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Sunday, October 02, 2016

Victims of the fever swamp

by digby

This is one of the most disturbing stories I've ever read about one of my fellow Americans. It's about a woman, down on her luck and suffering some mental health issues, who goes down the rabbit hole of the right wing conspiracy fever swamp. Here's a little taste of how she spends her time:

“Oh, look,” she said, reading a headline. “‘A West Virginia member of the House of Delegates says Hillary Clinton should be tried for treason, murder and crimes against the U.S. Constitution and then hung on the Mall in Washington, D.C.’ ”

She scrolled.

“I want to find out if he’s going to the nut house because of it,” she said.

She lit a cigarette and squinted at the screen.

“Look at this,” she said, pointing to a photo of Michelle Obama with a caption suggesting she is a man. “It’s everywhere.”

And then she began explaining, step by step, how she had come to believe that the first lady might actually be a man named Michael.

She figured it started with the Christian televangelists she had followed since the 1980s. In particular, she loved John Hagee, who had said that the Antichrist would appear as a “blasphemer and a homosexual.” And Jerry Falwell, who had blamed the Sept. 11 attacks on “the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians.”

“Also,” Melanie said, “Falwell disclosed that the first Christmas Bill and Hillary spent in the White House, Hillary collected ornaments from homosexuals all over the world. And those ornaments were hung in the White House foyer.”

And if that wasn’t enough to prove they were “anti-Bible,” she said, the Clintons went on to support allowing closeted gay people to serve in the military, which she saw as a watershed moment when America began turning away from God.

Then came Obama — “Obama and his gay initiatives,” she said — and her suspicions about him deepened with each one. First he supported allowing gays to serve openly in the military. Then gay marriage. Then came the one that struck Melanie as the strangest and most sinister of all: allowing transgender people to use bathrooms matching their gender identity.

“It’s like he wants to classify us — alpha, beta, gamma, delta,” she said, referring to the dystopian future described in the novel “Brave New World.”

As she tried to understand it all, the best explanation she found was that Obama himself must be gay, a notion introduced and reinforced by all sorts of stories and photos and videos showing up in her Facebook feed. Of these, few were more convincing than a video of the late comedian Joan Rivers, which was what brought her to the matter of the first lady.

“Here we go,” she said now, finding it on her phone.

She read the headline out loud: “Joan Rivers died two months after calling Obama gay and Michelle a transvestite.”

And then she scrolled through one YouTube video after another, including a 13-minute 28-second one with more than 1.4 million views that she watched again now. In it, a reporter asks Rivers when America will have its first gay president. “We already have it with Obama, so let’s just calm down,” Rivers says as she walks away, adding, “You know Michelle is a tranny.” “I’m sorry, she’s a what?” the reporter asks. “A transgender,” Rivers replies. “We all know that.”

“So,” Melanie said, explaining why she thought Rivers was serious. “There are societies out there, especially in Hollywood, that we don’t know about. Joan is in the LGTB community; she’s steeped in it. I watch her stuff on E! Anyone knows that.”

“So,” she continued, “I think if she comes out and says we already have a gay in the White House and Michelle is a tranny, I mean, do you think she’s nuts?”

She took a drag on her cigarette.

“Well, I don’t,” she said, and turned her attention to the question of the Obama children.

“Let’s look,” she said, and began googling.

She started with mrconservative.com, where there was a story, headlined “Evidence Michelle Obama Never Gave Birth to Malia & Sasha,” that said: “We have seen pictures of Barack and Michelle dating back far before they had children, like shots from their wedding, but when it comes to what would have been Michelle’s childbearing years, there is absolutely nothing. Not one picture of her pregnant or with a newborn baby.” It continued: “Ancestry.com and GenealogyBank.com have no records of Malia or Sasha being born,” and also said that “Malia and Sasha [bear] little resemblance to their parents,” which “could very well be because the two girls were adopted, possibly from Morocco.” After reading that, Melanie scrolled through links to versions of the story on americasfreedomfighters.com and redflagnews.com and others among the dozens of similar websites that have proliferated in recent years and draw millions of visitors each month. She looked up from her phone.

“I think those kids were kidnapped,” she said. “We should be looking for those kids’ parents.”

Austin is online often, checking her Facebook and Twitter feeds for stories involving the Obamas and the Clintons, many of which come from conspiracy-theory websites. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)
She kept scrolling for more evidence.

“Obama gay is on Infowars,” she said, pausing for a moment on the conspiracy theory website that now had more than 6.9 million U.S. visitors per month and a daily news program hosted by Alex Jones, who had interviewed Donald Trump. “I just want to finish by saying your reputation’s amazing,” Trump had told Jones in December. In May, Jones had devoted his show to “the possibility that Michelle Obama was born a man,” and as the Republican National Convention began, he had hosted a rally attended by Trump adviser Roger Stone. Melanie kept scrolling.

Obama Muslim. Obama ISIS. Christian beheadings. A link to an article on a website called commonsenseshow.com detailing how the U.S. government had imported 30,000 guillotines in preparation for martial law, and explaining that a single guillotine “reportedly can chop off the heads of about 100 people per hour,” so that “in one ten hour day, 30 million people could be executed.”

It was afternoon now, and Melanie got herself a glass of iced tea. She thought about the two legislators who had said Hillary Clinton should be executed, and all the memes, and all the stories on all the websites. The more she read, she said, the more certain she was becoming that she was not out of the ordinary, and that her hospitalization, for instance, was just one more example of an increasingly unjust world. She went over it again: the police cruiser, the injections, the medical bills after. Her hips still hurt. Her gait was off. She was almost out of cigarettes.

Last February she was involuntarily committed for a spell over her obsession with all this nutty stuff. She says this:

“So you see, the media, everybody helped me get to February,” she said, referring to the day the state police took her off to the hospital. “I didn’t get there on my own. But I’m supposed to be the one to pay the price for it for mouthing off? I need to learn my lesson?”

She got up from the table.

“It’s not that I’m some whacked-out whatever,” she said. “I had a lot of help.”

Indeed she did.

And, by the way, Donald Trump is more like her than people care to admit.