Thursday, June 08, 2023


Here in New York City, we're in the third day of godawful air quality as a result of wildfires in Canada. Here's a photo I took out my apartment window yesterday:

That might not have been precisely when the city's air quality index topped out at 868 -- any reading over 100 is dangerous -- but I'm guessing it was approximately then. (We're just under 200 now. Yippie!)

Tim Dickinson and Miles Klee of Rolling Stone note that right-wing crazies have many theories about all this:
Stew Peters is a far-right media host and conspiracy monger, infamous for his unhinged film claiming Covid-19 is caused by synthetic snake venom. Peters used his Telegram account on June 5 to blame the wildfires on government weaponry.

“Watch ALL of SE Quebec catch on fire at the EXACT SAME TIME,” Peters wrote, linking to a viral TikTok video of satellite imagery. “Statistically impossible to happen by accident,” Peters claimed without evidence. “Clearly our governments are targeting us with Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs).”
Peters produced the 2022 "documentary" Died Suddenly, which argued that we're experiencing a mass die-off caused by COVID vaccines; the film had nearly 20 million views as of January 2023 and made him a hero on the right. So he's not just a crank -- he's an influencer.

Then there's this theory:
A variety of conspiracy theorists see the fires as part of a plot to limit freedom anew, now that the restrictions of the Covid pandemic have been largely eliminated....

“As many of us have noticed from the start, many of the covid zealots also push climate crisis shit,” a redditor wrote Wednesday on r/CoronavirusCirclejerk, criticizing people who recommended masking up until the air has cleared. A member of r/conspiracy was more explicit: “Wildfires are the new Covid,” they declared. “Stay indoors, wear a mask, fear pushed by the news, it will only be two weeks... Is anyone else felling [sic] déjà vu?” Commenters agreed, saying, “Climate lockdowns are coming” and “the hype is starting, NYC mayor just recommended masks lmao.”
Those are just random people on Reddit. But on Fox, Jeanine Pirro complained that "Democrats are pumping up climate hysteria and bringing back, you guessed it, mask insanity." Her colleague Jesse Watters followed up:
“Covid: stay home, wear a mask. Smoke bomb: stay home, wear a mask. Elections: stay home, wear a mask. Nuke strike: stay home, wear a mask,” he mocked. “The government is prepared for anything.”
One more:
Urban planners trying to improve quality of life with “15-minute city” designs — reducing car use by ensuring people are just 15 minutes’ walking or biking distance to anything they might need — have been bedeviled by conspiracy theorists who claim they want to imprison people in tiny residential districts. Now it appears that a few of those alarmists are drawing baseless connections between the concept and the Canadian fires....

On Truth Social, David “Nino” Rodriguez, a former heavyweight boxer at one point ranked among the top in the world, amplified similar claims to 33,000 followers. “The fires in Canada are being used for nothing more than to displace families, ruin homes and migrate people into 15-minute cities,” he warned.
So "they" are trying to force people to migrate to 15-minute cities by ... um, ruining the air quality of America's prime example of a 15-minute city, New York. Got it.

We'll see whether Rodriguez mentions this theory on YouTube, where he has more than a quarter million followers, and not for boxing content:

This is the right. These are people who vote for Republicans. And yet, as Mark Mellman notes in an op-ed for The Hill, Americans regard the two major parties as equally extreme, when they're not reaching the conclusion that Democrats are more extreme:
... a Votecast survey, conducted by University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center in conjunction with the 2022 election, asked whether each party was “too tolerant of extremist groups.” Fifty-three percent found Republicans too tolerant of extremists and an identical 53 percent said the same of Democrats.

In response to another question, 47 percent said Republicans need more moderate candidates while 49 percent expressed the same desire for Democrats....

A second set of evidence comes from a survey we conducted among Latino voters in Nevada before the 2022 election together with our colleagues at Castillo and Associates....

More Nevada Latinos ... believed Democrats were too liberal than that Republicans were too conservative. Again, that’s among a segment we consider part of the Democratic base.

... a recent Franklin & Marshall poll ... asked Pennsylvania voters which party was more mainstream (which party “expresses views that are CLOSEST to the views of most Americans”) on seven issues.

Democrats were more mainstream on three — abortion, Social Security/Medicare and elections. Republicans won out on four topics — immigration, gun control, government spending and policing and public safety.
The infuriating item in that list is "gun control." Most Americans want reasonable restrictions on guns. The Republican Party is unmovable in its opposition to these restrictions. Yet it's seen as closer to the mainstream on this issue.

I'm thinking about this as we're learning about the death of Pat Robertson, who used to tell us that gay people caused 9/11 and feminism leads to witchcraft and child murder. America moved to the right in the 1980s, but one limit on the right's growth was the fact that much of America saw religious conservatives as priggish, authoritarian weirdos. Even people who didn't follow politics closely linked the GOP to these narrow-minded prudes (who were also often money-grubbers and sex hypocrites).

I wish it were more widely understood today that Republicanism is rife with extremist freakishness of all varieties. It's not just Marjorie Taylor Greene. The party won't magically become "normal" if Tim Scott or Chris Christie somehow wins the presidential nomination. I wish Republicans had a reputation -- outside liberal circles -- as whackjobs who want to rewrite America's laws to conform to their own paranoia. We're not doing enough to "other" the right. We need to do more.

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