progressed and the Inquisition rose to power. The pious were regularly told their misfortunes were due to the presence of a satanic influence among them, with complex problems declared to be solved by simply casting out the offending presence.

While western society may tell itself it has left those Dark Ages far behind, the lure of simplistic explanations and the desire to find fulfillment in shared suffering - inflicted or endured - are as potent as ever.

Mask of the red death

Face masks have become both the visual symbol of the Covid-19 epidemic and the dominant religious fetish for the Cult of Corona. While cities from New York to Laredo, Texas have adopted regulations mandating them in public places and chain stores like Costco have barred unmasked customers from their premises, it’s hard not to notice those individuals so devoted to the mask-wearing ritual that they sport the face-coverings in their own cars (with the windows rolled up) and when running down epidemic-emptied streets. Poor messaging is partly to blame - the Centers for Disease Control has repeatedly changed its narrative on who should wear masks, from “sick people” to “only healthcare workers” to “everyone.” However, the Cult of Corona’s devotion to the mask extends far beyond following the recommendations of a mere public health agency.

The mask has taken on a supernatural significance that far outweighs its utility in disease protection. Even the N-95 masks health authorities have recommended to protect society from virus-positive individuals have been found largely ineffective in protecting the uninfected from carriers in their surroundings, and the flimsy surgical masks that have become ubiquitous for sale on American street corners are next to worthless in stopping virus transmission. Indeed, some doctors have warned that wearing a mask is counterproductive due to the false sense of security it creates, while others suggest it's actually dangerous due to the risk of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and hypercapnia (excess carbon dioxide). Yet it’s impossible to walk into a supermarket in many cities without something covering the mouth - even as one’s eyes remain unprotected and ready to receive whatever viral particles are lingering in the air. Mask requirements thus have nothing to do with health and everything to do with religious faith. They provide a way for the faithful to telegraph their virtue at a distance and recognize one another instantly, while flagging the non-compliant as infidels to be avoided. 

In the same way that garlic and a cross were supposed to ward off vampires in times past, the face mask is supposed to fend off the “invisible enemy” lurking everywhere at once. One might feel a little silly driving around with a mask on (or stringing a clove of garlic above one’s window), but better safe than sorry - and if you haven’t been infected, or had any vampires show up at your bedside, who’s to say it isn’t working? 

Ritual, snitchual

A bevy of rituals has sprung up among Corona Cultists, from the benign if eccentric (swabbing all exposed surfaces with Lysol wipes) to the sinister (reporting neighbors for perceived violations). Even the simplest, most scientifically-sound measures like hand-washing have taken on a ritualistic cast, as the virus-fearing infuse them with a terrified zeal. How else to explain the popularity of the dozens of “hand-washing apps” available for smartphones but that the shock of the epidemic has caused us to question that which we once took for granted? Just as peasants of a previous era might have been spooked into regular church attendance by the specter of the Black Death, their descendants pore over videos of hand-washing on YouTube, determined to live a “cleaner” life.

But another holdover from the Dark Ages has risen its ugly head. While our ancestors might have turned in their oddball neighbor as a “witch,” claiming to have seen the merry old spinster cavorting with Satan under the full moon, modern-day snitches are picking up their smartphones and dialing specially-designated lines to report violations of social distancing orders. These services are disturbingly popular - New Zealand’s snitch site crashed repeatedly within its first week in late March as over 4,000 people scrambled to turn in their neighbors for violating that nation’s harsh lockdown regulations, which separated people into “bubbles” based on their living arrangements and forbid them from interacting with those outside their “bubble.”   

Snitches come in several stripes. There have always been busybodies who call the police when their neighbor’s music is too loud rather than knocking on their door and politely asking to turn it down. But in the Cult of Corona, these miscreants are joined by those driven half-crazy with fear, convinced that the act of turning in rule breakers will somehow protect them from contracting the virus. They’d never say such a preposterous thing out loud, of course - if asked, they merely claim to be concerned for the community, or worried their victim’s irresponsible behavior is spreading Covid-19 willy-nilly, perhaps even stating that their decision to turn their neighbor in was “for their own good.” Just as the Inquisitor’s concern for those they tortured on the rack was supposedly for their victim’s “immortal soul,” so does the modern snitch rationalize their betrayal of their neighbors by reasoning that the virus police are concerned only for the health of the heretics they rat out - while secretly breathing a sigh of relief that they aren’t the ones being tortured (or placed on a ventilator), this time. Following orders becomes a source of comfort for the snitch deprived of life's normal pleasures by the lockdown - providing an avenue for transformation from victim to hero.

Fueling this schadenfreudisch frenzy are media headlines celebrating the karmic punishment of lockdown violators. Whether it’s spring-breakers testing positive for Covid-19 after throwing caution to the wind and partying down on the beach or social-media showoffs boasting about refusing to social-distance, the public smiting of heretics has been a popular topic among Corona Cultists isolated in their homes. John McDaniel, an Ohio man who criticized his governor for shutting down the state, reportedly died in April of coronavirus only for social media mobs to dance on his grave and use his death to attack other “doubters” (including Donald Trump, whose insufficient reverence at the altar of the virus continues to set zealots frothing with rage). CNN’s Jake Tapper claimed that “practically every day” he read about a corona doubter succumbing to the virus, blaming conservative media and politicians for their deaths - heresy, apparently, is as contagious as the virus. The New York Post, which ran a moralizing story free of any identifying details about a nameless Kingston, New York barber who’d caught the virus after supposedly flouting lockdown for several weeks to cut hair, also rushed to connect a spike in coronavirus cases in Kentucky with an anti-lockdown protest a few days earlier - even though the virus’ lengthy latency period (and the fact that a significant chunk of the new cases were in nursing homes) made it next to impossible the two events were linked. And Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, one of the most fanatical government figures in the US' corona cult, implied in a press conference that protests were more likely to contribute to the spread of the virus than other forms of “congregating. 

UK PM Boris Johnson was perhaps the most public example of the “divine punishment” phenomenon - his conversion to the Corona Cult (after a few days of timidly suggesting herd immunity might be a better path to public health) came too late to keep him out of intensive care at the hands of the NHS his party has so ruthlessly sought to privatize. When actress Miriam Margolyes declared following his recovery that she had wanted to see BoJo dead, some in the media appeared to agree with her - while making a point of casting such agreement as gleefully subversive. Not only do Corona Cultists find a commonality in rooting for the virus against the dissidents who challenge their worldview, but their own adherence to an exhaustingly cognitively-dissonant dogma is affirmed as the correct path by the heretics' misfortune. Enforced austerity tends to be unpopular with its victims, but when that privation is reframed as a noble sacrifice made by all [except the wealthy] for the common good, it becomes easier to bear the suffering - and much more difficult to tolerate those who refuse to go along.

The real danger comes when zealots feel compelled to “help” the virus smite the heretics (sure, I could wait for God to punish this evildoer in the afterlife, but why not take some of that work off His hands?). The Daily Mail cheered on an elderly woman who threatened to “kick the ass” of a stranger for merely calling the pandemic a “hoax.” An elderly patient died in a Brooklyn hospital after another patient knocked her to the ground, cracking her head open - supposedly because she "didn't stay more than six feet away." The violence need not be physical - a British woman told SkyNews she was “named and shamed” by neighbors on Facebook when she accidentally slept through her town’s weekly “clap for the NHS” ritual, in which participants lean out their windows and applaud at a fixed time every week in a choreographed celebration of the healthcare workers they believe protect them from the virus. Even viral videos of police abuses, which have been a dime a dozen during lockdowns that embolden the worst elements on the force, have been deluged with comments in support of the cops, charging the unarmed man/woman/child being arrested or brutalized “deserved it” because they were out without a mask/protesting/not standing 6 feet away from the nearest human. Never mind that the cops in the videos are almost never masked themselves, or that it’s impossible to maintain six feet of distance while making an arrest - certainly never mind the Kafkaesque paradox of arresting someone for not social-distancing, only to throw them in a jail cell with several other humans per square foot - these poor souls have sinned, and they must be punished. Don’t agree? You might end up in there with them.

Gotta have faith

For those whose faith is flagging after two months of lockdowns sapping both their bank accounts and health, polls are being churned out confirming upwards of 80% of Americans and nearly 9 out of 10 Britons support continuing the lockdowns, which combined with social media's growing censorship of anti-lockdown speech gives the false impression of a universal public consensus that government policies are both popular and lifesaving. Fanatical religious adherence is required to enforce belief in such absurdity, given the appalling track records of the High Priests of Lockdown. Imperial College corona czar Neil Ferguson was caught gallivanting with his mistress in defiance of his own policies after two months lecturing Brits about the importance of staying home, but his wildly irresponsible disease model - produced using a defective computer program that was more glitch than code - lives on, haunting the minds of lockdown-lovers who screech BoJo is letting Brits leave home too soon. Indeed, based on his resumé, Ferguson never should have been allowed near public policy. His terrible miscalculations regarding foot-and-mouth disease in 2001 led to the unnecessary destruction of over 6.5 million livestock, decimating the nation’s farming industry, while a similar but fortunately unheeded prediction in 2002 that mad cow disease would kill as many as 150,000 Britons was shown up by the reality of 178 killed. As the years went on, his apocalyptic visions only intensified - in 2005, he declared bird flu would kill some 200 million people worldwide - when reality saw some 455 people, total, killed over the past 15 years according to the WHO. His hysterical 2009 prediction that 65,000 Brits would die of swine flu encouraged the government to embrace GlaxoSmithKline’s unsafe Pandemrix vaccine, which caused permanent brain damage in thousands of people (mostly children, plus a good deal of NHS workers conned into taking the jab with false claims of its safety and effectiveness) - quite a bit more than the 283 killed by the actual swine flu.  

Not that the UK is alone in embracing faith-based “science” as health policy. Trump even appointed the man who led GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccine division during the Pandemrix debacle to lead “Operation Warp Speed,” his unhinged program to develop a vaccine by the end of 2020 (a process that normally takes five years being crammed into eight months). Like Ferguson, Anthony Fauci - the face of the US’ pandemic response - has decades of epidemic failures under his belt at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Starting with the thousands of otherwise-healthy HIV positive people who died in the 1980s thanks to Fauci’s shameless advocacy for AZT, which refashioned the toxic drug (too poisonous for terminal cancer patients) into a miracle pill for AIDS, and passing through at least one episode of perjury that saw him deny the existence of encephalitis as a possible side effect of the MMR vaccine (before remembering he was under oath and acknowledging it was “rare”), Fauci has displayed such breathtaking avarice and incompetence at the helm of the NIAID that the US life expectancy has actually declined noticeably under his watch for the first time in history. Yet like the followers of an end-times cult leader who remain loyal even as the appointed date for the end of the world comes and goes, devotees of these public health priests have not dared to learn their lesson. Instead, they ramp up their predictions of doom for heretical countries like Sweden and Belarus that have refused to fall in line with the universal lockdown doctrine. 

One level above the public health priesthood is Microsoft billionaire and Pandemic Pope Bill Gates, whose lack of medical credentials or even a college diploma have not stopped the world from hailing him as a prophet based on his “prediction” of a pandemic in 2015 - and his claim to have both the answers and the ability to pay for them. Gates’ deep pockets - he’s the number-one funder of the WHO, ever since Trump pulled US support - have given him the power to almost singlehandedly direct global health policy, steering it into a pharmaceutical iceberg even as real doctors protest his many conflicts of interest. Since diving into the money-pit of “philanthropy,” Gates has more than doubled his fortune; his foundation is heavily invested in the drug companies that make the vaccines that other groups he funds purchase for poor countries. He’s also very, very generous with the media, buying the silence of establishment outlets around the world - big names like the Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, Financial Times, and National Public Radio - so their journalists don’t recoil when he can barely keep from gibbering and squealing while discussing the economic hurt his lockdown policies are inflicting on hapless populations - or research the trail of suffering his foundation has left through the Global South.

Yet even the most enthusiastic cheerleaders of the pharmaceutical-industrial complex - vaccine advocates like Peter Hotez, the bowtie-sporting tropical disease specialist who was ubiquitous on TV during the 2018 “measles epidemic” attacking so-called “anti-vaxxers” - have expressed alarm at the decision to scrap the animal-testing phase for the Covid-19 vaccine that is supposed to save the world, noting that “there is a risk of immune enhancement” with vaccines for any coronavirus. During animal trials for an aborted SARS vaccine, mice who got the shot developed a severe version of the virus when exposed to it after they were inoculated, while ferrets similarly challenged post-vaccination with the virus suffered “enhanced liver damage.” Perhaps trying to get around these roadblocks, Moderna, the drugmaker currently leading the vaccine pack, is banking on a totally new kind of vaccine, one which, rather than lob a softball at the immune system in the form of a dead or weakened form of the virus, will attempt to reprogram our genetic material to create the pieces of the virus, so that the immune system can learn to fight them off. That’s how Gates himself describes this “promising” method, at least. Did we mention Moderna has never brought a vaccine to market before? What’s the matter - where’s your faith?

We may not be turning our eyes heavenward and praying for deliverance, but the leaders of the western world have declared society cannot fully return to normal until a magical perfect vaccine arrives from on high, an absurd one-stop solution that carries echoes of the “duck and cover”-type prescriptions for surviving a nuclear blast, drilled into people’s heads during the Cold War. The effect of instilling a powerful capacity for cognitive dissonance - teaching children to hide under their desks even as they were taught the laws of physics, i.e. an understanding that their desks couldn’t protect them - turned Americans into gold medalists in cognitive dissonance. Were it an Olympic sport, no one would even come close. 

Omnipotence & Omniscience in the 21st century

The contact-tracing platforms - both digital and human-based - being rolled out around the world have their philosophical roots in religious rites of confession, cross-bred with the police-state logic of the National Security Agency (“if you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear”) and coupled with the religious notion of an all-seeing, all-knowing deity. All deviation from lockdown dogma is logged and reported, including consorting with known heretics, and this Panopticon - attacked when it debuted in China as totalitarian police-state control - is now being embraced in western media as the work of benevolent governments concerned with citizen welfare. While this transformation was laid out chillingly in ‘Lock Step,’ a hypothetical future outlined in 2010 in the Rockefeller Foundation and Global Business Network’s “Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development,” any discussion of predictive programming is off-limits. Indeed, Corona Cultists are encouraged to cut off their “conspiracy theorist” relatives, because, in the words of Canadian broadcaster CBC, “conspiracies can be just as infectious, just as dangerous as a virus - so you have to guard against them.” Parents in Wales are being warned that conspiracy theorists are a greater threat than pedophiles on the internet. Compounding the seriousness of wrongthink, the WHO has popularized the term “infodemic” - implying ideas are as dangerous to one’s health as pathogens - and recommended a “vaccine for misinformation.”

Soon, the Corona Cultist will no longer have to self-report their symptoms on a Facebook survey or confess their sins to a contact-tracer. Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed clothing with embedded sensors to monitor the wearer’s vital signs. Enabled by the 5G networks being fast-tracked while any potential opposition is locked down, these sensors will communicate in real time with surveillance smart grids, pinpointing the offender and alerting others to give them a wide berth, refuse to serve them, and eventually have them "neutralized." Their bank account may be frozen until they return home, or even debited a certain fine based on the degree of disobedience ("that’ll be 20 Hail Bills…or $20 per minute outside the home, your choice"). Eventually, these sensors will be implanted inside the body - in what sounds like the plot of a science fiction dystopia, Microsoft secured a patent in March for a system that mines cryptocurrency based on physiological signals, theoretically permitting the corporation to ‘reward’ users based on desirable responses to certain stimuli. While the example they gave was banal - a reward for watching an advertisement - it’s no great leap to imagine equivalent punishments for those who respond with disgust to the ruling class’ propaganda. The all-knowing, all-seeing God micromanaging His followers, a religious trope that has been used to keep large populations in line for millennia, has finally been realized in the form of the Covid-19 police state. Big Brother wields technology as both carrot - gently shepherding His flock toward transhumanist perfection by offering a facsimile of freedom in return for downloading an app, accepting a “quantum dot tattoo,” or showing a “certificate of immunity” on demand - and stick, digitally and literally imprisoning those who deviate from His shining future.

A breathtakingly wealthy coalition of billionaires and their pet statesmen have seized their own slice of the divine by appointing themselves Big Brother’s agents on earth. From the messianic glow of European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen as she solicits money from cash-strapped European nations, to the aforementioned sweater-vested Gates channelling Nostradamus with predictions of "Pandemic Two," to second-generation New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (whose PR people have laid it on thick with hashtags like #Cuomosexual and #CuomoForPresident even as his state leads the world in infections and deaths and his policies of mandating nursing homes accept Covid-19-positive patients literally "kill Grandma") epitomizing "New York Tough" by acting out #resistance to Trump even as his brother was supposedly laid low by the virus, there's no end of ruling-class Heroes™ basking in the admiration of the Corona Cultists, who offer up their (and everyone else's) rights on a silver platter, never to be seen again.

Can constant surveillance stop the virus? No more than one-way sidewalks, bleaching the beach, or ratting out your neighbor does. There’s nothing wrong with clinging to ritual in a time of uncertainty - certainly hand-washing doesn’t have a downside, presuming one stops short of wearing the skin off one’s hands. But when that ritual harms others, it must be questioned. Covid-19 zealots would argue that they have science on their side, but the science is far from settled on the effectiveness of social distancing and sweeping economic shutdowns. 

Pseudoscience on a rampage

As social media censors tighten the screws on what information is permitted to enter the public sphere, it becomes increasingly difficult to pretend the Cult of Corona is based on science. Actual science relies upon constant inquiry, testing, and hypothesizing, and even those claims generally attested to by its practitioners are considered “theories” as opposed to unchangeable truths. Science-as-religion, on the other hand, denounces those who put forth dissenting theories as heretics, using slurs like “quack,” “charlatan,” and “anti-vaxxer” to marginalize, for example, medical practitioners who heal people without the use of pharmaceutical drugs. The social media platforms’ decision to unilaterally deplatform content that contradicts the WHO’s narrative is anti-scientific in the extreme, sacrificing the spirit of inquiry for the strictures of groupthink. It’s rendered even more Kafkaesque due to continuing shifts in the WHO’s own narrative, which has changed as more is learned about the virus (as scientific understanding tends to do). 

The idea that YouTube’s content moderators know better than a medical doctor how to treat Covid-19 would have been considered laughable just six months ago, yet Google’s video platform has repeatedly removed videos of licensed, practicing clinicians discussing their experiences. A pair of “rogue” doctors in Bakersfield, California who held a lengthy press conference laying out their findings and questioning the wisdom of prolonged lockdowns - broadcast on a local network TV station - went viral, only for YouTube to remove nearly every copy while pundits denounced the pair as “coronavirus truthers.” Their video did not attempt to project their own experiences onto the world - indeed, where they did cite statistics outside of Bakersfield, they used “official” statistics from health authorities, in Sweden and elsewhere, to support their claim that the fatality rate was being significantly overestimated because most cases were asymptomatic. Their video was literally broadcast on “mainstream media,” an “authoritative source” in the eyes of YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki. But its incompatibility with prevailing coronavirus dogma meant it had to be destroyed.

The orthodox narrative also jettisons long-accepted science about immunity. Vitamin D - obtained from sunlight absorbed through the skin - has been proven in study after study to be integral to a healthy immune system, and several recent studies have demonstrated its importance in surviving Covid-19 infection. Likewise, loneliness has been linked to diminished immune function and poor health in general, especially in elderly people (i.e. those most susceptible to Covid-19), and even those who are quite content with being alone are experiencing diminished immune stimulation due to not interacting with other people. The link between isolation and ill health is so strong that even the media establishment has quietly acknowledged it, and solitary confinement is considered cruel and unusual punishment in many countries. No less than the World Economic Forum, co-organizer of the notorious Event 201 simulation that served as a dress rehearsal for Covid-19 itself, has called the stay-at-home orders that have confined more than half the world’s population to their homes “the world’s biggest psychological experiment.” The ruling-class conclave warned “we will pay the price” in a secondary mental-illness epidemic, one which its members - heavily invested in the pharmaceutical companies that are among the biggest winners of the pandemic - are no doubt poised to cash in on with antidepressants, benzodiazepines and antipsychotics aplenty. Nevertheless, questioning the wisdom of prolonged isolation in the form of extended lockdowns is still seen as anathema.

Deprogramming

To begin to free humanity from the influence of the Corona Cult, it’s important to understand how its programming took hold. Guilt - environmental guilt, racial guilt, class-based guilt - is the primary route of attack. The media establishment initially attempted to link the coronavirus outbreak to climate change, with even the Pope climbing on board the narrative, though no scientific basis exists to support it and it has since been somewhat de-emphasized. Heretics are repeatedly accused of prioritizing their own convenience over the health of society, especially its most vulnerable members - the elderly, the sick, even poor and non-white populations. Depending on the target audience, anti-lockdown heretics are said to be scientifically-illiterate "covidiots" or heartless monsters consigning the disadvantaged to die for capitalism. Guilt and shame are powerful conversion tools, and even those who remain unconverted are likely to hold their tongues in a sociological phenomenon known as the spiral of silence.

At the same time, humanity’s innate religious tendencies (present in even atheists - millennia of programming don’t vanish just because a person comes to the realization they live in a godless universe) - have been hijacked. It’s no coincidence that governments imposing lockdowns have singled out places of worship for particular animus - anyone attending religious services is presumably content enough with their god(s) that they’re unlikely to ditch their faith for a virus-venerating cult-come-lately. Constantly bombarded with messages of uncertainty and kept from communing with their usual faith, even people normally secure in their religion will reach for the stability the Corona Police State provides - authoritarianism’s flip side is paternalism, and comfort is found in the arms of Big Brother. Among the non-religious, liberal and libertarian populations alike are targeted with the weaponization of medical jargon - a simple “what’s the matter, you don’t believe in science?” sends weak-willed groupthinkers into shameful silence while their freedoms are methodically amputated.

It is supremely ironic that in this Inquisition, the “real” church has been sidelined. Aside from the Pope, who has wholeheartedly embraced the New Normal, a group of Catholic leaders recently issued a statement calling out governments, the media, and public health experts, denouncing the Covid-19 narrative as cover for “infringing on the rights of millions of people around the world.” Cynical scholars of religious history might suggest they’re motivated by jealousy - “stop using dogma to control people, that’s our job!” - but their concerns are no less valid, and the feeling of envy cuts both ways. The single-minded determination of police to break up even those church services scrupulously observing social distancing with worshipers sitting isolated in their cars can only be explained by eschatological jealousy. To truly force the Cult of Corona down the throats of the people, the competition must be eliminated, whether it’s “traditional” religion or logic, reason and the (real) scientific method.

Deprogramming the world from the Cult of Corona cannot be done by force - its backers have too much power, including total control of both establishment and social media. It must be approached strategically. Just as traditional “deprogrammers” will isolate a cult member from the group, reasoning there’s a much better chance of re-awakening the original personality when the person is not experiencing the pressures of groupthink, deprogramming Corona Cultists is best done one-on-one, keeping in mind that cultists will ferociously defend their dogma with thought-stopping techniques which can be extremely irritating to outsiders trying to convey dissenting information. Former "Moonie" Steven Hassan's BITE model (above) describes how cults exert undue influence and is useful in approaching deprogramming.

The notion of deprogramming entire societies may seem daunting, but it is the only chance humanity has to retain some semblance of freedom and turn back from the dark path down which our species is heading. The ruling class is imposing a comprehensive, multilayered control grid that has been in the works for decades, and when it is complete, revolution will not be an option. Such a future must be avoided at all costs.

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[NOTE: this is the THIRD revision of an article originally published on February 5. The following version, published on Medium.com on March 14, was apparently so offensive to the supposedly pro-free-speech platform Medium that they saw fit to remove my whole account, without warning or explanation. Bold italic text was added today (April 13)]

Why was I kicked off the platform, you ask? I can't definitively say, but when I clicked on "help" looking for troubleshooting for account issues, this is what I saw. You can't make this up.

 

(March 14: Since the original publication, the WHO has declared coronavirus a pandemic, and many of the predicted events — entire countries all but locking down their populations, the National Guard being deployed in a New York suburb, and a more deadly form of the virus mysteriously surfacing in another country targeted by both US and Israeli military operations — have come to pass. Instead of stockpiling toilet paper, EDUCATE YOURSELVES. All information is backed up with links to sources, and updates have been added where needed in bold to bring the story up to date. I do not traffic in rumor or irresponsible speculation, and I advise you not to, either.) 

By now, those following the novel coronavirus epidemic are familiar with Event 201, the pandemic simulation staged by Johns Hopkins University in conjunction with the World Economic Forum, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, and other ruling-class heavy hitters in October 2019. The media establishment has already picked the story clean, set up and eviscerated a straw man (“No, Bill Gates didn’t cause the coronavirus epidemic, silly conspiracy theorists!”), and convinced the group itself to issue a statement denying their exercise was meant to predict the behavior of the actual virus to follow.

But few are aware that the epidemic playing out in China and two dozen other countries, including the US, is unfolding in line with a decade-old simulation titled “Lock Step” devised by the Rockefeller Foundation in conjunction with the Global Business Network. The scenario, one of four included in a publication called “Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development” in 2010, describes a coronavirus-like pandemic that becomes the trigger for the imposition of police-state controls on movement, economy, and other areas of society.

The Lock Step scenario describes “a world of tighter top-down government control and more authoritarian leadership, with limited innovation and growing citizen pushback.” In “2012” (i.e. two years after the report’s publication), an “extremely virulent and deadly” strain of influenza originating with wild geese brings the world to its knees, infecting 20 percent of the global population and killing 8 million people in just seven months — “the majority of them healthy young adults.” It devastates global economies and ruptures international trade. But not everyone, the Rockefeller Foundation makes clear, is hit equally.

Countries of Africa, southeast Asia, and central America suffer the worst “in the absence of official containment protocols” — it wouldn’t be the Rockefeller Foundation if someone wasn’t licking their lips at the thought of a mass die-off in the Global South — but western “democracies” also pay the ultimate price. “The United States’ initial policy of ‘strongly discouraging’ citizens from flying proved deadly in its leniency, accelerating the spread of the virus not just within the US but across borders,” the report warns. But remove such obstacles as ‘individual rights’ and you have a recipe for surviving, even thriving in the event of a pandemic, the Foundation gushes:

“A few countries did fare better — China in particular. The Chinese government’s quick imposition and enforcement of mandatory quarantine for all citizens, as well as its instant and near-hermetic sealing-off of all borders, saved millions of lives, stopping the spread of the virus far earlier than in other countries and enabling a swifter post-pandemic recovery.”

The message is clear — police state good, freedom bad. And other governments rapidly get the message, according to the simulation. First and third world nations alike follow suit by “flexing their authority” and imposing quarantines, body-temperature checks, and other “airtight rules and restrictions” — most of which, the report is careful to note, remain in place even as the pandemic recedes into the past. “In order to protect themselves from the spread of increasingly global problems — from pandemics and transnational terrorism to environmental crises and rising poverty — leaders around the world took a firmer grip on power.”

This global power-grab is facilitated by a frightened citizenry who “willingly gave up some of their sovereignty — and their privacy — to more paternalistic states in exchange for greater safety and stability…tolerant, and even eager, for top-down direction and oversight.” Everything from tighter biometric identification to stricter industrial regulation is welcomed with open arms. It takes over a decade for people to “grow weary” of the authoritarian controls imposed in the wake of the pandemic, and hints that even the civil unrest that ultimately manifests is focused on the developed world. After all, a popular uprising in the technocratic police state envisioned by the simulation would be all but impossible — as it will be in real life once 5G makes real-time total surveillance of all cities a reality.

Pin the blame on the dragon

It remains unclear what — or who — unleashed the novel coronavirus in Wuhan. The initial claim that it originated in bats from a “wet market,” in which live animals are sold and then butchered in front of the customer, couldn’t have been more perfect from a western point of view — wet markets are reviled in the West, where consumers prefer that the animal cruelty required to put meat on their tables happens behind closed doors. While wet markets would seem to improve food safety by making it impossible to sell “mystery,” mislabeled or expired meat, time and again they are fingered as disease vectors by the disapproving West, every time followed by calls to ban them entirely. However, the Huanan seafood market hadn’t sold bats for years, meaning — if the “wet market” hypothesis is to persist — an “intermediate host” species would be required to get the virus to humans. Snakes were nominated, even though scientists weren’t sure they could be infected by a coronavirus — it was more important that they eat bats and were sold at the market. Three weeks after the Huanan seafood market was shuttered and disinfected, a Lancet study put the last nail in the hypothesis’ coffin, revealing the first several coronavirus cases had no exposure to the market at all. Since the original publication of this article, several more studies have emerged proving the virus was already circulating in humans before it was unleashed in the market in Wuhan. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has not discouraged the media from continuing to blame it for the epidemic. Two months later, US officials including Senate warmonger-in-chief Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Russiagate cultist Michael McFaul, and Dr. Mengele wannabe Anthony Fauci continue to blame wet markets for the coronavirus outbreak. There remains not a shred of proof that this virus came from a wet market.

 
“Gimme a hug!”

The Fear Virus Pandemic

Beyond the disintegrating “official story,” rumormongers have pinned the blame on the Chinese government, suggesting that through malice or incompetence Beijing released a virus cooked up in a top-secret bioweapons program operating in the city’s high-security lab. The chief purveyor of this theory is Dany Shoham, an Israeli biosafety analyst and former IDF military intelligence officer, which should raise a forest of red flags in anyone familiar with Israel’s own experiments in gene-targeted biowarfare even before taking into account Shoham’s own history of fraudulently blaming Saddam Hussein’s Iraq for the 2001 anthrax attacks. Other outlets spreading this theory cite American biosafety consultant Tim Trevan, who opined in a 2017 Nature article — published before the Wuhan lab even opened! — that “diversity of viewpoint” and “openness of information” are both critical to the safe functioning of such a high-risk lab and alien to Chinese culture. The persistence of the “lab accident” theory of coronavirus’ creation thus owes more to cultural chauvinism and sinophobia than any fact-based clues.

While many alt-media outlets have fingered Event 201 as the replica “drill” that so often coincides with a false flag event, few are aware that on the day after that simulation, the 2019 Military World Games kicked off in Wuhan, bringing 300 US military personnel to the city. Matthias Chang, former advisor to the Malaysian PM, however, zeroed in on the games as the likely entry point for what he described as a biological war waged by the US against China. In an interview with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting last month, Chang placed coronavirus on a continuum of American bio-attacks he said included deliberate infection of Guatemalans with syphilis and gonorrhea and Cubans with dengue fever, as well as creating the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone.

As of February 4, there were over 1,000 times more coronavirus cases in China than outside of it, and the foreign cases appeared to be ethnically Chinese where reported. This was not a coincidence — a recent scientific paper revealed the enzyme which serves as a receptor for novel coronavirus is produced by a certain type of lung cell found in “extremely large numbers” in Asian men compared to those of other ethnicities. Even more intriguingly, those lung cells are involved in the expression of “many other genes that positively regulating [sic] viral reproduction and transmission.” The paper’s authors stop short of suggesting the virus came out of a lab, instead drily observing that it seems to have “cleverly evolved to hijack this population of [lung] cells for its reproduction and transmission,” but one man’s clever viral evolution is another’s expert bioweapon development. Subsequently, multiple strains emerged, one notably targeting Iranians (and Italians). A study conducted by Taiwanese researchers in February traced the five strains of the virus then known to exist back to the US, suggesting the US alone could be the source of the coronavirus pandemic.

By April, the US had, judging by the statistics put forth by Johns Hopkins University, pulled far into the front in terms of diagnosed cases and casualties. However, doctors have come forward across the country concerned about a CDC directive telling them to classify all deaths of infected persons as "coronavirus deaths" - even in cases where, as in 99% of Italy's coronavirus deaths, serious comorbidities were present that were more likely to be responsible for the deaths. This happened in Germany as well, and the New York Times matter-of-factly reported that all respiratory deaths - the number-four cause of death in the US - were being classified as coronavirus in New York hospitals, throwing that city's disproportionately-high infection numbers into question.

"Fear is a great way to control people," Minnesota state senator and physician Scott Jensen told local media, attempting to explain why the CDC would provide such unprecedented and troubling guidance. 

American researchers have been surreptitiously collecting Chinese DNA for decades. A notorious Harvard School of Public Health program in the mid-1990s drafted village medics to administer “free physicals” to locals “with asthmatic symptoms.” These “checkups” were conducted as part of a genetic project that also involved the US National Institutes of Health and Millennium Pharmaceuticals, supposedly aimed at “identify[ing] and characteriz[ing] genes that play a role in causing asthma and other allergic disorders.” It later emerged that the researchers had secured the required consent forms from neither the local experimental ethics board nor the test subjects themselves. A government inquiry was commandeered by an insider and squelched. Over 200,000 DNA samples were thus collected and spirited out of the country.

US military literature has been lusting after genetically-targeted weapons for at least 50 years. The infamous Project for a New American Century, whose members have been steering the US ship of state into a series of icebergs since the George W. Bush administration, described gene-specific bioweapons as a “politically-useful tool,” part and parcel of the “new dimensions of combat” in which the future’s wars would unfold. In 1998, the year after PNAC’s formation, reports Israel was working on just such a weapon to target Arabs while leaving Jews untouched flooded the media — part PR campaign, part warning. And it is DARPA and other divisions of the US military, not the Chinese, that has been intensively studying bat-borne coronaviruses for years, even as their own high-security biowarfare labs are being shut down for shoddy safety procedures.

Meanwhile, the likelihood of the Chinese government unleashing a genetically-targeted virus on its own population is vanishingly low. Unlike popular attitudes of “white guilt” in the West born of a hangover from colonialism, the Chinese do not traffic in racial self-loathing — indeed, outsiders have accused the Chinese of an unspoken, unshakeable belief in their own racial superiority, and regardless of whether that belief is problematic, it is unlikely to lead to intentional self-genocide. Even if a behavior-correcting false flag was sought by Beijing in Hong Kong, where US-backed pro-“democracy” protests had raged destructively for months, such an event would not have been unleashed hundreds of miles away in Wuhan.

 
My, what lovely matching signs you have. Nothing says Democracy like mass-produced protests!

Never let a good crisis go to waste?

The real-life coronavirus is much less virulent than the pandemic described in Lock Step, with an official death toll of “just” 427 and a global infection toll of “only” 20,629 as of February 4, and the dead were mostly over 60 with preexisting medical issues. By March 13, the number of infections had climbed to 140,000 worldwide and 5,000 people were said to have died of the virus; a second, deadlier strain appeared to have taken root in Iran and Italy, making estimates of overall fatality rate difficult. However, while seniors and the infirm face high risk, adults in good health have a high rate of survival, and children remain all but unaffected, a highly unusual characteristic for any viral outbreak. By early April, the number of infections had cracked 1.8 million, but the death toll was hopelessly muddled thanks to the statistical shenanigans described above. Some 119,483 people thought to be infected with the coronavirus had died by April 13, but a more exact figure cannot be determined - whether those people died OF the coronavirus, or whether they had it to begin with (recall that the CDC called for people believed to be infected to be written off as coronavirus deaths, no questions asked). Economies worldwide are in free-fall just like the simulation predicted, and sweeping quarantines have come down from Italy to New York, echoing the harsh measures adopted in China, which — just as the Rockefeller Foundation said it would be — has been widely praised for its decisive response. The economic panic is fueled by scare-stories percolating in establishment media and alt-media alike (the name of an actual article in ZeroHedge by a Rabobank analyst: “What if we are on the brink of an exponential increase in coronavirus cases?”) while videos of dubious origin appearing to show horrific scenes from within China keep the virus viral on social media. Adding to the fear is coronavirus’ lengthy incubation period, up to two weeks in which a carrier could be blithely spreading it to everyone they meet, creating a constant threat of a “boom” in cases just around the corner. Now that the virus is in the US, which lacks a universal public healthcare system, there is feverish speculation about widespread infection; Trump declared a public health emergency on March 13, unlocking $50 billion in “disaster response” funding. New York governor Andrew Cuomo, a fascist-in-waiting who has given near-daily press conferences touting his take-no-prisoners approach to the epidemic, sent in the National Guard to maintain quarantine in New Rochelle with just over 100 cases present in the suburb in March, while municipalities nationwide have banned large gatherings, shuttered schools, and seen grocery store shelves denuded of staples from toilet paper to rice. Those troops have since been joined on the West Coast by tanks moving out of San Diego and an announcement that Texas' National Guard will be going "door to door" to make sure everyone who's supposed to be quarantined is behaving themselves.

China’s economy, of course, was initially hit the worst, and the epidemic’s timing could not have been more disastrous from Beijing’s point of view, coming on the eve of the Lunar New Year holiday. At this time, some 400 million Chinese travel around the country to see family, mostly in the high-speed bullet trains that have their hub in — you guessed it — Wuhan. With much of this travel having occurred before the city was quarantined, cases are likely in their incubation phase all over the country, making the numbers of early February look like a rounding error.

Correspondingly, the situation couldn’t have been better for the American ruling class, at first: a pandemic that targets Asians striking China just when it’s most vulnerable is a powerful blow to the rising superpower. And in case anyone still believes the circumstances of the virus’ ascendance are merely an extended string of coincidences, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross took that plausible deniability and stomped on it in January, unable to stop himself from gushing that coronavirus would “help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America” in an interview with Fox News. Prefacing his victory lap by saying he didn’t “want to talk about a victory lap over a very unfortunate, very malignant disease,” he pointed out that businesses will be forced to take China’s inexplicable susceptibility to deadly viruses into account when reviewing their supply chains. Unmentioned, but adding to the perfect economic storm, was Trump’s signature on the USMCA trade agreement, supposed to bring in an extra 1.2 percentage points in GDP growth.

“On top of all the other things, you had SARS, you had the African Swine virus there, now you have this,” Ross said, hammering home the point by linking coronavirus to other suspect plagues. Just as many scientists concluded SARS was a manmade bioweapon, many — scientists and statesmen as well as alternative media — have raised the alarm about coronavirus. Good luck finding any of their statements on Google, however. Facebook, Youtube and Twitter have been hard at work removing coronavirus “rumors,” and Google has memory-holed hundreds of search results regarding Chinese accusations of biowarfare. Even on platforms that don’t censor on government orders, the baseless claims from Shoham and other disinfo artists about Chinese biowarfare have muscled any comments from Chinese officials out of the way. Even the Malaysian politician’s comments are obscured behind a Farsi language barrier — his original comments inexplicably missing from English-language media and reprinted only by Iran’s IRIB News Agency (this author can no longer even find the tweet that alerted her to those comments, but would like to thank that person). An Iraqi doctor, Omar al-Hadidi, failed to cross the English language barrier with his no less explosive claim that the US had booby-trapped red baseball caps with a special moisture-activated plastic capable of transmitting the coronavirus, then handed them out to Kurdish youth from the US embassy in Erbil in order to spread the virus in northern Iraq. Claiming his colleagues had been bribed or threatened into silence, al-Hadidi posted a video in which he appeared to test hats he claimed were given to himself and five other Covid-19 patients, showing lab-grown viral material present on each of the caps, which came sealed with the signature of US ambassador Matthew Toler.

By early March, however, too many accusations had built up for Americans to ignore, and they had begun spilling over into English-language media. Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps leader Hossein Salami both accused the US of deploying Covid-19 in a “biological attack” against Tehran. China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian echoed Chang’s suggestion that the US had brought the coronavirus to Wuhan under cover of the Military Games, tweeting a video of the CDC director admitting some US deaths had been erroneously attributed to the flu that were later shown to be caused by Covid-19.

While Lijian’s superiors did not explicitly condone his freewheeling tweets, nor did they disavow the claim; fellow spokesman Geng Shuang merely explained that different opinions existed as to the virus’ origins among the international community. Given the enormity and implications of accusing the US of deliberately poisoning the Chinese people with a killer contagion — a claim which would clearly call for a retaliatory strike on Beijing’s part, for the sake of honor if nothing else — the words of the two Chinese spokesmen may be the closest China’s government will come to naming the culprit.

More recent research appears to point to Fort Detrick, Maryland as the likely source of the outbreak. Fort Detrick was shut down in August for failing to uphold safety standards, including those involving wastewater decontamination and periodic recertification of workers, a month after the CDC served it with a cease-and-desist order. A more detailed report revealed even more troubling violations at the lab. Even so, it was returned to functionality in November and reopened fully in April, supposedly - and it's hard to believe that Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland/Tel Aviv) said this with a straight face - "to tackle Covid-19 and other threats to our nation." Meanwhile, the "mysterious respiratory illness" that surfaced in mid-2019, linked at the time to vaping and striking many young and otherwise-healthy people, shares many symptoms with what is now called Covid-19, and other cases could easily have been written off as pneumonia or flu. 

Coronavirus is not the doomsday epidemic it is being portrayed as by irresponsible media actors, who have been flogging the story non-stop since the virus made its public debut in Wuhan. But as the Lock Step scenario makes clear, one does not need massive die-off or victims exploding in geysers of blood in the streets to achieve desired social goals. It’s possible the novel coronavirus epidemic is a “dry run,” a test of both China’s readiness to handle an outbreak and of the international community’s reaction to such a plague. It’s even possible, though unlikely, that the epidemic was a mistake — that the virus escaped from a lab, likely American, by accident. The epidemic has wiped out the Trump administration’s much-touted stock market gains completely, and the president has responded to the catastrophe by proposing a series of increasingly unhinged economic band-aids for Wall Street’s sucking chest wound while all but telling the plague-panicked American people to keep a stiff upper lip and they’ll be fine. And while the president restraining himself from Chicken Littling his way to a perfect police state should be applauded, that void is quickly being filled by state governments, from Cuomo sending the National Guard to occupy New Rochelle to Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton claiming the 13 declared cases in her state were actually 100,000 deathly-ill Americans just waiting to be tested — right after she was praised as a “calming leader” by fawning local media.

Big Tech has also stepped up to the plate, having fully matured into its mantle as the extraconstitutional arm of Big Brother ready to strangle any remaining civil liberties the American people might have left. As Trump announced his public health emergency, he declared that Google would be running the government’s Covid-19 screening, having sicced “more than 1,000” of its top engineers on a project that would route suspected coronavirus cases to their local testing centers and then on to “further care.” While ruling class mouthpieces from coast to coast rushed to social media to clarify, pointing out that it was not Google but a company called Verily behind the project, which wouldn’t be ready on Sunday like he said, and would only be available in the Bay Area of California, their claim that the president was “lying” was wildly overblown. Verily may not be Google, but it is a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet. The pilot version of the Covid-19 screening site is expected to debut a day later than Trump promised. And the project leader acknowledged its “vision and aspiration” are national. So yes, Google is running the US government’s coronavirus testing. The same trillion-dollar megacorporation that has eagerly slurped up enough predictive data on every American through their searches and the content of their emails to know better than you do what your next move will be will control your coronavirus status — and if you think that status can’t be manipulated for political ends, strategically leaked, or changed to serve a purpose, you probably still believe in the Easter Bunny.

It’s also possible the plague may suddenly become more virulent. If Iran and Italy are any indication, it has. Certainly the media buzz the first week of February is that coronavirus is close to being declared a “pandemic” by the WHO, which will necessitate the type of control measures hinted at in Lock Step and described more exhaustively in Event 201. The WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic on March 11. Congratulations! From “limited internet shutdowns” and “enforcement actions against fake news” to government bailouts of “core” industries, mandatory vaccinations, property seizures, and other police-state provisions laid out in the Model State Emergency Health Powers Acts passed in many US states in the paranoid aftermath of 9/11, the totalitarian nature of these provisions is limited only by the imagination of the regime carrying them out. Once events proceed to that stage, it is extremely difficult to reverse them. We would be wise not to allow this to happen.

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By now, most people following the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak have stumbled upon Event 201, the pandemic simulation held at Johns Hopkins University in conjunction with the World Economic Forum, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, and other ruling-class heavy hitters two months before the epidemic was declared. Seemingly tailor-made to set off "conspiracy theorists" - that class of intellectually-curious thought-criminals whom the US media establishment have placed somewhere between child molesters and drunk drivers on the hierarchy of unforgivability - Event 201 was hurriedly "debunked" by that same establishment, which quickly set up and eviscerated a straw man (“No, Bill Gates didn’t cause the coronavirus epidemic!”) and convinced the group itself to issue a statement denying their exercise was meant to predict the behavior of the actual virus, 65 million deaths and all. 

But few are aware that the epidemic playing out in China and two dozen other countries, including the US, is unfolding in line with a decade-old simulation titled “Lock Step” devised by the Rockefeller Foundation in conjunction with the Global Business Network. The scenario, one of four included in a publication called “Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development” in 2010, describes a coronavirus-like pandemic that becomes the trigger for the imposition of police-state controls on movement, economy, and other areas of society. The novel coronavirus is thus not merely a depopulation exercise, as some have claimed. It could be the trigger for the imposition of a global police state.

Lock Step describes “a world of tighter top-down government control and more authoritarian leadership, with limited innovation and growing citizen pushback.” In “2012” (i.e. two years after the report’s publication), an “extremely virulent and deadly” strain of influenza originating with wild geese brings the world to its knees, infecting 20 percent of the global population and killing 8 million people in just seven months - “the majority of them healthy young adults.” It devastates global economies and ruptures international trade. But not everyone, the Rockefeller Foundation makes clear, is hit equally.

Countries of Africa, southeast Asia, and central America suffer the worst “in the absence of official containment protocols” - it wouldn’t be the Rockefeller Foundation if someone wasn’t licking their lips at the thought of a mass die-off in the Global South - but western “democracies” also pay the ultimate price. “The United States’ initial policy of ‘strongly discouraging’ citizens from flying proved deadly in its leniency, accelerating the spread of the virus not just within the US but across borders,” the report warns. But remove such obstacles as ‘individual rights’ and you have a recipe for surviving, even thriving in the event of a pandemic, the Foundation gushes:

“A few countries did fare better - China in particular. The Chinese government’s quick imposition and enforcement of mandatory quarantine for all citizens, as well as its instant and near-hermetic sealing-off of all borders, saved millions of lives, stopping the spread of the virus far earlier than in other countries and enabling a swifter post-pandemic recovery.”

The message is clear - police state good, freedom bad. And other governments rapidly get the message, according to the simulation. First and third world nations alike follow suit by “flexing their authority” and imposing quarantines, body-temperature checks, and other “airtight rules and restrictions” - most of which, the report is careful to note, remain in place even as the pandemic recedes into the past. “In order to protect themselves from the spread of increasingly global problems - from pandemics and transnational terrorism to environmental crises and rising poverty - leaders around the world took a firmer grip on power.”

This global power-grab is facilitated by a frightened citizenry who “willingly gave up some of their sovereignty - and their privacy - to more paternalistic states in exchange for greater safety and stability…tolerant, and even eager, for top-down direction and oversight.” Everything from tighter biometric identification to stricter industrial regulation is welcomed with open arms. It takes over a decade for people to “grow weary” of the authoritarian controls imposed in the wake of the pandemic, and hints that even the civil unrest that ultimately manifests is focused on the developed world. After all, a popular uprising in the technocratic police state envisioned by the simulation would be all but impossible - as it will be in real life once 5G makes real-time total surveillance of all cities a reality.

Pin the blame on the dragon

It remains unclear what - or who - unleashed the novel coronavirus in Wuhan. The initial claim that it originated in bats from a “wet market,” in which live animals are sold and then butchered in front of the customer, couldn’t have been more perfect from a western point of view - wet markets are reviled in the West, where consumers prefer that the animal cruelty required to put meat on their tables happens behind closed doors. While wet markets would seem to improve food safety by making it impossible to sell “mystery,” mislabeled or expired meat, time and again they are fingered as disease vectors by the disapproving West, every time followed by calls to ban them entirely. However, the Huanan seafood market hadn’t sold bats for years, meaning - if the “wet market” hypothesis is to persist - an “intermediate host” species would be required to get the virus to humans. Snakes were nominated, even though scientists weren't sure they could be infected by a coronavirus - it was more important that they eat bats and were sold at the market. Three weeks after the Huanan seafood market was shuttered and disinfected, a Lancet study put the last nail in the hypothesis' coffin, revealing the first several coronavirus cases had no exposure to the market at all. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has not discouraged the media from continuing to blame it for the epidemic.

Beyond the disintegrating “official story,” rumormongers have pinned the blame on the Chinese government, suggesting that through malice or incompetence Beijing released a virus cooked up in a top-secret bioweapons program operating in the city’s high-security lab. The chief purveyor of this theory is Dany Shoham, an Israeli biosafety analyst, which should raise a forest of red flags in anyone familiar with Israel’s own experiments in gene-targeted biowarfare even before taking into account Shoham's own history of fraudulently blaming Saddam Hussein’s Iraq for the 2001 anthrax attacks. Other outlets spreading this theory cite American biosafety consultant Tim Trevan, who opined in a 2017 Nature article - published before the Wuhan lab even opened! - that “diversity of viewpoint” and “openness of information” are both critical to the safe functioning of such a high-risk lab and alien to Chinese culture. The persistence of the “lab accident” theory of coronavirus’ creation thus owes more to cultural chauvinism and sinophobia than any fact-based clues.

While many alt-media outlets have fingered Event 201 as the replica "drill" that so often coincides with a false flag event, few are aware that on the day after that simulation, the 2019 Military World Games kicked off in Wuhan, bringing 300 US military personnel to the city. Matthias Chang, former advisor to the Malaysian PM, however, zeroed in on the games as the likely entry point for what he described as a biological war waged by the US against China. In an interview with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting last month, Chang placed coronavirus on a continuum of American bio-attacks he said included deliberate infection of Guatemalans with syphilis and gonorrhea and Cubans with dengue fever, as well as creating the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone. 

As of February 4, there are over 1,000 times more coronavirus cases in China than outside of it, and the foreign cases appear to be ethnically Chinese where reported. This is not a coincidence - a recent scientific paper revealed the enzyme which serves as a receptor for novel coronavirus is produced by a certain type of lung cell found in “extremely large numbers” in Asian men compared to those of other ethnicities. Even more intriguingly, those lung cells are involved in the expression of “many other genes that positively regulating [sic] viral reproduction and transmission.” The paper’s authors stop short of suggesting the virus came out of a lab, instead drily observing that it seems to have “cleverly evolved to hijack this population of [lung] cells for its reproduction and transmission,” but one man’s clever viral evolution is another’s expert bioweapon development.

Certainly, American researchers have been surreptitiously collecting Chinese DNA for decades. A notorious Harvard School of Public Health program in the mid-1990s drafted village medics to administer “free physicals” to locals “with asthmatic symptoms.” These “checkups” were conducted as part of a genetic project that also involved the US National Institutes of Health and Millennium Pharmaceuticals, supposedly aimed at “identify[ing] and characteriz[ing] genes that play a role in causing asthma and other allergic disorders.” It later emerged that the researchers had secured the required consent forms from neither the local experimental ethics board nor the test subjects themselves. A government inquiry was commandeered by an insider and squelched. Over 200,000 DNA samples were thus collected and spirited out of the country. 

US military literature has been lusting after genetically-targeted weapons for at least 50 years. The infamous Project for a New American Century, whose members have been steering the US ship of state into a series of icebergs since the George W. Bush administration, described gene-specific bioweapons as a “politically-useful tool,” part and parcel of the "new dimensions of combat" in which the future's wars would unfold. In 1998, the year after PNAC's formation, reports Israel was working on just such a weapon to target Arabs while leaving Jews untouched flooded the media - part PR campaign, part warning. And it is DARPA and other divisions of the US military, not  the Chinese, that has been intensively studying bat-borne coronaviruses for years, even as their own high-security biowarfare labs are being shut down for shoddy safety procedures. 

Meanwhile, the likelihood of the Chinese government unleashing a genetically-targeted virus on its own population is vanishingly low. Unlike popular attitudes of “white guilt” in the West born of a hangover from colonialism, the Chinese do not traffic in racial self-loathing - indeed, outsiders have accused the Chinese of an unspoken, unshakeable belief in their own racial superiority, and regardless of whether that belief is problematic, it is unlikely to lead to intentional self-genocide. Even if behavior-correcting false flag was sought by Beijing in Hong Kong, where US-backed pro-“democracy” protests have raged destructively for months, such an event would not have been unleashed hundreds of miles away in Wuhan.

Never let a good crisis go to waste?

The real-life coronavirus is much less virulent than the pandemic described in Lock Step, with an official death toll of “just” 427 and a global infection toll of “only” 20,629 as of February 4, and the dead were mostly over 60 with preexisting medical issues. Economies worldwide are nevertheless in free-fall just like the simulation predicted. This drop is fueled by scare-stories percolating in establishment media and alt-media alike (the name of an actual article in ZeroHedge by a Rabobank analyst: “What if we are on the brink of an exponential increase in coronavirus cases?”) while videos of dubious origin appearing to show horrific scenes from within China keep the virus viral on social media. Adding to the fear is coronavirus’ lengthy incubation period, up to two weeks in which a carrier could be blithely spreading it to everyone they meet, creating a constant threat of a “boom” in cases just around the corner.

China’s economy, of course, is being hit the worst, and the epidemic’s timing could not have been more disastrous from Beijing’s point of view, coming on the eve of the Lunar New Year holiday. At this time, some 400 million Chinese travel around the country to see family, mostly in the high-speed bullet trains that have their hub in - you guessed it - Wuhan. With much of this travel having occurred before the city was quarantined, cases are likely in their incubation phase all over the country, making today’s numbers look like a rounding error. 

Correspondingly, the situation couldn’t be better for the American ruling class: a pandemic that targets Asians striking China just when it’s most vulnerable is a powerful blow to the rising superpower. And in case anyone still believes the circumstances of the virus’ ascendance are merely an extended string of coincidences, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross took that plausible deniability and stomped on it last month, unable to stop himself from gushing that coronavirus would “help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America” in an interview with Fox News. Prefacing his victory lap by saying he didn’t “want to talk about a victory lap over a very unfortunate, very malignant disease,” he pointed out that businesses will be forced to take China’s inexplicable susceptibility to deadly viruses into account when reviewing their supply chains. Unmentioned, but adding to the perfect economic storm, was Trump’s signature on the USMCA trade agreement, supposed to bring in an extra 1.2 percentage points in GDP growth

“On top of all the other things, you had SARS, you had the African Swine virus there, now you have this,” Ross said, hammering home the point by linking coronavirus to other suspect plagues. Just as many scientists concluded SARS was a manmade bioweapon, many - scientists and statesmen as well as alternative media - have raised the alarm about coronavirus. Good luck finding any of their statements on Google, however. Facebook, Youtube and Twitter have been hard at work removing coronavirus “rumors,” and Google has memory-holed hundreds of search results regarding Chinese accusations of biowarfare. Even on platforms that don’t censor on government orders, the baseless claims from Shoham and other disinfo artists about Chinese biowarfare have muscled any comments from Chinese officials out of the way. Even the Malaysian politician’s comments are obscured behind a Farsi language barrier - his original comments inexplicably missing from English-language media and reprinted only by Iran’s IRIB News Agency (this author can no longer even find the tweet that alerted her to those comments, but would like to thank that person).

Coronavirus is not the doomsday epidemic it is being portrayed as by irresponsible media actors. But as the Lock Step scenario makes clear, one does not need massive die-off or victims exploding in geysers of blood in the streets to achieve desired social goals. It’s possible the novel coronavirus epidemic is a “dry run,” a test of both China’s readiness to handle an outbreak and of the international community’s reaction to such a plague. It's even possible, though unlikely, that the epidemic was a mistake - that the virus escaped from a lab, likely American, by accident.

It's also possible the plague may suddenly become more virulent. Certainly the media buzz the first week of February is that coronavirus is close to being declared a “pandemic” by the WHO, which will necessitate the type of control measures hinted at in Lock Step and described more exhaustively in Event 201. From “limited internet shutdowns” and “enforcement actions against fake news” to government bailouts of “core” industries, mandatory vaccinations, property seizures, and other police-state provisions laid out in the Model State Emergency Health Powers Acts passed in many states in the paranoid aftermath of 9/11, the totalitarian nature of these provisions is limited only by the imaginations of the regimes carrying them out. Once events proceed to that stage, it is extremely difficult to reverse them. We would be wise not to allow this to happen.

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Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled the government’s decision to ban access to Wikipedia in April 2017 was a violation of freedom of expression, a constitutionally-protected right. The decision represents a reversal of a Turkish court ruling from 2017 and comes just a month before an expected ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), a body which has ruled against Turkey more than any other country in its purview. No timetable has been put forth for when Turks might regain access to the online encyclopedia, which had been blocked as a "national security threat" under Turkish law.

The Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that owns Wikipedia, is doing a victory lap, congratulating the Turkish people on being reconnected with what it never stops reminding the world is the largest online repository of human knowledge. The Foundation bragged that despite the two-year blackout, it never caved to Ankara’s request to remove negative information showing Turkey "in coordination and aligned" with ISIS and other terrorist groups, information the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced as a "smear campaign." Wikipedia, it boasted, would never give in to governments trying to quash free speech.

But there are more than a few holes in the Foundation’s version of events, starting with its boast that it stands for freedom of expression against repressive governments. While the Foundation very rarely obeys requests to remove information, whether they come from governments or individuals, it admits to having done so once. In 2014, the newly-installed US-backed Ukrainian government made a request to take down content on the English-language Wikipedia, and the Foundation acquiesced (it’s not clear what the information was). Why obey the dictates of Kiev but not Ankara? The puppet government of Petro Poroshenko was certainly no friend to free expression - its launch of a Ministry of Information Policy in December 2014 was widely ridiculed as a ham-handed censorship effort heavy on the propaganda, no different from Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth.” Thousands of journalists were doxxed through a site called Mirotvorets, declared “terrorist collaborators” for nothing more than obtaining accreditation from the separatist eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. As a result, at least 14 journalists had been killed by 2016, and many more were threatened and attacked. While some politicians advocated punishing the publishers of Mirotvorets, others called for revoking the press accreditation of the doxxed journalists and declaring them enemies of the state, and the Ministry of Information Policy itself praised the site for its "principled stance concerning defending national security."

This is not the behavior of a government that supports free speech. Yet Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and the Foundation made no secret of their support for the coup that replaced Russian-sympathetic Viktor Yanukovych with the neo-Nazi Poroshenko government. Not only had Wales nominated a Ukrainian Wikipedia editor shot to death during the Maidan Square riots for ‘Wikipedian of the Year’ (without explaining how or by whom he came to be shot), but he would go on the record during the Yalta European Strategy conference of December 2014 calling on Ukrainian editors to skew the narrative in the Russian-language Wikipedia to retroactively whitewash the color revolution (and demonize Crimea's reunification with Russia). Russian Wikipedians, Wales said, deserved to be bombarded with “alternative views, alternative statements” - a.k.a. Trumpian “alternative facts” - through the supposedly-neutral encyclopedia. 

Additionally, Turkish editors determined to circumvent Ankara’s ban on Wikipedia never really lost access to the site - it was a simple matter to use a VPN or other location-spoofing tools to read and edit to their heart’s content. Indeed, by blocking the average Turk’s access to Wikipedia, the government only ensured that whatever slander against Erdogan and his administration already existed on the site would metastasize, reproducing without interference by pro-Erdogan editors who might otherwise have pushed back against negative portrayals of the country. If anything, the ban handed control of Turkish Wikipedia to dissidents - a self-sabotaging move that may explain why the Turkish court was willing to reverse course on the ban. Others have speculated that the ruling by the Turkish court was meant to preempt yet another negative ruling from the ECHR, which never misses a chance to censure Turkey. 

Turkey’s reasons for banning Wikipedia - the site wouldn’t remove information about government officials being involved with ISIS in trading oil, or about Turkey’s sponsorship of ISIS and other terror groups - are somewhat petty, as the information is true, no matter how negatively it reflects on Turkey. For all that Wikipedia is positively bristling with libel about any government that has gotten on the bad side of the US, UK or Israel, the relationship between Turkey and ISIS is real. While Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the US provide funding, weapons, protection, and PR, Turkey assists in the movement and protection of people and supplies - and oil. If Turkey didn’t want the world learning about their support for terrorists, they might have thought of that before getting into bed with the governments that have done more than anyone else to unleash chaos upon the region.

Even if Turkey is in the wrong, however, for the Foundation to cry “freedom of expression” is disingenuous when it is willing to give other countries a pass on their own human rights violations, even working with them to oppress their populations. The case of Wikipedia in Kazakhstan is an instructive example of what a repressive government can do when it cooperates with the encyclopedia, instead of kicking it to the curb. In March 2011, a month before Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev changed the country’s official language from Russian to Kazakh, a group of Kazakhs bankrolled by the ruling family operating under the name WikiBilim began transferring material from the government-sanctioned Kazakh encyclopedia into the Kazakh-language Wikipedia. WikiBilim soon arranged with the Wikimedia Foundation to have all 15 volumes of the encyclopedia piped in, overwriting the work of any Kazakh Wikipedia editors who might have thought they were entitled to something more than the government-approved version of reality.

Wales didn’t merely allow the Nazarbayev regime - which has been repeatedly sanctioned by the ECHR for human rights violations and which has a lengthy track record of jailing and even killing journalists critical of the government - to seize control of the Kazakh Wikipedia. He declared Rauan Kenzhekhanuly, director of WikiBilim, Wikipedian of the Year and awarded him a $5,000 prize. Wales for years insisted WikiBilim was an independent organization, but when it later emerged that he had discussed the project with the group’s government patron at Davos the previous year, he was left scrambling for excuses. When Kenzhekanuly, a former government official, was appointed governor of the Kyzylorda region in 2014, Wales finally gave up on pretending everything was kosher in Kazakhstan, implying in a Reddit Ask Me Anything the following year that he’d been tricked into assisting the repressive regime.

Kazakhstan is only one of the countries that has received the Foundation and Wales’ stamp of approval despite (because of?) an adversarial relationship with freedom of expression. Wales is married to the former diary secretary of Tony Blair, who has followed up his warmongering stint as British PM with a lucrative lobbying career, hopping from one despot to another to help them whitewash their human rights records and reposition themselves as ripe for foreign investments. The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Azerbaijan, and Israel have all fostered friendships with the Foundation to various extents, despite atrocious track records in human rights. For the Foundation to cry foul in Turkey’s case is hypocritical in the extreme - Erdogan's crime, in their eyes, is not jailing journalists but failing to work out a lucrative agreement that would allow him to whitewash his human rights record by lining the Foundation's pockets. Wikipedia no more supports free expression than Turkey fights terrorism.

[need more information about what Wikipedia is? start here...]

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The story of Pacifica Radio is a cyclical saga of factional warfare, class and racial struggle, and the power of the self-preservation instinct. “People talk about their tenure at these stations as if they’d just returned from a war zone,” says a long-time producer, who has spent 40 years watching Pacifica’s dysfunction blossom and gradually destroy the network. Pacifica’s public image as a bastion of progressivism — a “voice for the voiceless” — hides from the public the cutthroat rivalries and perpetual infighting that have made the station a notoriously dysfunctional swamp. Long-time broadcasters call it the “end of the line” for radio — its stations rank dead last in their markets in New York, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Houston, and Washington DC — but hope springs eternal, and every so often a visionary programmer revives the seemingly doomed network. The last Golden Age of Pacifica ended almost twenty years ago, however, and it’s doubtful that the network can be saved.

Democracy Now! launched in 1996 on Pacifica as its flagship news show, offering current events, analysis and opinion with a focus on stories ignored or underreported by the mainstream news establishment. It was the network’s only money-making program, annually earning $500,000 in syndication fees from more than 100 stations outside the Pacifica network and $250,000 from archival purchases. Democracy Now was founded by the network’s Program Director, Samori Marksman, and initially featured a rotating crew of hosts from each of the five Pacifica stations, a structure that was only later eclipsed by all-Amy Goodman, all the time. It was a shining example of collaboration, of how an excellent program arises from skilled individuals working together to achieve a goal. Particularly in the midst of the legendarily dysfunctional Pacifica network, which veteran news producer Paul DeRienzo calls “the elephant graveyard of radio,” Democracy Now was a diamond in the rough. Marksman was a well-liked figure at the network, capable of cutting through the petty rivalries and inspiring staff to create quality programming. Back then, according to DeRienzo, people might argue ferociously, but they’d go out for coffee afterwards.

A+ for concept, D- for execution

“Legendarily dysfunctional” is an understatement in the eyes of many who labored in the trenches of Pacifica from the 1970s on. Network management has a lengthy track record of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, according to veteran programmers. One likened going to work there to “intentionally climbing into a sewer every day with no boots and no hazmat outfit,” describing a “full-on hate campaign” unleashed in response to the brightening fortunes of WBAI, Pacifica’s New York station, during the mid-1970s. Fund drives fueled by a new audience and a shift toward more positive programming began to put the station reliably in the black, allowing them to pay bills and even salaries. But the old guard was apparently threatened by the arrival of new, empowering programming and the growth of an audience that was receptive to this material. As one WBAI lifer told him, “Anyone successful and happy they’re going to hate. These people live in emotional poverty.” The station became ground zero for intense factional warfare — on one side, people whose identities were tied up in the WBAI of the 1960s, who had offices and 24/7 access to the building but often no show or even official broadcasting duties. On the other hand, there were the new voices like the programmer, a best-selling author whose massive audience followed him to the station and who believes his success made him the lightning rod for these individuals’ anger. His producer was reportedly driven away from the office by an escalating terror campaign of misogynistic comments, air tapes cut with razor blades, and finally human feces inserted into her mail. The newcomer’s attempts to find common ground with his alleged tormentors — sharing stories of his working-class beginnings, arriving in New York on a Greyhound bus, or his work with over a dozen activist movements that effected real social change during the 1960s and 1970s — were rebuffed. “This isn’t a good mix,” he was told; “Why don’t you just go back?” The station remained a battleground even as its new direction attracted more positive hosts and intelligent voices than any other time in its history. By the 1990s, Pacifica seemed to be at the top of its broadcast game. At the same time, veteran programmers and management attested to the seething undercurrent of resentment, of racial, class, and ideological hatreds, fomented by WBAI lifers who would rather see the station die than compromise their politics.

Enter Amy

Amy Goodman arrived at WBAI as an entry-level reporter, her way paved by a long-term charitable donation bestowed by her grandfather as a reward for allowing Goodman opportunities above and beyond a typical internship. The money opened doors in the news department, freeing her to pursue whatever stories she liked without being told what to do by senior staff or having restrictions placed on her use of Pacifica resources. While she demonstrated intense dedication to her craft, colleagues say she lacked any of the social niceties required to work in a newsroom (“Amy doesn’t talk, she yells,” goes a recurring complaint), and the “adults in the room” — Marksman and General Manager Valerie van Isler — generally gave her what she wanted in order to keep the peace. What she wanted, former co-workers say, was full control of her immediate environment, access to Marksman’s treasure trove of progressive contacts, and free use of all resources (finances, equipment, even interns) she claimed to require to do her work. If anyone complained or objected, she reportedly threatened to halt her grandfather’s largesse, eventually terrorizing the anemic and understaffed news department into making her News Director of WBAI.

According to DeRienzo, Goodman landed at WBAI only after being kicked out of WNYC, where the behaviors that made her notorious at Pacifica were not tolerated. NPR’s professional standards apparently left no room for Goodman’s histrionics, her high-volume temper tantrums, and her violent reactions to criticism. These behaviors were merely quirky at WBAI, which over the years had become a collection basin for the detritus of New York radio — people who might be talented but who could not handle the stress of producing radio in the big city and who had, in DeRienzo’s words, “snapped.” There was a sizable contingent of “troublesome” personalities who had, for whatever reason, reached the end of the line — a “brotherhood and sisterhood of losers who would make sure that any attempt at change would be nipped in the bud.” Goodman endeared herself to these people, who were looking for a champion, a “celebrity” who could serve as the presentable public face of the radical Left. She had already amassed a hefty support base among college students and enjoyed a close relationship with big Harvard names Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader, but she reportedly understood the importance of having the “losers” on her side as well. The word “Machiavellian” inevitably surfaces when discussing Goodman, especially with people who knew her at the beginning of her career.

Some considered Van Isler to be an ineffective General Manager, with lax professional standards and an “anything-goes” attitude in keeping with the station’s reputation as a home for radio rejects. Goodman was one of many WBAI staff to sign a petition to replace her. Her apparent disregard for van Isler not only did not foster animosity from the General Manager, but perversely drove van Isler closer to Goodman, which onlookers have analyzed as van Isler seeking to ingratiate herself with power in order to be spared the axe. A former senior WBAI producer says Goodman took full credit for projects undertaken as collective WBAI efforts and happily sucked up every spare dime at the cash-strapped station. Unlike the station’s own bookkeeper, Sybil Wong, she had the freedom to write checks and sign for at least one bank account, through which she allegedly channeled donations meant for WBAI and Pacifica projects into her own. Van Isler colluded in the charade, reportedly representing to foundations and donors that their money was going to Pacifica and WBAI even as it piled up in the coffers of a parallel organization run by Goodman. An anonymous report disseminated by Pacifica Board member Steve Brown claims the Goodman account’s existence was never revealed to Pacifica — that there is not even an official record of its existence, and that for this reason Wong was not allowed access to the books she was supposed to keep, preventing her from doing her job effectively. Former General Manager Utrice Leid concurs, claiming “absolute criminal activity” by Goodman involving secret accounts and the redirection of funds with Van Isler’s cooperation. DeRienzo recalls fundraisers where large sums of money were raised for Pacifica and disappeared into Goodman’s secret accounts in New York and California, never to be seen again. Concerned about the size of the donations that he claims were vanishing, he consulted with a private investigator, who laughed and explained that a non-profit designation was essentially a “license to steal.” Another long-time producer, who requested to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, actually witnessed garbage bags full of cash from a fundraiser being turned over to Program Director Bernard White, who crammed them under his bed. Brown confirms that a former assistant of White told him she was responsible for taking trash bags full of fundraiser cash back to White’s apartment, where she counted the money and stashed the bags under the bed.

Mutiny Takes Shape

Reportedly not content to run Democracy Now within the confines of Pacifica, Goodman was busily building up a parallel structure within WBAI, assisted by all the station equipment and funding she could lay her hands on, according to Leid. She constructed a powerful support base using Marksman’s connections and threw herself into accumulating power, positioning herself in Leid’s words as the “sole progressive voice” on New York radio. Former station staff say she befriended wealthy liberal donors and fostered a cult of personality alien to the ethos of other WBAI hosts, who preferred to give credit to the network and work within the collective. DeRienzo confirms that Goodman became the Genuine Leftist Celebrity to whom Democratic real estate investors, Hollywood millionaires, and other big-name liberals could point as a recognizable face they were proud to support; a role model for the crowds of college students who attended her speaking engagements on their campuses and a champion for the listeners who loved her and knew or cared nothing about the complaints of her co-workers. Leid calls her a “George Soros capitalist” — a ruthless, by-any-means-necessary, screw-the-consequences pursuer of what’s best for Amy Goodman.

Marksman died in March 1999 and was replaced by White, who had no management background, having worked as a station DJ prior to his promotion to Program Director. With the inexperienced White at the helm, Goodman was free to take the gloves off regarding her “ownership” of Democracy Now. When Steve Yasko, National Program Director, attempted to reform the program along its original lines, with a rotating crew of hosts from each Pacifica station, Goodman reportedly initiated a scorched-earth campaign against him with fake “confidential” memos that created the impression of a targeted harassment campaign against Goodman. The implication was that Pacifica was, cruelly and without cause, trying to take away “her” program. Yasko was depicted as a misogynistic porno merchant with such effectiveness that he not only received threatening calls from listeners who had bought Goodman’s lies, but saw them show up both at WPFW headquarters and at his residence. According to one former producer, Goodman also attempted to bankrupt Pacifica with a passel of frivolous lawsuits alleging “harassment, civil rights violations, a hostile work environment, and other despicable lies.” These she spun as Pacifica suing her, ever the victim, even as she allegedly alienated her AFTRA union lawyers by forcing them into service in her unjust war. DeRienzo says the union essentially quarantined her into a one-person “shop,” aware of her legendary inability to work well with others. When the AFTRA lawyers finally refused to take part in her crusade, she reportedly fell back on a network of wealthy and well-connected lawyer friends — the same lawyers who would later write the contract that handed her ownership of Democracy Now.

i see what you did there

Having pried control of Democracy Now from the admittedly weak grasp of Pacifica management, Goodman proceeded to milk it for all it was worth, producers say. She allegedly demanded that every Pacifica station carry the program during morning and afternoon drive times in addition to the Goodman-hosted evening news hour (and demanded a separate salary from each program!). She was to receive an additional “discretionary” budget for Democracy Now, which while it would come from Pacifica’s coffers would not be controlled by Pacifica or any of its program directors, including Yasko. She got office space in DC and New York, with equipment, including the station’s equipment when needed, and staff to run it. Even when not physically present, she cast a long shadow over the office — “her people” enjoyed priority use of the best equipment, and woe betide any producer who defied her, according to DeRienzo, whom she allegedly screamed at over the phone when he sat down at the “good” tape machine an intern of hers coveted.

Around this time, Van Isler was let go, having been effectively overwhelmed by the stressful station environment, according to one veteran producer. She was not fired outright, but instead offered a higher-paying position in Washington DC. Only after repeatedly declining this post was she dismissed. The Pacifica Campaign, a “listener movement” against the National Board led by Goodman’s Democracy Now co-host, pointed to her dismissal as indisputable evidence of a “purge,” which mushroomed into a “coup,” that signaled the growing influence of shadowy corporate interests intent on selling out Pacifica to the highest bidder for personal gain. The Campaign called for listeners to respond by boycotting pledge drives, boycotting the station, calling management, and picketing station offices. This outpouring of support seems disingenuous given that Goodman and the other Campaign ringleaders at WBAI had actually signed the petition calling for van Isler’s dismissal. When Pacifica Executive Director Bessie Wash tried to promote News Director Jose Santiago to replace Van Isler, the Campaign blamed him for her departure and allegedly began a targeted harassment campaign that — in combination with a major family health crisis — forced Santiago to turn down the post. While the Campaign claimed to resent Wash’s imposition of her choice of manager upon the station, citing the appointment as a classic example of the National Board’s dictatorial rule, the Pacifica Foundation’s bylaws had already been ignored once when van Isler skipped over Utrice Leid — the WBAI staffing committee’s first choice to replace Marksman as Program Director — and runner-up Laura Flanders to select White, who received zero committee votes. Van Isler, defending the choice of her personal friend over the committee’s preferences, claimed the selection process was “tainted.” Invoking the bylaws after that flagrant breach of procedure was closing the barn doors after the last horse had long since galloped away.

Wash finally convinced Utrice Leid to take the post, on the condition that there would be no firings, no bannings, and no interference from the National Board. In December 2000, Leid joined as interim General Manager, making it clear she did not want the job on a permanent basis but was merely there to help right the ship. The Pacifica Campaign was worried, according to producers then at WBAI, as the professionalism Leid mandated was several notches above Van Isler’s anything-goes attitude. The same day Leid joined, Wash fired White for “using his forum to criticize the board unfairly.” There was an air of impropriety about the proceedings only because van Isler had slighted Leid to promote White, and the Pacifica Campaign exploited this fact to spin White’s firing as an unprofessional and vindictive act.

Leid soon came in for criticism for taking people off the air unilaterally, without recourse to union mediation or open discussion, according to contemporary reports. She backed Wash in firing White without consulting the union, an act which cemented the Pacifica Campaign’s loathing and opposition to her. Leid’s common-sense edict of “don’t defecate on the airwaves” didn’t sit well with the malcontents accustomed to airing their dirty laundry publicly. She removed Ken Nash for personally attacking her on air, silencing him in the middle of his show (not long after removing his co-host, Mimi Rosenberg). Some staff complained that her supporters had free reign to attack those who had been banned or fired, whatever their crimes, while their victims had no recourse or opportunity to address the criticism on air. Leid was also criticized for replacing hostile personalities with friends and cronies. However, she did bring a sense of order and professionalism to WBAI, which sorely needed her discipline, and was praised for keeping the station on air in the aftermath of 9/11 — even while she herself was subject to intensifying personal attacks. Rosenberg and White reportedly drove through her neighborhood, screaming abuse at her as she walked home. Her house was repeatedly broken into, and libelous flyers were distributed throughout her neighborhood. Despite her standing in the community — she founded and ran the City Sun, a popular newspaper written by and for New York’s black community — neighbors began to shun her, believing that where there was smoke, there must be fire.

The “Plot” Thickens

The Pacifica Campaign sought allies not only among listeners but within station staff, claiming the Board was controlled by corporate interests looking to sell the network’s stations. Goodman’s Democracy Now sidekick resigned from the program in January 2001 to run the Campaign¹, which allegedly resorted to smearing individual Board members while promoting rumors about the impending corporate coup. Pacifica’s Board was said to be plotting to sell off WBAI and KPFA’s commercial licenses, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, so that they could share the profits among themselves. Evidence to support these claims was debatable, but the group cobbled together a convincing propaganda campaign out of a few scraps and repeated the threat until listeners began to believe, assisted by the trust that listeners tend to place in their favorite radio personalities. The “losers” Goodman had befriended early on, many of whom had been fired as Leid tried to impose some semblance of professionalism on the station, were promised their shows back and more — anything to get them on board the war effort, according to DeRienzo.

According to a veteran producer, the corporate-takeover rumors stemmed from a yearly meeting of the Pacifica Board during which time they shared their wishlists for network changes in the coming year. The treasurer calculated the cost of the desired changes, which generally ran to millions of dollars, far outside the means of the perpetually-struggling Pacifica. Board members then brainstormed how they might raise that money, and one member — usually a different person every year — would suggest selling off a commercial license to raise funds — either to buy a new station, to invest the proceeds in the other four stations, or as a license-swap exchanging the valuable commercial license for a noncommercial license. Board members could not legally profit at a personal level from such a sale, which at any rate remained in the realm of the hypothetical. It was not a plan of action, and none of the dissident Pacifica Campaign members could provide proof such a plan existed. Still, they strung rumors about the national meeting together with an undated memo from Micheal Palmer discussing the sale of WBAI and KPFA, which they claimed was contemporary but which one producer stated dates from 1966. The email, if indeed it is an email, contains multiple red flags that could cast doubt on its legitimacy — questions concerning how it landed in the inbox of a Pacifica Campaign supporter instead of its intended addressee, for instance² — but it was published in FAIR, CounterPunch, and other outlets to great effect. The “impending corporate takeover of Pacifica” scare was enough of a story to fool the listeners who worshiped Goodman and wanted to believe she was David rather than Goliath in the battle for Pacifica.

The rest of the Pacifica Campaign’s “issues” concerned local stations’ perceived lack of influence on the national level. A coalition of Pacifica listeners was granted legal standing to sue for the “public benefit,” alleging that the Pacifica National Board was acting unilaterally without consulting local station boards or those stations’ listeners. National management, the suit alleged, was centralizing power in preparation for the dreaded sell-off, appointing cooperative personnel to manage the local stations. A second lawsuit was filed by Dan Siegel (who later joined the same National Board he had sued as both Executive Director and General Counsel) on behalf of the local station boards. Goodman herself sued Pacifica for “defamation” after she was reprimanded by the National Board for allegedly using the network’s press credentials to sneak Ralph Nader onto the floor of the 2000 Republican National Convention, where she interviewed him. The defamation suit followed closely on the heels of a Pacifica financial statement showing Democracy Now had made nearly $300,000 for the network; given the Pacifica Campaign’s apparent philosophy of “the ends justify the means” — the campaign leader compared their struggle to that of communist revolutionaries like the Bolsheviks and Sandinistas — some have speculated that Goodman’s suit was an attempt to stake her claim to that cash.³

Goodman eating an invisible sandwich — or Pacifica’s lunch

Because Goodman’s clique was so focused on seizing power, and willing to pursue what many witnesses deemed underhanded smear tactics in order to secure the network for Goodman, they had a natural advantage over their enemies, who were focused on their jobs: creating community-focused, responsible radio programming. Looking back at the conflict, Leid recalls her certainty that Pacifica would be sorely needed in the coming years, with the convergence of “strange political forces” heightening the sense of urgency she and her allies felt. But the voices pleading for civility and a focus on Pacifica’s mission were lost in the maelstrom, while the Goodman faction reportedly weaponized listeners by leveraging the trust they placed in their beloved radio personalities. According to one producer, the Pacifica Campaign had individual talking points drawn up to justify the dismissal of every enemy figure — dozens of managers and board members were smeared and targeted on- and off-air. KPFK news producer Marc Cooper had opposed Yasko’s hire as National Program Manager but was horrified by what he saw as the Pacifica Campaign’s demonization of Yasko as a slimy porn kingpin (for the crime of letting his web registration lapse and the site’s subsequent colonization by an unrelated smut peddler).⁴ Goodman added injury to that insult by filing a gender harassment suit, telling her followers that Yasko, a gay man, couldn’t handle “strong heterosexual feminists” like Goodman.

Cooper pointed out that the “issue” targeted by the Pacifica Campaign was constantly shifting, though he failed to take his critique far enough in an article he wrote on the subject — “first the firing of KPFA Manager Sawaya; then it was the Democrats taking over, or was it the corporatists and the commercializers; then, briefly, it was the FBI; soon after, Pacifica’s supposed plan to move out of California; promptly, it morphed into a ‘strike,’ against PNN: and then recently the dastardly ‘Christmas Coup,’ which lasted only until the issue shifted to the National Association of Homebuilders. As I write, the new flavor of the week is Democracy Now!”⁵ Such a bewildering stew of “causes” was reflective of nothing more than the methodical targeting of individual board members, in the opinion of many former staff, some of whom were victimized themselves (Ken Ford was a member of the NAHB, while others were tenuously linked to the other bêtes noires du jour). As the campaign knocked off Board members, it cemented its control over Pacifica — conquest by attrition.

Yasko was finally terrorized out of his position, his physical and mental health severely compromised by Goodman’s attacks. Almost 20 years later, he refuses to discuss the incident. Leid took his place as National Program Director in Washington DC, where she says her arrival was greeted with apprehension by the local staff. More than half a dozen engineers threatened to leave if Goodman even showed up in the building. Leid recalls that she and the national news team produced two news programs a day rivaling Democracy Now in both quality and listener support, leading Goodman to view her as the next big threat to her dominance, and the Pacifica Campaign’s focus shifted to taking out Leid.

Multiple observers confirmed Goodman’s campaign against Leid was heavily racialized despite Goodman being white and Leid black; Goodman had conspicuously surrounded herself with a cadre of black supporters willing to vouch for her “blackness,” an imperative given that Pacifica and WBAI were already staffed with competent and qualified black professionals who had no allegiance to Goodman. Despite roping in marquee names like Harry Belafonte, reportedly with the help of “community outreach” efforts sponsored by her wealthy donor friends, she was unable to block a successful fundraising drive by Leid, and shifted her focus to expanding her power base within WBAI. Her staff proliferated, colonizing the station offices and preventing others from doing their work, even running anti-Pacifica protest campaigns and producing anti-Pacifica content using station equipment while others were trying to produce their shows, according to producers who found it difficult to work in such an environment even as they tried to avoid taking sides in the mushrooming civil war. Some “Amy-bots,” as WBAI staff took to calling them, reportedly moved in, sleeping in the offices overnight, stealing equipment, selling and using drugs, and generally trashing the place. More than one producer claims they caught these new faces rifling through desk drawers and downloading information off hard drives, occupying offices that were not their own.

Because much of station management consisted of highly-educated black professionals, the allegations of racism that periodically surfaced had a surreal aspect. Steve Brown describes the rivalry as between Leid’s “Caribbean black” faction and White’s “uptown black” faction, while some considered White’s primary function to furnish Goodman with credibility in the black community. Particularly given Pacifica’s history of black radicalism, some of the black station staff saw White as an “uncle Tom” figure and resented Goodman throwing her weight around. The matter came to a head when Leid fired White. On the morning show, which he had co-hosted with Goodman, White was replaced by Clayton Riley, a black man who lost no time in criticizing Goodman’s power-grab on air. Listeners and provocateurs called in to defend her, flinging around racial slurs, and the two hosts were soon at each other’s throats. They were kicked off the air and Goodman was relegated to a side studio. According to DeRienzo, she perceived this move as a demotion and summoned her college followers into the station offices through a side door she left unlocked. Dozens of students swarmed in and were only at the last moment prevented from entering the broadcast studio when security guards barred the door.

Van Isler had never secured the station offices with a lock during her tenure as General Manager, violating FCC rules and allowing disreputable elements — one producer called them “street urchins” — to take advantage of WBAI’s hospitality-by-negligence. Rumors grew that Goodman and White, whose offices served as the hub for the protest activity, were planning a full-on takeover of the station, to be parlayed into a takeover of the entire network. Several producers overheard their minions discussing bringing guns to the station, literally plotting an armed coup, and White had openly discussed “taking over” station offices. Word of the impending takeover finally reached Executive Director Bessie Wash, who flew cross-country to help secure the station — to protect both the employees and the station license, which could have been confiscated by the FCC had Pacifica lost control of the premises.

the headphones come with fingers that plug the listener’s ears & repeat “la la la, i can’t hear you!”

This was the much-maligned “Christmas Coup” — the last-ditch attempt by Pacifica management to save WBAI from Goodman and her followers. Wash merely called in locksmiths to secure the building. Far from “locking out the staff,” they were able to avoid changing the few locks that existed on the premises because staff simply turned over their keys, “colluding” with the “coup plotters” because they did not want to see Goodman’s faction continue abusing the facilities and putting the staff in danger, according to several staff who “survived” the affair. The host broadcasting at the time reported it as if it was a top-secret military operation, and the myth was born, becoming the Pacifica Campaign’s latest cause célèbre. Had Goodman, White, and the rest of their minions succeeded in taking over the station, the FCC could have taken away WBAI’s license, which mandates a station maintain control of its airwaves — hence the need for locks. Far from engineering a coup, her defenders say, Wash was merely restoring order.

Goodman enlisted Village Voice gadfly Nat Hentoff to shore up support for what has been described as her own coup attempt, presenting Leid as a corporate shill and censor-happy fascist and Goodman herself as a champion of truth and justice, having “risked her life to break the story of the slaughtering of independence fighters in East Timor” — a brave act of journalism, to be sure, but even then a decade in the past. Members of the Pacifica Campaign were duly canonized, while National Board members were smeared as agents of Big Business. Ken Ford, the last of the Board to be driven out by the scorched-earth campaign, was introduced as “a manager with the National Association of Home Builders” sandwiched between a professional sports team owner and a commercial real estate broker in an effort to smear by association; in the following paragraph he was called a “high-level player in the corporate world.”⁶ Protesters assembled outside his office, accusing him of squandering the network’s funds and trying to sell off its stations and confusing his coworkers, one of whom called the sideshow “totally irrelevant to the business of the NAHB.”⁷ Protesters thronged parties thrown by affiliates of his employer, handing out leaflets and buttonholing attendees. They posted Ford’s contact information online, so extensively that it’s still there nearly two decades later. They even hounded him on a cruise he took with co-workers, pulling aside the ship in their own boat and holding up massive banners demanding his resignation.⁸ The protests were arranged via dedicated email lists and instructions on how to participate were blasted out to all Pacifica members. Because Goodman, White, and the other ringleaders were popular radio personalities, listeners trusted their version of events and readily turned out to demonstrate against their adversaries, according to Brown, whose own loyalties were influenced by his affinity for Goodman and White’s programs.⁹

Brown was on the front lines of the harassment, being himself responsible for one of the infamous flyers distributed to Leid’s neighbors in an effort to make her a pariah within her community. Though he had never met Leid and knew nothing about her, he believed what Goodman and her cronies said on air and volunteered to participate in the character assassination campaign. Even after meeting Leid at the behest of a long-time friend and station producer, and learning that she was not guilty of any of the crimes his flyer pinned on her (among them that she had bankrupted the City Sun, a newspaper she had actually founded and successfully run for many years and which still exists to this day), he continued to distribute the flyers because she had fired all the people he liked on the air. Brown views his flyer as a small piece of the targeted harassment campaign against Leid by Goodman’s minions, which included multiple break-ins, death threats, and the spreading of malicious rumors among the neighbors in her building, and has in retrospect attempted to justify his participation in the abuse with the rationale that others were doing it too. In the midst of this harassment, Goodman accused Leid of violently assaulting her, spinning the charge out of an incident where Leid restrained Goodman from having what onlookers called a violent temper tantrum. Leid had moved a producer into White’s (empty) office to ease tensions with an on-air host and Goodman, apparently perceiving an incursion on the fired White’s territory, began allegedly shrieking and taking photographs of the producer sitting in White’s office; Leid snatched Goodman’s camera, setting off Goodman’s histrionics (a regular occurrence, according to DeRienzo) and forcing Leid to restrain the flailing Goodman lest she injure herself or others. Goodman finally collapsed, sobbing, and left the building, refusing to return and alleging “hostile workplace violations.”

Wash was subject to the same terror campaign as Yasko, Ford, and Leid. She received bomb threats and death threats credible enough that the FBI advised her to split up her family for their protection. She finally had enough of the Pacifica Campaign’s harassment and announced her departure in November 2001. Leid and several other managers filed out with her in solidarity. Democracy Now was lost, and the combination of lawsuits and loss of revenue from one of the station’s only profitable programs had essentially sucked Pacifica dry, but Leid believes “a hardy band of people across the Pacifica spectrum” ultimately saved the network from Goodman’s clutches. Goodman’s intent, Leid says, was to force Pacifica into bankruptcy in order to swoop in at the last minute to “save” the network with the help of her wealthy donor network. She would have her own personal network of five immensely valuable radio stations, to do with as she (and her well-heeled liberal patrons) wished. Wash, for her part, told the Washington Post she had completed her “five year plan,” leaving the network a better place than she found it, and that even if she was technically fired, her departure was her idea.¹⁰

The vicious harassment campaigns against the National Board and its allies, involving stalking, public harassment, smear campaigns both online and interpersonal, burglaries and break-ins, slander and libel, all occurring systematically, simultaneously, and frequently to the point of physical illness, were the norm for over a year, according to staff on both sides of the conflict. Goodman painted herself as the victim of such harassment on air, riling up her listeners with stories that the evil network was trying to take away “her” program.¹¹ The so-called assault by Leid was only one of many incidents — there were charges of racism, sexism, and the aforementioned “defamation” lawsuit that was her revenge against the Board for criticizing her behavior at the RNC, according to DeRienzo. Listeners, of course, believed Goodman — they had never heard of Utrice Leid, or Steve Yasko, or any of the other villains in Goodman’s radio dramas.

The Spoils of Victory

The Pacifica lawsuits, including Goodman’s, were eventually rolled into a single suit, which was settled in December 2001. The settlement saw the National Board, already depopulated by the scorched-earth Pacifica Campaign, neutered and sidelined. It dissolved the centralization of administrative powers, atomizing the network’s finances such that Pacifica has never really recovered. One hand was legally prohibited from knowing what the other was doing. Pacifica’s newly-“democratized” structure mandated the election of Local Station Boards by listener-members who contributed $25 or volunteered for three hours in a given year. In 2002, the network had approximately one million regular listeners, of which maybe 10% made regular contributions or volunteered. Only 10% of those actually voted in listener elections, making Pacifica listeners perhaps the only “democracy” less enthusiastic about self-government than the United States. The station’s bylaws actually require such a quorum, meaning if enthusiasm slips further, the already dysfunctional institution risks institutional paralysis. Meanwhile, at the time of Goodman’s takeover, only about 300 votes — less than one percent of listeners — were required to place someone on a Local Station Board.¹² It was a simple matter to stack the new Boards with a dysfunctional crew of yes-men and -women and incompetents, according to DeRienzo. The new members included crack-smoking former DC mayor Marion Barry, while Michael Ratner — Goodman’s lawyer, who had just finished suing Pacifica as legal counsel for the Pacifica Campaign — became the legal counsel for the network itself.

According to a former producer, Goodman around this time threatened to quit Democracy Now and stop raising money unless Pacifica gave her private corporation total ownership of the show and its seven-year archive, free of charge. Having interposed herself between the station’s wealthiest donors and Pacifica, Goodman was responsible for up to 25% of the station’s revenue during fund drives. She struck at a vulnerable time, having (with the help of the Pacifica Campaign) purged at least 56 people for their failure to support her power grab and helped bleed the station dry with petty lawsuits, according to producers. With a green new management board and a depleted war chest weakening any opposition the network could have mounted against her, she set her terms before the new Board Chair, Leslie Cagan. The Board accepted a contract dictated almost exclusively by Ratner, who became sole arbiter; she got all her demands plus $500,000 per year to broadcast Democracy Now on Pacifica stations, plus the $750,000 per year which had formerly accrued to Pacifica through syndication and archival sales. She also gained the rights to solicit donations to her private corporation using Pacifica’s mailing list. Cagan had not consulted with a single one of the 21 other Board members and was being supported financially by Ratner at the time, with a $30,000 payoff “to defray living expenses” as icing on the cake. According to one estimate from a former board member, from 2001 to 2011, Goodman managed to hoover up $77.2 million that would otherwise have gone to Pacifica. She reported Democracy Now’s income in 2011 as $6.5 million, its assets as $13 million, and her own salary as just $148,493.¹³

Perhaps uncomfortable with her audience knowing the truth about the violent and underhanded manner in which she wrested control of Democracy Now from Pacifica’s grasp, Goodman has been reticent in discussing the network’s part in her stratospheric rise.¹⁴ Her Wikipedia entry — now that such bathroom-wall-level scribblings are considered gospel truth — barely mentions Pacifica, and the origins of Democracy Now as a collaborative product are entirely obfuscated. Samori Marksman’s name has been erased from his creation, as has the fact that Goodman was originally meant to be one of five program hosts. The work of Goodman’s supporters in spinning the events of 1999–2002 is all over the internet, papering over what one producer has called a “one-sided ass-kicking” with the Goodman-sanctioned version of events. Those who may consider this current narrative one-sided are reminded that at no time during the Pacifica Campaign’s reign of terror — one veteran producer recalled a participant actually saying “we’re the new Robespierre court” — did they give the other side a fair hearing, instead opting to shoot first and ask questions later.

While Goodman was finalizing what many consider her coup d’état at WBAI, other Pacifica stations were subjected to the same line of personal, professional and legal harassment. Allegedly terrorized on a personal and professional level by the Pacifica Campaign, Pacifica trustees left by the dozen; those who wouldn’t leave were fired, and those who couldn’t be fired were sued. The settlement that “democratized” Pacifica placed the network under an interim Board, most of whom had no experience in radio or even business and reportedly gave away contracts to friends and cronies to predictably chaotic results. This dysfunctional, unelected Board persisted long past the legally mandated period.¹⁵ For over two years, these amateurs ran Pacifica into the ground, which some believe was the intended outcome of the Pacifica Campaign’s legal and personal harassment initiatives, which stripped the network of experience and capital. In May 2003, identity politics became official station policy: a resolution dictating that “priority of programming would be given to groups historically and currently under immediate threat of losing life, liberty and limb, particularly black women” was unanimously passed by the unelected Board, which also voted in a massive increase in Spanish-language programming. While giving a “voice to the voiceless” has always been Pacifica’s stock in trade, the network’s staff were already mostly black even before the settlement, and the resolution carried a whiff of virtue-signaling — an effort to burnish their revolutionary cred with listeners who might have been turned off by the civil war. Just a few weeks after a fund drive, there was a mass purging of KPFK’s best and longest-running programs and directors. Long-time listeners were progressively alienated, according to former Board member Nalini Lasiewicz. “Pacifica began to pride itself on who it did not want listening,” said one producer.

With the National Board firmly in the hands of Goodman’s allies, and Democracy Now safely in Goodman’s possession, the network’s new rulers were free to pursue their pet projects, even if they conflicted with the aims of the stations. With no central administrative control, local boards set their own agendas. Those who had not been purged saw WBAI becoming increasingly politicized, with White rehired along with others Leid had fired. One long-time producer watched in disbelief as the Board rejected a highly-qualified job applicant because “she wasn’t Left enough,” instead picking someone with no experience in radio whose politics were closer to their own. While Pacifica is a nonprofit with an obvious political bent, even nonprofits need to maintain a certain level of funding; the dissenting producer explained that management is normally selected based on professional experience and connections, with an eye toward what they can do for the organization. Picking people based on their revolutionary ideals might have looked good, especially to listeners convinced the old board had to go because it was lousy with bourgeois sellouts, but it sealed Pacifica’s fate financially.

In 2004, White had long-running health and politics show host Gary Null removed from WBAI, even though as much as half the station’s audience was primarily Null’s and he was responsible for the lion’s share of Pacifica’s fundraising. White not only cut Null’s broadcast in the middle of an exposé on the Pacifica coup — he took Null’s broadcasting slot and gave it to his personal physician without informing either Null or his audience. Null, who had two days earlier debated White, Cagan and van Isler for nearly an hour on air, was joined by almost 2,000 of his listeners in protest.¹⁶ The station lost 44,000 listeners — 54% of its audience — and hasn’t made a fundraising goal since. Null began broadcasting on WNYE, only agreeing to return to WBAI when he was told that new management was running the station. Management turnovers are a regular occurrence, according to DeRienzo, because there is no real authority: control of WBAI and the other Pacifica stations is “easy to take over but hard to hold onto.”

Aftermath

sure it’s pretty, but can it bankrupt a small country?

In 2005, WBAI signed a prohibitively-expensive 15-year lease renewal on its 50 kW Empire State Building transmitter. The 2005 Board has no memory of seeing or reviewing the lease; DeRienzo posits that even then-Interim Executive Director Ambrose Lane did not read the lease, merely signing it and concealing its existence from the rest of the Board. Lane, a WPFW broadcaster, replaced Dan Coughlin, a Goodman ally, who quit two weeks before the signing. After serving what some believe was his purpose of shepherding through the unaffordable transmitter lease, Lane was replaced by Dan Siegel, who had once sued the network on Goodman’s behalf.¹⁷ When the one-sided Democracy Now contract came up for renewal in 2006, it was once again placed before an inexperienced Board, who were no match for Goodman’s legal sharks. Her lawyers presented the contract as a fait-accompli, convincing the Board to once again sign away their best interests and Pacifica’s only cash cow to the already-wealthy Goodman and her private corporation.

Siegel was elected interim Executive Director over the objections of several Board members, railroaded through by his allies Margy Wilkinson and Lydia Brazon (plus eight others), according to Brown, who has extensively documented what he considers a pattern of sabotage by Siegel. The so-called Save KPFA faction seized power by canceling regularly scheduled elections with an eye toward profiting from Pacifica’s recurring misfortunes — some of which, Brown says, they were responsible for.¹⁸ Siegel and Wilkinson formed a shadow corporation that Siegel admitted was designed to acquire the licenses and assets of Pacifica stations should the network go bankrupt — a bankruptcy that Siegel and Wilkinson were well-placed to engineer in their positions as legal counsel and national Board member. Because they stood to gain from Pacifica’s demise, which could place licenses worth over $100 million in their hands, they were legally obligated to inform the Board of their mammoth conflict of interest — with Siegel doubly obligated due to his additional position as Pacifica’s attorney. But they never informed the Board, and Siegel was later investigated by the California bar for his failure to do so.

Siegel had allegedly been milking Pacifica as legal counsel for years, submitting bills that were not itemized and making decisions despite the conflicts of interest inherent in serving simultaneously as counsel and Executive Director. His instigating role in one of the lawsuits that decentralized control of Pacifica is merely the first conflict of interest in what Brown and others believe to be an extensive career of such conflicts. What some consider Siegel’s thuggish behavior was not limited to the courtroom — in 2007, he allegedly broke into a Pacifica election supervisor’s home, drunk, and harassed his wife.¹⁹ According to Brown, he also sabotaged Pacifica’s defense against a lawsuit brought by a former employee, forcing the network to pay $400,000 to settle a racial discrimination suit that the network should have won. According to Brown and others, Siegel committed this violation of professional ethics as revenge on Pacifica’s Board for forcing him to resign as counsel for reasons of incompetence.²⁰ Other Board members have meticulously documented Siegel’s misdeeds, which appear to be numerous and always leave Pacifica somewhat poorer. Their conclusion, given his ownership of a corporation designed to receive Pacifica’s licenses in the event of bankruptcy, is that Siegel sought to engineer such a bankruptcy, just as Leid and DeRienzo believe Goodman did.

Indeed, some of Pacifica’s behavior is inexplicable unless viewed from the perspective of intentional self-sabotage. Null threatened to quit WBAI again in July 2013, partially out of frustration with how the station managed to alienate listeners, donors and producers all at one go with its mishandling of pledge premiums. He had asked the artist Peter Max, a personal friend, to donate some original and signed prints for a star-studded auction event to benefit Pacifica. Station managers were informed of the plan, and Max contacted celebrity friends who lived in the vicinity of Pacifica stations to encourage them to attend the auctions. Three days before the planned events, Pacifica staff had yet to even speak with Max by phone, let alone confirm any of the logistical details, and the artist had no choice but to cancel his participation. So Pacifica lost the prints, which Max donated to other groups, depriving the network of potential millions of dollars in lost pledge revenue. During another pledge drive, Null offered a two-week health retreat as a premium that earned the station $60,000 in pledge revenue. The station promised to reimburse him for thousands of dollars of expenses afterward but failed to do so until Null threatened to stop fundraising for Pacifica entirely. He is far from the only show host to lose patience over the network’s mishandling of premiums. If the FCC were ever to enforce its own statutes mandating premiums be delivered within 30 days of a pledge, Pacifica could be on the hook for fines running upwards of $130 million.

In 2017, the Empire State Realty Trust began demanding $1.8 million in back rent plus legal fees for WBAI’s 50kW Empire State Building antenna. With monthly rent running over $50,000 — four times the market rate — and increasing at a rate of 9% per year, the cash-strapped station had few options. When an October 2016 judgment found for the Empire State Realty Trust, throwing out an alleged “verbal agreement” reached with the landlord in 2014 in a closed Board session from which Pacifica’s New York real estate attorney was deliberately excluded,²¹ the court opened the door to the landlord seizing Pacifica assets outside New York to pay the debt. With its ultra-valuable FCC licenses now in jeopardy — the same prizes coveted by the competing factions of the network since time immemorial — Pacifica began seriously considering filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, negotiations that dragged on as the landlord filed in California to seize the property of KPFA and KPFK.²² As the vultures circled, the Board secured a $2 million loan assembled by Pacifica members in southern California to pay off the ESRT.²³ By April 2018, Pacifica was able to work out a settlement that relieved the network of its financial responsibilities, liberated WBAI from its ruinously expensive transmitter lease, and allowed the station to take advantage of a standing offer to move to 4 Times Square.²⁴ Warring factions had laid down their swords and united to save Pacifica, if only so they could return to battling for control of its assets.

Some defenders of the status quo protest that Pacifica was mismanaged prior to the 2001 “coup” — even though it had $3 million in the bank, the highest listener numbers in the network’s history, and the most qualified, experienced, and diverse staff reliably producing quality programming. They dismiss those cash reserves, reasoning that they don’t matter because the stations never got to use them, but omitting the fact that the money was frittered away defending Pacifica from lawsuits. They claim Pacifica is better off having purged the formidable progressive General Managers, Program Directors, and Board members whose years of experience in non-commercial radio was an invaluable asset to the network — that their replacement by unqualified rabble-rousers wearing their identity politics on their sleeves is somehow incidental to the network’s decline. Pacifica apologists justify their actions with the argument that there was no real democracy before the restructuring, ignoring how the old bylaws mirrored those of almost every successful non-commercial radio station in the country, prioritizing experience and fundraising ability over radical politics and the willingness to get one’s hands dirty. They ignore the toxic culture of petty internecine squabbles that plays out daily on internet message boards and mailing lists, pretending that the cross-factional cooperation that temporarily saved Pacifica from its creditors was not unusual at all — that it represented the network’s new direction, a new Golden Age that’s always just over the next hill. But in the words of one veteran programmer, “all that anyone at Pacifica has ever done for the last 20 years is double down on stupid.” And the network would not be so lucky the next time.

The Future(?) of Pacifica

Pacifica’s flagship station KPFA has veered far from the progressive path in recent years, canceling Bonnie Faulkner’s beloved program Guns & Butter because of a pair of angry letters written in response to her airing of a provocative presentation by military historian Alan Sabrosky. While the vast majority of KPFA’s audience consists of level-headed adults capable of handling viewpoints different from their own with maturity, these two letter-writers’ opinions apparently overshadowed the history of supporting free speech for which Pacifica is revered. The decision was augured nearly two years before, when KPFA Manager Quincy Jones began using the specter of “fake news” as a lever to pry more money out of listeners during fundraising drives.²⁵ Listener Daniel Borgstrom called this fearmongering out for what it was and many other listeners complained, yet the spot was used for several months, feeding on the McCarthyite climate that has settled over American public discourse in the wake of the 2016 election. How ironic that Pacifica was once the only station brave enough to stand up to Senator McCarthy during the original Red Scare.

Some might say that the corporate raid model, used to such devastating effectiveness by predatory investors in the 1980s, is being used as a model by the Goodman/Siegel crew in their alleged plot to seize Pacifica. By taking control of first the local and then the national Boards, creating an atmosphere of chaos both interpersonal and financial in order to deplete the network’s cash reserves, and swooping in at the last minute via a conveniently-incorporated private company to snatch Pacifica up from bankruptcy, the cabal could be merely following the script that made countless private equity firms rich. We do not expect such behavior from the “progressive” left, and the “real” Pacifica has been victimized repeatedly for assuming its enemies are playing by the same honorable rules. But left-gatekeepers like the heavily foundation-funded Amy Goodman, who has never apologized for her support of US regime change operations in Libya and Syria, where she acted as on-air cheerleader for the terrorist White Helmets, are no more progressive than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Such “limousine liberals” are corporate wolves in progressive sheep’s clothing. Whether or not they are being helped by Deep State interests is immaterial at this point, when the damage has been done, but it’s worth noting that the constant internecine struggles at Pacifica come straight from the COINTELPRO playbook.

Pacifica’s decline is not the fault of Amy Goodman — the network has been rife with dysfunction for as long as anyone I spoke to worked there. Indeed, Goodman, apparently taking pity on the network after nearly two decades of holding the massive Democracy Now debt over its head, reportedly forgave the debt in early 2019²⁶ after repeatedly refusing to do so in the past.²⁷ But the “democratization” of Pacifica’s board by her allies played a large part in its downfall, according to those who witnessed it. Andrew Phillips, who preceded Marksman as Program Director at WBAI and later worked as Interim General Manager at KPFA, explained that democratization “sabotaged” Pacifica: “one would think it would have worked, but it created too much democracy, in a way. Everyone was pulling in different directions.” By enshrining institutional gridlock in Pacifica’s bylaws, the hyper-democratic restructuring — former KPFA General Manager Nicole Sawaya called it “so flat that it is concave”²⁸ — impaired the network’s ability to react and adapt to a changing media climate. Out of touch with the evolving needs of its audience, and no longer the sole progressive voice in the media wilderness, Pacifica has been left behind. Phillips thinks Pacifica could perhaps be saved — if unified, competent management were able to eschew democracy and “nationalize” the network, taking the best programming from each station and putting it “all under one umbrella” anchored by a solid morning show. Until then, WBAI is “an albatross around the neck of the rest of the network,” while the individual stations with their shrinking audiences are “vanity projects” with too few standouts to thrive on their own. Pacifica has value as a stepping stone for people like Goodman, whom Phillips introduced to WBAI in 1984 after she audited his class at Hunter College, but Democracy Now’s budget now reportedly exceeds Pacifica’s.

Because of the one-sided contract between Goodman and Pacifica, the impoverished network now owed Goodman several million dollars for broadcasting Democracy Now, “her” show. In December 2017, Manhattan Neighborhood Network, whose CEO is Goodman crony Dan Coughlin, offered to “save” WBAI by relieving Pacifica of financial responsibility for the station through a Public Service Operating Agreement (PSOA). Such a move would effectively place the station fully within Goodman’s control,²⁹ and the plot was not a new one. As far back as July 2012, Coughlin allegedly submitted a secret bid for a lease management agreement for WBAI’s Empire State Building signal that would have completely absorbed the beleaguered station into MNN.³⁰ Mimi Rosenberg, another long-time Goodman ally from the Pacifica Campaign days, has vocally backed the idea that MNN should take over WBAI, and the Coalition to Save WBAI — an activist faction populated by many of the same faces as the old Pacifica Campaign — drew up a petition in favor of the MNN PSOA, calling the proposed partnership “an exciting solution.”³¹ The proposition was deferred when WBAI received its stay of execution in 2018, but that reprieve was only temporary.

Indeed, the entire network may have climbed out of the frying pan, but it remains engulfed in fire. Several Pacifica board members who opposed the financing deal that saved the network from its debts in 2018 floated a plan to take over the New York station, warning the others that “WBAI is out of control” and would surely bring down the entire network unless its entire staff was replaced.³² Unable to garner sufficient support for a takeover under existing management, Siegel’s Save KPFA faction — now rebranded as the Pacifica Restructuring Project, sans Siegel— attempted to overhaul network bylaws to legitimize the planned coup, but failed. Dissenting board members warned WBAI staff what they suspected was about to go down, but the plot went forward anyway under their noses, cloak-and-dagger style. In October 2019, a handful of board members operating under the direction of Pacifica’s interim Executive Director John Vernile (who’d held his post for all of three months) changed the locks at WBAI’s offices, confiscated their equipment, fired everyone at the station save two, and told the landlady to re-rent the space because they weren’t coming back, all without informing half the board what they were up to. The lockout took place in the middle of a vital WBAI fund drive — as usual, the station was in the red — and programming was replaced with reruns of shows from other Pacifica stations. The sheer cost of the coup — severance pay for ten fired employees, the cancellation of the fund drive, even plane tickets and hotel costs for the board members who comprised the impromptu death squad — would have been prohibitive for cash-strapped Pacifica, unless there was big money at the end of the rainbow — leading many to speculate that the end goal of the takeover was, once again, the sale of WBAI’s license.³³ Certainly the idea of “saving” WBAI was flimsy cover. “If they wanted to save the station, they wouldn’t have gone in there and told the landlady that the station was closed and was not going to open again,” Gary Null, still WBAI’s biggest audience draw, pointed out.

There are other explanations for why the Pacifica plotters went after WBAI when they did. Long-time producer Mimi Rosenberg had recorded a promo that included the phrase “We have to stop Trump” — conflating her personal politics with the station’s, an act that could theoretically endanger its 501(c)3 nonprofit status. Station Manager Berthold Reimers suspended Rosenberg for a week, but refused to force her to pre-tape her shows in the future as Vernile demanded. His loyalty to Rosenberg — who’d been broadcasting for decades — over a corporate exec who’d been running Pacifica for two months reportedly triggered a warning from management that his leadership had imperiled WBAI’s license.³⁴ Was Vernile merely using Rosenberg’s on-air Trump Derangement Syndrome as an excuse? Rosenberg certainly thought so, and said as much on air.³⁵ WBAI listener-delegate and temporary chair of the Pacifica board Alex Steinberg suggested the coup was “a ‘cleansing’ operation to remove any dissident voices to the left of the Democratic Party establishment from having any say on the politics and culture of this country,” hinting that there was “big money” behind Vernile³⁶ (and KPFA Station Manager Quinn McCoy, suspected by some of having engineered the hire of Vernile specifically to take out WBAI³⁷).

Regardless of why it happened when it did — almost exactly 20 years after a similar lockout-coup at KPFA — the takeover was total, including even WBAI’s bank accounts, indicating the presence of a traitor in the station’s ranks who gave up the station’s passwords, likely in return for being spared the axe. More importantly, the coup was flagrantly illegal, and a New York judge demanded a reversal of the entire mess. That decision took time to enforce, however, and after five weeks offline, the damage was done. The station’s audience — what little remained of it — was gone. The coup had technically failed; Vernile was put on paid leave, while the vice-chair and secretary of the Pacifica board, both of whom had backed the takeover, were removed.³⁸ But over a month offline had succeeded in killing the station, or at least mortally wounding it: Null gives WBAI six months to live.

no community radio for you

This is how a one-of-a-kind network with a 60-year history in some of the most progressive cities in the US and prime dial space is millions of dollars in the hole, on the brink of bankruptcy, its staff in perpetual turmoil, unaware who even owns the loan that could be called in at any moment to snuff out the network.³⁹ Thwarted once from seizing hold of all of Pacifica, Amy Goodman and the faction that surrounds her never gave up — whatever criticism former colleagues may have of her, none can say she is not shrewd, driven, and fiercely dedicated to her goals. Goodman now has the legitimacy her former colleagues say she has always craved since she was reportedly fired from NPR — indeed, she has long since outgrown Pacifica, emerged from its rapidly-desiccating husk like a COINTELPRO butterfly to become a leading figure in the who’s-who of Corporate Progressivism™. History is written by the victors, and the story of Pacifica has been reported almost exclusively by voices loyal to Goodman and the Pacifica Campaign; all we are trying to do is bring balance to the narrative by telling the stories of those who were so effectively vilified and chased out of the network — to bring a voice to the voiceless, as Pacifica itself might have put it in better days. This is the story of the downfall of a once-formidable broadcast network — a decline that began long before Goodman arrived on the scene and which will continue until the network is either put out of its misery or, by some miracle, saved.

NOTES

This report was compiled primarily from interviews with current and former Pacifica staff. They are either named in the text or wished to remain anonymous out of concern about retaliation. Requests for comment sent to Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzalez, and Bernard White were ignored. Dan Coughlin agreed to be interviewed, but was not present for most of the events depicted in this report; he denies any “secret contract” or “secret lease renewal” or “secret bid” and insists Goodman was lovely to work with. To anyone who might complain that I “only” attack the Left, I will say that it is because of the sheer incompetence of what passes for the “Left” in the 21st century that the country is where it is today. This appalling culture of appeasement, navel-gazing, and infighting has given us a “Left” that cheers on the CIA and FBI, embraces endless war, and shuts down any discussion of controversial subjects with an authoritarian response that would make any right-wing fascist proud. We expect this from the Right — but the “Left” of 2019 has abandoned the working class to serve the same interests it was convinced were going to steal Pacifica. Congratulations, you’ve become the enemy.

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Failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, thought to have finally retired from politics after an embarrassing electoral loss to a politically-inexperienced reality show personality, is threatening to enter the 2020 race, serving up reheated Cold War fearmongering and an ironclad sense of royal privilege to a Trump-weary populace. A morally and fiscally bankrupt Democratic Party is poised to enable this sick drama with the help of a spineless and compliant media.

How could this possibly happen? Surely Democrats learned their lesson after their decision to take Clinton’s money in order to stay financially solvent in 2016 required them to rig the primaries in her favor, a crime that likely tanked her candidacy when it was revealed by WikiLeaks? Surely the mainstream media realizes that, three years on, the preposterous Russiagate conspiracy theory they cooked up to defend her has ripped the last shreds of journalistic integrity out of the mainstream media establishment?

Just kidding - the Democratic Party and its media handmaidens bargained away their morals long ago. They’re aiding and abetting a Clinton comeback, wheeling her out to give her opinion on everything from the latest steps toward peace in Syria (bad, needs more war) to the 2020 candidates. Last week, she took aim at Tulsi Gabbard, the best hope the party has of getting voters excited enough to show up in 2020, claiming (without a shred of evidence) that the National Guard major and former DNC chair is being groomed by Russia to act as a third-party spoiler, handing the election to Trump. Had such a claim come from anyone else, the DNC would have slapped it down. But they know on which side their bread is buttered. They’d rather lose than defy their queen.

Let’s do the time warp again

This month’s primary debates proved that, if nothing else, the party has refused to move on from 2016. Candidates clamored to distinguish themselves as the biggest Trump-hater and impeachment zealot, with not one appearing to comprehend that next in line behind their favorite punching bag is Mike Pence. The vice president is a man so possessed by religious sexual phobia that he refuses to be alone in a room with a woman. A Christian Zionist, he is even more willing than Trump to send US soldiers to fight Israel’s battles - the better to hasten the Rapture. Only Andrew Yang - a party outsider - dared speak the truth: “When we are talking about Donald Trump, we’re losing.”

Indeed, everything about the 2020 election is signaling a repeat of the last one. The DNC is broke again, ripe for a Clinton rescue that will once again require the rigging of the primary in return for her kindness. Naysayers who once laughed at the idea of yet another Clinton candidacy are reconsidering their scorn, and former Trump strategist Steve Bannon insists she is, in fact, running - merely waiting for the right moment to officially declare her candidacy. Certainly the media blitz of the past few weeks - ostensibly to promote a book co-written with her do-nothing daughter, but in reality a string of opportunities for her to denounce the “illegitimate” president and remind America that the position is rightfully hers - looks like a campaign publicity tour. 

For all that Clinton says she empathizes with current Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden, currently being accused of corruption, she has, in these interviews, always brought the conversation back around to 2016, insisting that “the most outrageously false things” were said about her as well (and lamenting that “enough people believed them” to rob her of the presidency). Biden, like Clinton, is still being pushed as the 2020 favorite, despite coming with decades of baggage including flagrant corruption (threatening to withhold $1 billion in IMF loans from Ukraine until it fired the prosecutor probing an energy company that gave his son a no-show job is only the tip of the iceberg). 

Even the New York Times has pointed out the similarities between their two candidacies - both physically deteriorating before voters’ eyes, uninterested in changing the status quo, and embraced by the wealthy donors that keep the party afloat. Biden’s Ukraine problem is as massive and impossible to avoid as Clinton’s email problem. Biden, like Clinton, is positioning himself as not the best candidate, but the only one who can beat Trump - embracing his identity as, he hopes, the lesser of two evils. Both have a long history in politics, dozens of skeletons in the closet (literally, in Clinton’s case), and a string of failed presidential attempts. Both cringingly pander to working-class and minority voters despite a history of racism ("superpredators," the 1994 crime bill, close friendship with segregationists) and classism (NAFTA).

If at first you don’t succeed...

Ever the strategist, Clinton is likely biding her time until the facts come out about Biden’s involvement in Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma during impeachment hearings and sink his candidacy. She’ll then swoop in, volunteering to take his place as the crusty old standard-bearer of the Democratic pack. Biden’s suicidal stubbornness all but ensures he’ll go down in flames (despite his son Hunter’s admitted drug problems and the obvious nepotism and corruption behind his receiving a $60,000/month directorship just months after being kicked out of the Navy Reserves for cocaine use, Biden insists Hunter will join him on the campaign trail). 

Clinton feels the presidency is hers by divine right - that it’s “her turn” to take the reins, like she was promised after Obama snatched it out from under her in 2008. Having paid her dues as First Lady, the long-suffering wife and enabler of serial rapist Bill Clinton occupied a Senate seat just long enough to present herself to the public as a stateswoman in her own right, then made a run at the glass ceiling of the presidency - only to be rejected in favor of a spray-tanned novice without her baggage. Patiently serving as Secretary of State, she oversaw the destruction of Libya, once the jewel of the Middle East under Gaddafi with the highest standard of living on the African continent, turning it into the failed state with open-air slave markets it is today. Thwarted in her efforts to do the same in Syria, she left the White House in 2012.

Clinton transformed the State Department into an extension of the Pentagon via her misleadingly-named “smart power” philosophy. The agency once tasked with solving America’s foreign policy problems diplomatically now merely provides diplomatic cover for regime-change operations like the one she helped engineer in Ukraine in 2014 (while she left the State Department in 2013, the processes she set in motion would culminate in the Maidan revolution that saw actual Nazis take over in Kiev) and the one currently trying to pry Hong Kong from China’s grasp.  

She also monetized the position, selling access to the presidency through the Clinton Foundation. The Clintons vastly enriched themselves at the expense of the rest of the world, having never met a dictator they didn’t like. But while they elevated corruption to an art form, their actions were wholly in keeping with the modus operandi of the Democratic Party. Swaddle oneself in the appearance of helping the less fortunate (Clinton has appeared with countless ‘save the children’ and ‘women’s empowerment’ type groups like Somaly Mam’s AFESIP, which notoriously invented Cambodian child brothel horror stories out of whole cloth) while exploiting them to within an inch of their lives (Haitians still protest outside Clinton events over the Foundation’s decision to give over 90 percent of the $13.3 billion given in response to the 2010 earthquake to foreign contractors and Foundation donors while Haitians starved and died).

The rot goes to the core

Clinton wouldn’t be able to get away with this sort of thing if her party wasn’t fully on board with such moral depravity. The current impeachment circus is merely the latest proof that they do not believe anything they say in public. For the entire party and its stenographers in the media to turn on a dime from accusing Trump of colluding with Russia to accusing him of engaging in quid-pro-quo with Ukraine (an enemy of Russia, if one is paying attention) suggests they don’t believe either scandal is necessarily based on facts, but that, to quote congressman and impeachment fanboy Al Green, “if we don't impeach the president, he will get reelected.” 

After losing its collective mind with the 2016 defeat, the Democratic Party, led by Clinton and outgoing President Obama along with CIA director John Brennan and FBI chief James Comey, cobbled together Russiagate as their revenge. Relying on a network of spooks and paid operatives, they conjured up a half-baked menace from the depths of Americans’ collective Cold War memories, light on facts but heavy on the implications, with just enough salacious material to ensure it would go viral. The intention was to cripple Trump’s presidency - if they couldn’t remove him from office, they could at least ensure he played by their rules rather than follow through on wild promises to end the wars in Syria and Afghanistan and normalize relations with Moscow. The status quo held until the release of special counsel Mueller’s Russiagate report meant the media could no longer claim with a straight face that Trump was scheduled to be executed for treason any second now. But top Democrats were unfazed when it was exposed as a hoax - they’d invented it in the first place.

If not a sense of moral outrage that the president is colluding with a foreign power, what has driven the party leadership and its enablers in the media to pursue Trump to the ends of the earth? Democrats’ choice of impeachment issues is proof they lack any sort of moral center - as fake as Russiagate and Ukrainegate are, there are dozens of issues that could potentially be used to skewer Trump. The sky-high civilian casualty rates and record number of bombs dropped on his watch don’t faze Democrats - after all, Bush and Obama started those wars, and neither were impeached for the atrocities committed under their watch.  

If anything, Democrats are clamoring for more war, shrieking after Trump announced the latest attempt at a troop pullout from Syria that such an action was unthinkable. Weeping and gnashing their teeth over the impending “genocide” of the Kurds, they spun on a dime when Trump announced a five-day ceasefire with Turkey last week, claiming such a deal - which gave Kurdish militias ample time to vanish from the Turkish border area without being attacked - somehow “discredited” American foreign policy. The Democrat-controlled House even voted to condemn the troop pullout - perhaps forgetting they’d never authorized the deployment of troops to Syria in the first place, an easy mistake to make as the US military has been industriously building up a base infrastructure in flagrant violation of Syria’s sovereignty.

The Trump administration’s blatant nepotism - Jared Kushner, a pampered princeling who has never held a real job in his life, was tasked with making peace between Israel and Palestine, despite blatant partiality toward the Netanyahu government (Bibi slept at the Kushners’ home in New Jersey) - didn’t bat a single Democratic eyelash. After all, Hunter Biden got his own lucrative sinecure in Ukraine with as few credentials. The massive deregulation that has seen the deficit skyrocket as corporations and the wealthy pay even less taxes than they did before bothers no one - Democratic donors benefited as much as Republicans, even though billionaires now pay a lower tax rate than the working class. Trump spitting in the face of international law by “declaring” first Jerusalem and then the Golan Heights the property of Israel went down smoothly as can be - no surprise when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi herself has said that she would back Israel “even if the Capitol crumbles to the ground.” Democrats’ problem has always been finding an “impeachable offense” Trump was committing that they were not also guilty of.

 

The devil’s rejects

Perhaps Democrats’ awareness that they’re morally as well as fiscally bankrupt is what drives them to make the same mistakes they did four years ago. Just as they did with Bernie Sanders, the party is doing its utmost to sideline Tulsi Gabbard at every opportunity, barring her from September’s debate despite her polling higher than several candidates who were included and refusing to speak up for her in the face of Clinton’s baseless smear. Their hypocrisy is transparent, preaching identity politics until a Hindu woman emerges championing antiwar policies. Gabbard is the only one bringing fresh ideas to the table, ideas that have excited many voters sick of the shame they feel knowing their country is the number one killer since World War II. Spike her, and they’re almost guaranteed to lose. 

As if to prove that point, Clinton pounced on the Hawaii congresswoman last week with her “Russian asset” smear - not referring to Gabbard by name, but making it clear she was talking about no one else. Her spokesman Nick Merrill, asked if Clinton was really saying Gabbard - who served in the Iraq war - was an agent, confirmed the smear: “If the nesting doll fits…” In a sane society, Clinton’s disapproval would be a badge of honor (and to her credit, Gabbard appears to be wearing it as such) - but in the mainstream media hothouse, it’s another strike against her - along with the guilt-by-association smears that come with a 4chan fan club and even her looks.

Sanders might be able to muster a win against Trump, but at 78, his health is failing, and his base is wary after he betrayed them in 2016. Despite stolen primaries in New York and California, he sat mutely, throwing his own supporters under the bus during the convention. After a solid year of slamming Clinton for giving secret speeches to Goldman Sachs, voting to bail out the banks in 2008, and backing every war in the past three decades, Sanders turned on his supporters and implored them to vote for her. He remained silent while his supporters demanded a legal reckoning. Some have forgiven him and returned to cheer him on in 2020, but many have not.  

Nevertheless, he is head and shoulders above most Democrats, who are completely for sale to the highest bidder, whether it’s Israel, the arms industry or Big Pharma. They violate the Constitution on a daily basis, whether it’s by voting to make participation in boycotts of Israel illegal (a blatant violation of the First Amendment, as a Texas court recently found; passing a law permitting indefinite detention without trial for American citizens (as Obama did in 2011, backed by a supine Congress, in violation of the Sixth Amendment); or outlawing religious vaccine exemptions (a violation of both the First Amendment and the Geneva Convention).  

In perhaps the most shocking betrayal of the party’s liberal and progressive wing, Democrats have embraced the CIA, the FBI, and the entire intelligence apparatus that has infiltrated and destroyed leftist movements since the 1960s. Once the home of the counterculture, the Party now clings to authority, enthusiastically licking the boots they believe will curb-stomp Trump. Bereft of historical perspective - even the torture revelations of the early 2000s have vanished amid the onslaught of Orange Man Bad - Democrats ironically calling themselves the Resistance wear slogans like “It’s Mueller time!” and “Comey is my homey,” broadcasting their allegiance to men who’ve covered up monumental crimes and even committed a few themselves. It’s no surprise to see the mainstream media taking the side of the intelligence agencies - assets like Anderson Cooper, Ken Dilanian, and Wolf Blitzer have been keeping newsrooms safe for democracy for decades. But never before have ordinary voters leapt to embrace their oppressors quite so openly. The phenomenon can’t even be described as selling out - because selling out implies getting something in return for one’s soul. 

A hive of lesser evils 

Even if Clinton does not run, her influence permeates the party. “I’ve talked to most of them,” she revealed on ABC’s The View earlier this month, slyly hinting that previous contests’ frontrunners a year before the election had failed to secure the nomination. Instead of Sanders and Gabbard, the Democratic National Committee is propping up Biden and grooming as his second Elizabeth Warren, the neoliberal wolf in sheep’s clothing trying to steal Sanders’ thunder by insisting she’s all he represents plus a pair of X chromosomes. Decked out in borrowed rhetoric and forged identity politics credentials, she earnestly presents herself as a leftist, hoping no one remembers she was registered as a Republican until her 40s. 

Lest anyone be fooled by Warren’s “radical” act, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently gushed “I know she’s pragmatic, just wait.” Such an endorsement should be a death knell for her progressive support, especially after the revelation that she has been in constant contact with Clinton. Warren emphasizes in communications with donors that she doesn’t actually intend to upend the status quo, and has flip-flopped repeatedly on accepting big-dollar donors and PACs, only rejecting them once she’d stockpiled a healthy war chest from those very donors. 

Many of Clinton’s 2016 campaign operatives have chosen California Senator Kamala Harris as their standard-bearer, and Harris exhibits many Clintonesque characteristics. Her enthusiasm for locking up black men for minor drug offenses (she bragged about increasing drug dealers’ conviction rate from 56% to 74% in just three years) - and black women for their truant children (she supported a law that imprisoned mothers if their kids skipped school, then lied about it on the campaign trail) - is worthy of the woman who called black kids “superpredators.” Harris has praised Clinton for “putting our country first” and “serving with distinction” while calling for Trump to be banned from Twitter for his “irresponsible” language.

The other candidates are largely distractions aimed at getting the selection process at the 2020 convention to a second ballot. With voters clamoring for reform after the 2016 disaster, the party obliged by doing away with superdelegates on the first round, but for any round beyond that, they’re fair game - and the DNC refuses to leave the selection up to chance, or anything so small-d democratic as a vote. With a handful of votes thrown to Pete Buttigieg - the anti-Gabbard, a gay pro-war vet - and Beto O’Rourke - the face of privilege whose Spandering caused the cringe heard ‘round the world in the first primary debate - the convention will progress to a second round, and the superdelegates will slither out of their holes to crown their king - or queen.

Status quo defenders

As much as those Democratic establishment stalwarts with presidential ambitions - Clinton and the two dozen-odd candidates determined to dislodge Trump in 2020 - want to get rid of the Bad Orange Man, the benchwarmers in Congress have learned to love him. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer can merely rail against Trump instead of actually governing, floating whatever irresponsible fantasy bills they want with the knowledge that they’ll die in the Republican-controlled Senate or - at worst - be vetoed by Trump. House Democrats got the chance to virtue-signal about ending the war in Yemen, helping voters forget Obama had gotten the US involved in the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century, knowing Trump would kill the bill to serve their shared Saudi paymasters. And pearl-clutching about kids in cages on the border (cages built, again, by Obama) while calling for open borders attracts the votes of recent immigrants while ensuring they’ll never have to cash the checks they’re writing.

Michael Moore, once a progressive darling, recently appeared on ‘comedian’ Bill Maher’s program to lambaste his fellow ex-progressive about abandoning his own liberal credentials. Maher complained that the “Squad” - progressive congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - were unpopular, that Medicare for All was less desirable than Obamacare, and that a leftward shift would sink the party. Moore whimpered that if the election was held today, Trump would win, just as he had predicted in 2016. But where was Moore in 2016? Pleading on Democracy Now for Sanders supporters to go to the polls for Clinton, even though “she is to the right of Obama.” 

The exchange between the two millionaire entertainers was a disturbing window on the utter alienation of the Democratic Party, insulated by layers of money, from its constituents - and increasingly ex-constituents, as nearly 40 percent of Americans disavow both parties. Maher represents the McCarthyite neoliberal centrism that has taken the mainstream media by storm, in which any flicker of anti-war or pro-working class sentiment is viewed as Russian. And Moore represents the thought-leaders who, despite knowing better, have led the party into its current moral sinkhole, insisting it’s the only pragmatic route. 

 

Moore knows Clinton is - as Gabbard declared - the Queen of Warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long. He just doesn’t care as long as he gets paid. Moore, like Clinton, took money from casting couch predator Harvey Weinstein despite his predation being an ‘open secret’ in the industry. As late as 2015, he called the molesting mogul “one of the best people to work with in this town” in a tweet he quickly deleted after it was dug up in October 2017 following Moore’s belated decision to speak out against Weinstein’s crimes. Even after the New York Times story in which several actresses first went public with their accusations was published, it took Moore weeks to climb aboard the dump-Weinstein bandwagon, likely out of concern it would hurt his film - Fahrenheit 11/9 - about the Trump presidency. The bottom line - not morality, or even being factually correct - is his chief concern.

In that respect, Moore is the Democratic Party writ large. Caught in a vicious cycle of selling out to wealthy donors to keep the lights on, it has sealed itself off to the working class, the minorities whose voice it still claims a monopoly on, and the young people just now awakening to the fact that they’ve been cheated out of a future. There has been barely any pushback against the DNC’s relentless trudge to the right from the mainstream media and the party establishment. Van Jones appeared on CNN calling out Clinton’s red-baiting of Gabbard, pointing out the smear contained “no facts” and that Gabbard had been the party vice-chairman before she was demonized for backing Sanders in 2016, but the rest of the #Resistance remained silent as Clinton insisted that opposition to war was anti-American. Even the few candidates who defended Gabbard from her slurs did not mention Clinton in their rebuttals. No one dares to oppose the party’s owners.

Until someone does, the Democratic Party is dead. And it’s all but turned Trump into the lesser evil.

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The US Army has warned its soldiers away from screenings of “Joker,” citing “disturbing and very specific chatter in the dark web” about a mass shooting planned for a movie theater - seemingly validating the concerns of the media establishment's film critics, who have been shrieking for weeks that the film will inspire real-life gun violence. But if the Pentagon is truly concerned about the cause of mass shootings, it would do well to look in the mirror.

"Joker," the latest Batman spinoff, has been the subject of endless pearl-clutching think-pieces decrying its “glorification” of vigilante violence. Actor Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the titular character, has been forced to defend it from sanctimonious reporters insisting he has a duty not to lead viewers morally astray. “I think that, for most of us, you’re able to tell the difference between right and wrong. And those that aren’t are capable of interpreting anything in the way they may want to,” he told Digital Spy, hitting back against scolds like the Time writer who slammed the film as “aggressive and possibly irresponsible idiocy” and the famously humorless crew at Vox, which dismissed it as “not edgy” while accusing it of “playing with fire” - all in a single review. 

Phoenix reportedly walked out of an interview after a Telegraph writer asked him if the film would “perversely end up inspiring exactly the kind of people it’s about, with potentially tragic results.” Basing one’s creative decisions on the possibility that someone, somewhere, won’t “get it” is an artistic dead end, yet these self-styled cultural commissars want to impose it on Hollywood - without a hint of awareness that while violent films are screened worldwide, they never seem to inspire mass shootings outside US borders.

The AI algorithms governing speech on social media don’t have a sense of humor and can’t recognize sarcasm or irony. Now humans - those writing for the establishment press, at least - seem determined to emulate them. Like the internet platforms that censor anything remotely controversial as "hate speech," film critics denouncing “Joker” claim to speak out of concern for those who aren’t in on the "joke." They insist the “angry young men” who might see themselves in Phoenix’s character will take the film the wrong way - essentially claiming that they’re too stupid to tell the difference between reality and fantasy, or too amoral to care. Patronizing in the extreme, this motive indicates the wokesters don’t actually care about the group they’re supposedly trying to protect from artistic predators so much as fear it. Like anti-war commentators on social media, alienated young men are a foreign species to the critics who feel threatened by that which they do not understand.

The common thread running through the negative reviews is the fear that people will be inspired by "Joker" to commit real-life violence. But as Vox unwittingly admits, “you can find much scarier, more shocking stuff by…reading the news.”  Angry young men, too, can and do find inspiration by reading the news. Time magazine sardonically dubbed the Joker “the patron saint of incels," forgetting mainstream society only knows what an “incel" is because Alek Minassian mowed down 10 people with a van in Toronto - no cinematic inspiration required. Indeed, Minassian was inspired by Elliot Rodger, another young mass murderer, who stabbed and shot six people to death in 2014 because he was frustrated that he couldn’t get laid.

The cathartic value of violent art has been recognized since ancient Greece, and the vigilante violence of "Joker" would seem an ideal conduit for the revenge fantasies and other bloodthirsty impulses of society's disaffected to dissipate harmlessly. But just as shutting down the notorious anonymous message board 8chan forces the angry young men (and women) who retreat there to vent their “extremist” fantasies after being censored on social media to find other, less benign outlets for their frustrations, banning or censoring cathartic films forces individuals frustrated with their place in society to find an outlet for that frustration in real life. 

Do the cultural commissars truly believe it is better to be dead than offended?

The notion that filmgoers will go from sympathizing with Phoenix’s character to shooting up their local Wal-Mart is in itself a fantasy, one much more far-fetched than the film, rooted in a popular misunderstanding of mass shootings. These tragedies are blamed on everything from guns to video games, yet few who discuss them are willing to address the militarism that permeates all aspects of American society. Recruiters set up shop near high schools and colleges, while TV and internet ads attempt to seduce the young and impressionable to join up and kill people for Uncle Sam. Popular video games like Call of Duty acclimate players to fighting a war, even as the increasing popularity of drones turns actual war into a (deadly) video game. Heavily-armed “law enforcement” officers pose forbiddingly at airports and train stations, outfitted to look like battle-ready soldiers, while surplus military equipment filters down to the police from a Pentagon so glutted with taxpayer dollars it can’t even use all its weapons despite occupying most of the world's countries.

Even teens who are not belligerently inclined are seduced by the promise the military will pay for their college - an offer many can’t refuse, with college costing more than twice what it did 30 years ago and even the least sophisticated professions now requiring some kind of degree. Promised that just four years of service will get their schooling fully paid for, kids are turning over their bodies and minds to a Pentagon that has no problem sending them into whatever Middle Eastern meat grinder is currently raging, to die not just for their country but also for Israel - which USAF Third Air Force commander Lt.-Gen. Richard Clark admitted in a spasm of honesty last year - and for Saudi Arabia. Recruiters don’t tell them that the experience will warp their minds and potentially destroy their future.

More than a third of US mass shooters since 1966 have been vets, even though they only comprised at most 13 percent of the population at any given time. Those who don’t kill others often inflict violence on themselves - they’re 50 percent more likely to commit suicide than the general population, 10 times more likely to abuse opioids, and almost twice as likely to abuse alcohol. And they’re 50 percent more likely than civilians to become homeless. In fact, during some periods of the neverending "war on terror," more troops were dying of suicide than on the battlefield. The military chews up American youths and spits them out much the worse for wear, and even those who never don the uniform are affected by the militarism pervading American society.

Other countries where civilians have access to guns - Switzerland, for example, or Canada - don’t have mass shooting epidemics. Video games are played by kids worldwide. Even anti-depressants are not exclusively American, though the US does consume the lion’s share of those drugs and they do play a significant role in triggering mass shootings, with multiple studies confirming they increase both homicidal and suicidal behavior in patients.  

But only one country spends more money on its military than the next eight countries combined, deeming itself the world’s policeman and occupying over 70 percent of the world's countries - some for decades at a time. War is in the air Americans breathe, and this pathology expresses itself in mass shootings. Wiping violent films off the face of the earth won’t help in eradicating the scourge of gun violence any more than barring citizens from legally owning guns will stop those determined to commit an illegal act - murder - with them.

It's not the violence, it's who's directing the violence that counts.

“Woke” critics taking aim at “Joker” are motivated by the same impulses that saw them attack “The Hunt” - the now-shelved horror-satire in which liberal elites kidnap and hunt red-state “deplorables.” That film skewered the cultural and political divide that has yawned ever wider since the election of 2016 (a gap the film’s dead-on satire could have helped to bridge - the script, released after its release was cancelled, has the audience sympathizing with the conservatives who’d been plucked from Middle America to be hunted down by the painfully rich for nothing more than posting anti-abortion comments or racist tweets). “The Joker” sees the “evil” title character become a folk hero of sorts for a revolution where where “the rich are taken down, the poor get everything they need and deserve” (a happy ending Time felt compelled to mock).

Both films are dangerous for the ruling class - and not dangerous in the same way as a mass shooting, which can reliably be manipulated into a call for more surveillance, more gun control, and more thought control. Art that contradicts the ruling class' divide-and-conquer programming, that pillories the threadbare fallacy of a meritocratic American Dream, and - worst of all - that suggests there's something the average American can do to take back their country is anathema to establishment scribes, from the heights of the New York Times oped page to the bowels of the arts section. 

The woke brigades are curiously silent about violence when films glorifying war hit the screen, choosing instead to focus on the “toxic masculinity” and/or racism depicted therein. Presumably if the troops depicted storming the beaches of Normandy in “Dunkirk” were all non-binary people of color, the violence shown on screen would be fine. Even non-war films that depict “good guys” on killing sprees don’t inspire the backlash “Joker” is getting. Batman, the Joker’s nemesis in the “Dark Knight” films, is another extralegal vigilante, but an absurdly wealthy one, so his killings are acceptable - to both the audience and even onscreen law enforcement. Quentin Tarantino’s films have been getting slammed for racism and misogyny, but the violent revenge fantasies at their core - integral to the stories, unlike racism and misogyny which live in the eye of the beholder - are hardly mentioned at all. 

Nor is it just easily-caricatured liberal “social justice warriors” who have turned out in force to criticize “Joker.” Four family members of victims of 2012's Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, which took place during a screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises," wrote to Warner Bros. to request the studio advocate for gun safety amid screenings of the film. One wonders why they didn’t do the same for the studios behind any of the dozens of films and TV shows the Pentagon has “consulted” on since the shooting - films that unabashedly promote war ("Lone Survivor"), torture ("Zero Dark Thirty"), and intel-agency “wetwork” - otherwise known as murder ("Homeland"). Even 2016’s “Suicide Squad” - which saw a younger, prettier Joker plus half a dozen other stylish villains engaged in the usual kill-crazy rampages and firearms porn - somehow avoided arousing their ire; was it because the bad guys in that film were controlled by the military, the film’s director himself a military veteran, and all the violence thus officially consecrated to God And Country? Or was it that this Joker had a girlfriend? 

Theaters in Los Angeles have banned dressing up for screenings of the film out of concern that - like Aurora gunman James Holmes - some Joker wannabe will shoot the place up in costume. A memo from Oklahoma’s Travis County Sheriff’s Office suggests a “credible potential mass shooting” will occur at an “unknown movie theater” when the film is released on October 4. If it does, we can expect blame to be placed everywhere except where it belongs. Angry young men will keep killing innocent people, abroad and at home, until the country wakes up to the reality that endless war leaves the aggressor nation in ruins.

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One sixth of the adult population of the US takes at least one psychiatric drug daily, a proportion that has risen steadily as a growing share of the emotional spectrum has been pathologized by the psychiatric profession. Anger and resentment are classed as "oppositional defiance disorder" and medicated with antipsychotics, while hate is actively criminalized. And with depression “conquered” by medication - even as both diagnosis rates and suicides are at an all-time high - the mental-health industry has a new target: loneliness. With pharmaceutical and even technological "cures" in the pipeline for this "condition," once considered part of the normal human emotional experience but now framed as a dire health risk on the level of obesity and smoking, our very ability to think for ourselves hangs in the balance. 

Nearly half of Americans polled last year by health insurer Cigna said they lacked meaningful relationships or companionship, while a third of people in industrialized societies report they are lonely; this state of mind appears to significantly shorten one's lifespan. A solutions-based society might examine why so many people feel alienated from their peers despite the constant connectivity of smartphones and internet. A symptom-focused model, however, simply looks to stop them from feeling that way by any means necessary - never mind the cause, and never mind the consequences. 

Loneliness is “worse than obesity,” according to a raft of studies that have emerged linking the emotion to increased risk of premature death - as much as 50 percent, says one meta-analysis by Brigham Young University professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad - and a dramatically lowered quality of life. And like obesity - big business not just for Big Pharma, but for gastric bypass surgeons, weight-loss gurus, and other parasitic professionals who have monetized the American public’s lack of self-control - anything that deadly requires medical intervention. 

THERE’S A PILL FOR THAT

The University of Chicago’s Brain Dynamics Laboratory recently began an eight-week trial of the hormone pregnenolone, rounding up volunteers with “off-the-chart” scores on a psychological loneliness scale. Basing their treatment on animal studies suggesting the chemical can reduce the exaggerated threat reactions that they say characterize loneliness, they hope to normalize the lonely person’s self-centered hyper-vigilance, which drives them to both desire human connection and deal poorly with it. 

Researchers insist the intention is not to cure loneliness with a pill, but the trial sets a precedent for doing just that. Oxytocin, the "love hormone," is also being considered as a potential treatment based on promising animal studies. Enterprising psychiatrists have previously medicalized aspects of loneliness as "social anxiety" and prescribed tranquilizers or antidepressants, but loneliness itself has never been so directly in the pharmaceutical crosshairs.

And if the hormone trials flop, there’s always Prozac. Already, doctors have claimed antidepressants make patients more sociable, and these drugs have for years been used (and abused) for conditions aside from depression - off-label prescribing of the antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin was the basis of the largest pharmaceutical company lawsuit in history. If loneliness is not an emotion but a crisis to be resolved, in which the ends justify the means (however barbaric and harmful they may be), why not bring out the heavy artillery?  

Mental health professionals writing about the loneliness epidemic discuss behavioral interventions, community programs, and counseling, but the introduction of a pharmaceutical solution may prove too tempting for a profession that has learned to love the quick fix a pill provides. Like depression, loneliness has myriad possible causes, some of which are natural and healthy reactions to life circumstances. Other, obviously situational, causes would (before the magic pill, at least) call for clear behavioral solutions. Would a psychiatrist reach for her prescription pad when confronted with a lonely person who only socializes through Facebook, even though social media use has been found to correlate strongly with loneliness and studies have shown that just a week away from the platform can bring “significant” improvements in well-being? In this case, at least, correlation equals causation. A solution to the patient's loneliness seems obvious. But why force him to change his life when a pill will do the trick?

The loneliness plague is a real problem - the number of Americans who say they have no one to talk to has tripled since 1985, and the negative health effects are real. Alienation is epidemic. But medicalizing it will only make the situation worse, just as it has with depression. When the profit motive enters the equation and medicalization gives way to monetization, the incentive to get rid of the problem vanishes, replaced by the incentive to diagnose as many people as possible with the condition in order to “treat” them while the relevant drugs are still under patent. Nor is there any incentive to (or expectation of) cure - unlike most patients diagnosed with a treatable disease, individuals deemed mentally ill tend to remain on medication for years, if not for life. Each newly-diagnosed individual thus represents a sizable wad of cash on the table. 

In a quick-fix society that prefers to treat the symptoms while ignoring the disease, a pill for loneliness will be embraced with all the fervor with which antidepressants were greeted before people began to realize that they cause suicidal and homicidal behavior, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, and a host of other problems - and that they don’t actually cure depression. Those drugs are still doled out like candy, even after the scientific explanation for their effect (and that effect itself) have been debunked, because it’s easier to take a pill than to come to terms with one’s reasons for being depressed in the first place, especially if they're reasonable responses to environmental factors. Nearly half of Americans struggle just to cover their basic financial needs every month; expecting the chronically stressed to enjoy the feel of the system's boot on their necks is unrealistic. With a similar array of thorny societal causes as depression, loneliness is just as likely to be pharmaceutically exploited.

A loneliness pill would not address Americans’ emotionally unhealthy digitally-addicted lifestyles, a society-wide sickness and source of significant stress. It would instead allow them to socialize exclusively in an online sphere whose boundaries are set by billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, without experiencing any of the discomfort they would naturally feel at having their gregarious impulses folded, spindled and mutilated to fit an increasingly stringent set of behavioral restrictions. Nor would it confront societal programming that equates solitude with loneliness, with abnormality, and teaches children that if they are not driven to socialize, they are defective. It's no coincidence that fictional dystopias from 1984 to the Handmaid's Tale minimize the amount of "alone time" their citizens are permitted - time alone with one's thoughts is time the state cannot control. But the police state of today is working to change that.

As human contact, including real-life socializing, has become a luxury - so says the New York Times, explaining that humans are expensive, screens and robots are cheap, and expecting the unwashed masses to be able to afford access to living, breathing humans like themselves is simply unrealistic - the "digital pets" millennials had as children have matured to "digital friends," even digital lovers as they themselves have grown up. And these digital companions double as the eyes and ears of a shockingly intrusive surveillance state. 

BRIDGING THE UNCANNY VALLEY

If the “loneliness pill” doesn’t work out, AI is waiting in the wings. Already seen as the future of at-home healthcare for aging populations under the care of cash-strapped governments, friendly, helpful robots could find their way into the homes of the lonely. And everyone gets lonely sometimes! Certainly, the mass deployment of robo-buddies circumvents the surveillance hurdle faced by in-home AI snoops like Amazon’s Alexa, which many Americans find creepy (and not just for its tendency to burst into sinister laughter unprovoked). Frame the intruder as a medical benefit, however, and some of that opposition falls by the wayside. After all, loneliness kills, and no one wants to die.

As lonely humans become accustomed to conversing with their robot pals, their expectation for real human contact will diminish, and their sense of loneliness with it. After all, you can’t miss what you never had. Already, given the stunted level of discourse on social media, many of us have found ourselves tricked into talking to bots, sometimes exchanging several messages before realizing our interlocutor is not human. A study published earlier this month in First Monday found bots' online activity is becoming more human-like - and humans are behaving more like bots. The Voight-Kampff Test used by Philip K Dick’s “blade runners” to determine whether a suspect was human or android can be graded on a curve.

As the bar for “meaningful relationships” is lowered to the point where chatting with an AI can qualify, the loneliness epidemic vanishes - on paper, at least, and in US public health policy, sometimes that’s all that matters.

LONELY OR JUST ALONE? 

The pathologization of loneliness will inevitably elide the difference between being alone and being lonely, as the mental health industry runs out of lonely people to treat with whatever therapeutic weapon wins this particular arms race and is forced to look further afield for patients. “Loners” - those dangerous types who actually enjoy solitude - are stigmatized as unpredictable weirdos who need to be brought into the fold. The man who shot up a Walmart in El Paso earlier this month was an “extreme loner,” according to media reports. Would we be reading about it if he was an “extreme extrovert,” someone so addicted to the company of other humans he couldn't stand to spend a second alone? Extroversion is a characteristic of the psychopathic personality, yet extroverts are not stigmatized for this, or treated as potential serial killers because they feel compelled to socialize - instead, the “introvert killer” trope is reliably trotted out after every tragedy, even though it has been repeatedly debunked.

With no loneliness pill on the market - yet - it is impossible to predict what’s next for the creeping medicalization of the human emotional experience. But the surveillance state is muscling into the “mental health” sphere as never before. The Trump administration has reportedly embraced a new Health Advanced Research Projects Agency, modeled after the Pentagon’s DARPA, that will develop a method for analyzing “neurobehavioral signs” to determine whether someone is “headed toward a violent explosive act.” HARPA’s proposal suggests a “multi-modality solution, along with real-time data analytics” to be garnered from technologies like Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo, and Google Home. And in case you leave your smartphone at home, AI cameras are increasingly being deployed in public places equipped with advanced facial recognition and behavioral analysis capabilities 

Researchers believe they can diagnose depression with nothing more than smartphone usage and GPS data, having tested this hypothesis using an app called iSee to monitor college students - ground zero for the "campus mental health crisis." Combine this diagnosis-at-a-distance with emergency service surveillance technology like Carbyne911 (developed by Israeli intelligence) and 911eye (developed by the West Midlands police department, pioneers of pre-crime technology in the UK) and you get surveillance-enabled AI empowered to call the authorities when they decide you're a threat to yourself or your peers. And Amazon’s Alexa has moved one step closer to the companion-robot model, rolling out a medical feature earlier this year which could conceivably be deployed to “check on” individuals at risk for loneliness. The devices that have been surveilling us for years may thus become empowered to have us committed - for our own good, of course, and the good of society.

In the aftermath of recent mass shootings, Trump declared open season on the “mentally ill,” floating the idea of involuntary confinement and institutionalization, while governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo have proposed mental health databases that would affix an indelible scarlet letter to anyone seeking help with a psychological issue - effectively driving many of the people who actually need help away from the system out of fear of the repercussions for their personal and professional lives. The idea that “extreme loners” might find themselves medicated against their will, as a preemptive measure, is not far-fetched.

And Elon Musk’s Neuralink device proposes bringing the AI directly to your brain, “merging biological intelligence with machine intelligence,” so you never have to feel lonely again - or experience any inconvenient emotions. Musk envisions a future in which customers will have the devices installed in shopping mall kiosks, no more intrusive than an ear-piercing. Social scientists fear it’ll be “suicide for the human mind” - while no one knows for sure where consciousness resides, if it's anywhere near our squishy grey matter, it doesn't stand a chance against cold silicon precision. Even Musk acknowledges that Neuralink is an "if you can't beat them, join them" approach to a future AI takeover.

Implantable AI hands the state the tools to control our thoughts. Indeed, we will no longer be able to tell which thoughts are "ours," and which come from the device implanted in our skull. Transhumanists speak glowingly of "merging with the machines," forgetting (or perhaps deliberately omitting) that the machines have programmers, and those programmers work hand in glove with the military-industrial complex. If they get their way, you’ll never be able to feel lonely again, because Big Brother will take up residence inside your skull. Solitude - like privacy before it - will be a distant memory, assuming you're permitted to remember it at all. And like privacy, children born today may never know what it is like to experience loneliness - nor will they ever have the pleasure of being alone with their thoughts. 

(originally published in much shorter form on RT)

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