Writings and observations

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Donald Trump’s ventures into conspiracy theories go back a few years, at least back to birtherism – his role in propagating the notion that Barack Obama was born not in Hawaii but somewhere else, Africa presumably. Where doesn’t really matter because the point was to try to delegitimize the Obama presidency. For most people, the effort failed early on for the same reason most extravagant conspiracy theories do: They involve so much incredible effort and coincidence that in the real world, there’s no way they could be made to happen. Conspiracies aren’t that easy to pull off, and in fact are damned difficult. There’s a good reason most people ascribe to incompetence that which a few insist came out of conspiracy.

The New Yorker, reviewing some of Trump’s forays into the realm of the tin-foil hats, noted that “birtherism is only the best-known among Trump’s large collection of creepy political fairy tales. You’ve probably heard the one about vaccines and autism. He even pushed that during a Presidential primary debate, on national television. Do you really believe that Obama won the 2012 election fairly? Wrong. Fraud. (At the same time, it’s Mitt Romney, total loser, who let everyone down.) Bill Ayers, not Obama, wrote “Dreams from My Father.” There is no drought in California, and the Chinese, outwitting us per usual, invented the concept of global warming to undermine American manufacturing. And so on.”

A good deal of this comes out of his association with Alex Jones, a conspiracy-minded radio talk show host who has hosted Trump several times. Trump has been a guest on the show; his close friend and ally Roger Stone has appeared on it repeatedly. What is Jones selling these days? A sampler from some of his recent tweets: “Election rigging: How she’ll do it”, “Hillary’s Trail of Death,” “Soros behind Muslim takeover of West,” and so on. His growing media operation, Infowars, is more or less ConspiraciesRUs.

So he does know his way around that world when he said of Trump, as he did to the New Republic, “There’s no way the Trump people would have reached out to me a year and a half ago, if he wasn’t aware of the work. He’s been what you call a ‘closet conspiracy theorist’ for 50 years. I think he’s been a chameleon in the system, and now he sees the time to strike.”

Reality has trouble making its way into Trump’s consciousness, but conspiracy theories seem to have an easier path.

The New Yorker continued, “Does Donald Trump actually believe any of this? Or is he laughing up his sleeve as apoplectic fact-checkers throw themselves into the thankless work of disproving his absurdities? To cover himself, he prefaces his more outlandish remarks with disclaimers like “I hear” or “A lot of people think.””

When he said, as he did this week, that a President Trump would not be willing to rely on American intelligence resources, he left open the question of who he would rely on. But by now we have a pretty good idea. – rs

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