Is "something wrong with" General Flynn?

FRIDAY, JULY 8, 2022

Gellman reports from the front:  In a new piece for The Atlantic, Barton Gellman asks what may be a very good question:

"What happened to Michael Flynn?"

As Gellman notes in some detail, Flynn was once a highly-regarded two-star general, serving in Special Operations in Iraq under Presidents Bush and Obama. As of 2009, “I thought, God, this guy is flipping magic," General Barry McCaffrey is quoted telling Gellman.

Flynn seemed to be magic—but that was then, and this is now. Recently, Gellman went to see Flynn on a current-day front. Here's what he says he saw:

GELLMAN (7/7/22): I went to hear him speak at the Trinity Gospel Temple in Canton, Ohio, where he served as mascot and majordomo of a traveling road show called “ReAwaken America.” It was a proudly mask-free event; anyone with a covered face was asked to leave. There would be six dozen speakers over two days, including MAGA stars such as Eric Trump, Mike Lindell, and Roger Stone. But Flynn was the big draw.


Some of the things he said fell into a category of assertion that his military-intelligence critics used to call “Flynn facts.” “Read some of The Federalist Papers,” Flynn told the crowd. “They’re simple; they’re amazing, amazing documents as to who we are.” He added, “Ben Franklin’s one of the ones that wrote some of this and argued some of it.” (No, he’s not.) Flynn attributed the nation’s founding to divine intervention, adding, “That’s why the word creator is even in our Constitution.” (It isn’t.)

What Flynn has is an everyman quality, according to Steve Bannon, who said he declined an invitation to join the tour. “Mike is authentic,” Bannon told me. “To them, he’s authentic. He’s a fighter. That’s big.” Flynn reminds Bannon, he said, of his Irish uncles and cousins: “He’s not pretentious. He’s one of them.”

If this was authenticity, though, it was authentically detached from reality. The animating ideas behind the “Great ReAwakening,” expounded by the various speakers, were (1) that forces loyal to Satan are stealing political power in rigged elections (2) on behalf of a global conspiracy masterminded by Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum, and Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli public intellectual, and (3) that the cabal has fabricated the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to mandate dangerous vaccines, which (4) make people sick and may secretly turn them into “transhumans” under the conspiracy’s remote control.

QAnon talking points pervade the “ReAwaken America” tour. In Canton, [emcee Clay] Clark got a rise from the crowd with a reference to “adrenochrome,” which QAnon myths describe as a drug that cannibalistic global elites harvest by torturing children.

At this juncture, we're forced to note a basic point. Gellman doesn't quote Flynn making these very strange assertions about the cannibalistic global elites torturing children to harvest that mythical drug. It's true that Flynn is on this tour. But Gellman doesn't quite him making these very odd statements.

In fact, after watching Flynn on the front, Gellman is only able to report him making some relatively harmless misstatements about the Federalist Papers and the Constitution. This is a major problem with Gellman's piece. It should have been addressed by the Atlantic's editors. 

A bit of a journalistic flimflam might seem to be underway here. Still and all, Gellman offers this chronicle of Flynn's past behaviors—and he poses a question as he does:

GELLMAN: He has baffled old comrades with his transformation since being fired as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014. He led chants to lock up Hillary Clinton in 2016. In 2020, he posted a video of himself taking an oath associated with QAnon. He has endorsed crackpot fabrications of the extreme right: that Italy used military satellites to switch votes from Trump to Biden in 2020, that COVID-19 was a hoax perpetrated by a malevolent global elite, that the vaccine infused recipients with microchips designed for mind control.

Has Flynn always been susceptible to paranoid conspiracies? Or did something happen along the way that fundamentally shifted his relationship to reality? In recent conversations I had with the former general’s close associates, some for attribution and some not, they offered a variety of theories.

Did "something happen" to General Flynn? Former associates voice various theories. Eventually, Gellman writes this:

GELLMAN: One after another in my interviews, people who know Flynn speculated about the possibility of cognitive decline or a psychological disorder, then shied away. McCaffrey was the only person prepared to say on the record, “I think he was having mental-health problems.”

Has there been a "cognitive decline" or the emergence of a "psychological disorder?" McCaffrey was willing to speak about "mental-health problems.” The discussion of same ended there.

Gellman pulls a bit of an okey-doke as he describes the current-day Flynn on the current-day front. He works hard to make readers think that Flynn said various things in his Canton speech which he apparently didn't say.

That said, is something wrong with General Flynn? Could there be some sort of cognitive issue? Some sort of psychological disorder or mental health problem?

Our journalists hate to explore such topics when discussing public figures. Nothing will make them go there.

In closing, though, we'll offer these questions with respect to the crazy claims to which the Canton crowd responded:

What would make anyone believe such claims? What are we to make of the fact that anyone, let alone a cheering crowd, could display such apparent disorder?


  1. "What [sic] would make anyone believe such claims?"

    The way your liberal tribe operates, dear Bob, the things your tribal shamans do and say -- any, yes, absolutely any claim would seem plausible.

    Your tribal shamans are shape-shifting alien reptiloids? Hell, yes. That's about the only hypothesis that would explain their behavior...

    What is odd, dear Bob, is that you can't figure it out...

    1. Do you think using the word Shaman makes you sound sophisticated? It doesn’t.

  2. Somerby needs to decide whether Gellman is putting words in Flynn's mouth or whether Flynn is mentally ill. He can't have it both ways.

  3. Reporters do not talk about whether public figures are mentally ill or not because they have no basis for assessing that -- they are not qualified to diagnosis people, especially without a professional evaluation. Similarly, no reporter would say that a public figure was behaving oddly because he was going into insulin shock or having a low blood sugar event due to diabetes. Why not? Because it is a statistically rare phenomenon intimately connected to someone's private health and there is no way to confirm such a statement without a medical professional doing an evaluation, for example with a blood glucose test. Mental health works the same way. A professional needs to do the diagnosis using diagnostic evaluation and tests. You don't just look at the way someone is acting and say they must be crazy, as Somerby keeps doing.

    It seems terribly convenient that Somerby just announces that someone is mentally ill, removing any possibility of discussion of that person's views, excusing their behavior, relieving him of the need to talk about why a major political party pays serious attention to a person who believes such things. But the fact remains that if Flynn is crazy, then so are his followers and colleagues and the people who keep him around and take him seriously. And that is what Somerby needs to deal with. There is no "mental health" get out of jail free card in this game.

    1. For decades Bob regarded such
      speculation as the height of
      journalistic mis conduct. That
      all changed when Trump came
      along, and Bob saw the advantage
      of letting Republicans plead
      insanity. Still… he throws in the
      “what could make them believe?”
      gambit. (He doesn’t have a way
      of blaming “us” just now but he
      may think of one)
      What a slippery fool Bob is.

  4. You’re telling us, Bob?

  5. “End quote. Repeat the line.”

  6. Idea for a new blog, modeled after daily howler:

    Breaking! Today’s post: Is “something wrong with” [insert name of random Republican ].

    It’s easy, a no-brainer, and the gift that keeps on giving.

  7. I think paranoia is a combination of anger and ignorance. Does America offer anything else? No wonder people who believe two or more conspiracy theories are more likely to vote Trump.

    1. Paranoia definition: 1) "a mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance, typically elaborated into an organized system. It may be an aspect of chronic personality disorder, of drug abuse, or of a serious condition such as schizophrenia in which the person loses touch with reality."
      2) suspicion and mistrust of people or their actions without evidence or justification.

      Nothing about anger and nothing about ignorance. Fear seems to fit someplace, as does connecting things that are coincidental or unrelated to each other into an idea without reality (as in schizophrenic delusions).

      Conspiracy theories by themselves are not paranoid unless you have the element of them being out to get you, hostile, dangerous to you.

      It isn't helpful to rewrite what words mean or to form personal theories that have no contact with reality, such as the idea that paranoia is a combination of anger and ignorance, neither of which has anything to do with paranoia.

    2. I promise you that if you look up ignorance and theories in the dictionary they will be related concepts.

      Likewise, jealousy is a feverish boiling emotion.

      I'm sorry you're too much of a nerd to use your brain at all

    3. Look up word salad, while you're at it.

    4. “ In total, the percentage of Democrats who agreed on average with the conspiracy claims in the scale increased from 27 percent before the election to 32 percent afterward. By contrast, Republicans’ willingness to endorse conspiratorial claims declined after the election over all and for three of the four statements, pushing down the percentage of Republicans who agreed on average with the statements from 28 percent to 19 percent.”

  8. Is "something wrong with" Somerby? It seems like he has that on his mind lately.

  9. I am willing to believe that Gen Flynn is a nutcase, but I need a little more convincing. My problem is that I don't trust either side to accurately report what someone said, including the context.

    1. At some point you have to trust someone, but the catch phrase is trust but verify. With Flynn, he is in conflict with so many others who are sane that it seems obvious something is wrong with him.

  10. One thing we can be absolutely sure of is no one who uses the phrase “birthing person” or “chest feeding” is more sane than Flynn.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. While it is more accurate to use such phrases in specific situations, the idea that these terms are widely used, much less mandatory, in liberal circles is a right-wing invention.

    3. Like I said, this is a right-wing invention.

    4. Right wing invention when the Democrat Supreme Court nominee says on national TV she doesn't know what a womyn is.

    5. Ha the right dingbats really think they have something here. Examples of prominent Dems using either Term? Trump did sign off on the non existent war on Christmas.

  11. I felt an ecstatic rush when I did a booty shake while breaking wind. It was epic. You should try it.

    One time I passed gas while in a hot tub full of strangers. My joy was bubbling over.

    Another time I let one go while performing a barbell squat at the gym. It happened at the bottom of my squat and I swear it helped to propel me upward to complete that rep!

    But, then nobody can rival the flatulent superiority of Mister Methane.

  12. Flynn was abducted by aliens for a brief period in his life.

  13. One of the many psychopaths on team Trump.