Where did those “protest” rallies originate and who pays for them?

I have a dark thought.

Today’s “protest” rallies — with the usual themes, flags, signs and carefully accoutered and masked “protesters” — don’t even pretend to be spontaneous applications of First Amendment* rights. (When people get together brandishing heavy weaponry, it doesn’t exactly murmur “We come in peace.”)

As news media investigations are uncovering, these groups are patterned after the Tea Party nonsense, started and funded by the Koch Bros, et al. Very, very rich industrialists — especially fossil fuel industrialists — supplied not only the big bucks but the, ahem, “ideology” under the banners of which those fools rallied. (I’ve spent a lot of time taking “libertarianism” apart so won’t here, except to provide a link to one of my more fulsome rants.)

As Lisa Graves writes in the New York Times piece linked above:

Still, the legend that the Tea Party was a spontaneous uprising took hold and continues to be peddled. As we face Tea Party 2.0, let’s not be fooled again.

The protests playing out now have the same feel as the Tea Party protests aided by Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity and others a decade ago — and with good reason: Early evidence suggests they are not organic but a brush fire being stoked by some of the same people and money that built the Tea Party.

Look no further than the first protest organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition and the Michigan Freedom Fund — whose chairman manages the vast financial investments of Dick and Betsy DeVos, the Education Secretary — to see that the campaign to “open” America flows from the superrich and their front groups.

(I highlighted a notable name Lisa Graves cites. I think you’ll recognize it.)

So, yeah, these groups are the step-children of the Tea Party-ers, flouncing around in the same mosh pit of ignorance and racism but now under the Trump Cult banners.

But I don’t have to go back as far as the Tea Party to understand how and supported by whom these groups have sprung up.

Here’s what I’ve written in a chapter of How I Learned The Facts of Life. I bolded a couple of lines:

What did the Russians do to interfere in our election? My very brief summary from my reading of the Mueller Report:

A Russian organization blandly named the Internet Research Agency (abbreviated afterward as the IRA) was set up in St. Petersberg, Russia by a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin.

From these headquarters, IRA employees were sent to the United States in mid-2014 to gather intelligence in preparation for their election-interference plans.

The plans involved using open social media to wage “information warfare,” to influence, muddle and discourage voters. They did this by creating multitudes of social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and the like. These accounts had official, important-sounding names (“DCLeaks.com” for one), suggesting they were insider political operations.

Through these accounts, the Russians threw out a barrage of false accusations about Hillary Clinton and enthusiastic support for Trump (with an early hand to Bernie Sanders, until it became clear the Democratic nominee would be Clinton.)

The Russians went so far as to promote and stage campaign events (anti-Clinton, pro-Trump) which numbers of Americans attended. (Did you go to any of these “events”?)

Some anti-Hillary “events” included an effigy of a full-sized Hillary in a cage. I was dumbfounded to read how the Russians actually solicited help from Americans in getting the platform and the cage built before the “event.” (This devious ploy is known by the high-tech spy term, chutzpah.)

I was not astonished to read that unnamed Trump campaign people jumped right into the Russians’ open arms, eagerly agreeing to participate.

First, the phony Tea Party and its phony “rallies” were created by American oligarchs. Next, the Russians — who must have noticed the effect these groups had in American elections — began producing their own events.

And now American oligarchy, supplemented by Trumpist groups with their money, jump back into the picture, creating phony “events” to demonstrate another false picture of American electorate sentiment.

It’s definitely a pattern. The only question is whether American oligarchs are using the Tea Party and Russian models, or whether they’ve joined with the Russians to threaten our democracy.

What the Russians and American oligarchs have in common is, first, they despise democracy — it threatens them — and second, they have contempt for and fear the intelligence of the American people.

I’m thinking it’s not going to work again. Not this time.

*Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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