Tuesday, July 19, 2022

It's Not Just Russia!

People of all stripes and persuasions will try to influence you.

I got a weird voicemail message the other day.  Weird because there was no record of a call coming in before it bounced to voicemail.  A cheery young voice informs me that they sent me a courtesy copy of the "Epic Times" newspaper, which sounded kind of Jesus-y to me.  She wanted to know if I wanted to subscribe?

Press 7 to delete.

Curious, I Googled "Epic Times Scam" and found the Wikipedia entry for the Epoch Times, which is the correct spelling I guess.  And once again, I am dropped into the Wikipedia rabbit-hole.

It seems the Epoch Times, according to Wikipedia, is a ultra-right-wing anti-Communist newspaper published by the Falun Gong cult in China.  They supposedly support far-right candidates (and apparently Qanon) or anyone else who is virulently anti-communist, or more precisely, anti-CCP.  They are apparently big Trump supporters and proponents of "the big Lie" and gave huge amounts of money to PACs supporting Trump.

That is sad, too, because Trump and his ilk did little to counter the threat of Chinese militarism or correct our balance of trade.  Supporting far-right politics serves only to cement one's reputation as a bunch of crazy crackpots.   And by the way, the far-right evangelical Christians who make up the bulk of Trump supporters are not too keen on esoteric far-east religions.  In other words, these GQP people will be the first to throw Falun Gong under the bus, when the time is right.

In a way, it is a parallel to the Moonies, who own a "newspaper" called the Washington Examiner.  The Examiner is very right-wing and the Moonies assume that since Republicans talk a good game about being anti-Communist, that is the faction they should support.  But again, American Republicans want no truck with some weird foreign religion, and if the Moonies think they will be welcome in the Baptist church, they got another think coming.   It is akin to a black person running a white supremacy group.  Happens more often than you think.

My only experience with Falun Gong was at the Atlanta airport (as I recall).  Mark and I were traveling overseas and we found an abandoned concourse to sit in and get away from the crowds and noise while we waited out a 2-hour stopover.  There was no one there and the gates were deserted.  This Chinese fellow walks up to us and puts his bags down right next to us, even though there were hundreds of seats available in the numerous darkened gates.  Then he starts doing this Tai Chi shit which is this trendy exercise program that Falun Gong promotes (and apparently uses to rope people into the cult).   He is doing these weird sudden movements, right next to us, and by that, I mean his arm would suddenly extend until there was this fist in my face!  Go fuck yourself, Mr. Cult Weirdo!  If this is the good impression they want to make on others about their cult, they're going about it the wrong way.

We moved on down the concourse and fortunately, he didn't follow.  Fuck Tai Chi.  Fuck Falun Gong.  Fuck crazy people - and not in the good way!

Falun Gong claims to be persecuted in China.  Apparently the whole Tai Chi exercise thing was initially embraced by the CCP as being good healthy fun.  But then the CCP got nervous that the cult aspect of it was infiltrating the higher reaches of the government.  Falun Gong makes no bones about it - they want to take over the Chinese government.  So no wonder they thought January 6th was a swell idea!

That is, of course, the irony of Falun Gong.  They claim to be virulently anti-communist, but at one point, they had infiltrated the highest levels of the CCP.  So today they court "anti-communist" support in the USA in their effort to take power in China.  And as Americans, we read what we want to read into the situation.  It is like the protests in Tienanmen Square (which according to the CCP never happened!).  They weren't so much motivated by a desire for "Democracy" as they were angry students who were upset that the cushy jobs they were guaranteed after graduation under communism, were gone - thanks to economic reforms and the move toward capitalism.

In a way, it is like the Dali Lama - people read into him what they want to see.  What they want to see is a peaceful Buddha-dude who is all enlightenment and sunshine.  What they are really getting is a globe-trotting billionaire who owns homes on every continent, who is misogynist and homophobic (and not a vegetarian!) who, if put in charge of Tibet, would rule it as a theocracy like the Taliban.  Sorry if I burst your bubble.  But it points out why signing on to other peoples' causes is problematic.

Falun Gong makes some pretty wild claims about the CCP and their persecution in China.  It is not hard to believe that they may be suppressed in China, but their claims that followers are arrested and their internal organs "harvested" and sold to Westerners is pretty far-fetched.  Then again, what the hell is keeping Dick Cheney alive these days?  There is no actual evidence for this, although some supporters point to an "unexplained" statistical increase in organ transplants in China and then make the leap that it has to be Falun Gong supporters who are being executed and then sold for parts.  No word on the Uyghurs.

What is interesting about this whole nonsense isn't that some weird foreign cult exists - there are tons of them out there - they come and go.  What is interesting is that we are being influenced not only by propaganda from the Russian Internet Research Agency, but from an anti-Communist right-wing exercise cult.  And in terms of money spent, the latter may be more than the former.  Oddly enough, the CCP seems to be hesitantly in bed with Putin, so we have various players with various interests, often opposed to one another, playing each other in different ways.

As I noted in an earlier posting, a friend of mine came back from Afghanistan with a long beard, as he was doing "Psy Ops" or some such nonsense for the US government.  I asked him what these "insurgents" really want - why do they blow up marketplaces and set off IEDs?   In many cases, they are just blowing up their own people.  "Chaos works in their favor," he replied.  There is no battlefield, no military objective, no Pork Chop hill to take (indeed, that would not be Halal!).  They just want to create disruption and chaos.

It worked when the Soviets were running Afghanistan.  They left with their tail between their legs and the warlords took over, often shelling civilians indiscriminately.   People wanted order out of chaos, and the Taliban offered that hope (while instituting a chaos of its own).

Disruption, chaos, internal strife - these all work in favor of foreign powers.  The goal of any insurgency is to create a sense of unease among the population and your opponents.  And if your opponents do horrible things in retaliation, you've cemented your position.  The resistance in France would blow up rail bridges or assassinate German officers.  The Germans would then kill off hundreds of innocent civilians in retaliation.  By doing so, they increased the power of the resistance.

The same thing happened in Vietnam.  The Mỹ Lai massacre was the day we lost that war - when we went ballistic on civilians and became the bad guys.  The Russians did the same in Afghanistan, and we did the same after 9/11 with our waterboarding and Gitmo.   The goal of any insurgency is to sow chaos so that your opponent loses it and goes over the edge.

And we see this today - where people are getting so frothed up over politics they are talking about killing people, or in some cases, actually are.  And it will only get worse over time.  We are being egged on by this new and cruel invention, social media, and while we all know this, we all sit back and watch the show, feeling powerless to do anything other than post a meme on Facebook.

Of course, some of these folks sow chaos simply because they are batshit crazy.  The Falun Gong is in for a sweet surprise when they realize the Christian far-right demographic they are courting will turn against them in short order simply because Falun Gong is not Christian.  Oh sure, they'll take that PAC money - money has no flavors - but in the end, they will leave Falun Gong out to dry.

What's worse, if Falun Gong really wants to overthrow the CCP, they should consider carefully why they are trying to sow chaos in the United States.  Supporting far-right politics and Qanonsense serves only to weaken the United States, as evidenced by the disastrous four years of Trumpism.  If Falun Gong really wants to overthrow the CCP, they should be trying to bring the US together - not tear us apart.

But then again, most cults are founded on batshit crazy.  Whether it is Jonestown, Branch Davidians, Guru Whoever, Charles Manson, or even Mormonism and Scientology, there is a baseline level of disassociation from reality that is necessary in order to join the cult.  And this disassociation with reality ends up bringing down the cult, eventually, as reality clashes with fantasy, and reality always winsThis is what we are seeing right now with the Catholic Church.  And sadly, many right-wing Catholics think the solution is more fantasy and less reality.  But oh, well.

It is interesting how these organization can gather so many millions of followers and, taking only a few hundred or a few thousand dollars from each, end up with billion of dollars to play around with - and become a political force.

And it is sad, to me, that so many people in the world feel so lost as to latch on to the first attractive-looking thing that comes down the pike.  Being a "follower" to them is the answer to all those annoying and dangerous questions in life.  Religion provides pat answers: Give us all your money and kill the infidels.

Sadly, that ain't about to change.  The only cult I am willing to join is the one where I get to be the charismatic leader (why start at the bottom?).  Why be a follower or a plebe, when you can be head Thetan?

Well, starting (or taking over) a cult probably isn't in the cards for most of us.  But you can be the head of your own cult of one - be yourself and find your own answers, instead of blindly following others or seeking out Gurus....

And hey - that means me, too!  Which is why I don't give out advice.  I am not in the Guru business!