By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: September 12, 2022 ~
Sarah Kendzior turned 44 on September 1. She has already had two bestselling books. She holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from Washington University with a focus on authoritarian regimes.
We mention this as background because Kendzior’s latest book, They Knew: How a Culture of Conspiracy Keeps America Complacent, to be released tomorrow by Flatiron Books, needs to be read as the work of a serious scholar. Six years ago Kendzior correctly predicted in numerous articles what the rise of Trumpism would bring to the United States. On August 3, 2016, three months before the presidential election, Kendzior wrote the following for Foreign Policy under the headline: “Welcome to Donald Trump’s America”:
“For over a year, pundits — especially Republicans who have a stake in legitimizing their party’s abject surrender — have been claiming that Trump will eventually pivot from his extremist positions. They said this before the primaries, they said it after the primaries, and they said it even after the GOP convention, when, as on other occasions, Trump was deemed ‘presidential’ for his ability to read a script off a teleprompter. But his moment of relative composure was short-lived. Trump has spent the last week encouraging Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails and attacking the family of a deceased Muslim war veteran — just two examples of ‘gaffes’ that, in a regular election, would destroy a candidacy.
“But this is not a regular election, and Trump is never going to pivot. What Trump is doing — and has been doing all along — is pivoting Americans toward his bigoted and paranoid worldview.
“He has made extremism mainstream to the point that David Duke now feels comfortable running for Senate. With his encouragement, his supporters have attacked non-white and non-Christian Americans. And, in its desperation for ratings, the financially struggling U.S. media has been key to normalizing Trump, giving him more airtime than any other candidate and often failing to challenge him on his lies and his bigotry.”
Kendzior is a gifted storyteller and galvanizes the reader with hard facts that relieve any lingering delusions that the threat to American democracy is being exaggerated for political gain. Her assessments are brutal, so she reminds us in the book that “The truth may hurt — but the lies will kill you.” Here are a few of the litany of uncomfortable truths in the book:
“Skyrocketing income inequality over the last few decades has turned the industries tasked with accountability – politics, law, and media to name a few – into pay-to-play fields that require expensive credentials and inherited wealth to enter. This has changed who can participate and whom these industries seek to protect. When the social circles and incentives of the powerful overlap, when those circles narrow over decades so that nepotistic ties or purchased merit become the buy-in to both the crime and the cover-up, a culture of conspiracy grows, and with it a culture of elite criminal impunity. The refusal to accept this as fair will get you labeled a ‘conspiracy theorist’: a pejorative preemptive strike meant to silence and smear.”
Kendzior chooses her examples of embedded crime with the skill of a brain surgeon – attempting a reverse lobotomy on a mostly comatose nation. Two examples of pay-to-play come from Kendzior’s reminder that two former FBI Directors, Louis Freeh and William Sessions, “went on to work for the Russian mafia after resigning their posts.” Freeh’s exit from the FBI was hastened by the disclosure that he had failed to detect that FBI agent Robert Hanssen “had been secretly working for the Russians since 1979….”
Kendzior writes further: “In a country this corrupt…They want you to abandon moral inquiry even more than they want you to abandon the truth.”
How did the United States fall so far so fast? Kendzior addresses that issue by explaining “normalcy bias,” which is “the belief that if something terrible were to happen, a responsible party would intervene and stop it, and that if no one is intervening, the terrible thing must either not really be happening or must not be as bad as it seems.”
What came to mind reading the above passage is the still unexplained delay of military intervention on 9/11 as well as on January 6, 2021 during the attack on the Capitol. Likewise, there are those photos that are now ingrained on the human psyche: the photo of the government’s purloined Top Secret documents that were finally recovered by the FBI in Trump’s resort hotel, Mar-a-Lago; and the photos of the rampage at the Capitol – the first attack since the British set fire to the building in 1814. How does one reconcile those photos with the fact that U.S. taxpayers are financing 18 intelligence agencies in this country.
As for the inexplicable intelligence failures, Kendzior reminds us that just six months before 9/11, the first episode for the series, The Lone Gunmen, a spinoff from the X-Files, portrayed a commercial jet hijacked via computer with a mission of flying it into the World Trade Center and bringing down the buildings. Tough to say that no one could have seen this coming when it had already aired on TV.
Because Kendzior was so spot on with her early warnings about Trumpism, her new warnings about the ultimate plan for the United States must be heeded. Kendzior writes:
“After Trump took office and proceeded to purge agencies, pack courts, and swindle his way into impunity, I warned that his administration was a transnational crime syndicate masquerading as a government. I said this on television and it was not appreciated. In 2017, I warned that he would never leave the White House of his own volition but would instead employ violence to attempt to hold power, even if he lost the election, and that this destructive crusade would continue until the criminal elites surrounding him were held accountable.”
Trump and his cohorts, writes Kendzior, want the U.S. to collapse because a “depopulated, partitioned United States is easier to exploit and control, particularly in a chaotic era of climate change, which they anticipated decades ago. To them, the state is just something to sell. They do not care if the buyers are foreign or domestic. The United States of America is merely a landmass to split into oligarch fiefdoms….”