“In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do [?]”T.S. Eliot, “Gerontion,” 1920
Twenty-five years ago a Soviet-era defector named Alex told me about a KGB office in the Soviet Union. They had all the desks arranged on the main floor, with one large desk in the middle of the office at which sat a nice, helpful, old man. He was everyone’s friend. He listened sympathetically to the personal problems of the KGB staff. He gave them advice on all matters, and he smoothed things over with the boss, whose office door was always closed and dark. No one ever saw the boss except the old man. One day the old man retired and they had a party for him. It was at this party the old man announced he had been their boss all along. Alex finished the story by making his fingers into walking spider legs and said, “The spiders are everywhere.” Then he winked.
Of course, it is true. The spiders are everywhere. They are set loose — as T.S. Eliot suggested — in a “wilderness of mirrors.” Sometimes, in a wilderness of funhouse mirrors. Take, for example, the case of Brazilian congressman Alexandre Frota. Last Friday, in an interview with UOL (news), he charged several persons with unleashing a sophisticated disinformation campaign on Brazil. According to Frota, “[it is] run by the … writer Olavo de Carvalho and journalist Allan Dos Santos, owner of Terça Livre TV, which is openly supportive of [President] Bolsonaro.”
An intrepid detective, Frota’s “investigation” has unearthed several tentacles of a vast “right wing” conspiracy:
I began to learn of these digital militiamen, far-right militants, who are today dressed as parliamentary aides. With their credentials they are receiving good salaries, working inside government offices. We already have some positive suspicions of where they might be sheltered.
Congressman Frota alleged that a “dirty service” was being performed by someone behind the scenes. “Everybody knows it,” he explained. There is a shadowy person “living there and supported by Filipe G. Martins [the special foreign affairs advisor to the President of the Republic].” It is someone who sits in a special room, near the President’s office. It is someone who is respected by “the old man.”
The journalist conducting the interview asked Frota the name of this shadowy figure; but he could not fully remember. The name was something like Jefferson or Jeffrey. “Yes,” said Congressman Frota, “Jeffrey Richard Nyquist…. He is a person we are keeping our eye on…. He was often seen in the House [Chamber of Deputies], and to my surprise, his name was already connected with ‘fake news.’”
According to Congressman Frota, Jeffrey Richard Nyquist has been loosed on Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies, “providing services” with a charge of “between $15 and $20 thousand” to manipulate social networks, to mobilize “digital militiamen,” to orchestrate a “far-right” revolution in Brazil.
Of course, Congressman Frota has named me — the author of this blog — of sitting at the center of a vast right-wing spiderweb. Indeed, T.S. Eliot was right to ask, “What will the spider do?” In the first instance, I challenge Congressman Frota to document these alleged Jeffrey sightings at the Chamber of Deputies. As a resident of America’s Pacific Northwest region he will find me as difficult to catch as my political associate, Bigfoot Sasquatch. The thick forests around Brasilia provide us with ample cover. Don’t be a little girl’s blouse, Congressman Frota. Lead an expedition into the real wilderness. Step away from that funhouse mirror. Set aside your paranoid projections. My flying saucer is parked in a clearing, covered in camouflage netting. I dare you to find me!