By Frank Arduini
How an obscure southern preacher became a hero to “Birthers,” a laughing stock to “Obots,” and the single worst Baptist prognosticator of the future since William Miller.
Waiting for Zullo
A disheartened silence settled over the Posse for the next four weeks. Once again, they had failed to meet their own self imposed and very public deadline. Worse yet, the birth certificate “evidence” upon which they had so completely depended had sublimated away like a dusting of snow in the sun. While they tried to ignore it, the mockery was merciless on the Obot blogs. And in the comments sections of the birther blogs it had become generally acceptable to disparage Gallups , Zullo and Arpaio without fear of being automatically banned as an Obot. Even some of the remaining faithful conceded that while they still believed, it really had begun to sound like Aesop’s fable of the boy who cried wolf, except that in the birther version the boy never actually got eaten.
If nothing else, Gallups had to be getting very tired of reassuring his listeners that he was not lying to them.
If, as Gallups had repeatedly insisted, the Posse investigation was a pursuit of truth, this would have been a very good time to soberly reassess what had been settled truthfully to this point. But if anyone had expected a sincere response from either Gallups or Zullo to the debilitating setbacks of the summer they were in for a disappointment. Drinking from a shared font of paranoia and prejudice, their codependence had evolved into a mutually reinforcing echo chamber of two. There were secrets that only they seemed to share. They spoke on the phone “almost every day.” Gallups’ role as “confidant” had grown to where he now considered himself to be Zullo’s “pastor,” a truly bizarre circumstance to anyone familiar with the age old relationship between Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics. The religious component of their relationship was not insignificant.
The belief that something was “wrong” with the President’s nativity story had for them long ago crossed the line to a religious conviction. Their struggle was “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” The escalating obsession with the secret identities of some of the Obots, even at the same time they schizophrenically dismissed them as “irrelevant” and “of no concern” was symptomatic of the belief that they were on a crusade against evil. For Gallups it had always been that way, convinced as he was of Obama’s role in the Biblical end-times. For Zullo it was another step on his path to apostlehood.
By the second week in November, Gallups and Zullo were ready to reboot the “investigation.” From an evidentiary perspective, their new story was starting at zero. But the bald assertions of secret evidence had always worked well for them before, so that was not an insurmountable issue. What was a real problem was that two years of concentration on the birth certificate had delivered nothing, as even the birther faithful knew. No prosecutorial authority had given them the time of day. No congressperson had ever more than pump-faked their support. None of the VIPs they claimed to have engaged had ever come through. When media coverage occurred, it was invariably negative.
They needed a different narrative, while maintaining at least a veneer of continuity with the past.
The reboot formally commenced on November 8th with a PPSIMMONS post titled, “BREAKING! EXCLUSIVE! MONUMENTAL BREAKTHROUGH in Birth Certificate Case!” In a painfully vacuous 500 words, Gallups managed to say absolutely nothing of substance, all but admitting that the primary purpose of the announcement was to fill the vacuum of the previous month. But it also served to lay a foundation for the new spin moving forward. The new rhetorical rules were these:
1. Absolutely nothing new of actual substance would ever again be asserted, promised, hinted at or revealed. Absolutely nothing! Ambiguity was a virtue, clarity an unacceptable risk. This was a position they had actually evolved to the hard way, and had been incrementally approaching its ultimate complete opacity ever since the debacle of the second press conference. Give the Obots nothing to rebut, and there could hopefully be no rebuttals.
2. Equivocation would serve as the deliberate central tactic for responding to previous substantive Obot rebuttals. The stellar example would be their response (from here on out) to the Xerox workflow. They would refer to the workflow as “debunked,” “eviscerated” and “obliterated,” but not because they were actually able to show that the Xerox theory failed. Instead, these were all euphemisms for “we’re not making that argument anymore.” The conclusion of forgery was no longer to be based on forensic evidence, but on the a prior presumption that Obama simply was not born in Hawaii. So it had to be a fraud, no matter how forensically perfect it might be.
3. To fill the vacuum of actual information left by the studied refusal to provide any, two tools would be employed: Promises and hyperbole. If an adjective was useful, it would be used twice. If a qualitative label had been employed previously, the next label would magnify the quality in question. No level of exaggeration was foreclosed. Melodrama would be king.
Even the most casual look at the new rhetoric surrounding the birth certificate would show these rules in action:
I can also tell you that – based upon what I know – the birth certificate issue has been 100% settled. I am not at liberty to tell you how we know, but we now know without any argument or even the slightest shade of doubt – the birth certificate posted on the White House website is a 100% fabrication. (Emphasis in the original).
So there you go. The BC is a forgery. It’s 100% settled. There can be no “argument.” How do they know? They are not at liberty to say.
All the talk about the Xerox machine and reproducing certain anomalies found on the White House birth certificate has now been completely, forensically, and in 100% evidentiary fashion – debunked. The entire Obot minutia portfolio has been completely eviscerated. Their smokescreen has been obliterated. To all of those who have had deep concerns about the matter of the authenticity of the birth certificate – you have been vindicated. You were right! This will eventually come to light. Be patient.
Gallups might have spun this more honestly, but could not have been spinning more feverishly. This was written knowing full well that nothing about the Xerox workflow had been “debunked.”Certainly if it had been, the demonstration would have been inestimably valuable for the Posse’s credibility. It would have compromised exactly nothing about any other facet of the investigation; it would have vindicated their previous months of asserted confidence; and it would have soundly humiliated the Obots who had proposed the Xerox workflow in the first place. Neither Zullo nor Gallups had ever demonstrated the generosity of character to miss such an opportunity had it ever actually presented itself. But it did not.
Since they no longer could seriously pretend that they had proved forgery directly, they instead pretended to reason to it. After all, if Zullo could prove that Obama was actually born in Kenya, or Indonesia, or Saudi Arabia then any certificate saying he was born in Hawaii had to be a fraud quod erat demonstrandum. From now on, their assertions of forgery need have nothing whatsoever to do with any actual evidence of forgery. They could not drop it from discussion completely, after all that would put an even finer point on how futile the previous year and half had been for them. But from here on out the birth certificate would merely be a vestigial side show to the investigation, like nipples on a bull, or a baby born with a tail. “Again,” Gallups droned, “this entire affair is now much bigger than the birth certificate.”
What “entire affair” you ask? Rule 1: He can’t tell you.
Back during the CSPOA conference, Zullo had reportedly made claims that Obama was actually a Saudi, not the child of Barack Obama Sr. or Stanley Ann Dunham, and placed in the presidency by a complex Manchurian plot involving the Russians, the Saudis, the Kenyans, the State of Hawaii, Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground. It is safe to suspect moving forward that while the details might be different, it is a theory of equally spectacular inanity upon which Zullo had now fastened.
For the next several months, actual Zullo sightings became excruciatingly rare. “Updates” when they occurred would be spaced out with several weeks in between, and each update would essentially be indistinguishable from the one prior. In the spaces between, the faithful were fed periodic helpings of contradictory birther chatter; subjects ranging from “Obama is the son of an Indonesian Cult Leader” to “British barrister declares Obama born in Mombasa” to “Loretta Fuddy Assassinated by Frogman with Heart Attack Darts.” Every once in a while, however, a claim or detail would leak out that showed the Posse had grown no more competent behind the curtain than they had ever been in front of it.
On the November 22nd Freedom Friday show, Gallups was engaged in the regular repeat of earlier promises and platitudes, trying to string together as many synonyms as he could for “big.” The “new evidence” (still secret of course) was consecutively called “history making,” then “earth shattering,” and then finally “monumental.” Apparently at that moment Zullo was listening and decided that the hyperbole was inadequate. He called in to set that straight.
Once again, Zullo spent an inordinate amount of time tap-dancing around the “irrelevant” Xerox workflow. On the one hand he worked very hard to portray it as a “red herring” that didn’t “cut it… in light of what we now know,” and on the other he pretty much conceded that everything they used to “know” before the Xerox process was no longer important. Zullo had still not learned the art of matching his words to his music. If the Xerox was as irrelevant as he continued to insist it was, he should have stopped complaining about it month’s previously.
Finished with his complaints about RC and the Xerox, Zullo then took his first step in more than a month to try and reassert his own relevance and that of the Cold Case Posse.
I am going to tell you, and you could take this show and play it in the future that when this information is finally exposed to the public it will be universe shattering.
Instantly across both the birthersphere and its Obot compliment the phrase “universe shattering” became a wildly popular catch phrase. In short order it would return almost 20 thousand results on Google, almost all of them in reference to Zullo and the Posse. It would be held out both as a beacon of hope and a signal of absurdity, depending on which community was using it at that moment.
By December 12th, the impending shattering of the universe came to the attention of perhaps the last active birther at World Net Daily, Bob Unruh. Under the three week old audio clip from November 22nd’s Freedom Friday, Unruh pretended to conduct his own “Exclusive” interview with Mike Zullo. In actuality the quotes he used were all gleaned from Freedom Friday broadcasts, and then disingenuously repackaged with the clause, “Mike Zullo told WND.” It was distinctly reminiscent of Zullo’s own affidavits, consisting as they sometimes did of long stretches cribbed verbatim from old Jerome Corsi articles, but with the insertion of similar deceptive verbiage.
The WND article does, however, stand out for a single tiny reason. Whether Unruh invented the claim out of whole cloth, or he had actually talked to Zullo is not completely clear, though if the latter was the case you would have expected at least a single original quotation in his article. Almost as an aside, Unruh wrote:
Zullo explained that because it’s an active investigation that could produce criminal charges, he’s unable to reveal details at the moment.
But the allegations, he said, which go far beyond a fraudulent birth certificate, could be public as early as March.
It would be another three weeks before Gallups would attach himself to the new prediction, perhaps taking so long because of all the previous times such predictions had burned him. Or perhaps when he did embrace the March date, he did so by accident. It was certainly not clear whether he was speaking from actual knowledge or had simply gotten carried away in a conversation with another WEBY talk show host. But a PPSIMMONS post on January 9th, 2014 titled “’UNIVERSE SHATTERING!’ Arpaio Team to Release Investigation Info in March!” found Gallups’ collaborator Mike Shoesmith committed him to the prediction without ambiguity, without qualification and without any of Gallups’ own tradition weasel words.
Today, Gallups revealed that the long-awaited details of this investigation will be made public in March of this year, a mere two months from now.
Groundhog’s Day had returned to Birthistan. No. I’m not just making a snarky reference to the Bill Murray movie in which the same events repeats over, and over, and over. I mean literally, Groundhog’s Day had returned. On February 2nd, Gallups was back on the airways with an update titled, “Zullo/Arpaio Info Release Update! IT’S STILL ON! March Press Conference on Schedule.”
Nothing of substance? Check! Past mistakes and errors ignored? Check! Hyperbole and exaggeration? Here, judge for yourself:
The information continues to get deeper and deeper. The evidence continues to mount. Documented evidence as well as other evidence that’s extremely, umm, uh, what’s the word? I, I, I’m not, I’m not at liberty to tell what all they have. Okay? I just, in fact I can’t even hint. But I’m just telling you that he (Zullo) confirmed yesterday that they’re still shooting for a March news conference release date of all of this information. Universe shattering.
Gallups launched further into the rhetorical stratosphere when considering whether or not the media would be likely to respond as they had always responded previously, with a collective yawn.
This is so huge. I’ve gotta be careful that I don’t say too much or you’ll kinda getta figure out what it is. But it’s so huge that I don’t think they’re gonna be able to ignore it. I mean it’s that big. And if they do try to ignore it I don’t think that the international media will ignore it. In fact I know they won’t.
There will be an absolute, I don’t mean armed revolt, okay? I’m not calling for an armed revolt. But there will be an absolute American revolt if the American media doesn’t deal with what comes forward. Because what’s gonna come forward doesn’t really, the birth certificate is gonna be a part of it I imagine. I mean because that’s huge. That is huge. But this is not a birth certificate issue now.
Once again, Gallups provided a whole lot of words and said precisely nothing. Five days later it was groundhog’s day yet again, this time metaphorically. All the rules were followed; no actual information was imparted. But also, as in all previously promised deadlines going back more than a year Gallups was beginning to backpedal. Speaking to Zullo, Gallups began to qualify:
I know that, of course that it’s all over the internet and, uh, we’ve reported, you have said and I have said that shooting for a March revelation date. And my understanding is that‘s still the date we’re shooting for, but, but I’ve been telling people, and you can confirm or deny this, but I’ve been telling people that look, uh, there’s been no hard and fast day set, and even that March time period could shift as you continue to work.
After a year and half of this, it becomes a complete mystery why they even bother to set dates.
Another interesting detail came from Zullo’s description of “resources” that Arpaio had allegedly dedicated to the investigation from among his actual detectives. Zullo asserted that:
I know that the criminal investigation that we’re working on now, Sheriff Arpaio has dedicated resources in two full time Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office detectives. These are seasoned pros that are working this. These are the guys that go hunt down the really bad guys. You don’t want these guys trying to find you ‘cause they will find you.
This assertion would in very short order be tested by the Arizona Politics Blog. Confronted with the expenditure of taxpayer dollars after repeated assurances from Arpaio that the Obama investigation would cost them nothing, MCSO spokesperson, LT. Brandon Jones first confirmed and then denied Zullo’s claim. LT. Jones’ final email to Arizona Politics read in part:
I was misinformed. The detectives are not working on anything regarding the birth certificate. Not even surrounding. Mr Zullo was incorrect, they are working on other sensitive cases not even related.
In very short order, Zullo’s schizophrenic attitude towards the Obots was again moved to center stage. The “irrelevant” group “of no concern” were being ignored in a way that only Zullo and Gallups knew how to ignore:
We have a pretty good idea who some of the ones that are anonymous are. One in particular we know works in the field of artificial intelligence in projects that are funded by DARPA. So, that tells you a lot right there. We have traced IP addresses going back directly to the administration. What we’re finding on those is very suspicious as to when log-ins happen and when things are posted.
Zullo then proceeded to offer a description of DARPA that would have been just as at home in an Austin Powers movie, complete with “killer robots” and “psychological warfare.” It was all in all a fascinating account, given the fact that just a few seconds later Zullo would offer advice on how to deal with these ominous administration DARPA Obots. “Turn ‘em off. It’s the simplest thing to do. Turn ‘em off… they are irrelevant like I’ve always been saying.” Perhaps the clearest sign of Gallup’s capacity to follow this advice was in the title that PPSIMMONS put on the clip. “Zullo: Some Obots Working for Obama Regime – “I’VE GOT THE PROOF.”
On February 8th Mike Shoesmith announced a Prayer Support Group for the Cold Case Posse, intimating that they were at risk of being murdered by the Obama administration. Towards the end of the discussion, Gallups took the opportunity to backpedal further on the March release date.
It is coming down to the hour. I mean tomor… March is right around the corner. And as you just heard Zullo say and I was saying, I mean it, I, I don’t know. He didn’t give me this percentage. But it sounds like about a 90% chance it’s gonna come off in March. But it could be a little bit later simply because the evidence continues to mount. And, and you know Mike Zullo talks to me about these things and I know what’s going on and it’s overwhelming. It’s unbelievable. And, uh, er…universe shattering. So if we need to wait ‘til April or May or June, I mean, those are not Zullo’s words, these are mine. If we need to wait ‘til then to get this out and to get it out there good so the world knows it? Man, I’m cool with that.
By the beginning of the decisive month of March the Posse appeared to be slipping further and further away from any likelihood that they could finally put their money where their mouths had been since the spring of 2012. Two years of “new evidence” had delivered exactly no new evidence, and witnessed instead the evaporation of the old. On March 6th Gallups posted a video that cataloged almost every old piece of meretricious hearsay he could find and more than a few long debunked falsehoods under the title, “BREAKING PROOF! OBAMA BORN IN KENYA – Long Form BC A FRAUD?” The most recent of the “breaking proof” dated from 2010, and much of it was as old as 2008. None of it had originated with Zullo or the Posse.
As so often happens when things are going poorly, people pile on. On March 9th another assault on the credibility of Zullo and the Posse arrived from an unexpected direction. The impetus for the Posse investigation had actually arisen two and half years earlier from the Surprise Arizona Tea Party, and specifically through the effort of Tea Party member Brian Reilly. More importantly, Reilly had been deputized into the Posse investigation himself and participated as a formal member from April 2012 until resigning in frustration just over two months later. His account of the inner workings were published in an open letter on the Obama Conspiracy Theories Blog, and it was devastating; Particularly in its portrayal of Zullo as volatile, paranoid, credulous and occasionally memory challenged.
The opening paragraph of his letter captured a sentiment that was universal among Obots, and had long before gained significant traction among the birthers:
Once again, America is being told by Birther news outlets that new, universe shattering evidence about the Obama investigation will be released by Commander Mike Zullo and his non-profit, all volunteer, Cold Case Posse in March, or possibly April or possibly May or, possibly never, depending on who the Birther spokesperson is for the day. Even if new evidence were released this month, the Cold Case Posse has cried wolf so many times, who really is going to listen, except hardcore, agenda driven Birthers?
By the fourth week of March it was clear to all but the most blinkered birthers that Gallups and Zullo were going to miss yet another of their self imposed deadlines. On March 21st, Mike Shoesmith went on PPSIMMONS in a transparent effort to model the behavior that Gallups was desperately hoping would be a more general birther response to the pending failure. He began by establishing that he was just one of the ordinary folks in the listening audience:
You know, I am in the exact same boat that many of you are. I’m like, when are, is Zullo and Arpaio going to release the universe shattering information? Because you know what? I don’t know anything either. I just don’t know anything. I’m, people are emailing me going “Come on you guys gotta, here it is the 21st of March already and we were promised that it was gonna happen in March.” And, “Where is it?” and people have been emailing me since March the 1st saying, “Well come on now. It’s March.” Well you know what? I’m in the same boat guys. I’m like, man, when are they gonna release this thing? And I think to myself, man, this is, we gotta get this out now.
But of course, the purpose of Shoesmith’s video was not to demonstrate that he was “everyman.” It was actually to make preemptive excuses, and that’s what the remaining six minutes were spent doing. Most ironically, Shoesmith also made an effort to assert that March was never actually promised as the release date, having apparently forgotten that the unqualified, unambiguous promise of a March revelation was made under his personal byline. In the greatest effort to dampen expectations to date, he even intimated that the release might actually take months, years, even “more than a decade.” And towards the end, he finally telegraphed the real concern that had prompted this otherwise pointless preview of the deadline’s impending failure:
You guys have gotta let the process happen. Nobody has done anything to rob you of donation money. This isn’t a Ponzi scheme or any kind of scheme at all to get people to donate money to a group. That’s not what this is.
Much of the birther rank and file were no longer buying it. Not on The Birther Report. Not on Free Republic. Zullo and team had lost Taitz and her most loyal minions months before. The circle of people willing to believe and support was shrinking. Shoesmith’s plea seemed to indicate it was affecting more than just the contributions to the Posse. Certainly, Gallups was hearing complaints.
Adding injury to insult, on that same day the long awaited decision on the Alabama Ballot Challenge was handed down by the Alabama Supreme Court. Birther hopes had been high from the start, since two of the justices on the panel were already explicitly birther friendly, and all the others were Republicans. The case was also of particular interest to Gallups, as Zullo had submitted a lengthy affidavit at the request of birther Attorney Larry Klayman. It was this affidavit and its great length (if not great content) that Gallups had touted regularly on his program for months.
To no rational person’s surprise, the decision was another birther defeat, 7 to 2. Even PPSIMMONS’ Procrustean efforts to twist the decision and dissents into something vaguely fitting a comfortable birther bed could not hide their frustration. Their article impotently whined that:
Our readers may also remember that Zullo submitted a 40-page affidavit, attesting to his findings of fraud, to the Alabama Supreme Court, in this particular case, at the request of court officials. That document also contained the fact that Reed Hayes, a digital document expert often employed by Perkins-Coie law firm, submitted a lengthy sworn affidavit to the Zullo investigation that the Obama long form birth document was a fabricated forgery. Perkins-Coie is the law firm that Obama has used in the past in the defense of his birth certificate questions.
PPSIMMONS was confused. Zullo’s affidavit was 69 pages long, not 40. And of course, Zullo’s affidavit was not submitted “at the request of court officials,” unless one misunderstood birther Attorney Klayman’s status as “an officer of the court” as something very different. And as to Reed Hayes, he was not a “digital document expert,” was not “often employed by Perkins-Coie,” his report was not a “sworn affidavit ” (though it was 40 pages long), it was not submitted to the court at all, and his name was never even mentioned.
March was not quite shaping up as Gallups had led his listeners to hope.
As pages continued falling off the calendar with no news conference in sight, the videographer who months before had pulled the boneheaded move of briefly releasing Zullo’s embarrassing non-performance in front of Representative Woodall struck again. On March 26th he released a 9 and a half minute “teaser” for the Posse news conference. It was arguably the single most professionally produced birther video in the five years of the issue. The problem was that it had specifically been created in anticipation of a second round of “Sheriff’s Kits” that the truest of believers expected would immediately follow the big reveal. But at the time of its release it was a trailer to nowhere.
As the dramatic opening graphics splashed across the screen, an amateurish last second edition completely neutered the video’s intent by drawing attention to yet another missed deadline. The intended message was “The Greatest Fraud in World History is About to be Revealed.” But superimposed over that message was the only message that actually counted. “No Official Announcement Date Has Been Given. Much Patience is still required. Thanks for your continued support.”
On March 27th, Gallups dissonantly revived the years old birther trope that Hillary Clinton and Chris Matthews were the “First Birthers.” Of course, the claim about Clinton was a lie, and Matthews’ ancient misstatement that Obama was born in Indonesia did not even reconcile with any but the goofiest of birther theories. Worse, just 21 days earlier Gallups had been cataloging other equally ancient hearsay as “proof that Obama was born in Kenya.” Here we were a mere three weeks later and Gallups was now asserting (in a delusional recollection of an event that never took place) that he had personally heard Hillary Clinton claim she had proof of Obama’s Indonesian birth on Fox News,
March was burning down around him, and Gallups was no longer even trying to keep his own story straight. Born in Kenya, born in Indonesia, what was the difference? It is fair to suspect that the confusion displayed by Gallups regarding the most fundamental details of his own birther theory was a direct reflection of Zullo’s confusion as well; The same confusion that had repeatedly led them to impulsively announce pending revelations and then, when the time came to make them, realize that they had no compelling story to actually tell.
On the penultimate day of March the frustrated sense of anxiety blanketing the birthersphere was at a fever pitch. On the birther blogs, those who were already declaring another Gallups failure outnumbered the tiny number of remaining hopefuls almost two to one. On the Obot blogs, full helpings of smug snark could be found with almost every mouse click. And the closest thing to an announcement from Zullo and the Posse that could be found anywhere on-line or in the media was a frustrated and flaccid message from Zullo that “If people don’t hear it from me, it isn’t true. Furthermore, when I release information about this it will be released to Carl Gallups and through PPSIMMONS.”
April Fool’s day 2014 broke across the globe without incident. And nobody heard it from Zullo.
To be concluded…
[RC: This is the tenth in a series of guest articles by Frank Arduini. Here is Part IX.]