During the 2016 primaries, Seth Abramson — assistant professor of communication arts and sciences, law-degree holder, and most importantly, member in good standing of Resistance Twitter — spent a lot of time arguing that Bernie Sanders was in fact winning the Democratic primary, in spite of the fact that he was not winning the Democratic primary. After the election, instead of conceding that he was wrong, Abramson wrote a piece for HuffPost, in which he argued that Bernie Sanders had defeated Hillary Clinton, even though he did not do that.
Abramson used the full extent of his powers as an English professor to produce walls of impenetrable jargon that employed phrases like “palimpsestic ironies” and “the jailbreak of iterability,” but the upshot of the piece was that Abramson stood by the idea that “Bernie Sanders Is Currently Winning the Democratic Primary Race, and I’ll Prove It to You.” These were acts of “experimental journalism” aimed at using “attention” to create a “meta-narrative” in which it was true that Sanders was winning the election. As near as I can tell, what he meant was that by spinning such high volumes of plausible-sounding bullshit that was shared lots of times on Facebook, he created an alternate reality in which the bullshit was actually true. What was really remarkable about the effort was that Abramson managed to continue to argue his position well past the point it had become untenable by any reasonable understanding of reality.
Luckily for us, Abramson said he’d continue this method of forward-looking journalism in the future, and he, of course, did. In never-ending tweet threads, and one endlessly promoted book, Abramson has been making wild claims about “Russiagate” parallel to Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Well, the Mueller report has been handed in. It’s true that we haven’t seen the whole thing, but the attorney general has, and, as of right now, the president will not be going to jail, even though a bunch of wacko people online thought he was going to spend the rest of his Golden-Orange years in prison, while Steve Bannon enjoyed one last cigarette before the firing squad let ’er rip. Which means it’s time to conduct some more experimental journalism.
When we last checked in with the Russiagate gang — the subgenre of terminally online posters who are convinced Trump and Putin are best friends who communicate via private Discord or something — we were lamenting that their time in the spotlight was coming to an end. Regardless of whether or no they were right in their assertion that the president’s supposed crimes could be proven, they’d have to find a new angle to justify their 300-tweet threads.
So how’s this past week or so been for the Mueller stans? Not great for their credibility. But the nice thing about building brands off of wild speculation and invented facts is that you can just keep the train rolling. When people rely on you to help them deny what’s happening in front of them, it’s very easy to craft whatever reality you want from vague legal filings and disclosures. Mueller’s validation, arguably, would have made it more difficult to keep the scheme going.
Eric Garland, the “game theory” Mensa man who cracked the case using Google and blocked me on Twitter after I made fun of an old tweet of his, has concluded that a bunch of sealed indictments are a sign of Mueller’s secret genius. For more info, subscribe to his locked Twitter feed for just $10 a month.
Louise Mensch, who tweeted she is “pro-life and took no pleasure in reporting news of Steve Bannon’s execution,” offered a similar line of thinking in a blog post basically amounting to “I’m not mad at AG Barr’s letter, I’m actually laughing. The letter proves my point.”
“[T]he much reviled Bill Barr, along with Rod Rosenstein, drafted a letter that, over and over, emphasized that Mueller had not found, established, or proved, guilt,” she wrote. “Because to say otherwise would be to prejudice the trials of the loathsome batch of traitors who are laughing tonight, as I write this piece, but whom, I hope and expect, will be crying tomorrow — or on one tomorrow in the very near future.”
Garland has also pivoted to noting that he knew about recently indicted lawyer Michael Avenatti’s alleged crimes a long time ago. Don’t look over there, look over here!
Harvard Law professor Lawrence Tribe, who got a book deal capitalizing on impeachment fever (it’s still his Twitter banner), wants everyone to know that, actually, it’s time to focus on 2020.
Seth Abramson, who’s got a book to plug and who sent an angry email to my editor in part because I blocked him (years ago) on Twitter, wishfully described the end of Mueller’s probe as “an em dash in the middle of a sentence” to Politico. It’s not over until Seth says it’s over.
The podcast Mueller She Wrote, described as a “a binder full of women unraveling the mysteries of the Mueller investigation,” is still going strong. It has 7,224 subscribers on Patreon paying at least $3 a month. Its hosts, and many others in the Mueller extended universe, have pivoted to calling for the report’s release, using the logic that not releasing it indicates obscene guiltiness.
The Mueller diviners who have seen their predictions and promises go up in flames are now pivoting from knowing everything to pointing out everything we don’t know. We don’t know what’s in sealed indictments, we don’t know what’s in the actual report, we don’t know what other investigations into Trump are uncovering. After making grand promises and failing to sit and wait, the #resistance tweeters would like you to sit and wait, listening to them craft ever more fantastical meta-realities, as Abramson prefers to in his “experimental journalism.” So long as there are known unknowns, there are a few drops of attention — and money — to wring out of the special counsel.
Speaking of which: What about the cottage industry of Mueller merch that is now going to collect dust somewhere? Prayer candles, shirts saying “It’s Mueller time,” earrings and pendants? Maybe it’ll get donated to charity like the shirts for whoever loses the Super Bowl. One woman told MarketWatch that she made $38,000 selling devotional candles adorned with Mueller’s face, and that sales had an uptick earlier this week. One possibility: Mueller merch becomes an ironic purchase for the president’s supporters, like people who buy Fyre Festival shirts on eBay.