Useful Idiots

Useful Idiots July 19, 2018

Long ago, the Commies used to speak of suckers in the west as “useful idiots”. In the 20s, there was Anna Louise Strong, who was well described by Malcolm Muggeridge as “an enormous woman with a very red face, a lot of white hair, and an expression of stupidity so overwhelming that it amounted to a kind of strange beauty”.

In the 30s, there was Stalin’s Apologist: Walter Duranty.

And so on, right up till the fall of the Iron Curtain. There were always wilfully stupid (and knowingly corrupt) friends of Communism ready to act as stooges for the Commies.

Indeed, historian Robert Conquest estimated that there could “hardly be lower than some thirteen to fifteen million” who were butchered under Stalin and sharply criticized Western intellectuals such as Beatrice and Sidney Webb, George Bernard Shaw, Jean-Paul Sartre, Walter Duranty, Sir Bernard Pares, Harold Laski, D. N. Pritt, Theodore Dreiser, Bertolt Brecht, Owen Lattimore, and Romain Rolland, as well as American ambassador Joseph Davies, accusing them of being dupes of Stalin and apologists of his regime. Conquest cites various comments made by them where, he argues, they were denying, excusing, or justifying various aspects of the purges.

After the opening up of the Soviet archives in 1991, detailed information was released that Conquest argued supported his conclusions. When Conquest’s publisher asked him to expand and revise his magisterial account of Stalin’s rule, The Great Terror, Conquest is famously said to have suggested the new version of the book be titled I Told You So, You Fucking Fools.

Time was when it was conservatives in this country who laughed at the useful idiots. Now they are the useful idiots.

Of course, Agent Orange is the most obvious example of this with his disgusting performance in Helsinki on Monday, of which little more need be said. As is now obvious to anybody capable of mastering the “walks like a duck” principle, Trump is a Russian asset. The evidence is piling up that this crook is in hock to the Russian mob, which is to say, to Putin. His multiply-absurd and overlapping lies, attacks on his own country, and defenses of a lying, murderous thug have rendered him the Principal Skinner of American civic life to everybody except the doggedly determined useful idiots in his party:

But that’s the thing: it’s increasingly obvious it’s not just Trump. The Right is full of useful idiots. How idiotic?

And how useful? Well, that money-hungry Gun Cult called the NRA appears to have been quite useful in funneling Russian money to the Trump campaign via a Russian spy.

And beyond the base so ably represented (but not limited to) the Gun Cult? Among the apparatchiks of the Party of Trump, for example? More useful idiots, such as Duncan Hunter:

“I don’t care if he misspeaks or if he says the wrong thing,” Hunter said on “Fox & Friends.”

And beyond him there’s Pence, Hannity, Dobbs and the other Usual Suspects–enemies of the United States and useful idiots one and all–defending this Russian asset and his Handler.

Oh sure, there’s been noise from the GOP expressing their Thoughts and Prayers that Trump will not be Agent Orange quite so loudly and frighten the sheep. But rare indeed is that member of the GOP willing to do anything more than have the vapors before saying, “We need to put this unpleasantness behind us.”:

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But not so fast:

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Yes. That’s correct. The NRA in bed with a Russian spy funneling Russian money to Agent Orange is now magically unaccountable to the IRS.

And they aren’t the only ones who are useful idiots. Right Wing brutal thug David Clarke, who endeared himself to Christianist sadists by torturing a prisoner to death (Christianist diabolists dearly love them their torture) was rewarded, not merely by the Trump administration, but by the loving attention of the same Spy Who Loved the NRA.

So my question is this: Given the sophistication with which Putin’s spy apparatus has analyzed the morons and suckers in the GOP base, where else has Russian money and influence gone?

If I were part of Russian intelligence, I would make a beeline for the most gullible, dishonest, and self-deluding demographic in the GOP base: the Christianist “Prolife” Movement.  And certainly, there is a copious amount of smoke there.

For, lo, it has already come to pass that the spy was working to penetrate, not just the Gun Cult, but the Religious Right:

Butina also took advantage of Erickson’s links with the Christian right, as Slate’s Ruth Graham reports, though Torshin had his own relationships in that universe, having attended multiple National Prayer Breakfasts.

In 2016, according to a timeline compiled by the Washington Post, Butina emailed a Prayer Breakfast organizer to suggest that Putin might attend the following year. That didn’t happen, but she and Torshin attended. “A new relationship between two countries always begins better when it begins in faith,” Butina emailed an organizer afterward, thanking him for a gift and for the “very private meeting” after the breakfast. Butina was also part of a group that attempted to secure a meeting with the Trump campaign in May 2016 to talk about the persecution of Christians around the world, a topic of great interest to many American evangelicals.

Earlier, in 2015, Butina and Erickson also appeared on the radio show of conservative evangelical superstar (and big-time Trump promoter) Eric Metaxas to discuss gun rights and religious freedom — topics that are strangely congruent in the conservative Christian circles in which all these birds flew.

The affection with which many Christian right figures hold Russia and specifically the gay-bashing Putin is hardly a secret, as I noted in 2016:

[Putin’s evangelical fan club] includes some pretty big names, like conservative Evangelical leader Franklin Graham, National Organization for Marriage leader Brian Brown, and American Family Association spokesperson Bryan Fischer. In almost every case it has been his distinctive combination of homophobia and Islamophobia that has made Putin one of the Christian right’s favorite international figures. The cultural conservative preference for authoritarian Christian Slavs who are fighting Muslims has … carried over from the Serbs to their traditional sponsors in Moscow, and most especially to the former KGB officer who has revived Russia’s pre-communist tradition of militantly traditionalist Christianity.

So there is a U.S. religious constituency that very self-consciously supports Trump’s apparent interest in forming a new world order based on a Washington-Moscow axis, outflanking the decadent, secular, tolerant globalists of Western Europe.

Here’s the thing: it’s not just Evangelicals who go for this.  That Putin/Trump/Constantine false Trinitarian theology has lots of cachet with the Greatest Catholics of All Time too. From Zmirak to Fr. Richard Heilman to Church Militant to a gaggle of Reactionary Catholic websites this useful idiocy can be found. It does not even take imagination to form the hypothesis “Has deep called to deep in conservative Catholic circles as it appears to have done in Evangelical ones?  Has Russia found useful conservative Catholic idiots too?”

Answer: Well, if it isn’t useful idiot Rick Santorum posing with the Russian spy who loved, well, lots of people apparently!

Oh!  And look!  Here’s another one!  Take a bow, GOP super-Catholic useful idiot, Bobby Jindal!

Photo of former Gov. Bobby Jindal and alleged Russian spy Maria Butina. Posted on Butina’s Twitter page

But is that all?

Well, we know that Fr. Frank Pavone’s financial dealings have been shady for years and that he has managed to wriggle out of an actual examination or accountability every time some superior has attempted it. Most recently, when Cardinal Dolan tried, he was stymied at every turn and finally just threw up his hands and cut ties with Priests for Life.

That was in 2014. Does anybody in the Church even have a clue where Fr. Pavone gets his money from now, or how he spends it?

Similarly, has anybody taken a hard look at who underwrites the work of Austin Ruse, or C-Fam, or Crisis? I certainly have no idea. Does anybody? They have certainly spent a good amount of time on what can only be described as severe mission creep. So who pays him to write things like “A Bannon Apologia” when Bannon is long on record as an enemy of the Holy Father and the Church’s teaching? Where does the money come from to write defenses of torture (a beloved Party of Trump applause line) with the exhausted lie that opposition to abortion makes defenses of torture peachy keen?  Charity Navigator only gives C-Fam a two star rating.  Where does Austin Ruse’s nearly $150,000 per annum salary and C-Fam’s roughly $1.6 million annual income come from?  Who pays Crisis‘ bills? Does anybody know?

Given that, with the Party of Trump, the consistent pattern has been that accusation is a form of confession and given that Ruse has been swift to make the baseless suggestion that people he smears are somehow conspiring with George Soros for some nefarious purpose, it seems only prudent to ask in return who pays him.  It may, again, turn out that everything is on the up and up.  If so, good.  But it would still be good to know, given what we know so far of Russia’s efforts to infiltrate the Religious Right and given what we know as well of the astonishing credulity of that subculture in its fealty to Trump.

The American bishops, judging from the way Cardinal McCarrick’s case has been handled, seem to have a genius for sitting idly by and waiting for catastrophe to strike. I’m skeptical they have much control over Austin Ruse’s little projects. But if I were them, I would make a priority of sending in some ecclesial Robert Mueller to track down every single dime of the funding for Priests for Life, both where it comes from and where it goes. Fr. Pavone, who has gotten away scot-free with desecrating an altar on behalf of Agent Orange, should not be trusted as far as he can be thrown with PFL monies one second longer. If it turns out Fr. Pavone is on the up and up, then great. Now we know and are no longer in the dark. But if the USCCB waits around for the real Robert Mueller to discover that the Russian state has made one of its loosest canons into a Russian asset, they will have no one to blame but themselves.  Nor will they have anyone to blame when somebody makes that into a pretext for taxing the Church or assaulting the seal of the confessional in the name of national security.

Bishops, please: for the good of the Church: take a hard look at those apostolates in the Church most likely to be vulnerable suckers for Russian seduction of Right Wing Culture Warriors and see what they are doing with their funding.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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