As a youth, I was privileged to personally observe Willis Carto in his prime. For those too young to remember, Carto was the QAnon/Alex Jones of the pre-internet era. His newspaper, The Spotlight, was a wide-circulation “conspiracy blog” in hard-copy form.
Carto catered to those on the right who find electoral politics boring. His readers were “big question” guys, rugged sleuths searching for global cabals. And Carto would make shit up to satisfy ’em. Tall tales of schemes and intrigue that couldn’t possibly be tested for accuracy. Baron Rothschild XVII and how he’s behind the latest tax hike; villains beyond the reach of any electoral “fix.”
After all, once you “realize” that Baron Rothschild is the author of your misfortunes, what do you do? Run a candidate against him? He’s in a volcano lair somewhere. Just keep paying for that Spotlight subscription, so you can at least keep tabs on the bastard!
It was a glorious racket, and it provided insights that proved helpful when I began working in mainstream GOP politics. I knew the right’s susceptibilities to “big question” flights of fancy. I knew you’ve gotta keep the base grounded. …
Trump 2016 struck as close to a good balance as I’ve ever seen (a perfect mix of the excitement of off-meds and the winnability of on-meds), but that’s only because Trump had a practical, real-world platform (Coulter’s ¡Adios, America!) to keep him grounded. When he came unmoored from that, he came unglued.
The difficult balancing act regarding the rightmost members of the GOP base is to engage the flights of fancy just enough to maintain their interest, while at the same time keeping them involved in the mundane process of electoral politics, so they can actually be of use.
This is becoming less and less possible, as The Spotlight lives on in tens of thousands of Cartosian blogs and Twitter pages.
Last week the USPS [postal service] put a moderately upscale Santa Monica block on notice that mail would no longer be hand-delivered there. Why? Because a hulking black resident named Davon Morgan is a schizo who thinks postmen are demons, so he attacks them on sight. The [police] wanted to arrest the guy, but no postman pressed charges. …
One lunatic (a resident, not homeless) on one city block. Not nearly a colorful enough story to capture the imagination of rightists. So the new Cartos followed the playbook: They pulled embellishment out of their asses.
Libs of TikTok presented the story as “USPS has suspended mail service in parts of Santa Monica. Unreal. California is a hellhole.” … Breitbart.com blamed “the Biden crime wave.” Cerno … added “Santa Monica is far left. Please join me in continuing to congratulate Democrats for getting what they voted for.” Other pellets of wisdom included “Defunding the police has consequences,” “Welcome to the 4th world,” and “You can thank the George SOROS elected DA George Gascon.”
This is rightist “big question” morons doing what they do best: being unsatisfied with reality. Reality is dull, so let’s juice it up!
Here’s why this matters: Soros and his lapdog Gascon have perpetrated enough evil to justify a thousand eternities in hell. But the USPS thing … was not them. This one thing was unconnected to police defunding and decarceration.
This is how the right moves from ineffective to liability. … Gascon has so many genuine vulnerabilities, but rightists, with their complete lack of discernment, distaste for focus, and preference for “big picture” theorizing, would just as soon help Gascon by leveling false charges that would allow him to appear wrongfully accused by “crazy MAGAs.”
Indeed, the first attempt at a Gascon recall imploded because it was led by reality-detached rightists. The current recall is spearheaded by local businessmen and crime victims. No MAGAs in sight. Thank God; we might just win this time. …
Crazy exaggerated clickbait attracts attention but is politically counterproductive:
The 2020 statewide rejection of affirmative action, one of the few defeats of the BLM agenda in The Year of Our Floyd 2020, occurred with practically no rightist involvement at all. It was an organic defeat; the pro-affirmative-actioners spent like crazy and had the media in their pocket, but they still lost, not due to partisan opposition. Average whites and Hispanics were simply against the plan.
Ditto the death of defund the police. Democrats retreated from that policy not because of rightist pushback (excepting a few highly effective executives like DeSantis), but because of public opposition. Now Dems pretend they never even said “defund.”
Two significant “rightist” victories won without rightist involvement. Dems just keep going too far, polls reflect public disapproval, and Dems retreat. Rightists have QAnon’d themselves out of the equation. …
The excuse for doing nothing:
The Carto siren song plays to two far-right weaknesses: the desire to see the conspiratorial in the mundane (broken traffic light = Zionist plot), and the desire to shirk labor by fixating on an enemy that can’t be fought (“the Bilderbergers broke that traffic light; oh well, that intersection’s fucked for good”). …
Once you chalk up a problem to factors that can’t be altered, you no longer have to fight. Your inaction and failures are fully excused.
Behold the ghost of Willis Carto. He’s the devil on your shoulder telling you to focus on the unwinnable war. Shake your fist at what can’t be fixed; don’t get involved in fixing that which can. …
The Spotlight ran for 25 years; at its peak, it was one of the largest-circulation subscriber-supported weeklies in the nation. Yet it left no footprint on earth. Hate the L.A. and New York Times and the WaPo all you want, but over the decades they started wars, hobbled presidents, divided society by race and gender, and successfully pushed legislation, arguably with the same percentage of “active” readers as Spotlight.
Yet the only proof Spotlight ever existed lies in the Carto estate’s many mansions.