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Lipreading in the Age of Covid-19

by on August 23, 2020

Lipreading in the Age of Covid 19

by Marco M. Pardi

Trust that man in nothing who has not a conscience in everything” Laurence Stern. Tristam Shandy. 1767

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Read my lips. No new taxes.” So said George H.W. Bush while accepting the Republican nomination for President at the Republican National Convention on August 18th, 1988. We did. And what did we get? New taxes.

While George’s words came back to him in the next election, they should not be called outright lies. Instead, they were more likely a simple display of lack of foresight; he had little idea of the quicksand his policies were developing and how they would inevitably swallow him. So even after eight years serving as our de facto President while the former actor Ronald Reagan watched his old movies, napped, and read his lines as directed, G.H.W. Bush was unable to carry out his official four year term without facing reality.

This time is different. We have a carnival barker for a president, a man for whom several “fact checkers” have documented in excess of 20,000 outright lies or deceptive statements since taking office. It would seem the fact checkers could dramatically lighten their load by switching to documenting the vanishingly rare truthful statements that may have inadvertently escaped him.

Most of Trump’s lies are so transparent they need no in-depth analysis. More concerning, however, are seemingly casual statements which go unchallenged. For example, his administration has pushed through a record number of right wing extremists to appointments as federal judges. Most of these have been below public scrutiny. But in more high profile appointments Trump routinely claims he has known the person for a very long time and has admired his work. Two questions should immediately arise: When selecting a person in a far flung region of the United States how does a five or six time bankrupt real estate grifter from New York City know this person “for a very long time”? Trump was a registered Republican in 1987. But between then and 2015 he switched his party five times, from Republican to Democrat to Independence Party of New York and back and forth as the wind blew. So how does a person with no firm and long lasting political convictions “admire the work” of anyone for a “very long time”?

It seems to me the answers are obvious. He has no idea who these people are and no idea of their judicial record. What he does have an idea of is the desire of the cabal of neo-fascists who are using him to further their own ends. They prevented his removal from office subsequent to his impeachment, thereby interrupting what should have been his frog-march into a Southern District of New York criminal court on bank fraud and tax evasion charges. Donald J. Trump is merely the mask hiding the lips of the ultra-right neo-fascist party which has been masquerading as the Republican Party since the late 1970’s. Unfortunately, unlike the surgical masks worn during this pandemic, the mask known as Trump will far more likely infect people than protect them. That seems to be the reason his party dd not dispose of him when he was impeached.

Who are the other players in this Kabuki theater? Actually, though they may not realize it, the rest of the planet has existential stakes in the coming presidential election. On one measure alone, impact on the environment, the neo-fascist party has already rolled back or eliminated every safeguard put in place by previous administrations. Some Americans may dream of escaping this nightmare by moving to some far off country. But the reality comes home quickly enough when air currents from unregulated U.S. industries, energy conglomerates, and motor vehicles bring particulates which alter worldwide weather patterns and poison those often advertised exotic springs from which so many people derive their over priced bottled water.

More specifically, both the American National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have found that the Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravlenie (GRU), Russian Military Intelligence, is using a hacking tool code named “Drovorub” to break into an operating system used across many computer server infrastructures. The specific team identified is the 85th Main Special Service Center (GtsSS) and the military unit is 26165. The Chinese are also separately involved but, unfortunately, the Ministry of State Security, the Guoanbu, is practically opaque to Western Intelligence. And, of course, the Iranians are in the mix. The Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, more easily referenced as the VAJA, is deeply entrenched in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon to name a few countries.

The Russian intent, as made clear by Vladimir Putin, is much more targeted than his directed efforts at disrupting the 2016 elections; the intent is specifically to ensure that America’s most incompetent and dangerous president is re-elected. Putin has been, and is being quite candid about this. On the other hand, China has made it clear that they “favor” a Joe Biden presidency.

How is it that two totalitarian States have such different outcomes in mind? For starters we can say that each and every Putin wish has been granted at least partially if not fully. From the start of Trump’s presidency there have been serious questions of whether Russia holds extremely damaging “kompromat” on Trump, making him a 21st Century version of The Manchurian Candidate.

China, on the other hand, holds massive American debt. A three millennia long player in international trade and politics, China plays the long game, knowing that delayed payment is better than no payment because your debtor is defunct. And, the debt can always be played to extort concessions from the United States in the Pacific Region. For this to work, the debtor country must have stable and sane leadership, not an unpredictable and pathologically ill President – even if he is only a mouthpiece for an equally ill cabal.

So, as we move toward the countdown to elections we are likely to see the thoughts and tactics of Hitler and Goebbels put once again into action: In his excellent book, The Coming of the Third Reich, Richard J. Evans quotes from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, that good propaganda speaks to feelings and not reason and that “it should never admit a glimmer of doubt in its own claims, or concede the tiniest element of right in the claims of the other side”. Sound familiar? It should. It is the daily lip-synch from the Oval Office.

Of course, it must be obvious whom I will vote for, but the critical task ahead of those of us who care is to help others understand what they will be hearing and seeing over the next couple of months. In her excellent book, The End of America, Naomi Wolf advises us that, “Dictatorships specialize in faking news and falsifying documents. Hitler wrote that ‘all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand.’… To back up its disinformation campaigns, such regimes often rely on false documents. These counterfeit documents often assert that there is a threat to the home population.” Does “The Deep State” come to mind?

Trump himself has given his blessings to the Q-Anon cult. This mixed confederation gave us the famous claim that the Clintons were running a child abduction and sexual slavery ring out of the basement of New York pizza parlor. An armed man drove several hundred miles to rescue the children, charging into the place and shooting up the store only to find there was no basement. That’s the power of repeated propaganda.

In all fairness, the word propaganda began as a neutral term. It simply means to propagate or dispense or disseminate an idea or claim; it does not in and of itself indicate the claim is true or false. However, over the years the word itself has become a pejorative. If someone wants to label the claim of another as ipso facto false, they label the claim “propaganda”, and it does the job. So while lips will be moving all around us as they voice claims, it will be up to us to read them and determine their veracity.

In the hands of amateurs propaganda can be amusing. A current example is the intense television video depicting Joe Biden as responsible for needlessly ruining the lives of thousands by initiating and supporting Draconian laws which put many in prison for unjustly lengthy terms. The video was directly aimed at the African-American population. But then the Black Lives Matter demonstrations captured the news nationwide and, though it was obvious that agent provocateurs (a time-worn Republican tactic) infiltrated the demonstrations and fomented the violence and burning, many people became concerned over the call to defund the police. Actually, defund was a poor choice of words, like global warming instead of climate change. The philosophy of defunding was aimed at reducing the police capabilities to arm themselves with military hardware appropriate to invasion of another country and redirecting that funding toward increased training and community outreach. But, like global warming, the term stuck.

(The original video depicting Biden as a law and order zealot has been pulled from the airwaves. It would have directly contradicted the next false message.)

Suddenly, the Republican propaganda machine shifted to depicting Joe Biden as favoring defunding and even eliminating police (he certainly does not, and has said so repeatedly). Now we are bombarded with claims that a Biden election will bring chaos, anarchy, the end of civilization, insurmountable danger to our children, and other unpleasant disasters. But the fact is that Trump himself initiated efforts to monetarily defund police across the nation to the tune of half a billion dollars. Biden is against monetary defunding, Trump is for monetary defunding, but the propaganda still plays to the fears and ignorance of the population.

Ultimately, the ability to read lips and discern the meaning comes from sound and developed education. Our national pause as we contend with Trump’s utterly failed management of the pandemic response has hopefully afforded many the time and opportunity to better prepare themselves for the decision they will render in November. If you are eligible to do so, please vote.

The planet you save may be your own.

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11 Comments
  1. danarenee71 permalink

    Marco, thank you for another excellent analysis that helps me understand what is going on with this administration, and how Trump thinks and communicates. It’s stunning to know he believes his own lies. He has no idea what the truth is because he so seldom speaks it as you’ve said.

    I’ve seen those ads during the nightly ABC news and on CNN. I don’t watch much TV, maybe just a handful of times per week. I’m surprised to see Trump campaign ads on liberal channels. But, money talks and ads are lucrative revenue.

    I wasn’t alone first time I saw the sensational, propaganda one from the Trump campaign about Biden “defunding the police.” I was sitting with a brainwashed Republican, someone older than I am who still votes precisely as their parents do. It’s incredible they do this, because in at least two major areas this has been absolutely against their own best interest. Not financially, mind you. As we know, Republicans can cling to their money for dear life, as though everyone else exists merely to take it away from them.

    As usual, I attempted to glance over and observe reactions, something I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember. I thought I saw an expression of horror, but I often misread expressions. This time I wasn’t wrong, because their response was, “Can you even IMAGINE this?” They were referring to the so-called resulting mass chaos and anarchy if Biden is elected and we no longer have police protection.

    The ad, were it not unsettling in its content, is poorly done, amateur, to the point it could an Onion News satire clip. The frantic 911 call, being sent through a voicemail telephone tree for assistance, not receiving any help from a human 911 communications officer. It’s so absurd; sadly, people actually think that can happen.

    I was really sleepy and on the verge of nodding off when I received the email notification for this post. I felt immediately energized and awake after reading it. I wish Americans would wake up. I’ve known people who are so-called Independents, Libertarians, and Progressives. I will say again what I said in 2016, voting for a candidate who clearly cannot win, or not voting at all because one simply doesn’t “like” either candidate is voting for Trump.

    We could have a repeat of that election. I really hope not, but I wasn’t surprised in 2016, and I won’t be surprised this time.

    Like

    • Thank you, Dana. I know you share my difficulty in tolerating people who, as you describe, respond like the strings on a fiddle when these lies are broadcast. Yet, we must persevere. We must keep speaking out for silence will be the end of us.

      Like

      • From Dana:

        I won’t speak for others, but your posts increase my cheerful feelings, even if the content can be troubling at times. I’m happy you are analyzing, writing, and sharing what we need to hear. I think your posts should be read and widely shared wherever possible even if others don’t respond. I hope they’re at least listening and improving critical thinking skills, something that requires time and effort. I’m so glad you have helped me continue to learn how to think, rather than telling me what to think.

        And as I always say, your words are immortal unless you delete your blog one day. That would obviously be an incredible loss. What you say needs to be heard in between all of the fluff and escapism to which we expose ourselves, myself included. A little escape is okay. Too much is hazardous.

        We can’t just throw up our hands and give up. Most of us probably know and perhaps care about people in generations younger than we are. We can’t give up for their sake, and the sake of every non-human inhabitant of our planet.

        Thank you, Marco.

        Dana

        Like

      • danarenee71 permalink

        At work yesterday someone said to me, “Oh great. You’re talking about ‘such and such’ again.”

        My response was, “I won’t be neutralized, and I won’t be silenced, and I won’t be erased.”

        That applies here, too. I can’t be quiet. Thankfully every cashier I work with shares my political views, which we all discuss openly since there is no policy against it. I’ve no doubt customers are within ear shot, but when opportunity presents itself, I think it’s fine to carry out these discussions.

        Many of our customers are struggling to get by, sometimes scraping together change to purchase a few screws or bolts to complete a job. We cashiers have been known to keep our own cash handy when someone is a little bit short. People need to know that the current administration does not care about them. And that the problems facing us today will only get worse if we don’t do something. I hold Donald Trump responsible for countless lives lost in this pandemic.

        Like

        • Thanks, Dana. It’s good to know there are like minded individuals out there. Still, November will be a difficult time.

          Like

  2. Mike Stamm permalink

    Drumpf does not believe anything–not in our sense of the word “believe.” He is the human equivalent of a paramecium: all that matters, ever, is what’s good for Drumpf. Period. It’s why he lies all day, every day; he has no concept of truth. He doesn’t even remember his own lies, which is why he denies them when confronted with absolute proof of them. As his sister has now famously said, Drumpf has no principles; there is nothing he will not do. What is terrifying is that there are evidently so many others not very different from him in that respect. They are the ones who point to all the good things he has done for the US, even though they wind up pointing at empty space when they do so. They are the ones who want to make America great again, as if it were something other than Drumpf and his drooling lackeys and their lackwit supporters that have made America the seething self-destructive mess it is now. The most important society goal of this year, this decade, is to get that bloated orange troglodyte out of office (and, for preference, into prison), so that SOMEone can begin to clean up after him. It’s a dirty, filthy job, but we all need to do it.

    Like

  3. Thank you, Mike. I’ve long held that even a small lie is a cancer. It demands constant feeding and, as it grows, it converts the whole body into itself until, in the end, it consumes the person beyond recognition. In medical terms I would say Trump is beyond Stage 4, a tumor seeking to feed off others.

    Like

    • From Ray:

      Marco – Bravo for taking on this topic – it is most distasteful. It is particularly disgusting how people who pride themselves as leaders in so many aspects of life are incapable of governing themselves for the benefit of the many over the few. It is doubtful that Biden, even if he wins will be able to do much, but hope runs eternal…. As for the clown now in office we can only hope he meets his just rewards. But when I look at what we have done to the mothership even over the last four years – I know it will take more than hope to restore it.

      Like

  4. Thank you, Ray. At times it seems we are in a bizarre endurance contest. Your encouragement certainly helps. Marco

    Like

  5. I promise this blog didn’t get past me, there just hasn’t been a free moment in the past few weeks in which to respond. I must say, it contains much thought producing material. Everyone seems to have a dog in this fight, and goodness knows dog fights are nothing but ugly, hateful events.

    Putin chose well in backing Trump in 2016. Coming from a grandfather who ran a house of prostitution, that family has spent generations seeking social acceptance and respect. How flattered Trump must have felt to believe that a world leader, however evil, respected him. It makes me ill to think of it, but so much pertaining to Trump sickens me. I am absolutely terrified what four more years (or twelve more, ugh!) would do to this country. I don’t want to believe it’s too late to repair what he’s already done, but at this point the best we can do is mend the tears and wounds and just hope there’s enough left of us to make a new start.

    Like

    • Thank you, Rose. I’ve been busier than I thought possible these past few weeks.

      I do think that if he is elected the Great American Experiment is over. And if he is not, we will be very hard pressed to undo the damage the American Fascist Party has already done.

      Recently I got an email asking me to offer a question to the debate moderators. My question was: Given the rate of melting of the permafrost, what is your plan to deal with and/or contain the paleo-viruses we know are currently frozen in the now melting permafrost?

      I doubt it will get asked, even with the novel Corona virus sweeping the planet.

      Like

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