False Flag Dog-Wag Warning

I’m not a Truther and never have been. I don’t obsess over the JFK assassination, which (however) always sort of struck me as a CIA and/or Mafia and Cuban exile hit. My interactions with conspiracy theorists over the years since 9/11 have been ugly and close at times to violent.

I have never run across a nastier group of fake-macho paranoid-style know it all Know Nothing bullies in all my life. In my experience, the 9/11 truth crowd makes the Spartacus Youth League look like a nice little tea party when it comes to flinging venomous abuse at serious left intellectuals and activists.

That said, let me declare something else I’ve been thinking since the Inauguration of the Orange Haired Beast as President of the United States: the time has never been riper for a false flag terror attack. Reality television product Donald Trump and his top political advisor, Steve Bannon, a veteran right wing propaganda filmmaker, need a dog to wag.

Think about it.  The BannonTrumPence administration came in with the lowest popularity numbers in the history of the modern U.S. presidency.  Herr Donald lost the popular vote by nearly 2 million tallies. His presidency has been one Twitter-fueled travesty after another, from his ridiculous Day One trip to the CIA headquarters to his clumsy, unconstitutional, and widely protested Muslim travel ban to his bizarre charge that Barack Obama bugged his phones to his epic fail on Obamacare. The ridiculous Trump’s current approval rating (36%) fell to new record lows twice this week. What a loser!

Trump will at some point face backlash from the white middle and working class constituency that voted him into office because he wasn’t Hillary Clinton and because of his fake-populist promise that he would represent their interests in the White House.  There’s nothing forthcoming for working class families and rural Americans from Trump’s arch-plutocratic agenda of tax-cuts and de-regulation.  Many of his backers are going to realize that they were played and that his pledges were nothing but hot air.

What to do?  Trump and Bannon are certainly cognizant of two key bits of history.  First, they remember George W. Bush’s low-popularity prior to the September 11, 2001 jetliner attacks.  Dubya also came into the White House after losing the popular vote.  He was also widely understood to be an arrogant and moronic jackass. Then the planes hit the towers and the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania and Bush Junior’s popularity numbers went through the roof. It was an overnight transformation – enough to embolden Bush43 and his neocon handlers to go ahead with their longstanding dream of invading Iraq (despite the curious fact that Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks).

Second, Trump and Bannon certainly recall the roles that the Paris and Sacramento attacks played in boosting his white nationalist paranoid-style candidacy. As Mike Lofgren reminds us in the preface to the paperback edition of his widely-read volume The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, the nation’s ubiquitous, elite-generated, paranoia-inducing “message of fear about terrorism…helps explain why Trump’s candidacy took off like moon rocket in November and December of 2015, the period of the terrorist attack in Paris and the murders in San Bernardino.”  As Lofgren recalled:

“Government officials and corporate media whipped up a mood in the country that approached hysteria.  Trump deftly exploited that mood to his advantage.  By being the only politicians brazen enough to openly advocate torture – not merely to gain information, but to inflict pain for its own sake – he tapped into the revenge fantasies of millions of Americans who have been fed a steady diet of fear since 9/11…Voters in the Republican primary in South Carolina who handed Trump a walkover victory declared terrorism to be their foremost concern, one that eclipsed a low-wage economy — deteriorating living standards that have led to an actual increase in the death rate of the GOP’s core demographic of late-middle-aged, non-college educated whites; and the most expensive and least available health care in the so-called developed world. So while Trump — a Vietnam-era draft avoider who appeared not even to know what the nuclear triad was — could hardly be considered a product of the national security sector, his demagogic skills and authoritarian demeanor placed him in a far better position than his rivals to exploit the national neurosis created by the war on terror.”

Note the wry look of confidence on Trump’s face even as his promise to repeal Obamacare went up in flames. Maybe he’s got Bannon and others at work producing a great new propaganda film to be released this spring: “ISIS Attacks the Homeland 2017.” I wonder if he’ll be willing to sacrifice one of his Trump buildings to the production.

Whoever gets the job a few rungs down the ladder of plausible deniability is going to have to do better than Kellyanne Microwave Conway’s “Bowling Green Massacre.”

But seriously, you don’t have to be “Truthy” to worry about false flags these strange dystopian days. Noam Chomsky has taken massive abuse from the 9/11 conspiracy crowd for not buying the “Inside Job” storyline on the jetliner assault. He’s a noted and longstanding critic of conspiracy thinking.  Listen however to Chomsky’s response to Alternet’s Jan Frel when she recently asked him if Trump’s supporters will turn against the freaky new royal brute in the Oval Office anytime soon:

“I think that sooner or later the white working-class constituency will recognize, and in fact, much of the rural population will come to recognize, that the promises are built on sand. There is nothing there. And then what happens becomes significant. In order to maintain his popularity, the Trump administration will have to try to find some means of rallying the support and changing the discourse from the policies that they are carrying out, which are basically a wrecking ball to something else. Maybe scapegoating, saying, “Well, I’m sorry, I can’t bring your jobs back because these bad people are preventing it.” And the typical scapegoating goes to vulnerable people: immigrants, terrorists, Muslims and elitists, whoever it may be. And that can turn out to be very ugly. I think that we shouldn’t put aside the possibility that there would be some kind of staged or alleged terrorist act, which can change the country instantly.”

It isn’t just that the current historical moment cries out big dog wag.  This is a presidency that has merged fact and fiction to a degree that is off the historical scale.  One of Trump’s senior counselors, the bizarre Conway, has openly advanced the notion of “alternatives facts.” Trump’s top political advisor Steve Bannon is a noted war geek and has produced films and run a website designed precisely to twist current events in accord with a hard-right white nationalist/fascist agenda.  Bannon’s whole life is all about Fake News and Fake History. A dominant narrative in his rich propaganda resume is the notion that Wester Judeo-Christian “civilization” is in a life or death struggle with radical Islam. Now he sits in a high seat on the National Security Council, itching for a pretext to unleash a New Crusades, replete with the use of tactical nuclear weapons and the torture of Islamo-terrorists’ family members.

Besides building both his real estate career and his political rise largely on the manipulation of the news media and on Unreality Television, Trump is addicted to falsification and lies.  He is a one-man Fabrication Machine, armed with a “big beautiful Twitter account” that regularly spits out absurd and false charges (“Obama tapped my phones”) and claims (he “won the popular vote”) without the slightest hint of remorse.

The Trump White House’s serial falsifications are straight out of Goebbels, Hitler’s Third Reich propaganda minister.  “Repeat a lie a thousand times,” Goebbels said, “and it becomes the truth.” Goebbels used that principle to run his horrific campaign against Jews and he succeeded in the most dreadful way imaginable.

It’s the same idea with Trump’s preposterous assertions that the United States is being ravaged by wild hordes of illegal alien criminals or that climate change is not indisputably the result of human activity.  Recite the myth again and again and – like the insane right wing talk radio claim that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were radical Marxists (ask a radical Marxist like me about that!) – it becomes comes a material force in history.

That certainly happened with the Bush administration’s claims that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was linked to al Qaeda and 9/11 and stockpiled with deadly weapons of mass destruction – gigantic deceptions that were disseminated with no small help from the mass media (including no less of a “liberal” outpost than The New York Times) that the right-wing noise machine loves to absurdly and ubiquitously describe as “liberal” and even “left.”

Of course, the White House and its more well-placed “deep state” backers could be egged on to the commissioning of a false flag operation by the Democrats’ own impressive Fake News operation – Russiagate. Maybe the Democrats’ effort to preposterously portray Trump as a Manchurian president under the control of the Kremlin will encourage him to direct his dog-wag at the Russians. What better way to undermine the Russia charges than to engage in a hopefully controlled military conflict with Moscow in Ukraine or Syria?

A real terrorist attack is probably more likely than a “staged or alleged one.”  Trump has clearly kept the U.S. imperial military machine set on kill in the Muslim world.  His body count already includes some big, mass-murderous, women- and child-killing assaults on civilians in Yemen and Iraq.  He’s got U.S. killers on the ground in Syria. He’s only getting started. This and his travel ban and more are certainly inciting Islamo-terrorist cells and fans at home and abroad.  And who’s to say that many in and loyal to the current presidency wouldn’t be more than happy to let a major ISIS-like attack occur in a major U.S. city one of these days? They’d figure it would be just the Reichstag Fire they need to make their liberal and left critics shut the Hell up – something Bannon told media operatives to do just five days into the current presidency.

According to a 1990 Vanity Fair interview, Trump’s first wife Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that Trump kept a book of Hitler’s speeches near his bed: “Last April, perhaps in a surge of Czech nationalism, Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that from time to time her husband reads a book of Hitler’s collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed … Hitler’s speeches, from his earliest days up through the Phony War of 1939, reveal his extraordinary ability as a master propagandist,” Marie Brenner wrote.

Having followed Trump’s speeches and Tweets (at no small cost to my own mental health) over the last few months, I don’t find it at all difficult to believe that Trump was an enthusiastic reader of Hitler’s 1930s speeches.

Truth these days is stranger than dystopian political science fiction (Orwell, Huxley, Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, etc.) in the U.S.  Along the way the boundaries between political truth and such fiction have merged to a frightening degree.  We may have a short window to undertake a democratic people’s revolution to save social justice, livable ecology, popular governance, and truth itself.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).