Another Perspective On How We Got Here

Yesterday, I noted the ubiquity of efforts to understand what happened to the Republican Party. Equally predictable are the efforts to understand how America could have elected Donald Trump–how a man so manifestly unfit for the Presidency (or really, life in polite company) could have garnered millions of votes. True, he lost the popular vote, but that doesn’t negate the fact that millions of people actually cast ballots for him–and that even in the face of the damage being caused by his impetuousness and ignorance,  many of them continue to support him.

Amanda Marcotte, who writes for Salon, is out with a book that attempts to answer that question. Her conclusions in Troll Nation won’t surprise anyone who reads this blog with any regularity, but her approach is worth considering, as Andrew O’Hehir’s review makes clear.

“Troll Nation” is not about the election of Donald Trump. Amanda and I have certain areas of cheerfully-expressed political disagreement, but I think we share the view that Trump was the culmination of a long process, or is the most visible symptom of a widespread infection. Amanda’s analysis is, as always, calm, sharp-witted and clearly focused on available evidence. American conservatives, she says, used to make rational arguments and used to present a positive social vision. Did those arguments make sense, in the end? Did that “Morning in America” vision of the Reagan years conceal a vibrant undercurrent of bigotry?

The answers to those questions — “no” and “yes,” respectively — led us to the current situation, when conservative politics has become almost entirely negative….Most Republicans gleefully embrace incoherent or self-destructive policies designed to punish or horrify people they dislike, whether that means feminists, immigrants, black people, campus “snowflakes,” members of the “liberal elite” or (above all) Hillary Clinton. I am not the world’s biggest fan of Hillary Clinton, as Amanda knows! But what the hell she ever did to all those people to make them despise her so much is entirely unclear..

As O’Hehir notes, the self-proclaimed conservatives of the GOP have morphed from the “supercilious, upper-crust conservatism “of William F. Buckley Jr., whom he accurately describes as the dictionary definition of an elitist, to the delusional ignorance of Alex Jones and the small-minded hatred of Charlottesville.

The basic premise of Marcotte’s book is that Trump is not an anomaly. Much as we might like to believe that we are living in a time that is a departure from the trajectory of American history, Marcotte sees Trump as the logical conclusion of an undercurrent in conservatism that’s been going on for decades — attitudes and resentments encouraged by talk radio, Fox News and their imitators that have “reconstructed” American conservatism. Today, rather than political opinions or policy positions, it’s all about hate and bigotry and who doesn’t belong–who isn’t a “real” American.

Plenty has been written about Fox News, talk radio and other media that ranges from spin to propaganda, and the extent to which those outlets are implicated in the twisted worldviews of their audience, but Marcotte shares an important insight that often gets overlooked:

I want to convey in this book, and I hope in this interview, that conservative audiences respond to this kind of media because they want to. I think we underestimate how much people are going to do what they want to do and believe what they want to believe.

Blaming the propagandists and conspiracy theorists lets their audiences off the hook–it assumes a lack of moral agency. The people who parrot “Fox and Friends” choose their news, and they choose not to balance it with other perspectives. For whatever reason–impelled by whatever inadequacies and resentments–they choose to indulge in confirmation bias rather than resisting it.

It’s co-dependency.

Without their willingness to suspend critical thinking–their desperate need to believe in their own racial and/or religious and/or gender superiority, the Rush Limbaughs and Fox News blonds and purveyors of Pizza conspiracies would be out of business.

42 thoughts on “Another Perspective On How We Got Here

  1. This goes a long way in answering the question of why otherwise, intelligent college educated people voted for Trump. It really does get down to their “desperate need to believe in their own racial and/or religious and/or gender superiority..” even as they appear to the outside world have achieved success. All that bluster, all that finery, all that scrambling to “stay on top” cannot silence that inner voice that whispers that they are really no better than others.

    Truly accepting the humble truth of our shared humanity is called “growing up.”

  2. Loss of the fairness doctrine and the human mal-need to “WIN!” at all costs. GOP has all branches of government; self-pity filled grievance based white men have their guns and often enough they use them; Life is getting harder for the poor. those poor, the vast majority work harder than almost all the ruling classes, so that when misfortune strikes the poor person they are surrounded by snakes ready to take whatever money they have. Be this in bail bond, or health care, or car repair or auto purchase or getting a loan, cell phone, all those contracts they sign away their rights and are being used at 20 to 40% interest. Let’s face facts all this nasty rabble rousing has worked for the Right.
    I live surrounded by the pro-gun, anti-brown skinned, anti-abortion crowd, and they think they are pious and deserving. For all the breaks life has given them, I have found them to be the most incurious, self congratulatory, over fed humans on the planet. Ignorant of history, geography, science, the doctrines of faith, and compassion.

  3. I disagree with this comment, “Blaming the propagandists and conspiracy theorists lets their audiences off the hook–it assumes a lack of moral agency.”

    If I’m smarter than you, should I manipulate you? If I fully understand your tendencies and personality, is it “okay” for me to manipulate you?

    I know what Pope Francis would say and I believe Jesus spoke about the topic frequently. His message to the oppressors was very clear. “Do unto others…”

    As many people on this blog have pointed out, in the 80’s, the GOP used “dog whistle” coded language to incite their racist base. Reagan used “big buck” and “welfare queens” frequently.

    Today, that mask is completely OFF. There is no need for “dog whistles”. The base wants racists to serve them.

    The question is, “Do the deserve racist leaders?”

    A country with a moral backbone would say, “No, and being a racist is wrong.”

    Racism is a social construct used by those in power to divide the people and our media are accomplices. There are five owners of 85% of all the media. If they were truly the free press, they’d be saying exactly the same thing. The message coming down would be unifying and truth-seeking. This would bring people together.

    Those in power do NOT want a united people and they own the media and have a surveillance state to help them maintain their power.

    Tom Lund touched on the “access to everything” yesterday. Sorry, but it’s not ethical or moral for those in power (leadership) to stoke or incite racism or any other means to divide we the people even if those people have differences.

  4. Good morning Sheila!

    Thank you so much for this piece and the link to the article that I will definitely read. As you might imagine, I think about this a lot and how this once rational political party has gone so far off the rails that it bears absolutely no resemblance to the party that I grew up hearing so much about as a kid and as a young adult. My “senior” relatives, as I call them, would no longer come anywhere close to recognizing what they use to consider their beloved Grand Old Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln. What we have now is a complete train wreck and total sham that represents a grave danger to our democracy. As someone who is spent most of his life studying, in one way or another, politics both here and abroad the level of disgust I have with the current version of this party and its elected national officials knows no bounds.

    They’ve betrayed the country, its people and their supporters. I never in my wildest dreams would’ve thought that I would say such a thing but in my mind right now what I just keyed is tame compared to what I really think as very likely lots and lots of other Americans do too. It’s no longer my party, it’s no longer your party, and has compromised even the most basic long held ideals of this country.

  5. “Another Perspective On How We Got Here”

    Here is another perspective on how we got here; strictly mine own. We continue talking about the truths of the current state of the Republican party and the vast changes within the party foundation and representatives of the GOP and conditions in this country today. Should we be asking the question, how many who voted for Trump/Pence were casting their vote for Pence and his fundamentalist/evangelical religious strengths evidenced here in Indiana? He appears to me to be the 21st Century William Jennings Bryan, also a fundamentalist religious leader who was a dominant force in the Democratic party early in the last century. The changes within the Democratic party are just as vital to our survival – or the death of the Democratic party – in these mid-year elections and beyond as those we continually refer to regarding the Republicans.

    “Blaming the propagandists and conspiracy theorists lets their audiences off the hook–it assumes a lack of moral agency. The people who parrot “Fox and Friends” choose their news, and they choose not to balance it with other perspectives. For whatever reason–impelled by whatever inadequacies and resentments–they choose to indulge in confirmation bias rather than resisting it.”

    Their lack of “moral agency” is being touted and supported by their full acceptance of lack of morals evidenced by Trump’s words and actions and Pence is patiently waiting in the background for the opportunity to enact his personal religious based Indiana laws in force at the federal/national level. With Betsy DeVos “champing at the bit” to put her “God’s Kingdom” into action in our national education system; we will be moved back to 1925 and the Tennessee Butler Act prohibiting teaching of evolution in schools receiving public funds and replace it with required teaching of creationism.

    “…Trump is not an anomaly. Much as we might like to believe that we are living in a time that is a departure from the trajectory of American history, Marcotte sees Trump as the logical conclusion of an undercurrent in conservatism that’s been going on for decades — attitudes and resentments encouraged by talk radio, Fox News and their imitators that have “reconstructed” American conservatism.”

    The “reconstructed American conservatism” is now referred to as “evangelism” and is running rampant through this nation as the salvation of our basic freedom and civil and human rights with their rallying cry of “Make America Great Again” which in reality translates to “Make America WHITE Again”. And all in the name of “gimme that old time religion” by the evangelists now in control of all three branches of this government.

    “Without their willingness to suspend critical thinking–their desperate need to believe in their own racial and/or religious and/or gender superiority, the Rush Limbaughs and Fox News blonds and purveyors of Pizza conspiracies would be out of business.”

    Well; I warned you this would be another perspective.

  6. ” Most Republicans gleefully embrace incoherent or self-destructive policies designed to punish or horrify people they dislike…”

    Sorry, can’t buy this. The Republican electorate is not mostly motivated by hate. Nor are most Republicans bad people. This explanation for the election of Donald Trump, serving as a premise for an electoral strategy, leads us down the wrong path to oust him.

  7. MCV,

    “Loss of the fairness doctrine and the human mal-need to “WIN!” at all costs.”

    Just as damaging to the future of democracy was the adoption of the TRIANGULATION STRATEGY by Bill Clinton. The Democratic Party doesn’t have CLEAN HANDS in this MONUMENTAL DISASTER.

  8. Nearly 63 million people voted for 45. So let’s just say that 63 million of us might just be that bad. I blame those who didn’t vote. These people who have opted not to participate in what should be seen as a duty, have given us this mess. They have been going down that road for many years, never giving any regard to the consequences of their inaction and now we are paying a heavy price.

  9. John Neal,

    You don’t have to be motivated by hate to be a “bad “person. Motivation by greed, by narcissism, by materialism, by laziness, by egoism qualifies one for such a label too, as all of these motives are fed by depriving others of what should be theirs.

  10. On my honor, I have never capitulated since I have been 21 years of age. No one says you have to do it. You just have to be willing to take the good with the bad.

  11. There’s an old saying to the effect: “There’s a time to live and a time to die.” We’re sort of caught in the middle right now. That makes it harder to make the right decision. Nevertheless, you have to make one.

  12. This is perfect!

    “Without their willingness to suspend critical thinking–their desperate need to believe in their own racial and/or religious and/or gender superiority, the Rush Limbaughs and Fox News blonds and purveyors of Pizza conspiracies would be out of business.”

  13. One of the reasons I stopped attending church six years ago was the hatred and bigotry of a large portion of the congregation. They listened to the haters on the radio and chose to only watch Fox Noise. They chose confirmation bias over kindness and I chose to stop exposing myself to their hatred and bigotry.

    In my opinion, conversations containing hatred and bigotry should never have been acceptable within the walls of a church.

  14. Our problem in America is very simple to understand. All you have to do is read: “Freedom for Sale: Why the World is Trading Democracy for Security” by John Kampfner ( Basic Books, Philadelphia, PA, 2010) p.242:

    “There is a vigorous debate on liberty in this country but the boundaries within this debate are strictly set,” [Eric] Foner says. He suggests there is a mismatch between the rhetoric and the reality. “Teaching American history after 9/11 tell us that our devotion to freedom is not as powerful as we like to think it is.” Freedom, American-style, requires CONFORMITY; one must understand its limits….”

  15. Nancy,

    Yes, CONFIRMATION BIAS is the big thing about the media. Those who are basically insecure in their own skins and are incapable of developing their own, well thought out philosophy will succumb to some form of this behavior.

    “Much as we might like to believe that we are living in a time that is a departure from the trajectory of American history, Marcotte sees Trump as the logical conclusion of an undercurrent in conservatism that’s been going on for decades — attitudes and resentments encouraged by talk radio, Fox News and their imitators that have “reconstructed” American conservatism. Today, rather than political opinions or policy positions, it’s all about hate and bigotry and who doesn’t belong–who isn’t a “real” American.” This sounds very much like a critique of two of my latest books. Marv has read them. But, it’s more that. It’s the creeping economic pressure from corporate/banking America foisted on the world by Lewis Powell. His call to arms, which Sheila presented here recently, and is printed in full in my latest book, was embraced by first the donor class, then the Republicans who are almost always most susceptible to bribery. Add in Milton Friedman’s Supply-side Economics idiocy, and we have the steam engine driving the so-called conservative train into oblivion.

    What I still don’t understand why the smart people on the right don’t see the danger of their actions as fulfilling the prophecies of Karl Marx that shows how capitalism will destroy itself. Add in the bigotry, racism and electoral sloth and we have made the stew for our own demise.

  16. I must add, what I just mentioned doesn’t apply to SheilaKennedy.net. That’s why Sheila has such a world-wide audience. Sheila hasn’t conformed.

  17. “In my opinion, conversations containing hatred and bigotry should never have been acceptable within the walls of a church.”
    Nancy, this statement pretty well says it ALL. And I mean All based on my simplistic view of what is wrong with this country now.
    I quit going to church a long time ago for just this reason.
    Those religious/or-pseudo religious extremists now in the cat bird seat are excited and enthusiastically supporting a mess like Trump and his supporters and will do everything to hang onto their Fox and Friends cheerleaders. They are having a grand time spitting on anyone of color; in particular Muslims and Hispanics, knowing full well they have permission and encouragement from the big dog in the White House.
    Regardless of how we got here, and whether or not we deserve this mess (as some have indicated), until we stand up to those in power this administration will whittle away what is left of our checks and balances until there will be none. I think the elephant in the room is simply what do we have to do to stop this trainwreck? We are sitting by and letting this insane man tear everything apart; and talking and talking and talking. I know, maybe a good juicy war will really be the ultimate distraction and the “great distractor” will still be in office. He is using this country as his own experimental toy.

  18. Maywin,

    “……until we STAND UP to those in power this administration will whittle away what is left of our checks and balances until there will be none.”

    Agreed. Very well said. “Standing up to power” has a lot of similarities to “speaking truth to power.” But it’s something more in my estimation. It puts your body at risks. And that is both a difficult and hard thing to do. But refraining from doing so, at this point in time in America, amounts to no more than the lack of CIVIC COURAGE.

    We all need to take a good look at ourselves in the mirror for the good of our families. If not, all we can look forward to is a rapidly spreading nightmare of FUTURCIDE.

  19. In the old days Philadelphia was known as the “City of Brotherly Love.” In the 50’s Penn was thought of as the “democracy bus” because of its non-discrimination entrance requirements. It was founded by Benjamin Franklin as a Quaker college. Their sports teams are sill called the QUAKERS. Both Bryn Mawr and Haverford, two of the top colleges in America, were started as Quaker colleges.

    Out of approximately fifty Quakers living in Germany, at the time of the Nazi takeover, only one became a Nazi. They have much to be proud of. Some religions, like the Quakers, have little to be ashamed of. I attended The Society of Friends meetings [as they are called] for a couple of years. Individuals make up their own decisions. They, for the most part, are not into “group think” as much as the major religions.

  20. Apologize for taking up so much space, but someone has to take the LEAD. There’s not much time left. You have to know how to win. I learned it as a Penn student in the classroom; as a R.O.T.C cadet [Voted #1 military cadet at summer camp with Texas A. & M.University and the University of Texas; and controversial co-captain of the greatest sports team in Penn history.

    I’ve tried numerous scenarios over the years. I’m now going to go with Director of the P.E.I.S. (PEACE) Network. P.olitical E.pidemiology I.ntelligence S.ervice. “You have to track, before you can treat.”

  21. Theresa,

    “to punish or horrify people they dislike” sounds like hate to me. But if I grant you your point and say there are other motivations behind this, are you agreeing most Republicans are “bad” persons, and that somehow can be a premise for an electoral strategy. If so, what?

  22. Let’s face some pedestrian facts. There are “R” number of people who will vote for Republican candidates this November. While it may be important on the long term to understand and treat the pathology that leads them to do that despite all of the evidence that makes the news virtually every night, between now and November nothing is likely to change any of it.

    There are also “D” number of people who will vote Democrat in the elections that they are qualified to participate in.

    A significant victory in the war to take back America for we the people requires D to be bigger than R in any place where it is possible. Will that restore perfect government? Perfect government can’t be “restored” simply because we’ve never had it. Will that restore functional government? No, that isn’t possible as long as Trump and his clown cabinet own the Executive Branch but that’s not the goal, siege is. Surrounding and isolating them from power is. Castrating them is.

    We can and should continue to study the pathology of freedom as well as the self actualization it allows and always be on top of the forces that threaten the democratic process that creates it. Maintaining freedom is a full time job as there has always been and always will me those motivated to take way more than their share of it. The long term goal is to restore what we gave away by our acceptance of freedom for some at the expense of freedom for all. But sane strategy requires short term goals as initial steps.

    This November it’s necessary to create D majorities in both the House and Senate. That’s both necessary and sufficient to impound Agent Orange and the Oligarchs. 2020 is coming perhaps not fast enough but absolutely predictably.

  23. John,

    Perhaps something can be gleaned from this by Thoreau.

    “You who govern public affairs, what need have you to employ punishments? Love virtue and the people will be virtuous. The virtues of a superior man are like the wind; the virtues of a common man are like the grass; the grass, when the wind passes over it, bends.”

  24. Pete,

    “The long term goal is to restore what we gave away by our acceptance of freedom for some at the expense of freedom for all. But sane strategy requires short term goals as initial steps.”

    Perfect general statement of our GOALS. However, our immediate SOLUTION, is creating a winning coalition within the Democratic Party. That’s a very FORMIDABLE task that has to be accomplished before November. It can be done.

  25. Marv,

    The Quakers are not immune from hatred and bigotry. The church I left six years ago (after attending there for fifteen years) was a Friends church. Republican hatred and bigotry has infested all walks of life in this country.

  26. Nancy,

    “The Quakers are not immune from hatred and bigotry.”

    You’re so right. Like the Lutherans there is now a severe conservative/liberal divide. The meetings that I attended were with a very liberal group. It consisted of about a dozen individuals. We met in the large caretaker’s shack in the middle of the largest cemetery in Jacksonville, amiss all the Confederate, Civil War statuary. Both of my parents and all four of my grandparents were buried down the path from where we all met, so that I could hear “all the screaming” emitting from their graves.

  27. I know that it is easy to name Fox News as the boogie man and they deserve every ounce doled out. But Fox News is out there in your face where the Sinclair Broadcasting Group is overt in pushing their biased and hate filled propaganda. Here in Portland, Oregon the ABC affiliate is owned by Sinclair and their local news broadcasts reflect the views of the Sinclair Broadcasting Group. We need to remember the likes of organizations as Sinclair and continue to call them out.

  28. Another Perspective On How We Got Here – takes the path of what is wrong with the Reactionary Republican Party and listing all various excuses about how we have arrived at this point: Fox News, talk radio, evangelicals, racists, etc.

    Turn this observation around How We Got Here and you find an Establishment Corporate Democratic Party that has sold out it’s base – in particular Unions. Ever since Bill Clinton the Democratic Party has been in a long retreat. Did you notice any prominent national leaders of the Democratic Party shoulder to shoulder with the striking teachers across the country??

    Lincoln was President and he had a series of incompetent Generals that led the Army of the Potomac vs General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. He finally found a General in U.S. Grant that knew how to use the Union Army’s strength. The Democrats stick with Nancy Pelosi.

    As far as a Blue Wave that will oppose The Trumpet (aka Agent Orannge), I point to our “Democratic” Senator Joe Donnelly.

    Donnelly joins Republicans in move to roll back regulations on banking industry. Donnelly was one of four Democrats who banded together with the panel’s Republicans to block changes sought by other Democrats. The deregulatory measure, which weakens oversight of 25 of the nation’s 38 largest banks. (Side Bar so after the financial disaster of 2007-08, we need more deregulation?)

    Donnelly voted backed Agent Orange’s selection of Neil Gorusch to the Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch as the 113th justice of the Supreme Court with the support of only three Democrats, including Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly.

    (Side Bar – In a 5-4 decision on Monday, the court ruled that mandatory arbitration clauses in employment contracts do not violate federal labor law. Mandatory or “forced” arbitration agreements require workers to waive their right to file class-action lawsuits against employers if they want to get and keep their jobs, and instead enter into arbitration proceedings as individuals to seek justice and settle disputes.- Neil Gorusch was one of the Five Votes).

    Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) became the third Democrat to say he will vote for CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be President Trump’s next secretary of State.

    (Side Bar – Pompeo on the Iran deal: “It’s not a question whether America can prevent a nuclear Iran or stop Russian aggression; it’s a question of whether (the Obama) administration has the backbone to use the tools and solutions available,” Pompeo said on Dec. 3, 2014. “Each of these nations poses real threats to America and the West – what is needed is not ambiguity, but clarity, forcefulness and commitments that do not exceed America’s willingness to fulfill them).

    Senate Democrats Provide Key Votes to Confirm Gina (Mommy Dearest) Haspel as CIA Director.
    Six Democrats— among them Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly voted to confirm her.
    ===============================================================
    You have to give the Reactionary Republicans credit – They were united against anything Obama. With Michael Bolton now in the White House the Neo – Cons have their dream team in place – Agent Orange, Pompeo, Haspel (Mommy Dearest) and Bolton.

    The Democrats for all the marches and hashtag protests roll over and play dead when it counts.

  29. Marv, I’d like to understand about P.E.I.S. (PEACE) Network. P.olitical E.pidemiology I.ntelligence S.ervice. Could you explain?

  30. Confirmation bias! Everywhere. We are all guilty of it. For example, a wise friend informed me that if you do decide to eat bread (she thinks you should not,) you should eat it with lots of butter. Okay, said I, pass the rolls, please. We need more butter over here! The difference is, I can still recognize a calorie when I see one.

  31. Marv, what we disagree on is what’s possible between now and Nov. Both the R and DNC are who they are and will do what they do. In many states primaries are over and who will represent each party for each office has been determined and their campaign strategies revealed.

    Most everything is in place but the campaigning and voting.

    Democracy as always is plodding. The ship of state turns slowly. Six months comes faster than politics can evolve.

    What’s critical will be accomplished on Election Day.

  32. Pete,

    “Democracy as always is plodding. The ship of state turns slowly. Six months comes faster than politics can evolve.”

    This is where we disagree. I believe politics can evolve almost overnight. It has to do with the power of the stimulus that’s involved. I’ve seen it happen on more than one occasion.

  33. MG,

    Marv, I’d like to understand about P.E.I.S. (PEACE) Network. P.olitical E.pidemiology I.ntelligence S.ervice. Could you explain?

    First, take a look at http://www.StrategicPower.org. The Political Epidemiology Institute is much like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and especially its Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS). However, our efforts are only involved with viral epidemics of the mind. The anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany, for example, is one of the best examples of a viral epidemic and later pandemic of the mind.

    Later the WHO (World Health Organization) was organized to communicate mostly the dangers from potential viral epidemics that were being uncovered by the CDC. However, the CDC and the WHO are not involved with viruses of the mind.

    The P.E.I.S. (PEACE) Network is much like the WHO in that it is meant to communicate the RESULTS from our Institute’s TIMELINE created by, constantly, tracking and treating the anti-Semitic and racial virus that’s been COVERTLY spreading in the U.S., since it’s initial outbreak in the late 60’s. It uses a method called WARNING INTELLIGENCE. WARNING INTELLIGENCE differs from normal intelligence gathering as it is based on an ACCUMULATION of intelligence. In epidemiology, the intelligence is marshaled, hopefully, from the GROUND ZERO of the first outbreak up until the PRESENT.

  34. Marv,
    I just now had the chance to read your 12:50 comment. Can’t stop laughing! You mist have truly enjoyed hearing the screaming 😂

  35. Sheila – Thank you for bringing this book to our attention. For once it seems that somebody is telling it like it is. My complaint has long been how the “mainstream media” was afraid to name bigotry and the reactionary ideology for what it was. Reagan was not a “conservative”; he wanted to repeal a half-century and return to the glorious pre-New Deal past.

    The media soft peddled it and the Democratic Party decided that the only way to beat the Republicans was to become them — and spit on their traditional base.

    Troll Nation sounds like my next read.

  36. Theresa,

    I am in total agreement with the beautiful quote you provided. Let the wind blow!

    John

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