Roger Stone is more than a toxic clown: He's a danger to democracy

Stone has manipulated the media, the public and Donald Trump like a Batman villain. Shutting him down is urgent

Published January 29, 2019 12:35PM (EST)

Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to US President Donald Trump, speaks to the media outside court January 25, 2019 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Getty/Joshua Prezant)
Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to US President Donald Trump, speaks to the media outside court January 25, 2019 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Getty/Joshua Prezant)

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Poor Roger Stone. Donald Trump's former campaign adviser and longtime whisperer told reporters the other day that federal agents treated him worse than Osama bin Laden when the terrorist kingpin was killed by Navy SEAL forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan. While Stone wants Fox News viewers and Trump’s Red Hats to believe FBI agents somehow accosted him in a way similar to being shot in the head and dumping his corpse at sea, the reality is that Stone is doing what he’s always done: He's gaslighting the public, scamming his fanboys and generally poisoning the discourse.

Since we’re talking about Osama bin Laden in this context, it’s not an exaggeration to suggest that Roger Stone also happens to be a villain. Since we’re referencing the post-9/11 era, he’s an evildoer. I hasten to note that he’s not a villain on the same level as Bin Laden, duh. But he’s definitely somewhere on the evildoer spectrum, and is thoroughly contented to be there.

Stone's modus operandi has always been to carry himself as a garish fashionista, unfurling his peculiar clothing ensembles in D.C. social circles and dark alleys alike, demanding attention and then, when he gets it, micturating all varieties of toxic carcinogenic slag onto whoever was dumb enough to return his call. Not unlike Trump himself, Roger Stone is a real-life Batman villain with less humor and more tricks up his Day-Glo sleeve. He’s the manifestation of nihilism and disruption in an age of unapologetic digital trolls. He’s patient zero for Trumpism and all of its damaging influence. In case I’m not being clear enough here: Stone is a malignant tumor on American politics, and I’m sure he’d be totally OK with that metaphor.

In fact, one of several key differences between Stone and Osama bin Laden is this: The latter thought he was doing something good, according to his bastardized view of Islam and his bloody understanding of jihad. Stone is happy to just be a villain with no real goals linked to his actions, other than attention-whoring and his own delight at observing the mayhem he inflicts upon the nation. Morgan Pehme, the director of the shocking and salient Netflix documentary "Get Me Roger Stone," told NPR, “He absolutely wears his infamy, and is only too happy to be the despicable villain that everybody hates.” Mission accomplished.

A man who’s content to be hated, and who indeed seeks out the hatred of the world, is capable of anything and should never be trusted or enabled. Likewise, anyone who believes his agitprop deserves to be burned by Stone’s bug-eyed chicanery. Along those lines, Donald Trump doesn’t realize it yet but he could easily wind up as Stone’s next victim. We’ll circle back to that.

Roger Stone’s indictment on seven counts -- including witness tampering and lying to Congress about his and the Trump campaign’s mutual conspiracy to obtain stolen documents from hacker Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks -- is absolutely a colossal step toward ripping this tumor from the sickly gut of American politics, while sending a signal to copycats and fellow rat-f**kers: This is how it ends, with federal agents, pre-dawn raids and incarceration at government expense.

It’s impossible to emphasize this enough: Stone’s brand of random disruption must itself be disrupted immediately or else the entire fabric of American democracy republic could rapidly unravel. Given the ascendancy of Trump as a viral carrier for Stone’s dirty tricks and disruption, it’s already underway, heaping further urgency onto the crisis with every new day.

Indeed, as we frantically sandbag against the long term damage of Trumpism, we have to give ignominious credit to Stone for essentially inventing it and then selling it to Trump. The entire goal of the president’s political movement is to irreparably scramble the board -- to dissolve alliances, coarsen the dialogue, stoke racial animosity and undermine institutions.

Rather than convincing voters to support a policy agenda, Trump and Stone seek to confuse voters into believing all sides are wrong and everyone else are the real evildoers, despite Stone's relentless bragging about his own villainy. The consequence of this approach is mass disillusionment with politics and the establishment, birthed from a sinister message intended to frustrate Trumpism’s target audience, and especially those who pay only casual attention to political debate. Not coincidentally, all of this is Vladimir Putin’s dream scenario.

Stone’s Trumpism exists not just to agitate the opposition but to scam its own supporters into believing nonsense and obvious lies, while rejecting facts and reality. It sounds Orwellian for sure, but it’s arguably worse than that. Orwell's "1984," after all, was about the imposing of strict order while Trumpism is all about igniting disorder. This post-apocalyptic master-blaster of Trump and Stone resembles a sociopathic bully who routinely shakes up his ant farm just to watch the ants freak out and die. There’s no "and then" here. The goal is the freakout itself. The goal is disruption, and both of these guys are delighted to be the delivery mechanisms for that.

Why else would Stone, along with his former business partners Paul Manafort and Charlie Black, offer their lobbying services to many of the world’s most despotic dictators? Sure, there was a fortune to be made, but the “Torturer’s Lobby,” Black, Manafort & Stone, also served as a way for Stone to pursue his reputation as a professional troll who isn’t fulfilled unless turmoil and pandemonium of his own invention are sucking the oxygen supply away from more noble and respectable ends.

It’s worth noting that in addition to murderous strongmen clients like Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Donald Trump was one of Black, Manafort & Stone’s first clients. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Later on, GOP strategist Lee Atwater, known for his racist "Southern strategy" politics and Willie Horton fear-mongering, would become a partner in the firm. Speaking of racism, it was Stone’s idea for Trump to revive "birtherism" long after Barack Obama had won the 2008 election and been sworn in as president.

The irony beneath Trump’s alliance with Stone is that such disruptors are ultimately disloyal to everything but their own deceptions. Amid Stone’s various media appearances last weekend, the freshly indicted psycho-bomb casually mentioned that he hasn’t ruled out cooperating with Robert Mueller and flipping on Trump. Again, chaos agents can’t be trusted and, as usual, Trump always makes things worse for Trump. His relationship with Stone might have propelled him to the 2016 Republican nomination and then the White House, but it could also be the relationship that robs him of the presidency. But who the hell knows what Stone will do? At the very least, he might be trolling the troll-in-chief.

Nevertheless, with the election of Trump and with every assault by the firehose of insanity erupting from the president’s Twitter feed, Stone’s trolling-for-its-own-sake has, for now, metastasized in the White House, effectively shaking Article II of the Constitution off its foundations. The government shutdown that just ended (at least for now) wasn’t as much about building a wall as it was about opening up gigantic loopholes in executive authority, unleashing the ability for chaos agents in the West Wing to institutionalize Stone’s shenanigans and paving the way for the slow amputation of vital government services.

The Joker has annexed the Batcave, and few observers believe he can be easily evicted.

Knowing this, here’s hoping that Judge Amy Berman Jackson, in the near term, slaps Stone with a gag order to keep him from further polluting the atmosphere with his self-aggrandizement and deliberately manufactured BS. The sooner he’s locked up and removed from the bloodstream, the better off we’ll all be. The same goes for his favorite client in the White House. Meanwhile, yeah, I know: There’s a good chance Stone will be delighted to read this article. In his twisted skull, I’ve just paid him a series of glowingly effusive compliments. He can feel free to smile about it all while he dons the fashionable garb of a federal prisoner.

By Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon. He's also the host of "The Bob Cesca Show" podcast, and a weekly guest on both the "Stephanie Miller Show" and "Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Contribute through LaterPay to support Bob's Salon articles -- all money donated goes directly to the writer.