Conspiracy Theories

The Center Cannot Hold It Together


I'm not the only writer who's been keeping an eye on the paranoid center. Here, for example, is Anthony Gregory:

Every act of violence or alleged plan to commit violence or even adamant anti-government activism that can be pinned on the "extremist right"–the shooter who murdered a guard at the Holocaust museum, the man who murdered an abortion doctor in church, the man who flew a plane through an IRS building, some "militia" members allegedly planning anti-government violence–all of this is seen as part of a general trend, even a rightwing conspiracy, one about as coherent as the neoconservatives' lumping together all anti-US Muslims under the banner of "Islamofascism." Indeed, I am surprised that not many have yet warned of the "Christofascist" threat to America, although there has been plenty of talk comparing the tea party movement to the Nazi brownshirts and talk that this kind of militia activity is often associated with "race war," even when the particular subjects at hand are not even accused of being racially motivated.

Kevin Carson:

[Josh] Marshall and [Keith] Olbermann—like conspiracy nuts—attempt to impose meaning on reality by reading a coherent narrative into random and unrelated events.

"Yeah, man, this guy believed some of the same things that those other guys believe, and then he went out and killed some people! So their entire belief system must be the same, and he must be listening to their dog-whistle! The truth is OUT THERE, man!"

That reasoning process, by the way, is exactly the same one used by Birchers to prove that anyone who talks about socialism is "really a communist." This or that word "really means" whatever the Communist Manifesto says, so by putting together different people's use of different words in concatenation with selected quotes from the Manifesto, one can syllogistically deduce a hidden agenda the size of Texas. It's the same reasoning process that sends Glenn Beck, based on some particular word somebody uses, to feverishly scrawling dotted lines between people's names on his chalkboard. The possibility that a wide range of movements might use similar language in different ways, without it functioning as a secret Masonic handshake, is apparently too nuanced for such people.

Chris Stirewalt:

It is usually those out of power who are drawn to paranoid conspiracies, but Democrats sound like a pack of John Birchers talking about a shadowy conspiracy that is plotting against them….

It's part of the unified media theory at the White House: Nutters say bad things about the president and his policies on the Internet and then Fox News takes on the case. Soon, establishment media outlets are reporting the story.

It's seen as a perpetual motion conspiracy that keeps more Americans from understanding what's good for them.

I disagree, incidentally, with Stirewalt's notion that it's unusual for the people in power to hold conspiracy theories. I'd argue that it's actually pretty common.