Justin Trudeau's Brother Is Driving a RFK Jr. Campaign Bus
The antivax bus is coming. Everybody's jumping.
“Anyone have a clue why,” Toronto Star columnist Susan Delacourt tweeted Sunday. “A @RobertKennedyJr bus, blaring ‘Stop Children What's That Sound’1, is circling Ottawa's New Edinburgh neighbourhood?”
It was a great question. Because, sure enough, a bus emblazoned with Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s face, proclaiming “the remedy is Kennedy,” was driving around the Canadian capital blaring, arguably, the anthem of the 1960s counter-culture.2
The fact that the bus (ok, actually, it’s an RV) was in Canada isn’t even in the interesting part: It’s who was driving it.
Behind the wheel with his wife and two children by his side, was and is Kyle Kemper: An anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist and activist in his own right, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s half-brother.
This week, on a very special Bug-eyed and Shameless, I've got something to tell ya. I've got news for you: RFK Jr. is comin’ through.
Bug-eyed and Shameless likes to party.
When Margaret Trudeau’s marriage to her late husband, Pierre Elliott (Prime Minister of Canada 1968-1979, 1980-1984), was in the process of falling apart, she went off on the romp of a lifetime.
Much has been written and said about Margaret, and I couldn’t begin to do her life story justice here. But suffice it to say that she was rubbing elbows with — and often attached romantically to — Mick Jagger, Ronnie Woods, Lou Rawls, Jack Nicholson3, amongst others. (Her ex-husband the prime minister, was not much different, having dallied with Barbara Streisand before their marriage.) The romance that properly marked an endpoint to her marriage was, strangely enough, with Ted Kennedy: RFK Jr’s uncle. By the early 1980s, she was separated from Pierre Elliot and without custody of her kids and, without alimony, broke.
Then she met Fried Kemper, an Ottawa real estate developer, and settled down. The two would spend the next 15 years married and would have two children, Alicia and Kyle.
When Justin Trudeau — Pierre Elliot’s son, Kyle Kemper’s half-brother — became prime minister in 2015, the Trudeau family baggage was relegated to, mostly, curiosity. Best I can tell, nobody thought to ask Kemper’s opinion about the state of politics in Canada and Kemper didn’t seem terribly keen to offer it. Canada is, beyond a superficial curiosity, not terribly interested in the lives of politicians’ families. And that’s for the better.
In relative anonymity, Kemper became an early Bitcoin evangelist. Which was well enough because, as we know, being a Bitcoin evangelist is a full-time job.
He became a lobbyist, calling on the government to keep their hands off Bitcoin altogether. (Related: Kemper once told a magazine that the worst day of his life was “February 28, 2014, when Mt. Gox, a major platform, filed for bankruptcy.” Maybe a bit of regulation would have prevented that!)
It really wasn’t until 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic, that Kemper stepped into the limelight. In a rambling video, Kemper endorsed the increasingly paranoid politics that was infecting the right — and converting some on the paranoid left. “The real battle is not simply left or right. It is authoritarianism versus libertarianism,” Kemper explained. Kemper phrased his new turn to politics as an “affectionate” chiding of his brother.
Over the past few years, he’s popped up at the world premiere of the Plandemic “documentary.” (It was fiction.) He became a huge booster of the so-called Freedom Convoy, and joined Alex Jones on Infowars to explain how the occupation of Ottawa should push his half-brother to resign and trigger the “great awakening.” He endorsed the idea that the 2020 U.S. election was stolen.
And now, Kemper has joined the Robert F. Kennedy Jr bandwagon.
“One of the major concerns for many nations, including Canada, is the erosion of sovereignty under the influence of a globalist oligarchy,” Kemper wrote on Twitter. “But fear not, for Bobby Kennedy is here to champion our cause!”
Kemper is, unsurprisingly, big into the ‘wellness’ community: A hotbed of conspiracy theories and misinformation these days. RFK Jr., Kemper writes, is an “icon for health and wellness.”
The Florida-based Kempers weren’t happy with just endorsing Kennedy. They decided they had to roll up their sleeves and actively help out.
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Which brings us to the
RFK Jr. joined the Kempers in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts to send off the Kennedy-mobile as it headed through Montreal, Ottawa — then, New York to San Francisco, intercity disinfo.
The unveiling of the project came, technically, via Gavin McInnes — ex-VICE, ex-Proud Boy leader, current dirtbag4 — on his poorly-watched streaming platform. McInnes showed up in a parking lot where the RFKbus was parked, and stumbled upon Kemper sporting a MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN tshirt.
“So you did this all by yourself just for a laugh?” McInnes asks.
“Uhhh,” Kemper starts. “It's been a kind of evolving bus moving kind of art car. And originally it was as blockchain across America bus. My friend ran from Miami to Santa Monica, to raise awareness for blockchain and the homeless epidemic in America.” (Woof.)
As a purely DIY project, the Kennedywagon would be a strange and eccentric use of Kemper’s time, but he would be well within his rights to drive a camper up-and-down the U.S. spreading the gospel of a man who thinks poppers cause AIDS. (Dispatch #59)
But on the side of the RV is a URL: Healthedivide.com. That corresponds to the website of the first major pro-RFK Jr. superPAC.
Heal the Divide, Inc is registered with the Federal Election Commission through a pro-Trump political consultancy firm. The actual leadership of the PAC isn’t listen on their website or FEC filings. (Their first campaign statements are not yet due.) But Heal the Divide was incorporated in Indiana as a non-profit in April by James Heckman. (He is not, for you nerds out there, the Nobel Prize-winning economist.)
Heckman made his money in the sports publishing world: Starting his own sports news website, being acquired by Fox, joining Yahoo, and eventually founding publishing company Maven. His company would strike a licensing deal to operate famed publication Sports Illustrated, and a few other titles. And by all accounts, it went badly: “Heckman and [business partner Ross] Levinsohn are like morticians who drop a corpse while carrying it to the coffin and then trash the deceased in the funeral program,” the Ringer wrote in 2020. Later that year, Heckman was turfed and replaced with Levinsohn.
Since then, Heckman has gone down the anti-vax route: Sharing a declaration from a bunch of quack doctors proclaiming COVID-19 vaccines “experimental genetic therapy injections.” He tweeted last year that there are “over 20 million extra dead” due to Pfizer’s vaccines: “A crime against humanity.”
And now, it seems, he’s running a pro-RFK Jr. superPAC.
I messaged Kemper to ask about his involvement in the campaign. “I believe Kennedy is the Remedy,” he replied. Later, after multiple invites to join him on his podcast, Kemper said he had no formal role on the campaign.
I asked if he had any role wth the Heal the Divide. But, after several more podcast invitations, he did not reply.
Heal the Divide is big on accepting Bitcoin donations, which lines up with Kemper’s love of crypto. Kemper was also the second person to tweet out the link to Heal the Divide’s website, shortly after Heckman himself.
Kemper, for what it’s worth, is running his own quasi-campaign. He’s selling merch over at kennedy.party. His website reads that it “is an independent production not affiliated with the official campaign or it's committee. Every sale helps to grow the movement; ensuring that the campaign's message of unity and hope reaches as many people as possible.” (Which sounds to me like a political action committee, and therefore governed by campaign finance law, but what do I know.)
Whether Kemper’s Kennedy barnstorming is in service of Heckman’s superPAC or his own half-baked effort, it is both a strange tale and a sign of things to come.
Because, here’s the thing about Kemper: His core rhetorical message, of a constructive post-partisanship, in contrast to division and anger, is actually a really welcome one. And I do believe that it is genuine. It was a common refrain during the anti-vaccine occupation of Ottawa: We’re here fighting for your freedom was a common rallying cry. Most people, of course, see that emotionally manipulative language for what it is: A fanatical belief that their cause is right and just, and everyone who fails to follow is indoctrinated, a sheeple. Folks like Kemper profess, often earnestly, to believe in compromise and understanding, but are so enmeshed in their disinformation networks that any discussion is really just a debate that will eventually collapse.
This is a frustrating paradox: The people most emphatic about political reconciliation are also the ones making the problem worse. Still, we should hold out some hope that we can get back on the same page, especially as the brainworm-inducing memories of the pandemic fade.
Yes, anti-vaxxers have done actual, measurable harm: RFK Jr. in particular, thanks to his proselytizing and snake oil selling, particularly in communities without adequate healthcare. And it’s not hard to see that his campaign is a stalking horse for the Republicans, as they try to thwart Joe Biden. And RFK Jr. may not wade into the same kind of hateful anti-trans rhetoric as Ron DeSantis, say, but he does frequently suggest that Big Pharma is to blame for the existence of trans people. But it’s hard to ignore the fact that RFK Jr.’s — admittedly vague — platform does read like a thoughtful effort to start talking about issues instead of running politics-as-bloodsport. (Minus the anti-vaccine stuff, of course.)
It’s not enough to point at Kemper and RFK Jr. and say: They’re wrong, don’t listen to them. Because they have tapped into a very real current of grievance, particularly on the left. It is a space also occupied by other professional agitators and longtime polemicists like Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Bill Maher, and a handful of others. Their underlying complaints, such as the excessive power of big corporations or the the United States’ penchant for starting expeditionary wars, have become rather unassailable. Indeed, I myself agree with them on a huge swath of things. Their skepticism and contrarianism, however, has gone off the rails. It has linked up with hard-right anti-institutionalism. Some call this horseshoe theory. I call it paranoia manifest.
As people grow disenchanted with the political establishment, RFK Jr. may yet become a welcome home. And Justin Trudeau’s half-brother may welcome them in.
That’s it for this special dispatch.
I’m in New York City on a little working vacation, doing some research for my next book. I’m hoping to fire off another dispatch later this week, a little polemic on the idea of deleting more and more of the internet, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
And now, for those of you who didn’t understand all the mid-90s one-hit wonder references scattered throughout the newsletter, I present: The Vengaboys.
There’s plenty to argue with, here. Please, argue with it.
Weird bit of serendipity: “For What It’s Worth” was not, as is commonly understood, written about the Vietnam war (at least not explicitly.) It was written about a series of demonstrations on the Sunset Strip, against municipal ordinances designed to quell noise on the Sunset Strip. The “riots” that ensued included ex-Margaret Trudeau fling Jack Nicholson. The snake eating its own tail!
This whole show is sophmoric edgelord shit, with a whole deeply sad segment about “America's obsession with Nazis and how gay it is” and featuring lines like “he does have a schnoz. I can't tell if he's Jewish.” The less I have to listen to McInnes, the happier I am.