Debarkle Chapter 74: Meanwhile…Election 2020

Debarkle Chapter 74: Meanwhile…Election 2020

[content warning: discussion of violence and murder]

Robert Heinlein’s “crazy years” were a period in his extrapolation of history into the future where rapid technological change would accompany a period of cultural and social decline. The idea resembles aspects of accelerationism[1] and the sense of galloping technological change and social unrest is one the world has been grappling with culturally since at least the nineteenth century. Among science fiction writers, and particularly science fiction writers with an interest in the Campbellian “Golden Age”, Heinlein’s “crazy years” were an apt metaphor for contemporary social ills.

The “Crazy” Year

Back in 2010 in the second year of Barack Obama’s Presidency, John C. Wright framed his objections to Obama’s policies and more broadly to what he then called “political correctness” using Heinlein’s terms.

“The main sign of when madness has possessed a crowd, or a civilization, is when the people are fearful of imaginary or trivial dangers but nonchalant about real and deep dangers. When that happens, there is gradual deterioration of mores, orientation, and social institutions—the Crazy Years have arrived.”

http://www.scifiwright.com/2010/01/the-crazy-years-and-their-empty-moral-vocabulary/

And by 2013, Sarah A. Hoyt was making a similar appeal.

“… But insanity can only be amped so much.  After a while even the crazies know it’s crazy.  And then, there’s the fact that semantic insanity encourages the sort of behavior that makes things worse and takes society apart faster. And then the crash comes.  The normal result of the crash is a strong man regime, and maybe that’s where we’ll end up.  Only not the current strong men, because they’re semantically insane.  The very people trying to speed up the crash are the ones least likely to survive it.”

https://accordingtohoyt.com/2013/07/17/4357/

Veteran right-wing blogger Glen Reynolds cited not just Heinlein but also Wright and Hoyt’s spin on the “crazy years” in a 2017 USA Today editorial, this time claiming that “hysteria” against President Donald Trump was a symptom of the Heinleinian cultural insanity. For Reynolds (and for Hoyt also) the rise of what would generally be called the authoritarian right[2] is a direct result of left-wing insanity. Reynolds uses the example of Weimar Germany.

“I don’t want a Nehemiah Scudder (or alternative versions like Pol Pot or Hugo Chavez). And Hitler was a response to Germany’s own Crazy Years under the Weimar Republic. But you don’t get Hitler because of Hitler. There are always potential Hitlers out there. You get Hitler because of Weimar, and you get Weimar because the people charged with maintaining a liberal polity are too corrupt and incompetent — or crazy — to maintain a liberal polity.”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/08/21/these-crazy-years-glenn-harlan-reynolds-column/584541001/

That authoritarian demagogues suppress socially progressive change is undeniable even for Reynolds and Hoyt but they regard the rise of the far-right not as a welcome change[3] but as some inevitable force of history redressing a balance after left-wing insanity gets out of control.

Nehemiah Scudder was the name Heinlein gave to his own imagined US demagogue and in 2017 writer David Brin saw a different parallel between Heinlein’s prophecy and events of the time[4]. Pointing to Heinlein’s essay on the stories that he hadn’t written about the future history, Brin saw some clear parallels between Donald Trump and Nehemiah Scudder.

“Throw in a depression for good measure, promise a material heaven here on earth, add a dash of anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Negroism, and a good large dose of anti-‘furriners’ in general and anti-intellectuals here at home and the result might be something quite frightening – particularly when one recalls that our voting system is such that a minority distributed as pluralities in enough states can constitute a working majority in Washington.”

Heinlein, Robert A.. Revolt in 2100 (Gateway Essentials Book 483) (Kindle Locations 4015-4018). Orion.

Brin also pointed to how in Heinlein’s essay Scudder used a revived “Ku Klux Klan in everything but the name” as street-fighters to sway the very last free election. Brin also blamed the left for being insufficiently welcoming of those on the centre and right that were appalled by Trump but was unambiguous that Trump was the dark outcome of Heinlein’s “crazy years” and not some kind of release valve that would stave off the inevitable.

And yet…the turmoil of the past two decades was not truly exceptional. The Global Financial Crisis was not the Great Depression, the Covid-19 pandemic was not the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 but the scales of these events were comparable[5]. The mismatch between the reality of a genuine and deadly global pandemic and the fictional kind helped fuel the disinformation campaign on the right against public health measures. As Sarah Hoyt would express it: “if the homeless and the poorer countries in Africa where China has a presence weren’t dying like flies, the illness was NOT that dangerous”[6].

Boogaloo Rising

From mid-April 2020, protests demanding the relaxation of state Covid-19 measures began in multiple US states. Undoubtedly, these protests arose in part from small business owners whose livelihood was severely impacted by public health restrictions. However, from the start, conservative pro-Trump groups were actively coordinating these efforts. The conservative advocacy group Freedom Works[7] used its prior experience organising Tea Party protests, to facilitate protests targeting state governors and state legislatures.

“We know many of you are already participating in or planning rallies calling on your Governors to allowbusinesses in your state to reopen, ​but this isn’t just about the economy. It’s about our freedom.​ Both go hand-in-hand, so if our economy dies, our freedom goes with it and we are here to help.”

Freedom Works Rally Planning Guide retrieved by Politico https://web.archive.org/web/20200425071305/https://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000171-9e47-d46f-affb-bfdf3de10000

The Freedom Works guide encouraged protestors to follow social distancing guidelines and also to avoid overtly political slogans. However, the protests rapidly became more politically partisan and far-right groups such as the Proud Boys and militia movement groups were keen to associate themselves with the protests[8]. The focus of many protests in the US was State Capitol buildings. In Idaho, armed protestors pushed past police and security to enter the chamber of the Idaho State Capitol building while the Idaho House of Representatives was in session. Ammon Bundy who had led the armed occupation of a federal building in 2016[9] was one of the few people arrested at this protest.

Despite these protests, popular sentiment in the US was often in favour of the public health measures[10]. Worldwide many politicians, as well as local and national governments, enjoyed a boost in popularity during the initial stages of the pandemic. Even Donald Trump gained a boost in his approval ratings in March 2020[11] but Trump supporters saw the economic downturn caused by the pandemic as having an unfair impact on his electoral chances or even a deliberate plot to undermine his presidency.

Covid had arrived at the tail-end of years of right-wing fears of a left-liberal power grab leading to (or requiring) a civil war. The sense of a coming violent conflict either on politically partisan or racial lines in America was decades-old but had largely festered in fringe extremist groups. That idea that the left (or liberals or Democrats or a shadowy “elite”) was pushing “reasonable” people towards violence became a more commonplace idea on the right during the Obama Presidency, fuelled in part by social media and in particular Facebook.

Anti-pandemic public health measures genuinely had an authoritarian aspect to them, requiring state and federal governments to enact policies preventing or discouraging people from doing what were otherwise normal and legal activities. The enforcement of such policies by police carried with it in the US all the existing systematic problems of policing within America.

The idea that Covid was an imminent threat to the US model of government was already becoming pronounced among sections of the right in early April 2020[12]. Given the now decades-long question in right-wing spaces as to whether a given event might be the tipping point into a second American Civil War, it was only natural that Covid and the public health measure being deployed against it was cited as a new potential trigger point.

Former Sad Puppy supporter and author Peter Grant stated on April 2 2020:

“I’m seeing an emerging understanding, a deliberate coming together to harness the coronavirus pandemic to the advantage of left-wing, progressive politics at any cost, no matter what lies and deceptions have to be perpetrated to do so.”

https://bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com/2020/04/using-pandemic-for-political-advantage.html

Grant was an active “prepper” who had been preparing for a variety of apocalyptic scenarios (for Grant often involving a collapse of public order in cities) for years. The mode of these discussions about an impending civil war was not that such a war was the right response but that it was a situation being forced upon people. Among the discussion Grant posted was this extensive analysis of the state of mind of some preppers in mid-April 2020.

“If that happens, we will have the Tools for the Boogaloo, which are guns. We will have the Dehumanization for the Boogaloo, which is our political and cultural tribalism. And we will finally have the Motivation for the Boogaloo, which is our kids need to eat.

The Boogaloo Soup will be complete.

And should that happen, it will kill far more people than COVID-19, and will kill far more people than the unemployment from our response to COVID-19. It will be the greatest tragedy in the history of our nation, because we will have brought it all upon ourselves, from our own Freakoutery.

The soup timer is ticking. Beginning of May would be a great time to get our asses in gear.

https://medium.com/handwaving-freakoutery/the-covid-19-boogaloo-opus-51b1c1b860cd

As we saw in the previous chapter, Sarah Hoyt was among many on the right who anticipated that the US lockdown measures would impact food production and supply to the point that severe food shortages would be occurring in the US by winter. That or events earlier would, in the minds of the writer of the essay above, be the trigger for the “Boogaloo” — a semi-ironic term shortened from “Civil War Two: Electric Boogaloo”[13].

In an April 17 post entitled “The Covid-19 Boogaloo Opus”[14], Grant went on to quote others experiencing a similar reaction to life during a pandemic.

“I’ve hated the road this country has been on for the last twenty years, but with the actions taken by the Fed and government in the last few weeks, they have pressed down hard on the accelerator as if they want to take the country over the cliff and into the abyss below. What is the end game to these machinations and schemes? Do they have some master plan for a global world order, or are they just arrogant psychopaths flailing about trying to retain their wealth, status and power? Whatever the purpose, it is not going to end well.”

Jim Quinn quoted at https://bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com/2020/04/the-covid-19-boogaloo-opus.html

Central to the growing Boogaloo culture was Facebook. This wasn’t to say that arenas such as 4Chan, 8Chan/8Kun and Telegram weren’t also centres for far-right agitation around the pandemic[15]. However, Facebook had a reach far beyond these more fringe sites and its weak and inconsistent enforcement of community standards allowed groups to organise quickly.

“A review by TTP found 125 Facebook groups devoted to the “boogaloo,” the term that far-right extremists use to describe a coming civil war. More than 60% of the groups were created in the last three months, as Covid-19 quarantines took hold in the U.S., and they’ve attracted tens of thousands of members in the last 30 days.

In several private boogaloo Facebook groups that TTP was able to access, members discussed tactical strategies, combat medicine, and various types of weapons, including how to develop explosives and the merits of using flame throwers. Some members appeared to take inspiration from President Donald Trump’s recent tweets calling on people to “liberate” states where governors have imposed stay-at-home orders.

The fact that Facebook is letting such activity proliferate, despite explicit threats of violence to government authorities, is another sign of the company’s inability to manage harmful content on its platform—even among groups that make no secret of their intentions.”

https://www.techtransparencyproject.org/articles/extremists-are-using-facebook-to-organize-for-civil-war-amid-coronavirus

As a broad movement, these Boogaloo groups did not have a central or consistent ideology. Overall, they presented themselves as quasi-libertarian or conservative but inevitably attracted a more overtly white supremacist and neo-Nazi fringe. That libertarian aspect also led to a wildly inconsistent view of law enforcement. It was not uncommon on the right to be sceptical or hostile towards Federal law enforcement bodies such as the FBI or in particular the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives but the reaction against pandemic public health measures was more state-based and many libertarians also agreed with the left-wing view that police had become systemically authoritarian[16]. This confusing milieu of ideas led to at least one attempted attack on police officers[17].

A new conflict

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a Black American, was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis during an arrest. Video footage was taken by bystanders of Floyd’s arrest and death, which quickly spread leading to a new wave of protests against police violence[18]. The protests were initially relatively peaceful. However, on the evening of May 27, the protests were accompanied by violence and property damage in contrast to daytime protests earlier[19]. In the subsequent evenings, many businesses were damaged including the famous Uncle Hugo’s science fiction bookshop[20].

The violence and property damage was blamed by many on the loosely affiliated leftwing protestors known as Antifa. Donald Trump went so far as to announce that he would be declaring Antifa a terrorist organisation as a consequence[21]. However, FBI investigations into the violence found no evidence that Antifa was to blame[22]. What did become clearer was the role of right-wing extremists in the violence and in subsequent conflicts in the coming months. In Minneapolis, the attacks on businesses were started at least in part by a figure that witnesses came to call “the umbrella man” who had been smashing shop windows and inciting people to loot. This figure was later revealed to have been a member of a group called the “Aryan Cowboys” and had been involved in previous racist crimes[23].

In multiple protests across the US, people observed the role of apparent right-wing agitators and so-called Boogaloo-boys, involving themselves both as protestors but also as vigilantes claiming to be defending property from looters[24]. This duality of claiming to support protests against the police but portraying the protests as a danger to property, which hence would need an armed defence can be seen in posts from the time. Peter Grant described his own dual impression while talking about the protestors as an undifferentiated group:

“I have no problem with protests against the actions of police in Mr. Floyd’s death. If I were living in or near Minneapolis, I’d take part in them! On the basis of video evidence, I have no hesitation in labeling it police malfeasance, at the very least. There should be (and I hope there will be) legal consequences for all concerned. However, when the protestors start behaving like thugs and criminals, that crosses a line just as clearly as the one the police crossed in dealing with Mr. Floyd. The protestors make themselves criminals too.”

https://bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com/2020/05/minneapolis-cowardice-of-city.html

Further in the same post:

“If that’s the case, I think – I hope! – that an increasing number of Minneapolis residents will take matters into their own hands, and start striking back at the anarchists and criminals and thugs who currently appear to rule their streets and business districts. If I were living there, I’d be among them. If police fail to keep the peace, then it’s up to us to do so in our own neighborhoods and towns.”

ibid

Larry Correia’s reaction was more confused as he regarded the most pressing issue of the day being people on the left demanding that right-wing gun owners get involved.

“Hypothetical Liberal “Ally” Who Lives in the Suburbs Which Aren’t On Fire – “Hey, gun owners! Here is some civil unrest! Why won’t you come and help us?” Snort. Fuck off. “Pussies! Why not?” Well, every single gun nut in America has spent their entire adult life being continually mocked, insulted, and belittled by the left. You’ve done nothing but paint us as the bad guys.”

https://monsterhunternation.com/2020/06/04/where-are-all-you-gun-owners-now/

Meanwhile, right-wing gun owners were trying to involve themselves in the protests including militia groups like the Three-Percenters[25], even if it was to mainly stand around aimlessly. Other even more extreme far-right groups saw the protests as potential cover for more violence:

“Accelerationists promote violence to speed up the collapse of society. An eco-fascist Telegram channel wrote to its nearly 2,500 subscribers on Thursday that “a riot would be the perfect place to commit a murder.” Accelerationists often seek to exploit moments of political or civil unrest, and the widespread protests that have unfolded across the country fit the bill. Similarly, 4chan is full of racists cheering the violence and saying that they hope it’s the beginning of a “race war.””

https://www.vice.com/en/article/pkyb9b/far-right-extremists-are-hoping-to-turn-the-george-floyd-protests-into-a-new-civil-war

Examples of far-right violence were numerous. A member of a Boogaloo group from Texas who travelled to Minneapolis to take part in the protests, who was later convicted at firing his AR-15 at a police station[26]. A US airforce sergeant killed a federal security officer at a courthouse in a drive-by shooting and later shot two police officers (killing one and wounding another)[27]. Sean Hannity on Fox News blamed the murder of the black security officer on the people protesting George Floyd’s murder[28] six days after the actual murderer had been arrested and his connection with the right-wing groups had been made public.

This is not to say that all and every example of violence or property damage was caused by far-right agent provocateurs but rather that the role of the far-right in violence in the protests was consistently ignored by others on the right using the existence of violence to condemn the broader Black Lives Matter protests. In addition, the early cases of violence and property damage provided a rationale for further crackdowns by police, national guard and Department of Homeland Security, which in turn further escalated protests, as well as providing a rationale for a panoply of far-right groups from ad-hoc volunteers claiming to be defending property, to militias, to more overtly white supremacist groups to add to the confrontations in American cities.

This already volatile mix had the additional element of the Qanon conspiracy theory gaining a revitalised second spurt of growth during the periods of pandemic lockdown. For Vox Day (coincidentally, originally from Minnesota) the state of affairs in Minneapolis were the perfect conditions for Donald Trump to declare martial law, citing Q message on 8Kun pointing to the 1807 Insurrection act[29]. Day was also scornful of any involvement of the so-called Boogaloos in the violence, claiming that the term was just a new media bogeyman[30].

The broader existing narrative that America was under threat from the shadowy forces of Cultural Marxism easily adapted to include both the pandemic public health measures and the Black Lives Matter protests. When the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America announced an official position in support of Black Lives Matter, the former Puppy-slated fantasy magazine Cirsova responded with a statement that not only were BLM terrorists but that by extension the SFWA was a terrorist organisation as well[31].

…and all in an election year

If it felt too much like everything was all happening at once in 2020, it was also an election year. The 2016 Presidential election had been fraught, Donald Trump had won with a minority of the popular vote and had remained generally unpopular (but with enthusiastic supporters) during his term of office. In a neutral year, his chance of winning was slim and would require the same narrow circumstance of close wins in key states to be re-elected. Worldwide, many national leaders had gained popular support on the wave of communal support for resisting the pandemic. However, Trump’s divisiveness and habit of undermining the policies of state governors or the health advice of his own advisors had meant that any gain in support had been brief. His core supporters were more enthusiastic than ever though.

The Democratic Party had settled on an uninspired but safe choice of former Vice-President Joe Biden as their candidate. However, the pandemic had resulted in a relatively low-key campaign.

US states and local election boards had their own unique problem. With Covid-19 spreading across the country, the potential for the pandemic to severely disrupt voting was very high. Numerous measures were adopted to try and make voting both easier and safer in multiple states and across political boundaries.

However, these measures were adopted at a time when conspiratorial perspectives on electoral politics were at a peak in right-wing circles. Qanon, Covid, Black Lives Matter and a sense of spiraling chaos was a fertile ground for new fears or for old fears to be incorporated into the current narrative. A persistent, deep-seated and unshakeable belief existed among many on the right that the Democratic Party was engaged in widespread and large scale electoral fraud for decades. This belief relied on anecdotes but was poorly supported by any serious investigations[32]. The idea of widespread voter fraud also encompassed parallel fears about America’s urban population[33] and fears about immigration. Supporting this fear was not just Republican propaganda tailored to support voter suppression measures but also personal anecdotes. For example Brad R. Torgersen in 2019:

“I used to live and work in King County, Washington State. One of the things that broke me from the Democrats—I was a reliable Dem voter through my twenties—was watching the Seattle Democrats manufacture votes for their recount process that stole the governor’s election from Dino Rossi. They did not even try to hide what they were doing. They bragged about it. They were proud! It was their revenge, they said. For Bush winning in 2000.That was in 2004.”

https://www.facebook.com/brad.torgersen/posts/2964735233552690

Torgersen’s example had been an extraordinarily close election and sets of initially uncounted ballots discovered during a recount in King County helped sway the election to the Democratic Party candidate. The National Rifle Association had even mass emailed members in the state to observe recounts amid claims by the Republican Party that the election was being stolen. Notably, not only was no substantial evidence of fraud demonstrated but the Republican candidate lost a series of legal challenges to the final result[34]. Those legal challenges had rested on an approach of casting as much doubt on the electoral process by pointing to inconsistent voter rolls or initial voter tallies as evidence of electoral malfeasance rather than as the natural consequence of a large scale data gathering process. Additionally, as such challenges are naturally made by the candidate likely to lose, they are remembered by party partisans as fraudulent elections which the other side won, whereas close elections won by a partisan’s party were seen either as being right & fair or as victories won despite the other side’s cheating.

Taking in isolation it would be incorrect to describe single claims of electoral fraud as a conspiracy theory. However, taking the myriad claims from Republicans as a whole and comparing it to their own actual documented evidence of fraud, the level of collusion needed for fraud at the scale claimed without a proportional amount of documented prosecutions, implied a conspiracy covering not just Democrats but officials, judges and even Republican governors.

Nor was this theory of systematic electoral fraud the most bizarre conspiracy floating within right-wing discourse in 2020. However, it was (and is) one of the most damaging. Back in 2018, Larry Correia had encapsulated a binary choice for the right.

“A friend of mine who is a political activist said something interesting the other day, and that was for most people on the left political violence is a knob, and they can turn the heat up and down, with things like protests, and riots, all the way up to destruction of property, and sometimes murder… But for the vast majority of folks on the right, it’s an off and on switch. And the settings are Vote or Shoot Fucking Everybody. And believe me, you really don’t want that switch to get flipped, because Civil War 2.0 would make Bosnia look like a trip to Disneyworld.”

https://monsterhunternation.com/2018/11/19/the-2nd-amendment-is-obsolete-says-congressman-who-wants-to-nuke-omaha/

The implication of this dichotomy was that if voting was no longer an effective option for the “vast majority of folks on the right” then the only other option was shooting people. It was a view that gave the right very little agency and, of course, was sharply at odds with recent history in which multiple conservative protest movements had been active in various domains, such as the Tea Party but also (arguably) Correia’s own Sad Puppies. Yet Correia was also encapsulating here a sentiment that could be found across the right, that the left was pushing them involuntarily towards extremism and violence, when they just wanted to be left alone[35].

Another obvious issue with the electoral fraud conspiracy theory was how Donald Trump had somehow won the 2016 election. However, this counter-example to entrenched belief was ascribed either to a misjudgement by the Democrats or to Trump having outplayed them in a complex game of multi-dimensional chess. This second idea might appear to be layering on absurdities, yet among Qanon believers in particular, Trump’s powers to outwit the “elites” conspiring against him were overwhelming.

As the election approached, despite everything, Vox Day was convinced that Trump would not just win but win in a landslide.

“Ergo, it’s not only in the bag, but President Trump is going to win in a landslide that has only been exceeded by Ronald Reagan in his 49-state thumping of Walter Mondale. Despite the Fake Polls, everyone knows this is going to happen: Walmart is not pulling all its guns-for-sale off the floor because Trump’s supporters lack weaponry and Rodeo Drive is not already being boarded up prior to Election Day because Hollywood storeowners anticipate excessive exuberance on the part of ecstatic Biden voters.

“Joe Biden is heading to St. Paul, Minnesota, tomorrow. It will be the fullest travel day of his general election campaign, with stops now in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.”

Translation: Biden is going to lose Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20201101092001/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2020/10/franco-swiss-model-predicts-trump.html

For Qanon’s true-believers, November was the obvious denouement of the whole “Storm” narrative. The big reveal in which the supposed Babylonian Luciferian child-sex trafficking human sacrifice adrenochrome Hilary Clinton death list would be exposed and Trump would finally deliver on the demand to “lock her up”. Electoral shenanigans would not be able to outfox Trump, who (in the eyes of the true believers) was already several steps ahead of the “Swamp”.

“We’re rapidly approaching the mother of all Q-proof tests. If Joe Biden wins, as predicted by all the polls and all the mainstream media, we’ll have to conclude that Q was, at best, a morale-boosting LARP. If, on the other hand, Donald Trump wins, even the most dedicated Q skeptics will have to admit that Qanon was more reliable than the entire mainstream media. And if The Storm begins, everyone will be forced to acknowledge that Q was the real thing from the start.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20210808151840/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2020/11/endgame-approaches.html

Stop the Steal

Q was of course not only a “morale-boosting LARP” but also almost certainly a cynical exercise by the owners of 8Chan/8Kun to drive traffic to their site. The “mother of all Q-proof tests” came and the statistically most likely outcome occurred which was a victory by Joe Biden. Of course, Qanon was not a movement that had attracted people likely to be swayed by empirical evidence, not even overwhelming empirical evidence.

However, the shock and denial on the right at what was always a highly probable outcome was substantial. The denial was fuelled by a unique circumstance of the election. The pandemic and voting methods adopted for the pandemic had led to large numbers of people voting early or voting by mail. Of those people who voted in the election, only 27% voted in person on the actual election day with another 27% voting in person before election day and 46% voting by mail. When it came to counting the votes, many states counted the in-person votes first and this would go on to fuel a predicted but unnerving aspect to the election count[36].

The Biden campaign, being mindful of the impact of the pandemic, had largely been encouraging of early voting and voting by mail. The Trump campaign, on the other hand, had been dismissive of pandemic concerns and also had characterised voting by mail as being dubious. Consequently there was a partisan split in the way the two sets of voters went about voting. 37% of Trump’s votes were cast on election day, compared to only 17% of Biden’s votes[37]. As a consequence, initial returns on election night looked far, far better for Trump than they were in reality. In addition, with several marginal states having slim margins, the election count was not conclusive until several days after the election. This delay made what was a substantial electoral victory by Biden (in terms of both the electoral college and the popular vote) appear to be much narrower.

Before the election was conclusively called for Biden, Larry Correia was already convinced that something was substantially amiss.

“I am more offended by how ham fisted, clumsy, and audacious the fraud to elect him is than the idea of Joe Biden being president. I think Joe Biden is a corrupt idiot, however, I think America would survive him like we’ve survived previous idiot administrations. However, what is potentially fatal for America is half the populace believing that their elections are hopelessly rigged and they’re eternally fucked. And now, however this shakes out in court, that’s exactly what half the country is going to think.  People are pissed off, and rightfully so.”

https://monsterhunternation.com/2020/11/05/the-2020-election-fuckery-is-afoot/

The fraud, according to Correia, was so glaringly obvious as to be undeniable. Correia pulled together claims he had read on the internet and appealed to his ability as a former accountant to identify the fraud.

“Now, as a suspicious auditor type who spent a lot of hours looking for fuckery in complex systems, my gut tells me fake ballots were getting dumped into the system to make up the difference. And oh look, here is a giant pile of red flags indicating that’s the case.”

ibid

A few days later, Correia was appealing to a statistical distribution sometimes used in forensic accounting known as Benford’s Law.

“Basically, when numbers are aggregated normally, they follow a distribution curve. When numbers are fabricated, they don’t. When human beings create what they think of as “random” numbers, they’re not. This is an auditing tool for things like looking for fabricated invoices. It also applies to elections. A normal election follows the expected curve. If you look at a 3rd world dictatorship’s election numbers, it looks like a spike or a saw.

There’s a bunch of different people out there running the numbers for themselves and posting the results so you can check their math. It appears that checking various places around the country Donald Trump’s votes follow the curve. The 3rd party candidates follow the curve. Down ballot races follow the curve. Hell, even Joe Biden’s votes follow the curve for MOST of the country. But then when you look at places like Pittsburgh the graph looks like something that would have made Hugo Chavez blush.”

https://monsterhunternation.com/2020/11/09/election-2020-the-more-fuckery-update/

In fact, Benford’s Law applies only to some types of data and the electoral data of the kind Correia was referring to would not necessarily follow the law even if it was 100% above board. The Wikipedia article on Benford’s Law had prior to the election carried a section explaining its limitations with election data but in the wake of the 2020 election, there were attempts to remove it. Vox Day used this to falsely claim that Wikipedia had only added in these details after the election[38] but in fact, his own more limited copy of Wikipedia (Infogalactic) had removed the same information in the wake of the election[39].

Day was of course convinced that Trump had in fact won and the size of Biden’s victory was the clearest evidence of the “Trumpslide” reality.

“And as to why this unprecedented level of fraud has taken place, the answer is that because there was a Trumpslide. Donald Trump is on track to receive 10 percent more votes than he did to win the Presidency in 2016. Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012 with 5.2 percent fewer votes than he received in 2008. Bill Clinton was reelected in 1996 with 5.5 percent more votes than he received in 1992. 

Donald Trump’s reelection was shaping up to become the biggest landslide since Reagan… which is why millions of fraudulent ballots were produced to try to provide the media with a means of overturning the election results.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20211121021542/https://voxday.net/2020/11/06/fuckery-is-afoot/

That Trump himself and his polarising personality was the underlying reason why so many Americans had come out to vote against him was not a hypothesis Day was willing to consider. Instead, Day followed the Qanon lead and took the electoral confusion as actually a part of Donald Trump’s master plan. The apparent (actually illusory) fraud was all part of a trap laid by Trump to allow him to secure future elections.

“This tends to confirm my hypothesis that President Trump was so confident of his reelection that he was willing to appear to put his second term at risk in order to secure free and fair elections in 2024 and beyond. After all, what is the point of winning a second term if the Swamp is simply going to undo everything you have accomplished. This would also explain the need to wait for the second term to drain the Swamp; the only way to systematically excise the full extent of the fraud was to expose it to everyone.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20211121022337/https://voxday.net/2020/11/13/too-implausible-for-fiction/

This plan was also part of what Day believed was Trump setting himself up as a future Ceasar-like figure of American politics. Trump, Day believed, was preparing to “Cross the Rubicon” and take ultimate power.

“As Rex explains contra the media narrative, we’re not waiting for Trump’s concession. We’re waiting to see if JOE BIDEN is going to concede in order to reduce the amount of damage to the Republic and the risk of widespread violence or not. That’s the whole point of this drip-drip-drip of increasingly important information, and it explains why Trump has been remarkably constrained in his actions to date. It also explains why Biden has been hesitant to assert himself as the President-Elect and why Kamala Harris hasn’t resigned from the Senate yet. 

It’s a waiting game for now. They’re waiting for the next shoe to drop while Trump patiently waits for them to concede. But we know the clock is running”

https://web.archive.org/web/20210808102011/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2020/11/were-waiting-for-bidens-concession.html

Correia also continued to push the claim that the election data showed multiple red flags all pointing to the high likelihood of electoral fraud[40] but neither his own analysis nor the myriad internet claims that were circulating stood up to scrutiny. The Trump campaign and two independent legal groups, began court challenges to the results, raising hopes in those who believed that fraud had occurred that damming evidence would soon be revealed. Vox Day initially put a lot of hope in these legal challenges, seeing them as part of Trump’s master plan[41].

Those legal challenges would eventually descend into farce and Trump’s own Attorney General would concede on December 2 that there was no evidence of widespread fraud in the election[42]. By this point the theories among Trump supporters about events had become even more wild. Day was now convinced that an elaborate plot involving the voting machine companies, the Biden campaign and the CIA had swung the election electronically. Luckily the whole plot was about to be exposed because the second US civil war had already broken out clandestinely[43]. In what amounted to a theory that read like a poorly plotted thriller, an elite US special forces unit had attacked a CIA base in Germany and had recovered the servers used by the CIA to steal the election. Of course, no evidence of this fantastical tale ever eventuated.

Indeed, nothing eventuated or at least nothing that validated Qanon on the one hand or the more mundane election fraud claims on the other.

Don’t they know it’s the end of the world

On November 4, with the election still unsettled but with the tide turned to Biden, Sarah Hoyt closed her blog post for the day saying:

“May G-d have mercy on our souls.
I’ll continue posting as long as I’m allowed on line. I’m sure it won’t be a full year. No, the dems won’t be able to hold us, but what comes next only G-d knows. And with the world involved the chances of it being anything like our Republic are minimal.
Make what preparations you can for the hard crash. Don’t think I’m being pessimistic. This is your warning. Sauve qui peut.”

https://accordingtohoyt.com/2020/11/04/and-all-the-devils-are-here-2/

Shortly before the election, Hoyt had been published in an anthology, along with Brad Torgersen and Jon Del Arroz on the theme of dystopian versions of America if Trump lost the election.

In the anthology (titled Divided We Fall: One Possible Future) Hoyt’s story has radical leftists quickly take over urban centres after Biden wins and within a few years, Chinese troops are rumoured to have invaded the now chaotic USA. In Brad Torgersen’s story, the Federal government are attempting to criminalise the Church of the Latter-Day Saints. The central character is exasperated by plans by the Mormon resistance to only use non-violent resistance:

“The people I used to work for don’t care how nice and peaceful we are. We’ve been branded the 21st century equivalent of Branch Davidians. The three-letter agencies are going to do whatever they want to us, and I frankly don’t see any way out of it, except for Utah and a bunch of other Mountain West states to secede.”

Henckel, Mack; Torgersen, Brad; Hoyt, Sarah; Del Arroz, Jon; Noring, Lea; Winder, Chris; Cartwright, Rick; Thompson, Julian; Smith, Leigh; Henckel, Mack. Divided we Fall: One Possible Future .

An America that was part gulag and part the Fox News portrait of Venezuela was one election away. The month prior to the election, Sarah Hoyt had argued that a civil war was something the left was trying to force the right into. She concluded that argument by saying:

“Sure, the time might come — and unfortunately not far off — to live free or die. But if the time comes it must be done with forethought and in the certainty it won’t lead to what we’re trying to avoid. Trusting the left to poke us into it, and thinking it will turn out all right is a fool’s game.

This is no time to go wobbly. If the republic can be saved at the ballot box, the cartridge box should stay shut. Full and ready, but shut.”

https://accordingtohoyt.com/2020/09/21/burning-and-curing/

It was a sentiment, Brad Torgersen had echoed a month earlier.

“Marxism is heinous. Marxism is death.None of which is talked about nor acknowledged by the American liberal establishment. Especially not in 2020, when the American liberal establishment is eagerly shedding what’s left of its liberalism in favor of an aggressive and totalitarian form of Leftism. Dissenters to be punished on sight. The American Left will cost you your job. They will smear your name across social media trying to discredit and defame you, so that you cannot support yourself. And worse.Wokeness is just Marxist doctrine dressed up in rainbow clothing. The people following this doctrine in America will gradually prune back—and then eliminate—the soap box, the ballot box, and the jury box. Until all we’ve got left to fight them with is the cartridge box.I really hope we can stop them with the ballot box. But I keep my cartridge boxes well-stocked. And I visit my ranges regularly. And so should you.”

https://www.facebook.com/brad.torgersen/posts/4917385918287602

While these particular doomsday scenarios may seem absurd, the underlying fear of the power of the government of the USA has substance. The capacity for the power of the Federal government or the office of the Presidency to be abused is enormous and the historical precedents disturbing — even if the main victims of such abuses have been indigenous Americans, Black Americans and immigrant communities. However, it is the logic of these fantasies of persecution combined with an unshakeable belief that the left/liberals/Democrats have stolen or subverted the election process and that the remaining option is violence alongside the active preparation for such violence including the stockpiling of weapons.

The ready and irreversible escalation of conflict had plagued the Puppy campaigns to the point Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen actively alienated potential allies within fandom while using the rhetoric of persecution to reinforce group loyalty among supporters. On a national scale Donald Trump had followed a similar strategy, often alienating parts of the Republican party. By the end of 2020 the strategy had exhausted a nation.

Over 300 thousand Americans had died of Covid-19 which had become the third-largest cause of death[42]. An actual palpable disaster had hit America in 2020 but the eyes of the right were on imaginary disasters.

Next Time: Debarkle Conclusion


Footnotes

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51 responses to “Debarkle Chapter 74: Meanwhile…Election 2020”

  1. Censorship should not be outsourced to private corporations who do not have to abide by constitutional principles. The big tech companies should not be restricting what groups organize using their platforms and what people in those groups say to each other.

    Regardless of whether rioting, looting, and arson are caused by agents provocateur (which I highly doubt), if the government abdicates its responsibility to protect lives and property, then citizens will take up that protection themselves. Liberals here in the US argue that it is not necessary for citizens to have a personal right to own guns for sale-defense, then when riots happen, they order the police to stand down in order to protect the routers from harm.

    Like

    • //Regardless of whether rioting, looting, and arson are caused by agents provocateur//

      We actually know the names and affiliations of people who encouraged looting and attacks on the police. It’s right there in the essay. If I’ve made an error of fact there than by all means challenge my mistakes but to say you doubt it without engaging in the documented evidence is just bizarre.

      As for communities banding together in self-defence, that is what people did across the US against the influx of far-right elements during the Trump years – particularly at Charolttesville…the right also condemned people for doing so. When “self defence” only applies to the right, it’s not a principled stance, just a way of excusing rightwing violence.

      Liked by 6 people

  2. “The main sign of when madness has possessed a crowd, or a civilization, is when the people are fearful of imaginary or trivial dangers but nonchalant about real and deep dangers. When that happens, there is gradual deterioration of mores, orientation, and social institutions – the Crazy Years have arrived.”

    Ah, yes, that would be like when people don’t bat an eyelash about an attempted coup and overthrow of American democracy and call it “tourism”, while going ballistic over imaginary election fraud. Crazy Years, indeed. 🙄

    Liked by 6 people

    • Yeah, this was exactly my reaction to that opening paragraph as well – that Wright didn’t seem to be able to process the idea that he might have been writing about himself and his colleagues.
      I still recall my bemusement at the way the US right repeatedly went ballistic over “refugee caravans” that were all a secret plan to invade the country, and yet dismissed BLM as having any meaning or significance.
      Crazy Years, indeed.

      Liked by 5 people

    • A lot of the Puppy commentary is understandable when you realize they just aren’t very bright and are entirely unprincipled. I mean, Correia is not that smart, not a particularly good auditor, and an entirely unprincipled partisan hack, and he’s the shining star in that bunch. Everything only goes downhill from there.

      Liked by 4 people

      • “What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

        Sums up pretty much everything Puppies and other RWNJ say.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Tpyo patrol

    This figure was later revealed to have been a member of a group called the “Aryan Cowboys” had been involved in previous racist crimes

    possibly ‘who had’?

    …how Donald Trump had some how won the 2016 election.

    somehow

    …a mis-judgement on the Democrat’s part

    Deomctrats’

    …Electoral shenanigans would not be able to out fox Trump

    outfox

    …a section explaining it’s limitations

    its

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s a quibble, but antifa, like black bloc, is a role and not an organisation – even a loose one. Anarchists find right wing confusion about this hilarious – which is why you used to see so many people proclaiming themself “chair of antifa” or “antifa central committee” in their social media profiles

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Re “crazy years” and “psychopaths”

    The most vital urgent and DEEP understanding everyone needs to RE-learn is that psychopaths typically are not physically violent crazies but always stealth predators (exploitative deceivers, which explains why the public has been fed a MISLEADING understanding of psychopaths). And then… the most vital urgent and DEEP understanding everyone needs to gain is that a network of manipulating psychopaths ARE governing big businesses (eg official medicine), nations and the world (the evidence is irrefutable) and that, therefore, the Covid Scamdemic is a VERY DESTRUCTIVE WAR AGAINST NON-RULING PEOPLE EVERYWHERE — you and I. But that’s only ONE part of the equation that makes up the destructive human condition.

    It is NOT just a matter of “draining the swamp” at the top and we’re back to our former (sick) “normal.”

    The true, WHOLE, but “politically inconvenient” and “culturally forbidden” reality is more encompassing because “the swamp that needs draining” on a psychological and behavioral level is over 90% of people anywhere. Study (NOT briefly scan) “The 2 Married Pink Elephants In The Historical Room –The Holocaustal Covid-19 Coronavirus Madness: A Sociological Perspective & Historical Assessment Of The Covid “Phenomenon”” at https://www.rolf-hefti.com/covid-19-coronavirus.html

    Without a proper understanding, and full acknowledgment, of the true WHOLE problem and reality, no real constructive LASTING change is possible for humanity.

    Then … SPREAD THOSE DEEP TRUTHS FAR AND WIDE… and DO the RIGHT THING.

    “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” — George Orwell

    Like

  6. So has Beale ever acknowledged that by his own test, Q was nothing more than a morale-boosting LARP?

    I’m really worried about the future of democracy in the USA. John Scalzi pointed out that the Republican playbook this century can be summed up as: “But what if we…didn’t?” — and we’re sliding down a slippery slope to where the “didn’t” includes “accept the results of elections that we don’t like.” At which point you no longer have democracy. We are at a point where democracy is no longer compatible with white supremacism: this is cause for rejoicing for those of us who hate racism, but it means that a large number of racists become willing to simply jettison democracy.

    More typos:

    aspects of acclerationism

    accelerationism

    agent provaceteurs

    agents provocateur

    he regarded the most pressing of the day

    Most pressing issue, I suspect?

    niether his own analysis

    neither

    Hoyt had been published in anthology

    an anthology

    Liked by 1 person

    • Please, David.

      That was written by Teddy-of-2020, who is different from Teddy-of-2021. Nothing he ever says is binding on his future self.

      I’m sure it’s so annoying for Puppies that their own words remain visible for longer than the time it takes them to vomit them out and then read their fawning/ravening comments.

      Such an inconvenient truth.

      Liked by 2 people

      • He’s the confirmatory evidence of the existence of the multiverse that physicists have been looking for for years. Every time he opens his mouth the universe splits and an entirely new Vox is created.

        Liked by 4 people

  7. Tyop in note 15: “the ma plotting the bomb attack” . Ma is too informal for this sort of essay; should be “the mother plotting the bomb attack”.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. A few typos spotted, and one potential re-phrasing:

    “In reality, Benford’s Law applies only to some kinds of sets of data and electoral data of the kind Correia was referring to did not.” – needs to be re-phrased a bit. I’d suggest “electoral data of the kind Correia was referring to was not one of these.

    “niether” – neither

    “Empirically the ready and numerous political alliances and common ideas between, for example, 21st century US right-libertarians and the alt-right and white nationalist movements demonstrates the flaws in this model.” – demonstrates should be singular demonstrate, because you’re demonstrating one thing (the flaws in the model) rather than many.

    “the ma plotting” – the man, perhaps?

    “Williamson would maintain a consistent criticism of police abuse of authority in the comming months.” – coming

    Like

  9. I’m afraid I’m getting addicted to reading this tale. Particularly the quotes from Torgersen and Hoyt. There’s some really unpleasantly effective Dopamine reinforcement I get when I hit their cites:

    “I’ll continue posting as long as I’m allowed on line. I’m sure it won’t be a full year. ”

    I’m just consistently finding myself saying “What the fuck, dude?” Over and over again. I shouldn’t be surprised anymore by whatever toxic sludge you’ve found amidst their web presence. But I am. And then I get another Dopamine hit. Is there some kind of program for this condition?

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I’m old enough to remember when Glen Reynolds was a cheerful libertarian-leaning centrist. His progression from that to advocating that people run over protestors blocking traffic has been one of many similar depressing trajectories.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I spent way too much of the period after the election transfixed by right wingers like Correia laying out their baroque conspiracy theories. It’s tough to overstate just how sad and shoddy these were; most of them were the sorts of things that were debunked before they posted them and were pretty instantly flagged as BS by Facebook. I.e., “ they wheeled in suitcases full of ballots in Fulton County!” When, on planet reality, those were the standard ballot containers used in that county. At which point the complaint would expand to include the fact of FB fact-checking transparent nonsense and lies. And then with Correia you had the extra pleasure of his insistence that he is the One True Auditor. Bad craziness, man.

    Like

  12. Need [4], [5], [14], [18], [25], [26], [36] in the body of the chapter.

    The first reference to footnote [42] comes before [41] in the body.

    Your second footnote [42] should be [44]. (The fact that it’s the answer to the ultimate question is no excuse!)

    >also many libertarians also
    pick an “also”

    >convicted at firing is AR-15
    of firing his

    >was the perfect conditions
    was/condition or were/conditions

    >adopted at a time a conspiratorial perspective
    a time when a conspiratorial

    >Wikipedia was had added
    remove “was”

    Liked by 1 person

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