If you want an alternate view of the Robert Mueller investigation into President Trump and Russia, just spend a few minutes taking in right wing infotainment.
It’s a fantasy land of non-stop TV, radio, and internet catastrophy where Trump is the victim of a vast conspiracy involving the liberal media, globalist financiers, Obama-era holdovers in the brutally corrupt Justice Department and FBI, and a Special Counsel hopelessly compromised by conflicts of interest.
One especially imposing aspect of right wing infotainment is that it comes with a dense vocabulary of conspiracy theories, shared assumptions, bad faith accusations, racial grievances, and nonsensical plots. You’re expected to know what these terms are, so that when they’re referred to, you can understand with no explanation needed.
But if you don’t understand, I took the liberty of explaining a few. This list of terms can never be exhaustive, since conservative infotainment depends almost entirely on turning words into whatever they need to mean. But here’s a start:
Deep State: Generally, conservative infotainment uses “deep state” to refer to a shadowy government apparatus made up of former Obama officials devoted to leaking damaging information on Trump, and obstructing everything he tries to do – with the eventual goal of overthrowing Trump’s presidency in a coup. It’s comprised of intelligence, law enforcement, celebrities (even Ellen!), and the national media.
While there have been a great many leaks from the Trump White House, most are from either staffers or Trump friends. The “deep state” posited by conservative bloviators doesn’t appear to exist in any organized form, and the term originally referred to the mysterious links between the elected government, right-wing rebels, and law enforcement in Turkey.
Unmasking: This is the intelligence practice of revealing the identities of Americans caught on foreign surveillance taps. Conservative infotainers it as a sinister tactic that the Obama Deep State used to try to throw the election. It was a mostly unremarkable practice, until Trump accused Obama of “wiretapping” Trump tower to gain damaging information on Trump’s campaign.
The unmasking controversy peaked when House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes gave a bizarre briefing to both Trump and the media on a supposed scandal he’d uncovered, only to be humiliated when it was proven to not exist. It’s still brought up in conservative media, but not as much, given that there’s literally nothing there.
Conflicts of interest: Normally, when judges or officials have a conflict of interest in a case, they recuse themselves and have someone else take over their role. But in conservative infotainment, a conflict of interest is seen as anything that would make a government official not display absolute fealty to Trump.
These have included Mueller having a dispute with a Trump country club over golf fees, FBI #2 man Andrew McCabe’s wife running for office as a Democrat, several Mueller staffers having made small donations to Democrats, and a variety of nonsensical Clinton scandals involving uranium.The right wing solution to these conflicts seems to be arresting various DOJ officials for unspecified reasons.
“The Memo:” Devin Nunes’ failure to make unmasking happen didn’t relegate him to the sidelines. He wrote an explosive “memo” regarding abuses of surveillance laws by Obama and the DOJ against the Trump campaign. #ReleaseTheMemo soon exploded, with both US Congressmen and “concerned patriots” demanding Nunes’ classified document be released so it could destroy the Deep State for good.
As I wrote last week, “the memo” is likely a mix of unfounded allegations and bad faith accusations, written by a Representative whose career is sinking into insanity. By the time the memo is actually released, the public will likely have moved on to the next silly distraction, and nothing will explode or be destroyed.
Strzok and Page: The conspiracy theory regarding the Deep State and Trump has increasingly focused on two FBI officials: Peter Strzok, a field agent and brief member of the Special Counsel’s office, and Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer.
The duo, who were dating at the time, exchanged over 50,000 text messages, many of which were extremely disparaging of Trump. They were found during the Inspector General’s investigation into the FBI’s look at the Hillary Clinton email fiasco.
A Mueller man actively ragging on Trump was taken as incontrovertible proof that the Mueller investigation and the FBI in general were corrupt and must be purged.
But as it turned out, the duo had negative opinions about a lot of people in government, including some Democrats, and that none of the texts showed any hint that the investigation was biased or corrupt. Beyond that, Strzok was quickly removed from the Mueller investigation when the news broke. The messages aren’t proof of anything other than two FBI agents not having especially high expectations for the new administration.
Secret Society: Among the Page/Strozk texts was the now-infamous one referring to a “secret society” within the FBI. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, without having read the entire text chain, proclaimed on Fox News that he had “an informant” in the “society” that was “holding secret meetings offsite.” When the full text message was released, and turned out to be about an FBI beefcake calendar, Johnson backed off his claim.
Missing Texts: During the investigation into Strozk and Page, it came out that the texts they’d exchanged between December 14, 2016, and May 17, 2017 had gone missing, unsaved due to what the FBI blamed on a technical problem. The May date was especially significant – it’s awhen Mueller was named Special Counsel.
With the patina of Hillary Clinton’s “acid washed” emails still hanging around, right wingers jumped on the missing texts, a number that got inflated to 50,000 – the total number of texts the duo exchanged. As it turned out, the missing texts were found a few days later, and revealed nothing of note.
At this point, the coverage of Mueller and Trump is veering into two tracks – one reality based, and the other…not so much. On the second track, these terms set the tone for coverage of a massive conspiracy against Donald Trump. On the first, they’re basically a joke.