Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Tony baloney: Buzzfeed's Robbins exposé only a shocker for those who weren't paying attention

By now you've probably heard about Buzzfeed News' investigative series on selfish-help giant (in more ways than one) Tony Robbins. The first installment -- and the one that elicited the most reaction from the news media and even prompted a rapid response from Tony himself -- was published on May 17, complete with a large animation that alternated between an image of a hugely smiling "normal" Tony and that of a sinister, malevolently grinning Devil-red caricature. The headline screamed:

Leaked Records Reveal Tony Robbins Berated Abuse Victims, And Former Followers Accuse Him Of Sexual Advances

Buzzfeed has thus far published two additional and somewhat anti-climactic pieces in their investigative series on Robbins: the second one reporting that four additional women had come forward with accusations against him, and the third installment documenting that a very young Robbins had been filmed using racial slurs. Granted, in context it appears to me after an admittedly cursory review that the racial slur accusation may be stretching things a little bit: however misguided and lacking in application in the real world it may have been, Tony was apparently just trying to lead some event attendees in an exercise to strip racial epithets of their power by shouting them over and over and laughing at their absurdity. But racism, like most serious problems that selfish-help gurus so often try to address via shocky (or schlocky) showmanship, is not that easily solved... so it was still kind of a stupid thing to do.

Immediately following the publication of the first piece in Buzzfeed, Robbins, not surprisingly, bit back,
attacking Buzzfeed in an "open letter" on Medium. He boasted about all of the many millions of people -- including dead celebrities such as Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Princess Diana, and various world leaders -- whom he'd helped over the years. He acknowledged that his "open-classroom therapeutic methods" are not for everyone, but he denied ever behaving in the "reckless, irresponsible, or malicious" ways that the Buzzfeed "storytellers" alleged. He insinuated that most of the accusations concerned behavior from decades ago and were therefore irrelevant. But the main thrust of his response was to attack Buzzfeed and attempt to discredit it. He accused the reporters of engaging in unfair and possibly illegal tactics, and insisted that they had a predetermined agenda to bring him down.

One Robbins follower, who though not explicitly named in the first Buzzfeed story insisted that her info about an intervention incident was misused by the reporters, has hired lawyers and threatens to sue Buzzfeed if they do not remove the content that she says relates to her. In his own "open letter" on Medium, Robbins shared her "Tony is my hero and Buzzfeed is unfair" vid, and he linked to her video not one, not two, but three different times in his missive without indicating that he was using the same source repeatedly. It was all apparently in the service of making the anti-Buzzfeed contingent seem larger.

Not that Tony really needed to do that. He had plenty of reinforcements; also unsurprisingly, his fans rushed to defend him and condemn Buzzfeed,
e.g., on Twitter.

Buzzfeed stands by their reporting. A spokesman for Buzzfeed told The Daily Beast:
“Our reporting is based on records of Mr. Robbins berating victims of rape and domestic violence, and the testimony of former staffers and followers who accused him of inappropriate sexual advances. It does not appear that Mr. Robbins read the story itself before he published his open letter, which contains a number of demonstrably false and defamatory claims about both our reporting and the resulting article.”
The only news is that it really isn't news
When the Buzzfeed story first broke it created quite a stir not just among some of the news and entertainment media but also among many ordinary folks, including some in my own small social media network, who expressed shock and disbelief that such an iconic figure could have been even remotely involved in the alleged misdeeds. How could this be? they wondered, and taking a cue from Tony himself, many of his fans have simply chalked it up to more "fake news."

One friend of mine who is a fan of Robbins' work seemed to be wrestling with the question of whether or not to remain a fan should the allegations be true. I lamely suggested an attempt to separate the message from the messenger, but that was actually a silly response, and my friend Tim called me on it by noting that manipulation, deceit, and scamming comprise the foundation of Robbins' entire shtick. Another person on my Facebook timeline dismissed the whole thing outright, saying that the accusers were clearly just a bunch of jealous wannabes. (But the latter person also thinks that pretty much all rape or sexual abuse accusations are false, so you have to consider the source.)

To some of us, though, the Buzzfeed story came as no surprise. This is not to give short shrift to Buzzfeed's efforts, but c'mon, folks, there have been numerous
controversies and legal issues around Robbins for decades. Granted, Robbins himself has seemed to put considerable effort into quashing critical content in print and online, sometimes via litigation or threats thereof, but he has had his share of critics who have, in their own ways, documented much of his questionable behavior over the years. That "squeaky clean image" that some of the current crop of commentators insist he has maintained isn't all that clean, to those who are paying attention anyway.

And certainly the Buzzfeed allegations that Tony berated sexual abuse victims should be no surprise, in light of last year's kerfuffle over his tone-deaf statements and subsequent bumbling apologies regarding the #MeToo movement.
Here is one of hundreds of accounts of that..

Beyond that, those of us who have been observing selfish-help/New-Wage/McSpirituality luminaries for many years know that sexual harassment and predation are some of the worst-kept secrets in those "industries." There is so little accountability in these fields, and there are so many vulnerable and broken people who are on a constant quest for validation and will gladly accept it from even the dodgiest of sources.

Of course these problems also exist in numerous other industries and institutions involving unequal power dynamics: boss-employee, schoolteacher-student, film producer-actor; traditional religious leader-parishioner/congregation member; politician-aide... you get the drift. The temptation to take advantage of one's position of power is often too great to resist, and when celebrity is added to the mix it's quite often even easier to take advantage. Grab 'em by the pussy,
as someone infamously said...

This is not to deny that sometimes the "less powerful" parties are the initiators; even minor celebrities have groupies and obsessed fans who aggressively pursue them, and the selfish-help industry is no exception. Women as well as men can be very aggressive in their pursuits when they are obsessed. (As well, women in positions of power can and do take advantage of "less powerful" men, so don't think that I am framing this as simply a #believewomen issue.) Nor am I overlooking the fact that many interactions are, however distasteful or ill-advised, consensual. And I'm certainly not trying to deny that even those who strive for lofty positions of leadership are imperfect human beings, as Robbins described himself in his open letter, as sort of a blanket exoneration of any of his own dickweedish behavior. But as I've noted in other contexts, the onus is on the "more powerful" party to avoid taking advantage of fans or groupies or students or aides or parishioners or other obsessed, vulnerable, or broken people.

Moreover, even absent actual sexual harassment/predation, the egotism, arrogance, and sociopathy of many in the selfish-help industry is pretty well documented. I've addressed some of these issues previously on this blog; see additional links at the end of this post.

And beyond all of that... as I mentioned in passing above, Tony Robbins is an inveterate huckster and a serial scammer, pure and simple, and if you do not see that by now, I am not going to expend much effort trying to convince you. Do your own research. Suffice to say that Tony has his huge fingers in a lot of pies; in addition to his own progressively more pricey shticks, which you'd think that would be enough, he also isn't above
promoting the frauducts and flopportunities of far lesser but no less scummy scammers. That link in the previous sentence leads to a 2010 post by my long-time friend and blogging colleague (and now working lawyer) Jason "Salty Droid" Jones, who has documented some of Robbins' scams in exquisite detail. Here's a link to a list of all of his posts tagged "Tony Robbins." I'm guessing that Jason is one of those who was not at all surprised by what Buzzfeed uncovered.

Another person who was completely unsurprised not only by the Buzzfeed series, but also by the #MeToo v Tony conflict last year, is James Fell, of the "Body For Wife" blog. In the wake of the #MeToo flap, Fell wrote a post entitled,
"Tony Robbins Has Always Been Shitty." The title sums it up quite nicely, but the post is worth a read for it presents yet another snapshot of Robbins' manipulative, coercive, and just plain dickweedy seminar techniques, and his relentless and aggressive upselling. Wrote Fell:
Guys like Tony are the worst kind of “guru,” in that they’re only half full of shit. Also known as telling half-truths and packaging stuff that is logical in a mystical aura of rainbows and puppy hugs and para-psychological nonsense with scientific-sounding names. But it’s all just a way to suck money out of your wallet by merging legitimacy with the miraculous. As I said, these people will motivate you down to your last dollar. They tell you how you’re broken, then sell you the “fix.”

Lest you think Fell is a just another cynic about the self-help field, you're wrong.

Does this mean all work in the field of motivation is bogus? Hardly. It means don’t get it from a guy pushing pseudoscience whose greatest accomplishment is convincing millions he is great at accomplishing things.

Tony gives self-improvement a bad name. But there is plenty of legitimate behavior change science people can use for the betterment of their lives, and I’ve written about a lot of it over the years, interviewing respected experts with real PhDs from real universities. I’m personally fond of self-determination theory and self-efficacy theory. I also find value in the theory of planned behavior.

Alas, it’s sensationalism that sells. If you desire self-improvement, avoid that which is popular or sexy, and seek out the real science. It won’t keep trying to upsell you or blast anything up your ass as you walk on fire while wearing a bullshit pendant made from a few bucks worth of cheap materials.
Yet another blogger, my pal Andrew "Duff" McDuffee, wrote a series of essays on Robbins and the "cult of aggressive positivity" back in June 2010. I've cited Duff's work previously but it's pertinent here too. Here's a link to Part 1.

In any case, regarding the current Buzzfeed series, I think the writer of
a May 18 Quartz piece nailed it when she wrote that whether or not any or all of the allegations against Tony Robbins are true...
...it’s certain that Robbins now finds himself in an awkward position. He rails against victimization and urges followers to overcome the obstacles of their past—whether it’s childhood abuse, rape, poverty, or other difficult circumstances—for tomorrow’s possibilities. That’s a central tenet of his guidance. Now he’ll have to embrace these lessons, too: If he displays too much self-pity over the negative coverage, he risks seeming like a hypocrite in addition to everything else he may or may not be.
"Seeming like a hypocrite?" I'd say that train has already left the station. In any event it appears that so far, Robbins isn't playing the self-pity game as much as he is trading in faux sadness and muted outrage: planting, with a few carefully chosen sentences that range from the snarky to the histrionic, the seeds of indignation in the faithful, who are taking up the mantle of his defense and vociferously condemning Buzzfeed. The fan base seems to be doing most of the heavy lifting for him for the time being, though I wouldn't rule out Robbins resorting to litigation at some point.

I will say this, however, as I believe I've previously declared here: I did like Tony Robbins in
the Jack Black movie Shallow Hal. That is my attempt to be fair and balanced here.

And now that we've gotten fair and balanced out of the way, let's be realistic. Again, this is not to undermine the efforts of the Buzzfeed reporters, but frankly I don't really think that the publication of their work marks any sort of turning point, or that it will shock a critical mass of vulnerable folks awake and that as a result they will decide never to hand over any money or emotional currency to a selfish-help huckster again. In the greater scheme of things, despite the shock of the seemingly "untouchable" Tony Robbins being the target of a critical investigation... probably little will change. The devotees will continue to throng to Tony's expensive mega-events, he will continue to sell and promote his own (and select others') frauducts and flopportunities, he will continue to exploit his own celebrity status in any way he sees fit, and, of course, he will continue to make money hand over fist.

As I've said so many times before, quoting an increasingly annoying but nonetheless accurate maxim: The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.

Related on this Whirled:
  • Re sexual predation being one of the worst kept secrets in the selfish-help/New-Wage/McSpirituality industries; though this long piece is slightly dated (as noted in the disclaimer at the beginning), it still lends relevant perspective to some of the above:
    February 2016 --
    The hatriarchy: musings on rape culture, xenophobia, racism and other nasty business (especially under "Rape culture in the New-Wage world," but other sections are relevant too)

  • Some folks say that when a guru or idol's bad behavior enters the picture, it's still possible to "separate the message from the messenger." Here's why that isn't always possible or wise, even if the "message" itself isn't also bogus (which it so often is). In retrospect, and in light of the #MeToo movement, I may have cut too much slack for entertainment celebrities and politicians regarding codes of behavior, but overall I think the message in this post is valid.
    November 2009 --
    The lies that blind

  • Tony Robbins insists that his "open-classroom therapeutic methods" aren't for everyone, but that they have helped millions. But people can be and are emotionally, psychologically, and even physically harmed (and sometimes even killed) at LGAT (large group awareness training) events such as those that Robbins conducts/sponsors. The issue of regulation in the self-help industry is still a controversial one; I tried to offer some perspective a few years ago.
    March 2010 --
    Self-help regulation: necessary safeguard or Nanny-state nonsense?

  • More perspective on emotional, physical and sexual abuse by a faux-guru, in this case, James Arthur Ray, who is responsible for the deaths of four people and the injuries of numerous others at his own events.
    October 2010 --
    Musings on a tragedy and its meanings

  • Some consider Tony Robbins to be a "life coach." But "life coaching," like other segments of the self-help industry, has more than its share of unqualified practitioners who are playing with people's lives as well as their pocketbooks.
    April 2007 --
    Is the word "coaching" or "ka-ching?"

  • The Buzzfeed reporters wrote about the carefully structured physical and emotional environment at Tony Robbins' intensive events, citing several factors from uncomfortable room temperatures to long grueling hours, all of which were crafted to make attendees more vulnerable to manipulation. These factors are hardly unique to Robbins, though. The folks who ran current Scammer in Chief Donald Trump's bogus "university" were working from the same playbook, as do lots of other hucksters.
    May 2016 --
    Donald Trump's Scamworld playbook isn't unique

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Tuesday, April 09, 2019

From drawn-and-quartered martyr to "Crisis Coach": James Arthur Ray's newest desperate gimmick

The world LOVES a comeback story!

And I’m not speaking about your comeback theoretically. I’m speaking from painfully lived experience, so I know how to help you regain what you had through the crisis.

~ Convicted killer James Arthur "Death" Ray, aka
The Scumback Kid, who hasn't yet been able to make his own successful comeback

Isn't it a pity that one little itty-bitty teeny-weenie mistake can ruin your reputation and business and maybe your whole entire life? James Arthur "Death" Ray -- motivational guru, star of the infamous moviemercial The Secret, and convicted killer who served less than two years in an Arizona state prison for negligently homiciding three people in a phony sweat lodge -- feels your pain. And he can guide you right on through it with one of the newest offerings on his menu of desperate comeback attempts services, "Crisis Coaching."

Ray recognizes the profound unfairness of it all. The world, as he has learned the hard way, is so unforgiving:

One mistake and no one recognizes everything that you’ve brought to the table.

Crisis Coaching® brings you back to your pedestal, brings back your life, and brings it back with grace.

You’ve worked hard for your name. You’ve put in more hours than you can possibly count.

And you’ve contributed way more than most to the world.

But one PR explosion, one big error or misstep, and no one remembers any of the good you did.

Take back your life and everything that you’ve worked for.


Regardless of what they’re trying to do to you and your career.

I’m James Arthur Ray and I coach the biggest and best through, back from, and beyond crisis.

Whether they’re accusing you of sleeping around, taking something that wasn’t yours, substance abuse, or spilling oil in the ocean, I help public figures, athletes, and high-powered execs just like you pull through the storm that envelops you.

With Crisis Coaching, your business and legal team will most likely have the tools to manage ruthless media with finesse and suave. So you can get back to what life is really supposed to be like again.

Yet, while they have you in front of a firing squad, you still have to manage your own mental toughness, emotional strength, family and friends (and everything and everyone that seems to come at you when you’re at your lowest); and you have to manage them with confidence, prowess, and power.

I help you do that.
I'm just wondering which one of his coaching clients spilled oil in the ocean.

Death Ray warns that you should not trust such a profoundly important mission to people who haven't been where you are. Trust it instead to Ray, who has been through hell and back himself.

After having built a multi-million dollar brand, I was drawn and quartered because of unfortunate incidents that took place during a retreat I and my company conducted.

As the leader, I lost everything.

But I have since rebuilt my empire.

And I want to make sure you rebuild yours.
"Unfortunate incidents..." So that's how he describes the deaths of James Shore, Kirby Brown, and Liz Neuman, each of whom spent thousands of dollars for the once-in-a-deathtime opportunity to be cooked alive during Ray's "Spiritual Warrior" weekend in Sedona in October 2009. Notice how he spreads the blame around a bit to include "my company."

And as for rebuilding his empire... well, let's just say that despite his continuing efforts,
it seems to be an egregiously downsized scampire at best, and that the downsizing does not appear to be at all voluntary.

But never mind that. If you are a sleep-arounder, a taker of something that wasn't yours, a substance abuser, an oil spiller, or even a killer -- and it's affecting your emotional health and, most egregious of all, your income -- Crisis Coaching might be just the ticket for you; accordingly, James has thoughtfully included, at the bottom of the Crisis Coaching promo page, a handy assessment form for you to fill out. Even if you haven't done something awful, I get the feeling that James will be glad to hear from pretty much anyone, so if you happen to be a loved one of one of his victims, or you were a victim yourself of his
well-documented emotionally abusive and/or physically injurious and/or reckless behavior over the years... or even if you're just really, really sick and tired of his adamant refusal to take responsibility and his constant whining how awful things have been for him... go ahead and fill out the form. Pour out your heart. That's what the form is there for.

And here's an even better idea, if you're at all tempted to give money to James Arthur Ray for any reason: Give it instead to a worthwhile organization, such as, say...
Seek Safely, which was founded by Kirby Brown's family to guide consumers and make self-help practitioners more accountable for their actions through legislation. (Here is the link to donation info.) So far, more than 160 leading lights in the industry have been invited to sign the "Seek Safely" promise... and not one of them has yet done so. In all fairness, some of them are now dead, such as Louise Hay and Wayne Dyer. But as for the rest... well, the invitation has been open for years, but nobody who's anybody in the industry seems very interested. That should tell you something.

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Monday, March 25, 2019

Trump as Julius Seizer? Health Ranger endorses tyranny as solution to online "censorship" of right-wingers

On my previous post I wrote about a frivolous defamation lawsuit from a whiny-boy US congressman, Republican Devin Nunes, who is miffed at Twitter, a fake cow, and a few other assorted parties. I also riffed a bit on the general hypersensitivity of conservatives who sure can dish out the harassment and bullying to their perceived "enemies" (liberals, progressives, Democrats), but can't take it when it's dished back. Right-wing/conservative (and, in the US., Republican or libertarian) whining is an issue that has received a bit of attention recently, because contrary to what the tough guys and gals fighting "political correctness" would like us to believe, it is actually a thing.

An 18-liter bottle of aggressive red whine was recently uncorked by
Mike "The Health Ranger" Adams, alt-right/alt-health fear crapitalist and rabble-rousing Trumpian. On a Natural News screed posted on March 22, 2019, Adams gripes at length, and not for the first time, about how the tech giants -- Google, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and all the usual suspects -- are systematically censoring and shadow-banning conservatives and any speech that is "pro-Trump, pro-Christian, pro-America," in favor of "granting artificially high visibility to pro-Democrat, pro-socialism, pro-communism and pro-Islam speech."
If you told me five years ago that I would wake up one day in America and have Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google all banning natural health news, and that the entire U.S. Congress and President of the United States would do absolutely nothing about it, and that there wouldn’t be a single prominent voice on the political Left who would speak out against the scourge of censorship, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Yet that’s where we are right now in America. Actually, it’s even worse. Our Brighteon.com free speech video platform is under such intense threats and assault from upstream internet infrastructure providers that we are now being forced to implement outrageous limitations on speech in order to avoid the entire platform being annihilated (new announcement to come soon). Certain ISPs in New Zealand have now
blocked the entire domain of Brighteon.com, even after all the mosque shooting videos were removed from the platform under threat from other infrastructure providers. (New Zealand and Australia are now essentially Communist China in terms of internet censorship, with NZ rapidly becoming a new Islamic state that celebrates hijabs, a symbol of the oppression of women and gays.)
So... non-Muslim women in New Zealand donning head scarves to express solidarity with Muslim victims of white nationalist terrorism... that's the problem? What a putz.

And it isn't just political and religious oppression that Captain Murica is fighting. He is also bravely standing up against the tech giants' suppression of "the truth" about vaccines, cancer cures, and all manner of things that, in the words of imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, they don't want you to know about. Warns Adams:

We have now reached the point where the tech giants are banning all questions about vaccines… where “anti-cancer” content is being stifled on Facebook and Google… where any opinion that opposes the authoritarian left-wing techno-tyranny is silenced into oblivion.
But he can't help himself: he brings it back to politix in the next part of the paragraph:
Our elections are no longer fair and free, given that Democracy depends entirely on public knowledge and public debate so that citizens who vote might decide for themselves which candidates and policy decisions to support, yet we now find ourselves in a world where tech giants like Google and Twitter are now deciding all future elections by silencing conservative, pro-Trump, pro-Christian, pro-America speech while granting artificially high visibility to pro-Democrat, pro-socialism, pro-communism and pro-Islam speech.
And so on. Actually -- to address one of the points with which Adams led -- "the Left" has spoken out about censorship, and so have the mainstream media (aka the "fake news" in Trumpian parlance), sounding an alarm every time Donald Trump bullies his critics and frames that bullying in threats to the free press and to freedom of assembly and to other First Amendment and civil rights. Trump's re-election campaign is now even reaching out to TV producers and trying to get them to blacklist certain prominent Democrats for "lying to the American people" about the Mueller Report and the Trump/Russia scandal. Millions of us are hugely concerned about this. The rest of the world has also taken notice of the "Trump effect" on our freedoms.

But apparently our frequently expressed collective outrage is not enough for Adams. He is only focused on preserving freedom of speech for his kind, much like his idol Trump, who is fresh from signing an executive order to "protect free speech" -- at least conservative speech -- on college campuses.

And as for Adams' claim about Google and Twitter "deciding all future elections," presumably in favor of "the Left"... Hello!??
Russian interference, anyone? Of course, the tech giants played a starring role in that debacle too, and they've been faced with growing demands for accountability since then, but you don't notice Adams complaining about the results of the 2016 US presidential election, do you? Clearly he is only afraid of the Interwebs driving current and future voting trends leftwards.

Obeying Godwin's Law, Adams goes on to claim that what the tech giants are doing today to the conservatives "is far worse than the book burning of the Third Reich." Here he gets a bit rambly, as he is wont to do. (I know, I have no room to talk about rambling.)

It’s not just books that are under attack today, of course: It’s all human knowledge which runs counter to the insane, deranged narratives of the political Left.

We are now being told that biology no longer exists and that gender is “fluid.” Despite the fact that this insane idea violates the basic sciences of physiology, this is now such an ingrained position in the minds of the tech giants that anyone who opposes the gender fluidity delusion is labeled as being engaged in “hate speech.” Facebook has even announced it will no longer allow advertising companies to market to women or women by gender selection, claiming there is no such thing as biological gender. (Yes, Leftists now literally believe there is no such thing as a “man” or a “woman.”)

We’re also being told that
carbon dioxide is a “pollutant” and that the world will end in 12 years if we don’t shut down all combustion engines and fossil fuel consumption (the “Green New Deal”). This is pure insanity on its face, especially given the fact that India and China are the world’s largest producers of CO2 by far, and they would obviously not be stupid enough to collapse their entire air travel, agriculture and transportation industries in order to appease some insane, deranged Democrat from New York whose IQ is so low that is strains the very definition of “intelligent species.”
I don't want to waste too much time and space unpacking this mishmash of alt-right conspiranoia, but I do want to address a few points in passing. The "insane, deranged Democrat" with the "low" IQ is, presumably, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose IQ, education level, and accomplishments so far in her young life far outstrip most of her critics, probably including Adams himself, despite his very lengthy boasts on his own sites about his amazing intelligence and impressive accomplishments. Adams' comment about "Leftists" as a group completely disavowing the existence of biological genders is really too stupid to address at length here. Suffice to say that there is a wide range of beliefs and opinions about these issues on both the left and the right, but clearly neither Adams nor his target audience are fans of nuance and complexity. As for Adams' anti-environmentalist grousing about the carbon dioxide issue, basing his gripes on the fact that because plants need CO2 to survive there's no such thing as too much CO2, that's bollocks. Too much of a good thing is... well... usually a bad thing. It's a pretty simple principle.

The "only way to avoid a civil war"
Adams projects that if the online oppressors aren't stopped PDQ, there will be "civil war" as a result of the tech giants having designated all "pro-America forces" -- in other words, people who think like Adams and his conspiranoid audience -- as "terrorists." To preserve their good name as well as their freedom, these brave patriotic Muricans will have no choice but to engage in a civil war with the Left, and one of the very first things they'll have no choice but to do is seize control of all online platforms, including and especially Google and Facebook.

Seizing control over these assets and forcing a restoration of First Amendment freedoms for all Americans would be one of the most urgent priorities for pro-America forces. At the boots-on-the-ground military tactical level, this would be made difficult by the fact that tech giants tend to reside in left-wing Antifa-ridden areas of the country where anti-America forces would fight any patriots, National Guard troops or military forces that attempt to halt the Left’s Fourth Reich crimes against humanity via speech oppression.

It’s worth noting that the tech giants really are engaged in crimes against humanity. Silencing the speech of human beings in the way now being conducted by the tech giants is an assault on human dignity and basic human rights...
Absent civil war, what is Adams' proposed solution to the "censorship" that he says is destroying America? It's something that any sane person would see as tyranny: He wants Donald John Trump -- the man whose butt-cheeks have, for the past few years, been the virtual repository of Adams' smug nose and probably much of the rest of his face as well -- to "seize the domain names" of the tech giants and hold them hostage until they stop their oppression.
The “ace in the hole” in all this would be a conservative president declaring a national emergency and seizing the domain names of Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other tech giants. By declaring these tech companies to be engaged in an active insurrection against the United States of America — and operating in open complicity with Antifa terrorists and Mexican drug cartels that engage in human trafficking across the open border — the President could demand those domains be seized by the U.S. State Department and prohibited from operating...

...On the flip side, a left-wing President could exercise the same power against conservatives sites and seize domain names such as Infowars.com or ZeroHedge.com — two independent media websites which are already targeted and largely de-platformed by leftist tech giants. Control over the domain space is the ultimate control over online speech, and that’s exactly why President Trump needs to give the tech giants this ultimatum:

If you will not halt your oppression of human rights and your censorship of Americans based on political and religious bigotry as well as active election meddling, you will no longer be allowed to operate as the dominant “public square” content controllers...
...Believe it or not, any President of the United States has the power to seize corporations if they are engaged in treason against America. It is time to exercise that power and restore a level playing field of free speech for all Americans...
If I'm reading this correctly, the Health Ranger is declaring that the tyranny of a right-wing prez is a far, far better thing than the tyranny of a left-wing leader. So Trump has a mandate to tyrannize while the tyrannizing is good.

This is not the first time that Mike Adams has endorsed Trumpian tyranny. I've written about that a few times on this blog, such as
on this October 2018 post (scroll down to the sub-head, "Elsewhere on the conspiranoia front: martial law is okay as long as it's alt-right martial law"). Back in May 2016 I also mentioned the matter (scroll down to the sub-head, "The Health Ranger is also a major Trumpian"). In both instances I cited Adams' endorsement of Trump declaring martial law in order to whip the country into shape. And in July 2017, I wrote about Adams' endorsement of "burn(ing) the leftist-scripted newspapers," which segued into another one of his tributes to Trump. See under, "Little Hitler strikes again" (I am not above obeying Godwin's law myself).

Unfortunately Adams doesn't seem to be alone in his wish that Trump would just take matters into his own fat orange hands and totally remake the United States according to the MAGA wet dream. At a recent event held by gone-but-not-forgotten Trump aide Steve Bannon,
an angry Trump supporter expressed a wish for Trump to become a dictator and "crush Congress" -- and she was applauded by both Bannon and the audience.

That's pretty scary stuff.

Nothing could be finer than to block a little whiner...
Meanwhile, in the conspiranoia outback, where the traffic and the Facebook "likes" and the retweets are much lighter than they are around the Natural News scampire, cancer quack/fake doctor/neo-Nazi/ridiculous little hater-man Leonard Coldwell (who is a fan of both
Trump and Mike Adams) has bottled his own third-rate whine. He is upset about having been thrown in Facebook jail for 30 days...again. The graphic on his blog post about the matter, employed without any apparent trace of irony, depicts a Nazi, and the clear message on the graphic is that Lenny was Facebook-jailed for posting anti-vaccination info.

But we've heard that song before. More than likely Lenny was reported
for hate speech, as has happened so many, many times before. There's more than a hint of this on his main English-language Facebook page, in what appears to be his last post under his own name before Facebook took action. One of Lenny's alter egos, "Eyn Rand," had to take over the whinery on that Facebook thread.

As you'll see if you take a closer look at the screen grab, "Eyn" couldn't just leave it at bitching about Lenny being "censored." He also had to post a link to a video offering "proof" that the horrific mosque shootings in New Zealand were a "hoax."

For those of you who might be wondering why I keep spending (or perhaps you think "squandering" is a better word) time and energy writing about these crackpots, it's simple, apart from the fact that they're low-hanging fruit and I am still a lazy blogger. It's also because Mike Adams is undoubtedly an influencer of sorts, about which I'll have a bit more in the next section. And though Coldwell is a far lesser influencer, except in his own mind -- yes, even though he is so nearly irrelevant that even the UK blogger Longdog, who has devoted his entire blog solely to Coldwell's hatefulness and stupidity, has grown bored with him -- Lenny nevertheless reflects the nuttiest conspiracy narratives, the most toxic right-wingnut hatreds, and the most egregious medical and scientific misinformation, and all of these things have become all too mainstream. My philosophy is that as long as Coldwell continues to make blatantly stupid and hateful and wrongheaded public statements, he should continue to be held up as an example of blatant stupidity and hatefulness and wrongheadedness.

Just the (anti)-vaxx, ma'am
Mike Adams and Leonard Coldwell, like numerous others harvesting the fruits of the alt-health whinery, are chronic complainers that "natural health" information is being ruthlessly censored by Big Pharma and the medical industry and the Rothschilds and the Killuminati and, of course, Big Tech. As a result, they insist, untold numbers of people are surely getting sick, and many are even dying, because they are being deprived of this life-changing, life-saving health information. I have spilled more than my share of words about this false narrative,
one example being this August 2014 post. It's long. I'll wait.

One of the focal points of the alt-health brouhaha -- and certainly a perennial pet issue for both Adams and Coldwell -- is the anti-vaccination or anti-vaxx movement,
about which I've also written a few words before. This matter has received a lot of renewed attention lately due to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the US and numerous other spots across the world. There's also the story of Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky, who became one of the latest heroes of the anti-vaxx movement after he announced that he had deliberately exposed his nine (!) children to chicken pox rather than having them vaccinated. He presented it as being all about personal choice re vaccinations, but at least one opinion writer believes that Bevin's "choice" was informed by darker cultural and religious forces, and she may very well be right.

One of the latest developments that got the anti-vaxxers all fired up again was
Facebook's announcement earlier this month of a plan to rein in anti-vaxx conspiracy theories. The company didn't say it would actually remove the anti-vaxx groups and pages; it will simply wipe these pages and groups from its recommendations, and it will stop allowing advertisers to target people whom Facebook's algorithm identifies as being interested in "vaccine controversies." But in the views of the anti-vaxx fanatics, that's "censorship" and as such it allows them to whine a little bit louder.

Ahead of its announcement, Facebook had lamented the seemingly infinite reach of the anti-vaxx misinformation machine, insinuating that it was going to be exceedingly difficult to handle the problem. But as
a writer on The Atlantic site noted:
...while Facebook’s scale might as well be infinite, the actual universe of people arguing about vaccinations is limited and knowable...

...While there is no dearth of posts related to vaccines, the top 50 Facebook pages ranked by the number of public posts they made about vaccines generated nearly half (46 percent) of the top 10,000 posts for or against vaccinations, as well as 38 percent of the total likes on those posts, from January 2016 to February of this year. The distribution is heavy on the top, particularly for the anti-vax position. Just seven anti-vax pages
generated nearly 20 percent of the top 10,000 vaccination posts in this time period: Natural News, Dr. Tenpenny on Vaccines and Current Events, Stop Mandatory Vaccination, March Against Monsanto, J. B. Handley, Erin at Health Nut News, and Revolution for Choice.
And here we run into our old friend the Health Ranger again.
Among the most prominent anti-vax pages is Natural News, an Infowars-like conspiracy site sprinkled with tumeric powder and the essence of chemtrails. The site, which has 2.9 million likes and comes up high in a variety of search results about vaccines and vaccination, runs stories with headlines like “Left-Wing Media Run by Actual Demon-Possessed Anti-human EVIL Entities … Watch This Stunning Mini-documentary” as well as “Tech Giants’ Censorship Is an Online ETHNIC CLEANSING Campaign, Equivalent to Intellectual Genocide.” According to a list of the site's popular stories, the two most popular posts are both about vaccines.

Natural News has kept up a steady drumbeat of posts about how the site is going to be “silenced” or “censored” by the tech platforms. The site’s owner, Mike Adams, has claimed that Apple (among other tech companies) is defending “satanism” by asking Natural News to make changes to its app in the App Store. “This is the first time that a dominant tech company has overtly come out in defense of Satanism while threatening to censor a prominent publisher that exposes the evils of Satanic influence,”
Adams wrote in a recent post. He refers to the tech companies as “techno-fascists.”
Natural News -- and this will probably come as no great surprise -- did not respond to a request for comment.

In any case, it is clear that Facebook and other tech giants such as Google seem to be making efforts to stem the tide of misinformation about vaccines, as well as misinfo on any number of other topics. And just a few days ago,
GoFundMe announced that anti-vaxxers can no longer use their platform to raise money. Other platforms such as Pinterest, YouTube, and Amazon have acted in various ways to curb anti-vaxx content. How this will all play out is still uncertain, but it's a pretty sure bet that strident conspiranoids will continue to cry foul at even the mildest efforts to rein them in, while others will say that the tech giants aren't doing enough to stop dangerous misinformation.

Marketplace of ideas, or menacing monopolies?
Like millions if not billions of other people all over world, I have a love-hate relationship with the tech giants, particularly social media such as Facebook. I've never claimed that they're above reproach. Among numerous other issues,
they have been playing fast and loose with users' personal information and they should not be let off the hook for that.

More to the point of this post, and as I mentioned in my previous one, a poll taken last year by Hill.TV and American Barometer showed that
a majority of the respondents believed that there's a sytstemic bias against conservative views in social media. But the poll was heavily divided along party lines. And the view that conservatives are unfairly being targeted is not a universal one by any means. It's just that these days, the conservanoids seem to be doing the loudest whining about being grievously wronged (with the Whiner in Chief leading the charge, especially now that he has been fake-exonerated by his hand-picked AG's coy letter "summarizing" the Mueller investigation).

Many who decry any form of Internet "censorship" paint the online world as a "marketplace of ideas," where virtually anything goes, or should go. Others say that parties hosting or providing content have an ethical if not a legal responsibility to ban or at least control content such as hate speech and misinformation -- although then we get into the quagmire of deciding what exactly determines "hate speech" and "misinformation." It's not always clear. These are topics far too large and complex for this little Whirled; I mainly wanted to acknowledge, as I have previously, that I am aware that there are some serious issues with the tech giants, and that these issues are both more significant and more nuanced than, "Mike Adams is a putz" or "Leonard Coldwell is a whiny little hater-man."

One issue is the question of whether the tech giants need to be taken down a notch or two via antitrust enforcement, since companies such as Facebook and Google represent virtual monopolies in their respective realms.
The Verge ran a thoughtful piece about this matter last September. And a January 2019 piece on the GovTech site drives home the point that monopolies are bad for innovation. These are real and serious issues that affect nearly all of us.

But none of the above is even remotely a suggestion that Donald John Trump should "seize" the tech giants and remake them into a tool to further elevate himself and the hateful, fearmongering blowhards whose vitriol has already left an indelible stain on the public conversation. I don't want Donald Trump or Mike Adams or Alex Jones or even Leonard Coldwell "censored." But the swill they distribute should be called out for what it is, and for what it's worth, I will continue to do just that. And I am glad to know that I am not alone.

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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Red, red whine: Devin Nunes' defamation flawsuit against Twitter, a bogus bovine, et al.

I'm probably only the four-millionth or so person to mention this, but have you noticed that many of the conservative/libertarian manly men (and a few proud and defiant women) who are currently infesting the political and cultural landscape with their bright red caps and fact-devoid social media memes seem to have awfully thin skins -- especially when you consider their derisive sneers about the oppressive, America-threatening "political correctness" of the left, and their screeds about wimpy liberals (aka "snowflakes") who are hypersensitive to "triggers" and have an insatiable need for "safe spaces?" I have previously danced around the theme of right-wing snowflakery, e.g., in this May 2016 post (trigger warning: contains nekkid Donald Trump picture). But it's a matter that has captured my attention more fully in light of rabid Republican "strategist" Devin Nunes' comic $250 million lawsuit against Twitter, a made-up mommy, and a fake cow. (And I'm probably only the four-millionth or so person to publicly write about this, but I never claimed to be a groundbreaker.)

Anyway. From the Vox article linked to just above:

A member of Congress since January 2003, Nunes is perhaps best known nationally first for his involvement in the Benghazi investigation and second for his dogged defense of Donald Trump, upon whose transition team Nunes served. It was Nunes, for example, who wrote the 2018 memo on wiretapping that many Trump supporters believed would permanently damage special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign. (It didn’t.)

So it stands to reason that Twitter users less enthralled with Trump would tweet things about Nunes that were perhaps less than cordial — like calling him a “presidential fluffer and swamp rat,” for instance. (In fact, a tweet using those very words was included in the lawsuit.)

But in the 40-page
complaint filed on Monday, Nunes argues that tweets like that and the two parody Twitter accounts were not merely examples of Twitter being Twitter. Rather, he argues that the social media platform served as “a portal of defamation” by permitting parody accounts of his mother and his imaginary bovine to exist on the platform.
The operative word, seemingly missed by Nunes and his lawyer, is "parody." Which, you know, is protected in the United States by the First Amendment and whatnot. This is not the case everywhere, of course. In Russia (to name but one example of other places in the world where freedom of expression is not exactly a sacred cow), a person might, thanks to a new law recently signed by Trump's dom bromantic partner Putin, conceivably be prosecuted for parody, since it is by its nature disrespectful, and if your parody or satire disrespects Putin or the Russian government, well, then, shame on you, Господин or девушка Smarty-Pants. But the US isn't Russia... not yet, anyway.

Here is the direct link to the fake farm animal's Twitter account, which has more Twitter followers than the real Devin. Goodness, that must trample on his ego. If you're on Twitter and haven't done so already, why not go ahead and follow that cow? I've herd that she's very nice, the crème de la crème.  

Who feels more "hard done by": libs or cons?
Defamation cases are nearly always about hurt feelings, and a sense of being hard done by, as much as they are about actual damages. (A tip of the hat to
an ancient post on the Kung Fu Monkey blog, which I've cited here before, for the "hard done by" theme. Ah, "that sweet crack pipe of moral indignation.") For me, this latest legal looniness brings up an argument that has been going on for a few years regarding who is in fact more hypersensitive: liberals/left-wingers or conservatives/right-wingers. TheTylt.com -- to name but one of countless examples -- has tackled this matter, running two surveys that I know of a couple of years ago -- this one and this one. Spoiler: the right-wingers won the sensitivity sweepstakes both times.

But the core sensitivity of so many crass loudmouths and blowhards on the right should come as no big surprise anymore, particularly since #NotMyPresident
Donald J. Trump is such a thin-skinned type himself. For instance, just this past weekend he got in a lather about a rerun of the Christmas 2018 episode of NBC's Saturday Night Live, suggesting once again that SNL and other media he doesn't like should be investigated by the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Election Commission.

Moreover Trump
is apparently making good on the promise/threat that he spewed forth in his recent two-hour-plus rant to the Conservative Political Action Conference: a vow to sign an executive order that would punish colleges and universities that "do not support free speech" by denying them federal research funds. The initial promise was a direct response to a February 19, 2019 incident on the campus of the University of California Berkeley in which a man who was not a Berkeley student was on campus expressing his support of Trump, whereupon another man, who was not a Berkeley student either, punched him. The punchee, one Hayden Williams, was paraded around by Trump as a hero at the CPAC rant, the poster child for liberals' oppression of conservatives on campus.

Never mind that Berkeley was, in fact, already providing a solid platform for conservatives and pro-Trumpsters. In this case, the conservative org Turning Point USA was, with the university's permission, recruiting students to the cause. And never mind that
many universities already have free-speech guidelines and policies that allow non-liberal expression on their campuses. Those inconvenient facts didn't stop the right-wing whining following the punching, and didn't stop Trump from his subsequent grandstanding.

Also never mind the fact that, according to the Chicago Trib article I cited a couple of paragraphs ago, "it's unclear what type of free speech limitation could trigger a loss of federal research funding. White House officials declined to provide specific cases of free speech suppression." The guiding sentiment behind the EO seems to be that by golly, it's time that someone stepped up and protected (conservative) free speech!

Here's an opinion piece, published on March 4, 2019 in the wake of the CPAC rant, explaining why Trump is missing the point, once again.
...Because almost across the board institutional missions center on scientific discovery, knowledge and learning, institutions of higher education are a key mechanism for fostering democratic education. Campuses often subscribe to John Stuart Mill’s notion that a university is a “marketplace of ideas,” where educators offer “balanced perspectives” so that students can “hear the other side” on every issue.

However, academic freedom guidelines specifically say that faculty members need not always cover “the other side” if the standards of the discipline deem that other side to be untrue. When topics seem to be settled, with a right answer having emerged through science and ethics, faculty can focus on the knowledge produced. A white nationalist view, for example, does not merit debate within the campus marketplace of ideas.

In the aftermath of
the Charlottesville, Va., tragedy, these disagreements have taken on a deeper significance, as those of us who work within higher education navigate increasingly polarized contexts for teaching, learning and research. Public discussions of these issues have been dominated by legal analyses of the First Amendment, without sufficient attention to philosophical discussion of disagreement, truth and the democratic purposes of higher education.

College faculty and campus leaders are caught between wanting to be nonpartisan and promoting their institution’s missions, which often prioritize excellence and truth...
On the other hand, if colleges and unis are mandated by executive order or law or whatever to allow free speech, religious schools such as Liberty University, which also receives federal research funds, might have to allow satanists and abortion-rights advocates to speak on their campuses. So there's that. Could be interesting.

Misusing the courts to capitalize on being hard done by
It's not unusual for thin-skins who have the resources to try to use the legal system to fight back against real and imagined slights, generally via multi-million dollar "defamation" lawsuits. Trump is one notable and obvious example; a few of those defamation lawsuits
are listed in this article, though the piece also covers some of his other infamous and yuuugely expensive legal dramas.

Another recent example is the "Covington kid," the MAGA-cap-sporting Catholic school student Nicholas Sandmann,
whose parents sued the New York Times for $250 million and, more recently, CNN for $275 million, for the news outlets' initial coverage of an incident in which their kid confronted an elderly Native American activist and some shouting Black Hebrew Israelite cultists. (Never mind that the NYT and CNN and most other mainstream outlets revised their stories as new info came to light.) Part of the plaintiffs' argument was that the media are biased against Donald Trump and conservatives. Ah, snowflakes. No two are alike, and yet at some level they all are.

And now there's Devin and that fake mama and that bogus bovine and, of course, that very real social media platform, the latter of whom possesses the actual deep pockets that Devin and his legal team hope to mine.

If you want a good laugh,
read the lawsuit. I have been trying to find a dowloadable PDF of the document that includes the filing/court stamps, indicating that it was actually filed and the date and time that this occurred. The document to which I linked does not seem to be that, but it was uploaded to Scribd by Fox News on March 18, and seems to be the reference point for all of the chatter about it. It begins by trying to lay out the case that Twitter is has been and continues to deliberately defame poor Devin, and that Twitter has it out for all Republicans.
1. Twitter is an information content provider. Twitter creates and develops content, in whole or in part, through a combination of means: (a) by explicit censorship of viewpoints with which it disagrees, (b) by shadow-banning conservatives, such as Plaintiff, (c) by knowingly hosting and monetizing content that is clearly abusive, hateful and defamatory – providing both a voice and financial incentive to the defamers – thereby facilitating defamation on its platform, (d) by completely ignoring lawful complaints about offensive content and by allowing that content to remain accessible to the public, and (e) by intentionally abandoning and refusing to enforce its so-called Terms of Service and Twitter Rules – essentially refusing to self-regulate – thereby selectively amplifying the message of defamers such as Mair, Devin Nunes’ Mom and Devin Nunes’ cow, and materially contributing to the libelousness of the hundreds of  posts at issue in this action.

2. Twitter created and developed the content at issue in this case by transforming false accusations of criminal conduct, imputed wrongdoing, dishonesty and lack of integrity into a publicly available commodity used by unscrupulous political operatives and their donor/clients as a weapon. Twitter knew the defamation was (and is) happening. Twitter let it happen because Twitter had (and has) a political agenda and motive: Twitter allowed (and allows) its platform to serve as a portal of defamation in order to undermine public confidence in Plaintiff and to benefit his opponents and opponents of the Republican Party...
And so on, and so forth, adding up to yet another fine red whine. Alas, poor Devin, and oh, those poor, put-upon Republicans.

This bit, which occurs towards the end and wraps up the counts for which the plaintiff is demanding so much money, made me chuckle.

... 54. Beginning in February 2018 and continuing through the present, Mair, Devin Nunes’ Mom and Devin Nunes’ cow, acting as individuals, combined, associated, agreed or acted in concert with each other and/or with one or more “clients” or other donors, non-profits, operatives or agents of the Democratic Party (whose identity is unknown at this time) for the express purposes of injuring Nunes, intentionally and unlawfully interfering with his business and employment as a United States Congressman, and defaming Nunes. In furtherance of the conspiracy and preconceived plan, the Defendants engaged in a joint scheme the unlawful purpose of which was to destroy Nunes’ personal and professional reputations and influence the outcome of a federal election.
Nunes is asking for a minimum of $250,000,000 for the alleged attempts to destroy his reputation, but is certainly open to the idea of receiving much more, should it please the court. On his monologue on March 19, 2019, Stephen Colbert said that Nunes' legal team came up with that figure by applying a scientific legal formula: they took the dollar amount that Nunes' reputation is actually worth, and added $250,000,000 to it. That sounds about right.

Colbert and gang felt inspired by the hoopla to create
another parody Twitter account, Devin Nunes' Skin. The opening (and so far only) tweet:

Still thin.
Less than 24 hours after being launched, that account had more than 30,000 followers. And although as of this writing the account still contains a solitary tweet, the following is making its way steadily to 44,000.

I am well aware that there is an ongoing debate about several issues related to social media, and one of these issues is the question of whether or not platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are indeed biased against conservatives. A poll taken late last year by Hill.TV and American Barometer indicated that a majority of American voters thought that the social media giants have a systemic bias against conservative views. Unsurprisingly, the poll was heavily divided along party lines, with Republicans overwhelmingly likely to view tech companies as being biased against conservatives. Media bias is a perennial issue that is worthy of exploration and analysis, but frivolous defamation lawsuits by whiny politicians and other public figures are not helpful at all.
Conspiranoia strikes deep...again
All of the talk about conspiracy to defame reminds me very much of
another defamation flawsuit from a few years back, one in which I was the top-named defendant. It didn't make the mainstream news, of course, and was barely a blip in the blogosphere, but if you think I am going to pass up an opportunity to sneer about it, you are very much mistaken. As you may know, the suit did not go very well for the plaintiff, Not-Doktor Leonard Coldwell, aka LoonyC, the stupidest and most evil man in Scamworld; his attorneys advised him to drop the case, and he did. Nor did his previous attempt to sue a critical blogger (my pal and co-defendant in the aforementioned case, Salty Droid) go very well; his rent-a-lawyer in that one dropped out of the case early on, and the whole thing was dismissed because LoonyC never showed up for any hearings. Yet he has continued to boast about his powerful legal team and about his steadfast willingness to fight and defeat anyone who dares to "defame" him.

Arguably the majority of defamation lawsuits fail, at least in the US.
It's complicated, and I don't claim to be anything remotely resembling an expert on these matters. But it seems that more than likely, Devin Nunes doesn't have a very strong case, in part because he is a politician and a public figure, and America has a long history of protecting those who make fun of our politicians. Also, Twitter is merely distributing, not creating, the offending content. But some have warned that even if Nunes loses the lawsuit and the probable appeal, he is creating an opening for the Supreme Court to reconsider its previous rulings on defamation and public officials. As a lawmaker, Nunes is in a unique position to introduce legislation that could very well have a chilling effect that would make Putin proud.

For now, it seems nothing will stop either Nunes or his detractors from... oh, you knew this was coming, didn't you?... milking this matter for all it's worth. But it's worth noting that last year Nunes was a co-sponsor of HR 1179, the "Discouraging Frivolous Lawsuits Act."
Cory Doctorow on Boing-Boing made sport of this (as well as the now-defunct fake-mama Twitter account).
Nunes is upset that he was called a "herp-face," and is really upset about a human centipede meme that depicted Nunes, Trump and Putin as generic, labeled stick-figures with their mouths grafted onto one-another's anuses. This tweet may just be the greatest exhibit ever filed in a lawsuit.
It's a very good thing to have a little comic relief in the midst of the horror and chaos that is swirling all around us, but let's hope that the right-wing snowflakes don't have the last laugh.

Addendum, 5 April 2019: Republican strategist Elizabeth "Liz" Mair, who besides Twitter is actually the main defendant in Nunes' silly complaint, wrote a serious editorial about the real threats to free speech for all of us. It was published in USA Today. Here 'tis.
Related on this Whirled: Vintage whines from conservative conspiranoid snowflakes

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Thursday, February 28, 2019

GIN turns ten, and Kevin Trudeau continues to spew wisdumb from Camp Cupcake

With February fading fast, it occurred to me that I need to post something in order to maintain my record of blogging at least once every month since the Whirled was created in July 2006. I don't want to disappoint my four or five readers, after all. There are scads of things to write about, as usual, but for now I want to return to one of this blog's longtime favorite topics, the inimitable scammer for all seasons and all reasons, Kevin Trudeau, aka KT, aka Katie.

I've been blogging about Katie for more than ten years now, often focusing on what was once his greatest scam of all, the
Global Information Network, or GIN, which was spawned in 2009. In its heyday GIN involved a yuuuge multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) eventually declared was a pyramid scheme. To my knowledge the courts never ruled on that particular point, but it became moot when the court-appointed receiver pulled the plug on the MLM as it then existed. At any rate, lots of folks lost lots of money that they'll never get back, and quite a few were, and remain, justifiably angry about it.

Katie is currently serving
a ten-year sentence in a federal prison camp -- FPC Montgomery, Alabama (Inmate Number 18046036). He has referred to the place, either fake-fondly or sarcastically, as Camp Cupcake. His vacation at Camp Cupcake isn't punishment for GIN -- there may never be any justice served for that -- but rather for a criminal contempt charge related to false claims that Katie made on infomercials for his diet book, The Weight Loss Cure "They" Don't Want You To Know About. In the process of being pursued by the government for years and years of fraudulent activities, Katie became a fake hero/martyr in his own mind -- and in the minds of his doting fans and followers -- for the First Amendment and freedom of speech. His imprisonment only added to his martyr credentials.

Most of y'all probably already know all of this, but a quick recap never hurt anyone, and might be helpful to those who are unfamiliar with the background.

Although he is imprisoned, Katie is still doing everything he can to remain relevant in Scamworld, and some of his long-time pals are helping him. While
GIN is in some senses a shadow of its former self, with a scaled-down affiliate program instead of the big scammy MLM with its extravagant promises of wealth, health, and perfect happiness, Katie continues to push his own shtick via his Facebook page, and apparently still has allies in and around GIN.

As of this writing, Katie's latest Facebook offering is
a long spiel about ancient wisdom and self-realized beings and whatnot.
Everything already IS when it comes to the mind and spirituality. All has already been discovered and revealed to all of us because so many have already achieved "Enlightenment". There have been millions of highly evolved beings on earth spanning thousands of years, who have reached the spiritual level of being able to observe and witness the mind in action and the entire spiritual nonphysical nature of the Universe. These people are known as being "Enlightened" or "Saints" or Avatars or Self Realized.

Many of them, over thousands of years, have written such observations and discoveries for all of us to learn from. These texts are available to all of us. But, who will spend the time, reading these esoteric texts from all around the world? Very few.

Lucky for us, right now in fact, there are hundreds of thousands of such "Enlightened" Self-Realized beings on planet Earth. Many of them are sharing what they "know" through books, lectures, videos, and workshops. They are sharing what they KNOW, not just "know about".

I encourage you to seek Truth from SOURCE via someone who is not claiming to BE Source, but rather working to open you up so that you can connect with Source directly. Finding such a person, and following their teachings, is the fastest and easiest path to get to where you absolutely want to go. Much love to you as you proceed on your journey. Make it an adventure!

Much love, and may you never be the same.
Your friend, KT
How's that for a shameless attempt to slap a patina of timeless-spiritual-wisdom legitimacy onto Katie and his Scamworld buddies? Subtle, huh?

There's also a new Katie-related Facebook page in town, or at least it's new to me:
Kevin Trudeau Teachings, which popped up on my FB feed today. It's partly a rehash of some of the wisdumb Katie shares on his own page, partly a GIN promo vehicle, and partly a promotion for continuing efforts to free Katie from the clink. (More on the latter in a little while.)

The first post that caught my eye on Kevin Trudeau Teachings, written on February 27, was
a rather garbled invitation to what the writer described as a celebration of the tenth anniversary of Katie's big dream: an event billed as the Global Dream Celebration (GDC) '19.
Come join us in celebrating the 10 Year Anniversary of Kevin Trudeau's Dream... Celebration with all KT's Global The Success Mastery Course Students www.ginunited.com When the student is ready The Teacher/Mentor will appear. To Receive a Mentor, use the following Affiliate Code: 1519886 and continue into deeper teachings of KT. The Month special ends at midnight...
Interestingly enough, on the actual GIN site, Katie isn't mentioned in the promo for the event.
A journey of 10,000 Miles begins with the first step! Elevate Your Journey as the Dream continues.... Join us in the Mile High City! Our journey of 10 years began with the first steps and Big Dreams in 2009.... We are going to continue to think BIGGER! We will soar to new heights! We will climb new mountains! We will stand on the summit and celebrate that we have risen above every challenge on our pathway to greater successes! Big Successes begin with Big Dreams, So Dream Bigger, Accomplish Bigger Successes, Climb New Peaks, Fly with the Eagles and Soar Even Higher
But judging from the social media content I've seen, it seems clear that the Beloved Founder is still very much a presence in GIN.

Apart from promoting GIN and Katie's own social media ramblings, the Kevin Trudeau Teachings page is also pushing the efforts to get Donald Trump to commute Katie's prison sentence and pardon him. Natch, I've written about that quite a few times here too,
this being one of the more recent-ish posts. Also on February 27, the KTT page offered this breathless post, announcing what the writer claimed to be progress in the long struggle, though it looked to me like the same old same old.
A clear, coherent strategy is quickly taking shape to #FreeKevinTrudeau! We’ve hinted about this on our page before, but now ALL the pieces are in place and our strategy will be executed very soon! It is VERY IMPORTANT, however, that our efforts be duplicated. What this means is that when we, Janine, Lee and others give the word and send out the link, IMMEDIATELY sign the official White House petition and then email, text, and FB message ALL of your friends and family, regardless if they are KT supporters or not, and ask them to sign the petition as well! Every single one of you will need to take personal ownership to make this happen. You will need to be more persistent than ever and FIGHT HARD to make this happen, as if it all depended on you! With everyone doing this, we are confident that we will not only reach the 100,000 signatures we need, but we will do it quickly and we’ll exceed that number! Then, President Trump will be required by law to respond to our petition and we are more than confident that he will #FreeKevinTrudeau!

Also, it is very important that you we have your email address on file so that you can be notified through the official channel at
www.KevinTrudeau.com. You may also receive a text message notifying you that the White House petition has gone live.

It is time to get pumped! This is the calm before the storm! Let’s make this happen!

And lastly, please share the hell out of this post!
If you follow any of the links to my previous posts about the efforts to sweet-talk Herr Drumpf into freeing Kevin, you'll see that nothing has really changed. It's just the same old hype. But now, more than ever, I'm willing to bet that Trump's attention is on other matters.

* * * * *

By the way, when Googling the other day, I came across a story from 2017 that had somehow escaped my attention: the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued one of the former GIN "inner circle" members, one Darrell Glenn Hardaway, for $4.7 million (later reduced to $3.1 mil). According to the complaint, Hardaway targeted GIN members with phony stock offerings.
1. This case is about a multi-million-dollar fraud scheme carried out by Defendant Darrell Glenn Hardaway ("Hardaway") using his private company, Defendant Hardaway Net-Works, Inc. ("HNW"). Since at least as early as November 2010, the Defendants have fraudulently raised $4.7 million or more by selling securities issued by HNW. Hardaway successfully marketed these securities to over a hundred fellow members of a nationwide "success club" in which he was a high-ranking leader. He targeted these victims both because they had great trust in him and because they had taken an oath not to criticize him.
2. The Defendants lured investor victims using baseless projections about HNW's business operations. They falsely claimed that investors stood to reap "massive" returns upon HNW's ever-imminent public offering. And they pressured victims to invest through a number of sham "limited time" incentives.
3. In truth, HNW barely had a pulse. From 2010-16, HNW's total revenue was a meager $24,812 from only a handful of customers. By comparison, it had total expenses of approximately $5 million during the same period—over 200 times revenues. Nearly $2 million of these expenses went to fund Hardaway's lifestyle, rather than toward legitimate business expenses. These payments took the form of both salary and "expense reimbursements."

That "success club," named later in the document, was indeed GIN. According to t
he release on the SEC site...
Without admitting or denying the allegations in the SEC's complaint, Hardaway and HNW each agreed to the entry of permanent injunctions and to defer determination of any disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and civil penalties. Hardaway also agreed to the entry of an officer and director bar. The settlement is subject to court approval.
I haven't really been able to find any updates on this case, so if you have any info, send it on and I'll post it.

In any case I guess you can't blame Hardaway for his misbehavior. As a high-ranking member of GIN, Hardaway learned from the best. And after all, as Kevin Trudeau himself loves to say, "Who do you listen to?"

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