Category Archives: Personal Diary

A spectre is haunting the Democratic Party — the spectre of democracy.

All the powers of the Democratic Party estabilishment have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Warren and Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Biden, elite white feminists and liberal media pundits.

Where is any working class political activist that has not been decried as a bro or a Russian troll by Wall Street, neoliberal Democrats? Where is the billionaire donor class that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism, against even the old isolationist right, as well as any proposal to revive the social democratic ideals of the New Deal?

Two things result from this fact:

1.) Seemingly struck down by the hand of neoliberal capitalism, the idea of democracy is acknowledged by Wall Street and its lackeys to be making a comeback.

2.) It is high time that we the believers in traditional American democracy  should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish our views, our aims, our tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of democracy with a manifesto of the ideals on which this country was founded.

To this end, you might want to read this. And maybe this. Oh yeah, this too.

Michael Bloomberg is Didius Julianus

n 193 AD, after the death of Commodus, a wealthy oligarch named Didius Julianus bought the throne of the Roman Empire.

With Sulpicianus on the inside and Didius Julianus without the two men began to make offers to the soldiers for their support. Monetary offers were waged against one another until ultimately Didius Julianus purchased the throne for 25,000 sesterces per Praetorian, according to contemporary historian and senator Dio Cassius. (With 10 double strength praetorian cohorts of approx. 800 men, the total payment may have been as much as 200 million sesterces or 50 million denarii). The Historia Augusta suggests that Didius Julianus actually ended up paying some 30,000 sesterces but another contemporary (Herodian, though a child at the time) disputes this entirely, suggesting that the funds simply weren’t available to make good on the promised payments.

A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf (1916)


In 1867, a 29-year-old Scottish immigrant and University of Wisconsin at Madison dropout named John Muir, an employee at a wagon wheel factory in Indianapolis, had an accident that almost blinded him. Struck in the eye by a tool that slipped out of his hand and nicked his cornea, he was confined to a dark room for over six weeks, unsure if he would ever again see the light of day. Recovering, he hit upon a plan that a lot of people in their 20s dream about, but few carry out. He would walk 1000 miles to the Gulf of Mexico, board a steamer in New Orleans for South American, then hike to the top of the Andes.

Muir’s plan was daring in more ways than one. He had little money or support. What’s more the United States in 1867, especially that part of the United States between Indianapolis and New Orleans was a dangerous place. The country had just been through a brutal Civil War that not only killed a million Americans, but left over 3 million veterans, all trained killers, very much alive, and more often than not, heavily armed. Food was scarce. Jobs were in short supply. Federal troops still occupied most of the south.  But John Muir had a secret weapon that made him almost invulnerable. He was poor. He had nothing worth stealing.

I had climbed but a short distance when I was overtaken by a young man on horse-back, who soon showed that he intended to rob me if he should find the job worth while. After he had inquired where I came from, and where I was going, he offered to carry my bag. I told him that it was so light that I did not feel it at all a burden; but he insisted and coaxed until I allowed him to carry it. As soon as he had gained possession I noticed that he gradually increased his speed, evidently trying to get far enough ahead of me to examine the contents without being observed. But I was too good a walker and runner for him to get far. At a turn of the road, after trotting his horse for about half an hour, and when he thought he was out of sight, I caught him rummaging my poor bag. Finding there only a comb, brush, towel, soap, a change of underclothing, a copy of Burns’s poems, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and a small New Testament, he waited for me, handed back my bag, and returned down the hill, saying that he had forgotten something.

This morning, as I read the news on Yahoo, I thought about John Muir’s vignette. There is a group called Extinction Rebellion, an organization led by a 16-year-old Swedish girl named Greta Thunberg. While they made a good first impression, propaganda from the corporate media and the  fossil fuel industry reversed it in a matter of weeks. These days pretty much everybody, both on the right and the left, hates them. Social media cheers on attacks against climate change protesters.  On the left, they’re widely regarded as a ruling class plot to impoverish the global south for the benefit of the rich global north. On the right they’re seen as a conspiracy by the “new world order” to enrich China at the expense of the United States.  Unlike John Muir, Americans these days not only have something to steal. They live their lives in constant terror of someone taking what’s rightfully theirs. Yes, my fellow Americans in the Bible Belt. Greta Thunberg is coming for your Ford F-150s and your gun racks.

Unlike our inbred cousins in the Bible Belt, we liberal Americans in the “blue states” don’t come right out and deny global warming. In fact, we pay it a good deal of lip service. Yet the way we live our lives it might as well be a “new world order” conspiracy cooked up by the Illuminati on Al Gore’s private jet. Like our inbred cousins in the Bible Belt, it’s not high on our list of priorities, probably not even in the top ten. “Climate change, oh yeah. It’s bad. Sorry. I have to take the kids to soccer practice.” Liberal Americans care about their children’s future. They will spend no end of money on SAT preparation courses to get them into the right colleges. They will spare no expense to hire the right lawyers to set up the right kinds of trust funds, but in the end they will not act to insure that in 50 years their grandchildren still have a livable planet. That’s someone else’s problem. All Americans are part of the same capitalist death cult. Some of us drive Ford F-150s with gun racks. Some of us drive hybrids. Some of us take New Jersey Transit and the New York City subway, but we’re all enthusiastically running the same rat race, and woe be it to anybody who gets in the way, especially one of those damned hippies from Extinction Rebellion.

So I thought back to John Muir and the young man in Kentucky who tried to rob him.  I suppose he had hoped to find a few gold coins or a roll of good Union currency, but unlike Muir, he had no idea what he had right in front of him, the opportunity to chat about John Milton, Robert Burns, and the Gospels with one of the greatest environmentalists and romantic poets who ever lived. Imagine if someone in Silicon Valley gave a TED Talk in front of a group of tech billionaires and announced the one time only opportunity to climb aboard a time machine, and go back to 1867 to hike with the young John Muir through Kentucky. How much money would that fetch in an auction? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Millions? Similarly, Americans today have no idea of the value of what they’re currently in the process of destroying. While there may be life on other planets, there may not be. The earth we live on may be the only place in the galaxy capable of sustaining intelligent life, and this little experiment in human consciousness may well be only a brief few moments in the history of the universe before it’s all snuffed out.

Isn’t it worth taking genuinely radical action to preserve?

Bernie Sanders in Queens


Even with a bad cold and a toothache, I wasn’t about to miss Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorse Bernie Sanders across the street from the public housing project she saved from Jeff Bezos and Amazon back in 2018. So I got on New Jersey Transit in Westfield, New Jersey, then the 7-Train at Times Square, and road out to Queensboro Plaza in Long Island City.  I’m no stranger to Long Island City. My very first apartment away from home was in Sunnyside Gardens a few stops east on the 7-Train, but  I was shocked by the number of new glass towers that have gone up in the past 10 years.  Was I in Queens? Or was I in Dubai or Singapore. It was then that I realized that the Amazon headquarters wouldn’t have been the beginning of the gentrification of western Queens. It would have been the final nail in the coffin.


After walking the 6 or 7 blocks from the 7-Train to Queensboro Park, I joined the line. To be more accurate, I tried to find the end of the line, which went on for so long that I finally despaired of ever seeing it this side of Greenpoint, so I did a very unsocialist thing and discretely cut. The wait wasn’t too bad, only about 20 minutes. Bernie’s security people seemed to know how to keep things moving. Just about the only thing not allowed into the event were water bottles. I’m not exactly sure why. In any event, I made it into Queensboro Park by one oclock and waited for the event to begin. To my disappointment, I also realized that the park was already three quarters full, and there was no way I’d ever get close enough to the stage to actually see any of the speakers. Oh well, I decided, I’ll at least get to hear them.


First up was Jane Sanders. Her speech was short, and to the point. She did, however, make an interesting connection between her own ancestors (who fled poverty and the English genocide of the Irish) and her husband’s (who fled poverty and antisemitism). To me, it’s important to make the connection between what happened to Irish Catholic peasants in 1847 and what happened to Polish Jews in 1942. The Holocaust didn’t come out of nowhere. It was the culmination of the long history of European capitalism and imperialism, of using people as objects and discarding them when they were no longer of any use. The Irish were sitting on land English capitalists wanted. Polish Jews were sitting on land German Ayran supermen wanted. In any event, I’m drawing it out far more than Jane Sanders did. She merely remarked that her ancestors fled poverty and famine and Bernie’s fled poverty and antisemitism.

Next up was Michael Moore. Even with his famous girth, I was still too far away from the stage to make him out. His connection with Bernie goes back to 1990 when Bernie asked him to speak at a rally for his campaign to become Vermont’s only Congressman. “Couldn’t you have gotten any of the big stars,” Moore remembered having said, pointing out the shallow and ultimately disposable nature of celebrity, “like Crocodile Dundee, Milli Vanilli or Vanilla Ice?” It was the standard leftist stump speech Moore has been giving for years, but it was effective, and centered on Sanders’s being 78-years-old. “I’m glad he’s 78,” Moore said. “He can remember things the rest of us can’t, like pay raises, and pensions.”

Moore was followed by Tiffany Caban, who recently lost a bid to become the Queens District Attorney, and long-time Sanders’s spokesperson Nina Turner. Turner is a polished, and effective speaker, Caban a bit less so, but it was Alexandria Ocasio Cortez who really connected with her audience. Well, at least she connected with me. By the time she took the stage, my toothache, a molar with a gigantic old filling that finally came out and, was knocking on the inside of my skull like a sledge hammer. As she recounted her old job as waitress, I remembered having had a similar, low paying customer service job when I was exactly her age. I also remembered having a toothache I couldn’t afford to get fixed, a molar that finally abscessed and put me through days of torture before I was finally able to find a dentist willing to do a root canal and wait for payment.

I wondered why I had put off going to the dentist for so long for the current toothache, even though I have the money to pay for another root canal out of pocket and I realized that it comes from the same kind of paranoia that leads people with broken legs to refuse an ambulance. There is always the fear that a simple medical procedure will become an endless sinkhole that swallows your savings, that it won’t be a few thousand dollars to get a tooth fixed, but twenty or thirty thousand dollars. I realized why Bernie’s call for Medicare for has become so popular, even with people who do technically have “good” insurance. The health care, or to be more specific, the health insurance industry is not about healthcare. It’s about wealth extraction. My mother, fortunately, and yes I use the word “fortunately” tongue in cheek back in 2017. Had she lingered on for years physically and mentally disabled, long term nursing home care would have destroyed several generations of family savings. That’s the cruelty of the current American health care system, a wealth extraction monster that leaves you feeling relieved your mother died now rather than later.


As far as Bernie’s health is concerned, don’t listen to the media. He spoke for over an hour with a great deal of force and passion, a man old enough to be my father wearing out my ability to stand in one place with my tooth pounding away inside my skull. I don’t know if it was a great speech, but it was a necessary speech. Everything Bernie proposes would, in any kind of sane country, be considered common sense. End cash bail, stop police from killing innocent people, forgive usurious student loans, bring our health care system up to the same level as Canada’s or the UK’s, bring back the kind of free public higher education we had at the University of California or City College back in the 1950s, tax Wall Street at the same rate we tax Main Street, all Bernie is really proposing is to bring back New Deal America, the kind of society we had when American wealth and power was at its height. Trump may say the words “Make America Great Again” but Bernie has an actual plan for us to get there.

Will we listen?

Sarah, Lady Innes


You were older than I was when we first met,

twenty seven, a lady, a merchant’s daughter

married into the British aristocracy.

I was sixteen, a high school kid from New Jersey,

brought to Henry Clay Frick’s grand mansion on 5th Avenue

by my English teacher Mrs. Bradley (nee Polanski),

who not only wanted us to see European high culture up close,

but who carefully explained that Henry Clay Frick

was a millionaire who once boasted

that he could hire half the American working class

to kill the other half.

( Frick was too generous.

Americans will kill their fellow peasants for free,

not because they hope someday to be rich,

but because they believe deep in their hearts

that the rich deserve their deference

simply for being rich.)

I stared at your portrait not because you were pretty

but because you were real, someone I could have known,

someone who would live forever,

someone who would never grow old.

Now I am well into middle age

and you are still twenty seven.

You still have the confident smile

of a rich bourgeoisie,

who flirted your way into a title,

a Jane Austen heroine yet to be a character

in a novel, but forever young, and yes beautiful,

immortalized by Thomas Gainsborough,

a master of light, color and shadow.

And I am old and ugly

and bitter

slouching towards the grave.

The Immense Nothingness of Central New Jersey

Until you’ve seen it from a bike, you haven’t really seen it. Take my home state of New Jersey. If you drive through the very sizeable towns of Edison, Woodbridge, and Piscataway sealed up in a metal death box — otherwise known as a car — you are not observing the landscape. You are part of the landscape. You are a passive receptacle, a blank space written upon by American capitalism. Why do you think you are rushing frantically to get to nowhere to do nothing? It’s only when you ride 20 miles out in the open, under your own power, that you really begin to understand the “civilization” around you, that you become a subject rather than an object. It is only then that the immense loneliness, the immense emptiness, the immense nothingness of the United States of America begins to reveal itself.

Is there any place more truly American than the state of New Jersey?

Forget the inbred Bible thumpers and gun humpers in the South and the Midwest. There’s nothing very American about those people. They’re still ignorant serfs waiting for orders from their masters, the slave owners of 1861, or the corporate oligarchs of 2019.  “I got my gun in my hand and I’ll shoot any nigra or any Mexican that man on Fox TV tells me to.”  Forget Boston or New York. That’s old Europe with a few modifications. Forget Seattle or San Francisco. Those are gated communities for the rich, the future neoliberal utopia where the poor have been bred out of existence by their inability to pay the rent or find a place to go to the bathroom. Southern California I guess comes close, but it’s still basically a temporary outpost built on top of a desert, a shimmering mirage destined to disappear when the water runs out or the power gets turned off for good. Chicago perhaps qualifies but I’ve never been there so I really can’t say. Vermont is also in contention. After all, the beautiful lakeside city of Burlington transformed an Eastern Europe Jew from Brooklyn named Bernie into an iconic American rebel known as “the Bern,” a man hated by upper class white feminists and feared by the health insurance industry. But Vermont has too many French people and too little environmental devastation to be genuinely American. Nope, I’m afraid there’s only one place in North America that truly represents the nation founded in 1776 and that’s my very own home state of New Jersey.

This is not a compliment.

Let’s get back to Woodbridge, population 99,000, Edison, population 99,999, and Piscatway, population 56,000. Any one of them could be the largest city in Vermont, Wyoming, or either of the Dakotas, and yet none of them has anything resembling a walkable downtown. I mean literally nothing. You can stand anywhere in Woodbridge and it could just as easily be Edison. You can stand anywhere in Edison and it can just as easily be Woodbridge, and you can stand anywhere in Piscataway and the only way you can even tell you’re in Piscataway is that eventually someone will ask you how to get to the campus of Rutgers University, which is somewhere across the Raritan River and gigantic in size but impossible to find unless you not only have a GPS but have lived in Middlesex County for at least the past 10 years. Woodbridge, Piscataway and Edison are wealthy, educated, multicultural cities and yet there’s nothing there, at least nothing you could call “civilization.” Civilization in Central New Jersey is an ugly 5 bedroom McMansion and a pair of SUVs, and that’s about it. There’s no art. There’s no culture. There’s no beauty, no eccentricity, no identity, nothing to mark it off as someplace people valued and cherished as their home. Oh, human beings have certainly made their mark in Woodbridge, Edison, and Piscataway but nothing about the mark they’ve made is particularly human. It’s business, emptiness, empty business, identical to any one of hundreds of towns all over the United States. It’s prefabricated desolation.

I have no idea why Donald Trump’s moronic followers care so much about immigration. Immigrants don’t change America, at least in Woodbridge, Piscatway and Edison. Conversely, America doesn’t really change immigrants, at least in Woodbridge, Piscataway and Edison. Everybody who comes to central New Jersey from any place in the world, Poles, WASPS, Italians, Indians, Muslims, Asians, Hispanics, Hungarians, Jews, Catholics, Russians, Laplanders and Pacific Islanders, pretty much does the same thing. First you completely repress yourself. You warn your kids “not to talk about politics.” You go to whatever place of worship you go to on whatever day of the way you find holy and you go through the motions but your heart really isn’t in it. What you really want is for your kids to go to the right schools and get onto the right corporate ladder, to have a bigger McMansion and a bigger SUV than your neighbor, to have a bigger bank account, and a bigger dick than your father did. What you really want is to construct your own little world on your own personal little cul de sac, and worship your own household gods, at least when you’re not too busy working to build the altar for those household gods, which of course costs money.

It is a wealthy, prosperous, bleak, empty landscape. Riding 20 miles from downtown New Brunswick, a hideous old city that dates back to the 17th Century and preserved slavery well into the 19th century, back to my house in Cranford — a racist little suburb in Union County hopelessly trying to convince itself that it’s small town America and not part of the New York metropolitan area — is to get lost every three or four blocks, to stop, check Google Maps on my iPhone, and wonder how everything can look so relentlessly the same for so long. That’s really the most exhausting thing about long distance cycling. It’s not the physical toll. My fat, middle-aged body can pedal 100 miles with ease. It’s the sheer exhaustion of riding 10 blocks that feel like 10 miles, feel 10 miles because you don’t know where you are and there’s no variation to let you know you’ve made any progress. It’s easy to ride through a suburban landscape you know by heart. You can simply tune it out and lose yourself in your own thoughts. But riding through 20 miles of nothingness focused on nothingness in order to find your way through nothingness is worse than the labor of Sisyphus. It’s like being in hell.

In fact, in some ways, I’m not afraid of death for hell, if there’s a hell, is probably a lot like central New Jersey. After I die and they put me in my coffin, I’ll simply lift up the lid and get back on my bike. Then I’ll spend the next 100,000 years trying to figure out if I’m truly in the realm of the damned or simply riding through Woodbridge, Edison, and Piscataway, forever.

What Killed the Rialto?


When I was a child in the 1970s I got to experience the cultural moment that every millennial dreams of. I saw  Star Wars — I refuse to call it “A New Hope” — in its original theatrical run. As an adult with more sophisticated tastes, I can easily point out why Star Wars isn’t a very good movie. But as a 10-year-old it got me so excited that, between the moment when Darth Vader choked the life out of the rebel captain to the destruction of the Death Star, I had to go to the bathroom at least 6 times. That feeling, that sense of a larger world opening up right before your eyes, was what cinema was all about. Had I seen Star Wars on a laptop via Netflix, or a cell phone, or even on a wide screen TV, I doubt it would have had the same effect.

Now the Rialto Theater in downtown Westfield, New Jersey, a small city of about 30,000 people 20 miles west of New York, is gone, probably for good. I saw better movies than Star Wars at the Rialto. I saw the original Rocky. I saw Saturday Night Fever, with my parents (it was rated R and after the horrific rape scene in the back of Tony Manero’s car, I think they were sorry they brought me). I was not allowed to see Monty Python’s Life of Brian. It was also rated R. The 18-year-old girl selling tickets refused to believe that I was a 23-year-old who had grown up in New York City and had never bothered to get a driver’s license. That was my story and I’m still sticking to it. Later, after I turned 18, I saw The Untouchables, Goodfellas, Amadeus, and a now mostly forgotten old film called The Mission that above all made me want to learn the Oboe. I never did. I remember seeing a revival of The Graduate sometime in the late 1970s. I was well under legal age, but somehow I got in.

To be honest, the Rialto Theater in Westfield never really meant very much to me. All through the 1970s and 1980s it was exactly what it is today, a rather full commercial film house that played conventional Hollywood blockbusters. What really excited me as a boy was getting on the train and going to Newark or Plainfield to see Kung Fu movies. They never played in suburbia. Bruce Lee was too hot for Westfield or Cranford, too radical, too ethnic. After they made the mistake of showing The Warriors down the road a few miles in Roselle Park, and it caused riots in some of the local high schools, the ticket takers in Newark and Plainfield even started checking IDs. There were over a dozen local movie theaters, and while you could see porn — the Five Points “Jerry Lewis” theater in Five Points in Union played the film Caligula for over a year — there was not a karate chop or a roundhouse kick to be had. Kung Fu movies had been effectively banned in Union County, New Jersey, not for me of course because I was an urban kid with no fear of the big city, but certainly for anybody in conservative, Republican Westfield. The rich, preppy kids in that town were afraid of anything with any melanin at all, even Italians.

Eventually, in the 1980s, the Westfield Rialto split up into a multiplex. That was probably the moment it was doomed. That glorious big screen that made Star Wars such a different experience in the theater than it was at home on HBO was gone, replaced by 6 smaller screens that could easily be replicated in the comfort of your home by a wide screen TV and a good sound system. I suppose that if the owners had transformed the Rialto into something like New York’s Film Forum, it might have worked. It’s almost impossible to see anything outside of the mainstream in suburban New Jersey, and going into the city adds a 16 dollar New Jersey Transit ticket to the price of the movie ticket. But there’s a reason the Film Forum is in New York City and not Westfield, New Jersey. The audience for “good” cinema these days is fairly limited. It takes a megalopolis of 7 million people, not a small city of 30,000, to generate enough ticket sales for a theatrical run of the latest high art film from Iran or Eastern Europe, or God, forbid, France. In the 2010s, the Westfield Rialto played exactly what they play at the multiplex on Route 22 in Mountainside or Route 1 in Linden, Marvel Universe comic book movies. It’s probably more fun just to play video games.

In the early 2000s, when they “revitalized” downtown Westfield by giving big corporate chains like Starbucks and Victoria’s Secrets tax breaks, and basically turned the whole town into a big open air shopping mall, they decided to to keep the Rialto around. My guess is they thought “well this is a real, walkable downtown so we need a real movie theater,” but it had long outlived its usefulness and nobody bothered making any repairs. These days, when those same corporate chains that grabbed so much market share in the 1990s and 2000s are giving way to Amazon and Grubhub, they’re also scaling back. Victoria’s Secret is gone. Starbucks is mostly a place to pick up mobile orders on your cell phone. The rents and property taxes are still high and its still almost impossible to find a place to park. So vacancies in downtown Westfield are on the rise. The final goal of neoliberal capitalism is probably for nobody ever to interact with anybody else in real life.


But none of that is what killed the Westfield Rialto. It probably would have gone on forever showing men (and women) in tights getting into CGI fights if not for a greedy landlord. The landlord, who the media seems reluctant to name, stopped making repairs. The theater company stopped paying the rent, and that was that. I suppose they’ll replace the Rialto with mixed use condos. You can never have too many of those.

Charles Bukowski Wonders Why Americans are Incapable of Rebellion

“People simply empty out.”

And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.

Well, we live under a fascist President. We’re watching the earth dying in real time because of pollution and global warming. The corruption is right in our faces. Yet we continue to care about one thing, our jobs and upward mobility for our kids. All we’re really willing to fight for is getting a good deck chair on the Titanic.

Bukowski nailed it back in the 1980s. We’ve just emptied out.

The Gun Cult’s Asymmetrical War on Reality

The gun cult in a nutshell: Take a look at this Elizabeth, New Jersey cop. He’s an armed agent of the state guarding a literal concentration camp where innocent people are imprisoned based on nothing but their immigration status, and yet he’s fooled himself into believing that his membership in the gun cult means that he’s somehow guarding our “liberty.”

Mass shootings in the United States has become so common that they might even motivate the newspapers to bring back their evening editions.  Last week, on July 28th, a 19-year-old gun nut named Santino William Legan bravely exercised his Second Amendment rights against our tyrannical government by shooting up the Gilroy Garlic Festival and killing a 6-year-old child. Not even a week later, a 21-year-old gun nut named Patrick Crusius decided to strike a blow for the white race by murdering 21 innocent people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Since he published a manifesto detailing his obsession with the neo-fascist “great replacement” theory, there was no question about his motivations. Like so many gun nuts in America, he probably had a secret stash Waffen SS memorabilia in his closet.

Not to be outdone, however, we leftists seem to have produced our own mass shooter. Connor Betts, the Dayton Ohio gun nut who killed ten people, including his own sister, had previously expressed admiration for Satan, socialism and Elizabeth Warren. In other words, due to our mutual admiration for Satan, he was someone I might have even hung out with in real life.

Pretty much anybody these days might become a mass shooter. Guns are so readily and easily available,  Americans are so alienated and politically disempowered, there’s so much anger and nihilism that if it’s an American and it has a penis — women don’t become mass shooters — it might at some point think about walking through some random crowd somewhere in the United States slaughtering random innocent people with an AR-15. These mass murders could easily be stopped. Gun control works. A majority of Americans support at least a ban on assault weapons. But the tiny minority of pro-gun American extremists has so much political clout that nothing is going to be done. The mass shootings will continue. Politicians will continue to offer their thoughts and prayers, and the corporate media will continue to frame the issue as a “problem to be solved.” Even worse, the left and the right will continue to try to pin our epidemic of not so random random mass murder on their political opponents. If the shooter is a white supremacist, the left will make sure we know. If the shooter shows any kind of anti-establishment bias, the right will not be silent. And therein lies the problem. A small group of pro-gun extremists and their allies in the mass media has forced the “debate” on mass murder into a framework that is nothing less than an asymmetrical war on American reality.

First a few points:

1.) You cannot debate the “motives” of a mass murderer from a distance. Only a trained psychologist with years of experience and years of access to the killer can figure out what makes one of these monsters tick.

2.) There’s no mystery about the solution to mass shootings. Confiscate the guns and pass strict gun control laws. Having a “debate” about something so obvious is a bit like having a debate about whether or not 2 + 2 = 4 or 5.

3.) The gun cult isn’t interested in debating how to stop mass murder. They are not having this “discussion” in good faith. Quite the contrary, they are trolling you. They are gas lighting you. Most of us, liberals and even conservatives, don’t want to see a 6 year old ripped to pieces by an automatic rifle. For the gun cult, however, every mass murder, every senseless death allows them to push their fascist agenda.

So what is the gun cult’s agenda?

Back in the 1940s, the German novelist Thomas Mann, who had originally been a monarchist and a conservative, but later turned to New Deal Liberalism after the Nazis rose to power in Germany, gave perhaps the best, most succinct description of antisemitism. Antisemitism, he argued, wasn’t only about a hatred of Jews. It went further. Classical antisemitism, with its baroque conspiracy theories and grotesque paranoia was about undermining rationality itself. The antisemite wanted not only  to kill all the Jews. He wanted to kill our sense of what was true and what was false. He wanted to murder the Enlightenment and even Christian universalism.

The anti-semitism of today, the efficient though artificial anti-Semitism of our technical age, is no object in itself. It is nothing but a wrench to unscrew, bit by bit, the whole machinery of our civilization. Or, to use an up-to-date simile, Anti-Semitism is like a hand grenade tossed over the wall to work havoc and confusion in the camp of democracy. That is its real and main purpose.

I’ve argued for awhile that the single most important event leading up to the election of Donald Trump was the massacre at Sandy Hook in Connecticut. To be more specific, it was the birth of the Sandy Hook conspiracy theory. I think it’s pretty safe to say that most of us were shocked when a mentally ill young man slaughtered 20 grade school students at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton Connecticut. I invite you to think about what a 6-year old child who’s been hit by fire from an AR15 looks like. Go ahead cowards. I dare you. The gun cult, however, the gun cult in the form of a white nationalist and antisemite named Alex Jones, however, was ready. The Sandy Hook Massacre, they argued, never happened. The reason we never saw photos of the dead grade school students had nothing to do with our delicate sensibilities, but the fact that nobody died. It had been staged by the Obama Administration as part of a plot to take away our “liberty.” But it gets even more complex. Immediately after proclaiming that the Sandy Hook Massacre had never happened, he reversed himself, denying that he had ever even made the claim.

Jones, Clinton declared Aug. 25, 2016, “even said, and this really just is so disgusting, he even said the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre were child actors and no one was actually killed there. I don’t know what happens in somebody’s mind or how dark their heart must be to say things like that.”

The same day, Jones disputed Clinton’s statement, telling viewers of his Austin-based program that Clinton “lied, not only to the U.S. but the world… that I say that no children died at Sandy Hook and they were all actors. I’ve never said any of those things.”

A moment later, Jones went on: “They can’t find anywhere where I have said that I know the kids killed at Sandy Hook were actors or that it didn’t happen” and furthermore, he said, he’s been criticized by conspiracy theorists who maintain the Sandy Hook events were fake–“because I don’t buy into that.”

In other words, Jones was fucking with our sense of reality. He was trying to throw a hand grenade into the democratic process that might lead to a new assault weapons ban. Even more, he was trying to undermine our ability to come to terms with what should be a rare tragedy and grieve. He was feasting on our pain over murdered children. Above all, he and the far right were making a statement about just how far they were willing to go. Anybody willing to psychologically torment the families of murdered grade school children has no limits, no boundaries, no line he won’t cross. Liberals, and even many leftists, never understood the extremist nature of their opponents until Donald Trump was in the White House yammering on about “fake news” (fucking with our sense of reality). Sandy Hook Conspiracy theories were a declaration of war on the American people, and most of us never saw it.

I think it’s important to keep this in mind the next time there’s a mass shooting. Don’t debate the gun cult. They’re not arguing in good faith. But even more, don’t debate the motivations of the shooter. Observe how the gun cult, the NRA and its supporters in the mass media try to spin the murder. Observe how they try to undermine your sense of reality and common sense. Observe the unproven assumptions they try to slip into the dialog when you’re not looking. Take note of their agenda, and start to think about how you’re going to defeat them politically.