The one-way ratchet of the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party

The one-way ratchet of the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party July 16, 2021

• “MAGA Pastor Jackson Lahmeyer Discovers the Downside of QAnon.”

Lahmeyer, pastor of Tulsa’s prosperity-gospel Sheridan Church, launched a Republican primary challenge against Sen. James Lankford due to the very conservative senator’s reluctance to support violent sedition and his apology to the Black voters he sought to disenfranchise.

Lahmeyer is a pro-insurrectionist, Trump-worshipping, America-First-ca.-1940, QAnon-cheering, far-right candidate who’s hitched his campaign to people like disgraced former Gen. Michael Flynn. He has eagerly checked every box that the resentment-driven, Trump-rally-attending, angry white GOP base has asked him to check. He’s not a Fox News Republican. He’s an OAN Republican of the sort that thinks Fox is “liberal” and Breitbart and Newsmax are suspiciously squishy.

So he was shocked and indignant when QAnon enthusiasts exposed him as a deep-state double agent and a member of the pedophile/cannibal international cabal of Satanic baby-killers:

Lahmeyer’s flirtations with QAnon have not prevented him from becoming the target of smears from QAnon conspiracy theorists who have reportedly accused him of pedophilia and child sex trafficking after he posted a photo of his [adorable] young daughter wearing red shoes.

As QAnon conspiracy theorist Liz Crokin once explained, many QAnon believers are convinced that “there is symbolism for red shoes in the occult and it’s also tied to satanic ritualistic abuse and the trafficking of children.”

Adrian Bott’s 2015 joke on Twitter has become a necessary part of our vocabulary not just because it’s funny, but because it provides such a precise portrait of the white politics of resentment that gave us TFG.

(“‘I never thought leopards would eat MY face,’ sobs woman who voted for the Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party.”)

Having now been baselessly attacked by the same mob of QAnon LARPers he’s been leading and training to baselessly attack others, Jackson Lahmeyer has come to a crossroads. The next step requires him to apologize. He will either be forced to apologize for participating in and feeding the fever-dream of MAGA-fascism, ending his candidacy and beginning a fundamental transformation of his sense of identity into something more reality-based. Or else he will be forced to apologize for the sin of purchasing red shoes for his daughter, express his contrition to the game-masters of QAnon, and double-down on his commitment to the game, vowing never again to allow even a hint of disloyalty to the cause.

I’m guessing he’ll go with the second one. Here’s hoping he surprises me.

• On a related note, Anne Laurie cobbles together a half-dozen more examples of loyal members of the LEPFP surprised to find their own faces threatened: “GOP Death Cult Adherents Are Already Turning on Each Other.”

The point of such stories is not schadenfreude or gloating that the post-former guy Republican Party is in “disarray.” Because this is not actually disarray. It’s party discipline. It’s a one-way ratchet pushing the GOP ever-farther to the far right and beyond.

The lesson imparted in every such story is that the only acceptable position is whichever one presents itself as maximally right-wing. If it’s “conservative” to be skeptical of “big government,” then it must be more conservative to be paranoid of any government. Insufficient paranoia makes one vulnerable to attack as insufficiently conservative — with “sufficiently conservative” being perpetually redefined as whatever barking nonsense is being spewed tomorrow morning by Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene and the white Christian nationalist MAGA-prophets of Strangianity.

Old-school Republican politicos like Mitch McConnell and Rupert Murdoch and Samuel Alito — the faithful servants of Wall Street, dark money, and Opus Dei — still think they can control and benefit from this, harnessing what they still mistakenly think of the “fringes” of their party to retain power. Ol’ Mitch still figures that the ratchet ensures electoral support for the most-conservative available candidates, meaning he’s guaranteed to win votes in any contest against a Democrat and, therefore, he’s poised to retake control of the Senate, paralyzing government for another two years. So he imagines this is working out well for guys like him.

And that might still be true — for now. Lahmeyer’s primary challenge probably won’t succeed against the more traditional old-guard Republican Lankford, who will likely cruise to re-election in deep red Oklahoma.

But the ratchet will keep ratcheting. And someday soon it will reach a tipping point where people like Mitch will be forced to realize they’re no longer calling the shots in their own party.

I suspect Mitch McConnell knows this. But he also knows that he’s 79 years old, and he’s making a probably safe death-bet that he’ll be able to run out the clock on the rest of his days before it gets to the point that he’ll have to beg for committee assignments from Senate Majority Leader Taylor Greene.

James Lankford, on the other hand, is only 53.

• This same one-way ratchet — substituting extreme paranoia for extreme conservatism — also makes it increasingly difficult to distinguish between the transparent grifters skimming profits from supporters of the LEPFP and the true believers.

Erik Finman is obviously in the former category of transparent grifters. And he’s not subtle about that: “Bitcoin Dipsh*t Will Make Phoning Great Again With Buggy Chinese Handset.”

Finman is selling something he calls the “Freedom Phone.” It’s a smart phone marketed to the MAGA crowd with every right-wing buzzword he can throw their way. I’ve linked above to Liz Dye’s post at Wonkette, where Finman’s scam is discussed with the appropriate level of snark, but here’s Will Sommer’s summary of the story from the Daily Beast,MAGA World’s ‘Freedom Phone’ Actually Budget Chinese Phone“:

The pro-Trump internet went wild on Wednesday for the Freedom Phone, a $500 smartphone that comes stocked with conservative apps and promises to liberate anyone else who buys it from Silicon Valley censorship. The American flag-branded phone was immediately promoted by a wide range of right-wing figures, including former Trump adviser Roger Stone, Jan. 6 rally organizer Ali Alexander, and pundit Dinesh D’Souza.

“I’m holding a freaking phone that is not controlled by Apple or Google,” conservative personality Candace Owens told her fans in an Instagram video. “We made the switch immediately.”

Despite being lauded by some of the right-wing media’s leading figures, though, the Freedom Phone’s buyers could be getting less than they expect for its $500 price tag. …

Freedom Phone appears to be a simple rebranding of a budget phone called the “Umidigi A9 Pro,” made by the Chinese tech company Umidigi. In an interview … Finman confirmed that the Freedom Phone was manufactured by Umidigi, but couldn’t say immediately which Umidigi phone it was based on.

The Freedom Phone’s $500 price tag would represent a substantial markup on the Umidigi A9 Pro. That phone is available on Chinese retail giant AliExpress for $120 — less than one quarter of the price of a Freedom Phone.

The Umidigi A9 Pro is inexpensive, in part, because it’s uniquely vulnerable to data collection, tracking, and hacking. Gizmodo’s Lucas Ropek describes it as “a potential security (and thus also privacy) nightmare” that “should be avoided at all costs.”

So why are all of these MAGA-world celebrities chiming in to support Finman’s scam — taking to social media to promote an overpriced, bad phone? Well, as Dye notes, that’s because Finman is offering them a cut of the vig — a $50 “commission on successful referrals.” That’s what Finman’s fellow grifters — nakedly disingenuous, say-anything hucksters like Candace Owens and Dinesh D’Souza — are chasing with their enthusiastic promotion of his shoddy rip-off.

Thanks to the one-way ratchet of the 21st-century GOP, though, these song-and-dance, play-acting profiteers will likely be joined by other less duplicitous (but not less dangerous) promoters of the shabby Freedom Phone. The dim true believers — Lahmeyer and Greene and a host of others who began as snake-oil consumers — will be drawn to Freedom Phones because, as ever, the “more conservative” option will be for them the only acceptable option.

I suppose one way of distinguishing between the outright grifters and the true believers, then, will be to look out for who’s actually using these miserable phones as opposed to only helping to sell them.


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