Let's Art-Appreciate The Fuck Out Of These Dark-Money Anti-Muslim Ads, By A Doctor Of Rhetoric
Yes, America, this could REALLY HAPPEN if you elect Democrats.
The political transparency advocates at OpenSecrets have just published an eye-opening case study in how dark money worms its way into our elections, with a close examination of how just three big donors -- including Robert "Reclusive Rightwing Billionaire Is My Middle Name" Mercer -- funded a shadowy little "social welfare" organization calling itself Secure America Now, a group virtually nobody has heard of, but which is just one of the oodles of rightwing outfits turning anonymous money into political speech.
As a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, Secure America Now (SAN) is not required to disclose its donors to the public, but they are required to report them to the IRS. This information is usually redacted when provided for public inspection. However, when OpenSecrets called to request a 2016 return, an unredacted return was provided by the group’s accounting firm.
The filing shows the largest individual contribution, $2 million, came from Robert Mercer, the reclusive hedge fund investor who spent millions in 2016 helping Donald Trump capture the White House.
It's some important investigative reporting on how Secure America Now exploited the wiggle room between election and tax regulations to spend a whole bunch of tax-deductible money on politicking, and you should definitely go read it because billionaires blowing money to influence elections -- and getting taxpayer support for it! -- is important.
Now that we've called attention to the important public policy stuff, we are now going to just gawp in amazement at three campaign ads SAN targeted at select audiences in swing states in 2016, because they are bugfuck nuts. Quite well-produced bugfuck nuts at that; as OpenSecrets says, they have a "Man In the High Tower feel" as they envision what France, Germany, and -- oh God, no! -- the USA itself might look like once they've been taken over by scary Muslims. For extremely base propaganda, they're a remarkably slick transformation of a Breitbart comment section into visual form. (Well, of course -- Mercer funds Breitbart, after all.)
Produced to look like tourism ads, the political spots, which ran on Facebook and in Google ads, invite you to come see the beauties of "The Islamic State of France," "The Islamic State of Germany," and the "Islamic States of America." Let's see what Islam-ruled France looks like!
You've got your Eiffel Tower topped with a star and crescent, Notre Dame cathedral with mosque domes on the towers (and prolly a Qur'an-quoting Quasimodo calling people to prayers from the minaret, because they tore down the bell towers!!!), and the Arc de Triomphe converted into a shrine for ISIS martyrs. You scared yet? You'd better be! There are also rapid-fire jump-cut inserts of scary Muslims praying, scary Muslims executing people, more scary Muslims executing people, explosions, ISIS dudes in the desert, and did we mention scary Muslims executing people?
In a truly outrageous fake French accent, the narrator promises, "Under Sharia law, you can enjoy everything the Islamic State of France has to offer, as long as you follow the rules" (cue the 1-second blipvert murder montage). She also advises that the Louvre has finally fixed up the Mona Lisa to appear "as a woman should" -- in a burqa, haw-haw! It's not exactly subtle stuff: The bit about the repurposed Arc de Triomphe says it now "rightfully stands for the the brave jihadi fighters who gave their lives for our fearless leaders." Yes, really. Sorry, no pic of Fearless Leader from Rocky & Bullwinkle.
It's a bit hit-or-miss, unless you assume the target audience is literally terrified of everything about Muslims -- like the Champs-Élysées with Arabic writing on street signs, or the line "grab a bite to eat at one of our famous restaurants -- as long as it isn't during a fast." Simply horrific.
The "Islamic State of Germany" is the weakest of the three, warning you'll need to watch out for IEDs in the Black Forest, and that "infiltration through Syrian refugees has allowed our brave jihadi fighters to conquer, conform, and convert Germany, extending our caliphate," which is what happens when propagandists stop being real and try alliteration.
Maybe they just ran out of German landmarks to work with here, or assumed Americans wouldn't recognize any places in Germany? But lord knows they try to suggest some great German traditions will be forever corrupted by Muslims. Over a photoshopped sign reading "Wilkommen Zum Oktoberfest: Now Pork and Alcohol Free" (you know how those Germans make their signs in English, with Arabic underneath to scare people), the narrator enthuses,
Celebrate the arranged marriages of future jihadi soldiers at Oktoberfest! You can even sell your daughter or sister to be married!
Yes, and there's a woman in a burqa. The great Christian cathedrals will, again, become mosques full of scary Muslims praying, blah blah blah. It's pretty lazy.
Oh but the SAN comics really pulled out the stops for the "Islamic States of America" ad, released just days before the 2016 election. Now those nasty Muslims have gone too far, with photoshopped desecrations of AMERICAN icons:
That opening logo reminds us of something, though we can't swear the visual echo is intentional:
That "S" is definitely the same font, no? Like the other ads, this one pushes Breitbart articles of faith, like scary Muslims pouring into America through our completely open southern border. Visually, you have Scary Muslims dancing their pagan dances outside the White House, discrimination against gays (because liberals are hypocrites), the Hollywood sign transformed into "Allahu Ackbar," and of course Lady Liberty herself in a burqa. The narration is every bit as realistic as in the others:
Weak leaders who have allowed unsecured borders and Syrian refugee immigration have enabled our jihadi fighters to infiltrate and overtake America. The Islamic States of America now proudly sings the praises of Allah from sea to shining sea, reconstructing the American Dream into what it always should have been.
See what they did there, with the Scary Muslim talk interwoven with patriotic language? They're gonna re-educate you! And of course, there's an unsubtle callback to the rightwing obsession with that one time Barack Obama said something about "transforming" America, which clearly meant declaring a caliphate.
This one also features a "Sharia Law Illustrated" magazine with a lady in a burqini, because that's all women will be allowed to wear if Hillary becomes president. All our 9/11 memorials will become monuments to "our Islamic victories" -- there's even a Ground Zero Mosque. Just to get the viewer good 'n' mad, the ad closes with children -- American children, Mandrake! -- reciting
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the Islamic States of America, and to our caliphate for which it stands, one nation, under Allah indivisible, with liberty and justice for men only.
Where the other ads closed with airliners flying off to the French and German Islamic states, this one ends with the photoshopped ISIS-American flag, "America the Beautiful," and the electoral warning, "THE CHOICE IS YOURS."
What's remarkable about these things is that they're very professional-looking, no matter how stupid the message is. A fair bit of work went into this stuff, which is surprising, considering how unimaginatively repetitive the jokes are: Burqas, Allah, no pork, women have no rights, scary prayers, scary Arabic script, and Jihad jihad jihad jihad. Not that we're expecting complexity from raw propaganda, but it all seems like thin gruel to base an ad campaign on. Then again, considering the ads' roots in Islamophobic rightwing websites, just bringing the comments to video life was probably enough to make a few Trump voters nod and appreciate how well the ads spoke to them.
Oh, yeah, and as far as tax law goes, dodgy as fuck, which as we say, you can read about here.
Are you a fairly regular Wonkette reader and have had a nagging little voice for some time saying “you should throw Wonkette a buck every month”? That is called your conscience. Listen to it! It's occasionally right!
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.