Sunday, September 17, 2017


Over at The Atlantic, Kurt Andersen has penned an illuminating jeremiad on the spreading contagion of unreality, in the tradition of Hofstadter's classic 1964 work The Paranoid Style in American Politics, entitled How America Lost Its Mind. It aims to explain how "the nation's current post-truth moment is the ultimate expression of mind-sets that have made America exceptional throughout its history". Near the beginning of his article, Andersen writes:
Each of us is on a spectrum somewhere between the poles of rational and irrational. We all have hunches we can’t prove and superstitions that make no sense. Some of my best friends are very religious, and others believe in dubious conspiracy theories. What’s problematic is going overboard—letting the subjective entirely override the objective; thinking and acting as if opinions and feelings are just as true as facts. The American experiment, the original embodiment of the great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, whereby every individual is welcome to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams, sometimes epic fantasies—every American one of God’s chosen people building a custom-made utopia, all of us free to reinvent ourselves by imagination and will. In America nowadays, those more exciting parts of the Enlightenment idea have swamped the sober, rational, empirical parts. Little by little for centuries, then more and more and faster and faster during the past half century, we Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation—small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us. And most of us haven’t realized how far-reaching our strange new normal has become.
This is a substantial, serious essay, so best to make sure you have a good hour set aside to fully get a handle on it. Here's a little video preview to prime your brain pump, if you will. As always, if you find anything in any Suggested Reading that you take issue with, or would like to argue about... start a discussion in the comments section! Goddamn it, I know there are hundreds of you reading. So let's get chatting about stuff, too! Anyway... only if you feel like it.


Speaking of the particularly American brand of crazy that the above essay endeavors to dissect, have you heard about the recent blow-up at the NSC, which led to the ouster of a number of high level officials, most of whom had long-standing ties to disgraced National Security Advisor Michael Flynn? One of those casualties was strategic planner Mike Higgins, who wrote a gloriously insane memo about how...
The president’s enemies ... are employing “political warfare as understood by the Maoist Insurgency model.” Even Republican leaders have been subjugated, Higgins says, because they are “more afraid of being accused of being called a racist, sexist, homophobe or Islamophobe than of failing to enforce their oaths to ‘support and defend the Constitution.’ ” (Yes, Higgins says you and I have a choice: Either don’t be homophobic or support the Constitution.) He concludes chillingly, “The recent turn of events give rise to the observation that the defense of President Trump is the defense of America.”
Believe it or not, that's NOT the craziest shit to be found in Higgins' memo. For a taste of the harder stuff, check out the excerpts dug up by Esquire's Charles Pierce, about which he declares:
If this were Alt Right Hearts, this guy just shot the moon. If it were Alt Right bowling, he rolled a perfect game. If it were Alt Right baseball, he'd be Sandy Koufax with the ball against the Cubs on September 9, 1965. If this were Alt Right golf, he'd be the late Kim Jong-il with his 18 holes-in-one. This is nothing short of the pure diamond heartstone of modern American political crazy. This is what millions of Americans are fed, every day, over their radios and through their inboxes, pseudo-intellectual claptrap to feed an anti-intellectual political movement, bat-winged syllables in search of some dark, clammy sentence on which they can land. ... This guy was on the National Security Council, and he'd likely still be there if he just spouted this stuff off in the bar after work.
Indeed he was. And the fact that Trump fuckin' LOVED that memo, and was furious with McMaster for firing Higgins over it, gives you just a bit more of a hint of how dangerous the times we're living in really are.


And finally for today, a bit of tomfoolery to help the medicine go down. It's been a while since yer old pal Jerky mentioned the British comedy magazine VIZ, which has been a favorite at Chateau LeBoeuf since forever it seems. But my old pal Mel Rosedale recently returned from a trip to Old Blighty with a gift of Jaffa Cakes and a VIZ hardback compilation entitled The Otter's Pocket (a euphemism for ladyparts, I think), and my love affair with the bawdy British humor rag was instantly rekindled. So much so that Mel and I are working on a comic of our own to submit! Hopefully I'll have news on that to share in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, you can check out VIZ at the link above. They put nearly everything up on their website, which makes it easier to stay abreast of the antics of such classic characters as the Fat Slags, Biffa Bacon, Buster Gonad, Sid the Sexist, Raffles the Gentleman Thug, and my own personal favorites, the Drunken Bakers. In fact, here's an example of the Beckett-like humor of that particular strip to whet your appetites...

Open Image in New Tab for FULL SIZE!


After Charlottesville, the Far Right promised to bounce back in a big way in what organizers dubbed "the Mother Of All Rallies", or MOAR for short, to be held on Saturday, September 16, on the National Mall in Washington DC.

The Twitter bots were out in full force in the weeks leading up to this event, propelling the hashtag #MOAR to near the top of Twitter's trending chart. Some of the more optimistic projections based on online engagement suggested a possible turn-out of close to a million participants.

And then...

That's right... despite clear skies and the fact that it took place on a Saturday, just about three hundred people bothered to show up for the festivities. The sight of security personnel guarding the periphery prompted Mikel Jolette to remark on TwitterJesus Christ this picture is Right-wing America. A bunch of paranoid people trying to protect a fantasy from a threat which does not exist.”

So, aside from the paranoid, what other sorts of people bothered to show up for this thing? Well, if you want to get a feel for what the organizers of this event were all about, there's no better place to start than their official website, (which you REALLY ought to check out for yourself, even if only for the lulz) where they declare:
All of which makes the photos they proudly display in their own website gallery sort of suspicious. I mean, if their rally isn't about "left or right", then why would they want to focus attention on a supporter wearing a t-shirt cheering Far Right Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet's tactic of tossing left-wing dissidents, labor organizers and others into the ocean via helicopter?

And if it has nothing to do with race or racism, then why showcase a bunch of goons flashing the increasingly popular White Power "OK sign" dog whistle?

So what are we to make of this humiliating turn-out, less than half the size the Juggalos achieved on the same day, across town? Are members of the Far Right still a little gun-shy following the public relations apocalypse of Charlottesville? Or was it just that this particular event relied too much on internet organization? Has the conservative movement's reliance on bot farm personas and literal A.I. propaganda bots come back to bite them in the ass by feeding their delusion that they're part of an organic groundswell when, in fact, many of their members are phantoms and shadows? I can't say for sure, but at this point, politically speaking, yer old pal Jerky's gonna take his small pleasures and minor satisfactions whenever and wherever he can get them. And so, in that spirit, I say:


Wednesday, September 13, 2017


It is yer old pal Jerky's distinct pleasure, as always, to present an essay by one of the smartest people ever to dip his quill into an inkpot: our old pal A.C. Doyle! In this thought-provoking slice of melancholy memoir-cum-manifesto, Ace aptly expresses what we've lost now that games and gaming culture have all but completed their migration from the tactile, pencil-and-paper, cards-and-dice domain of the analog, and into the insubstantial pseudo-void of pixelated digital ephemerality. - Yer Old Pal Jerky

My parents sent me away to boarding school when I was in 9th grade, fearing that at 4’11” and 95 pounds I’d have had a tough go of it at what was then the biggest high school East of the Mississippi (6300 in 1975, built for 4800), overcrowded, lots of racial strife, and a culture that abhorred intellect. I believe it was one of the first in the country to install metal detectors at the front doors.

I enjoyed prep school, mostly, though as a scrawny little Catholic kid at a very WASPy establishment, I felt a bit out of it. My better friends were mostly day students, scholarship students, and minorities, and I felt a bit scorned by the scions of the Codfish Aristocracy. But one thing I vastly enjoyed, with the rich and well-heeled down to the most gormless nerds and poor kids, on a near nightly basis, after study hours ended at 10, but before lights-out at 11, was playing board games and card games. Oh sure, you could go down to the Common Room and watch a show, but unless Charlie’s Angels or Saturday Night Live was on, few of us bothered very often. The action was up in the hallways.

Everybody knew poker. The formalists played five-card-stud or five-card draw, nothing wild. None of this Texas Hold‘em, that is the only thing people ever play nowadays. Then the lesser players would play Baseball, because nearly everyone is guaranteed a good hand, when there are so many wild cards, and six Jacks would beat five Kings. Then the tricky kids would play the ones that leveraged the betting into bigger pools, such as Up The River Down The Creek. We played penny and nickel ante, quarter the maximum raise, and nobody won or lost more than ten dollars, but it was lively, with lots of talking smack and bad bluffing – “hey, does a hand where all the cards are in order beat one where all the cards have the same symbol on them?”

Not a single kid didn’t know gin, gin rummy, hearts, and spades. Most also knew hi-lo-jack, Oh Hell!, and cribbage. Bridge was a bit more esoteric, not in how it’s played, but in how it’s played well. You never wanted to be saddled with a bad partner. Also, even the best players would go home for summer vacation and would get asked to fill in on their silly mother’s Friday night bridge games with her silly friends, only to get their asses kicked… almost as if experience was more important than brilliance. Kinda like when Michael Jordan thought he could hit a baseball pretty well – emmm, but, not if it was a Pedro Martinez or Greg Maddux curveball. “Yes dear, you got 1500 on the PSATs, and now Mommy’s gonna hand you your ass at bridge.”

Nearly everyone knew backgammon, and had a board. Sometimes rolling those double sixes would get you out of a jam, or you’d roll the 3 you needed to get your piece back to the starting gate, but over five games, the better players invariably prevailed for at least three.

Some of the smarter kids had MasterMind boards, and I truly enjoyed that rather tricky combination of logic and lucky guesswork, with a finite limit of ten guesses. Risk was quite popular among some, as was Diplomacy, but they could drag on forever, particularly the latter (I stormed out on a few games when I was clearly winning, just because we were on the third or fourth night).

Stratego was somewhat popular, but I think by midway through sophomore year or so, the Stratego kids would realize they had to mature toward chess. I well remember the gleam in my eye when a boy would claim he was a Stratego master, but didn’t know chess. I’d inwardly lick my lips, and think “you’re my meat”. And he’d look stunned when eight or ten moves in my Spy had killed his Field Marshall. A good chess player just thinks farther ahead, through a greater number of permutations, than a kid who only plays Stratego. A few kids had Battleship boards, but those also grew to represent a “little kid’s game” by 10th grade, so they fell by the wayside.

Monopoly and Clue still had their occasional charm, as did some equivalent of Wheel Of Fortune, whose name escapes me know, but everyone tried to guess the letters of the cards laid upside-down in the other person’s word tray. Scrabble, de rigueur. Where the kids who were good at statistics and probability invariably beat the ones with great vocabularies. Hitting a triple letter score with the J in JAM would destroy a kid who thought he was being clever by adding “ELABO” to an already existing “RATE”.

And then of course chess...

Saturday, September 9, 2017


The always thought-provoking Ta-Nehisi Coates has penned a searing indictment of the Trump presidency* for The Atlantic that focuses Trump's obvious desire to base his legacy on undoing the legacy of his predecessor, towards whom he harbors an inexplicable and boundless hatred. But is it really so inexplicable? Not, according to Coates, when you understand that Donald Trump is the First "White" President. His must-read essay begins:
It is insufficient to state the obvious of Donald Trump: that he is a white man who would not be president were it not for this fact. With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them. Land theft and human plunder cleared the grounds for Trump’s forefathers and barred others from it. Once upon the field, these men became soldiers, statesmen, and scholars; held court in Paris; presided at Princeton; advanced into the Wilderness and then into the White House. Their individual triumphs made this exclusive party seem above America’s founding sins, and it was forgotten that the former was in fact bound to the latter, that all their victories had transpired on cleared grounds. No such elegant detachment can be attributed to Donald Trump—a president who, more than any other, has made the awful inheritance explicit.
I'll be honest with you; this is not going to be a fun or pleasant read. And even though it's likely to leave you feeling like there's a smoking hole in your chest where you used to hide your hope... I still think it's an absolutely essential read, for a number of reasons, which should be apparent to you as you encounter them.

In the latest edition of the "Right Wing Watch" section at Raw Story, Peter Montgomery has assembled an incredibly detailed dossier on the latest manifestation of the fundamentalist Christian movement that goes by many labels, including Pentecostal, Dominionist, and Reconstructionist. His report begins:
In the early morning hours of November 9, 2016, God told Frank Amedia that with Donald Trump having been elected president, Amedia and his fellow Trump-supporting “apostles” and “prophets” had a new mission. Thus was born POTUS Shield, a network of Pentecostal leaders devoted to helping Trump bring about the reign of God in America and the world. Amedia described the divine origins of POTUS Shield during a gathering that spread over three days in March 2017 at the northeastern Ohio church he pastors. Interspersed with Pentecostal worship, liturgical dancing, speaking in tongues, shofar blowing, and Israeli flag waving, Amedia and other POTUS Shield leaders put forth their vision for a Christian America and their plans to bring it to fruition through prayer, political engagement and organizing in all 50 states. Among the many decrees made at the event was that Islam must be “completely broken down.”
As you read through this report (and I dearly hope you do), you might be tempted to write these people off as mostly harmless fools; a relatively small assemblage of pension-stealing con artists and their pathetic rube marks, trading in sub-adolescent power fantasies and feeding delusions of grandeur to whatever broken brains seem receptive to their sales pitch.

You shouldn't do that. Because these people are obsessed with achieving power (dominion) over the rest of us, and they have recently merged with the wider Christian Right, which means they're dangerous as Hell. Even more dangerous, considering Hell doesn't exist. At least, not the one they believe in. As Montgomery reports:
Both the traditional Religious Right and the apostolic Right are interested in bringing policy, politics and society in line with their “biblical worldview.” And despite what may be significant theological differences—many Religious Right activists may not see their political engagement as necessary to speed Christ’s return—they work together on political goals such as electing Donald Trump. INC leaders get their supporters fired up to see politics as spiritual warfare, and more established Religious Right groups give them a concrete way to get involved that goes beyond prayer and fasting. POTUS Shield is committed to doing all of the above. Christerson says he has seen evidence of this kind of “symbiotic” relationship: “The Religious Right gets followers, support and energy from INC, and INC gets visible examples of ‘kingdom-minded’ believers they can support and pray for in government.” He said he has seen “prophecies” that God is using Trump to transform society by appointing “kingdom-minded” people—like Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson—to top levels of government, even though they may be associated with different strains of Christianity. POTUS Shield councilmember and anti-Muslim activist Jerry Boykin is a vice president at the Family Research Council, one of the largest and most influential Religious Right political groups. At an event that FRC organized in 2009 to mobilize prayer against the passage of the Affordable Care Act, POTUS Shield Council member Lou Engle introduced then-Rep. Michele Bachmann. That same year, traditional Religious Right groups embraced Jacobs’ General International and Joyner’s Morningstar Ministries as well as the Koch brothers’ more material-minded Americans for Prosperity as part of an anti-Obama coalition called the Freedom Federation, whose declaration of principles was a social conservative wish list with an added call for an end to progressive taxation. 
In 2012, FRC worked with Cindy Jacobs and Dutch Sheets to rally conservative evangelicals in prayer against Obama’s reelection. At the partnership’s kick-off event in a Washington, D.C., church, Sheets ... said he wasn’t looking for “little sheepies” who are focused on pastoral work; he was looking to “raise up an army” of “kingdom warriors that are ready to do whatever it takes” to bring forth God’s “kingdom rule in the earth.” At the same event, FRC’s chaplain and national prayer director Pierre Bynum spoke wistfully of a time when “you couldn’t hold public office in America unless you believed in Jesus Christ.”
And now, thanks to the fact that his presidency* is mired in countless scandals, these folks have Trump's undivided attention, simply because they're willing to tell him exactly what he wants to hear; things like "America belongs to you" and "God alone put you in the White House." All of which has led us to a place where POTUS Shield founder Frank Amedia is comfortable telling the media: "I believe [Trump] receives downloads that now he’s beginning to understand come from God."

So watch what happens. Keep an eye on the US Supreme Court. Keep an eye on developments in general. Which brings us to today's final suggested reading...

...which happens to be Amy Siskind's Medium article, in which she takes the advice of experts in authoritarianism to keep a list of things subtly changing around us to heart. The results:
In the two weeks since Charlottesville, our country is consumed in flames of hate, and Trump is fanning those flames. As well, he continues his unimpeded march to authoritarian power, neutralizing the judicial branch with an unethical pardon, and attacking members of his own party in an effort to silence them. So far, the latter is largely working, and as this week comes to a close, remaining checks and balances to save our democracy are eroding, and Trump appears to feel fully in power.

  1.  Following the counter-protest march of over 40k in Boston, Trump tweeted the country needs “to heel.” Trump used the misspelled word four times in two consecutive deleted tweets, before correcting it to heal.
  2. Rev. Bernard, pastor of a megachurch in Brooklyn, became the first member of Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board to resign over Charlottesville.
  3. No WH officials were made available for Sunday political talk shows.
  4. On CNN Sunday, Carl Bernstein urged reporters to interview Republicans on or off the record about whether Trump is mentally fit to lead.
  5. A NBC News/Marist poll found Trump’s approval in three key battleground states has eroded: Michigan 36 approve/55 disapprove, Pennsylvania 35/54, and Wisconsin 34/56.
  6. NPR reported some Liberty University graduates are returning their diplomas to protest school President Jerry Falwell Jr.’s ongoing support of Trump, even after Trump’s remarks on Charlottesville.
  7. Former HHS secretaries from both parties urged Republicans to move quickly and stabilize Obamacare as Trump threatened to continue withholding key payments to insurers.
  8. Sunday night, when asked by reporters for his reaction to five sailors injured and 10 missing after the USS John S. McCain collided with a merchant ship, Trump responded, “That’s too bad.”
  9. USA Today reported Secret Service agents have already hit the federally mandated pay caps meant to last the entire year for protecting Trump. Under the Trump regime, an unprecedented 42 people have protection.
  10. Secret Service cited Trump’s frequent weekend trips to his properties, and his family’s extensive business and vacation travel. Secret Service spent $60k on golf carts, revenues which go to the Trump Organization.
  11. Trump disbanded a federal advisory panel for the National Climate Assessment which helped policymakers and private-sector officials incorporate the government’s climate analysis into long-term planning.
  12. Since being established in 1990, the National Climate Assessment is supposed to release reports every four years. The next assessment would have been due in 2018.
  13. Trump’s Interior Dept ordered the National Academy of Sciences to halt its study of health risks and harm caused by mountaintop coal mining in Appalachia.

The list goes on like that... for 108 entries, each more disturbing than the last. Truly, we are living in the "Chinese curse" version of Interesting Times.


This week's Casual Friday edition of the Majority Report features some absolutely brutal mockery of Conspiritard-in-Chief Alex Jones and his guest, everybody's favorite mush-mouthed alpha-epsilon, Mike Cernovich! The hilarity commences at 1:45:45 in the following video, and carries on basically until the end of the show:

At one point, Jones (completely off the cuff I'm sure) asks for Cernovich's opinion on the "quickening" and the Singularity" and a plethora of other topics upon which Cernovich is singularly unqualified to pontificate. The results, as you might expect, are comedy gold:
"We're definitely approaching the Singularity, because our time is becoming dilated now, where... I always ask people, how long ago was it when Kathy Griffin pulled her little ISIS beheading stunt? How long ago was Scaramucci fired? So our time is becoming dilated because we're approaching the Singularity. Whatever that means. We don't know yet, because we've never been in a Singularity, but... but our time now is being accelerated, right? Where a second feels like a minute, right? We live so much in a day now, a full day now feels like a month, and a month feels like a year, and a year feels like a decade. And you think about it ... Crazy, right?"
Yes, Mike, you're correct, that does sound crazy! As outgoing Majority Report producer Kelly points out, when Alex Jones stares at you like you're fucking insane, you've got a serious problem.

Monday, September 4, 2017


Charlottesville Goddamn
For one brief, shining moment in the days following the deadly confrontation between the forces of organized hate--long festering in the West but recently emboldened by a number of significant developments in their favor--and the ad hoc counter-coalition that rose up in opposition to them in the streets of the sleepy college town of Charlottesville, Virginia... it seemed as though a critical mass of Americans were waking up to the true magnitude of the crisis gripping the nation, and coming to some understanding of president* Trump's central role in that crisis.

Sadly, that moment has already passed.

Don't get me wrong; it was an important and constructive week and a half for the Good Guys. Before Charlottesville, the image most Americans associated with the Alt Right was a smirking cartoon frog. Now, it's either a mob chanting Nazi slogans during a torch-lit midnight march, or a Dodge Challenger murderously smashing into a crowd of peaceful protesters; an act about which many in the Alt Right community were publicly fantasizing in the weeks leading up to the rally.

Then came Trump's reaction (his third, true reaction), which was so exposing of the malignant hate that possesses and controls him, it prompted many heretofore immovable conservatives to cry "no más!" and publicly disown him. I've even witnessed it myself! A conservative friend of mine, with whom I engage in lively debates on a weekly basis, greeted me on the Thursday after Charlottesville not with "Hello!", but with a sad and disgusted "I'm done with him." I knew better than to tell him I told you so, as neither of us saw this as an appropriate time for gloating. But inside, I felt a surge of relief. If my die-hard conservative friend, as stubborn and contrary an anti-liberal as I've ever known, was having this level of crisis of conscience? The potential implications were staggering.

But then came Boston, where another Unite the Right "Free Speech" gathering led to a couple dozen die-hards and wannabe martyrs momentarily trapped on a gazebo, surrounded by forty-four thousand angry Bostonians who showed up with some free speech of their own to share... and in the Far Right's reaction to that humiliation, those of us who keep an eye out for such things began to see the first stirrings of their comeback strategies on social media.

40 fascists = 1"gazebo" of fascists
These strategies, of course, are the same strategies that have served them well up to now: play up their underdog status, weaponize ubiquitous prejudices--then feed and stoke the aggrievement that comes from being made to feel guilty about those prejudices--and, of course, lie their fucking asses off.  If you'd like to know more, you should definitely read this excellent WiReD article that breaks down--meticulously, with direct quotes and screen grabs aplenty--both the Alt Right's angry panic in the wake of Charlottesville and their attempts to devise strategies on how best to surreptitiously manage the fallout and manipulate the public narrative. It is extremely illuminating.

And then... then came Berkeley, where something similar to what happened in Boston took place, only with a bit more punching, balaclavas, and "Antifa Behaving Badly".

But were they really? Or is it possible you're being tricked into believing in a false dichotomy that, at best, is completely unmoored from reality and, at worst, is the product of a highly coordinated and impressively sophisticated effort at damage control by some of the most evil, technologically advanced, and well-funded motherfuckers that the world has ever suffered?

Because if you ignore the breathless headlines, scare quotes, and context-free still frames from frantically shot videos, and actually watch the footage that allegedly shows the worst of what Antifa were up to in Berkeley... it begins to look a lot less like the Anarcho-Communist Apocalypse heralded by FOX News and Breitbart, and a lot more like spin by the New Fascist International and their partners (and victims) in the national mainstream media.

And yes, I definitely think that the word "victim" applies.

Every day more evidence pops up that points to the media having been traumatized into self-flagellating neurosis by the non-stop assaults they've had to endure recently, from both the commanding heights of the (stolen) White House, as well as from the depths of an increasingly unhinged minority of deplorables, who swear undying hatred for them and unquestioning allegiance to a criminal cabal of usurpers. Sure, they try to put on a brave face about it, but that much abuse can't help but leave a bruise.

How else to explain the fact that, as musician Luke O'Neil astutely points out via Twitter: "There have been more major media think pieces on Antifa violence than acts of Antifa violence"?  All this, while Far Right extremists have killed 372 people in the past ten years, and "Antifa" have killed... none.

Having to contend with wave upon wave of demented Far Right avengers fueled by racial animus, class resentment, and deeply sublimated self-loathing would be difficult enough... but in actuality, the situation is far worse. The prevelance of anti-Antifa propaganda currently spreading across the web like a particularly scorching strain of herpes is a function of far more than just some angry, inchoate screeching. It's a coordinated propaganda campaign by the New Fascist International to wrest back control of the narrative. Every weapon in their arsenal has been deployed in the service of this sophisticated disinformation effort.

Which brings us to their aforementioned technological advancement.

If you only click on one link from today's epic screed, let it be to behavioral scientist Caroline O's exploration of How Russian and Alt Right Twitter Accounts Worked Together to Skew the Narrative About Berkeley, which begins:
Social media has an important role in shaping perceptions of current events, as well as influencing mainstream news coverage of those events. Platforms like Twitter provide real-time access to events going on around the world, allowing anyone to get a front-row seat for breaking news. But as much as it has opened up new channels of information, social media has also opened up new avenues for manipulating perceptions of reality. Misinformation and disinformation often spread faster than the truth, and by the time the narrative is corrected, social media has already moved on to the next “big thing.” 
The narrative surrounding last weekend’s protests in Berkeley took shape on social media and was picked up, at least in part, by mainstream news outlets. The result was a skewed presentation of events that was almost entirely devoid of the context in which they took place. Even more troubling: that narrative was influenced by pro-Russian social media networks, including state-sponsored propaganda outlets, botnets, cyborgs, and individual users. 
In the (following) case study ... I describe how the narrative surrounding Berkeley was picked up and shaped by Russian-linked influence networks, which saw a chance to drive a wedge in American society and ran with it.

And guess what? It worked like a charm.

So, as you can see, that hopeful sense of the nation waking up en masse to the gravity of the current crisis--perhaps even teetering at the liminal threshold of a galvanized, collective, mass reaction--that's all over and done with. At least for the time being. The Bad Guys dodged a bullet, and they know it.

But all hope is not lost.

The fact is, the Trumpniks are still outnumbered, and his presidency* grows more unpopular with every passing day. For months now, Trump's job approval rating has been lower than the percentage of Americans who want him impeached. This has, until now, had the troubling effect of driving his ever-shrinking constituency of cultists towards greater extremes of radicalization, kind of like how Gavin McInnes claims mildly conservative young men are turning towards fascism because those mean old liberals call them fascists, so they figure why not just go ahead and be fascists?

Fortunately, phenomena of this nature usually tend to burn out. The Far Right has already painted itself into an ugly and inescapable corner via ideological overreach, and the spread of increasingly ludicrous "Obama did Katrina" style fake news (the real kind) may signal that America is reaching "Peak Trump", beyond which point even his ever-shrinking cult will realize that the vast majority of those with whom they agree, online at least, are either (as Caroline O points out above) bots and cyborgs, or else they're old-school propaganda shill personas being managed by cubicle-dwelling interns for right-wing think tanks, subcontinental VDT wage slaves, or former Eastern Block White Nationalist activists.

Of course, there will be the occasional authentic sub-Gamma "useful idiot" True Believer sprinkled into the mix, as well. If, for some reason, you're interested in trying to figure out who's a bot and who's not, you'll want to bookmark the following links.

First, Lifehacker's How to Recognize Russian Propaganda on Social Media, by Leigh Anderson. It has a number of resources to help show that, no, you're not being paranoid, there really is an "unseen microphone amplifying certain Far Right themes in online conversations".

Next (and this is the one that I personally derive the most satisfaction from) is Make Adverbs Great Again; a super simple app where you can run any Twitter user's handle through an analyzer that determines with a relatively high degree of certainty (on a 0-to-10 scale) whether or not that racist asshole following you around posting off-topic right-wing bullshit that seems precision engineered to get under your skin is, or is not, a BOT. Try it for yourself! I guarantee you'll be surprised at how many fucking bots there are out there, shitting up the works.

Please feel free to post this meme after exposing a BOT on Twitter!
So that's it. My combination Words of Warming Slash Signs of Hope "think piece". It took me way too long to write, by the way. Like almost three days, on and off. I think I'm losing my touch. Maybe I'll try my hand at drawing some comics over the next few days. 

Anyway, I know the above was light on the laffs, but I hope you found it informative and worthwhile.

yer old pal Jerky