Mapping the Swamp: Divide & Conquer, Part 2: HOPE AND FEAR

Since the days when the story of Pandora was new, poets and visionaries have exposed two tools used by tyrants: hope and fear. In Hesiod's tale, captured in Works and Days, Zeus punishes Prometheus for stealing fire from Mount Olympus and giving it to human beings. The punishment consists of two devices: a false gift to Prometheus's brother Epimetheus, and a brutal chaining of Prometheus himself to a rock so he will cook in the sun each day for all eternity. Aeschylus expounds on the tale in his famous tragedy Prometheus Bound. Countless other artists and writers would rewrite or adapt the story, if not lift some of its themes. William Blake's Book of Urizen involves countless images of chains and fetters; the words "fear" and "hope" appear as ominous harbingers of something awful.

Hope and fear surface as the tools for Zeus's punishment for humankind's rebellion, also as an insurance policy for Zeus. As Zeus and his Olympian generation overthrew the Titans, he would have to worry about the prospects of another generation coming after him and overthrowing him in turn. With the power that comes with fire, mankind might find a way to devise weapons of destruction and rebel.

Hence Zeus makes a public spectacle of Prometheus, striking fear in all who see him--mortal or otherwise--or who hear of him. The brutal power to force endless suffering on someone who disobeys the sovereign's power constrains the will to resist. Mutineers, Machiavelli noted, will target those whom they love before they target those whom they fear.

The other means of retaliation consists of Pandora, the beautiful woman whose name meant "all gifts." Lovely and intelligent, she comes to Epimetheus with a jar and opens it. Out rush the "ponoi," the troubles and hard labors by which men will have to earn their way. Before Elpis, or "Hope," rushes out of the jar, Pandora closes it and traps it inside. Either this implies she has withheld hope from man, or it implies she keeps hope under man's control. Hope is the one thing mankind can possess and command as a sovereign. Yet hope in the Greek sense enslaves mankind. For hoping leads men to live with constant disappointment. Blind, empty hopes mean nothing. Combined with fears, such hopes lead men constantly to enact the self-fulfilling Greek tragedies that make Hellenic mythology so rich with irony. Hoping for a perfect wife, a man spurns the woman who truly loves him and chases after the popular girl who views him with contempt. Hoping for a rich harvest, a man overworks himself and tills the soil too harshly, causing him to suffer from an aching back and even less food to feed himself through the winter.

Both hope and fear keep man in a state of anxiety and incompletion, disappointment and nervousness.

These stories from ancient Greek returned to me in recent weeks because I have realized that the "Swamp" about which I have been writing, thrives on hope and fear. The Swamp's mafia keeps its victims divided with infighting and mutual distrust and betrayal, by controlling everyone with hope and fear. Behind a veil, operating with mystery and secrecy, power-brokers project total power by making harmful decisions that affect people's careers. But decisions come, not as straightforward explanations--rather as vague and obtuse confusions that cause everyone to wonder what they did wrong.

Am I out? Am I in? Do I have a future in the movement? Dare I keep pushing for the changes that mean so much to me? The Swamp stays in power when these questions obsess and paralyze us.

CPAC 2018

The most obvious recent example came with news in the second week of February. My friend Brian Camenker told me that the Conservative Political Action Conference humiliated Mass Resistance, our organization, by banishing us from their yearly conference in Washington. Donald Trump, Michael Pence, and a host of conservative bellwethers will speak at the conference. Mass Resistance had secured and paid for a booth for the fair. But then CPAC's director, Dan Schneider, called Brian to say he was not comfortable with a few minutes of video from a talk Brian gave in 2015. Brian commented on a panel that conservatives cannot be so afraid of sounding "insulting or degrading" that they do not condemn immoral policies in our children's schools. So horrified felt Schneider that he unilaterally rescinded Mass Resistance's booth and forbade them from exhibiting.

On the surface, the pretext for the banishment makes no sense, of course. Brian said nothing objectionable. We know that, Dan Schneider knows that, and everyone with any sense knows that. The whole sickening abuse serves to stagger and humiliate, not to explain anything. Why not just refuse to book the booth in the first place? Why go to the trouble of booking Mass Resistance, then canceling their booth when it makes everything inconvenient? And why not just say that CPAC needs to ingratiate itself with people whom Mass Resistance has offended? Why bring up a silly videoclip from three years earlier, carrying on a charade in bad faith?

When Brian asked CPAC for more details, CPAC's Schneider went further: His staff told people who inquired that "Mass Resistance lacked common decency" and "crossed a line." All very vague and impossible to connect to what was on the specific video that Schneider cited. Schneider also told a reporter from LifeSiteNews that other social conservatives -- Family Research Center, American Principles Project, and Heritage -- would be allowed to run tables. The main difference between these three groups and Mass Resistance is geographic: FRC, APP, and Heritage all have headquarters in Washington DC, lavish funding, ties to people in high places, and big egos at the apex of steep hierarchies. Mass Resistance is a grassroots alliance of churchy folks picketing the local library so they stop having perverts and drag queens try to talk about sex to toddlers.

The net effect of CPAC's shenanigans is of course to alienate and isolate Mass Resistance. Why they did this, I will never know, because all such machinations depend upon opacity and secrecy for their mystique and power. Somebody obviously made a phone call. The tactic of pulling up an old video from years earlier and then scaring someone with the possibility of its being used to embarrass them has become quite familiar. That this tactic appeared this time points to the likelihood that whoever did this to Mass Resistance had some affinities to, or is an associate of, or is, the party that discovered the Access Hollywood tape against Trump in October 2016, the Milo "pedophilia" interview in February 2017, and the Roy Moore "accusers" in November 2017.

Many people who have examined the CPAC-Mass Resistance Affair concluded it was a gay group, such as the Log Cabin Republicans. My instincts tell me to doubt the first impressions. While gay groups are notoriously good at blackmail, gay groups would most likely have little reason to target Mass Resistance without targeting the well-funded and powerful pro-family groups -- Heritage, Family Research Center, American Principles Project--who seem to have secured booths quickly after CPAC announced it was banishing Mass Resistance (initially, the only pro-family group to get a booth at the event).

Other scenarios exist that might be more plausible than a hit job by the Log Cabin Republicans. Perhaps a rival conservative pro-family group, wanting to make sure no donors saw Mass Resistance and considered donating to them, went online in search of video to smear Brian Camenker and forwarded the clip to someone high up at CPAC. It might have been a leftist gay group, also, whose primary goal consists of dividing conservatives. One smart way to divide conservatives would entail treating them differently on purpose--giving certain courtesies and favors to some conservative groups, particularly the ones easiest to control and manipulate, while humiliating and marginalizing others.

Hope and fear. The fear that your group will be next will drive you to be silent and let the target (in this case, Mass Resistance) suffer targeting. The hope that maybe your group really is just better and smarter and more deserving, and has a bright future ahead, will lead to delusions of superiority and rationalizations of complicity when those who act as true allies get thrown to the wolves.

Hope and fear-powerful if vague tools of tyrants. Watch out for them. And tune out CPAC. Don't feed the beast.

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