NEW YORK — Front-line employees in New York can return to work just five days after testing positive for COVID-19 as long as they are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic under new guidance announced Friday by Gov. Kathy Hochul. The guidance, which was unveiled as New York set another record for the daily number of coronavirus infections, applies to members of the state’s “critical workforce,” like nurses, doctors, grocery store clerks, hospitality employees and public transit workers, Hochul said. “You know who you are. You know you’re the ones that got us through the first many months of anxiet...
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On Tuesday afternoon, far-right news outlet Real America's Voice dedicated a nearly 20-minute segment of its talk show "Water Cooler" to a novel explanation of Monday night's FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump's Palm Beach resort and home. While many Trump allies in the Republican Party and conservative media have competed to voice the most vehement denunciation of the search — Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona called to "destroy" the "democrat brown shirts known as the FBI," Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia suggested that the raid might portend "civil war" and Florida state Rep. Anthony Sabatini said state leaders should arrest FBI agents "upon sight" — RAV managed to find a bigger villain yet.
"I'll just tee it up this way: Jeffrey Epstein. Pedophiles. Trump. Deep State," said host David Brody, co-author of a biography of Trump, before handing the reins over to his colleague Anna Perez, a former Newsmax employee who now hosts her own RAV show, "Common Sense." Perez went on to make a lengthy case that the raid was tied to the claims of the repeatedly debunked conspiracy theory QAnon, which argues, against all evidence, that Democratic politicians, Hollywood celebrities and other elites are part of a satanic and cannibalistic child sex abuse ring that only Trump can defeat.
"This is all a part of the puzzle I'm trying to put together here, which is that the Deep State, ultimately, this past raid of Mar-a-Lago, it's a threat. It's a threat because they don't want [Trump] to expose the pedophiles that he knows about," said Perez. "That's what impeachment was about. That's what the Russia hoax was about. That's what every single — that's what Jan. 6 was about before they planted all those people from the FBI there… They're coming after him and it's because they don't want him to expose the pedophiles."
Perez based her claims, in part, on a Tuesday Politico story speculating that the judge who signed the FBI's warrant for the raid is Bruce Reinhart, who, in 2008, also represented former employees of Jeffrey Epstein, the deceased sex offender and financier whose connections to powerful people around the world, including Trump, have long been used to prop up QAnon's elaborate theories. From that exceptionally flimsy foundation, Perez argued, "We are looking at a man who was behind this warrant to raid Mar-a-Lago who is basically supportive of Jeffrey Epstein."
As many other QAnon supporters have done over the movement's brief but eventful existence, Perez pointed to a handful of statements from Trump as evidence of his covert support for the cause, and for the baffling and counterintuitive conviction that Trump ran for president in 2016 with the primary goal of exposing the supposed cabal. Among them was an exchange during a 2020 election town hall hosted by NBC, in which Trump repeatedly refused to disavow QAnon, telling host Savannah Guthrie that he couldn't say for sure that Democrats weren't running a satanic pedophile cult, and neither could she. "I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard," Trump said. "And I agree with that."
"What a dumb woman," Perez said after playing the clip. "Of course there are satanic cults that are running this. Of course there is child abuse. Of course there's pedophiles everywhere in government."
Sitting beside her, David Brody nodded along. Prior to joining Real America's Voice, Brody was chief political correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network, where he conducted one of Trump's first post-inauguration sit-down interviews in 2017 and also did multiple interviews with Barack Obama during his 2008 campaign. Brody's successful efforts to make Trump palatable to evangelicals, in large part through a series of eight interviews with the candidate during his 2016 race, earned him "phenomenal" access to the Trump White House and the chance to co-author a "spiritual biography" of the 45th president, as well as a place alongside Maggie Haberman and Tucker Carlson in AdWeek's 2017 list of the top 15 "political power players" in the media.
In 2020, though, Brody joined Real America's Voice, a far-right media empire built to serve as a home for Steve Bannon's talk show "War Room" after the former Trump campaign CEO and White House strategist was de-platformed from venues like YouTube and Spotify. As the network expanded, also hiring hosts like disgraced former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, its leadership promised to serve as "a platform for patriots all across America who care about traditional values." But as one former RAV producer told the Washington Post earlier this year, "We were told fairly regularly that we were Trump propaganda…That was the message from the top: 'We're a Trump propaganda network.' That's where the money was."
RAV's "Water Cooler" show isn't the only place where QAnon conspiracy theorists have been working overtime to square the news of the Mar-a-Lago raid with their unified theory of the coming "Storm" — in the QAnon-verse, a day of mass judgment when all members of the supposed pedophile cabal will be arrested and brought to justice, generally understood to mean summary trial and execution.
In various internet forums, as Media Matters senior fellow Alex Kaplan noted on Twitter, QAnon influencers made the argument that the FBI search of Trump's Palm Beach redoubt was somehow part of the larger plan that "Q" — the anonymous figure or figures behind the posts that undergird QAnon lore — had prophesied.
"Was this part of 'The Plan'???" one influencer asked on 8chan. "Q told us to 'Trust Wray,'" another wrote on Telegram. "Who leads the FBI? Q told us 'How do you get evidence entered legally.' (FBI raid gets all the info on the record). Q asks 'Who has all the information?' DJT does."
QAnon influencers have labored to argue that the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago was somehow part of "The Plan" prophesied by Q: "Remember that Trump repeatedly told us the best was yet to come."
Yet another influencer, as Newsweek reported, posted, "It's important to understand something right now. The storm is definitely coming in and it may get extremely wild and unpredictable…But the end is this: Nothing can stop what is coming. Period. When the chaos closes in, choose to trust God and remember that Trump repeatedly told us the best was yet to come."
Trump himself seemed to promote the idea that the raid fit into QAnon's conspiracist theology in a video he posted on Tuesday to Truth Social, his struggling social media platform. As Kaplan reported on Wednesday, Trump's video paired video footage of his own speeches with a background song entitled "Wwg1wga" — the abbreviated form of the QAnon slogan "Where we go one, we go all," which has been widely used as a movement hashtag. The video also incorporated visuals of rain and thunderstorms, in an unmistakable reference to QAnon's faith in the salvific coming "storm."
On Real America's Voice, in response to Perez's wild theories, David Brody nodded along, saying that he "hundred-percent agree[d]" with her argument that Trump had run for president in order to dismantle Democrats' pedophile network.
"The devil's-advocate argument is going to be, 'OK, great, so these are all pedophiles, where's the evidence?'" said Brody, who, although long a voice of right-wing media, has also had unusual access to the highest levels of political power. But the complete absence of supporting evidence for any of QAnon's claims, Brody continued, was proof in itself. "There is nothing wrong with, especially in today's day and age for sure, questioning authority," he said. "And questioning everything we know, because really we know nothing based on the fact that they've given us no reason to believe anything."
Perez readily agreed, asking, "Why wouldn't the Deep State be protecting pedophiles?"
David Brody explains: "There is nothing wrong with ... questioning everything we know, because really we know nothing, based on the fact that they've given us no reason to believe anything."
All of this might be troubling enough: QAnon conspiracy theories being promoted in straightforward fashion, with no artful coding, on a national media network with the apparent approval of a formerly-somewhat-mainstream journalist who had close access to multiple presidents. But the two then shifted into a broader indictment, claiming that the pedophile network QAnon adherents have long warned about has now been paired with a larger threat from LGBTQ people and teachers.
"All of this is happening on a very higher-up level, on the elite level," said Perez. "What's going on at the lowest ground level possible is you have the normalization of pedophilia in schools. They're not groomers. They're outright pedophiles that are teaching some of our kids in these school districts."
When Perez argued that "the LGBTQA group, whatever they call themselves now," was "laying the groundwork for people in just a daily-life setting to accept pedophilia," as a sort of mass-market corollary to the elite cabal, Brody agreed again. "This is why the left hates that 'groomer' term," he said. "Because it hits a little too close to home." He went on to tell Perez that her work was "a service to America, really."
At the end of the segment, Brody invited Perez to explain what drove her passion for the issue. After nearly 20 minutes of broadcasting dangerous, fact-free claims, the two hosts seemed to accidentally land on a moment of truth, as Perez responded that she'd been activated by stuff she'd seen online. "Things just started popping up in my YouTube feed, even, or just anywhere I looked," she said. "I couldn't turn away from these stories."
Brody helped her along: "You couldn't escape. It was all around you."
A pattern emerged in the hours after the FBI lawfully searched the Florida home of the former president. Indeed, it was deeply familiar.
It goes something like this.
When Bad Thing X happens to Donald Trump – and, given who we’re talking about, there’s always a Bad Thing X – it’s actually Good Thing Y, because it’ll arouse the resentments of his supporters. It doesn’t matter what Bad Thing X is. What matters, for the purposes of propaganda, is that this pattern is used at Trump’s convenience. And, given who we’re talking about, that convenience has come in handy.
But what started as convenience, effective though it may have been, has evolved into a habit, which has evolved into a tic, which has evolved into a tell. Whenever someone says Bad Thing X is actually Good Thing Y, we can have confidence that it’s no such thing.
A new civil war?
After the FBI searched the former president’s home for secret government documents that, according to the Wall Street Journal, he would not surrender voluntarily, online chatter among his supporters tsunamied, according to Vice News, into calls for a new civil war.
“A total war on dissidents is about to unfold,” wrote an anonymous member of a far-right channel on Telegram, Vice reported. “Not behind closed doors but blatantly, in public. Attacks on Alex Jones, Trump, and Patriot Day defendants are only setting the precedent for the future of us as the only opposition to the Deep State.”
Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, a J6 seditionary who asked Trump for a pardon, said that, “This is the rogue behavior of communist countries, NOT the United States of America!!! These are the type of things that happen in countries during civil war.”
A respectable white journalist said: “It’s true that ours is a government of laws, not of men, and that nobody — not even a president — is exempted from those laws. It’s also true that we are now closer to civil war than we have been at any time since 1865.”
Stuck and stayed stuck
After news broke, the Washington press corps, as if incapable of breaking past bad habits, immediately fell into wondering how the former president’s supporters would react to the FBI’s search, and whether it might make his grip on the Republican Party tighter.
The only time Bad Thing X turned out to be Good Thing Y was when all things Trump were weighed against all things Hillary Clinton. Yeah, OK, he’s a pussy grabber, people would say, but at least he’s not the subject of an FBI investigation over handling state secrets.
Since then, every Bad Thing X has remained a Bad Thing. For all of his ballyhooed Teflon-coating, everything has stuck and stayed stuck. Anyway, now he’s the one who’s the subject of such an investigation.
“Take our country back”
You might say that’s peachy, but it doesn’t mean his supporters won’t act violently. To which, I’d say you’re absolutely right.
But before we allow fear of civil war to affect our minds, allow me to remind you that we’ve been in a soft one-sided civil war since the mid-1990s, and that that soft one-sided civil war has been getting harder, especially since the election of the first Black president.
As I wrote last week, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich opened the doors of the Republican Party to mutinous paramilitaries who had already made plans to attack and overthrow the US government.
Along with the GOP House sweep of 1994, Gingrich brought with him a new and “decidedly insurrectionist interpretation of the Second Amendment, namely that the founders had written the amendment precisely so that individual citizens would have guns to use against government tyrants,” wrote historian James R. Skillen in 2021.
That faction, to whom guns equaled rule by right of melanin, grew rapidly after Sept. 11 and again after a multiracial democracy, from the ashes of the Iraq War, created conditions for President Obama.
In one way or another, every shooting massacre since then – from Sandy Hook to Highland Park – has been a white-power reaction punctuating a long-term insurgent effort to “take our country back.”
Theory of government
The Second Amendment wasn’t the only thing to receive a “new, decidedly insurrectionist interpretation” during this period.
So did the Republican Party’s theory of government.
Instead of being for the people, the federal government was seen as being against the people. Instead of being by the people, the federal government was seen as being by rich white Christian men who also believed America was a gift from God and they were His majordomos.
One consequence has been, over the years, a slow-motion bleed-out of the federal government such that now it can hardly collect the taxes owed and hidden by these same rich white Christian men.
Meanwhile, the ideological roots of this “new, decidedly insurrectionist interpretation” of the Second Amendment and the federal government have grown so deeply that there’s no other idea remaining in the GOP that’s robust enough to compete with it.
So when Trump’s paramilitaries smashed into the US Capitol in a bid to take over a government that their allies had bled for years, it wasn’t a disaster. It was just another white-power reaction punctuating a long-term insurgent effort to “take our country back.”
The Republican insurgency
This brings us to a couple of conclusions.
On the one hand, future violence will be part of a pattern of regular though intermittent violence that has been with us for years.
On the other hand, it won’t be a civil war, as such. It will be violence of the lone wolf variety that, again, has been with us for years.
Takeaway: It’s not a civil war. It’s an insurgency – like wildcat terrorists planting roadside bombs to kill Iraqis and otherwise throw the Iraqi government into chaos. The Republican insurgency has been building for decades, first outside the party, then from the inside.
It reacted and grew after Sept. 11. It reacted and grew after 2008. It reacted and grew after the Republican Party welcomed efforts by the Russian government to contribute to a long-term insurgent effort to “take our country back” by sabotaging Trump’s campaign opponent.
And by the time Trump called on them to attack, they had been standing back and standing by long before Trump asked them to.
They don’t mean
As I said at the top, we can have confidence that Bad Thing X isn’t going to become Good Thing Y, because, since the moment Donald Trump arrived at the White House, that’s never been true.
So when they say civil war is coming, on account of something they don’t like, they don’t mean it. They can’t. They don’t have the numbers. They don’t have the courage. They sure as hell don’t have the attention span required to prosecute a war, civil or otherwise. They don’t have anything to justify using the words “civil war.”
But they do have guns.
They do have plenty of white Christian men, who, though not rich, believe multiracial democracy is robbing them of their birthright.
Highlighting Dr. Mehmet Oz's spreading of Covid-19 misinformation and his history of dispensing what one study found to be "baseless" medical advice, several Pennsylvania doctors joined Democratic Senate candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman on Wednesday in warning that electing Oz to the U.S. Senate would "endanger Pennsylvanians' health."
"We absolutely cannot trust him to have the best interests of the health of the people of Pennsylvanians and for our country."
Drs. Val Arkoosh of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, Marcelle Shapiro of Perelman School of Medicine, and Lisa Perriera of the Women's Centers were joined by Fetterman surrogate state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-181) at a press conference at City Hall in Philadelphia, launching a statewide "Real Doctors Against Oz" campaign.
Fetterman and the physicians are not claiming that Oz, a retired heart surgeon who is running for Senate as a Republican, is not a "real doctor"—but instead denouncing his "history of peddling debunked supplements, dangerous fad diets, and fake miracle cures," his financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry, and his support for "Republican efforts to ban abortion in Pennsylvania, endangering the lives of women."
"Not only has Oz palled around with big pharma and promoted their products on his show, but we also know that he's invested in some of the same companies that are raking in billions while helping to drive up the cost of medication and force families to ration their insulin doses," said Arkoosh. "When his pharma buddies make money, Oz makes money. Oz simply doesn't care about the health of Pennsylvanians."
The physicians discussed Oz's long career as a celebrity doctor who hosted a TV show for 13 seasons before pivoting to a political career in 2021.
As a study published in 2014 in The BMJ found, half of the advice Oz gave out on his show was "baseless or wrong," and researchers at Georgetown University found in 2018 that more than three-quarters of his recommendations "did not align with evidence-based medical guidelines."
The doctors also condemned Oz's comparison of vaccine mandates "to forced sterilization and lobotomies" and his claim that vaccines against Covid-19 are not "true" vaccines, as well as his defense of discredited Covid-19 treatments like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.
"As physicians, we take a pledge to do no harm, as part of our Hippocratic oath," said Shapiro. "We absolutely cannot trust him to have the best interests of the health of the people of Pennsylvanians and for our country."
The Real Doctors Against Oz is led by "members of the Pennsylvania medical community communicating their distrust of Dr. Oz, the threat he poses to Pensylvanians as quack doctor and fraud—not trusted by real medical professionals—who has always and will always put enriching himself above all else even if it means endangering people's health," said the group.
In addition to pushing ineffective and hazardous treatments for Covid-19, Oz has spent years promoting the use of diet products such as "green coffee bean extract as a miracle fat-burning pill that works for everyone," the Federal Trade Commission said in 2014. Such claims led both Republicans and Democrats on a Senate committee to "scold" Oz, Real Doctors Against Oz said.
On social media on Wednesday, Fetterman shared several clips of Oz promoting "magic" products "that let you lose weight without diet or exercise."
"He has no problem spreading misinformation if it helps him make money," said Fetterman of Oz's claim that he intends to "take on" Big Pharma as a senator, despite investing heavily in the industry.
"Oz has ALWAYS put profits above the health and well-being of others," Fetterman added.
As he frequently has in recent months, the lieutenant governor added a meme poking fun at Oz for owning a home in New Jersey, as well as an image of Vince Offer, who starred in infomercials selling an absorbent cloth called ShamWow.
"ShamWow guy + stethoscope = Dr. Oz," tweeted Fetterman.