by Richard Cameron
Had Kathy Barnette Been Shopping At Tops Market In Buffalo
Actually had Kathy Barnette, the black GOP candidate for Senator Pat Toomey’s Senate seat in Pennsylvania been there or Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) or had Candace Owens or Hershel Walker, candidate for U.S. Senate in Georgia or Ben Carson or Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (no relation) or Los Angeles radio personality Larry Elder, who crashed and burned in an attempt to replace California Governor Gavin Newsom, or former NFL player Congressman Burgess Owens (R-UT) or Katrina Pierson (Trump Communications office operative) or either or both of the right wing erstwhile darlings of the far-right, “Diamond and Silk” or Kanye West or Allen West or Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece Alveda King and, and…
Well you get the point I think and the paragraph was getting long even though a number of notable Black MAGAites didn’t make the cut.
But had any of the above or any of similar inclinations actually been at the Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo, New York on Saturday last when 18 year old Peyton Gendron opened fire discriminately on shoppers, killing 10 and injuring 3 – would the accused shooter have distinguished any of them as “fellow conservatives”?
Would he have pointed his gun away from them and instead, toward other Blacks not notable for their outspoken affiliation with Trumpworld or its franchises, including Fox News and the GOP?
Barnette, pictured above, who – and I apologize for this in advance, is the dark horse in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial primary on the Trumpublican side, which commences this evening, is perhaps the most remarkable current example of the dubious and ageless trope of “token Negro” in a political context.
She’s maybe even more so than “Michael The Black Man” as he is dubbed, aka ‘Maurice Woodside’ and ‘Michael Symonette’ and ‘Mikael Israel’ – the clown that appears at all of Trump’s rallies with a coterie of junior cultists holding signs and wearing shirts emblazoned with “Blacks For Trump.”
White voters and political operatives on the right, cynically embrace Black converts to Right-wing extremist politics because they believe it is an element that provides them a defense against the perception that conservative politics is racially monolithic.
Blacks and Latinos are convenient props trotted out to answer charges that Trumpism is rehashed White supremacy. They become a sort of mobile Potemkin village intended to suggest that “Hey, look at these happy, enthusiastic people of color. They understand our grievances and are eager comrades in arms. How can this possibly add up to racism?”
The psychological dynamic behind the minority participation in this gambit, is complex and multi-faceted, but to break it down to where it fits almost on a bumper sticker, it is a virtually always a social transaction.
People who would ordinarily be unremarkable in any other setting, become a shiny object with income opportunities and exposure in the conservative media – a ghetto of its own, that would be unobtainable in any other orbit of public life.
So, it’s far from surprising to learn that such prominent examples of this phenomenon are actually Astroturf activists, or to borrow an expression from the spooky world of Qanon and the conspiracy theory universe – “crisis actors.”
Here’s one example of an entire constellation of such. Candace Amber Owens Farmer. Who was she before she became involved in political sex trafficking? She was a college drop out and failed actress and model (meaning no one was interested in featuring her in television, movies or commercials), who advertised her wares on an interesting site known as ‘ExploreTalent’.
ExploreTalent.com is where scores of individuals are recruited by the anonymous shell corporations of the well funded political Right (think the Koch political industrial complex), emerge seemingly spontaneously and become what information security expert Chad Loder describes as “paid influencers.”
It probably begins as a side hustle and then transitions into a full time hustle as it did for Candace. Do any of them actually believe the nonsense they are spewing about the evils of vaccinations, the existential threat to ‘our yoot’ of “Critical Race Theory”, the “stolen election” or the threat of “socialism.”? With the majority of them, most certainly not. They are actors. They don’t have to be good at it, they just have to be convincing enough to the denizens of MAGAworld, who are already inclined to suspend disbelief.
The fact that those of us outside the fish bowl can see through them, is of no consequence. Again, Ms. Owens’ background demonstrates that these types have no core convictions beyond self interest.
Prior to her emergence as an ultra-conservative, she was getting no traction with a blog known as Degree180, where she posed as a progressive and in October of 2015, wrote an article strongly critical of candidate Donald Trump titled, “NEWS UPDATE: THE REPUBLICAN TEA PARTY IS LED BY THE MAD HATTER.”
Owens Farmer, Newsweek reports, opined regarding what was known then as the Tea Party before Trump subsumed it, stating that Degree180 launched an unofficial “full-scale investigation into the bat-shit-crazy antics of the Republican Tea Party. The good news is, they will eventually die off (peacefully in their sleep, we hope), and then we can get right on with the OBVIOUS social change that needs to happen, IMMEDIATELY.”
Once Ms. Owens Farmer, like so many others who then excoriated Trump, read the writing on the wall after the 2016 GOP national convention, she pivoted abruptly and staged a coming out as a Trump conservative.
Remarkable. Also burnishing her credentials as an opportunist looking to cash in with the Trump faithful, was her marketing of a garden variety Chinese made low grade, generic Android unit, sold as the “Freedom Phone” with a price tag of $500 and described by the Daily Beast as “a phone preloaded with apps like Parler and Rumble that appears to be a vastly more expensive version of a phone made in China.”
Critics noticed that over 6 months later, after telling potential purchasers that the main importance of the phone was to fight globalism and opt out of phones with either Apple’s or Google’s IOS, she was still tweeting about the Freedom Phone on her iPhone.
We reference all this as background for the evidence that shows avarice for personal enrichment and social status to be the prime motivating factor for these individuals acting as paid influencers. In this sense and in other regards, Donald Trump is the prototype of the level of narcissism than animates their behavior. Coupled with the avarice is a desire to evade any accountability or consequences.
Trump has been successful for his entire life in escaping consequences, although it remains possible that there could be an expiration date on that. And the same holds true, if not more so, for the element that models their behavior after his.
Hopefully, my readers join me in unreservedly embracing the moral imperative that Black Lives Matter, but patently, Kathy Barnette does not. She doesn’t because it runs at cross purposes with her personal ambitions.
Representative Elise Stephanik of New York, whose state was the setting for the mass shooting on Saturday, exemplifies this. She employs the sort of messaging that the likes of Peyton Gendron understand and internalize, but that Stephanik argues, don’t really mean what they unmistakably represent – that being the narrative of the “Great Replacement Theory”, which the mass killer in Buffalo on Saturday was ardently consuming as outlined in his 180 page manifesto.
And as Liz Cheney notes, it did end in “far worse.”
But we, at this point, have come to recognize and expect it from Stephanik and the usual suspects in Republican politics, particularly such as the “Freedom Caucus” in the House of Representatives.
What is slightly more extraordinary is Black politicians peddling the poisonous messaging. It’s disturbing to witness Blacks and some Hispanics acting as a supply chain for inflammatory discourse and ultimately inspiring domestic terrorism.
One has to assume that they expect that they themselves will not get splashed with the Kerosene they are dousing the social environment with in such a reckless fashion. Maybe that is a reasonable expectation on their part, maybe not.
But it is a casino bet. And it is a wager that people who share perhaps nothing with them other than their skin color, will continue to have to underwrite with their own lives and loss of a sense of security no one should have to be deprived of.
Still, there’s no guarantee that the very same sorts of aggrieved extremists and psychopaths, will, in other circumstances, distinguish the dealers of the drugs of hatred and fragmentation of society from their intended victims, if they just happen to be in the wrong place at the right time. Will this give the Kathy Barnette’s among us pause to consider?
Probably not. Avarice is among the most powerful drugs and potentially more addictive and deadly than Fentanyl.