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For the people who lie to my father

For the people who lie to my father

hannityWorking 12-hour days in the blazing sun doesn’t leave a lot of time for independent reading. What my father knows about the world may be at odds with empirical reality, but his views line up almost perfectly with the opinions of the people who lie to him. The people who lie to my father long ago earned his allegiance, leveraging his biases to turn his political influence to their own interests. They will probably never be punished for what they have stolen from him, but they will always have my special contempt.

To be clear, my father has made his own choices. As Homer Simpson once explained, it takes two to lie: one to lie and the other to listen. In theory, he could have tapped into a very different collection of alignments.

He is not without education. My father has a college degree, though that might not mean what you’d think. He earned it across seven grueling years of plodding part-time study in a small regional state school.

He took classes when he could, without much sense of a degree plan. Apart from an older brother, no one in the family had ever been to college. The goal of his education was cloudy, but terminating his studies early would probably have meant joining his brother in Vietnam. So he stuck with it year by year, class by class, supporting himself with physically demanding, dangerous night work in a metal smelter. He spent very little time on campus and earned the grades he needed to get out with a degree.

It is true that the Internet is at his fingertips in all its depth and variety, from the BBC to 4chan and beyond. Though it arrived relatively late in his life, a vast pool of unfiltered data is available to be categorized and sorted into the most comprehensive, global vision of reality that human beings have ever been able to assemble.

In theory he might have formed very different, independent views on the world by studying contrasting ideas, but that isn’t how most people form their worldview. None of us have the time to sort and weigh our entire reality against an endless wave of dissonant data. Most of us have about as much individual influence over our political inclinations as we do over our preference for sports teams. Born a Sox fan? You’ll probably die a Sox fan. Our assumptions about the world are heavily influenced by the culture around us.

Three hundred years ago my father’s alignments would have been steered by clan chiefs. Now his mental framework is shaped far away, by people he’ll never meet or know. Those opinions are transmitted and reinforced by the provincial retainer class where he lives in Southeast Texas. A thin layer of ministers, attorneys and other professionals with some education and access to the world set the frame for their community based on ideas crafted elsewhere.

Donald Trump enjoys remarkably higher support from people who still live in their original hometown. While this fact has some roots in education and economic mobility, it also reflects the power of local opinion networks in shaping political behavior, especially in places left behind by the accelerating pace of global change. Thinking independently carries hefty costs. The people who lie to my father enjoy their strongest influence among those who have seen relatively little of the rest of the world.

The preferences, prejudices, and alignments of that narrow local retainer class explain why my father gravitates toward the charlatans at Breitbart and Fox News while regarding the Washington Post and New York Times with contempt. Over the past thirty years, entire industries have emerged to lie to my father; shaped, steered and exploited by these local influencers.

Three categories of professional liars have played a special role in shaping my father’s framework of reality, destroying his and his community’s capacity to leverage politics to improve their lives. A few of them, like the modern shamans who have set themselves up as folksy provincial ministers, he knows personally. However, most of them are far away and unknown. People who built Fox News, Breitbart and the galaxy of far right propaganda networks are impossibly distant. And political disinformation engines like The Heritage Foundation and the Heartland Institute, are almost entirely unknown to him.

Preachers play a crucial role in this network. If you live in some coastal city, the word ‘preacher’ may conjure an image of a kindly man in a collar. Compared against that paradigm, this assessment of their role might sound harsh. Out in flyover country and especially in the South, churches are more often founded and led by venture-pastors, setting up their own “ministries” absent any accountability or preparation. In my father’s community, “pastors” often have as much qualification and vetting as your local palm reader. They have built a business model on alienation, a machine built to exploit the decline of community and accountability.

Local characters who ‘hear the voice of God’ one day and decide to set themselves up with a congregation play a very special role in lying to my father. These cultish apocalyptic venture pastors with their storefront ministries are scarcely more conscious of their role in this scam than my father. Yet, no one in this entire matrix of disinformation has done more to reinforce the influence of the people who lie to my father.

preacherAspiring venture pastors hold inspirational “healing services.” Right next to the testimonies of healing on their Facebook page you’ll find advertisements for their mortgage services. Let me repeat this in case it slipped by unnoticed. The same self-anointed evangelists touting their ability to conjure miracles from the throne of God are simultaneously selling stuff to their flocks.

If it’s not mortgages, it’s debt relief or one of the most ubiquitous money-making ventures in low-rent religion – Plexus. If you’ve never listened to a pitch for Plexus’ miraculous nutritional supplements, then you probably haven’t been Born Again. The preacher sells congregants the idea that evolution and climate change are liberal hoaxes. Meanwhile his wife sells them unregulated nutritional supplements and “scientific” weight loss cures.

A lifetime of listening to hack preachers ramble about the apocalypse has conditioned my father to believe almost anything. However, if credible figures in the community felt some urge to curb the extremes they could. Using their power to tamp down the paranoia would require some courage, integrity and compassion. Instead, community and political leaders, such as they are, have aligned themselves with the people who lie to my father. They have learned to ride the grift.

What happened when the Jade Helm hysteria went viral? Morally compromised leadership capitalized on it rather than resisting. My father’s Governor, US Senator, and Lt. Governor all stepped up to ride the unmarked helicopters of paranoia.

My father worked hard to earn a modest living until the physical toll of his third life-threatening industrial accident rendered him unemployable. Then, at an advanced age, he took what savings he had accumulated and struggled to build a small business of his own that narrowly supported him and his wife for several more years.

Despite a lifetime of experience to the contrary, the people who lie to my father have convinced this intelligent, insightful man that his enemies are “takers” who game the system. They have convinced him that his culture is under siege from “godless liberals.” Leveraging generations of careful racial programming, they have taught him to feel suspicious of and threatened by people he sees as different.

A man whose family was repeatedly rescued from abject poverty by a liberal innovation called the workers’ compensation system is convinced that the social safety net is destroying America. A man whose wife in her late sickness would have had no access to medical care absent Medicare is convinced that “socialized medicine” is a threat to the survival of western civilization.

My father doesn’t think of himself as a racist, quite the opposite really. As the saying goes, ‘a fish don’t know he’s wet.’ He has no inclination of how his unquestioned assumptions create barriers in the world for people of color. The people who lie to my father are not planning to tell him.

This detail is very important – Those who leverage race to undermine my father’s interests have offered him some tangible value in return. When he enrolled in college, no black man had ever graduated from that school. Women were strongly discouraged from taking classes. A bare advantage offered by race granted him exclusive access to jobs that were marginally more lucrative and less dangerous than those available to blacks and Hispanics.

Race is more than just insularity or ignorance. Race has played a critical role in my father’s survival. And through these narrow racial advantages my father enjoyed, my own life prospects were improved. The people who lie to my father know that his attachment to race is deeper than bigotry or misunderstanding and they use those attachments relentlessly. The race baiters are the mafia of my father’s world. Having performed a favor in the past, they keep coming back to collect.

Of all the people who lie to my father, some of the darkest are unknown to him. They work in so-called “think tanks,” or phony news outlets. Or they operate businesses that thrive on the gray line between political advocacy and fraud. These are people with the education, exposure, and intellect to fully understand the great rightwing grift. Most of the low-rent backwater preachers and politicians who lie to my father are barely more aware of the grift than he is himself. But this network of professional liars carries out their work with eyes wide open and conscience closed tight.

The Heartland Institute is only one dark star in a sick firmament of so-called think tanks. They first gained prominence in the 90’s taking money to generate lies that protected the tobacco industry. Now they have branched out, accepting payments to generate lies about climate change and support the Tea Party Movement. Heartland no longer discloses its donors, for reasons which should be obvious. However, as an homage to their earliest johns, these assholes still brazenly retain a page on their website dedicated to tobacco truthers.

mike-huckabeeAligned with these phony policy institutes is a network of ambiguously organized businesses. Former Arkansas Governor and serial Presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, makes a fine living selling his contact list to hucksters pitching miracle cures to my father. Glenn Beck made a fortune off the gold-coin and food storage industries. Where did my father get the idea that the Clintons murdered Vince Foster? A subsidiary of a conglomerate called Agora that earns millions selling scams to people like my father published a book that launched that particular conspiracy theory.

Why would my father vote for Donald Trump? That’s simple. The people who lie to my father have shared with him the “real” plans of liberals, concealed by the “mainstream media.” Thanks to the people who lie to my father, he is privy to a secret reality, known only to the recipients of certain select newsletters or the visitors to enlightened blogs. For example, he knows that the government has prepared internment camps for “resisters” by repurposing abandoned WalMarts. Trump is, of course, the only chance we have to stop this plan from swinging into action. He believes this shit with the deepest sincerity. And he isn’t alone.

These stupid ideas don’t just emerge out of ether. From fears of the replacement of the dollar with the Amero, to Obama’s campaign to steal your guns, to the ‘climate hoax,’ most of the crazy stories you read on right-wing blogs were born as a carefully tailored grift. Crafted by opportunists and refined in bogus think tanks, these ridiculous stories are then amplified for free by outlets like Breitbart, NewsMax and the DailyCaller. Those sites then rake in cash from ads for gold coins and ‘secret’ investment strategies – the grift that keeps on grifting.

Some of the people who lie to my father are probably true believers, but it would be tough to muster any moral defense of their life’s ambitions. They are paid to invent lies that protect wealthy people from accountability for their abuses. They can color this in any manner they chose, that is, after all, both their talent and their vocation, but they are some of the lowest creatures on the planet.

What were the odds that my father, in his half an hour a day of free time over the past forty years, would ever successfully escape the cultural tractor beam created by these professional crooks? Those odds were low enough that thousands of people could build careers on them, stripping my father and millions of other people of their political power just as blatantly as if they had robbed them on the street. My father had little chance against this machine.

My father might read this. He isn’t going to like it. Years of his hard work placed his children in a position to earn an education, an opportunity they seized. By stepping outside the grift that fed on my father and limited his life choices, his son saw a different path. That path led to a fine, prosperous life, but it placed a chasm between us.

My father might read this, but it won’t reach him. It’s too late for that. So why write it at all?

It would be nice to claim a motive higher than fury, but that would be dishonest. I did not write this for my father. I wrote this for the people who lie to my father. They will probably carry his unwavering trust to the end, but the wider world is beginning to understand what they have done.

I can’t stop them. I can’t stop their vocation from being wildly profitable. I can’t even bring them to any form of justice. But I can let them know that I see them. Formal, material justice may never reach them, but karma can be shockingly relentless.

I love my father and I resent what has been stolen from him and millions of others like him. This post is for the people who lie to my father. It is my promise that I will never forget them or the things they have done.


  1. Chris — I’m writing from my hometown of Staunton, Virginia (Woodrow Wilson’s birthplace) — just three hours from my home in the DC suburbs but a world apart in so many ways. Huge Trump/Pence signs are everywhere. So much in your writing resonates with me and my own experience, and I think this piece was especially beautifully written. Luckily my dad (who never went to college and worked in construction and then in a muffler factory) gets his news from NPR. But after a painful dinner with my aunt and uncle two weeks ago, I can imagine what it would be like if he didn’t. Those who lie to your father must be held accountable. I see them, too — and I’m with you.

  2. I had to stop part way through reading this. Luckily, it’s not my father – he is an educated (mainly self-educated) and open-minded person who figured this shit out years ago. But it’s maybe worse, because it’s my husband. This election cycle is damaging our relationship and it makes me want to weep that he’s fallen prey to it. There is no talking to them, is there? I had great hopes when we agreed to not let fear dominate us after 9-11, but he’s on the internet too much and they sucked him in.

    1. I’m really sorry. We’re watching similar scenarios play out. I’ve got friends from back Texas blustering on about Trump while their wives send emails (not on social media!) about voting for Clinton. Can’t remember an election this nasty and divisive. There has to be a way to step back from this in the future.

      1. The worst part is that Republicans have promised two years (minimum) of non-stop obstruction if Clinton is elected. I posted a New Republic article that is ominous in its predictions. I’ll re-post that here.

        The problem is so bad that even long-time friends are tense with one another. The election is everywhere making it difficult to focus on anything else. It’s all consuming and it is impacting friendships as well as family relationships.

      2. I came across mention of this material from the Holocaust Museum.

        Defusing Hate: A Strategic Guide to Counteract Dangerous Speech

        It’s a crash course in persuasive communication, complete with workbooks (!). The workbooks help you understand your audience and construct messages specifically for them. Probably TMI for this election season, but useful perhaps for the long haul.

        Personally, I’ve found it difficult in this campaign to know how to, if to, attempt to talk to family members and friends about how distressing I find the language used by the Republican candidate.

        I toyed with tying the horrible-ness of the Billy Bush videotape to my own experience as a child and young woman, hoping for something like: “That happened to her, our dear friend?!?!? Well, we can not, will not, vote for anyone who would do that!!!”

        But Chris said that tape moved nothing in the electorate. So my untried tactic would likely have been ineffective. Each team’s supporters occupy totally differing playing fields.

        Honestly, Cathartic’s situation seems unbearable to me.

      3. I responded to a very long-term (50 year) friend’s personal request to tell her why I was supporting HRC (she is a staunch Republican but very “gentile” in her commentary so I thought we might be able to “have” a meaningful conversation on this subject.) I began my response only to be stopped very quickly with another question – how could I overlook the emails? The Foundation? The lies? The abuse of Bill’s victims?

        Parrying, I told her I wasn’t overlooking any of these allegations but that the research I have read indicated negligence but not criminal intent. I could share this information if she was open to considering it – she said “not really”. I asked her if she was happy with her choice of Trump and she said no, but Hillary was much, much worse….

        There was no point in going further. We remain friends but with more caution in our relationship and definite boundaries in our ability to communicate. I don’t even broach the subject with family….It would be counter-productive and create a barrier which would be uncomfortable. I am certain these experiences mirror those that all here have experienced. It’s been very sad, and I believe will create strained relationships into the future given the stated commitment by the Republicans in Congress to investigate Clinton constantly. The roil in our political sector has intruded into our personal lives and I don’t know if these fractures will be able to be mended.

    2. I have segments of family I can’t discuss politics, religion etc and for many in my family I’m already dead because I am gay, so me and my grown daughter are anathema…but this election cycle has further reduced my circle of family and friends. Its not that I am trying to persuade them I just can’t stand silent while the most ridiculous fabrications are spit out as if real. Empirical data does nothing to end the yelling so there is this uncomfortable silence.

      Saw this little story (no where near as poignant as Chris’s story) but another example of no more social institutions or touchstones that we share as a larger community or a nation outside of our tribes.

      1. I wonder, how many of us are dreading the family Thanksgiving gathering this year?

        From your great link, Koctya: “…why I don’t want to go home for Thanksgiving this year – for the first time in my life. We are not a family that dreads Thanksgiving. We are not a family who fights. We’re a family who loves each other truly, madly, deeply.

        But I know my father won’t be able to restrain himself from talking politics, no matter who wins the election, and a battle will ensue. This election has exposed a huge divide between us: They don’t trust journalists like me anymore. And I don’t think we can turn back the clock to a time when they did. Not in my family, and not in America.”

        How utterly, profoundly, sad.

  3. I reread this piece this morning because I think a lot about the relationship of scams to psychology and the sorts of behavioral glitches that can be exploited, and this stuck out for me:

    “To be clear, my father has made his own choices. As Homer Simpson once explained, it takes two to lie: one to lie and the other to listen. In theory, he could have tapped into a very different collection of alignments.”

    I was editing an interview with a prison reform advocate who was formerly incarcerated and spent time in solitary. He had a statement that stuck out to me. He said,

    “I’m responsible for my own choices. Nothing changes that. You’re always responsible for your choices. It was my options that were limited.”

    The reason it stuck out for me is because that’s what I understood to be one of the basic tenets of Christian philosophy. In order to CHOOSE to accept God’s forgiveness, Jesus sacrificed himself to give the option. The whole predetermination versus free will thing is God gives you the options, and you make the choices.

    But in order for that option to have relevance, you have to be made aware of and instructed in it, hence the whole purpose of mission.

    Anyway, that’s all to say that one of the issues I’m reading here is that the grift Chris is complaining about is how these agents of influence are narrowing people’s options while intentionally obfuscating what those options are. Without clarity of what the options are, the grifters can then shrug and say “Well it was their choice, and we were merely responding to what they wanted.”

    1. I have to fully concur with your closing statement. Not only is this poisoning the US political discourse, it is also seriously affecting our civic life and the ability of people to live the American dream. Most of us like to think of America as the land of opportunity and if one works hard, he or she can get ahead. However, numerous studies have shown that the social classes in America have become more stratified than most other developed nations, in recent years, particularly the northern European nations and even our northern neighbor. Something is wrong in America. I can not possibly name the problems, but some have to do with education, the deindustrialization of America, the weakening of the safety net which discourages risk taking, the tilting of our tax code to favor the rich, etc. Chris point is that these trends are being aggravated and obfuscated by the agents of influence.

      I do not pretend to have the answers, but to me increasing the ethnicism and racism in the US will not eliminate the problems. I work and associate with people of other than European descent very frequently. A previous dental hygienist was of the daughter of Vietnamese boat people. I work with people of Indian descent and Filipinos. To me they have all enriched the American experience.

      Also returning to the 1950’s is not the answer either. At that time the US was the predominate nation in the world, because much of the rest of the world was recovering from WWII or was just beginning to escape from colonialism. That is not true today.

      These are all issues that can be debated extensively. But returning to a past that is not longer relevant is not the America that I know. We must forge ahead and develop new solutions. I happen to think that having an inclusive society will be far more beneficial and compatible with the American ethic.

      1. I think Chris was right in his idea of White supremacy being a “load bearing wall” in our political/social structure. One can remove such a wall in a building, if your engineers have figured out the bracing. Society gets even more complicated. The change (people other than White males getting their piece of the Anerican Dream pie) is inevitable; what is uncertain is how bump that change is going to be. This ugly election could be a draining of a boil, or it could be a spreading if an infection. I see a better informed and especially more-engaged citizenry as an essential dose of antibiotic. If the deplorables cannot be reasoned with, they have to be outvoted. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore the issues they have that are valid. Our wealth/opportunity gap is the sort of thing that undermines societies.

    2. Wow. Once in a while something happens that leaves me thinking that this is all worth the effort. Nice post.

      And by the way, the same logical path you followed explains my approach to the social safety net, a basic income, schoool reform, and so on. Give people a better range of options and, on the aggregate, you’ll see their choices improve.

  4. Viking

    This latest FBI disclosure makes me sick. The election well was poisoned already and, judging from the rancor Comey has left in his wake, there is now no antidote. Judging from articles I’ve been reading, Comey’s disclosure was a clear violation of the Hatch Act. The following piece lays it out clearly. Comey should resign or be removed from his position.

    1. That criticism is coming from a GOPer too. But I think Chris has made a good point about the impact- will it really change the minds of that many people? The Trump cult was already screaming conspiracy before this came out. Many of us on the other side were already holding our noses and voting for the saner candidate. Honestly, I find the leak about Bill Clinton getting paid really, really handsomely in conjunction with his Clinton Foundation work to be much more troubling; something that’s technically not illegal, but looks really, really scketchy. My impression is that the Clinton Foundation did more actual good than the Trump Foundation, but both sides look to be skimming off the top. Bleah….

      1. I am probably way out there, but is anyone else considering the possibility that all these conservatives who are speaking out against Comey might be to give cover to the decision by Comey to re-open the Clinton email investigation? There are some seriously far right criticizers publicly making comments and, shame on me, I just don’t trust their sense of fair play.

    2. I find trying to understand Comey’s reasoning in this whole affair difficult. The I keep coming up with various reasons. One is that he regards himself as a “Boy Scout”, i.e. whole and pure, with superior ethics. Another one is also the aspect of CYA and that he is trying to protect himself from bias charges by Republicans in Congress and thereby protecting his justice career. Possibly his goal is to eventually be nominated as an AG. But this whole situation has made that almost impossible, either by a Republican or Democrat. Another possibility is that he is biased against Clinton. Previously he did investigate Bill Clinton; he may have developed a bias then. The most cynical of all is that Donald Trump has something on Comey and Comey is being blackmailed. However, I can’t imagine Comey personally favoring Trump.

      Regardless, this whole affair stinks. Something appears to be going on behind the scenes. Comey’s original statement when he recommended against prosecution, was self serving and showed bias against Clinton. It was very carefully crafted to be as critical and judgemental as possible without showing bias. Now this letter which is vague and obfuscatory. The net effect of the two is to show an anti-Clinton bias. That is not his job.

      The original statement and this letter has rightly been criticized by both parties and appears to be a violation of the Hatch act. Comey should resign, immediately.

      1. I am more concerned about how the Comey announcement will affect voter turnout and down ticket races especially in the Senate. I’ve been with several friends over the weekend – all smart, very nice ladies who I have known for over sixty years. Out of 11, only 3 are supporting Clinton. These ladies are educated, financially secure, and all around nice people….They are not thrilled with Trump but feel Clinton is “much” (their word) worse. It was disappointing.

        The “leaks” following Comey’s announcement are really bothersome….especially in light of Chaffetz’ earlier announcement that he had information that the House Oversight Committee would be investigating for over two years…which, of course, would coincide with mid-term elections………

  5. Fathers can change. My father was the first in his family to go to college, and voted Republican most of his life. But I am proud to say that in the last 12-15 years he was able to see the direction that they were going, and he does not support them any more. He is still socially conservative, and mildly racist, but at least he is not blindly following anymore.

      1. That is the not the issue. They will NOT actually find anything. But the optics of this is BAD, really REALLY BAD. And with only 11 days to go, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen on the election day now.

      2. I don’t think here are that many undecided voters out there. Most of us have declared that we would have to hold our noses while voting, because of all the issues with these candidates. I don’t think this addition e-mail investigation tells us anything new about Clinton just as that tape from the bus told us anything we didn’t already know about Trump. The timing is bad, yes.

      3. I have read the NY Times report and concluded that most likely there is nothing there, so I’m not really concerned. My feeling is that this is primarily Comey covering his rear.

        I do agree that the optics are really bad. Of course the loud mouths in the House primarily will have a field day. They have already cranked the volume up to MAX and risk dislocating their jaws from opening their mouths so much. Trump will also have a great time with this. But I think most people have already made up their minds. The effect might be to reduce HRC’s forthcoming landslide a bit.

        Also let us remember that Comey is a very partisan Republican. That was apparent in his original statement announcing the conclusion of the investigation. It was very carefully crafted to make Clinton look as bad as possible without crossing the line into not being factual and being obviously partisan. He did a good job of accomplishing his goals. As a matter of fact even making the public statement was a partisan act. It should have been internal correspondence to the Justice Department.

        The information in question is related primarily to the drone program and how it is administered. The national security agencies of which the FBI is a part, to this day pretends the drone program essentially does not exist and is not used to target High Value persons. Yet the entire world knows it does exist and the purposes for which it is used. Essentially, the national security agencies are guilty of over classifying information. To my mind this is equivalent to maintaining that the invasion of Normandy in WWII never occurred up to and including VE day. I may be exaggerating a little, but that is the way our national security apparatus functions.

      1. The more people who vote early, the less effect last minute surprises have on the election results. More people than usual are going out to vote early for this election, but in the end it may not make a difference with respect to last minutes surprises about the candidates.

    1. What file format are these emails in? Html? PDF? ASCII?

      Can’t most electronic files be edited without trace?

      Has the FBI issued a statement re their estimate of the fidelity of these files?

      Inserting one small word or deleting one small word could change the intended meaning of a message. The whole batch wouldn’t have to be altered; just one email with something that sounds incriminating would cause hysteria.

      I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I’m wrestling with how much trust to have in these revelations.

    2. To be clear, here’s the the actual letter from Comey:


      “In previous congressional testimony, I referred to the fact that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had completed its investigation of former Secretary Clinton’s personal email
      server. Due to recent developments, I am writing to supplement my previous testimony.

      In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.

      Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work, I believe it is important to update your Committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony.

      Sincerely yours,

      James B. Comey

      I personally read this more like a dude making a filing adjustment: “Hey guys, I know we’ve locked this cabinet drawer, but we have to open it again because there are some other items we found in other drawers that belong here. As I’ve told you the cabinet is now closed and locked without any need to open it, I need to explain to you why I’m opening it. We need to review all the stuff we think belongs here again so if anything comes up I’ll update you.”

      Regardless, it’s Clinton’s ‘turn’ in the media cycle, since things have been relatively slow and further articles about Trump fucking (over) women has diminishing returns. Also, Comey often seems to read like, “You know, Clinton’s not guilty, but I really like feeling like she is, so every time I say Clinton’s not guilty I have to include a ‘but…’ to feel better.”

      1. Not sacrosanct but reliable for legal issues I share this link to lawfareblog. Technically, the case was not closed but a recommendation not to indict was made. Comey chose to notify Congress he has new emails (not from Clinton or her server). These emails may require him to amend his prior testimony to Congress or not. Its a cover your ass move. Still not sure why it couldn’t wait until the investigation was under way or something relevant jumped up. Timing looks suspicious.

        Unfortunately, its an excuse for every and any vapor to escape a talking head until the next civic atrocity occurs (I give it till Sunday when video of Clarence Thomas talking sex smack about law clerks surfaces). I’m using the weekend to catch up on Rectify episodes and by Monday cable news will be reporting on the new tint Clinton is using on her hair and the ramifications for the Republic.

    3. Viking

      Actually, in light of all the hacking of servers and Wikileaks, it’s become apparent that, even in Hillary used a government account, it wouldn’t have been secure either. Internet Rule #1: Never send an e-mail or text message that contains information you wouldn’t want to become public.

      1. That is absolutely correct regarding internet communication. Too many people, both in government and business forget that Internet communication is not secure. One of the lessons that I learned in Consulting Engineering was to be very careful about communication of all types, including telephone. Many projects eventually end in litigation, so one has to be careful and maintain communication records, including telephone conversations and saving emails.

      1. I’m going to have to side with Podesta here. If this is stuff from an investigation of that dumbass Weiner sexting minors, there needs to be more explanation into how someone thinks this involves HRC.

      2. I’m sorry, that made me laugh out loud…not that I didn’t think it too.

        Since the emails are not from Clinton and not anything she had failed to disclose BUT the Dir of FBI thinks they may be relevant shouldn’t he have to disclose why? Otherwise it just looks like he is trying to screw her campaign… If no apparent smoking gun why disclose before he investigates?…if they prove later not to be relevant isn’t he just a jerk?

      3. Actually, I suspect that Comey is using the CYA aspect as an excuse to smear HRC. As was pointed out above, more information particularly why these emails could be relevant could have been divulged. As I stated above Comey is a partisan Republican and the FBI is one of the national security agencies that are well known to have a penchant for over classification. Of course, I am being partisan, too.

      4. Comey did what he did to protect himself and the FBI from being second-guessed, pre-election precedent with respect to ongoing investigations be damned. He knew exactly what would happen and tried to cover his ass with a half-baked statement that convinced precisely no one.

        One can only hope that someone brings the hammer down on the good director. He brought the FBI, intentionally or not, as an unwitting partner into the political process. Unbelievable.

      5. Just to thicken the plot a bit more for those who can’t look away, the DOJ is not happy about Comey sending that letter so close to an election, and there could be 4th Amendment issues in play here- did someone read e-mails that weren’t covered in the warrant?

        What a $&@#%£€¥ mess, from all sides. My favorite name for this new “scandal”: dickileaks

    4. No one who didn’t already despise Clinton with a palpable passion is going to give a flying fundamentalist about this. Unless there is some smoking gun here, this is a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

      Let pundits and the media talk for what it’s worth. Spare yourself the annoyance and avoid the networks for the time being.

  6. Great story about a guy who got tired of seeing all of the fake alt-right stories on his Facebook feed that people were actually believing, so he created a satirical site to point out how gullible people can be. His fake posts have been picked up on and reported by even mainstream news sources as fact until they figured it out.

    A former Republican who left the party because of Sarah Palin, he says he understands what is motivating a lot of the people who believe these stories. He comes to a similar conclusion to the one that I posted earlier in this thread, namely that it is fun, or exciting as he says, for people to dig up dirt on the opposition, or to scoop a story from the far reaches of the internet.

    I’d like to think that I’m older and wiser now, but there was a time in my life when gossiping was fun. It felt a little naughty and probably made me feel better about myself. I’m convinced the same thing is going on with the alt right conspiracy theorists. And the people who are lying to them are well aware of it.

    1. “Chacon’s transcript contained the phrase “bucket of losers,” attributed, falsely of course, to Clinton, which legitimate conservative news websites picked up as real.

      Sure enough, by 9 p.m. that day, Trace Gallagher was on Fox News telling viewers that Clinton had “apparently called Bernie Sanders supporters a ‘bucket of losers.’” (Megyn Kelly later apologized after the Clinton campaign vehemently denied Clinton said it.)”

      This is why being a troll for the lulz isn’t ethically better than being a troll because you actually believe it. Either way I saw this ‘bucket of losers’ shit on my own fucking Facebook timeline presented as real news.

      Posted by Bernie Bros.

      Because just because nobody can think anymore, doesn’t make it funny.

  7. You perfectly described the automatic image of a pastor I conjure up and I live in a coastal city. When you first started to go to church outside of East Texas were you at all taken aback by how much different the lectures were, if they were different?

    1. That’s actually a funny story. We had been attending a Methodist church in Houston before we moved. After settling in here I wanted to find a place to take the kids to church. Here, the churches are on Church Street. Not so much of the entrepreneurial, wild-eyed guy starting a church kind of thing. So we found the local Methodist joint.

      It was a little different.

      Very first Sunday there, the pastor said something tough, but fair about the “so-called” Christianity of GWB. My eyes are like saucers. I thought I was witnessing an incident. I looked around waiting to see people walk out. Nothing happens. Congregation is just nodding along. In Houston people would be switching the safety off their Glocks. Here, crickets.

      I came to love that old guy. He had been chased out of his native Alabama in the early 60’s for offering communion to black people. Marched with civil rights workers in Selma. The denomination sent him into exile in the North after congregants attacked him with a pipe bomb.

      A retired pastor who attends our church went to grad school with MLK. He was active in the fight to desegregate neighborhoods in Chicago. I was absolutely stunned that the church and the local public school held kids programs on MLK Day. I had never seen anything like this.

      Instead of being distantly attached to church, as we had been in Houston, we went all-in. Kids have been raised there. I’ve taught confirmation classes there for a decade. Amazing place, open, intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate, curious. It has been an inspiration.

    2. I was raised in a denomination which believes Baptists are theologically wild eyed liberals taking us straight to hell or New York City. One minister described his doctrinal tussle with a church member as an awesome battle between the arch-angels and demons-this member claimed to have raised a cat from the dead. This sermon proved to be a bridge too far for this congregation and the minister found another flock a few months later.

      Had to be Satan, everybody likes dogs more than cats.

      My grandfather was a minister and he was a beautiful, confounding man. People called him anytime day or night, years after knowing him, just to talk, to be comforted and he always answered the phone. His sermons included numerous quotes from scriptures (he preferred the King James version), from memory alone and there was precious little wrong with him as a man or a minister. The conflict at the heart of the South, Walker Percy territory.

  8. Chris, this is really an amazing piece. I come from a gaggle of happy clappy liberals. While I love my liberal life I realize my political open-mindedness leaves me closed off to people like your Dad. Shame on me for not understanding until today. Thank you for opening my eyes.

  9. Viking

    Here’s article in today’s NYT about Trump supporters who are threatening an insurrection should Hillary be elected. Personally I think the Times reporters did some cherry picking to find particularly egregious examples. On the other hand, I’m not surprised that the article originated in my hometown, Colorado Springs. There is a strong crazy streak in that area. Maybe it’s in the water.

  10. V L

    A couple of article by Zak Cheney Rice who writes for Mic.

    A letter about Donald Trump, from a black nephew to his white aunt

    Also this important article where he makes the argument that the disunity we are seeing now is good. I think this is the kind of perspective you will not find in the usual outlets but resonates with many.

    There is an automatic notion that we should be “unified” without actually asking what that means or what price has to be paid for it.

    I agree with what he is writing. I don’t want to be unified with people who support Trump or make excuses for their behavior.

  11. Two interesting articles out today about some tightening in the presidential race and in the Senate races. As much as I want to believe this thing is a slam dunk for Dems, the last two weeks (per WaPo Robert Costa) is going to see more tightening until the “fat lady sings”.

      1. Now, now, I was very careful in my PC speech……..One of the interesting articles I read (and posted ) deals with anticipated state legislative/gubernatorial party shifts as a result of down ballot voting. That is true in all elections but we haven’t really talked about that benefit. One of the areas the Repubs have executed so well is to build from the ground up. This election may help even the playing field which will be of tremendous value regarding gerrymandering. Remember, state legislatures have the constitutional authority to redistrict, and the GOP has used that authority well in creating extraordinarily safe Congressional seats. This will afford a fast thinking new Dem legislative majority to act quickly to remedy that where possible. It could be something as innocuous as setting up independent, non-partisan committees charged with performing this function asap…..It can also impact judicial appointments where this authority is vested in the governor.

      2. “race for the House”………That’s why Clinton, et al, are busting their buns all over the U.S. … trying to pick up House seats. I hope they don’t get too focused on these races and fail to push for Senate wins…That is not a lock.

      1. This race is not over. There is much we don’t know but we do know people are reluctantly voting for both candidates and could change their minds last minute. Best to be cautious in our predictions and hopeful in our expectations. Most political analysts see no realistic hope for House pick up and that is where the Republicans plan their most nefarious, concerted obstruction of a Pres. Clinton.


      2. Steve Schmidt was the one who said, based on internal numbers he saw, that Republicans would lose about 25 House seats just about a week ago. You just have to decide who to place your faith in.

        Keep in mind that we’ve seen this dynamic before, more than once as a matter of fact. In ’94, pundits and analysts were saying Republicans had a chance at taking the Senate, but saw little hope for the House. They swept both of them in an epic wave.

        In ’06, same thing. Pundits and analysts claimed that safe districts would keep the House in Republican hands. Democrats swept the entire Congress.

        To be sure, any takeover of the House, if it happens at all, is going to be close, but it’s worth keeping historical context in mind.

  12. Chris, this posting is very poignant, honest and well written. It must have been difficult to write. I am sure you spent considerable time and thought in preparing this.

    I suspect that I may be a few years older than your father, judging from the passage regarding Vietnam. I enlisted in the Army in 1963 following high school graduation, that was before Vietnam was much on the radar screen for Americans. But, that decision to enlist qualified me for an all-expenses paid trip to Vietnam. Nevertheless, I am very much aware of the choices that many men faced during that era.

    My own father would have served in WWII, but he was a farmer and was deaf in one ear due to mumps at 18 years of age. He was raised on a farm in rural NM and was a child of the depression. He was intelligent and did complete a year at the U of NM, prior to being offered a chance to obtain a farm through Goodyear Farms near Phoenix, so he took it. Unfortunately, life did not go well for him and he died in 1965.

    From that point on, I was essentially on my own, although I did have some help from my maternal grandparents for a year after returning home. I was raised with a great deal of respect for education and learning, partly due to my father’s influence.

    The Vietnam era GI bill enabled me to obtain a University education and become exposed to a much different reality. I was never exposed to the constant drumbeat of the alternative thinking that you describe. However, I am very much aware of that right wing thinking. That was a constant feature in the small rural environment, in which I grew up. It was only because I was able to get a University education that I was able to be exposed to another world. It has also enabled me to travel and see how the rest of the world lives. To this day I am thankful for the opportunity that was given to me by a liberal, “socialist” program.

    I applaud your father for making the difficult choices he made and for giving his children the opportunity to obtain an education. I can relate to him.

    That is also why I totally concur with you in your fury and resentment at the people who lied to your father. I feel similarly, because I realize that the opportunity that I had could easily have been stolen from me. So once again my heartfelt congratulations for your honesty.

  13. V L

    This is a good article. There aren’t many profiles of Clinton supporters so I’m posting this.

    There are people here who doubt that there are enthusiastic Clinton supporters. If you don’t know any it’s probably because your social circle is a bit blanched.

    Here is an article where you can hear from some of them.

    The City of Brotherly Love Has Little for Trump

    1. That will keep the Fox gravy train chugging along. You’d have to waterboard them to get an admission, but I’d bet that secretly they’d rather have Clinton win. It’s far less work to bitch about her than explain the latest stupid/sexist/racist/offensive/clueless thing that Trump just said/did.

      1. This early threat to Clinton that her term(s) will be marked with one investigation after another is harmful, Fly. When you read statements like Chaffetz this early in the process (4 mos before inauguration!), that’s just insane and so incredibly destructive.

      2. “I’d bet that secretly they’d rather have Clinton win. It’s far less work to bitch about her than explain the latest stupid/sexist/racist/offensive/clueless thing that Trump just said/did.”

        That’s one of the things I realized about some of the politics of my friends ages ago.

        If it’s ‘the corporations’, ‘media’, ‘capitalists’, ‘conservatives’, and ‘government’ that is all the trouble, and never any individual specific person, then they’re off the hook for finding any solution to the any of the problems. Sure, the occasional Martin Shkreli comes along and the answer becomes clearer (“We need to just tell assholes like that to fuck off and make sure that it’s not allowed to raise drug prices like that”), but fixing the intricate issues of ‘Big Pharma’ as a whole? Nonsense, they could never name an actual pharmaceutical company, and even the REALLY “I’m very politically involved and do my research” people could name a couple without remembering specifically which drugs and price increases are at stake.

        And not that I blame them. It’s not like I keep that information lying around while I commit to my regular 9-to-5 (just kidding, I’m a freelancer, twice the hours, half the pay, and my non-working time is spent finding work, not researching pharmaceutical companies).

        But I do blame them for self-righteousness and intellectual laziness. It’s the ‘THE media’, ‘THE government’, ‘THE corporations’ that really gets to me, like these various taxonomies of institutions are actually monolithic characters in a fantasy revenge thriller.

        And the best part is that moral outrage is easy when there’s nobody specific you have to confront to deal with it. If everything was fixed and the remaining issues came down to personal responsibility (in some libertarian wish fulfillment fantasy), many people would die of depression and self-doubt. Yelling at empty chairs is not only easier, it’s affirming.

        What I’ve noticed this election season is everyone still thinks they’re each completely right. Even my Trump fan friends — yes, I have a handful. They’re reading the early voting numbers and chortling about the increased turn-out Trump is inspiring.

        Once again, nearly half the country is going to wake up disappointed, a significant number surprised, but nobody’s reality is going to be shaken. Rather, they will have new bugbears to rage at internally as they get ready for their daily commute.

      3. Yep, right on all counts. That’s why governors typically make better presidents because they have to deal with specific problems and directly with constituents….at least the good ones.

        I keep thinking about what EJ said regarding this large underground of alt-right who are going to come out for Trump. This is a group of people who don’t interact in public and yet they are “out there”. Well, all we can do is vote, and hope things turn out well by which I mean a massive Clinton win, Senate capture, and lordy, while I’m dreaming, re-take the House. Then all those Freedom Caucus, Tea Party folks can twiddle their thumbs instead of spending the next two years pillorying Pres. Clinton.

    2. The hate and stupidity just keeps coming……These jerks aren’t waiting for the night before inauguration – they’re already threatening Clinton. That is so despicable!

      Man, not to be petty, (but let’s), I have argued for a stronger GOP, a divided Congress that would work together. Obviously, that is not the game plan. Here’s where I am: bury them. Take it all, Democrats. Then, show the GOP what Democrats can accomplish when they are dealing with assholes like this.

  14. Viking

    Tangential to this discussion, last evening I watched Michael Moore in Trumpland. He performs a one-man show before a somewhat hostile (initially) audience in rural Ohio. Using his strong ability to communicate with people in the Trump demographic, he methodically exposes how absurd many of the Trumpsters’ beliefs are and how they have been led astray by right wing media. It’s well worth the effort. Unfortunately you’ll have to pony up the price of admission.

  15. Chris, you usually write beautifully, but this takes it to a different level. This is very powerful because it is so personal. Thank you for sharing it.

    Through their influence on millions of people like your father, these charlatans are stealing our country by paralyzing its politics. They are disproving the adage that “you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts” by sowing such distrust in the institutions that underpin our society that even objectively verifiable data is rejected. Anything inside the bubble is believed, anything outside is part of a paranoid conspiracy. Our political system demands compromise, but it’s hard to compromise with traitors.

    Hannity, Drudge, Coulter and the rest are a modern day Judas – they profess to love this country more than anyone else, but are selling it out for their bags of silver. There are those on the left who do the same, but not anywhere near as organized or effective as their right-wing counterparts.

  16. This was beautiful, I read another story on the Daily Intelligencer regarding, “What to we do about all this bad stuff!”

    We are people who use language, we use the words “Yes” and “No”. When you go to an improvisational comic performance there is only one rule you are observing on the stage. No matter what anyone says, you can’t reply with “No”.

    Further, this world we are living in is a big ‘ol abstraction now-there is ‘me’ who goes to Popeye’s and orders too much fried food and the “me” who will tell you on this medium that I always get the salad. Fried. But salad.

    Because I have an option-and my default is to think the option is “Yes” or “No”. It’s my language.

    It really isn’t-this world we have built (and maybe from the beginning of time) is on an option, and the option is “1” or “0”. I respect the alternative and those who live this way-I understand “yes” and “no”. There’s nothing inherently wrong with “Yes” and “No”. But our machines reflect what we really are-we chose “0” and “1”.

    I couldn’t change the preacher, I chose “0”.

  17. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we could possibly heal, or at least attempt to heal, the growing partisan rift in this country and this piece unfortunately tells me a lot about why we can’t.

    There are a number of Republicans, albeit with dwindling ranks, who are advocates of conservative polices and societal values and disagree with those of on the liberal end of the spectrum. But our disagreement is not the source of the cancerous rift in this country; the people that lie to Chris’ father are.

    There is no outreach to do. Their communities are insular, their minds are closed. But most importantly is that they are not being cultivated (is there a less repulsive word to describe this process that is still apt?) to disagree with us or oppose us or to remain steadfast athwart history and keep yelling “Stop!”. least in those cases we could have a debate. Work around the edges. Try to find common ground, however minimal.

    But no, they are being taught to hate us. Not our opinions or our policies. They are being stoked day-by-day to hate who we are and the very fact that we are in their country.

    There is no opening for any kind of dialog there.

    1. I keep saying this because it is true. Republicans have learned nothing from this experience, by choice. Their plan? More obstruction at any cost. The train may be careening down the tracks without a conductor, but the passengers are blissfully unaware and the welcoming station, unprepared for the impending disaster . It would be sad if it weren’t so infuriating and downright stupid. Did none of them read the 2012 Autopsy Report following Romney’s loss? In many ways, the GOP is just like the senior family members so many here have described – immovable in their desire to recognize reality and totally incapable of understanding how much our country is losing because of this foolish, irresponsible doubling down on obstruction at all costs. It is so sad and it is dangerous.

  18. Thank you Chris. Reading this actually made me feel better about my family. They are, for the most part, oblivious to the non-sense they repeat. Debating them has proven useless.

    “A man whose family was repeatedly rescued from abject poverty by a liberal innovation called the workers’ compensation system is convinced that the social safety net is destroying America.”

    Describes my family perfectly.

    1. As personal as Chris’ story is, most of us are able to see our own family situations through his shared experience. This tells me that the generational problems we face are deep and very real. How do we get past that with people we love and are concerned for? One day, these parents, grandparents will need our help. Will we be able to communicate with them? Will there be enough of a relationship that we even want to try? These are real questions and it’s important to put them out there to think about. The problem though, is that the people we need to talk with are no longer open to hearing a different point of view. Their worlds and opinions define them. They simply can’t change, and that is the real issue. Thus we either become estranged, share fewer holidays with them with very limited areas of discussion, or we accept them as they are and don’t engage in any topics of discussion that we know are dangerous. That isn’t very satisfying for either but it is how many of us cope without severing contact.

  19. This is such a deeply heartfelt column.. it really touched me. I have a similar family situation to yours so I’m addicted to your blogs. Keep writing.. you are putting into words what a lot of us know in our hearts and minds, but can’t express so well because we don’t have your talent.

  20. In my youth I would of been thought as very conservative. As I aged, learned, interacted with diverse people and gain experience I have moved more and more progressive on most issues. I still am fiscally conservative but in the real sense. And this group knows that the GOP have not been that way for many years. The Democratic party has been way more fiscally conservative. I guess I have evolved and changed. So old fogies can change.

    1. The difference between yourself and many older people, is that you were “open” to change and were intellectually curious . That allowed you to consider other viewpoints which helped you to evolve in your thinking…..a process intelligent, interested people do throughout one’s life. It’s not a lazy process – it requires work and self-examination and acceptance that our ideas may be wrong. It can be humbling but it is always worth while.

  21. EJ

    I believe the term for this is “magnificent righteous anger.” It’s beautifully written and seethes with heartfelt emotion. Bravo. Kudos.

    Out of interest, Chris, how many times do you draft your pieces before you publish them?

  22. I can relate, man oh man can I relate! My parents are big Fox News fans, and it’s often playing on their TVs. I do not presume to tell people what they can or cannot watch in their own homes, so I always find a means of avoidance when it’s on- go outside, pick up a book, etc. My Mom is a big fan of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, two people I have zero respect for, although I’ll have to give Beck grudging props for denouncing Trump. The bits I can’t help hearing are always OUTRAGED! That much sustained anger cannot be healthy.

    I do not expect them to ever vote for a Democrat, but if they voted Johnson or skipped the President spot I’d be fine with that. If they vote for Trump I will be profoundly disappointed, because the way that jerk has lived his life and treated people couldn’t be more diametrically opposed to the way my siblings and I were raised to act.

    1. Which begs the question, Fly, why have your parents changed their views? Can you find parallels between Chris’ father’s experience and your own parents? My parents are long gone but I have siblings who have led fairly priviledged lives yet buy into the whole Republican hoax. Now that they’re adults (and grandparents) they are experts in politics. It’s a little easier to agree to disagree with siblings by just not bringing up the subject, but when you see people you love who are old and filled with anger and resentment based upon foundless, self-serving agendas, that’s hard to walk away from. Yet, we all do because at this point in their lives, the likelihood of them changing their minds is slim. That’s sad for all.

      1. It’s not so much that my parents changed so much, they’re been GOP and conservative pretty much all their lives. It’s more the GOP changing for the worse over the decades. I’m thinking of the frog in the pot of water that’s getting gradually heated metaphor.

      2. Ugh, that is such a vivid metaphor!

        What’s similar in the two sets of parents is their seeming inability to sort the truth in what they are seeing. That’s alarming. Unfortunately, many of our clergy are guilty of goading their flock towards beliefs they hold that are far from what I believe to be Christian.

    2. Fly wrote: “the way that jerk has lived his life and treated people couldn’t be more diametrically opposed to the way my siblings and I were raised to act.”
      Well said, and from the heart. You’re essentially saying, correctly, that your parents are better people than Mr. Trump, and that by supporting him they are voting “down.”

      1. True, Tutta, but “why”? How did things get to this point with people who raised us so differently? Why did we end up being so different from our parents? And, in large families (my own – 6 siblings), why are half conservatives and the others, progressives?

        You often lament the negative power of media. You are probably correct about how vulnerable we mortals are and especially our elderly. But, what of younger people? Absent a real issue (job loss, poverty, moral values) – why are others so angry? Government has its shortcomings, that’s certain, but on the whole, it works pretty well for hundreds of millions of people. How can we ignore the good that exist and focus only on what is lacking? Where is the balance?

      2. Mary, it may be as simple as the feeling of comfort that comes from being part of a community, of sharing beliefs with others, feeling a kinship with like-minded people, or at least with people who say like-minded things.

      3. But we won’t experience these personal relationships if we’re always looking at our phones and computers! Gotta put this stuff down from time to time and connect with our friends, community and family. So right, Tutta.

      4. There’s a camaraderie here on this blog as well that comes from a shared belief system. Whichever side you’re on, at least you have company.

        It’s probably difficult to be the odd person out, when you’re not part of any group.

      5. As for anger toward the government, I don’t get the impression that it’s a call for anarchy or absolute hatred toward all things government, but more a distrust of government, a sense of gradual encroachment by government, and the need to stand firm against it.

      6. Healthy appraisal of government is valid; unhealthy attitudes without factual basis is not. If you ask most people to government services they receive, they will probably be unable to unless they are poor. All seniors receive Medicare and I have yet to find ONE senor who doesn’t love it. They don’t realize that through the ACA reform that their “doughnut hole” has been reducing annually, saving them tons of money if they take a lot of RX, their annual check up is free for basic tests, and if they require durable medical equipment, it is provided. Yet, as Chris noted, most older people say they are against entitlements – well, not “their” entitlements (Social Security is another). And, on and on.

      7. Mary, good point about phones and computers. Nowadays people seem to feel more connected to their online, TV, and radio communities than to their own families.

        I also wonder if being physically apart from family members, perhaps living alone, and the ensuing isolation, might also contribute to people, especially the elderly, adopting new belief systems so different from their families’, and from their own past beliefs.

      8. Possibly, but some of it is hardening of the brain……they just stop thinking for themselves. I don’t get out much, am online more than I should be, but still I at least try to see other points of view. Admittedly, I am pretty well cooked in terms of my political beliefs, but I have always believed government should work regardless who is in power. There has to be something about serving in office that is bigger than self or party. It’s called: country first.

    3. I don’t expect my mother to ever be able to cast a vote for a Clinton, but I have tried to convince her to vote for Johnson or even for Batman. Anyone but Trump. I haven’t talked to her since McMillan popped up on the radar. Maybe I can convince her that he has a shot?

      She’s not personally worried for herself, I don’t think. She’s mostly worried about SCOTUS. She’s been convinced that a liberal court would end our country. :/ Funny thing, though, she really doesn’t care at all about the marriage equality issue or even abortion. It’s mostly the NRA, I think. I really don’t understand it.

      1. Hi Robin
        If she is worried about the Second Amendment send her this

        An overwhelming preponderance of force being necessary to the maintenance of the institution of slavery, the right of white people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

        The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says “State” instead of “Country” (the framers knew the difference — see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia’s vote. Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason and James Madison were totally clear on that… and we all should be too.

        In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the “slave patrols,” and they were regulated by the states.

        In Georgia, for example, a generation before the American Revolution, laws were passed in 1755 and 1757 that required all plantation owners or their male white employees to be members of the Georgia Militia, and for those armed militia members to make monthly inspections of the quarters of all slaves in the state. The law defined which counties had which armed militias and even required armed militia members to keep a keen eye out for slaves who may be planning uprisings.

  23. Normally, I love stories that bash the craziness that is the Right Wing Media machine. I get a nice base level satisfaction and move on with my day. But today Chris, you really gave me a wake up call. Now I’m going to be cognizant about my grandparents and parents, and how they consume media. I can’t control them of course. But I hope I can help keep them tethered to reality. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  24. Chris, thank you for writing this difficult post. It is heartrending when family members who love each other and always will can still be in such fundamental disagreement about what constitutes reality.
    I had a similar experience with my father some years ago. I am 69 now and a true lifelong democrat (I attended my first Harris County Democratic convention in a basket and didn’t miss one till I went off to college). My dad helped organize the union in the Baytown refinery, helped start a consumer cooperative and was Democratic precinct committeeman for many years. This was the Ralph Yarborough wing of the party. Bob Eckhardt was our congressman and to the dismay of some of our neighbors we once had Barbara Jordan in our home for a coffee & cake meet & greet when she first ran for state senate.
    In the late 80’s mom and dad moved to East Texas where my sisters could help take care of them. I could only visit from California occasionally so each time would be a little shocking to note dad’s drift rightward, castigating the “demons” in the Democratic party intent on destroying America. I would listen to long rants only occasionally breaking in just to let him know my silence wasn’t agreement. I think his main influences were Amway and Focus On The Family.

  25. Good writing, Chris.

    As Fox News continued cranking out the falsehoods, one thing I never understood was the willingness of real journalism outfits like NPR and major television networks with news departments to allow their reporters to appear on Fox shows.

    They readily gave up a slice of their credibility, for what?

    Fox News lies. No matter how its reps may have performed at various points in this presidential campaign, they still work for an outfit that lies.

    I say give them no quarter.

    Last night, Glen whathisname was on Charlie Rose. WTF?

    Charlie honed in as if gleaning wisdom from a magical toad — and the toad was willing to act as if he could provide it. (I have to say, I was quite taken with the toad’s color coordinated jacket, shirt and hair.)

    A kazillion years ago in Comm 101, my professors were all excited about the number of channels of information soon to be available. Everybody’s interests could be addressed! It will be great!

    Not a one mentioned the jeopardy of no shared truth.

  26. I think this is my favorite post of yours yet, it completely connected with me. My family has likewise been driven into paranoia by these far-right snake oil salesman. My grandfather is one of the longest living quadriplegics in the US, got a college degree in the 60’s, is a church going family man who raised four children who all have their own children, and is convinced Muslims are about to declare Sharia Law in the US with the aid of Barack Obama. I’ve never hated a group as much as I hate those fucking pundits.

    My other family members tried to get my Dad to listen to those radio hosts and I noticed how quickly he swung from squishy moderate Republican to full-fledged right-winger. I managed to get him to stop listening to them, thankfully, and now he seems a bit embarrassed he did especially after seeing them all back Trump, but the rest of that side of the family have been listening to them for so long I don’t think they’ll ever snap out of it.

  27. Do you think that something similar in nature (although obviously much lesser in intensity) is fermenting on the left? Internet SJW-type activism is getting increasingly unhinged and I see no indication that they believe in anything they are saying either.

      1. Griff,

        4. Science Is Pretty Great, But It Sure as Hell Isn’t Unbiased

        5. ‘Health’ Can’t Be Operatively Defined Because It’s Indefinable

        I don’t find these two points as outrageous as you seem to.

        Regarding 4:

        Five is squishy because the topic IS squishy.

        But I get your point about similarities to climate issues.

      2. Those ideas are theoretically possible and yes have happened in specific cases before. However in this case, as is the case with climate deniers, the scientific evidence is SO overwhelming that these are essentially red herrings that can be used to justify virtually any crank point of view that science has disproven

      3. The evidence for climate change is overwhelming

        Forgive me for not being anywhere near overwhelmed by the evidence for the “obesity problem”

        As far as I can see the whole thing has about as much veracity and supporting evidence as the seven cups of water a day
        Which is to say none at all

        With the actual evidence pointing in an entirely different direction

    1. EJ

      I hang out in some solidly SJW parts of the web now and then. There are some fools here and there, as there are everywhere, but they tend to get shushed down (or at best patronisingly tolerated) rather than revered as people to follow. People don’t talk about “unskewed polls” or hypothesise about the “truth” beneath the official account of events; and anyone who tries to shill for weight-loss pills will get the side-eye. The elders tend to be people respected for their integrity rather than their charisma; Greta Christina and John Scalzi happen to be very charismatic, but that’s not what got them the respecy they now enjoy.

      I may be too close to the SJW culture to meaningfully comment upon it, but inasmuch as I can comment, I think callout culture and the insistence upon privilege-acknowledgement create an environment which is hostile to the creation of comfortable fictions, and thus prevent the community as a whole from drifting away from reality.

      1. ” I think callout culture and the insistence upon privilege-acknowledgement create an environment which is hostile to the creation of comfortable fictions, and thus prevent the community as a whole from drifting away from reality.”

        Except that would create a massive risk of just creating an ideological echo chamber where people are afraid of being “called-out” for having a fundamental disagreements or are driven away for even slight rhetorical mistakes, or otherwise isolates itself from annoyed moderates by self-righteous people doing the quixotic and often irritating project of expecting members to measure their exact amount of “privilege”.

      2. Hi Guys
        There is a major health problem with too much sugar
        BUT the “Obesity” link is mostly smoke and mirrors
        The whole BMI thing started with a Belgian nearly 200 years ago – he did an analysis of weights and heights
        That was all very good but the problem was that he set the “median” – as the “ideal”
        So the middle of the “Normal” a BMI of 21.7

        The latest work on mortality rates sets the “minimum mortality rate” a good bit higher!
        In fact all of the way up to near the top of the “overweight” level at about 29!!
        A BMI of the “ideal” 21.7 is actually worse for your health than somebody who is obese–discovered-by-a-belgian-astronomer-

        The result is millions of people are trying to drive their body weights down to BELOW their optimum weights and are suffering in the process

        There are people who are massively overweight – and their health does suffer but by setting the “target” in the wrong place we have made the whole problem more complicated and more difficult to fix

      3. EJ, Here’s a site that I have found interesting, diverse commentary, that was started by one of Ladd’s heroes, Avik Roy, a conservative with his eyes and mind wide open. There are several categories you can select from and within each, many bloggers – all who I have tried write very well. Check it out.

      4. Duncan they aren’t just saying that the BMI needs to be readjusted but that obesity is not at all bad for you and wholly caused by genetics with calories consumed vs calories burned playing virtually ZERO role in how obese someone is. It’s pure pseudoscience.

      5. Hi Griff
        I would have to say that the actual data tends to support that very dubious sounding proposition

        If you look at the success rate for people permanently changing their BMI by changing diet it is disastrously low!
        While reducing calories can reduce weight – bit of a “Duhh” – it seems that people don’t maintain that and revert to their old weight
        The resultant yo-yo in BMI is very very unhealthy!

        So lets look at this
        “obesity is not at all bad for you”
        The data says that mild obesity is actually healthier than the “ideal weight”
        – massive obesity is a different thing – rarer and more serious
        As an obese individual with a BMI of 31 I used to regularly do century (100 mile) cycle rides

        “and wholly caused by genetics with calories consumed vs calories burned playing virtually ZERO role in how obese someone is”
        The data here is clear – diet does NOT determine BMI – or at least once you have grown into an adult your diet does not seem to be able to be changed enough to make a difference

        Now is that “genetic” or as I tend to believe because of too much sugar in our foods? – dunno
        So far the “pseudoscience” seems to be batting better than the “accepted stuff”

      6. I’ve just read your “Rational Wiki” – and on this it is the one talking bullshit!

        Extreme obesity is a problem and physically reducing calories can reduce weight when done as a trial
        Both no brainers!

        “Following a calory controlled diet only “works” in a vanishingly small percentage of cases as is shown by all of the studies (because people simply don’t keep to them)
        Low levels of “obesity” are actually healthier (by mortality rates) than the “ideal”

        The result of this is that 90% of people who are trying to lose weight
        (1) Don’t manage to lose any
        (2) Would be less healthy if they did
        (3) Damage their health further by “yo-yo” dieting

        The smaller percentage of people who are actually massively obese do need help
        But by trying to get millions of people who are at a weight level that is actually healthier to lose weight the message is diluted and the fact that most people who are NOT actually unhealthily overweight DO NOT benefit from a diet sends the message to the very overweight who may benefit from a diet that it does not work and is not worth trying

        If we could re-target the BMI “ideal” to the weight with the best mortality levels then instead of stupid “overweight and obese rate” of 67% we would recognize that the overweight and most of the “obese” population was “normal” and healthy and we could concentrate on the 7% of the population that is so obese that it effects their health
        We should also try and help the current “normal” population that is damaging it’s health by being unhealthily underweight

        The mortality v BMI graph shows that while being to far on the high end leads to a slow increase in mortality being too far on the other (underweight) end leads to a much faster increase in mortality – you need to be a real hippo before you are as “unhealthy” as somebody who is only a little underweight

      7. Hi Mary
        In my defense it is all about politics
        As soon as the argument “it’s science” is used to defend totally incorrect stuff it degrades that as an argument when there is good science on one side

        Too many things (especially in medicine and the soft sciences) are taken for granted as being correct despite having little or no evidence in their favor – this reduces people trust and contributes to the Trump factor

      8. Except you are talking right past me. You’re talking about being “overweight”, which is actually different from being “obese”. Obesity is by definition much more extreme and caused by excess fat and is in fact confirmed to be a risk factor. You’re talking about being “overweight” which just means your individual BMI is slightly higher (ie not to the degree of obesity) for reasons that aren’t necessarily unhealthy (genes, muscle, etc), so yes evidence the latter is unhealthy is more mixed. But the question that actual OBESITY is unhealthy is settled, which is what they’re denying, and it is a problem in the US.

      9. Hi Griff
        That is the problem
        according to the definition
        BMI Categories:
        Underweight = <18.5
        Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
        Overweight = 25–29.9
        Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

        Those ARE the definitions!!
        BUT it has been found that the minimum mortality rate is at a BMI of about 29!!

        Actual "Obesity" as defined is MORE healthy than "normal weight"

        Now if you were talking about where obesity SHOULD be defined at a BMI of about 40 then I would agree with you
        But that is NOT what we are talking about – the current definition of "obese" is silly

        Currently "obese" has people from a BMI of 30 (more healthy than "normal") right out to the hippos of this world

        When people panic about it they talk about
        67% of the population being "overweight or obese"
        35% of the population being "obese"
        6% of the population being "morbidly obese"

        The 6% have big problems – they are nearly as unhealthy as the underweight people!

        There is a different problem which is that our diet causes diabetes – but the two are NOT the same and treating them as the same stops us fixing the actual problem

        As currently defined obesity IS NOT unhealthy and IS NOT a problem in the USA – morbid obesity (BMI of 40+) IS unhealthy and IS a problem in the USA
        But it's a problem that effects a much smaller population

      10. Ok well I think we’re talking about two separate issues then (though excess fat is generally accepted to be under the definition of Obesity but may not be accounted for in general population stats, which is more a statistical error than anything). The people I’m talking about say that Obesity is virtually NEVER an issue or that weight loss should virtually NEVER be a target goal and that anyone who says otherwise is a fat-shaming capitalist shill, instead of talking about readjusting the BMI. They also say that calorie intact has no effect on weight.

      11. Hi Griff
        The people who say that

        “Obesity is virtually NEVER an issue or that weight loss should virtually NEVER be a target goal”

        Are actually correct much more often than the “current mass view” which is that 67% of the population are over weight or obese

        So do you go with the people who are damaging 67% of the population or the people who would damage 6% of the population?

        Calorie intake in a controlled experiment has an impact on weight

        Out in the wide wild world all of the studies show that it effectively has NO effect on weight
        All of the studies of calorie controlled diets show that people simply don’t keep to them and in the medium to long term they have no effect

        In “theory” they should work – in “practice” they don’t

        So the loonies who say that “calorie intake has no effect on weight.” are wrong in theory but right in practice

        What does “virtually NEVER” mean? – if it means 6% then they are damn close to the truth!

        I will actually go further – IMHO this whole BMI thing targeting an unhealthily low weight has actually cause a huge amount of anguish and many many thousands of premature deaths – from :
        low weight, yo-yo dieting, anxiety/depression, eating disorders, suicide…..

        I would compare this to arguments about seat belts
        Seat belts save thousands of lives but we still get people claiming that they prefer to be “thrown clear”
        This is the other way around – the low target weight kills thousands of people but it may help some people who are morbidly obese

        No I have changed my mind – the current system does not even help those people – they look and see that 90% of the time that diets don’t help and assume that therefore a diet won’t help them even if they are one of the people that it may help

      12. You just don’t see a bunch of really fat old people walking around. Being really fat is not good for you. That’s pretty simple. Defining an objective metric for that is anything but.

        The BMI needs to be fattened for the slaughter. It’s a gross oversimplification. Wouldn’t it be nice if by simply arithmetic, we could characterize so complex a process as obesity? Well, guess what – as most things in the real world, it just ain’t so simple, and adjusting the scale isn’t going to help. Pup in a correction for gender? Pretty simple. Put in a factor for frame size? Pretty difficult. How about general fitness? (By simple BMI, many pro athletes are obese.). Really hard. Genetics and family history? Virtually impossible on a wide scale.

        Gentlemen: BMI is a bad predictive metric for pretty much anything.

        Being really fat makes you look gross, though. That much is certain.

      13. “Being really fat makes you look gross, though. That much is certain”

        In our society – at present – it’s NOT a universal
        We would find the Victorian wasp waists (with corsets) distasteful – not to mention the Chinese bound feet
        But in their societies they were beautiful

        There were and are cultures where the aesthetic “ideal” is a lot heavier than in our western world

        Even with the “really fat” – some people can be pretty massive and not be aesthetically bad
        Some people can be much less massive and look awful

      14. I wouldn’t be surprised if we will have to eventually abandon BMI but I imagine countries will always want to have some “quick” measurement for knowing the weight of their population, for better or worse. For now readjustment and more nuance should be included, followed by scrapping it if that doesn’t work.

        That said this discussion kind of went off topic. I was just giving a generic example of a social justice radical because Bobe wanted one, and the health-at-EVERY-size movement (i.e. being fat is never bad for you) is (or at least has become) pretty obviously unhinged yet is semi-popular in that sphere. Other examples of absurdity among the radicals would be:

        *Claiming that a group “out of power” can never be racist despite this flying directly in the face of the most common usage of the word, seemingly being a fundamental misunderstanding of how ideologies work (is a “fascist” not a “fascist” until they can implement their vision?), and the extremely numerous problems (including providing free propaganda for horrific white racists) it inspires, gonna use the rationalwiki again because they have so many quotes on it and even they, a left-wing wiki, consider it bug nuts insane:

        *Claiming science, objectiveness, and the Enlightenment are racist plots by white men to subjugate women and minorities, especially among advocates of critical legal studies. If you think I’m making this up:

        “We presently live in an era dominated by scientism, an ideology that believes that science (and its rationalist foundation in modern epistemology) has an undeniable primacy over all other ways of seeing and understanding life and the world, including more humanistic, mythical, spiritual, and artistic interpretations. In being critical of scientism as I am, I am not against science per se: modern science and its ways of understanding and knowing the world are valuable, and we should be grateful for them. But it is the hegemony of the habits of mind that manifest pervasively in education that privilege science education, career, and research over other modes and branches of learning and knowing that I have problems with.” – Heesoon Bai

        For more: (Duncan I know you like Mr. Brin and science advocacy you will really find this link interesting, it’s written by two prominent liberal professors)

        *Weird emulation of religious fundamentalists who claim Dungeons and dragons or Harry Potter is “satanic” because they view virtually the entire outside world as fundamentally decadent and rest of us as sinners, but with seemingly bizarre examples of “oppression” taking the place of sin. For an example: (In short get ready to cut off virtually all books for your children for they are practically all “prejudiced”)

        *Tendency to handwave or demonize fundamental disagreements as mere expressions of privilege and thus form increasingly intense echo chambers.

        Anyways we could go on but this post is getting far too long and should probably be taken to the forums. I feel a little rude for already going this far off-topic considering the importance of Chris’ original post.

      15. Duncan – sorry bud, but really fat people look gross. I don’t give a R’s A about cultural norms, or Rafael, or Henry VIII. To cite an example of someone who was called out, (completely inappropriately, I might add), for being fat, I give you Rosie O’Donnell. Now it’s possible I suppose that on another planet, (though not likely in this galaxy), she might just look “prosperous”. Here on earth, she’s fat. Some folks think, “fat is where it’s at.”. Fine – knock yourself out. The vast majority of fat folks would disagree.

      16. Hi fifty
        In our society I agree
        But then I think the Chinese bound feet look absolutely horrible

        Other societies – other mores

        Also some people do seem to be able to “wear it better” – we have some very “big” Maori around here
        Some of them seem to be able to make it look OK – even when by western standards they would be massively overweight

        It’s cultural – within limits

      17. Hi Fifty

        It has just occurred to me
        By targeting an uncomfortable and unhealthy “BMI” (Its a poor measure but it’s all we have) we are going down the path of the peacock or Irish Elk
        We are moving our “ideal” in a contra-survival direction – we are admiring people (girls especially) who are simply too thin
        This is killing people and it will get worse – the “Sex Goddesses” of the 50’s would be too heavy now

      18. Hey Duncan – Cultural norms are perhaps relative, bounded of course by the standard of human well-being. Being essentially crippled by foot binding, or dying an early death from gross obesity is not relative. Such things are objectively bad.

      19. Hi Fifty
        We are criss-crossing here!

        The standard of human well being — ?

        I wonder what the numbers actually look like
        Early deaths from gross obesity
        – verses –
        Early deaths from all of the effects of the “fat shaming” – suicide,
        eating disorders, underweight, depression, yo-yo dieting,

        I suspect its over ten to one – with less deaths from the obesity!

        The other part is – what problems does the obesity cause?
        The biggest issue is diabetes – especially here where some of the people have not been “winnowed” by centuries of a European diet

        Diabetes is only slightly linked to obesity – the major link is the actual diet itself with huge amounts of sugar and easily absorbed carbohydrates
        Mainly because about 60 years ago by means of some very dubious science fat was made into a villain! and replaced by said sugars and carbs

        If we went back to the older higher fat lower sugar diet a lot of the diabetes would go away – we might even end up getting slimmer! – but if we did that would be a bonus

  28. Viking

    Wow, Chris. Such a poignant post. I was reminded of playwrights like Arthur Miller and William Inge, whose works touched on similar themes. Someone needs to write a play about what has happened to your father’s generation. Give it some thought.

    Another thing that struck me is that, from your description, I’m a member of your father’s generation. But my life’s journey has been entirely different. However, my 93 year-old father, who should know better as a WW2 veteran, has suffered from the same mendacity offered up by Fox News et al. Lately he’s been saying he couldn’t vote for Trump but I’m not sure. He just sent in his absentee ballot and I would love to see what he finally did.

  29. My 65 year old father was a chemistry major. But he doesn’t believe in climate change.

    A few months after turning 65, he was almost killed by multiple strokes. Almost 100% of his very large medical bills were paid for by Medicare. But he doesn’t believe in government Healthcare.

    He is married to my mother, a retired teacher, and they live profligately off of her state-funded pension and social security. But he doesn’t believe in entitlements, at least for those other people.

    And when the charlatans told him to buy gold, that’s exactly what he did.

    He spends his time these days reading The Drudge Report and climate change hoax websites.

    I thought that after the polls on Fox News were so wrong about Romney’s chances, he might begin to see that he’s being lied to.

    The fact is, I don’t think he cares if they’re lying to him.

    Believing all this s*** makes him part of a club. I think it’s his way of feeling as if he belongs to something larger then himself.

  30. V L

    This is beautifully written. Thank you for sharing Chris.

    If I may speak from the other side of this, I have to admit I can’t relate to you or your father.

    There isn’t a single member of my close family or friends that is voting for Trump. Not one. This is a circle that includes people of many races, different faiths (if they even have one), sexual orientations, etc.

    There are people who lie to my family and friends but it doesn’t feel the same.

    We are trying to keep ourselves alive and well against people who would do us harm. Lying is the least of our worries when the other side wants us dead.

    I have a incredibly difficult time caring at all for Trump supporters because they are threatening me, my family, my friends and my community.

    I can’t see past that to forgive people like your father.

    In the last few weeks I’ve read many articles about how we need to unify as a country. But how exactly do we do that when the only sane choice for many is to stay as far away from these people as possible especially when many of them are plotting violence?

    I’m heartened when I hear that so many Trump supporters have never left their home towns. That fact makes me feel safe.

    1. Right now, the only sane choice for you and your family is to be very selective about who you spend time with. But you shouldn’t have to settle for this, VL. Equality is just that – equal. As Americans we have to hope for better from one another. I believe it is coming although I agree we are not yet there – maybe not for another decade. No one should fear for their lives because of their political or personal beliefs. No one. Please know that there are good people out there who want just what you want – safe, healthy, productive lives for themselves and their families.

    2. ***I have a incredibly difficult time caring at all for Trump supporters because they are threatening me, my family, my friends and my community.***

      That’s the one, critical detail I wish I could communicate to the folks back home. They genuinely do not comprehend the extent to which their cavalier ignorance directly impacts people around them.

  31. Once upon a time, the vast majority of what one read, or heard on the radio, or saw on television , (with notable exceptions), could be rationally believed. Printing was expensive, and the stuff that filled the library shelves was vetted. The major news outlets were relatively accurate, as their operations were similarly costly, and subject to internal scrutiny. Television was extremely costly, with few channels, and very costly receivers. Again, the scarcity of the effective ‘bandwidth’, both economically and actual, tended to drive a certain measure of quality and voracity. All of this has changed.

    Anyone can put up a website for little or nothing. There are no longer referees imposed by scarcity. While all of us have always been prone to confirmation bias, today that tendency can be indulged at will, and by hundreds of sources.

    Older generations still respect the written and broadcast word as they once had reason to do. The fact that such thinking is no longer reasonable needs to be embraced by us and your children. As for our elders, credulity is a well nigh impossible habit to break.

  32. Beautiful, deeply personal, honest sharing, Chris. Undoubtedly, many of us can relate to your experience with members of our own family, children and close friends but few of us have your gift for sharing our stories of pain, separation, and yes, anger, at the circumstances that built walls between us and the people we love.

    I hope your father does read your lament and understands how you feel. Possibly, he will see how well you understand how his life has been shaped and influenced, with regret but not rancor. Personal exploitation of others for one’s selfish purposes is the highest form of stealing. Tragically, we don’t recognize it ourselves and we resist and resent others – even those we love – for telling us the truth. Never stop telling the truth, Chris. It is your gift. Though your father and mother may find it difficult to accept what you tell them, they must be so very proud of the man you have become. They are forever a part of you and you of them.

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