The anatomy of a smear

It won't stop until something truly awful happens

The anatomy of a smear

On this edition of the sh!tpost newsletter, we’re dissecting the right-wing smear campaign against Rep. Ilhan Omar. Beginning in May, these newsletters will be occasional for free subscribers, but weekly for paid subscribers. So, smash that button below.

Programming notes:

We’re on Spotify now. Also, we are skipping over our April 29 episode while we move and redesign our audio setup. Show notes are listed on There you can find links to stories we discuss, and more.

So come over here and fuck me up.

“Fuck Me Up” by Virginia To Texas

This week, conservative media distorted comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to drive their click bait factories in a very dangerous way. Omar was speaking to members of the Muslim civil rights group the Center on American-Islamic Relations in Woodland Hills, California, days after a white supremacist murdered 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand. Conservative media and, in tandem, conservative social media hotbeds derided Omar for comments she made during that speech; she used the terms “some people” to refer to the plotters of the 9/11 terror attacks. Our right-wing brethren alleged that her comments were evidence writing off radical Islamic terrorism, insinuating that she must have done so due to her faith.

Apparently, that wasn’t Islamophobic enough for these folks, who have spent almost two decades using the terror attacks that day as an invitation to boost religious bigotry and ruthless bloodshed in the Middle East.

But here’s Omar’s full remarks surround those words that, in context, make clear she is noting that since the 9/11 terror attacks there has been an uptick in Islamophobia in America that has negatively affected the civil liberties of Muslims. Here is what she actually said:

"Far too long [Muslims] have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and frankly, I'm tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it. CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties."

The last week was filled with the purest form of manufactured outrage. I’d argue that it’s not that these figures were unaware that they were bastardizing Omar’s comments from their context; they simply didn’t care. Among their audience, it’s easy points on the board. This is just how their game works nowadays.

I think that’s something that differentiates most* of left-of-center political criticisms from the right-of-center equivalents; the modern left tends to want to be accurate while the modern right is ruthless, and plays by a rule-absent playbook.

For example, Anti-Muslim activist Laura Loomer asked her supporters to “rise up” against Omar and launched into a tirade that violated Instagram’s community guidelines against hate speech. Instagram decided that wasn’t worth a ban. Meanwhile, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, who is certainly awful and definitely felt no self-awareness while ginning up hatred toward Omar, shed a crocodile tear for the criticism and outrage directed at him for egging on a smear campaign. I hope he lays awake with existential guilt for the rest of his conscious life.

The weight of lies will bring you down
And follow you to every town 'cause
Nothing happens here that doesn't happen there  

“The Weight of Lies” by The Avett Brothers

On Friday, our president tweeted out a video painting Omar’s comments alongside footage of the 9/11 terror attacks to smear her. This is especially rich given Trump’s own comments on that day that his building was now the tallest in New York City after the attack. That should matter in context, but in this case—and for some fucked up reason—it didn’t.

Many, rightfully so in my opinion, read Trump’s post as an invitation for violence against Omar. The media schmucks subjugated to the ire of the MAGA universe by this president get it rough enough, but aim that audience on a Muslim, immigrant Congressperson and—actually, I don’t need to explain why this bad. I’ll just assume we’re all adults who live in reality, here.

To the right-wing hecklers: Listen, I hear you. Omar is a public official. Why take criticisms of her comments and characterize the situation as dangerous? Well, that’s because it is and people are threatening her life at an abnormal and disturbing frequency, proving credible enough to get handcuffed for it. Or maybe, we should just run back the clock to…

*checks calendar*

…one month ago, to when a man murdered 50 Muslims in New Zealand because he believed that they, assumed to be immigrants, were replacing white people in their countries. Conservative media and the GOP at large have been conditioning their base audiences to believe those same ideas, varying from signaling decades-old dog whistles to Fox News host Tucker Carlson just saying the damn thing.

Inciting and engaging bad-faith smear against a highly visible smear against a Muslim woman in congress and linking those smears prominently back to her religious choices is like drop-punting a vessel of gasoline over a football field that’s emanating enough sparks to be considered but ultimately passed on for regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency.

We talk about the smear campaign aimed at Rep. Ilhan Omar with The Daily Beast reporter Kelly Weill in the latest edition of our podcast.

Let’s get to some awfully good shit.

This week was no different in its opportunities to expose some good, and sometimes bad, instances of being too-damn-online.

In an upside, New Yorker journalist Isacc Chotiner eviscerated Bret Easton Ellis. This reporter is going to get a Pulitzer some day. I’m convinced.

You are a novelist. You write about the human condition. Do you worry about the self-harm of people who see things like child separation and have no emotional response?

I think I am an absurdist. I think politics are ridiculous.

Maybe don’t write a book about it. Would that be the solution?

I think the problem is that I don’t necessarily see this as interesting as fiction.

This writer’s age apparently got to him: He didn’t understand that “thick” has come to mean something entirely different in this modern age.

Moving right along, Colonel Sanders made a coveted appearance on Fox News.

Logan Paul, the YouTuber forced to apologize for filming a video in Japan’s “Suicide Forrest,” hosted Alex Jones on his podcast this week. I won’t link to it, because rewarding bad behavior with exposure is something I’m often conflicted about. I watched it and it went pretty much how you would imagine.

I paid $0.99 for a QAnon erotica book, hoping that it’d provide some fun fodder for a podcast segment, but it turns out I was the truest fool. The book was a meta-troll, embodying the mindset of a QAnon believer so hard that it breached parody. An excerpt:

Speaking of, Alex Jones is pro-Qanon now.

I’d like to congratulate @GunsMoslem for winning a debate against transphobe Jesse Singal…

…and pay tribute to Rob Rousseau, a “Fox News contributor” forced to resign from the podcast he does by himself.

Good boy.

And finally, I scored a victory in my corner against the diaper campus organizers! This one is for you, Charlie.

Thanks for reading this newsletter to the bottom. We have a weekly series planned for those who are generous enough to subscribe, beginning in May when we return from the break we’re taking. Free subscribers will get it every other week.

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