Mudsock Heights

Mudsock Heights

At a "Women's Day" march at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, on January 20, 2018, the "pro-women" marchers shouted a now-famous slogan supporting the eradication of Israel. (Credit: Dennis E. Powell)

Bread and Circuses

By Dennis E. Powell | Posted at 10:37 PM

The conclusion that the United States is in its bread-and-circuses phase is just about impossible to escape, and our response to it proves the point.

We can’t be bothered. We’re caught up in our amusements. While we’re living in the most perilous time ever we choose willful ignorance. We don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong and we don’t care.

We’re going to care, but by then it will be too late. It might be too late already.

We tend to shrug when we hear that some company with which we do business has been cracked and our personal information has been harvested by unspecified bad guys. We think it means that we will start to get even more junk mail. It is far worse than that.

Foreign governments — Russia and China, chiefly — have collected huge amounts of data about us. They know our names, where we live, what we think, our favorite reused passwords, and more. That information is used in ways far more ominous than you could imagine. It is used to influence us, to plant and promote falsehoods in our minds and conversations. It has been going on for a long time. It is very effective.

If you have paid any attention at all, you’ll have guessed that a big tool in all of this is “social” media. People I know online, people I have come to believe are intelligent and thoughtful if also lonely and a little strange, are suddenly arguing in favor of China sometimes and Russia always. Someone I know, always a conspiracy hobbyist, has started holding forth on how Russia is the real victim in the Ukraine war. Oh, and the Jews are responsible for everything that is evil. The Jews and the United States, are trying to wipe out the population of every other country via COVID-19. (This victim of propaganda also maintains that the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 was secretly planned by the United States, Great Britain, and — Japan.)

Looking in the archives, I see the current rabid round of antisemitism has been building for a long time. Nor was I surprised by this fact. You might remember the massacre of Israelis on October 7, 2023. Did it puzzle you that there were anti-Israel rallies on the streets of the United States the very next day? This was all clearly in place ahead of time. It was at a general-purpose “women’s” demonstration on January 20, 2018 that I first heard marchers chanting “Palestine must be free from the river to the sea,” the slightly disguised version of “death to the Jews.” So this has been organizing for a while. The government did nothing to keep control, even when the demonstrations turned violent and broke numerous laws. The precedent was set when in 2020 nothing was done as rioters burned American cities. Then, the president didn’t lift a finger, as is the case now, with his replacement, because they respectively thought that being — what’s the word? — presidential might hurt their respective chances for re-election.

We have always had the likes of George Lincoln Rockwell and Norman Thomas, but they did not have the internet and “social” media. Today, spreading lies and hatred is easy.

“Russia has been at the forefront of internet disinformation techniques at least since 2014, when it pioneered the use of bot farms to spread fake news about its invasion of Crimea,” reported The Economist on Monday. “According to French authorities, the Kremlin is at it again. On February 12th Viginum, the French foreign-disinformation watchdog, announced it had detected preparations for a large disinformation campaign in France, Germany, Poland and other European countries, tied in part to the second anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the elections to the European Parliament in June.”

The United States is a leading target, too. Just last week, disgraced former Fox News employee Tucker Carlson (let that soak in for a minute — FNC is famous for hiring disgraced commentators and hard-core members of the Trumpist Party) let Putin hold forth, unchallenged, as part of Tucker’s ongoing pro-Russia, anti-Ukraine campaign. Elon Musk just this afternoon ex-tweeted “Amazing that some people still think the news is real,” just two days after casting his lot with Russia. Yesterday, Vladimir Putin came up with a little decree: “Putin just made it law that anyone contradicting the official line on Russia’s war on Ukraine (spreading ‘fake’ news) can not only go to jail (as many already have) but have their property confiscated.” Can you think of anyone who is currently running for president who might like the sound of that?

But Trump needs no help in treachery. Over the weekend, the presumptive presidential nominee of the Trumpian Party (the hijacked former Republican Party) cast his own lot with Russia in recounting a conversation with the leader of a NATO ally who in Trump’s estimation hadn’t forked over enough money. “No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them (Russia) to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay," Trump said. Those who have bothered to learn a little about Trump will remember that he is famous for failure to pay his bills (which is part of why no high-end lawyer will work for him). But to Trumpians, as to lawyers, right and wrong are determined by what you can get away with. Trumpians are people who believe that elections are fixed but professional wrestling isn’t.

We mostly didn’t notice Trump’s stunning remarks because we were caught up in a national crisis: Will a mildly talented singer make it to a football game in which her boyfriend is playing? Bread and circuses, doncha know.

Ah, yes, the football game. That would be the one in which Joe “Bugout” Biden, who is currently president of the United States, made his debut on a Chinese government website called “TikTok.” This is a way by which the Chinese Communist Party collects information on you and your children. The U.S. government has held for half a decade that TikTok is a threat to national security, and a year and a half ago Biden ordered the site’s bespoke application removed from all government devices. Every little while Congress proposes a ban on the “social” site entirely, but they don’t end up doing it, because constituents are happy to forgo safety for mindless entertainment. Also, Biden has enlisted TikTok (under-the-) “influencers” to gather support for whatever he wants that he can remember. So the objection is apparently not to propaganda being spread on TikTok but to propaganda that doesn’t benefit Biden there. Oh, and TikTok is heavily antisemitic, which may be part of why Biden is in the process of throwing Israel under the bus.

Not to be outdone, the Trumpians launched a goofy conspiracy theory that the pop singer is a secret government agent. Oh, and that the Superbowl was fixed. And, a poll published today tells us, 18 percent of the country believes it.

You probably didn’t notice it, but tens of thousands of Chinese people, mostly young men of military age, are entering the United States illegally. “Social” media provide detailed directions. Added to this is Chinese infiltration of the systems that control much of American infrastructure. This is in part made possible by people — you? — failing to pay attention to the threat and storing sensitive data and passwords on unsecure devices. (You think you’re president? Former president?)

Meanwhile, those very devices are loaded with falsehoods and propaganda from foreign sources. (Domestic ones, too.) People seeking control are and long have been trying to influence you, your children, your employers, and your co-workers, and they are succeeding.

We, both corporately and personally, are doing little or nothing. The president has joined TikTok! Donald Trump threatens to give the go-ahead to Putin and says he might not defend our NATO allies! Europe, Israel, and Taiwan, to say nothing of Ukraine, quake in fear, in no small measure because the Trumpians disguised as Republicans, who want to be just like their hero (who demands loyalty but doesn’t give it) hold those countries and their people hostage to whatever Trump wants. Though at the moment it looks to any observer as if the Biden-Trump election that (absent the tender mercies of the actuarial tables) will take place this fall.

I think that Biden will not be on the ballot, assuring a Democrat landslide and the troubles that such a thing would bring. But no one of sound mind could support either Trump or Biden. They are able now to campaign respectively on slogans of “Competent to stand trial,” and “Not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.” We can trust neither of them. On important issues, we can trust no one, not anymore. There is no one whom we can believe. We’re unrepentant about it.

We’re unconcerned. We have bread and circuses.

For now.

Dennis E. Powell is crackpot-at-large at Open for Business. Powell was a reporter in New York and elsewhere before moving to Ohio, where he has (mostly) recovered. You can reach him at

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