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What I told my friend about Hillary


Had lunch the other day with a friend, Roy (not his real name), who’s in his late twenties. The topic turned, naturally enough, to politics. One thing led to another, and my friend mentioned that he had negative feelings about the Clintons, especially Hillary.


He couldn’t articulate anything precisely, but stammered something about untrustworthiness, and sleaziness, and suspicions of criminal activity. Hadn’t he heard something about Hillary Clinton buying off the Democratic National Committee? He couldn’t remember the details, but…

Then, yesterday, I read an op-ed piece in the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle about how our country isn’t doing nearly enough to combat Russian interference with our upcoming elections—just as they did in 2016. The article quoted a Stanford professor to the effect that “When a person sees a message repeated over and over, even a false one, you tend to believe it more.”

That brought me to consider why so many friends of mine have hated Hillary Clinton. I thought of Ed (not his real name), with whom I had heated arguments in the days leading up to the 2016 primaries and election. He was a Bernie advocate, but threatened that if his candidate didn’t get the nomination but lost it to Hillary, he would either vote for Trump, or not vote at all.


“Because Hillary Clinton is evil. She’s a crook, a murderer. She’s done horrible things.”

“Like what?”

Again, Ed couldn’t come up with anything in particular, and the more I pressed him, the angrier he became. He simply couldn’t stand her, he said, and that was that.What was it with Roy and Ed? Why did they loathe Hillary Clinton, even though they couldn’t say why, except to impugn her character? Three years ago, I offered this explanation to Ed (and again, yesterday, to Roy):

“For thirty years Hillary has been the recipient of right wing lies, smears and inuendoes. She was accused of murdering Vincent Foster, of making millions in a crooked land deal in Arkansas, of trashing the White House on their last day in office, of standing by Bill during the Lewinsky scandal, of covering up a pedophile ring, of being linked to the Oklahoma City bombing, of helping to protect the drug kingpin El Chapo, of running around in blackface when she lived in Arkansas, of unspeakable negligence for the Benghazi incident, of retaliating against critics of the Clinton Foundation by blowing up their home, of being close to child sex traffickers, of assaulting a young girl with her aide, Huma Abedin, of leaving the country right before the Mueller Report was released for fear of being indicted, of helping Iran obtain enriched uranium…

Every one of these lies was repeated endlessly, and exaggerated, in right wing media, especially Fox “News” and on neo-fascist social media platforms. Hillary Clinton became the most investigated American in history—and not a single allegation was ever proven, not a single crime ever discovered.

And then there was the National Enquirer. Owned by Trump’s stooge, David Pecker (who may end up in jail pretty soon), the scandal sheet, as everyone knows, is right next to the register aisles in nearly every supermarket and convenience store in the country. For years, you couldn’t go to a market and not find yourself next to a “shocking” Enquirer cover story about Hillary Clinton: always there was a hideous photograph showing wrinkles, angry, insane eyes, a pursed mouth, under headlines that portrayed Hillary as running a Lesbian coven, or plotting someone’s assassination, or divorcing Bill, or dying from AIDS, or being abducted by aliens, or…

This was subliminal influencing of people’s perceptions of Hillary, and it worked. Even if you never listened to the news or read newspapers, exposure to the National Enquirer was enough to poison people’s perception and feelings about Hillary Clinton. And Pecker did it at his friend, Trump’s, behest.

Thirty years of this! Of lies, insinuations, smears, awful pictures, incendiary headlines, of assaults on our senses. Thirty years! As I told Roy yesterday, “For your entire life, you’ve absorbed this crap—unconsciously, innocently, but nonetheless, it’s been hacked into your brain. And how here you are, in the summer of 2019, saying there’s something about Hillary Clinton you don’t like. Well, this is why. You’ve been infected with a virus that was designed and disseminated by the Republican attack machine—and you didn’t even know it, which is why it worked: A hack only works if you don’t know you’ve been hacked.”

It’s too late to salvage Ed’s, or Roy’s, conclusions about Hillary Clinton, one of the finest public servants in American history. But you can count on Republican operatives and their friends in the Russian government to be working on new lies with which to undermine Americans’ confidence in the Democratic Party, its candidates and in American democracy itself. At this very moment, they’re hatching ever more diabolical plans to get Trump re-elected. When Roy, now becoming alarmed and influenced by my passion, asked me, near the end of our conversation, wasn’t there anyone who could do something about all this, I pointed my finger at him.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“You. You can’t wait for ‘someone’ to do something to stop it. It’s up to you.”

I think—I hope—I pray he heard.

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