Who are the Grifters?
A close look at an enduring plague.
“You deceived me,” smiled the cosmopolitan, as both now resumed their seats; “you roguishly took advantage of my simplicity; you archly played upon my enthusiasm. But never mind; the offense, if any, was so charming, I almost wish you would offend again.” - Herman Melville, The Confidence-Man
There is a fun story in the July 8, 1849, edition of the New York Herald that details the arrest of William Thompson. In short, Thompson was waltzing around Manhattan, pretending to be an upper-class elite. He was well-dressed and charismatic, so he was able to fit in with the wealthy and strike up conversations on the street. He’d start talking with a random person, convince them that they were old friends, and get them to hand over their watch, promising to return it. Needless to say, the people he swindled never saw their watches again.
Thompson got caught after one of his victims, Thomas McDonald, saw him the next day wearing the very same watch he stole. In the article, Thompson is described as a “graduate of the college at Sing Sing,” a New York correctional facility. Most importantly, he is described as a “confidence man:”
“…that is, he would go up to a perfect stranger in the street, and being a man of genteel appearance, would easily command an interview.”
Fast forward a couple hundred years and we are still dealing with the same problem; we’ve just shortened “confidence men” to “con-men.” Another New York resident, Edgar Allen Poe, also touched on con-men in his essay, Raising the Wind: Diddling, Considered as One of the Exact Sciences. Back in Poe’s day, “diddling” was another name for conning people, and he outlined the needed attributes of a competent diddler:
Diddling, rightly considered, is a compound, of which the ingredients are minuteness, interest, perseverance, ingenuity, audacity, nonchalance, originality, impertinence, and grin.
In the post-Internet era we have entered into a new age of conning. These days you can con people into buying almost anything, and given that we have already lived through two of the biggest financial scams in history (FTX and Bernie Madoff), it seems like Poe including “minuteness” as a requirement was severely off base. In fact, some of the biggest lies being told to people right now surround the most important and “biggest” aspects of our public lives: Politics, health, and religion. We need to take a deep, hard look at our era’s version of con-men (and con-women), also known as The Grifters.™
The Health Grifters
The core goal of any grift or con is to rob the unsuspecting masses of their money. In his 1940 essay, D.W. Maurer explained how con-men engaged in “the grift:”
The grift, including a great number of specific rackets, depends on quickness of wit and lightness of touch…[the] ‘gentle grifter’ was not misnamed. […] Confidence men are not first by accident. They are aristocrats of the grift by reason of their superior intelligence, their striking personal attributes, not the least of which is a superb knowledge of human psychology, and their very large incomes. […] Big-con men usually have an excellent, fluent command of English; some of them are adept at assuming dialects or brogues when necessary; all of them are first-rate actors (bold is my emphasis; everything else is original).
Modern-day grifting isn’t really all that different. What has changed since the invention of the Internet is that a grifter’s fundamental goal is to get eyeballs on them. Obviously, in an era where there is free access to information, you are not going to convince everybody that what you’re selling is real. But chances are if you say it loud enough, you can get a lot of attention. Couple that with a bunch of page views, along with some advertising and you are basically stealing people’s watches again, but now you don’t have to steal just one at a time.
Grifting basically boils down to selling something fake and convincing your audience of your sincerity. Given that a massive pandemic began roughly three years ago and upended the entire world, it provided an ample opportunity for grifters to capture the attention of anyone who doubted the official narrative of COVID-19. Shawn Smallman of Portland State University did a big study on misinformation during the pandemic, and see if this sounds at all familiar:
[Online blogs] described how hotels…closed, while the beaches were deserted. People were laid off from positions related to the tourism industry, impacting the local community. In their anger, people turned to fantastic theories about the origins of the virus: “Conspiracy theories are circulating briskly. Some say the virus was intentionally started by sinister organizations in a lab, while others accuse the authorities of deflecting public attention from the current financial crisis.” […] Within the United States, people relied on questionable sources, including YouTube, for information about the pandemic. One study looked at 142 YouTube videos that had been uploaded…A significant percentage (17.5%) of the videos were misleading, with most videos warning against vaccinations, while 17.4% (out of this class of videos) called the outbreak a man-made conspiracy (my emphasis).
That is pretty quick summary of the “alternative” explanations surrounding COVID-19. The problem is that Smallman’s study is from 2015, five years before COVID-19 began to explode. It turns out he was looking at the online response to the H1N1 outbreak in 2009. It’s almost like a playbook was previously laid out and followed shortly after COVID started circulating.
It feels like ancient history right now, but almost immediately after COVID popped up, a viral video came out called Plandemic, which followed the same formula laid out by Smallman:
Assert the pandemic was planned.
Tie it to a boogeyman who works for the government (Anthony Fauci).
Include a “whistleblower” who was “silenced” by the government (Judy Mikovits, who is now running around in QAnon circles).
Assert that this was all done to get us to take a vaccine, even though people would be far more likely to take a vaccine for an already established disease.
Point four is important, because it is a requirement for any “natural health” grifter. Last year I wrote a piece called America has Never Been So Ripe for an Anti-Vaccine Grit Movement. It remains The Jackal’s most popular post, and in it I cite to an article by Brooke Harrington, in which she calls the entire anti-vaccine movement a con job:
Sociology solves mysteries like these by zeroing in on problematic relationships, not the decisions that individuals make in isolation. Many of the people refusing safe, effective vaccination amid a deadly pandemic are enmeshed in a very distinctive type of relationship that sociologists have been studying for more than 70 years: the con job. Con artists gain social or financial advantage by convincing their marks to believe highly dubious claims—and to block out all information to the contrary.
In a great article for The Banter, Ben Cohen hones in on the origins of this particular grift movement and traces it back to (of all places), the California New Age movement:
Since the 1960s and 70s, New Age and wellness communities have been plagued with fraudulent characters making unproven claims to their often highly susceptible followers. Based on the concept of personal transformation and healing for a ‘new age’ of human awakening, these communities have incorporated a hodgepodge of spiritual concepts and health treatments into a broader philosophies that have been commercialized by budding entrepreneurs.
New Age grifters have started dangerous cults selling spiritual enlightenment, advocated drinking industrial bleach as a miracle cure for AIDS, and hawked crystals as an antidote to cancer. Wellness advocates have tapped into many of these concepts, selling dubious nutritional supplements and ‘personal growth’ courses that promise similar transformation and personal healing.
The Coronavirus pandemic appears to have magnified the problems in these communities intensely, and they are adopting wilder, more fanatical beliefs about the origins of the disease, how to treat it, or even whether the disease exists at all.
One of the hallmarks and also (unfortunately) negative marks of capitalism is that you can make money doing basically anything, even lying to people. If you have an adept understanding of human psychology - as Maurer describes above - you can find a way to appeal to an individual’s insecurities and get them to hand you money.
While Mikovits tried to get in on the anti-COVID grift from the start, Simone Gold probably best embodies the “new age health” version of a confidence woman. Early on in the pandemic, she appealed heavily to the COVID-19 skeptics and almost immediately called for a rejection of any associated vaccine. If you need your memory jogged, she appeared with America’s Frontline Doctors in front of the Supreme Court in July 2020, with one of her colleagues who claimed that endometriosis was caused by having sex with demons (in your sleep). Gold soared in popularity in the anti-vaccination movement, but also gained trust within the broader COVID-skeptic community. Gold gained their confidence by presenting herself as a reasonable, alternative voice; she said that, “We doctors are pro-vaccine, but this [the COVID vaccine] is not a vaccine.” In Plandemic, Mikovits made the same argument and insisted over and over again that she was pro-vaccine. But in the next breath, she would say things like 50 million Americans would die from the COVID vaccine. The thing about grifting, however, is that there is almost always someone who is able to lie bigger and louder than you are, and Gold’s instincts were better than Mikovits’s.
Tracing Gold’s steps over the past couple years reads like a trip through a right-wing fever swamp. She attended events associated with Mike Lindell, Qanon, a “Health and Freedom” Conference (there are a lot of these), and a bus tour with America’s Frontline Doctors. But a few months ago, the grift became clear.
America’s Front Line Doctors - which Gold founded - is now suing her over her lavish spending:
[America’s Front Line Doctors] is tearing itself apart in a fight over what Gold’s rivals describe as her extravagant spending using the group’s funds. The alleged purchases include $100,000 on a single private jet trip and $50,000 a month in Gold’s personal expenses. Much of the controversy has centered on AFLDS’s purchase of a $3.6 million mansion in Naples, Florida., where Gold lives with her boyfriend: a much younger underwear model and fellow Capitol rioter (my emphasis).
From standing on the steps of the Supreme Court next to the demon penis lady, to living in a $3.6 million mansion in Florida, all in the span of two years. You can say a lot of things about the grift, but this is a solid example of how lucrative it can be if you play your cards right.
Gold isn’t alone. Peter McCullough is another long-time anti-vaccine grifter who has largely followed the same track as Gold. Like her, McCullough has appeared at various “Health and Freedom” conferences, like the “Health Freedom Summit” (which is distinct from the “Global Health Freedom Summit”), where lots of fake doctors, experts, and conspiracy theorists can get in on the grift all at one convenient location. McCullough infamously appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast, where he followed the same routine that Smallman laid out above: The pandemic was planned, COVID-19 isn’t that deadly, and the vaccine is killing thousands of people according to VAERS.
The last point is pretty key, because it is simultaneously the crux of the anti-vaccine argument, while also the clearest evidence of the grift. Anti-vaxxers routinely cite to VAERS (a.k.a., Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) because it keeps track of all reports of a vaccine’s side effect. All of the typical fact-checking websites have the same line about VAERS, which is that it’s incomplete data and an over-representation of vaccine side effects. You can see that by looking at the data itself:
On there you see things like lymph node pain, irregular menstruation, and lots of pain at vaccination site (a common side effect of any vaccine). When you add up every recorded COVID vaccine side effect on VAERS, it turns out to be a lot: There were 317,266 adverse events in 2022, and 985,961 adverse events in 2021. Put together, that is 1,303,227. People like Gold and McCullough will cite to these numbers because they sound big and scary on their own, but that’s only half the story: To get the rate of a COVID-19 vaccine side effect, we need the number of vaccines administered. In this case, it is 703,918,155, for Pfizer, Moderna, and their boosters, along with Johnson and Johnson. When you do the math and get the fraction right (credit to Wolfram Alpha), you get a vaccine side effect rate of: 0.0018513899%, essentially zero. And again, this includes side effects like “fatigue,” “illness,” and “IMMUNIZATION.” In other words, their source for all of the vaccine side effects debunks their own argument.
Whenever you hear people like Gold, McCullough, or Robert Malone cite to the “VAERS” data being alarming, it’s actually a tell: They are betting that their audience won’t actually go look at it. Their goal is to gain the confidence of their audience, and keep them buying into their product, be it vaccine and “natural medicine” alternatives, or a subscription to their next “Global Health Summit.” Gold and McCullough are millionaires, so it is hard to see how this doesn’t benefit them, in the same way that Thompson was able to walk around with new watches every couple of days. But it is a lie that is costing lives. Skepticism of the COVID vaccine has led to higher death rates for Republicans than Democrats, to the point where you can trace it down to a county level. The broader anti-vaccine movement is claiming victims too, as measles is surging again following lower vaccination rates. But people like Gold, McCullough, or Robert Kennedy, Jr., are largely indifferent to the suffering they cause, which is a requirement for any grifter.
The Political Grifters
There is probably no field more ripe for grifting than politics, so I want to lay out a few ground rules here before this section gets too big. First, I don’t think you can fully call a political consultant a grifter, because although a lot of people in politics get paid to say things they don’t really mean, some of them ultimately believe in the causes they advocate. A good example is The Lincoln Project, which is consulting group made up of former Republicans who now want to elect Democrats (in a nutshell). It started out as a group of conservatives “sticking to their principles,” but that was always part of the bit. Right now they want to get Democrats elected because Democrats are paying them to get elected. That is a part of politics and it can be gross, but not really a solid definition of grifting.
On the other side of the spectrum, Christoper Rufo is a conservative who consistently trumps up the horrors of Critical Race Theory and Drag Queen Story Hour in an effort to get people angry. In fact, Rufo pretty candidly admits this, but his ultimate goal is to garner support for the causes he believes in. Rufo does things in bad faith, but his beliefs are actually held in good faith, even if most people disagree with them. In the same way, Ben Shapiro and Matt Walsh almost always try to say offensive things to draw attention to themselves, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a core goal in mind. These examples don’t fall into the clear and cut definition of grifting.
However, a high-profile grifter does work for Walsh and Shapiro: Candace Owens. She slots in nicely in this segment, because Owens also claims to be unvaccinated and regularly expresses anti-vaccination sentiment. Here’s the thing though: Owens is probably lying. For one, Owens regularly attended a lot of events in 2021 that required proof of vaccination:
For another, Owens’s entire persona is a great example of a strong political grift. Prior to the onset of her conservative career, Owens was still working in political media, albeit a different kind. She popped up as a conservative in late 2016, but less than a year prior, she was running an anti-Trump website, mocking him for having a small penis:
Yet Owens, suddenly a new face of the American right, was less than two years ago the CEO of an online publication that frequently mocked then-candidate Trump, including conducting a mock “investigation” into his penis size. (The story determined that it was likely very small.) And in a 2015 column for the site lambasting conservative Republicans, Owens wrote that it was “good news” that the “Republican Tea Party ... will eventually die off (peacefully in their sleep, we hope).”
So, what happened? Well, right around the time of her “conversion,” Owens was running into some financial troubles. In September 2016, she stopped paying the rent for her apartment in Connecticut, and had to be evicted in January 2017.
Maybe you think it’s a coincidence that Owens became an outspoken conservative right around the time she was being evicted from her apartment, with apparently no income. Around the same time, she started an organization called, “Blexit,” to encourage African-Americans to leave the Democratic Party (spoiler: Recent election results tell us this isn’t going well). Blexit’s finances have taken a nose-dive recently, but Owens has kept her salary super high. Tell me this doesn’t remind you of Simone Gold:
Last year, the foundation received $2,342,820 in contributions, less than a third of what it raised the previous year. Despite that, the org spent nearly $1 million more than it earned, with its total payments to employees nearly doubling. A sizable payment, $250,000 plus benefits, went to Owens. Another $612,000 went to fundraising, and $205,708 went to travel, some of which was first-class or charter.
One of the hallmarks of a grifter is their intelligence. It might be tempting to listen to Owens rant and call her an idiot, but she’s actually incredibly smart and perceptive. She saw an opening in American politics that had actually been there for a long time: White people (specifically Boomers) want to hear black people say that racism is fake, and that the black community is responsible for their own problems. While there are some black Americans who make similar arguments in good faith (Thomas Sowell), none of them go around spewing anti-vaccine nonsense or start organizations called “Blexit.”
Grifting isn’t limited to conservatives either. In fact, it happens almost as often on the Left as well, mostly with smaller Twitter accounts created to drive up fake engagement (see: The Krassenstein Brothers). But the most obvious political grift organization in the U.S. is on the Left: Black Lives Matter. To be clear, there is a difference between the Black Lives Matter movement (which is good) and the Black Lives Matter organization. The latter is clearly a grift.
The organization - officially called the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation - is a 501(c)(3) whose finances are public, a lot like Blexit’s. And when you look into their finances, you see a lot of the hallmarks of a grift. In April of this year, New York Magazine documented a stunning revelation: The organization - which is funded by donations - purchased a $6 million house in Los Angeles, and kept it a secret:
Nonprofit experts say that any apparent intermingling of resources among BLMGNF, Cullors, and outside entities might jeopardize the charity’s tax-exempt status. Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, a professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School who specializes in nonprofits, said the details of the house’s management deserve closer scrutiny. If there are problems with the group’s tax filings, there could be civil and criminal liabilities for the people and organizations involved. He said that investigations by state and federal agencies could be warranted. “They’re all indicators that the money may not be going where it’s supposed to be going,” he says.
In politics, it is generally easier to engage in a grift simply because peoples’ emotions run so high. Millions of Americans are heavily invested in politics and many of them believe that the only way to bring about their “desired society” is political victory. Hence the reason that the country’s biggest political grifter remains former President Donald Trump.
Earlier this month, Trump hyped up a big announcement that was coming. Many speculated that he would be announcing his choice for Vice-President, or another lawsuit against one of his perceived enemies. Instead, Trump hyped up new trading cards that featured images of him. Talk about peak boomer grifting. Worst of all: After all the mocking he received in the media, Trump actually made millions off of the cards. The grift worked.
It is a repeated pattern that Trump has engaged in throughout his career, but nothing fits in more snugly here than his constant refrain that the election was “stolen.” In late 2020, Trump organized a “legal fund” that would challenge the election results and it received millions of donations. But they ultimately went nowhere; Trump pocketed the money and only used a tiny amount of it to file lawsuits, most of which were dismissed.
Trump is the biggest political grifter in the country right now, and no one else even comes close. But his grift begets more grifters, like a Hydra with an IQ of 24. A good example of this is Mike Lindell, who has - for some reason - become one of the biggest leaders in the election denialism movement. Every few months Lindell hypes a “bombshell” election story that is coming, which will result in Trump being reinstated. When it never comes, he tells his audience about another lawsuit he’s filing and then tries to get them to buy more pillows.
Another obvious example is Brandon Straka, whose background isn’t completely dissimilar from Owens’s. Straka is a gay conservative, who claims to have been a liberal at one time but has since been reformed. He founded the “Walk Away” movement to encourage other liberals to leave the Democratic Party (sound familiar?).
Straka got so deep into the rabbit hole that he ended up with the crowd storming the Capitol on January 6th. After being arrested and facing jail time, Straka squealed on other people in the mob, including Simone Gold. In a show of appreciation for his cooperation, the FBI and Department of Justice granted Straka leniency, and he never ended up spending any time in jail. However, that didn’t stop him from showing up at CPAC and pretending to be a jailed, suffering insurrectionist:
It’s easy to call things like this pathetic, but it’s important to remember that a hallmark of the grifters is that they have no sense of shame. Whether it’s something like the examples above or Glenn Greenwald talking about the “grievous” and unfair actions taken against Trump supporters, political grift is probably the easiest and most lucrative way to con people in America right now.
The Religious Grifters
This is probably the saddest section for me to write about, because I am a Christian. But the religious grift ties in a lot of the things mentioned above: Election denialism, an obsession with Trump, QAnon, and skepticism of vaccines.
In 2020, there was a hoard of “Trump Prophets,” who told their audiences that God was prophesying a Trump electoral victory in November. Even when it didn’t happen, that didn’t stop them:
Greg Locke, a Nashville pastor with a massive social media following, said after Trump’s loss that he would “100 percent remain president of the United States for another term.” Kat Kerr, a pink-haired preacher from Jacksonville, Florida, declared repeatedly last month that Trump had won the election “by a landslide” and that God had told her he would serve for eight years. In his video, Enlow went further. “There’s not going to be just Trump coming back,” he said. “There’s going to be at least two more Trumps that will be in office in some way.” Donald Trump, he proclaimed elsewhere, was “the primary government leader on Planet Earth.”
It’s difficult to call preachers like Locke or Kat Kerr “mainstream” Evangelicals, but it’s undeniable that they have huge followings. A lot of the Trump Prophecy nonsense is relegated to fringes of the Evangelical movement, and most of it hovers in extreme Pentecostalism. That has made it an area ripe for grifting, and it has also allowed for the non-religious to get in on the grift. Take Mike Flynn, for instance:
The people under the revival tent hooted as Michael Flynn strode across the stage, bopping and laughing, singing the refrain into his microphone and encouraging the audience to sing along to the transgressive rock anthem. “We’ll fight the powers that be just/Don’t pick our destiny ’cause/You don’t know us, you don’t belong!” The emcee introduced him as “America’s General,” but to those in the audience, Flynn is far more than that: martyr, hero, leader, patriot, warrior.
The retired lieutenant general, former national security adviser, onetime anti-terrorism fighter, is now focused on his next task: building a movement centered on Christian nationalist ideas, where Christianity is at the center of American life and institutions.
The article describes Flynn attending an event that is both political and religious, and it centered heavily on Donald Trump. David French attended one:
Intrigued by the Dream City Church reference in Draper’s article, I went to the ReAwaken America tour page to see where Flynn was headed next. The first thing you notice is that the tour is sponsored by Charisma News, a charismatic Christian outlet. The next thing you should notice is the list of upcoming venues: Trinity Gospel Temple in Ohio, Awaken Church in California, The River Church in Oregon, and Burnsview Baptist Church in South Carolina.
He then honed in on the connection to Pentecostalism:
Pentecostal Christianity, despite its immense size, is about as far from elite American culture as Mercury is from Mars. And this means it’s quite distant from elite Evangelical culture as well. Right-wing blue-check theologians and pastors who speak disdainfully of warnings about Christian nationalism because it’s not something they see in their churches never darken the door of a Pentecostal church.
They’re almost wholly unfamiliar with the world of “prophets” and “apostles” who have helped fuel much of the fervor for Trump. It’s no coincidence that Paula White, a pentecostal pastor herself, was Trump’s spiritual adviser. Trumpism penetrated pentecostalism early. I do not mean to say that all pentecostals are Trump supporters, much less Christian nationalists. But you can’t understand the Trumpist Christian core without understanding its pentecostal connection.
The reality is that Pentecostals are a group that is ripe for grifting: They feel powerless, so they are attracted to promises of power. They tend to be lower income, and are therefore attracted to promises of great wealth (and, because of the prevalence of the Prosperity Gospel, believe that wealth is proof of God’s favor and blessing). And many within Pentecostalism tend to be immigrants (or from a family of immigrants) who fled oppressive regimes and have a more-than-healthy skepticism of government, making them prone to believe conspiracy theories.
I know all of this because I grew up Pentecostal. Within the movement is preachers like Johnny Enlow, who have mixed QAnon with their religion:
Religious grifting probably isn’t the easiest thing to get away with, given that most churches will avoid having guys like Mike Flynn come and preach from the pulpit. But some still do. At the church I attended as a child, Walid Shoebat was invited to speak to us, and gave his “testimony.” He was a former Palestinian terrorist who converted to Christianity after hearing God speak to him. In his telling, Shoebat was on his way to throw a bomb in a bank, when God spoke to him and told him not to, thus leading to his conversion. I was super taken in by what Shoebat had to say, and he even made me stand up in the sanctuary to praise me for knowing where Mauritania was located (I am good at geography).
The problem with Shoebat’s story is that it’s totally made up. There is no evidence he was ever a terrorist, and the bank that he supposedly attempted to blow up didn’t exist at the time. But again, his story appealed to Christians: He is a reformed Muslim attacking his former lifestyle (much like Straka and Owens), and his conversion to Christianity makes up the biggest part of his appeal. It tells other Christians that Christianity is real, even if Shoebat’s story is fake.
Of the three types of grifters, I think religious con-men are the most dangerous. A large part of grifting relies on an appeal to a person’s emotions, and there are few things people get more emotional about than religion.
It’s easy to say that some of this is deserved. For instance, if someone wants to get conned by a preacher like Joel Osteen, who promises people that God wants them to be healthy and wealthy while he takes their money and lives in a giant mansion (and also finds millions of dollars that went “missing” in a burglary in the walls of his own church), that’s ultimately on them.
But when someone mixes politics and religion, like Enlow, that’s when grifting becomes more than just fleecing people for their money. When you mess with the emotions connected to religion and politics, and tell people that a change is coming that will make them feel powerful again, it can be crushing when that doesn’t happen. French wrote in 2020 (i.e., before January 6th), that this will drive people to violence:
I’m going to be as blunt as possible: Language like Metaxas’s, like the Texas GOP’s, and like some of the statements you’ll read below embody a form of fanaticism that can lead to deadly violence. There isn’t a theological defense for it. Indeed, its fury and slander directly contradict biblical commands. When core biblical values are contingent, but support for Donald Trump is not, then idolatry is the result.
We’re way, way past concerns for the church’s “public witness.” We’re way past concerns over whether the “reputation” of the church will survive this wave of insanity. There is no other way to say this. A significant movement of American Christians—encouraged by the president himself—is now directly threatening the rule of law, the Constitution, and the peace and unity of the American republic.
One thing that makes modern day grifting so different from stealing watches is the real potential for violence on a grand scale. There is no real evidence that McDonald ever got violent with Thompson even though McDonald clearly saw the guy with his watch. But when you mess with people who are emotionally tied to both their politics and religion, sometimes they feel like the only alternative they have is violence.
Grifting is like a long gloaming on the human heart. I often think about some of the “perils” of Capitalism, like creative destruction. But in the past few years, I think grifting is one of its major downsides. Capitalism does great things for people, and lifts so many out of poverty, but because the love of money is the root of all evil, depraved people will be motivated to lie and cheat in order to get rich.
I have probably thought about this topic all year, mostly because it’s hard for me to think of anything that is doing more actual damage to peoples’ lives and families. But I was especially inspired to write this after seeing Tim Miller refuse to debate Steve Bannon on the election being rigged, mostly because Miller knew the truth: Bannon doesn’t actually believe it. When you watch the video, you can even see it in Bannon’s face, as he grins after Miller calls him out (Poe was right about needing “grin” for any grift:
What a moment. After watching this, I wanted to focus on the people like Bannon, who know that their lies cause violence and suffering and decide to tell them anyway. They are smart enough to know that spouting anti-vaccine nonsense and election denialism is dangerous, but they do it because it gets them attention and money. So, the next time you roll your eyes at your anti-vaxx relative or moan when an uncle brings up the “stolen election,” channel your anger towards the people who deserve your hatred the most: The Grifters.
The Jackal comes back on January 13, 2023. Happy New Year.