Chris Wallace is sticking around at CNN. The longtime Fox News host jumped ship for CNN+ late last year, only to see the streaming service shutter after just a few months. But his show isn’t going anywhere. Instead, “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace” will move to the network’s linear channel on Sunday nights, Chris Licht, the CEO of CNN, announced Wednesday at the Warner Bros. Discovery upfront presentation to advertisers. Licht praised Wallace for his “respectful, authentic and impactful interviews,” which will also be available to watch on HBO Max. “‘Who’s Talking?’ is a rare show built for st...
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There’s a video going around of Jon Stewart confronting a highly influential right-wing propagandist with millions of followers inside and outside the GOP, including supporters of the former president.
I don’t need to tell you his name. I don’t need to explain the context in depth or why they found each other face-to-face or even why the former host of “The Daily Show” was blue face vein-popping angry.
All you need to know is this propagandist-represented propaganda. Stewart represented good faith. He wanted the Congress to pass a bill he believed would help sick veterans. The other opposed the bill but didn’t offer good reasons. He offered various and sundry lies.
At one point, Stewart had enough.
“You’re a fucking troll!”
That’s not the good part.
The good part came immediately afterward when the propagandist, who’s normally spleen-venting in his rage against the supposed injustice experienced by white Christian men, instantly struck a pose of calm and composure, as if appealing to Stewart’s sense of reason.
It’s usually the other way around.
Not this time.
That’s the point I want to make.
Rightwing success is proportional to the degree of good faith provided by people whom the rightwingers believe do not have the right to exist. When the liberals (anyway, not rightwingers) turn off the good faith, rightwingers can no longer function. They can’t sabotage the enemy by using their sense of reason against them.
Parasites succeed when hosts don’t know what they’re doing.
Parasites die when hosts figure them out.
What does a parasite feel the moment he realizes that everything he needs to live has been taken away, that doom awaits and that he will leave nothing behind, not even corrupted memories of him?
For that, we can turn to Alex Jones.
Alex Jones didn’t die
Jones is a conspiracy monger and host of “Infowars.” He sells lies. He makes a lot of money selling lies. One of the lies was about the Sandy Hook massacre. He said – and kept saying for years – that the 20 schoolkids shot to pieces that day were fake. He said the 2012 calamity was staged to take guns from by “law-abiding citizens.”
Imagine you’re a parent of one of these 6-year-olds. Imagine the unimaginable pain. Then imagine a highly influential right-wing propagandist with millions of followers has over time convinced an estimated 75 million people that your dead kid isn’t a dead kid.
Then imagine that some of these 75 million people don’t see you as a grieving parent experiencing unimaginable pain but a political operative who is conspiring to take away their freedoms. Then imagine them threatening you with death, forcing you to move and hire security – all the while experiencing unimaginable pain.
That’s what Jones did.
He is a rich man as a result of his lies feeding off the hosts of good faith. Making as much as $800,000 a day, Jones transmogrified. He became the lies, right down to the individual cells of his body. If those lies were to be cut off from their host – if they were deprived of the democratic conditions in which to live – the shock might kill him.
Alex Jones didn’t die yesterday.
But he came close.
He seemed to die
Jones was in Texas for a civil defamation trial involving two Sandy Hook families. He was on the stand to give testimony under oath when under cross-examination he was presented with his own text messages, thus proving in real time that he was lying to the jury.
How did opposing counsel get text messages that Jones had told the judge did not exist? His own attorney sent them, accidentally, a complete digital file of phone data for the last two years. When informed, his attorney said nothing, because the content itself was proof that Alex Jones and counsel had been lying the whole time.
Jones assumed he’d be given yet more good faith. He assumed he could take advantage of the good faith of normal people: of the court, the judge, the jury and even the Sandy Hook families. He assumed that the lies that enriched him could go on feeding off their host.
Then every cell in his body seemed to die on impact with the truth.
He might yet die
As I said, Jones didn’t really die. That might come later.
Within hours of his attorney’s mountain-range boo-boo, the select House committee investigating the J6 insurrection subpoenaed his data. Jones played a role in inciting Donald Trump’s paramilitaries into sacking and looting the US Capitol in a takeover attempt.
“You know what nobody's thought about yet? Mark Bankston asked the court on a hot mic. (He represents the Sandy Hook parents.) “What happens when that phone goes to law enforcement?"
Indeed, according to the Connecticut Post, which is covering the trial, Jones’ phone records include “intimate messages with Roger Stone,” Donald Trump’s pardoned advisor, as well as with Trump. Stone was the intermediary between Trump and the Kremlin during the 2016 election. Trump later pardoned Stone for not flipping on him.
The US Department of Justice is investigating the former president’s “actions” in connection with the J6 insurrection, according to the Post. Prosecutors have empaneled a grand jury for the questioning of key Trump officials, including Mike Pence, the former vice president.
I think we know what happens.
Yesterday Jones said emphatically that he now believes the Sandy Hook massacre is “100 percent” real. But he also said that the federal government was involved in some kind of cover-up of it. Jones has said in the past, after being sued by the plaintiffs, that he believed it was real. He’d then go back to the original conspiracy theory.
If there was any trust in Jones prior to yesterday’s spontaneous cell death, that trust is gone thanks to an attorney whose only follow-up to his boo-boo was a message asking Bankston to “please disregard.”
“Please disregard” is how we should treat all of these highly influential right-wing propagandists. They have no ideas or values of their own. Their only sense of morality derives from the reactions they get from the good-faith normal people whom they feed on.
Parasites succeed when hosts don’t know what they’re doing.
Parasites die when hosts figure them out.
From his Summers County, West Virginia, farmhouse, Mark Jarrell can see the Greenbrier River and, beyond it, the ridge that marks the Virginia border. Jarrell moved here nearly 20 years ago for peace and quiet. But the last few years have been anything but serene, as he and his neighbors have fought against the construction of a huge natural gas pipeline.
Jarrell and many others along the path of the partially finished Mountain Valley Pipeline through West Virginia and Virginia fear that it may contaminate rural streams and cause erosion or even landslides. By filing lawsuits over the potential impacts on water, endangered species and public forests, they have exposed flaws in the project’s permit applications and pushed its completion well beyond the original target of 2018. The delays have helped balloon the pipeline’s cost from the original estimate of $3.5 billion to $6.6 billion.
But now, in the name of combating climate change, the administration of President Joe Biden and the Democratic leadership in Congress are poised to vanquish Jarrell and other pipeline opponents. For months, the nation has wondered what price Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin would extract to allow a major climate change bill. Part of that price turns out to be clearing the way for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow,” said Jarrell, a former golf course manager who has devoted much of his retirement to writing protest letters, filing complaints with regulatory agencies and attending public hearings about the pipeline. “We’re once again a sacrifice zone.”
The White House and congressional leaders have agreed to step in and ensure final approval of all permits that the Mountain Valley Pipeline needs, according to a summary released by Manchin’s office Monday evening. The agreement, which would require separate legislation, would also strip jurisdiction over any further legal challenges to those permits from a federal appeals court that has repeatedly ruled that the project violated the law.
The provisions, according to the summary, will “require the relevant agencies to take all necessary actions to permit the construction and operation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline” and would shift jurisdiction “over any further litigation” to a different court, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In essence, the Democratic leadership accepted a 303-mile, two-state pipeline fostering continued use of fossil fuels in exchange for cleaner energy and reduced greenhouse emissions nationwide. Manchin has been pushing publicly for the pipeline to be completed, arguing it would move much needed energy supplies to market, promote the growth of West Virginia’s natural gas industry and create well-paid construction jobs.
“This is something the United States should be able to do without getting bogged down in litigation after litigation after litigation,” Manchin told reporters last week. He did not respond to questions from Mountain State Spotlight and ProPublica, including about the reaction of residents along the pipeline route.
ProPublica and Mountain State Spotlight have been reporting for years on how a federal appeals court has repeatedly halted the pipeline’s construction because of permitting flaws and how government agencies have responded by easing rules to aid the developer.
The climate change legislation, for which Manchin’s vote is considered vital, includes hundreds of millions of dollars for everything from ramping up wind and solar power to encouraging consumers to buy clean vehicles or cleaner heat pumps. Leading climate scientists call it transformative. The Sierra Club called on Congress to pass it immediately. Even the West Virginia Environmental Council urged its members to contact Manchin to thank him.
“Senator Manchin needs to know his constituents support his vote!” the council said in an email blast. “Call today to let him know what climate investments for West Virginia means to you!”
But even some residents along the pipeline route who are avidly in favor of action against climate change say they feel like poker chips in a negotiation they weren’t at the table for. And they are anything but happy with Manchin. “He could do so much more for Appalachia, a lot more than he is, but he’s chosen to only listen to industries,” farmer Maury Johnson said.
It’s not clear exactly when the Mountain Valley Pipeline became a focal point of the efforts to win Manchin’s vote on the climate change legislation. Reports circulated in mid-July that the White House was considering giving in to some Manchin demands focused on fossil fuel industries. That prompted some environmental groups to urge Biden to take the opposite route, blocking the pipeline and other pro-industry measures.
Pipeline spokesperson Natalie Cox said in an email that it “is being recognized as a critical infrastructure project” and that developers remain “committed to working diligently with federal and state regulators to secure the necessary permits to finish construction.” Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC, the developer, is a joint venture of Equitrans Midstream Corp. and several other energy companies.
The company “has been, and remains, committed to full adherence” with state and federal regulations,” Cox added. “We take our responsibilities very seriously and have agreed to unprecedented levels of scrutiny and oversight.”
The White House and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Mountain Valley Pipeline is one of numerous pipelines proposed across the region, reflecting an effort to exploit advances in natural gas drilling technologies. Many West Virginia business and political leaders, including Manchin, hope that natural gas will create jobs and revenue, offsetting the decline of the coal industry.
To protect the environment, massive pipeline projects must obtain a variety of permits before being built. Developers and regulators are supposed to study alternatives, articulate a clear need for the project and outline steps to minimize damage to the environment.
In Mountain Valley Pipeline’s case, citizen groups have successfully challenged several of these approvals before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In one widely publicized ruling involving a different pipeline, the panel alluded to Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax,” saying that the U.S. Forest Service had failed to “speak for the trees” in approving the project. The decision was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, but not before the project was canceled.
The 4th Circuit has ruled against the Mountain Valley Pipeline time and again, saying developers and permitting agencies skirted regulations aimed at protecting water quality, public lands and endangered species. In the past four years, the court has found that three federal agencies — the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management — illegally approved various aspects of the project.
While those agencies tweaked the rules, what Manchin’s new deal would do is change the referee. In March, Manchin told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph that the 4th Circuit “has been unmerciful on allowing any progress” by Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Then, in May, lawyers for the pipeline petitioned the 4th Circuit to assign a lawsuit by environmental advocates to a new three-judge panel, instead of having it heard by judges who had previously considered related pipeline cases. Among other things, the attorneys cited a Wall Street Journal editorial, published a week earlier, declaring that the pipeline had “come under a relentless siege by green groups and activists in judicial robes.”
Lawyers for the environmental groups responded in a court filing that Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC was just “dissatisfied that it has not prevailed” more often and was unfairly lobbing a charge that the legal process was rigged. The 4th Circuit rejected the company’s request.
It is unclear whether this pending case, which challenges a water pollution permit issued by West Virginia regulators, would be transferred if the Manchin legislation becomes law.
Congress has intervened in jurisdiction over pipeline cases before. In 2005, it diverted legal challenges to decisions on pipeline permits from federal district courts to the appeals court circuit where the projects are located. The move was part of a plan encouraged by then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s secretive energy task force to speed up project approvals. (Under the Constitution, Congress can determine the jurisdiction of all federal courts except the U.S. Supreme Court.)
Besides the pipeline, Manchin has cited other reasons for his change of heart on the climate change bill. He has emphasized that the bill would reduce inflation and pay down the national debt.
Approval for the pipeline may not be a done deal. Both senators from Virginia, where the pipeline is also a hot political issue, are signaling that they don’t feel bound by Manchin’s agreement with the leadership. Manchin’s own announcement said that Democratic leaders have “committed to advancing” the pipeline legislation — not that the bill would pass. Regional and national environmental groups are walking a fine line. They support the climate change legislation while opposing weakening the permit process.
The pipeline’s neighbors say they’ll keep fighting, but they recognize that the odds are against them. “You just feel like you’re not an equal citizen when you’re dealing with Mountain Valley Pipeline,” Jarrell said.
The Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas was a sign of a troubling fascist direction being chosen by American conservatives.
"Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban won over the crowd at CPAC Texas on Thursday, arguing that his nationalist agenda in Hungary aligns with the goals of the American conservative movement – and sounding a lot like the conference’s upcoming Saturday keynote speaker, former President Donald Trump," CNN reported Thursday. "The right-wing European leader hit guaranteed applause lines – including telling the Texas crowd that 'Hungary is the Lone Star State of Europe' – and criticizing liberals, the news media and the Democratic Party."
During his speech, Orban said he predicted tomorrow's headlines in America would declare, "Far-Right, European Racist and Anti-Semite, Strongman, Trojan Horse of Putin, Holds Speech at Conservative Conference.
MSNBC anchor Mehdi Hasan described it as fascism and displayed a list of ten Republican election deniers on the ballot.
"They do not believe in liberal democracy," Hasan said. "And so today, in 2022, I'm sorry to say the Republican playbook is Viktor Orban playbook, and you can call that what you want, but I'm going to continue to call it fascism.
Anne Applebaum, author of the 2003 book Gulag: A History and the 2020 book Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, posted to Twitter four reasons that CPAC "admires" Orban.
"He bent the rules, changing his constitution and altering voting laws in order to remain in power, indefinitely," Applebaum wrote. "He destroyed the independent media; nothing remains but a few websites."
"He doesn't keep his homophobia, his anti-semitism or his racism a secret," Applebaum continued. "He moves, walks and talks like a Ruritanian dictator from a movie."
NYU Prof. Ruth Ben-Ghiat, the author of the book Strongmen: From Mussolini to the Present, noted that Fox News host Tucker Carlson traveled to Hungary in 2021 to hype Orban.
"Orban's appearance today at CPAC is the outcome of a carefully cultivated relationship," she said. "He can be the Big Man mentoring the GOP in how to wreck a democracy."
In May, after CPAC held a summit in Budapest, Ben-Ghiat wrote, "we can also see Orban's impact on things like the rollback of reproductive rights in the U.S. Former Vice President Mike Pence previewed the Supreme Court opinion in Budapest last fall as a speaker at Orban’s 'Summit for Democracy' where 'pro-family' agendas, meant to increase the 'right' kinds of births (white, Christian births) twinned with anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ platforms."
Stuart Stevens, the Lincoln Project strategist who has worked on five GOP presidential campaigns, posted, without attribution, “This is why we have always fought: we are willing to mix with one another, but we do not want to become peoples of mixed-race.”
"That’s not David Duke, it’s Viktor Orban, the star of CPAC, the new darling of American conservatism," Stevens noted. "Bathrooms, bedrooms & race. That’s who they are."
Reflecting on the embrace of Orban by the far-right, civil rights lawyer Sherrilyn Ifill noted, "over 400,000 Americans were killed in WWII-a war in which 88% of the soldiers were white. And yet we see so many Americans (mostly white) so readily defile the sacrifice of their grandparents and forbears who fought in WWII and defeated fascism, by embracing the rise of fascism here."
"And perhaps that’s because so many who fought fascism abroad were still prepared to tolerate, embrace or promote white supremacy and racism at home. And there’s the rub," Ifill wrote. "Orban and Trump’s rhetoric is not alien to this country. It had been pushed to the margins. But it is not alien."
And that’s why we have to confront and grapple with the contradictions of our history," she counseled. "So that we can understand what calls will resonate in times of fear and stress-calls that repeat earlier unresolved contradictions and threaten the project of building a healthy multi-racial democracy."
Watch Mehdi Hasan's analysis:
CPAC fascism www.youtube.com