Pluralistic: The Right accuses their critics of the conspiracy they themselves engage in (10 Mar 2023)

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A page from the Jack Chick tract 'Dark Dungeons,' depicting a sinister society of robed figures gathered in a circle, welcoming in a new initiate. The pentacle on the floor has been replaced with Teneo's stylized 'T' logo. The dialog has been replaced with text from Teneo's 2019 Community Vision report: 'The Silicon Valley of Conservatism — a powerful network of communities where the most influential young leaders, the biggest ideas, and the most leveraged resources come together to launch key projects that advance our shared belief that the conservative worldview drives human flourishing.

The Right accuses their critics of the conspiracy they themselves engage in (permalink)

People on the right have some really weird ideas about their ideological enemies: that we're "groomers," that we're secretly on some billionaire's payroll, that we hijacked the education system to promulgate revisionist histories, that we steal elections, and, of course, that we are secretly plotting to take over America and subjugate them.

The weirdest thing about this is that it's the right that engages in revisionist race-history:

And it's the right who stole a presidency:

Election-rigging is a right-wing specialty:

It's the right who pay for fake grassroots activism:

Any time some right-wing politician comes out against queers and calls them groomers, chances are good that he's spending his free time on Instagram, sending fire emojis to naked boys:

That's especially true when we're talking about evangelical youth pastors:

It's almost like that old playground rebuttal, "I know you are but what am I?" contains a deep political truth:

Of all the absurd libels of the right, the weirdest one is that leftists are secretly funded by woke billionaires spending dark money to foment the overthrow of the USA. The idea of "leftist billionaire" is laughable on its face: how did this imaginary billionaire make their billions while paying a living wage and providing decent working conditions?

But it's easy to understand how a group of people who are so positively aslosh in dark money – people whose every political maneuver is a carefully planned scheme to separate terrified xenophobes and rubes from their money – for "alternative" covid therapies, apocalypse-ready MREs, "sound money" gold coins, and so. much. culture. war. nonsense.

What I'm trying to say is: when the right accuses the left of being driven by cabals of shadowy, crapulent billionaires and their pathetic lickspittle Renfields, it is because the right is indeed in the thrall of those crapulent billionaires.

Meet Leonard Leo, a crapulent, shadowy billionaire. Leo was last seen around these parts when he was revealed to have been the bagman behind the ultradark money group Judicial Crisis Network. After spending $27m to block confirmation for Obama's SCOTUS pick, Merrick Garland, they spent tens of millions more on campaigns to seat Kavanaugh and Gorsuch. Coney Barrett was seated thanks to a $15.9m campaign to make an unqualified, unhinged ideologue seem like a viable lifetime member of the highest court in the land:

Leo controls the Judicial Crisis Network, which worked with the Federalist Society to allow Trump to appoint a whopping 28% of all US federal judges – lifetime appointments for slavering Renfields who'll follow his political lead. Witness the firepower of a fully operational billionaire.

Leo's post-Trump side-hustle is a "Federalist Society for everything" – a secretive, lavishly funded cabal aimed at taking over campuses, corporations, news outlets with an army of "under 40s" conservative operatives. It's called Teneo, and it was a secret – until its internal memos, videos and other materials leaked to Propublica.

Propublica's Andy Kroll and Andrea Bernstein collaborated with Documented's Nick Surgey to report out the leaks, describing how Teneo went from "a dinner club with partisan overtones" to a dark-money juggernaut whose annual donations grew by leaps and bounds (2017, $750k; 2020, $2.3m; 2021, $5m):

These financial good fortunes are not the result of excited small-money donors hoping to help Teneo with its good works – it's a handful of ultra-wealthy sociopaths hoping to use a minority of willing lackeys to project their will over all of us.

Teneo's network members are a Monster's Manual of the wildest wingnuts in public life, from Josh Hawley (who wrote its founding manifesto) to JD Vance to Elise Stefanik to BenShapiro to three of Ron DeSantis's top aides. Also: the federal judge who struck down Biden's mask mandate and the heads of the Republican Attorneys General Association, Republican State Leadership Committee and Turning Point USA.

The stated goal of Teneo founder Evan Baehr (a tech bro turned conservative organizer) was for Teneo members to infiltrate "the House and the Senate, as governors — one might be elected president."

In a leaked video, Baehr identifies the "woke" enemy he seeks to vanquish, describing a hypothetical meeting between "a billionaire hedge funder, a film producer, a Harvard professor and a New York Times writer." These four cook up a plan to give middle-school kids "free access to sex-change therapy paid for by the federal government." The filmmaker promises to make a documentary to support the project. The Harvard professor promises to falsify studies to reassure people that the therapies are safe. The Times reporter vows to "profile people who feel trapped in the wrong gender."

This irony is that this unhinged conspiratorialism was hatched by someone who was and is actively conspiring to take over the country with members of his secret society. After years in the wilderness, Baehr connected with Leo, who turned on the money spigots. Together, they recruited an "inner core" of FedSoc members "and recruit[ed] them for either specific roles to serve as judges or to spin up and launch critical projects."

Other shadowy billionaires piled in: Home Depot's trumpy founder Bernie Marcus, Charles Koch, and Betsy DeVos and her family. The new "Teneo 2.0" sought to "to help members find jobs, write books, meet spouses, secure start-up financing or nonprofit donors and learn about public service."

Their vision is to create "Silicon Valley of Conservatism — a powerful network of communities where the most influential young leaders, the biggest ideas, and the most leveraged resources come together to launch key projects that advance our shared belief that the conservative worldview drives human flourishing."

They funnel money to speakers from the absolute depths of the swamp: Erik "Blackwater" Prince, David Brooks, Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy. New members are assured that their involvement with Teneo is "private and confidential" and the group has kept a low profile – Propublica asked Sheldon Whitehouse – a bitter critic of Leo's – about the group and got a blank stare.

Teneo's latest project is to recruit "state attorneys general, state financial officers, state legislators, journalists, media executives and best-in-class public affairs professionals" to fight ESG policies – all the froth you've encountered about the evils of ESG are the result of this secret, coordinated project.

(To be clear, ESG is bullshit, but not because it's bad for capitalism – ESG is a dumpster fire of greenwashing:)

Teneo organizes donors for members who run for local, state and federal office. Will Scharf, who's hoping to become Missouri's next attorney general, has received donations from dozens of Teneo members, giving the maximum allowable donation of $2650.

The paranoid style in American politics never went away. From the Witchfinders General of New England to Joe McCarthy and the John Birch Society, there has always been a rump of Americans who are very rich and very frightened and who want to put us all in their place.

For these fevered schemers, the Jack Chick tracts that depicted secret Satanic societies seducing innocent kids through Dungeons and Dragons games were hard-hitting documentaries, and as far as they're concerned, they're fighting fire with fire.

(Image: Jack Chick, Tendeo; fair use)

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