I had lunch with Mike Lindell, the affable, philanthropic CEO of MyPillow, a friendly midwesterner who is spending millions of dollars to discredit American democracy. Here's what happened: https://t.co/RKyAnFznTv
— Anne Applebaum (@anneapplebaum) July 29, 2021
Anne Applebaum going Gonzo with a leading loony of Trumpland is a trip. https://t.co/WYjzQI3o3D
— Peter Wolf (@peterawolf) July 30, 2021
Anne Applebaum is an authority on “countries in transition to, or away from, democracy”:
… I met Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow, in the recording studio that occupies the basement of Steve Bannon’s stately Capitol Hill townhouse, a few blocks from the Supreme Court—the same Supreme Court that will, according to Lindell, decide “9–0” in favor of reinstating Donald Trump to the presidency sometime in August, or possibly September. I made it through the entirety of the Trump presidency without once having to meet Bannon but here he was, recording his War Room podcast with Lindell. Bannon has been decomposing in front of our eyes for some years now, and I can report that this process continues to take its course. I walked in during a break and the two men immediately gestured to me to join the conversation, sit at the table with them, listen in on headphones. I demurred. “Anne Applebaum … hmm,” Bannon said. “Should’ve stuck to writing books. Gulag was a great book. How long did it take you to write it?”…
… MyPillow has long been an important advertiser on Fox News, so much so that even Trump noticed Lindell (“That guy is on TV more than I am”), but has since widened its net. MyPillow spent tens of thousands of dollars advertising on Newsmax just in the week following the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
And now Lindell is spending on more than just advertising. Last January—on the 9th, he says carefully, placing the date after the 6th—a group of still-unidentified concerned citizens brought him some computer data. These were, allegedly, packet captures, intercepted data proving that the Chinese Communist Party altered electoral results … in all 50 states. This is a conspiracy theory more elaborate than the purported Venezuelan manipulation of voting machines, more improbable than the allegation that millions of supposedly fake ballots were mailed in, more baroque than the belief that thousands of dead people voted. This one has potentially profound geopolitical implications.
That’s why Lindell has spent money—a lot of it, “tens of millions,” he told me—“validating” the packets, and it’s why he is planning to spend a lot more. Starting on August 10, he is holding a three-day symposium in Sioux Falls (because he admires South Dakota’s gun-toting governor, Kristi Noem), where the validators, whoever they may be, will present their results publicly. He has invited all interested computer scientists, university professors, elected federal officials, foreign officials, reporters, and editors to the symposium. He has booked, he says variously, “1,000 hotel rooms” or “all the hotel rooms in the city” to accommodate them. (As of Wednesday, Booking.com was still showing plenty of rooms available in Sioux Falls.)
Wacky though it seems for a businessman to invest so much in a conspiracy theory, there are important historical precedents. Think of Olof Aschberg, the Swedish banker who helped finance the Bolshevik revolution, allegedly melting down the bars of gold that Lenin’s comrades stole in train robberies and reselling them, unmarked, on European exchanges. Or Henry Ford, whose infamous anti-Semitic tract, The International Jew, was widely read in Nazi Germany, including by Hitler himself. Plenty of successful, wealthy people think that their knowledge of production technology or private equity gives them clairvoyant insight into politics. But Aschberg, Ford, and Lindell represent the extreme edge of that phenomenon: Their business success gives them the confidence to promote malevolent conspiracy theories, and the means to reach wide audiences…
Lindell had agreed to have lunch with me after the taping. But where to go? I didn’t think it would be much fun to take someone inclined to shout about rigged voting machines and fake COVID-19 cures to a crowded bistro on Capitol Hill. Because Lindell is famously worried about Chinese Communist influence, I thought he would like to pay homage to the victims of Chinese oppression. I booked a Uyghur restaurant.
This proved a mistake. For one thing, the restaurant—the excellent Dolan Uyghur, in D.C.’s Cleveland Park neighborhood—was not at all close to Bannon’s townhouse. Getting there required a long and rather uncomfortable drive, in Lindell’s rented black SUV; he talked at me about packet captures the whole way, one hand on the steering wheel, the other holding up a phone showing Google Maps. Once we got there, he didn’t much like the food. He picked at his chicken kebabs and didn’t touch his spicy fried green beans. More to the point, he didn’t understand why we were there. He had never heard of the Uyghurs. I told him they were Muslims who are being persecuted by Chinese Communists. Oh, he said, “like Christians.” Yes, I said. Like Christians.
He kept talking at me in the restaurant, a kind of stream-of-consciousness account of the packet captures, his mistreatment at the hands of the media and the Better Business Bureau, the dangers of the COVID-19 vaccines, and the wonders of oleandrin, a supplement that he says he and everyone else at MyPillow takes and that he says is 100 percent guaranteed to prevent COVID-19. On all of these points he is utterly impervious to any argument of any kind. I asked him what if, hypothetically, on August 10 it turns out that other experts disagree with his experts and declare that his data don’t mean what he thinks his data mean. This, he told me, was impossible. It couldn’t happen…
What will happen when Lindell’s ideological, all-American, predicted-in-a-dream absolute certainty runs into a wall of skepticism, disbelief, or—even worse—indifference? If history is anything to go by … nothing. Nothing will happen. He will not admit he is wrong; he will not stop believing. He will not understand that he was conned out of the millions he has spent “validating” fake data. (One has to admire the salesmanship of the tech grifters who talked him into all of this, assuming they exist.) He will not understand that his company is having trouble with retailers because so many people are repulsed by his ideas. He will not understand that people attack him because they think what he says is dangerous and could lead to violence. He will instead rail against the perfidy of the media, the left, the Communists, and China…
An upset MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell on Steve Bannon's podcast this morning says about Fox News: "They should just be a weather channel!"
— Zachary Petrizzo (@ZTPetrizzo) July 30, 2021
In the Mike Lindell – Fox News divorce, it's fun to point out:
38% of Tucker Carlson's advertising came from MyPillow in 2020https://t.co/JtqGoOvRPA
— Ted Newton (@Ted_Newton) July 30, 2021
It takes a hell of a lot of willful stupidity to follow Lindell. What does it say about the democracy that would allow itself to be destroyed by him?
West of the Rockies
I’m surprised that Bannon hasn’t crumbled into ash like Voldemort. He’s dry skin, grease, sweat, cellulite, and rage ensconced in double polos.
Is Anne still married to the RW Polish politician?
I’m so tired of these fuckers still following around and amplifying supporters of the orange ??
We’re all learning now about crazy people. Especially rich crazy people. I can see how Lindell got rich— once he gets an idea in his head, it stays there, and he follows it wherever it leads. Even ‘Pillows contain the central truth all Creation’, for fuck’s sake. But that said, I don’t think following his trail will lead anywhere.
So glad I never bought one of those damned pillows.
Is Applebaum being snarky or is this straight journalism?
@StringOnAStick: It’s a snarky sheep in journalism’s clothing.
As we chuckle over Fox News losing My Pillow ads . . .
@schrodingers_cat: She doesn’t like this one. Thinks he’s nuts and dangerous. Also Bannon.
I disliked her for being too conservative and stopped reading her sometime during Bush Jr. I don’t know what she has been up to the last 15 years as I was actively avoiding her writing, but I don’t recall her coming up as one of the terrible journalists helping Trump.
if she has wised up, she’ll have to prove it to me like J Rubin. A couple of years of consistency might convince me. However this particular article was pretty blunt and truthful.
@West of the Rockies:
The double polos are holding him together.
James E Powell
Switch Trump for Lindell and it’s the same.
He stole the idea for the pillow (basically shredded material inside some cloth) from another man, who sued him.
And he formed the “American Sleep Institute” or something, so he could claim they were an independent org endorsing his product.
Seems to me that we could solve a lot of problems with a 90% top marginal tax rate.
why not make the whole plane from the black box
why not make the whole news corp. out of the ny post
@Gvg: Applebaum has watched, with dismay, as her right-wing friends in Poland divided into democratic and authoritarian camps. She’s described and tried to explain this, but without much success, IMO.
I see this in my son. An obsession with weird conspiracies and wild claims combined with a total disinterest in actually learning about any of the things he says are so important. Also a total inability to consider the credibility of a source while claiming everything anybody else knows is all lies.
@germy: like the rand paul opthamologic association
@germy: Formed the sleep institute…like Rand Paul forming his own eye institute to legitimize himself. Grifter douchbags.
James E Powell
In her latest book, Twilight of Democracy, Applebaum describes how people she once considered her political equivalents or at least allies, have opted for authoritarianism. I listened to it on audible and would recommend it for anyone interested in the subject.
What stood out to me, and what she doesn’t really explain, is how she managed to hang around with right-wingers her whole life without realizing they were all barely closeted fascists.
This question applies generally to every anti-Trumper – Kristol, Frum, Schmidt, Rubin, etc – and I don’t know if any of them have ever answered it. I mean, the tendency has been there since Reagan. His re-election TV ads were a study in right-wing propaganda. But it was pretty blatant during the Bush/Cheney Junta. From the appointment by the supreme court to the Great War Leader propaganda to Democrats are enemies and so on.
The National Institute of Blog Commenters has given me their coveted Blog Commenter of the Year award every year I’ve been commenting here. It’s quite the honor, and I think it says a lot about the quality of my discourse .
Murdoch and right wing media are more of a problem than the pillow king.
@Fair Economist: Assuming your son is younger than 25 (I don’t recall if you’ve mentioned his age), he may grow out of it. Brains change a lot between puberty and 25 or so.
I was into Ayn Rand for a while after college, but conspiracy theories never made any sense to me from a young age. I read None Dare Call it Conspiracy (passed on by a friend) in early HS. It specifically said something like: “while you may think that all of these things are coincidences, that would mean there were no fewer than 23,281 coincidences…!”  and something went “click” in my head – This is BS!!
Is your son a reader? The Illuminatus Trilogy is very long and uneven, but quite fun as well. It might help him see the light.
James E Powell
From Appelbaum, above
Plenty of press/media types agree with this. I consider it the equivalent of saying, “What this airplane needs is a pilot who’s never flown an airplane,” but the idea is popular enough that some disgustingly rich person is touted as the Hope of the Nation every cycle.
@Citizen Alan: Let’s make it a 90% tax rate once you pass the threshold, since they refuse to believe or understand or acknowledge what a marginal tax rate even is :D
Sort of ‘okay, never mind. How about 80%, or 70%… of EVERYTHING. Enjoy!’
I’ve watched Mike Lindell on Bannon’s show, Lindell is clearly batshit, and there are times Bannon can barely keep a straight face. However, Lindell is a money source for Bannon and his chaos machine, and yes, Lindell and his ideas are dangerous
Hey, the Blog Commenters National Institute gave me the Commenter of the Year award twice every year, so there.
Maybe it’s part of aging, but I am having difficulty seeing any charm in this asshole.
@James E Powell: I know the answer to that because it happened to me.
They don’t tell you. You find out bit by bit, as they drop hints, and it’s never about what they feel obligated to do: the hints are about their motivation for being fascists. You don’t hear first about how they would like to murder all the immigrants: you hear about the latest horrible made-up thing immigrants ‘did’. Sometimes it’s a story that is totally bonkers, being passed along, and I’m not sure they even believe it themselves but they are watching to see what you do.
Maybe they believe it and don’t believe it. It’s the sort of thing the Other ‘would’ do so a bit of hyperbole isn’t out of place, and they are watching. To see if it’s safe to go further with you. And with each other, they get bolder, and you end up being excluded, but to them it’s you who are excluding them, and eventually it all blows up.
For me it was folks putting trust in some bozos (notably, Tim Pool) that were outright bad actors, and then getting really mad at ME for refusing to tolerate Pool and his nonsense, and refusing to argue the point through the endless series of rationalizations and weaselings.
Innuendo Studios has made good videos on what’s going on there, but the way you find out your friends are fascists is by them not trusting you with it unless you’re also a fascist. On some level they know they’re fascists, but they’re dumb and afraid and rely on each other for strength… which is of course the whole point with fascism.
And that’s how that happens.
Short-term stupid on his part. He’s not smart enough to realize he’ll get fewer eyes over on ONN or wherever he’s going, so not only will his sales decrease, but his looneytunes philosophy will not spread as much.
OMG, there’s a rightwing version of Sarah Cooper:
@MagdaInBlack: I was kinda impressed that the WH staff didn’t let him in (at least for a long time) when he went to visit TFG the last time, and instead left him cooling his heels outside.
As crazy and horrible as TFG’s WH was, even they could see that he was one step beyond…
We’re supposed to meet these people halfway?
@Another Scott: damn, watched the Bob Dobbs Sub-Genius movie last night and now you mention the Illuminati Trilogy. I feel like I’m 25 again.
Who says that?
@Another Scott: Well…that was interesting. Does have kind of the same manic energy as the Lindell rants.
He was too extreme even for that bunch. I remember him pacing back and forth outside, with his notes exposed to photographers.
I don’t know what he’ll get up to on August 11, but I’m sure it’ll be ugly.
@debbie: i agree. Once again the phrase “shit for brains” comes to mind, as well as “if you’re so rich why aren’t you smart?” And as several others have noted, an excellent demonstration for a return to the 95% marginal tax rate. Let’s go back the 1950s.
If his pillows stop selling he’ll probably just appeal directly for donations to his various political activities. He seems to be heading for a breakdown, though.
James E Powell
People are like that because we fail to show them empathy, understanding, and compassion. They only became angry, hateful people because we pointed out that they were saying & doing angry, hateful things.
It is always our fault.
I’m honestly seeing the same exact phenomenon repeating itself right now with all of my conservative upper-class in-laws in Chile. At this very moment, Chile is going through several rounds of elections combined with a re-writing of the Pinochet-era constitution and the same pandemic-related economic strife as everywhere else. And the leftist parties look likely to be ascendant.
My rich right-wing relatives have the sense that their political power is slipping away (in part because they have botched the job so severely) and their reaction is to undermine democracy rather than compromise, reform, and expand their governing coalition. Instead they are screaming about anyone to the left of current right-wing billionaire president Sebastián Piñera as being the next Hugo Chavez.
Honestly, democracy is weaker than we realize in much of the world. And the fascist forces against it are stronger than we realize. Both here and abroad.
@West of the Rockies: I want to marry that description.
There is a theory of Wingularity that says as we approach it, issues of the right and left merge. As evictions and home prices ramp up, who will protect Wall Street?
Wall Street Emerges as GOP’s New Villain Amid House Price Pinch
@Steeplejack (phone): I thought it was congealed sweat.
@germy: Only once a year? My award was for DAILY comments. Put that in your effete sans sarif, Librul!
What gets me is that here absolutely no living rich person has been significantly harmed by the Democratic version of lefty policies, nor would be. I can see the concern in counties where the government is free to appropriate property without compensation, but we don’t do that.
I don’t know why, but some people just seem to be attracted to conspiracy theories. It’s just how they see the world.
Very recently, I got in the mail some book claiming to be a reprint of some 1880s book about how the Vatican is trying to take over the world. I guess this was some kind of mass mailing to everyone in my neighborhood.
I thumbed through the thing to get some idea of what it was all about and then threw it in the trash.
Lindell is one of the best examples of the millions of people who never cease to amaze me. They always raise one overwhelming question in my mind: How do people get that stupid?
What path leads to such extraordinary, mindless craziness? I suspect that for many the route is an off ramp from extreme Christianity. It could be any religious zealotry, but in the U.S. Christianity is obviously the most likely. I firmly believe that extreme religion is utterly incompatible with democracy. It begins with accepting the totalitarianism of an omnipotent, omnipresent, vengeful, but somehow benevolent god. One’s own reasoning powers are surrendered to a mythical being¹ and all questions are forever answered by words written down centuries ago. Any conflict between a free society and a godly society is always settled on the side of religion.
If the Bible has “chosen people,” then one group can be superior to another and group membership bestows superiority on every member of that group – – forever. If you’re some dumb, Southern piece of white trash you are still better than any Black person regardless of that person’s individual qualities or accomplishments. The truth has one source and the only way to fact check it is in the Bible, but reading too carefully is problematic because of all the book’s inconsistencies and factual errors. Reliance on such a source leads to intellectual atrophy and no amount of reality can penetrate the force field of ignorance and willful stupidity.
Someone like SCOTUS justice Barrett or Alito desperately wants a society directed by adherence to their own interpretation of “God” and the Bible. While sworn to uphold the Constitution, their true allegiance is to the Bible and their decisions whenever possible will reflect that. Should the state be able to control a woman’s body? Of course it should. Not because it says so in the Constitution, or even in the Bible, but because their interpretation of what “God” says is not open to questioning since it is based on the infallible word of “God.” And they, in an act of supreme arrogance, know exactly what that is. Now, the task is to get every member of the society to adhere to that “word” whether they want to or not. There’s no room for democracy in that.
¹ I don’t believe a god exists, but in this case the mythical refers to the creation of the character in the Bible, not the existence or non-existence of any possible supreme being or creative force. Somehow, the god of the Bible switches from being a genocidal maniac in the Old Testament to being embodied by the loving, forgiving genius Jesus in the New Testament. Talk about unstable.
smedley the uncertain
@Honus: My RAW collection is still on the bookshelf. In fact, re-reading The New Inquisition, gifted to me after my wife over heard a conversation I had with a friend.
Many rentier class may disagree re eviction moratoriums.
They have a remedy for compensation if the moratorium actually expropriated their property.
@smedley the uncertain: I have a collection too, that I’m always re-reading
@Chris Johnson: You might want to keep in mind that innuendo is EyeTalian for “suppository.” ;^p
Maybe, once it all goes Far Wrong, he’ll make like William Miller and found a religion. I don’t think “Eighth-Day Dementists” is taken…
Lindell had a somewhat clearer path than some others. He spent most of his 20s, 30s, and 40s being addicted to crack and gambling. Then he latched onto extreme Christianity as his lifeline when he got sober (not that I necessarily believe he stayed sober). He managed to start various businesses all through that time, but I don’t think there has ever been a moment of mental stability in his adult life.
@Poe Larity: A year or so ago, the word seemed to go out in the GQP that they were they party of the suburbs and the common man. This is more of the same.
@Hob: Judging by his odd sweaty, pale skin tone, and his manic behavior, I’m leaning towards still using
Eta: I knew his back-story, and he’s always yammering about how he was saved.
The weird thing is that we are all so accustomed by now to “election fraud” stories that we are like TV show watchers, and asking “how good is the story line” and “is there some plot development” as we look to see if this is a “good” story to follow. Alas, this pillow guy, except for the name pillow guy, does not seem to have what it takes to be a good fraud story. He is late to the party, so he is at a disadvantage. If he doesn’t at least have some ninjas invading governors’ mansions in the dead of night, or something, it’s just not going to fire up a big reaction.
Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes
This was the best response to Schlichter:
Enhanced Voting Techniques
Are people really this ignorant that they think Imperial Russia was a Democracy?
Supreme Court ain’t voting on anything (much less a non-existent case) in August. Nor in July or September, for that matter. They’re in recess until October.
Lindell, no doubt, has taken the same meticulous care to study the “packets” as he has studying the court calendar.
What a cushy job. No wonder they never want to retire. (Except for that one dude with the banker son.)
Next time you see a tweet with a video of him, keep the sound off and watch his hand gestures and movements. You’ll know there’s no “seemingly” about a pending breakdown.
Same thing with Gosar. That boy ain’t right
And Lindell… with all his drug use, did he ever spend a day in prison? If not, he certainly benefited from being a white crackhead.
Addiction. That isn’t surprising. Trading one addiction for another.
Maybe god will call them back to the bench to hear this open and shut case. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Of course, god could be busy watching the Olympics, so timing is important.
@schrodingers_cat: And yet, certain OPs can’t find enough “LOOK AT THIS!” material for this blog.
What’s an OP?
Oh, is she the Carmine ‘Red’ Zingiber character from Good Omens? She spent a lot of time in countries in transition. Caused most of it, too.
James E Powell
Maybe not by the policies, but if I remember correctly, President Obama said some things that really hurt their feelings.
That it was possibly well down the road to destruction.
For a good part of my 7 decades, I have noticed that there are a lot of people who don’t really want a democracy, because it makes other people equal to them, and that scares them more than one might imagine. Their lives are something because there are people to lord over. Take that ability to lord over a large segment of the population, IOW have an actual democracy, and they lose all of their self appointed privilege over others. In another thread today I mentioned petty people. Petty people may have money but they will never have real humanity, other than they walk upright on 2 legs, unless they recognize that there is nothing special about them. Their skin color doesn’t make them special, their money doesn’t make them special, their hate doesn’t make them special. It often makes them worse, but they are part of a human condition that’s been wrong for many millennia. We live in a country that at it’s core, has tried to give equality to everyone, and has failed. But we shouldn’t stop trying because we have come farther in the last few decades than any other collection of humans throughout time, even if many days it doesn’t seem like it at all. Current conservatives are no different than they have been for centuries, always trying to stop progress towards that which makes them equal to those groups they think they are better than. They do not want equality, they are petty little people, delusional in their idea that they are better, that their money makes them better, that their skin color makes them better, that their genitalia makes them better. Today, in this country they fight back with guns because they are losing and will continue to lose, because their position and ideals are crap. But it will be a fight, as it always is.
As you well understand they do not want to meet anyone half way, or really any percentage of way. All forms of government have restrictions because life isn’t all that easy, even if we have made it easier over the decades. They “forget” history because it’s not always bent in their direction, in fact it’s almost never bent in the direction of total freedom. And they do not want equality of that loss, they see themselves as the chosen. It may be their brains are incapable of equality, which of course means equality of restrictions for the better good of all, say speed limits, or it may be their experiences tell them they really, really are not better than others, so they look for artificial/immaterial means of describing themselves – they are white, etc. – which supposedly makes them better. It of course doesn’t, and it’s their continuing reliance on some artificial/immaterial bullshit, that actually makes them worse. Kurt is one of them.
@M31: Well, I have received commentator of the year for 5 years straight from the National Institute of Blog Commenters, which is much more legit than the Blog Commenters National Institute.
Trying to determine which Institute/Association/Whatever is The One True Blog Commenter group is worse than trying to figure out which Ray’s Pizzeria is the real one
ETA: And, not that anyone asked me, but: for each of the last 60 years, I have NOT received any awards from any blog-commenter group for any reason whatsoever. Top THAT, you buncha amateurs.
Carl Jung suggested that every 2,000 years or so, western man’s concept of god advanced, from the welter of sadistic mesopotamian gods to Israel’s yahweh who protected his chosen people, to the intinerant jesus who taught the personal love the ‘father’ had for each of his children.
We are overdue for a new and improved deity, IMHO.
For some, he was crowned in 2017 (or 2016, depending on your frame of reference. Of course, gotta delete the “improved” part, but still …