Donald Trump, American hustler: The Frightening Fascist Tendencies of his GOP Rise

Previous right-wing leaders had a healthy fear of the rage they unleashed from their base. Not this one

By Rick Perlstein

Washington Spectator

Oct 7, 2015 – Donald Trump is not a fascist––probably.

His ex-wife Ivana once claimed he kept a volume of Hitler’s collected speeches in a cabinet by his bed, and read from time to time the fuhrer’s vision of human life as a pitiless war of all against all. “If I had these speeches, and I am not saying that I do, I would never read them,” he told Vanity Fair in 1990. But consider something the architect of Trump Tower, Der Scutt, once said on how to evaluate the truth value of Donald Trump claims: “divide by two, then divide by four, and you’re closer to the answer.”

Trump worships armed force, pronouncing at a rally in August in Derry, New Hampshire: “I believe in the military and military strength more strongly than anybody running by a factor of a billion.” (Applying Scutt’s formula, that means Trump believes in military strength 125,000,000 times more than Lindsey Graham, who opened his presidential campaign with a promise to go to war with Iran.)

When Trump speaks in the subjunctive mood, he can certainly sound like an aspiring dictator. Regarding a $2.5 billion plant Ford intends to build in Mexico, he announced that “every car, every truck, and every part manufactured in this plant that comes across the border, we’re going to charge you a 35 percent tax—O.K.?” The Constitution, of course, grants Congress, not a president, the power to tax. Maybe it’s just ignorance on his part. Or maybe, by “we” he’s referring to the Congressional coalition he’s building in his spare time between stadium rallies. But if Trump has ever made reference to any understanding of the three coequal branches that govern the United States, I haven’t noticed it.

He refers lustily to his passion to destroy the malcontents stabbing America in the back, longing for the days when they received summary executions: “So we get a traitor like Bergdahl, a dirty rotten traitor [pause for applause], who by the way when he deserted, six young beautiful people were killed trying to find him, right? . . . You know, in the old days:bing, bong.” (Trump pantomimed cocking a rifle.) “When we were strong, when we were strong.”

Too much to expect procedural niceties—innocent until proven guilty?—from the guy who in 1989 took out full-page ads in four New York newspapers, headlined: “Bring Back the Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!” There followed a 600-word essay: “What has happened is the complete breakdown of life as we know it. . . . How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits? Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS.” It went on to relate a tale from some mystically perfect past, where he witnessed “two young bullies cursing and threatening a very frightened waitress. Two cops rushed in, lifted up the thugs and threw them out the door, warning them never to cause trouble again. I miss the feeling of security New York’s finest once gave the citizens of this City.”

The ad was Trump’s response to the arrest of five kids for the vicious rape and beating of a jogger in Central Park. The kids were coerced into confessions, later proven to be false, by the same police force Donald Trump insisted had been intimidated into politically correct timorousness. Last year, after the five families settled for $41 million in compensation for the years the accused youths spent in prison, Trump published an op-ed calling the settlement “ridiculous.”

“These men do not exactly have the pasts of angels,” he claimed. At the time of the event, one of “these men” was 14 years old.

A demagoguery so pure

Trump has now provided more “specifics” about his immigration plan: a forced population transfer greater than any attempted in history, greater than the French and Spanish expulsions of the Jews in 1308 and 1492; greater than the Nabka of approximately 700,000 Palestinian Arabs from British-mandate Palestine; greater than the 1.5 million Stalin consigned to Siberia and the Central Asian republics; greater than Pol Pot’s exile of 2.5 million city-dwellers to the Cambodian countryside, or the scattering of Turkey’s Assyrian Christians, which the scholar Mordechai Zaken says numbers in the millions and required 180 years to complete.  Trump has promised to move 12 million Mexicans in under two years––“so fast your head will spin.”

Only then will he start building the wall.

But all Republican politicians say stuff like this, right? They all want a wall, they all want to bury criminals under the jail, they all crave war, even if they’re not quite so explicit about it.

Not quite, actually. Previous Republican leaders were sufficiently frightened by the daemonic anger that energized their constituencies that they avoided surrendering to it completely, even for political advantage. Think of Barry Goldwater, who was so frightened of the racists supporting him that he told Lyndon Johnson he’d drop out of the race if they started making race riots a campaign issue. And Ronald Reagan refusing to back a 1978 ballot initiative to fire gay schoolteachers in California, at a time vigilantes were hunting down gays in the street. Think of George W. Bush guiding Congress toward a comprehensive immigration bill (akin to that proposed by President Obama) until the onslaught of vitriol that talk-radio hosts directed at Republican members of Congress forced him to quit. Think of George W. Bush’s repeated references to Islam as a “religion of peace.”

Trumpism is different. Donald Trump is the first Republican presidential front-runner to venture a demagogy so pure. (Continued)

Why Nuclear Power Is a Bad Idea: A Case in Point

Fukushima Four Years After The Nuclear Disaster Is A Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland

In these amazing photos, a photographer gets rare access to document the both extraordinary and mundane images of the Fukushima cleanup.Seven years ago, photographer and filmmaker Arkadiusz Podniesiński visited Chernobyl. This year, four years after the nuclear disaster in Japan, he took his camera to Fukushima to document the similarities between the two post-nuclear-disaster sites, and see how the cleanup was progressing.

Fukushima is divided into three zones: red, orange, and green. In the green zone, the cleanup has almost been finished. The topsoil has been removed and cleaned. Homes have been decontaminated, and soon residents will be allowed to return.

But Podniesiński was more interested in the orange and red zones. In the orange zone, where residents can visit but not stay overnight, he found farmer Naoto Matsumura, who returned illegally to live because "he could not bear to see whole herds of cattle wandering aimlessly in the empty streets when their owners had fled the radiation."

The red zone is deserted, but for the police who regularly checked Podniesiński’s difficult-to-secure permits. The place is eerie and peaceful. The earthquake and the tsunami that sent the nuclear plant into meltdown didn’t damage the entire town, so many deserted buildings stand intact. An abandoned motorbike stands tangled in weeds that have grown up through cracks in the concrete floor, and dumped cars are hidden in overgrowth.

Stopped clocks in a primary school still show the time they stood when the tsunami cut power to the region. Inside the school, computers remain on desks, while trophies are piled haphazardly inside glass-fronted cabinets after the earthquake shook them off their shelves. The gymnasium remains almost untouched, perfect except for deep hollows where the floors collapsed into the earth below. (Continued)

Anti-Racist Organizers Win as Seattle Council Votes to End Youth Incarceration

Young people pressuring city council meeting

By Marcus Harrison Green

Yes! Magazine

Oct 2, 2015 – After a three-year crusade of protest, agitation, and organizing, a Seattle City Council meeting on September 21 brought a major victory to a diverse coalition of youth-prison abolitionists and anti-racist organizers.

“We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the youth activists.”
In a 9-0 unanimous decision, Seattle’s City Council passed a resolution that fully endorses the goal of zero-percent detention of youth [1], and called for the city to develop policies eliminating the necessity of their imprisonment.

While Council Member Mike O’Brien introduced the resolution in a committee meeting last week, it originated with three organizations that advocate for the abolition of juvenile incarceration: Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC),  Youth Undoing Institutional Racism (YUIR), and the Seattle branch of the anti-racist organization European Dissent.

“We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the youth activists,” said Council Member Nick Licata prior to the resolution’s passage. “They’re the ones who created the huge pressure on the county and also the city.”

Seattle’s movement for ending youth incarceration picked up speed after the same city council in 2012 voted overwhelmingly (8-1, with only Kshama Sawant opposed) to fund the replacement of an existing youth detention facility with a new one. What struck organizers at that time was the $210 million poured into the facility.

“I was here the day all except Council Member Sawant voted to build a youth jail with $200 million of our tax money,” asserted white anti-racist organizer James Kahn, addressing the city council. “The movement did not stop after those defeats. The movement could not stop or end until we stop putting children in cages.” (Continued)

The Average American Worker Earns Less Today Than 40 Years Ago

It’s not just unemployment that matters. Many full-time workers take home less money, after inflation, than in decades.


Because most everything we buy gets more expensive over time, we have to earn more money each year just to maintain our existing standard of living. When we’re not given raises that keep up with this rate of inflation, we’re effectively suffering a pay cut.. That’s why many American workers are actually poorer today than four decades ago. They may be earning more money. But, in real terms, they’re getting less for it. Measured in 2014 dollars, the median male full-time worker made $50,383 last year against $53,294 in 1973, according to new U.S. Census Bureau figures.

At $50,383, the figure is the lowest it’s been since 2006. It’s also $450 lower than in 2013. Women have seen bigger increases in real pay in the last few years, though from a lower (unequal) base. The median female worker earned $30,182 in 1973 (in 2014 dollars), but $39,621 last year.

As we explored in our income inequality series recently, technology, globalization, and reduced union bargaining power are all factors behind stagnating wages. The economy has been getting bigger, driven by continuing increases in productivity. But, for one reason or another, workers haven’t been sharing in those gains. But they’re not just disappearing: They’re making a small group of people very, very rich. What are we going to do about that?

[Top Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images]

Meet the Group of African-American Organizers Building Black Support for Bernie Sanders

A woman cheers during a Bernie Sanders campaign event on August 21 in Greenville, S.C. (Photo vis Bernie 2016)

Will grassroots organizing within the black electorate be able to challenge Clinton’s hegemony?

By Salim Muwakkil
In These Times

Will Crosby, 63, a veteran political organizer in Chicago’s bruising electoral battles, is worried that the black community will be caught flat-footed in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The way he sees things, too much of the black electorate is sleepwalking in lockstep support of Hillary Clinton. She is by far the black electorate’s favored candidate, with an 80 percent approval rate.

But Crosby thinks Bernie Sanders is the best presidential candidate for African Americans. “Bernie Sanders is talking about issues that directly affect our community and he’s doing it in a fearless way,” Crosby says. Unfortunately, he adds, Sanders’ message has yet to penetrate into the black community.

Crosby and other Chicago-based black activists have formed a group called the Bernie Brigade that attempts to showcase Sanders’ progressive platform and long history of support for the black struggle. The group canvasses for Sanders in majority-black neighborhoods and holds pro-Sanders events. “We’re still very much engaged in an educational process,” he notes. “Many in our community are unfamiliar with Bernie. They just see an elderly white man from remote, white Vermont. And, quite frankly, that’s a hard sell.”

Crosby says attitudes are easily changed when they hear Sanders’ political spiel and his policy prescriptions, especially on reforming the criminal justice system and curbing wealth inequality. But a black electorate that feels warmly toward Clinton may not take the time to listen. According to a CNN poll from June, Sanders had the support of just 2 percent of black Democrats.

The Bernie Brigade is struggling to get political traction in a city still raw from recent hard-fought battles for both Illinois governor and Chicago mayor. The group includes many members who were bitter antagonists in those elections. “If Bernie can bring us together for one cause, I know he can grow his appeal to the larger black community,” Crosby says.

That’s essential for Sanders. As his campaign understands, unless he can ignite the so-called Obama coalition that includes youth, people of color and single women, his likelihood of victory goes from remote to infinitesimal. (Continued)

Bernie Sanders Draws Blue-Collar Workers in Iowa

Bernie on the picket line in Iowa

By Vaughn Hillyard
Beaver County Blue via NBC News

DES MOINES, Iowa, Sept 7, 2015 — A picketing president? Bernie Sanders said it could be him.

“Yeah, I might. That’s right. Why not,” Sanders said when asked about the possibility after addressing AFSCME union members on Saturday in Altoona, Iowa.

The day before, Sanders picketed outside a Cedar Rapids plant that produces specialized starches alongside union workers engaged in a battle with the plant’s parent company, Ingredion, over new contract negotiations.

And to a crowd of 400 on Thursday in Burlington, Iowa—an old, union town hit hard over the last three decades by shuttered factories—Sanders emphatically stated: “The bottom line is: For millions of American workers, wages in this country are just too damn low.”

Since announcing his candidacy, Sanders has zeroed in on blue-collar voters, consistently addressing low wages, unemployment issues and the country’s trade policies in stump speeches—pushing back against the notion that the economic recovery is as strong as often touted.

“I assumed I would be a Hillary supporter—and rightly or wrongly, probably because I feel like in the last twenty years, the greatest time we had between financial stability was during Bill Clinton’s run,” said Ron Lowe, 52, of Grinnell, Iowa.

But Lowe said he will caucus for Sanders in February. He drove 45 minutes with his mother-in-law last Thursday to see the Democratic candidate at a rally. (Continued)

Know Your Battlefield: Taking Stock of the Terrain

What Donald Trump Understands About Republicans

By Thomas B. Edsall
New York Times Op-Ed

Sept 2, 2015 – Donald Trump’s success is no surprise. The public and the press have focused on his defiant rejection of mannerly rhetoric, his putting into words of what others think privately. But the more important truth is that a half-century of Republican policies on race and immigration have made the party the home of an often angry and resentful white constituency — a constituency that is now politically mobilized in the face of demographic upheaval.

Demographic upheaval may be understating it. From 1970 to 2010, the Hispanic population of the United States grew fivefold, from 9.6 million to 50.5 million. From 2000 to 2010, the number of white children under 18 declined by 4.3 million while the number of Hispanic children grew by 4.8 million. In 2013, white children became a minority, 47.7 percent of students ages 3 to 6.

We have become familiar with Trump’s selling point — that he, more than any other Republican candidate, voices nativist and protectionist views in aggressive and abrasive terms, without qualm: “I Love the Mexican people. I do business with the Mexican people, but you have people coming through the border that are from all over. And they’re bad. They’re really bad.” He has vilified Latin American immigrants as “bringing drugs, bringing crime” and as “rapists.”

Not very subtly, Trump conflates American blacks with Mexican immigrants. “I know cities where police are afraid to even talk to people because they want to be able to retire and have their pension,” he declared in Nashville on Aug. 29. “That first night in Baltimore,” when rioting broke out in protest over the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, “they allowed that city to be destroyed. They set it back 35 years in one night because the police weren’t allowed to protect people. We need law and order!”

Urban gangs, in turn, provide Trump with an opportunity to link immigration and crime. “You know a lot of the gangs that you see in Baltimore and in St. Louis and Ferguson and Chicago, do you know they’re illegal immigrants?” Trump vows that after the election, “they’re going to be gone so fast, if I win, that your head will spin.”


Percent of white respondents in 2014 who agreed or disagreed with this statement: Today discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.

The ease with which Trump has grasped top-dog status has provoked apprehension in the Republican establishment –perhaps most vividly in George Will’s comment on the renegade billionaire:

    Every sulfurous belch from the molten interior of the volcanic Trump phenomenon injures the chances of a Republican presidency.

George Will and other traditional conservatives reject the bombastic language Trump favors, preferring a more elliptical approach in order to avoid alienating moderate voters Republicans need to win in 2016. (Continued)

Why Trump Could Win the GOP Nomination

By Robert Creamer

Huffington Post

Since he entered the GOP contest, most pundits and GOP insiders have treated Trump as a sometimes humorous — sometimes infuriating — distraction from the real race for the Republican nomination.

Now they are beginning to wake up to the fact that Trump is not going away. He is, in fact, a real contender for the nomination. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that a significant portion of his voters will "come to their senses" and withdraw their support from Trump.

In a Public Policy Polling (PPP) poll released August 25, Trump held a commanding lead in the first in the nation New Hampshire primary with 35% of the vote. The establishment candidates, Bush (7%), Walker (7%) and Rubio (6%) don’t even come close. In fact Trump has a lead of 15% on the three of them combined.

A Monmouth University poll showed Trump with a commanding lead of 30% in South Carolina as well.

Trump is not a political clown. He is a very talented right wing populist demagogue. And he has brought into full relief many of the radical policies of the entire GOP field – especially when it comes to immigration.

Trump has seven critical advantages in his campaign for the GOP nomination:

First, his core message is resonant with many GOP voters – especially working class white men. His message is simple: "I will stop them from taking advantage of you."

Remember, most Americans haven’t had a raise in 30 years. All of America’s massive economic growth has gone to the top 1% — people like Trump. Most Americans do believe that someone has been taking advantage of them. Of course Trump doesn’t pin the blame on CEOs, Wall Street banks or big corporations – or on the politicians that have stacked the economic deck in their favor at the expense of ordinary Americans.

Like most right wing populist demagogues before him, he focuses on "the other" – immigrants, and foreign governments – and on the political class in general – whom he positions as incompetent and corrupt.

To make real change he offers a strong man – himself – a man who is not beholden to anyone and can make "real" change.

Second, Trump is credible at delivering that right wing populist message because he can claim that the "establishment" won’t own him, because he doesn’t need their money. He can claim he is free to destroy the status quo, since he won’t owe anyone anything.

Trump understands that many voters, especially frustrated white working class men, don’t care about his "policy proposals" or his "experience" in government. They want a tough son-of-a-bitch who will tear down the establishment that they believe has failed them. And Trump has spent his entire career learning how to behave like a tough son-of-a-bitch. His trade-mark line, after all, is: "your fired."

The Fearful and the Frustrated

Donald Trump’s ‘white nationalist’ coalition takes shape—for now

By Evan Osnos
The New Yorker

Aug 31, 2015 issue – On July 23rd, Donald Trump’s red-white-and-navy-blue Boeing 757 touched down in Laredo, Texas, where the temperature was climbing to a hundred and four degrees. In 1976, the Times introduced Trump, then a little-known builder, to readers as a “publicity shy” wunderkind who “looks ever so much like Robert Redford,” and quoted an admiring observation from the architect Der Scutt: “That Donald, he could sell sand to the Arabs.” Over the years, Trump honed a performer’s ear for the needs of his audience. He starred in “The Apprentice” for fourteen seasons, cultivating a lordly persona and a squint that combined Clint Eastwood on the high plains and Derek Zoolander on the runway. Once he emerged as the early front-runner for the Republican Presidential nomination, this summer, his airport comings and goings posed a delicate staging issue: a rogue wind off the tarmac could render his comb-over fully erect in front of the campaign paparazzi. So, in Laredo, Trump débuted a protective innovation: a baseball hat adorned with a campaign slogan that he recycled from Ronald Reagan’s 1980 run for the White House—“Make America Great Again!” The headwear, which had the rigid façade and the braided rope of a cruise-ship giveaway, added an expeditionary element to the day’s outfit, of blazer, pale slacks, golf shoes—well suited for a mission that he was describing as one of great personal risk. “I may never see you again, but we’re going to do it,” he told Fox News on the eve of the Texas visit.

When Trump announced his candidacy, on June 16th, he vowed to build a two-thousand-mile-long wall to stop Mexico from “sending people that have lots of problems.” He said, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Three of the statements had no basis in fact—the crime rate among first-generation immigrants is lower than that for native-born Americans—but Trump takes an expansive view of reality. “I play to people’s fantasies,” he writes in “The Art of the Deal,” his 1987 memoir. “I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and a very effective form of promotion.”

Trump’s campaign announcement was mocked and condemned—and utterly successful. His favorability among Republicans leaped from sixteen per cent to fifty-seven per cent, a greater spike than that of any other candidate’s début. Immigration became the centerpiece of his campaign. “Donald Trump has changed the entire debate on immigration,” Rush Limbaugh told his listeners last month. As the climax of events in Las Vegas and Phoenix, Trump brought onstage Jamiel Shaw, Sr., whose seventeen-year-old son was killed, in 2008, by a man who was in the country illegally. Trump stood by while Shaw told the crowd how his son was shot.

Before departing for Laredo, Trump said, “I’ve been invited by border patrols, and they want to honor me, actually, thousands and thousands of them, because I’m speaking up.” Though Trump said “border patrols,” the invitation had in fact come from a local branch of the border-patrol union, and the local, after consulting with headquarters, withdrew the invitation a few hours before Trump arrived, on the ground that it would not endorse political candidates. Descending the airplane stairs, Trump looked thrilled to be arriving amid a controversy; he waded into a crowd of reporters and described the change of plans as the handiwork of unspecified enemies. “They invited me, and then, all of a sudden, they were told, silencio! They want silence.” Asked why he felt unsafe in Laredo—which has a lower crime rate than New York City or Washington, D.C.—he invoked another “they”: “Well, they say it’s a great danger, but I have to do it. I love the country. There’s nothing more important than what I’m doing.”

Trump was now going to meet with city officials instead of with the union. He disappeared into one of seven S.U.V.s, escorted by a dozen police vehicles—a larger motorcade than Mitt Romney merited as the Republican nominee. He passed shopping malls, churches, and ranch houses with satellite dishes in the front yard. Some drivers waved; others stared. A car had been positioned along the route with a sign across the windshield: “Mr. Trump, Fuck U.”

He reached the World Trade Bridge, a trucking link to Mexico, where he stepped inside an air-conditioned building for a half-hour briefing. He emerged to talk to reporters, and, after pausing to let the cameras set up, resumed his event. He was asked, “You keep saying that there’s a danger, but crime along the border is down. What danger are you talking about?”

Trump gave a tight, concerned nod. “There’s great danger with the illegals, and we were just discussing that. But we have a tremendous danger along the border, with the illegals coming in.” (Contyinued)

Pittsburgh: Bernie Sanders for President: Yes, He Could!

Pia Colucci, right, of Oakland waits for Bernie Sanders to begin speaking during a telecast broadcasted at a meet-up held in Lawrenceville on Wednesday. Supporters of the Democratic presidential hopeful gathered across the country to watch the telecast. Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette

By Tony Norman
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

July 31, 2015 – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has more than a few fans in Pittsburgh, judging by the turnout for his first televised meet-up since his poll numbers began shifting in a positive direction nationally. The muggy Wednesday evening air did its best to discourage a line from forming outside the Spirit Lounge on 51st Street in Lawrenceville, but 350 supporters squeezed into the former Moose Lodge that had once been the home to many a studio ’rasslin’ night.

After ponying up the suggested $5 donation at the door, the cross-generational crowd of Democrats and fellow travelers jockeyed for the best vantage point in front of a projection screen on the east end of the hall. Mr. Sanders would televise his remarks to 3,100 similar gatherings across the country from an apartment in Washington, D.C., shortly after 7 p.m. Eastern time.

According to organizers, Mr. Sanders would be addressing as many as 100,000 supporters nationwide — a number that should concern the complacent Democratic establishment, even though the insurgent candidate trails former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton by as much as 40 points in some polls.

Still, Bernie Sanders has roughly the same level of name recognition that Sen. Barack Obama had at this point in his underdog campaign against Mrs. Clinton. Unlike Mr. Obama, who was still trying to justify his candidacy to skeptical black leaders already committed to Mrs. Clinton in the summer of 2007, Mr. Sanders is drawing more energetic and enthusiastic crowds than Mrs. Clinton — a sign that the party’s progressive and liberal base is hungry for something it isn’t getting from its presumptive front-runner.

There is still time for Mrs. Clinton to ignite the passion of grass-roots Democrats, of course, but Bernie Sanders is on fire right now in ways no other candidate for the nomination can remotely claim. When he finally appeared on screen to make his speech, there was a collective roar from the crowd that felt almost primal — a mix of sweat, genuine giddiness and exasperation that it has taken so long for a candidate who shares their deepest convictions and disappointment with the status quo to finally emerge.

Technical difficulties with the live stream signal on Pittsburgh’s end prevented him from being heard at first, but when his Brooklyn-forged accent finally broke through the buffering silence, the crowd was primed to hear the candidate declare his allegiance to their issues and priorities.

“The American people are saying loudly and clearly — enough is enough,” Mr. Sanders said after ticking off a series of priorities that would occupy his days in the White House. The candidate would return to this mantra many times after promising to reverse 40 years of middle-class decline and income inequality, raising the minimum wage, affordable college education and combating the “real unemployment rate” he insisted was over 10 percent.

“Maybe, just maybe, instead of higher rates of incarceration,” he said referencing minority youth, “we could provide them with education and jobs.” In a tip-of-the-hat to the #BlackLivesMatter movement that heckled him a week earlier, Mr. Sanders pledged to fight against institutional racism. Just as he was beginning say something about instituting a campaign finance system that didn’t reward corporate bribery, Mr. Sanders’ image froze on the screen, prompting someone in the crowd to shout: “It’s a conspiracy!”