Power

Meet the most insidious #Resistance grifters

Oh, and buy their books!
Power

Meet the most insidious #Resistance grifters

Oh, and buy their books!

The Trump years so far have been hard on all of us. An unending tsunami of bad news has resulted in many left-of-center types casting about for the answer to this seemingly never-ending political nightmare.

One place where this desperation is most acutely felt is in the self-styled "Resistance," a collection of liberal activists typically from the Obama and Clinton coalitions who have banded together to push back against the Trump agenda, mostly on Twitter. But in that collection of people are a number of desperate individuals who only want the Trump administration to end so they can seize power. Sensing weakness, these grifters have taken advantage of that desperation and are profiting off of liberal misery and hope. This group includes everyone from laughable con artists to social-media conspiracy theorists to conservatives on the reinvention circuit. Here are the ones to know.

10. Eric Garland, Louise Mensch, and Seth Abramson (180,000, 277,000, and 526,000 followers, respectively)

This trio would have taken the top three spots on this list less than a year ago. My, how things have changed. It's a testament to the mainstreaming of their grift that three of the originators of the #Regriftance — and the loudest conspiracy theorists to experience mainstream accreditation in the Trump era — have now largely become parodies of themselves.

Eric Garland, a self-described futurist and bassist, was once the toast of Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters and liberal magazine editors. Today, he rants about pedophilia scandals and sells a locked, subscription-only Twitter account named “Game Theory Today.”

A former Tory MP, Louise Mensch has reinvented herself as a “journalist.” Last year, her largely unsourced prognostications got her published on The New York Times Op-Ed page and an appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher in 2017. Today, however, she is generally seen as an unstable conspiracist — selling her audience on “elaborate theories” that imagine a mastermind plot by Vladimir Putin to overthrow the U.S.

Seth Abramson, a writing professor at the University of New Hampshire, might be the most accomplished grifter of the three. He’s currently trying to sell a book composed of his tweets — no new material here, just reprinting what's available online for free — while editing a compendium of experimental literature that takes the avant-garde step of printing authors' work without their permission.

9. Scott Dworkin (371,000 followers)

A longtime political operative and fundraiser, Scott Dworkin is known for his shadowy but constant presence in the Democratic Party over the last decade. Today, Dworkin uses the Trump administration to continue what's long been a profitable avenue him: scamming Democratic Party donors and candidates out of their soft-earned money with promises of consultancy success. Despite the fact that Dworkin’s career hasn't had many real-world results, he's still a master of self-promotion and telling people what they want to hear while soliciting donations for the Democratic Coalition, the nation's “largest grassroots Resistance organization” that radically thinks Trump should be impeached.

8. Malcolm Nance (456,000 followers)

A intelligence and foreign policy analyst for MSNBC, Malcolm Nance has successfully used his military background (he was a Navy petty officer specializing in cryptology until 2001) over the past two decades to build a career in which people take him seriously on matters of national security. In the beginning, this was based on his analysis of the Iraq War and Al Qaeda; lately, however, Nance has restyled himself as an authority on Russia.

Of all MSNBC's guests, Nance is given the longest leash — he regularly spouts off conspiracy theories that are factually and historically flawed, yet the network's hosts never push back in any way and instead nod along with each of Nance's ever-more ludicrous pronouncements.

Nance has seemingly detached from reality since he realized he could say just about anything about Russia and MSNBC would keep booking him. He recently accused journalist Glenn Greenwald of being a Russian spy and told this reporter he was racist for including Nance in a tweet that was the precursor to this article.

That Nance followed up the latter attack with a tweet exhorting his followers to buy his newest book, The Plot to Destroy Democracy (with a forward by noted intelligence expert Rob Reiner) proves he is skilled in the art of grifting.

7. Brian and Ed Krassenstein (513,000 and 773,000 followers, respectively)

Ed and Brian Krassenstein have become some of the most ubiquitous and annoying Twitter #Regriftance personalities of the last two years. The twin brothers — who were previously accused of bilking their online audiences by promoting Ponzi schemes on their financial-chat boards — have risen to prominence by tweeting insipid exhortations of no particular consequence.

The latest scheme is a cringeworthy book called How The People Trumped Ronald Plump, an absolutely bizarre liberal fetish porn extravaganza made even worse by its marketing to children. One look at the way Special Counsel Robert Mueller is portrayed in the book's art — as a late career Robert De Niro faced shirtless beefcake wearing an American flag tie and black skinny jeans — is enough to generate night terrors for weeks no matter what your age.

6. Nicolle Wallace (354,000 followers)

As the former White House Communications Director for George W. Bush and a senior advisor to the McCain 2008 campaign, Nicolle Wallace was partly responsible for unleashing Sarah Palin, the precursor to Trump, onto the world.

Regardless Wallace, an undeniable talent, now has her own show on MSNBC based solely, it appears, on her antipathy toward Trump and her access to neocons like John Podhoretz, Steve Schmidt, and Bill Kristol. Wallace's show, Deadline: White House, treats viewers to an endless, overly earnest spectacle about how the president is disrespectful to the nation's intelligence services while simultaneously attempting to rehabilitate the image of every ghoul from the George W. Bush administration.

The fact that nobody has looked her point blank in the face during one of her daily arias to civility and asked her what it was like spinning for the Bush White House during the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, and the Alberto Gonzales scandal shows just what she's been able to do by attaching herself herself onto the hull of cable news. It's an impressive grift.

5. Michael Avenatti (683,000 followers)

The perfect #Regrifter for the Trump era, Michael Avenatti burst into public consciousness when his client, adult actress Stormy Daniels, sued the president to void a non-disclosure agreement she signed about their alleged affair (the case is ongoing, though Trump attorney Michael Cohen's guilty plea on August 21 confirmed the payment was made). Avenatti's subsequent media exposure has made him a fixture on CNN and MSNBC.

A man with a palpable thirst for (positive) media attention, Avenatti even turned a recent hearing over a gag order against him from Trump attorney Michael Cohen on into a press conference.

His Twitter musings that a presidential run could be in the near future indicates Avenatti is in this grift for the long haul.

4. John Brennan (407,000 followers)

The former head of the CIA has fully reinvented himself as #Resistance martyr, especially with the recent news that the president is taking away Brennan's security clearance. Even in the company of spies, though, Brennan is a particularly nasty piece of work: he was allegedly complicit in CIA use of torture in 2008 and defended the practice in 2014.

Since leaving the agency, Brennan's been on a mostly traditional path for people of his distinction; accepting a fellowship with Fordham University and, of course, joining MSNBC as a commentator. Brennan's also used his time out of office to attack the president in increasingly stark terms.

The former director apparently went too far earlier this month when he called Trump's comments disparaging the U.S. intelligence communities as "nothing short of treasonous." This triggered Trump to revoke Brennan's security clearance, resulting in this stunning display of squirreliness:

Brennan's stature in the intelligence community combined with his visceral dislike for the president puts him on the shortlist for VP in 2020 — a full circle of Resistance grift.

3. David Frum (679,000 followers)

David Frum, who as one of George W. Bush's speechwriters was a key figure in selling the Iraq War to the American people, has successfully reinvented himself as a go-to intellectual conservative willing to appear on MSNBC and say mean things about Trump.

Frum is also a senior editor at The Atlantic, a magazine that still inexplicably enjoys a reputation as A. liberal and B. intellectual despite the fact that it A) hired Kevin Williamson, a hard-right writer who once called a black child a primate in a column and mused that women who'd had abortions should be hanged (his employment offer was later rescinded), and B) publishes Conor Friedersdorf, a self-described libertarian who rejects democracy and doesn't understand basic 20th-century history. Frum's writings usually revolve around the theme of What Has Happened to My Conservatism, typical pablum for the Trump era. He's published a new book, "Trumpocracy," taking advantage of the current Trump-Russia moment.

For his savviness in presenting and re-presenting himself to the liberal media and being welcomed with open arms, Frum makes the top three.

2. Amy Siskind (303,000 followers)

Amy Siskind is a longtime political operative who left Wall Street and became an activist after Hillary Clinton lost the 2008 primary (she went on to support John McCain). More recently, she said that neo-Nazi rallies didn’t happen on U.S. soil until Trump was elected (the now-deleted August 10 tweet read, “A reminder: we didn’t have neo-Nazi rallies until Trump took office — let alone in the light of day in our nation’s capital! Their hate used to be unacceptable and hidden until Trump came along and legitimized them”).

Earlier this month, activist Diane Elyssa and journalist Imani Gandy took Siskind to task for her previous positions — such as attacking the Black Lives Matter Movement and supporting reactionary Republicans like Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich — and called on the rest of the Resistance movement to disavow her. Siskind responded by insinuating in a Medium post that the two were part of a Russian plot to divide the resistance. Want to hear more? Buy her book, of course.

1. James Comey (1.4 million followers)

King Comey. Big Jim. This guy's talent for grifting is untouchable.

Take the now-legendary chain of events — when Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election, the first person her camp blamed was Comey. The former FBI director's every interaction with incoming President Trump was hyper-analyzed by the Resistance for a hint at Comey's real agenda. Comey was persona non grata in liberal circles until, of course, Trump fired him.

Since that moment, Comey has performed a frankly impressive political feat of gymnastics to become a hero of earnest, treacly Resistance types who populate online Indivisible groups and hold up signs at protests reading, “If Hillary Won, We'd Be at Brunch Right Now.” Comey's cloying social media presence, full of cringeworthy earnest posts of the former FBI Director — who, by the way, signed off on waterboarding, oversaw the mass surveillance of black activists, and was in charge as his agents manufactured terror plots for mentally disturbed young men to inflate their own numbers — standing pensively (or lost) in Iowa cornfields or on Iowa roads is just the thing for his particular brand of saccharine grift.

Comey probably hopes that he can spin this moment into a run for the presidency or some higher office. He's certainly perfected a uniquely unbearable brand of "sir"-ing the president and other GOP leaders (let's not forget that Comey only left the fucking party after he was fired by Trump, not when Trump was elected — the racist campaign wasn't a problem, just the loss of a job).

For his ability to take being the ur-villain of November 2016 to being the white knight, Jesus figure savior for a group of people who regularly pat themselves on the back for how smart they are, Comey wins the top spot. Congratulations.

Oh, and buy his book.

Eoin Higgins is a journalist from western Massachusetts.