Far right Republicans and Tea Party “patriots” have been quite vocal supporters of Vladimir Putin in the past. They praised his leadership in Russia so much that John Stewart took a whack at their platitudes back in 2014. This appears to be connected to the operation of Russian propaganda news in the United States. But when did the Putin propaganda machine begin infecting conservatives? And what was the major driving force behind their apparent betrayal of American values?
Our digging has led us down a rather hate-filled and murky path conjuring up one of the most outspoken antisemites in recent memory and even echoes of the Republican screams of the non-existent war on Christmas. And of course, Russia. It is always Russia these days.
In 2010 Russia Today (also known as RT), the Kremlin bankrolled propaganda news organization, debuted on the American airwaves bringing conspiracy theories to the mainstream. Theories like the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, being conducted, not by Muslim extremists largely from Saudi Arabia as is commonly known fact, but rather by individuals residing in the U.S.
Theories like these were fringe at first. Crack-pots, relegated to obscure internet chatrooms and forums, would develop their theories and spread them around like ghost stories told around the campfire. Russia Today would bring these ideas to the mainstream, at the speed of gossip, resulting in an ever-growing distrust of the U.S government.
By pushing the 9/11 inside job narrative, Russia Today may have also brought Alex Jones to the mainstream. Jones published a tawdry “documentary” in 2011 proclaiming 9/11 as an inside job. RT was the only other major outlet doing so.
While Russia Today gained popularity, so did a little-known zealot
Along this same time came a zealot and anti-Semite who went by the name Brother Nathanael. Before 2010 nobody would have really heard of Brother Nathanael who was born Milton Kapner to Jewish parents. He began exploding onto the seedy right-wing Jew-hating scene with his videos gaining traction among the far right. Videos that praised Vladimir Putin as a “real leader” while demeaning then President Obama.
He even praised Putin’s lack of Jewish members in Russian government while citing Obama’s inclusion of those of the Jewish faith as an apparent weakness.
These videos also decried the “Jewish take-over of America.” Brother Nathanael started a website in 2008 where he “uncovered” these conspiracies under the aptly named “Real Jew News.” The entire focus of his work bent on praising Putin and denouncing Judaism while trashing liberals seemed to strike a chord with the far right and many right-wing blogs began writing articles based off of his ideas.
Libertarian Today, was one of his first breakthroughs into right-wing politics in 2011 which published an article expressing his viewpoints and begging the question as to what should be done to prevent further Jewish involvement in the U.S government.
Did we mention that Kapner was baptized at the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad?
While Brother Nathanael’s antisemitic rhetoric would only be spoken in the shadows by far right Nazi’s, one of his ranting protests did make it to mainstream media: it seems Nathanael Kapner may have been the first to cry over the alleged war on Christmas in 2008, Fox News began to push that narrative in 2009.
Fox News would run with this train of thought throughout the entirety of Obama’s tenure as president, riling up their Christian viewers and encouraging the belief that they were some persecuted minority in the United States. They would continue pushing this line of propaganda until Trump won the presidency when they would declare the war was finally over. How convenient.
This brings us back to 2010 when many of these so-called “patriots” of the Tea Party would oust establishment Republicans. They would bring their unverifiable conspiracy theories to the forefront of American politics, especially birtherism, which would first be used as an attempt to dissuade Americans from voting for Obama during the 2007 Democratic primary. And they would pick up an ally along the way: Russia Today.
Russia Today began running stories lending credence to these claims. In 2012, just in time for Obama’s re-election campaign, birtherism reared its head yet again on Russia Today where the claim was made by investigators working for much-hated Sheriff Joe Arpaio that Obama’s birth certificate was “definitely fraudulent”.
Tea Party nuts jumped all over it and the story went viral in the conservative blogosphere. However, much to the ire of un-American conspiracy theorists from coast-to-coast, Obama won his reelection bid and continued to lead the nation down the path of economic prosperity.
However, the Tea Party would not be relegated to the shadows of America’s political past and they retained some of the gains they made in the 2010 mid-term elections.
Russian propaganda has certainly embedded itself rather deeply into American society sowing seeds of distrust that have driven many Americans to the point of electing Donald Trump. So much so that Republicans sang the praises of Putin.
In fact, Republicans began singing the praises of Putin so loudly that, in 2014, one of liberal America’s favorite comedians would have to knock them down a few pegs.
John Stewart saw this whole Russia problem coming
“I’ll tell ya, the weirdest thing about this isn’t Putin invading Ukraine. You expect a crazy guy to act crazy. The weirdest thing is seeing conservatives in our country point at the crazy guy and go, ‘Yeah, I’ll have what they’re having.'” – John Stewart, March, 2014
And “have what they’re having” seems to have been an order for the whole table. With the current administration of Donald Trump effectively under investigation for collusion with Russian agents to subvert American Democracy, John Stewart’s words seem more relevant today than they have ever been.
Watch John Stewart’s eerily predictive video below.
Special thanks to our reader Ed Clow for asking a question that steered me in the right direction.
Featured image via screen capture