What if Russian hackers drained financial accounts of Americans who oppose Donald Trump? I actually mused about this aloud to my husband over dinner on a recent evening. He told me to start writing a fiction novel.
Ok – I will admit that on its face, that scenario might sound a little paranoid. But I offer this: didn't it sound crazy two years ago, in 2015, when Trump announced his candidacy for president? And look at what's happened since then. In fact, look at what’s happened in the year since the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Wouldn’t you call some of what has happened, crazy?
I can think of a few potential disasters that could happen next. True, I'm a dystopian fiction fan. Also true, I knew Trump had a chance to win. My family is full of supporters, so I understand their angst. Another truth: I've always felt Trump's presidency would be dangerous. The man is cunning and knows exactly what he is doing. I go with evil over incompetence.
What if the Trump administration used facial recognition to identify any and all protesters against him at the Republican National Convention, the inauguration, or any protest held in opposition to him. And what if that identifying information was cross-matched to social security numbers, bank accounts, employers, social media, and whatever else they wanted to get their hands on? And then, what if all of that information was used in a way to punish people opposed to the regime?
One of the most effective ways to punish people would be to take away their money. This administration is all about keeping power – keeping their money. I think a legitimate way to keep people in line would be to threaten them with financial ruin. So. What if Russian operatives hacked into the lives of Americans and stole their identities?
What if anyone who tried to help those whose identities were stolen and accounts drained also had their money vanish? It could be a deterrent against any further organization.
Further, what if this bank drain happened on such a mass scale that it was impossible to keep up with the hackers? The good guys who fight hackers are swamped now, as it is. Theoretically, this could leave tens of thousands of Americans as sudden virtual paupers, with a net worth of a big fat digital zero.
What if hackers create some outrageous medical bill you suddenly have to try to dispute – with no money left in any of your accounts? What if a missed mortgage payment couldn't be easily fixed? What if that job you wanted wouldn't hire you because your credit record shows factual errors you are helpless to immediately rectify?
Does this sound too cuckoo to you? Did a failed businessman and reality TV star winning the presidency sound cuckoo to you at one point in the past?
There are the usual disaster scenarios to watch that fatigue the public in the media cycle of ratings and clicks. Fake News, North Korea, White Supremacists. What if the plan to keep sheeple in line was much more tangible? Such as loss of basic necessities – water or power?
What if hackers decided to knock out electricity in someplace like Silicon Valley? No ATM, no gas, no Frappuccino, no fruit slices individually wrapped in plastic for sale at a Whole Foods. People would riot by the third day. What if that area was chosen to suffer because the popular vote didn't go for Trump?
What if hackers shut down the water supply to some major city in the U.S.? No flushing toilets, no showers, no sinks, no laundry, no cooking, no drinking from the tap. No water. Period.
I'm curious about the people of Flint, Michigan. Are they closely watching the health care debate, or are they still 100 percent focused on getting clean drinking water? It's easy to distract people from larger, overreaching threats to democracy and freedom when suddenly your living conditions deteriorate to the point where you are living like you're in a Third World country. Suddenly health care and derogatory insults the president uses about journalists in the “main stream media” just don't matter as much when you don't have any freaking water to drink.
What if hackers stopped the water or power supply to New York City? Or even all of New Hampshire? Or any other areas or state that didn't have a majority vote for Trump? What if Trump is that vindictive?
After all, doesn't Trump want, for starters: names, partial Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates, political affiliations, felony convictions, and voting histories? That's information Trump's so-called “voter fraud panel” wants to collect about you. That information would not be stored with the General Services Administration, which is supposed to follow privacy restrictions. No: that voter information would be stored on White House computers. What if Steve Bannon decides he doesn't like your voting history?
What if the executive branch added all of that information from its "voter fraud panel" to the information it already has on you – and is still collecting about you? What if that information was provided by a shadowy firm named Cambridge Analytica – a firm that tracks your social media engagement?
What if every time you logged onto Facebook, Instagram, Google, Twitter, Snap, whateverthehellyouwanttoinserthere, you saw disinformation against one candidate, or one issue, and false information in support of another - on a scale even greater than you saw in the last election because people are scared and posting what they think is “real news”? What if you saw that kind of propaganda every day, from people you love and trust, for years ahead of any scheduled election? How would you even know what end is up?
What if Cambridge Analytica perfected its “secret sauce” - its psychometrics – and was able to definitively influence how people vote?
What if a firm like Cambridge could even go as far as to encourage vigilantism? What if your family began to pressure you to support an idea, issue, or candidate they favored? And what if your family openly talked about your opposing stance? What if that marked you for other punishments – going full circle – like having your life hacked for not falling in line?
What if you missed that billionaire hedge fund investor and Donald Trump supporter Robert Mercer was a principal in Cambridge Analytica? What if you missed that Stephen Bannon served as the firm's vice president before working in the White House? What if you didn't know Mercer also backs Bannon's Brietbart News?
And what about the media? Who's really running the show there? Sinclair – which is forcing local stations to run propaganda-slash-opinion pieces in favor of the “conservative” view. Fox's right-wing bent is already well-known. Time Warner and AT&T are about to merge and what if Mercers and Kochs and others buy up shares to pressure coverage for their agenda in favor of the gazillionaire club. Because that's what it's really all about – the money. The power. It's not about right or left or Republican or Democrat. It's about greed.
After the gazillionaire club stomps on the First Amendment, we're no longer a democracy but an oligarchy because they own the media and there's no way to get it back.
What if the real people in power, the gazillionaires, just want you to keep working so you'll make those house payments, car payments, credit payments, gas bills, phone bills, grocery bills, and on and on and on? What if their promise of the American Dream really means to keep you plugged into the system long enough to give them more juice – like you were nothing more than a battery in the Matrix?
What if the gazillionaires just want to keep people aiming for the impossible, old-fashioned "American Dream" based on a capitalistic system that relies on constant consumerism? On constant oil production? They own the corporations we all buy goods and services from.
Or, on the flip side, what if they know the gazillionaires know the American Dream is impossible for many people to achieve anymore because there are so many people and the robots work for less. So – again full circle - they threaten to fuck with your life, or they do fuck with your life and hack you or drain you to keep you quiet because they know they house of cards will come down soon enough, but they're going to keep you in line long enough so they can make as much money as they are able to with all of their power through their swollen egos?
In the meantime, to keep Americans occupied, after lives of excess consumption that has made them fat and sick and disconnected, there's no more health care. Water, electricity, credit score, right to vote could be next, so don't complain.
Think I've flipped my lid? Think it can't happen? I bet most rational people didn't think Donald Trump could actually win the presidency, and that his gazillionaire backers would lean towards objectivism, which ultimately won't work because of greed.
This is why their ideological goddess Ayn Rand's philosophical bullshit won't work. It sounds great – no oversight to achieve the highest possible business outcome. No chains to ensure breathtaking soars to unbelievable heights. Make America Great Again.
With this world view, there are not many gazillionaires with high enough morals to make it work for everyone. Dagny Taggart, Francisco d'Anconia, Hank Swaggart, they are not. Is there a John Galt? I think he's been suffocated in the current swamp.
What goes on in the minds of Trump and his inner circle? I have no insight other than to guess basic greed.
What goes on in the minds of his followers? Here, I do have a little insight.
A year ago, we protested against the GOP nomination of Trump in Cleveland, Ohio. Back then, I wrote about the evil I felt – yes evil – as delegates filed into Quicken Loans Arena. They were “protected” by a line of police. Totally unnecessary. Right-wing supporters were the people who openly carried firearms in a peaceful American city.
Many people seemed harmless enough. They would stop to read our signs. Like Mr. Pink, who was walking in delegate territory (I have no idea if he was a delegate):
Then there were the delegates. A few would give a sheepish look, like they knew they were about to change world history and were somewhat indifferent to their roles. One person told me, 'I agree with you.' My spouse says he heard a lot of that. I didn't. Maybe because I'm a woman. I got evil stares, dirty looks, people who laughed and screamed in my face.
Below is a picture of a couple of people from Florida who laughed at my protest. Certainly that was their right. But today, a year later, I can't help but wonder: are they still laughing? Do they think our receding democracy is funny? Or do they even think our democracy is in jeopardy? Do they even care? Are they wealthy? Super wealthy? Who are they?
Aside from delegates, Trump supporters would say something like 'Trump is gonna make American great again.' I wonder if those people feel the same way, today? I mean - deep down inside. At their core. Do they really still believe the guy they put in the White House is making our country great? I'm just curious. I know my family still thinks Trump is the way to the promised land. And let me assure you, they are not wealthy or super wealthy.
At least most of the sarcastic, rude, self-righteous, racist GOP delegates and supporters simply laughed in my face, and didn't use a bullhorn, like this blowhard:
I tried to hold my ground as long as I could. After about seven or eight minutes of his vile hot air, my eardrums hurt. My brain hurt. My soul wept for humanity. I had to move to another spot. This inconsiderate, immature ass wasn't even the worst Trump supporter or Hillary hater that I encountered a year ago.
One foolish young man purposefully bumped into me and my sign and tried to make it like I ran into him. But witnesses around saw his game and called him on it. Good thing. Cops weren't too far away and in that atmosphere, I could have been hauled off. Arrested now, questioned later. Thank heavens for those honest witnesses.
The worst Trump supporter was a guy who got so close to my face I could see the pores on his nose and individual eyelashes. He was screaming at me about being a woman and not good enough for anything. I didn't record him with my phone because I was afraid he would snatch it from me. Once again, strangers were watching. They did nothing. Not even men nearby. Once I was able to move away from the lunatic, a few kind people then told me they were ready to jump to my aid, if that had been needed.
It has always bothered me that those witnesses stayed back until I managed to get away from the freak. Why wouldn't someone have stepped up immediately to come to my aid? They guy was twice my size, screaming his head off at me, and visibly disturbed.
Would that happen today? Would strangers stand their moral ground and come to my aid if I needed help? What if I was black, or had special needs? What if I was Muslim?
In the year since then, things seem to have gotten even worse. It seems so many people I know have lost their moral compass --- without they have not even yet lost their health care; they have not yet faced financial ruin by identity hackers; they have not yet had their voting histories forwarded to the Bannon-Mercer-Putin-Trump White House.
What if it continues to go downhill? What happens if disaster, dystopian scenarios start to play out? What if I'm now marked as opposition? For my protests a year ago; for my vote against him; for my ongoing social media slights against him and his regime; for writing these words?
At least I took a stand for what's right and decent, and I can live with myself. And no matter who is screaming at me, or threatening me, I won’t back down from my stand against evil.
“Prophecy is the gift of God and everyone has a smidge of it.” ― Stephen King, The Stand