Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Mike Adams and the fact-free press step up to defend "legitimacy" of Drumpf reign

The bad news: Donald Trump is still the not-my-president-elect, and Leonard Cohen is still dead. The good news: For the time being, the other Leonard C who has occupied space on this blog -- the truly stupid and evil LC, Not-Doktor Leonard Coldwell -- seems to be suspended from Facebook once again, as recently celebrated on UK wag Longdog's hilarious blog. This time it appears that the suspension isn't limited to his main English Language Facebook page, "Leonard Coldwell," but also to his main German language page, "Dr. Leonard Coldwell," his totally fake-profile page "Eyn Rand," and the English-language page for his failed GIN ripoff, the IMBS-ing U Master Baiter'sSociety. So that is a small bright spot.

But this blog negotiates a landscape that is more often marred by bad news than brightened by good. And there's more bad news to report (granted, it's also amusing news, but bad news nevertheless): the fact-free press, led by cynical conspiracy monger, frauduct peddler and Trumpian rabble-rouser Mike "The Health Ranger" Adams, has stepped up to "defend the legitimacy" of the Trump presidency, calling upon the conspiracy-theorist-in-chief to use his presidential power to "blockade" the "lying mainstream media."

You'll notice that the last link in the paragraph above leads to the aforementioned Not-Doktor Stoopid's "blog," which rarely contains original content but is mostly a curation of misinformation from other sites. In this case, LoonyC curated a post from Mike Adams' Natural "News" site. Both the re-post and the original post on Adams' site were published on December 2.

In an "open letter" to His Unholy Orangeness, Adams urges Trump to refuse to let the mainstream press corps into his (ultra)White House at all. After all, declares Adams (repeating by rote what every faithful Trumpian knows), the mainstream media are Drumpf's enemy and "they will do anything and everything to destroy you." Says he:

It's time to deprive those lying, deceptive media outlets of all the oxygen in the room. Blockade them from all White House announcements and presidential events. Bring in the real media... the independent publishers, radio hosts and bloggers who are truly the only remaining free press in America.
We all have teams of writers, video editors, bloggers and researchers ready to report the real news about the successes of your new administration. We will defend your legitimacy as President and help defend the Republic against the assaults of the Fidel Castro-worshipping lunatic fringe left.

My own network of online sites includes Trump.news, WhiteHouse.news and hundreds of others. Combined with Infowars.com, PrisonPlanet.com, DrudgeReport.com and others, we already dwarf most of the mainstream media outlets in terms of reach. We absolutely dwarf all mainstream media in terms of the public trust factor.
He forgot to mention "in terms of the utter-disrespect-for-inconvenient-facts factor." They've got it all over the "lying" mainstream media on that one.

Adams also uses his post as an opportunity to boast to Trump about his own search engine, GoodGopher, which, he writes without any apparent irony, "excludes all the mainstream media liars and news fabrication propagandists working for CNN, WashPost, NYT, MSNBC and so on. We already have an authoritative list of who's who in the independent media. Compiling a contact list would only take a day or two."


"What good is a totally censored search engine?" you may be asking. All the good in the world, it seems, if you feel a need to lower a cone of ignorance over yourself every time you do an Internet search. It's sort of like the cone of silence in the old Get Smart TV series, except instead of preventing the escape of secret information, it prevents the infiltration of facts. Or maybe it's more like parental block, except instead of protecting kids from online exploitation it protects willfully stupid adults from learning real facts.

Facts may be stubborn things, but they're not nearly as stubborn as those who like to make up their own "facts."


Adams, like everyone else in the conspiracy biz (not to mention the basket of gullibles who embrace and spread phony conspiracies on social media), seems to have a very casual relationship with the truth, and that is putting it charitably. To advance his own agendas he isn't above perpetuating distortions and libelous falsehoods (e.g., his recent smear campaign against Dr. David Gorski, aka "Orac," as I wrote about in April of this year). Nor is he above casually posting complete misinformation that doesn't libel anyone but is simply, ludicrously inaccurate.

If Adams were just another blog-fodder blowhard there wouldn't be much cause for concern. But there are larger and more serious issues that stretch far beyond cranky little blogs like this.
For Adams is both riding the crest of an enormous wave of disinformation and making that wave bigger. He's part of the "alternative" press/"independent" media that are the vanguard of the
"post-truth" era. These are the media that are tailor-made for Trump, and he for them. It's a match made in infotainment (with the emphasis on "tainment") heaven. 


Granted, the mainstream media have made serious missteps themselves, and we shouldn't let them off the hook. And I'm not just talking about the insane amount of non-critical attention and free promotion the media have consistently handed to Trump on a silver platter, or the way they embraced the "Crooked Hillary" narrative and made a huge deal about the non-issue of her emails. I'm also talking about the way major news outlets such as Washington Post may have lent undeserved legitimacy to a questionable group, PropOrNot, in their own reporting about "fake news." The conspiracy lunatics and the alt-right and the Trumpians are all over that one, but Rolling Stone and Fortune also weighed in critically. Even so, it would be folly to discount the possible roles played by Russian operatives in influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and certainly foolish to dismiss the influence of fake-news sites and the under-informed voters who take these sites seriously. 
 
Apart from the dumbing-down issues there are more serious matters of public safety at stake. On Sunday, December 4, 2016, Edgar M. Welch, a 28-year-old white gunman from North Carolina, apparently fueled by the ludicrous and debunked "Pizzagate" conspiracy narrative, walked into Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant in northwest Washington D.C., and fired from an AR-15 rifle. He had driven six hours from his home to "investigate" rumors that the pizzeria was harboring young children as sex slaves, as part of a child-abuse ring led by Hillary Clinton. Yes, there are idiots who truly believe that; Ron and I just got scolded by a couple of them on Facebook within the past few days. If you ask me there are far too many people who seem to be unhealthily obsessed with pedophilia, and it's not the Clintons and their cronies.

Fortunately Welch was arrested before anyone was hurt, but what about the next angry nutcake who walks in? Comet Ping Pong has reported that they have received lots of disturbing threats in the wake of Pizzagate, and even some of the neighboring businesses have received threats as well.

Pizzagate is far from the only blatantly false conspiracy tale making the rounds, and what is disturbing is that Donald Trump himself seems to be a big believer in conspiracy theories and conspiracy web sites, and is stocking his administration with others who have a fondness for fake news sites and conspiracy stories. And if that doesn't worry you, just a little bit... then what are you doing on this blog?

Once again without irony, Mike Adams concludes his December 2 post thusly:
 It’s time to #TakeDownCNN once and for all. The network doesn’t deserve to operate in any free society (but they might feel right at home in North Korea). And it’s time to support the rise of the new, independent media in America.
Uh-huh. Freedom of the press is an inalienable right in America, but only freedom of certain types of press: the fact-free, totally self-serving-to-cynical-scammers-and-hatriarchs variety.

But if you care about actual freedom of the press, and about responsible journalism, there's plenty you can do. Start with becoming a fact-checker yourself. Read with a critical eye, especially if the content seems to fit too neatly into someone's preferred narrative (even or especially your own). And hold the mainstream media's feet to the fire, but don't dismiss them just because they're mainstream. This isn't to say that you should automatically dismiss a source just because it's "alternative" or "independent," but keep your eyes open and your b.s. detector active, always.


Otherwise, Trump and his cynical champions and surrogates may lead all of us around a corner from which there will be no turning back.

PS added on 19 December 2016: Here is some background information about the traditions of irrationality and hysteria that ultimately gave rise to Pizzagate. Waves of hysteria have been part of American history, not just for decades but for centuries. The problem is that today, the popularity of social media makes it easier than ever to spread the hysteria, and fake news sites make the irrationality much more difficult to battle. 


 

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Monday, December 05, 2016

SCOTUS rebuffs Kevin Trudeau; Camp Cupcake gets to keep its celebrity huckster

On Monday, 5 December 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States determined that it will not hear the criminal appeal of imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, aka KT, aka Katie on this blog. In July Trudeau petitioned the SCOTUS to hear his case, hoping that they would overturn his criminal contempt conviction and ten-year prison sentence.

Without comment, SCOTUS let stand a 5 February ruling by the federal appeals court in Chicago. The appeals court had upheld Katie's November 2013 conviction and March 2014 sentencing (
as reported here in February of this year).

The conviction and sentence were not for Trudeau's mega-scam the Global Information Network, or GIN, which in its heyday bilked thousands of folks out of millions of dollars, because... well, the FTC is pretty slow about getting around to these things. Instead the case was about deceptive claims Trudeau had made in infomercials about his diet book, The Weight Loss Cure "They" Don't Want You to Know About, after having signed consent decrees promising that he would stop lying in infomercials. The case had dragged out for decades and cost millions of dollars.

I first shared the link to Trudeau's petition to SCOTUS on this July 2016 post (under the sub-head, "Katie and the Supremes"). A couple of months later I shared the link again on this post (under "Caged Katie and his fellow scammer").

Here's a direct link to the petition.

After losing his appeal in February, Katie was clearly holding out hopes that SCOTUS would set him free. The promotions he has been running from "Camp Cupcake" via social media all centered around donating to his legal fund to help pay for his high-dollar attorneys to keep working on his behalf.

Sometimes, though, even money can't buy you freedom.

On the other hand, Katie has been getting a lot of social media mileage out of
the martyr creds he has gained since he's been on the inside, and he has become quite the "spiritual" leader. Besides, he has often said that he is perfectly content being at Camp Cupcake, aka Federal Prison Camp (FPC) Montgomery (Alabama). I guess SCOTUS was paying attention and decided to bestow mercy upon him by totally rebuffing him.

But hey, maybe
Herr Drumpf will pardon Katie when Drumpf assumes the throne of the United States. Turds of a feather...

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Sunday, December 04, 2016

Message to James Arthur Ray: Please. Stop.


 
A couple of days ago I published a brief (for me) post about the CNN premiere of Enlighten Us, a documentary about New-Wage hustledork, star of The Secret and -- oh, yeah, convicted killer -- James Arthur Ray.

I didn't watch the premiere. I don't have cable so I don't get CNN on TV, and because I live out at the Edge of Nowhere, in an area where currently the only option for high-speed Internet is severely bandwidth-restricted satellite Internet, I can't do in-demand (if that's even an option right now for this film). At some point, if I get a chance to watch Enlighten Us -- which some have described as a James Ray infomercial -- for free or relatively cheap (maybe on Amazon Marketplace or in the Walmart DVD remainders bin), I will. But what I have been doing is keeping up with the buzz around the film, and it appears that Death Ray is milking it for all the publicity it's worth. (I know, big surprise.)

Yesterday I found out via
a Facebook post from Jean Brown Allison, the sister of Ray victim Kirby Brown, about some of the egregious and hurtful lies that Ray has been spreading about his victims and their families -- specifically, about Kirby. Then last night Salty Droid sent me a link to a snippet from an interview Ray gave, in which he claimed that Kirby had been "estranged" from her family, and that she had attended the fatal event in part because she was trying to deal with her family problems.

Jean, who gave me permission to share her Facebook post here, wrote:

This morning, I got a comment on my Oprah letter. I can only imagine this is in response to the effort we've made to counter James Ray's infomercial.
"Darlene" wrote: "I’m curious Jean,why you would purposely go to James Ray’s FB page ? Why do you care what he’s doing? He served his sentence. What exactly do you expect him to do? All the hatred towards him leads me to believe you want him dead! Like that would be the only solution that would make you feel better. He has a right to move forward and live his life. So should you!"

I responded:

"Hi Darlene,

Thank you for your question. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss how I feel.

I would never wish anyone dead. That is not at all what I wish for James Ray. I’ve always been a pacifist, do not believe in the death penalty, etc. James Ray’s trial tested those convictions and I assure you, they held up. He absolutely has a right to move on and live his life and I recognize that he fulfilled the conditions of the law following his conviction.

The problem, and the reason that we continue to follow him, is that he is not moving on. Moving on would be recognizing his mistakes and vowing not to recommit them. Instead, he is back in the same line of work, trying to convince people to trust him with their desire to improve their lives.

Instead of moving on, he is using the story of what happened–my sister’s story–to relaunch his business.

And in fact, he’s now manipulating her story. He was on CNN yesterday saying that she was estranged from our family. This is a gross and deeply hurtful lie. Just months before she died, she was my maid of honour, in the wedding at my parents’ house! Kirby was seeking her own path in life, absolutely. A path that deviated from the normal path, certainly one that deviated from my parents’ path. But that does not at all mean she was estranged from our family.

Do you understand why James Ray using and misrepresenting her story would be so deeply hurtful to me and my family? And yes, I have a right to move forward. Ray’s return to the self-help industry makes it very difficult for me to do that. He is using my sister’s story–and in so doing makes us relive our pain over and over–for his own gain. Do you see how that prevents us from moving forward?

I continue to share this story and press this case because in order to live with my sister’s death, I need to do everything I can to make sure someone else doesn’t die needlessly as she did. I need to make her story mean something. Despite saying that he takes responsibility, James Ray continues to deflect responsibility and will not recognize the actions he took that led to people’s deaths. This is why I still feel he is dangerous. Honouring my sister’s memory means I will continue to warn people of this danger, from James Ray and others in the self-help industry who abuse their customers’ trust.

Thank you again for your question. I wish you well!

Jean Brown"

***

Friends, I share this because we are very much in the "post-truth" era, and I feel like over and over again I'm losing the battle to proclaim the truth. I need help. Please share whatever you can far and wide to help us tell the truth about James Ray. My posts about SEEK, etc, are usually public and shareable. [Seek Safely is the Browns' nonprofit that attempts to bring responsibility and accountability into the self-help industry. ~CC]
Thanks xo
"Post-truth" era, indeed. We're seeing signs of that everywhere, and I won't get into the political angle on this post, because what I wish to stress here is that it is the height of arrogance, ignorance and insensitivity to callously declare that the loved ones of those who were killed as a result of James Ray's recklessness -- as well as those who were injured or otherwise traumatized by him in some way -- should "just move on."

Jean has been making a concentrated effort to counter Ray's lies, and yesterday
she posted a video imploring him to "Please stop." It's embedded at the beginning of this post, or you can click on the link in the previous sentence.

Jean and her family are not going to shut up about this, and neither am I, and neither are several other bloggers... and if you care about countering the dark side of Scamworld, neither should you. And by the way, if you need a primer or refresher on why those who were hurt by Ray, or those who sympathize with their cause, cannot and should not "just move on,"
here again is a direct link to Ray's October 2016 motion to have his convictions for negligent homicide overturned, and -- more importantly -- the State's response.

Never forget.

PS added 8 December 2016: Salty Droid will never, never forget. Here he does a detailed debunking of Death Ray's outrageous lies about the Brown family (and Ray's other victims as well). And once again Salty points a finger at CNN.

Keep in mind that this isn’t a pathetic attempt at journalism. This is CNN using air time on its news shows to promote its entertainment content. It’s a fucking commercial … and that’s how James Ray is using it as well.

So inside the commercial :: within the commercial :: within the news show … James Arthur Ray is allowed to speak horrible unquestioned slander against Kirby and her family.

PPS added 9 December 2016: Who's afraid of Virginia Brown? Cowardly Death Ray, apparently.

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Friday, December 02, 2016

En-blight-en us more: Death Ray documentary to premiere on CNN

This past April I mentioned a documentary on the rise and fall and attempted rise again of convicted killer James Arthur "Death" Ray: Enlighten Us, in advance of the film's premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Mostly I wrote about Salty Droid, aka jason Jones, writing about it, since he actually attended the premiere.

Now the work is finally coming to a wider audience; it is currently scheduled to premiere
on CNN on Saturday, December 3, 2016 (that's tomorrow, as I write this) at 8 PM ET. There will be several encores later in the month; they're listed in the link above. No doubt it will be available for even wider viewing in due time via Internet outlets, Blu-Ray/DVD and the like. I'll wait.

Not surprisingly Salty weighed in again, ahead of the CNN premiere; he never did publish his full review of the documentary on his blog, but
on today's post he did include snippets from one of his efforts. He describes meeting Ginny Brown, mother of one of Ray's victims, Kirby Brown. It was an emotional experience, to say the least.
This thing, The Salty Droid, is all about computer screens. I observe and capture the world as seen on my screens, and then I interact with that world via a half-crazed half-fictional character. The layers of abstraction help to keep my brain safe while I’m inhabiting one dark mire after the next; I try to crossover as rarely as possible. This is the first article I’ve ever published as myself.

Ginny and George are out trying to raise awareness for SEEK Safely
[
the Browns' nonprofit that attempts to bring responsibility and accountability into the self-help industry]. They feel like they’ve been completely shutout by the film makers. They’ve not been represented on camera, and their input has not been sought off camera. They haven’t even been invited to attend the premiere. They are visibly upset, and that makes me upset.
Jason noted that Ray was not in the theater where Enlighten Us was screening." Too bad :: because he missed the audience’s overwhelmingly negative reaction to him :: which manifested via audible groans :: and again during the Q&A with director Jenny Carchman."

Despite the seemingly uncritical lens through which the film presented Ray, Jason wrote that he "still comes off as a horrible disgusting monster." Not to mention a hypocritical one:

Ray tells the film maker’s camera …
I came out of prison in debt. My credit is crap. I’ve got nothing tucked away.
Juxtapose Ray telling a marketer’s camera …
I’d like to begin a conversation with you here today… it’s about the topic of wealth, abundance, and prosperity.
Scamworld in a James Arthur Ray nutshell.
Yep. It's all about Ray "pitching himself as a specialist in comebacks … while perpetually waiting for his own comeback to come." Salty also took some potshots at CNN for providing such a golden platform for Ray for years, and he got some shots in at Ray's "old-as-dirt mentor-in-scam Bob Proctor" (who has also been a frequent guest on my Whirled, particularly back in the heyday of The Secret).

Salty/Jason wasn't the only one of my pals to write about Ray in the wake of the CNN premiere buzz. Steve Salerno of SHAMblog had
an excellent piece on Slate yesterday. And he published some "outtakes" on SHAMblog yesterday as well.

Apart from the fact that Death Ray is trying, mostly in vain, to regain his superstar status in the selfish-help industry,
he is also trying to get his criminal convictions set aside so he can have all of his civil rights restored. If the motion were to be granted he would regain voting rights, and international travel would become less of a hassle.

Back in 2013, following his release from prison in Arizona, Ray had toyed with getting the convictions overturned,
but in September of that year he moved to drop the appeal. In an affidavit he wrote, "I wish to ensure the prompt, complete and definitive termination of these criminal proceedings by dismissing this appeal and allowing the conviction and sentence to stand undisturbed." Apparently he didn't want to risk re-trial and possible re-sentencing. He insisted, however, that the convictions were flawed.

And now he's trying to push that narrative through the courts.
As Steve Salerno wrote in the Slate piece linked to above:
In both the film and in life, Ray is poorly cast as the martyr of self-help culture. He’s far from it: Ginny Brown, mother of 38-year-old victim Kirby Brown, recalls that when Ray finally reached out to her after her daughter’s death, a full five days later, he kept saying over and over, that he “couldn’t believe this had happened ... to him.” Seven years later, Ray does not seem to have changed—indeed, he is currently petitioning to have his conviction set aside. The state of Arizona is countering the motion vigorously, as are families of those killed.

Legal maneuvers like the one Ray is attempting rarely succeed in homicide cases. But the hubris of even trying reaffirms that far from offering a story of redemption, Ray remains the epitomic reminder that self-help culture may be less about bettering the self than about creating alternative realities in which your unimproved self is just fine.

Couldn't have said it better myself. (And as I've written about numerous times on this blog, the selfish-help culture is full of false heroes and martyrs, imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau being one of them.)

Here is a link to Ray's October 2016 motion and to the State's response, requesting denial of the motion. If you aren't familiar with the events leading up to his conviction, or just want to refresh your memory, you can get a reasonably good overview by reading the response.

Ray may never get his luster restored, either legally or in the minds of a the public. But the very fact that he is still trying so desperately to do so says a lot about his character, or complete lack thereof.

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