Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Earlier this week, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an elliptical claim in an interview that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) was exactly the sort of candidate that Vladimir Putin’s regime would be interested in grooming as a third-party spoiler for the 2020 election. Gabbard, who has been accused of being an apologist for Putin and Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, has done little to counter such arguments by repeatedly leaning into political narratives that match both Putin’s and Assad’s.
Nonetheless, today we can watch as several of Twitter’s pundits decry Secretary Clinton’s comments as beyond the pale, as if everything else she predicted aloud in 2016 with regards to Putin’s designs and Trump’s conflicts of interest aren’t being demonstrated in one way or another at a daily clip.
This is how I end up reading into the history of the “Cassandra complex,” named after the accursed prophetess of Greek mythos, describing a situation in which somebody’s accurate claims or warnings are dismissed as irrational either due to ignorance or willful malice on the part of the listeners. The use of the word “complex,” of course, is one bias in the terminology — implying that the person making the claims is the one with the psychological issue rather than the people who refuse to believe them. “Cassandra” is the other, implying that the person most likely to be making irrational claims is a woman (see also the origins of the word “hysteria”).
This is how I end up reading more about the story of Martha Beall Mitchell, the late ex-wife of John Mitchell, infamous attorney general under President Richard Nixon whose involvement in the Watergate scandal led to him spending 19 months in federal prison for a small litany of crimes. Martha Mitchell had been one of the first people to suggest publicly that there was wrongdoing on the part of Nixon’s re-election committee, which led not only to a protracted campaign of harassment and undermining of her character, but a particularly harrowing moment in which she was kidnapped while speaking on the phone with United Press reporter Helen Thomas. The campaign to discredit Mitchell’s accusations included having a psychiatrist assert that her comments were delusional, which led to the coining of another phrase, “the Martha Mitchell effect” (essentially, a very specific form of gaslighting).
This is how I end up reading that the man who abducted Mitchell during her phone call with Thomas was former FBI agent Steve King (not to be confused with virulent Iowa racist Rep. Steve King), who worked for the Mitchells as a security guard and served as chair of the Wisconsin RNC from 2007 – 2017.
This is how I end up reading that this Steve King was nominated and confirmed to be the United States ambassador to the Czech Republic in 2017. This is how I end up reading about Miloš Zeman, president of the Czech Republic, considered to be one of Putin’s closest allies.
I’m not in possession of information that ties any of this closer together; I’m mostly surprised to observe yet another way Nixon’s den of snakes — which also brought us lords of chaos Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — has again emitted its toxic noise into our modern discourse. But when Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested this week that “all roads with [Trump] lead to Putin” I didn’t imagine exactly how far back those roads could have started and how twisted their paths forward may have been.