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The Manichean Candidate (Newsletter)

Where the conspiracy theories of the right overlap the conspiracy theories of the left, tyu'll find Richard.
Licensed content by B. Smaller from The New Yorker

Named after a third-century Persian prophet named Mani, Manicheism is an extreme form of dualistic gnosticism. It is gnostic because it promises salvation through the attainment of special knowledge of spiritual truths. It is dualistic because it argues that the foundation of the universe is the opposition of two principles, good and evil, each equal in relative power. From Learn Religions

There are now almost half a dozen Republican candidates for president challenging the front runner. They are all pathetic panderers, but at least there’s a choice. On the Democratic side, there’s only one, and it’s hard to take him seriously either.

He’s an odd amalgam of lucidity and loonyness. If his name wasn’t Robert Francis Kennedy Junior, few would pay attention to the only Dem to officially oppose Joseph P. Biden. I’ve seen him discussed and retweeted on Twitter. He’s getting a lot of (mostly bad) press. Some say he could be a Manchurian Candidate, serving others’ purposes. Except that it’s not a foreign power pulling strings; it could be anti-Trump Republican influentials or even Democratic Party operatives trolling for crossover primary votes.

The NY Times reported that as of early June, his campaign had amassed $7.8M since he announced in April, much of it from sources normally partial to Republicans. His speech that day in Boston drew wild applause for his line “…corrupt merger of corporate and state power” (at 8:20 in that C-SPAN video) referring to the Boston Tea Party rebellion against the East India Company and the British Crown. I would love to know what went through their minds.

Establishment media is having a field day dismissing him, which only proves to his supporters that they are part of an evil conspiracy. I personally agree that corporate media is politically biased (if not compromised), as demonstrated by this lengthy segment earlier this month from NPR, in which correspondent Shannon Bond managed to pack all these allegations into one paragraph:

Wi-Fi causes cancer and “leaky brain,” Kennedy told podcaster Joe Rogan last month. Antidepressants are to blame for school shootings, he mused during an appearance with Twitter CEO Elon Musk. Chemicals in the water supply could turn children transgender, he told right-wing Canadian psychologist and podcaster Jordan Peterson, echoing a false assertion made by serial fabulist Alex Jones. AIDS may not be caused by HIV, he has suggested multiple times.

Before all this, RFK Jr was a lawyer focused on environmental law who never held public office. And while environmental issues inform his positions, most of them concern medicine, especially federal vaccine policy. Despite peddling impossible-to-substantiate threats to public health, he has litigated, sometimes successfully, against drug and chemical manufacturers (e.g. Monsanto). As for wi-fi causing brain cancer, personally, I don’t know if the carrier or the signal is responsible for all the crazed thinking I find on the Net; possibly both. Even if untrue, in my view social media is an insidious form of “prostrate cancer.”

But RFK Jr has a right to be paranoid. He’s chosen to run for the highest office in the land acutely aware that his father was assassinated doing so, following his uncle Jack. He claims the CIA was responsible for both jobs, saying he’s not deterred but “takes precautions.”1 Based on my own research, I’m inclined to believe him. In those days, the CIA under Allen Dulles2 and the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover were even more out of control than they are now.

Because of that, when he points to government conspiracies, I’m happy to give him his day in court. But it doesn’t warm my heart when he courts the religious right, most recently Zionists at the expense of Palestinian aspirations. He should stick to condemning the all-pervasive Military Industrial Security Complex.

Should Biden’s advisors deem it necessary to confront Kennedy, I have no doubt Joe will paraphrase Lloyd Bentson from the 1988 vice-presidential debate against his opponent, first-term Indiana Senator Dan Quayle: “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”3 Which was certainly true, but then, Bentson wasn’t either.

Were it to ever come down to a match-up between RFK Jr and Donald Trump, who would you pick, or would you shoot yourself? In a sense, they are a matched set, inhabiting parallel tabloid universes, though Kennedy seems to have a public purpose, while Trump merely displays a public persona with an explicit anti-democratic agenda. Both are twice divorced with children from several marriages. The latest of Kennedy’s ex-wives committed suicide. Trump’s ex died too, but Ivana’s demise after tumbling down a flight of stairs seems to have been accidental. I suppose there are conspiracy theories about that, too.

Even as his court calendar fills up, Trump remains the candidate to beat. None of his rivals come close in the polls despite some hefty war chests. And he’s doubling down on his dictator shtick,4 which I wouldn’t expect of RFK Jr. But what should one think when polls indicate RFK Jr has a 10-20% favorability rating among Democratic voters, 33% among independents, and 40% among Republicans?5

It really disturbs me to think that this is the best we’ve got to oppose the neoliberal consensus that has ruled our affairs for so long with hardly a whimper from the center-left or the “liberal media”.6 Bernie had a fighting chance to upset that apple cart, as did Elizabeth Warren, until they were crushed by machine politics. Kennedy likely will be too.

Strangely, though, all this gives me a slight hope that some of the walls between far right and left can be breached if common enemies can be agreed upon. But so long as the right is intent on crushing all opposition and the left keeps defending ideologically constipated corporate Democrats, that’s not gonna happen.


1 Robert F. Kennedy Jr. 2024 presidential campaign, RFK Jr. Tells Joe Rogan He’s ‘Aware’ of Possibility CIA Could Assassinate Him

2 See The Devil’s Chessboard by David Talbot. You might also want to read the CIA’s review of it.

3 Bentson to Quayle: “You’re no Jack Kennedy

4 Jonathan M. Katz, Trump is planning a more authoritarian second term

5 Robert Kennedy Jr. Reports Income of $7.8 Million

6 See my article, NPR, the CIA, and Assault of Corporatism

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