Staring into the abyss @BloggersRUs

Staring into the abyss

by Tom Sullivan

Still from Oculus (2014)

First and foremost, Donald Trump looks out for Donald Trump. His only friends are those who increase his wealth, flatter his ego, or cover his backside. World condemnation of the Saudis over the suspected death and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi? Our sitting president views that through the lens of Trump. How does it hurt the Trump Organization? What other Gulf States hotel deals dance in his head? Haven't the very rich Saudis said nice things about him? Saudi Arabia has "been a great ally to me," Trump told Fox Business Network.

Not that anyone should take Turkey's claims of having audio recordings of the alleged atrocity at face value. President Recep Erdoğan is leveraging Khashoggi's disappearance for his own ends. That Khashoggi vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul is not in dispute. The authenticity of the rumored Turkish recording will be.

That Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stands accused of ordering the dismembering of a Virginia resident is an inconvenience to Donald Trump. "It’s not a citizen," Trump said of the missing journalist.

A network of bots is busily spreading pro-Saudi disinformation about Khashoggi's disappearance. “They’re posting the same stuff at the same time repeatedly," Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab told NBC News, adding, "they’re all posting the same content in the same order.”

Twitter began pulling down the accounts on Thursday:

Some of the bot accounts tweeted using a hashtag in Arabic that became the top worldwide Twitter trend on Sunday. The hashtag roughly translated to “#We_all_trust_Mohammad_Bin_Salman,” the Crown Prince and putative leader of Saudi Arabia, who has come under international scrutiny following the disappearance of Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post.

Saudi Arabia has widely embraced social media. A study by Crowd Analyzer, an Arabic-focused social media analysis firm, found that there were 11 million active Twitter users in the country.

The bot accounts pushed messages over the weekend imploring users to express doubt about news stories reporting that Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Turkey on Oct. 2 at the order of the Saudi government, as Turkish officials have alleged. The Saudi government has denied any knowledge of what happened to Khashoggi, a Saudi commentator who was a former advisor to Saudi royals and later fell out with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

It was not immediately clear who created the network of bot accounts, NBC reports.

The U.S. president also has acolytes lining up to cover his royal backside with a whispering campaign against Khashoggi:

In recent days, a cadre of conservative House Republicans allied with Trump has been privately exchanging articles from right-wing outlets that fuel suspicion of Khashoggi, highlighting his association with the Muslim Brotherhood in his youth and raising conspiratorial questions about his work decades ago as an embedded reporter covering Osama bin Laden, according to four GOP officials involved in the discussions who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Those aspersions — which many lawmakers have been wary of stating publicly because of the political risks of doing so — have begun to flare into public view as conservative media outlets have amplified the claims, which are aimed in part at protecting Trump as he works to preserve the U.S.-Saudi relationship and avoid confronting the Saudis on human rights.

If "Fox and Friends" suggests suggesting Khashoggi killed himself with his own bone saw, it could be the product of the Republican National Committee's "research shop of 15 and a 10-person war room." The crew stands ready to churn out tweet-worthy, misleading information on the president's foes on a moment's notice:
... a team of about 60 GOP researchers, bookers and attack dogs [spends its] time churning out the ammunition that conservative media and Trump supporters use daily to pummel the president’s foes.

The relentless stream of carefully curated — and sometimes misleading — political hits has been throwing Democrats off message for months while steadily stoking the daily fires of conservative outrage that power Trump’s political movement.

We don't call rage "blinding" for nothing.

The would-be tough guy, would-be American president blanches at the sight of blood but praises political allies who body-slam reporters and concocts implausible alibis for flattering autocrats who (allegedly) poison and dismember opponents.

One of his friends murdering a journalist and American resident is an inconvenience to Donald Trump. So are dignity, honor, and America principles. The longer Trump remains unchecked, the farther down the path to Trumpistan he and his followers in and out of government will take this country.

Gaze long into Trump, and Trump also gazes into you.

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