The inmates elect their new asylum leader
Also: Bellingcat's Eliot Higgins on the golden age of Twitter disinformation.
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The latter part of this newsletter features a Q&A with Bellingcat’s Eliot Higgins. But before we get to that, I want to share some quick thoughts on the new House speaker.
The rise of “MAGA Mike”
By Aaron Rupar
The lunatic fringe emerged as the big winner of the three-week House GOP civil war.
After a brief period where it looked Kevin McCarthy’s exit might marginalize the “crazy eight” who voted to oust him and result in the elevation of a more moderate speaker, every single House Republican voted Wednesday for Johnson, a relatively obscure congressman from Louisiana whose boyish and smoothy delivery belie his Christofascist extremism.
RELATED FROM PN: Kevin McCarthy is GOP incompetence made flesh
McCarthy is no moderate, but don’t be fooled — his replacement is way further out there. Johnson not only voted to reject the 2020 election results, but in the weeks leading up to January 6 led the effort to persuade the Supreme Court to intervene on Trump’s behalf. He was once the spokesperson for an anti-LGBT hate group, supports for a nationwide abortion ban, and wants to cut social security and Medicare. The Guardian has a quick rundown of some of Johnson’s positions here.
So it wasn’t a big surprise that Donald Trump and his most staunch supporters celebrated Johnson’s sudden rise to the speakership. Notably, Johnson even received support from Ken Buck, the Colorado Republican we wrote about Monday because he seemed to be taking a bold stand against the big lie by saying he wouldn’t vote for any speaker candidate involved in January 6. So much for that. Other alleged moderates who made a big fuss about opposing Jim Jordan ultimately circled the wagons for Johnson. (In a sign of where the Republican caucus is at, a reporter who asked Johnson about his election denialism during a Tuesday House GOP event was shouted down and told to “shut up.”)
In short, Johnson’s win is a victory for the far-right MAGAs who felt betrayed by McCarthy because he didn’t shut down the government. Matt Gaetz made this abundantly clear during a Wednesday morning appearance on Steve Bannon’s show, describing Johnson as “MAGA Mike.”
"If you don't think that moving from Kevin McCarthy to MAGA Mike Johnson shows the ascendance of this movement and where the power in the Republican Party truly lies, then you're not paying attention,” he said.
Gaetz isn’t wrong for once. Johnson’s embrace of unpopular positions will certainly be a liability for Republicans on the campaign trail next year, and Democrats are already capitalizing on it. But with Congress rapidly approaching another government funding fight, the House is likely to get worse before it gets better and it could have bad consequences for the country.
We’ll have much more soon on Speaker Johnson and the state of the House GOP. But for now, here’s our Q&A with Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins about Elon Musk and Twitter’s rapid decline from indispensable news source to misinformation machine. If you’d like to read it and aren’t a paid subscriber already, please consider becoming one. Paid subscribers make this work possible.
Eliot Higgins on how the Israel-Hamas exposed Twitter’s terminal decline
“Musk basically created the perfect environment for the spread of bad information.”
By Aaron Rupar and Thor Benson
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