Grifts and Gullibility: How We Came to This

You may be amused to know that some Trump supporters have started a GoFundMe to help pay for Trump’s half billion in fines.

Elena Cardone, the wife of real estate investor and influencer Grant Cardone, announced a short time later on X, formerly Twitter, that she had started a GoFundMe page to foot the bill. According to Forbes, Trump had a net worth of about $2.6 billion as of September.

The page, titled “Stand with Trump; Fund the $355M Unjust Judgment,” had raised over $18,000 of the $355 million about five hours after it was launched. More than 400 donors contributed between $5 and $1,500 each.

I bet some of those donors need that money more than Trump does.

Digby writes about yesterday’s fraud decision:

This man’s con has been going his whole life. His companies declared bankruptcy 6 times. He’s settled numerous fraud trials before this one, notably the Trump University case. He and his spawn have already been barred from ever running another “charity” in New York after he defrauded little kids with cancer. All of his is well known.

He’s a con artist who is so narcissistic he thought he could become president and nobody would ever be able to stop him. But he lost 66 cases stemming from his bogus claims of voter fraud after the 2020 election. Two women, E. Jean Carroll and Leticia James have now obtained half a billion dollars in damages from his lies, defamation and fraud. Next month we will have the first of several criminal trials that may catch up with him as well.

He’s crying and whining about being persecuted. And his hardcore followers are all Trump sin-eaters who so identify with him that they cannot admit to error either. They voted for him, they supported him they cannot possibly be wrong.

But there must be a few people who are starting to see that they’ve been conned. I hope so anyway or e are living in a country with so many deluded,brainwashed people that even without Trump it’s hard to imagine this country can survive.

Let us reflect on how much the entire political Right of the United States has been a con for a long time. Richard Hofstadter was writing great stuff about this in the 1950s and 1960s. Politicians of both parties do engage in demagoguery, of course. The Republican Party was the party of Joe McCarthy, but back in the day politicians of both parties won elections by stoking fears of Communism and promising to be “tough” on it, although Republicans tended to be worse on that point. But as time has gone on, the Republicans were the ones who won elections by stoking racism, misogyny, and homophobia and running against Affirmative Action and Voting Rights, the Equal Rights Amendment, and same-sex marriage, while the real goal was cutting taxes on the rich and protecting the wealth of the wealthy.

Back in 2012 Rick Pearlstein wrote a piece called The Long Con that pointed to all the grifts associated with right-wing publications and websites.

Subscriber lists to ideological organs are pure gold to the third-party interests who rent them as catchments for potential customers. Who better suits a marketing strategy than a group that voluntarily organizes itself according to their most passionately shared beliefs? That’s why, for instance, the other day I (and probably you) got an advertisement by way of liberal magazine The American Prospect seeking donations to Mercy Corps, a charity that helps starving children in the Third World. But back when I was getting emails every day from Newsmax and Townhall, the come-ons were a little bit different.

Dear Reader, I’m going to tell you something, but you must promise to keep it quiet. You have to understand that the “elite” would not be at all happy with me if they knew what I was about to tell you. That’s why we have to tread carefully. You see, while most people are paying attention to the stock market, the banks, brokerages and big institutions have their money somewhere else . . . [in] what I call the hidden money mountain . . . All you have to know is the insider’s code (which I’ll tell you) and you could make an extra $6,000 every single month.

Soon after reading that, I learned of the “23-Cent Heart Miracle,” the one “Washington, the medical industry, and drug companies REFUSE to tell you about.” (Why would they? They’d just be leaving money on the table: “I was scheduled for open heart surgery when I read about your product,” read one of the testimonials. “I started taking it and now six months have passed and I haven’t had open-heart surgery.”) Then came news of the oilfield in the placenta.

An Israeli entrepreneur was selling shares in his company that must have been promising some miracle cure products made with stem cells in placentas. As you might remember, back then stem cell research was wildly controversial because the most useful stem cells were found in fetal tissue, which smacked into the abortion issue. But this guy had an abortion-free way to harvest stem cells, and a mere $10,000 investment in his company “could bring you a profit of more than a quarter of a million dollars.”  Of course, in 2012 a lot of scientists were already harvesting stem cells from placentas for use in therapies. The Israeli entrepreneur probably was counting on readers of Newsmax and Townhall not knowing that.

Advertisers have long favored right-wing media for snake-oil cures and dubious get-rich-quick and investment schemes like “collector” gold coins. (Survivalist “preppers” are also big consumers of similar dubious merchanise.) Alex Jones by himself made tons of money on nutty conspiracy theories.  There is no left-wing equivalent to this I can think of. See also “On Trump’s Social Network: Ads for Miracle Cures, Scams and Fake Merchandise.” And Thom Hartmann, The GOP Is the Part of Grift.

Back in 2013 I wrote a post called Live by the Grift; Die by the Grift.

Indeed, there is a whole class of grifters on the Right whose incomes depend on keeping the crazy well fed. I’m thinking of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Fox News et al. No doubt Michele Bachmann will become a full-time gifter as soon as she’s out of the House. But there are tons of second- and third-tier gifters, all cashing in nicely.

And why not? If bank robbers rob banks because that’s where the money is, grifters infest the Right because that’s where the gullibility is. People who can be made to believe in death panels can also be sold on dubious investment schemessurvivalist kits and quack arthritis cures. It’s too easy. …

… The Republican Party set itself up for this, of course, by being willing to sell out anything that might be an actual principle in order to win elections on the cheap (and dirty). I’m sure most of you are aware of the arc of demagoguery that ran from Spiro Agnew to Lee Atwater to Karl Rove. But Frankenstein’s Monster took over the laboratory, and now Karl Rove (who is still making a lot of money, apparently, in spite of his colossal failure in 2012) can’t understand why no one is listening to him.

It’s gotten worse since, of course. Trump is the ultimate con man — so far, anyway — who has overwritten a lot of the old right-wing cons that were at least loosely tied to actual conservative policy goals. The gullible are no longer concerned about aggressive foreign dictators like Kim Jong Un or Vladimir Putin, because of Trump. The only foreign menace they care about now are the poor Latinos hoping to cross the southern border. What’s left of the “mainstream” Republicans in Congress who do understand it’s important to support Ukraine find that their own party is no longer listening to them.

The righties never seem to notice that jack-booted thugs never come to confiscate their guns or Bibles. They probably never heard that the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, DC, didn’t even have a bsement, never mind one used by Hillary Clinton to hide trafficked children. And that brings us to QAnon. Molly Olmstead qrote a few days ago,

QAnon transformed the political landscape in the U.S., but it doesn’t have the cohesion and power it once did.

“The main accomplishment of QAnon was it got ‘the elites are sacrificing children’ codified as a big, mainstream idea on the conspiratorial right,” Jones said. “That’s firmly in there now.” But there hasn’t been a Q drop (the cryptic messages from the eponymous Q) in well over a year. And now—years into a Biden presidency in which the promises of the coming “storm” of mass arrests of Trump’s enemies failed to materialize—QAnon has been bleeding followers. “The movement has lost a lot of steam,” Jones said.

Strangely, it’s QAnon’s very success that may have made it less relevant. The ideas Q promoted in the movement’s heyday—of the powerful deep state, of the stolen election, of rampant child trafficking—have themselves become standard Republican beliefs, even if the more bizarre details haven’t succeeded beyond the core QAnon community.

“In some ways, the Q people got everyone on their team and didn’t need the trappings of QAnon anymore,” Mike Rothschild, a conspiracy theory expert and the author of Jewish Space Lasers, wrote in an email.

The Internet lets the crazy spread and evolve into new species of beasts at a lot faster rate than was true back in Richard Hofstadter’s day. And the gullible have all been trained to avoid mainstream media in favor of the likes of OAN and Townhall (Fox is now too mainstream for some of them), where they will hear only what the grifters want them to hear.

If QAnon lost credibility with some of them, maybe there’s hope. But most likely the end of one fantasy conspiracy theory will just be the beginning of several more. The best we can hope for is if Trump and Trumpism are separated from political power, the MAGAts will no longer have to be catered to by the entire Republican Party. We’ll see.

Update: A “recent grift news” link I left out — from Craig Silverman at ProPublica, Right-Wing Websites Connected to Former Trump Lawyer Are Scamming Loyal Followers With Phony Celebrity Pitches.

20 thoughts on “Grifts and Gullibility: How We Came to This

  1. Well, I've done my own research,,,  and I have finally figured out their code;

    Let's Go Brandon + Trump + QAnon = LGBTQ

    Just sayin',,, its ALLLLLL starting to make sense now ain't it!?!

    Your welcome!

  2. Gunther,

    You are truly a genius for cracking that code!

    And funny!

    I can't top that, folks, so there's no reason for even giving it the appearance of "the old college try"…

    • cool Teeheehee!  Believe it or not, I just recently figured out your username, I'm kinda slow for a genius!

  3. Today Trump was – and I cross-checked this to be sure I wasn't falling for something very old or satire – Trump was at Sneaker con (you read that right.. c o n to unveil a new line of sneakers. Cheapies go for $200 – the expensive ones $400. And there's also cologne and perfume for $100. And BTW, Trump was booed at the event.

    Nobody has yet announced where the footwear is being made. If it's a union shop in Toledo, I'll eat my hat. I think clothing has to be labeled about the country of origin but I would not put it past Trump to remove and replace the "Made in China" tag with "Made in the USA." I really hope somebody has the initiative to check. 

    The timing of this screams desperation. I don't think Trump whipped this up in a day because of the NY verdict but the handwriting has been on the wall for some time. Trump is bleeding cash to pay his lawyers. The grift of hitting up MAGA is wearing thin, I would guess. Or Trump would not have to play shoe salesman. (Somewhere there's a Trump-turned-Al-Bundy skit for Trump sneakers. 

    I remember when Billy Carter came out with "Billy Beer" while Jimmy was in office. I thought that smelled bad. It was perfume compared to this stunt,. 

    I was thinking about the three criminal cases – DC, GA, and S. FL If any ONE of them goes to trial before the election, I think Trump is toast. And all of them are in jeopardy but all of them may come thru a different crisis. Willis should not be removed, IMO, according to what I understand GA law to say. The Supremes should either deny the unlimited immunity argument or hear it on an expedited basis. Cannon is on dangerously thin ice if she doesn't protect witnesses and classified information. The 11th circuit will remove her for cause if she crosses the line. 

    As a good-news bad-news joke, the bad news is that Trump has all three in peril. The good news is that Trump has to win on all three when he's got very little justification to win on ANY of them. Trump is at bat, but it won't be enough to get on base or hit a home run. Trump has to knock three consecutive pitches out of the park.

    Maybe I'm projecting but Habba today sounded (borderline) like she's calling for riots about Trump's conviction. She didn't use the word "riot" but she used "fight" a lot and (if I recall) "people aren't going to stand for it." The more things get away from Trump, the more we're gonna see violent rhetoric ramped up. 

    I'm hoping Biden steps up to the opportunity with pictures and sarcasm. Trump at a lectern with a backdrop of "sneaker con" and Trump looking like a sideshow carnie with gaudy gold hi-top sneakers in front of him. The jokes write themselves.

  4. Who feeds the grifters and con artists who go into politics. Why do minority ideas get their way in a democracy?   Jamelle Bouie's piece in the NYT today gives answers.

    No, we are not a society of bees.  

    But a rich Texas oil man thinks so.  He cites The Texas Weekly in an article about Tim Dunn, who buys politicians.  In his world the vast majority of us are just our lowly roles in the bee society and nothing more.  He of course the ruler "queen?" which is not the only thing twisted about his ideas.

    Bouie writes:

    The passage, in that context, seems to capture the perspective of a man who does not believe in democratic freedom — a freedom rooted in political and social equality — as much as he believes in the freedom of the master, which is to say the freedom to rule and subordinate others. It’s a tyrannical freedom, one that rests on the idea that the world is nothing but a set of overlapping hierarchies, and that if you do not sit at the top of one, then you must be made to serve those who do. You’ll find freedom within your role, and nowhere else.

    Dunn seems to fund politicians according to multiple tests, which start with the notion that only "Christians" should hold political office.  Most of us would probably use the word hypocrites to define the people who meet his criteria but the queen gets to define all words in his world.  

    So far he does not get that power in my world.


  5. Extremely wealthy people grifting because they are authoritarians (hierarchy-lovers). Yes, that is the root cause of the predicament we are in. The Jamelle Bouie piece is enlightening.
    I describe myself as a "democratic capitalist" and not a "democratic socialist".  One day quite a while back I spent some time contemplating the Wikipedia descriptions of those two economic systems and confirmed a long held identification with the first, mostly because the degree of state ownership in "Democratic Socialism" was more than I'm comfortable with.
    At any rate, today I feel that deterioration of limitations on raw capitalism has brought our society to the brink of collapse, due to what Bernie, above (and Jamelle) shine the light on. I can't help but be prompted to share some possibly far stretches of conceptual connection with some separate but related things that have long been a part of my world view. It's a little bit tangled but here goes:

    In the early 2000's at work, I was having a political/economic discussion with a colleague who was and still is a friend, though he is considerably younger and more conservative than me. After reading some economics blog stuff, I mentioned "Income and wealth inequality at this point in US history are a huge problem, and a danger."  And I talked about what a huge percentage of those was concentrated in such a small percentage of the population. He replied that I was earning a lot more money than most people in society, and even though I was nowhere near the top 10%, to a lot of people it would seem that I had too much income and wealth. And he pointed out that I didn't seem to feel guilty about it.  Well that response was irrelevant, but I wasn't on a crusade to "convert" my friend/colleague.  We were just exchanging viewpoints. What's my point?  Professional economists have been raising the alarm for many years.

    Next piece. A while back Maha entered a comment about some discouraging experiences she had had in a corporate hierarchical environment. At the time I wanted to share some experience of my own in the corporate world. Just to piggy back on her thoughts. The corporation I worked in wasn't too bad as corps go, but at one point, a consulting firm sold top management a bill of goods about how they could "improve" quarterly performance by reducing expenses.  And so a program began where two trends occurred.  One of them was that every single employee was to go through "training" (provided by the consulting firm, of course). The training was an indoctrination program (which I managed to squeak out of); it started with a unit on capitalism, moving quickly to a discussion of how everyone in the company must be relentlessly devoted to maximizing shareholder value, as defined by ROI and regular quarterly top line revenue growth. The hierarchical power structure was extolled, including (I was told by someone who attended): If your superior tells you to jump, your response should be "How high?" So that was an attempt to force a corporate culture top-down. 
    Now in that time-frame (or a little earlier), in good companies, women were just beginning to work their way into leadership positions. And with that, there came a good evolution in some companies away from "bossing" and toward "leading". This just added to the evilness of the indoctrination program I mentioned above. But also, in the years where the company made a bad decision by hiring that consulting firm, there were frequent times when a "new program" would "come down" from on high. I was at the grass roots level, and what always happened with these top-down programs was that if the people actually doing stuff could see that the idea was stupid, they just didn't implement it; but they didn't try to send a message back up the chain about how stupid the idea was. Example: Outsourcing. Upper management learned that they could hire someone from another country who had technically learned how to write computer code and save 25-40% on the salary cost (not to mention benefits cost) of the inhouse people who had been in their function for 10-20 years. So they thought it would be a great thing to do. They did not understand that they would be throwing away hundreds if not thousands of person-years of institutional knowledge, thereby scoring an own-goal: crippling their own IT capability. STUPID IDEA. Now that one was a program that the little guys on the front lines couldn't ignore. But my point has multiple parts. 

    In a large organization the people at the top cannot possibly understand the realities of the actual operation that they are managing. If someone starts at the bottom and over two decades works their way all the way up to CEO, he/she will have a better understanding than a Wharton MBA who's never worked in the business, but still that home-grown CEO will not be able to keep up with all of the changes at the detail level over time. This is why "bossing" is doomed, and "leadership" is required. And leadership requires allowing the people who know how things work to make decisions that affect how well the organization functions. One step back: Bossing can work, and may even be required, in simple operations; but in complex activities, leadership is a must.

    This is very long already (apologies), but one more piece. I've studied shallowly, not deeply, some pf the history of WWII in the European Theater. In the Battle of the Bulge (among many similar campaigns) The German army's tanks were technically considerably better than the US and British tanks.  Our Shermans compared 1-1 with the Panthers and Tigers were, on paper, inferior. But US troops were able to defeat the Germans repeatedly. I have read that one of the big reasons for that was that the lower level commanders in the US forces had far more autonomy than their counterparts in the German forces. It came from an American culture of self-reliance. And so small units on the ground were able to react and innovate in the heat of the moment in combat. Flexibility, autonomy, responsibility and initiative… more of this at the lower levels than the enemy had. This is the same pattern I tried to describe in the corporate environment. 

    And to come back to Bernie's comment and Jamelle's column, we are experiencing a pattern of societal self destruction.  It is because people who have achieved power through bossing cannot lead and to allow true leaders to take their places requires them to lose power. Meanwhile the things that they must do to maintain power are doomed to cause the foundation to crumble.

    What do we (all Americans) want?  Hatfields and McCoys?  Braveheart? Lord of the Flies? Or are we willing to embrace the concept of power sharing to save the whole project?        

  6. tRUMP is bringing his gilded sneakers to market about four decades too late.

    Back in the early days of Rap and Hip-hop, tRUMP's name appears in a lot of songs.

    He was quite popular because he was a guy who was symbolic of conspicuous consumption. 

    In many ways, tRUMP's gilded toilet was an example of "bling" coming from an uber-wealthy White guy.

    But that was then, and this is now.

    African-Americana, and other minorities, don't want bling.

    They want respect, equality, and some form of reparations.

    Here's what I'd like to see:

    tRUMP being forced to slowly eat his gilded sneakers, and then shit those gilded sneakers into his gilded toilet!

    Kind of like King Midas meets King Dumbass.

  7. @Bernie – one of the fault lines in US culture is the difference between Yankee culture and (southern) Planter culture. In the former, if you were near the top of the pyramid, you felt obligated to help others. I'm mangling the spelling, but the name for it is "noblesse oblige". FDR and George Bush Sr are examples. By contrast, in planter culture, it's about keeping the workers (the slaves) in line. It's why the south is what it is.

    @warytale – it's one thing to make a generous amount of money, it's an entirely different thing when the rules or laws of a society (political power) is so hopelessly skewed toward the wealthy. Your particular salary has nothing to do with it, is how I would've rebutted your dim witted coworker.

    I would bet that Trump is so numb and screwed up inside that he has no idea how screaming ugly those sneakers are.

    I'm really proud of the way Fani Willis stood up to her persecutors. The tag "strong black woman" is going to attached forever to her name. Her opponents had no idea that their charges are null and void in the context of black culture. It's unclear yet how Judge McAfee will rule, but at minimum he gave the Trumpists all the rope they needed to enter their "evidence" (or lack thereof) into the official record, thus protecting the trial + verdict to come against appeal. A trial judge is always trying to set things up so that any decision won't be reversed. Thanks bunches, Trumpists, for helping to dig your own grave.

    It's really tragic about Alexei Navalny. One of my (late) aunts visited the USSR in the 90s, the country my ancestry is (sort of) from. Her conclusion: Thank God our people got the hell out of there.

  8. It is being reported that the limited run of 1,000 pairs sold out in 2 hours.  Of course they did.

    Eric has been dispatched to Home Depot for more cans of gold spray paint.

    • Aaaannnddd they're on ebay, a certain seller in (ahem) West Palm Beach FL has a pair listed for $47,000.47.

  9. Grotesquely Gaudy, the style preferred by the fashion impaired.  At a price point to discourage most of those in that category.  No one will dare ask who are you wearing?   

  10. From Thomas Friedman in the NYT in a piece entitled Trump's GOP is a Confederacy of Fakers:

    And then the ultimate collector’s item. For an extra $1,000, a giant white surrender flag, made from the softest Sea Island cotton, signed by Lindsey Graham, that says: “I gave up the principles of John McCain and a free Ukraine because Trump told me to. But I got a round of golf at Trump’s West Palm Beach course. Can I still be on ‘Meet the Press’?”

    The last gift comes with a pair of Trump’s new branded tennis shoes, guaranteed by Trump and personally tested by Graham, to be the fastest shoe on the market to run away from any ally or foe — or anything principled that you’ve ever said.

  11. Bypassing all the actual worthwhile content in the article, I noticed the phrase "sin eaters."  I'm nearly 80 years old and had never encountered it.  Then I watched (and re-watched, and binge-watched) season 5 of Fargo, where I was introduced to Ola Munch.

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