In July, 1518 in the town of Strasbourg, France, a “dancing plague” broke out. The plague started when a woman stepped out of her cottage for relief from the sweltering heat and began moving her body in the breeze, perhaps fanning herself with the hem of her gown. The fanning turned to rhythmic movements, which turned into dancing. And then more dancing. As people passed by, the dance caught on and soon hundreds of people were dancing their heart away.
Incredibly, the dancing continued for months with few dancers stopping to eat, drink, or sleep. Feet bled, muscles twitched, heads spun. Scores passed out. Many died. After a failed attempt to contain the chaos, the city council determined that the dancers suffered from divine wrath rather than an inexplicable medical condition (“overheated blood”). The council ordered the dancers to stop, do penance, and seek the intercession of St. Vitus, the patron saint of dancers. They did and the plague ended. The name of the disorder known today as “St. Vitus’ dance” (Sydenham’s chorea) comes from this true story.
Enter Donald Trump. The other day I was on an elevator with an elderly man in a wheelchair. The man complained about the state of British and American drama. This, in a building on West 54th Street (New York’s theater district). Suddenly, he turned his wrath on Trump, spewing out all manner of invective and claiming that the president was responsible for, well, everything. “Liar! Liar!” he yelled, his face contorted with rage.
I thought of the dancing plague.
Before Trump and Putin walked off the stage at the summit in Helsinki, Anderson Cooper declared the press conference to be the “most disgraceful” he has ever seen. The rest of mainstream media soon piled on with descriptions that included “treason,” “traitor,” “imbecilic,” and “surrender.” One pundit on CNN compared the press conference to–collectively–the Holocaust, September 11th, and Pearl Harbor. She did so with a straight face and without being challenged.
Then there was the Twitter feed in response to the summit “to every woman who threw up on election night, who sobbed on the bathroom floor, who dry heaved trying to imagine how to tell her kids what had happened, who couldn’t stop physically shaking, who felt the horror of what was to come….” The tweet ends with “we knew” three times in capital letters. To which, I have to ask, knew what? That Russia is the enemy and Trump a Manchurian candidate writ large? That it is treasonous to seek real peace with a nuclear power?
That Trump extended sanctions against Russia, increased military support for Ukraine, expelled sixty Russian diplomatic personnel, and called the Russian Nord Stream pipeline to Germany into question apparently have little bearing on the issue.
Does anyone doubt that there was an effort to take down the president even before he became president? It started with FBI infiltration into his campaign and surveillance of his private conversations. Then it moved into antifa riots, demands for a recount, claims of mental instability, calls for impeachment, ad hominem attacks on him and his family, accusations of collusion with Russia, a call for military intervention by a Congressman, and now dalliance with a Playboy model. If the Democrats had put half as much energy into fielding a viable candidate as they do in smearing Trump, they’d probably be in the White House right now.
Bernie Sanders was a viable candidate. Hillary Clinton stole the nomination but bungled the general election out of arrogance and old-fashioned stupidity. She covered her tracks with a private server and 33,000 “lost” emails. She destroyed the server, but the emails remain. Julian Assange has them. When he threatened to release them in the summer of 2016, Obama’s security apparatus went into full damage control with John Brennan, former director of the CIA, at center stage. The details read like a third-rate spy thriller.
The plan was simple but effective. Blame the loss of the emails on the Russians, who passed them to Assange. The Russians hacked into the Democratic National Committee through their military intelligence (GRU) and then colluded with the Trump campaign, helping him win the election. They did it, because he’s their MK Ultra mole. The only problem is that there is still no evidence linking Trump with Russia. You might as well go looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which all US intelligence agencies swore by. And if you know anything about indictments, then you know you can indict a ham sandwich. It doesn’t prove a thing.
Some have suggested that Brennan and, thus, Obama are the ultimate source of the hacking. This has sent mainstream media into a whirl (aka Trump derangement syndrome). MSNBC goes apoplectic over Putin, Whoopi Goldberg hurls obscenities at guests, and Robert DeNiro acts like an overgrown, over indulged child on network television. Hopefully, they and their ilk will faint in a swoon of Cold War cliches and overheated blood. They are all biased, picking facts to support their obsession rather than letting the facts persuade them otherwise like reasonable people.
Welcome to the dancing plague of 2018. I hope there is a patron saint for delusion.
Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. Information on the dancing plague of 1518 taken from John Waller in The Guardian. “The Peasant Dance” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder is a public domain work. Community dance photo by Nadim Merrikh on Unsplash. Guy Fawkes protester photo by Ahmed zayan on Unsplash. Note to self: St. Vitus is also the patron saint of actors and comedians. Better get a medal.