Donald Trump

Decoding Donald Trump's Conspiracy Talk

Lots of politicians are conspiracy theorists, but Trump brings his own style to the game.


Won't you tell me (tell me) who (who) who wrote the book of fear.

Yesterday, Donald Trump hinted that the president may have welcomed the slaughter of 49 clubgoers in Florida this past weekend. "He doesn't get it, or he gets it better than anybody understands," he said on Fox and Friends. "It's one or the other."

What's interesting here isn't that Trump was playing footsie with a conspiracy theory. Lots of politicians have spouted conspiracy theories, including Trump's Democratic opponent—though Trump does tend to be more brazen about it. John Kerry has doubts about the Warren Commission report, but he generally refrains from discussing those thoughts in public; Donald Trump will merrily imply in the middle of an interview that Ted Cruz's dad was mixed up with the JFK assassination, citing The National Enquirer as his source. But that's ultimately just another side of Trump's flamboyant, he'll-say-anything persona.

What's really interesting here is the particular sorts of paranoia that Trump is invoking. Those comments weren't just a bit of dark speculation about Obama's loyalties. They were an off-the-cuff encapsulation of one of the core components of Trumpism.

I have a piece in the Los Angeles Times this morning exploring Trump's breed of conspiracy rhetoric. Here's an excerpt:

Trump at his core is a nationalist, and nationalists are especially likely to embrace Enemy Outside stories. In these tales, the conspirators are based outside the community's gates; if they're not out to conquer your country, they at least aim to subvert and outwit it. Listen to any Trump speech, and you're likely to hear some version of this. China is plotting against us. Mexico is deliberately dumping its criminals on our side of the border. Syria's refugees are a jihadist Trojan horse.

Such stories are central to Trump's worldview—and to his sales pitch. "I have great respect for China, but their leaders are too smart for our leaders," he tells us. "Our leaders don't have a clue." That quote comes from his Super Tuesday victory speech, but he has said the same thing in countless ways on countless days: We're being led by weaklings and naifs; I'll be the tough, smart commander the nation needs. Vote for Trump!

To read the rest, go here. For more on American conspiracy stories, go here.

NEXT: A.M. Links: Orlando Attack, Trump Calls for Banning Muslims, Clinton Calls for Banning Guns

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  1. Maybe Trump listened to Obama say he was going to fundamentally transform America. And then watched him apologize to the entire fundamentalist Muslim world for American belief systems. Then watched Obama sit,on his hands when he had a chance to even lend just vocal support to the Iranians when they rose up. Then watched Obama import as many refugees as he could,without any vetting process.

    I sincerely doubt Obama is some kind of Muslim sleeper agent. But he sure comes across as the kind of guy that wouldn’t mind if a little of their fucked-up authoritarianism got imported here.

    1. Fuck, I left out the part about Obama essentially arming ISIS and every fucktarded Islamist fundie in Libya and Syria because he didn’t like their rulers. Or should I attribute that whole clusterfuck to Clinton?

    2. Obama apologized to the entire fundamentalist Muslim world? You’re eaten up with more stupid bullshit CT than the Trumphole.

      1. We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world ? tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

        1. No apology contained and completely truthful.

          Did the British and US not draw the lines and impose our handpicked leaders for modern day Iran and Iraq? Obama simply outlined the backdrop for hostility. Our military even shot down an Iranian passenger jet filled with civilians in the 80s.

          Acknowledging reality is healthy and in no way an apology.

          1. Pay your bet, shitstain.

        2. Block Yomomma’s historical ignorance is almost as great as his hatred.

          Islam and the west have never really peacefully co-existed, and the Muslims attempted to colonize the west before the opposite happened. That period where they successfully achieved dominion over much of Europe before the Crusades successfully drove them back out doesn’t count as peaceful co-existence.

        3. Oh, so the tensions hadn’t been fed “more recently” by 9/11 or the endless string of violent terrorist attacks? It was just by us and colonialism that denied rights to Muslims? Where did we institute colonialism and deny them rights? I’m no fan of colonialism, but I’d wager we expanded individual rights pretty much anywhere we colonized in the 20th century.

          1. The US didn’t really maintain much in the way of colonies, anyway.

            1. By the time the United States were a thing, there wasn’t really much of a place left to colonize other than…North America. Which, as many people might point out, had a striking lack of Muslims to deny rights to. Not that we didn’t deny rights, and colonize, but rather we did it to people who were, and are, not Muslim at all.

              So it’s top-to-bottom bullshit on Obama’s part, which is nothing new to anyone that’s been paying attention. As for apologies, well you may or may not be able to find those specifically but in every instance of terrorism that’s happened both here and abroad Obama is quick to blame our rights as the cause rather than fundamentalist Islamic faith.

              I don’t blame all of Islam for these attacks, but it’s obviously the common factor. What is striking, to me anyway, is that they target the U.S. instead of Saudi Arabia considering the Saud are literally what these Terrorists claim the U.S. is.

              I guess a total societal lockdown does actually work to keep terrorism largely at bay. That, or they really are responsible for most of it. Take your pick, it’s clear which option the Progressives are banking on, and it isn’t the ‘they’re responsible for it’ option.

              1. Oh, I should note that Obama isn’t necessarily wrong about Cold War era policy. He should know, he’s President after all. But in that vein, who was actually occupying Afghanistan during the Cold War?

                Answer: Russia. They also bailed on Afghanistan when it became a quagmire of B.S., and I’m sorry if the actual honest-to-god Soviets saw it as a sunk cost who the fuck are we to disagree on that one?

                That being said, apparently one of the worlds largest supplies of lithium is under that country so…there is that. I imagine that’s enough of a reason to never leave by itself given that the Democrats love them some technology that, at the moment, requires vast amounts of lithium even though that particular substance in widespread use is incredibly toxic. It’s actual pollution instead of the imagined ‘seize the means of production’ kind (CO2).

                Fortunately, no one accuses the left of logical consistency. After all, electric cars are clean even if they run on coal and are jam packed with lithium don’cha know.

        4. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

          Great traditions like killing gays and treating women as second class citizens. Muslims and the West co-existed and cooperated when they stayed separated. Import a lot of Muslims to the West and next comes conflict and religious wars. Obama and other western leaders are inviting conflict and a lot of innocent people will die because of that.

          1. I wish the West was a lot more hostile to certain traditions of Islam.

            Unfortunately, the Euro division of the West is running as hard as they can to import and entrench as many of those traditions a they can.

          2. Second class citizens!? What are you, a Muslim Progressive!?

            They are property. Get it right, or we have some rock’s with your name on them!


  2. Hyper Nationalist, trade wars, default on Treasuries, religious tests for movement, stealing oil from the Middle East – What could go wrong?

    Way to go TEAM RED! You found someone worse than Dumbya.

    1. You forgot some other buzz words.

      Did you ever pay?

    2. Hello, sir, I’m wondering why you think anyone on a libertarian website gives a fuck about that?

      1. He’s off his meds and wondered away from his internet home of Democratic Underground and Daily Kos. He really has no idea where he is or what he’s saying. It’s kind of sad when you think about it.

    3. Im just glad Obama got us out of Iraq.

    4. Pay your bet, assnugget.

  3. Has it ever occurred to anyone that Trump might actually be calculating? He wouldn’t be the first one to make outrageous statements he knows will energize his or her base or fringe elements.

    1. Ever read The Prince? A strong leader is one who unites the people in defeating the Others and if you ain’t got an Other it’s an easy enough thing to make one. You gotta have an Other to focus your hate and fear on, keep the people from figuring out Dear Leader is the greatest threat to their liberty and prosperity and well-being. We’re under attack from all directions, from without and within, from Others intent on destroying the American Way of Life and therefore cannot afford any dissent from our Great Mission – dissenters must be rooted out and destroyed for the Common Good. This is not the time for individualism and freedom to do and say as you please, not now when the British are on their way to burn Washington Lee is on his way to Gettysburg the Spanish just blew up the Maine the Kaiser’s troops have over-run Europe Hitler has over-run Europe the Soviet Union is threatening to over-run Europe the Mohammedans are threatening to over-run Europe.

      1. Nicely done, Jerryskids.

      2. So were the British on their way to burn Washington? (Yes they were, and they did). Was Lee on his way to Gettysburg? (Yes he was). Did the Spanish blow up the Maine? (who the hell knows). Did the Kaiser’s troop overrun Europe? (Not really. That was one war we should have stayed the hell out of.) Did Hitler overrun Europe? (Pretty much until Stalingrad and the outskirts of Moscow.) Was the Soviet Union threatening to overrun Europe? (Again, yeah pretty much. Remember Hungary? Czechoslovakia? Poland?)

        So if you are saying that our leaders have always just created the “Other” I have to say in your statistics you are at best 2 out 6. Are Mohammedans threatening to overrun Europe? Not like Hitler. But from an objective standpoint, they aren’t making it a better place, thats for sure.

        1. So if you are saying that our leaders have always just created the “Other”

          You may have missed the part where I said if you ain’t got an Other it’s an easy enough thing to make one. Whether it’s Hitler or the Kaiser, the Mexicans in 1846 or the Mexicans in 2016, the Communists in 1916 or the Communists in 1968, hell, global warming right now for that matter – there’s always a reason why now is not the time to be tolerating dissent when lives are at stake and we must support our government. What are you, unpatriotic or an Other supporter, not willing to sacrifice a little of your liberty for the needs of the nation? Get with the program, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country and all that. Now shut up or we’ll throw your ass in jail.

      3. Pretty sure The Prince was satire, actually, although unfortunately some people seem to not get that. Maybe it was serious writing, that was just my takeaway from reading it and after doing some fairly cursory research.

    2. That’s probably why Jesse mentioned it as his “sales pitch.”

  4. Those aren’t really conspiracies.

    1. When you’re trying to smear an Enemy of the People, any dirty rag will do.

  5. Trump is partly correct – the reason that Obama refuses to call it ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism’ is that he believes in the ‘incitement’ doctrine – your words can cause violence. He believes it because of a widespread systematic conspiracy to push it despite all evidence to the contrary – free speech actually reduces violence. The ironic thing is that Obama knows this. He must be very confused. Another irony is that Trump knows this too – which is why he plans to restrict speech, religion, assembly, etc. And part of that conspiracy includes the people who say about them, ‘nothing to see here’.

    1. TR said “speak softly and carry a big stick”.

      While Obama is not vocally belligerent he does know how to use a drone, kill thugs, kill their movement icon, and wage air raids on ISIS.

      I know the Redneck Party loves them a “tough-talkin’ he-man” Putin type.

      Reasonable people don’t.

      1. Bernie responded to the Orlando massacre: “We must utterly destroy ISIS!” Even though the guy was a frustrated homosexual, and killing more people in the middle east will only give them more fuel for their self-righteous indignation. Both sides are equally bad. They are on the verge of an awakening – and we will discover the roots of this massive conspiracy. Including your buddy Soros. What I wonder is if he’s a patsy like Cato’s hero Flemming Rose, or if he knows exactly what he’s doing. The more I learn, the more I realize they are clueless.

        1. Soros has spent hundreds of millions supporting libertarian causes on drugs, social issues, anti-state movements like the Rose Revolution, etc.

          But in the tiny mind of wingnuts he opposed the reelection of Bush the Lesser so he must be some type of plant for Socialism/Communism.

          1. Soros is a self-hating Jew who collaborated with the Nazis in killing his own people to save his own sorry ass.

            He deserves a bullet in the pile of shit between his ears even more than you do, Weigel.

              1. Pay your bet, fuckstain.

            1. Disgusting bullying.

              (Yet fascinating.)

          2. I give Soros massive credit for drug decriminalization. But otherwise his support for social issues just destroys communities. Baltimore is the perfect example – it is falling apart because Soros-inspired propaganda that teaches kids, “If you commit a crime, it’s due to ‘mental illness’ or ‘drug addiction’.” He works hand in hand with Sembler/Adelson/Frum to support pot criminalization – it’s a completely fake dispute. Again, I don’t know to what extent they are aware. Adelson’s son died of an overdose – but yet it was his adopted son, and had recently sued his father. It is a mystery wrapped in an enigma, and I think we shall soon know the truth.

      2. he does know how to use a drone

        He sure as fuck does. Even if he doesn’t know how to have someone criminally charged before deploying it.

        1. Simply amazing.

          Obama is a ruthless killer of Muslims one day and bends over with apologies and acquiescence as a “sekret Muslin” the next day.

          1. I never called him a secret Muslim. In fact I went out of my way to call him a totalitarian.

            And I’d consider him a ruthless killer of human beings, not just Muslims. Same as the idiot that preceded him and the idiot that will likely succeed him.

  6. That’s so weird–you think the number one Communist country in the world today isn’t ‘plotting’ against the US, AND you think that when Mexico admitted that criminals had been ‘encouraged’ to cross the border, they were lying–AND you think that there are no jihadis hidden among the refugees–even AFTER repeated terrorist attacks by refugees.

    Wow. Just wow.

    There are none more blind than those that refuse to see.

    1. There is too much nonsense here for me to disentangle it all, so I’ll just grab one thing: What makes you think I do not believe China ever plots against the U.S.? I’m not gonna deny the existence of, say, Chinese espionage. But Chinese espionage is still a conspiracy, and the way Trump talks about it is part of his brand of conspiracy rhetoric.

      1. China conducts espionage and seeks to expand its global power while paying off Hillary and this is used to indict Trump for peddling conspiracy theories?

        Typically that charge is leveled when the theory is wrong.

      2. But Chinese espionage is still a conspiracy, and the way Trump talks about it is part of his brand of conspiracy rhetoric.

        A conspiracy with one hell of a long list of citations.

        1. SFed link?

          1. Sorry. It was the Wikipedia page on Chinese espionage in the US. And it was pretty lengthy.

            1. Just in my own lifetime there have been several huge instances of Chinese espionage that have been proven. I’d link, but it’s super easy to google it.

              If you think they’ve stopped just because we started giving them cutting edge consumer technology for free you would be wrong. At some point they’re going to give us the finger, and claim all of those little islands and border countries. It remains to be seen if that will be allowed to slide, but I wager if those ‘little islands’ include Japan it will not.

              Such are the seeds of WW3, and any ‘trade wars’ with China draw a direct line from uneasy peace to outright global war. The only reason they haven’t done this yet is because they aren’t sure they can get away with it and business is too good to screw it up with a war declared against one of your biggest partners. It certainly didn’t stop them in Tibet, nor will it continue to stop them forever. The hope is it stops them long enough for their regime to chill out, but given the Chinese propensity for a Dynasty to last hundreds if not thousands of years that remains to be seen in the modern era.

      3. Jesse, you DO know that it’s not a ‘conspiracy theory’ when there’s an actual conspiracy, right? I mean you wrote a book about all the weird ideas conspiracy theorists have, after all–right?

        Or did you…………….???!!!!??eleventy-eleven??

        1. Jesse, you DO know that it’s not a ‘conspiracy theory’ when there’s an actual conspiracy, right?

          I disagree, but it’s not worth debating, since the word I used in that paragraph was not “theories” but “stories.”

      4. Jesse,
        Please let me know where China got it’s new jet fighter design from.

  7. Yes, Trump engages in many conspiracy theories. He says climate change is a hoax, perpetrated by the Chinese. You failed to mention that one, Jesse. Of course, lots of libertarians think it’s a hoax as well. Maybe you’ll get to it sometime.

    1. ZOMG< I noes, right brah! Its like, how could peeps be so sceptikal of doomsdays predicshins that are consistently egregiously wrong, know what I'm sayin? we should drastically change every aspect of lives anyaways!! ugh I can't even! Can you even with this bc I certainly cannot!

      1. Like, if only #FeelTheBern had won the Dem nom, he’s totes bae and we’d be all like woot! Sheeple needz 2 b woke, kno wut im sayin’!

    2. Hey, moron, you know what Chlorofluorocarbon is? Do you?!

      If you do, guess what! China produces more CFC than anywhere else, defying international norm’s and regulations, for no other reason than to extort money from the 1st world. Sure, they use some of it for the same reasons everyone did before people recognized the danger, but they produce far more of it than conceivably could be required for those needs.

      So if you think CO2 is a global f’ing disaster, go ahead and see what happens when you gnaw a hole in the ozone layer on purpose.

      To get you started, just go ahead and Google ‘China Climate Bomb’. Seriously, educate yourself motherfucker.

  8. People are flipping out over this by insinuating it’s some kind of conspiracy BS. I think this is just a variation on the question that epitomizes the Obama presidency; “Is he really this stupid or is he evil?”

    1. Yes – he’s trolling and all the right people are rising to the bait.

      1. That’s how he got where he is today, but our superiors in the media still go for it every time.

    2. Yes, it does appear Trump’s detractors are pushing a paranoid conspiracy theory that dies not hold up to a simpler explanation.

  9. He’s pandering to his base, the one which believes Obama is a Muslim Traitor.

    1. They read is on

      1. Pay your bet, turd.

  10. Has it ever occurred to anyone that Trump might actually be calculating?

    From many angles Hillary Clinton appeared as “damaged goods” in that her mishandling of classified information created a security risk, her shortcomings and outright failures to perform her job(s) adequately helped create and spread instability in the Middle East and helped lead to the deaths of U.S. personnel under her charge, et cetrera.

    It was remarked upon quite often in the 2008 presidential election that a great many voters didn’t want another establishment candidate/president, and is still widely reported during this campaign cycle that the number of such voters has only increased.

    A strong and popular Republican candidate might have very well won against Clinton.

    Enter Trump. Several times in the past Trump was a donor and supporter of the Clintons. Perhaps one* of his purposes was to present a “beyond the pale” alternative to Hillary Clinton. A far greater of the two evils in the minds of the non-Republican voter (and, as it seems to be panning out, in the minds of some Republican voters too).

    You read it here first on H&R.

    (Does that qualify as a conspiracy theory?)

    *On a much more serious note, whatever else his reasons I do have the sense that Trump is in the race to self-aggrandize and gain throngs of devoted supporters to fuel his narcissism. A common theme among many candidates and eventual presidents, perhaps.

    1. “Has it ever occurred to anyone that Trump might actually be calculating?”

      Well, Trump could be spewing word salads from his piehole either because (1) he is not a serious man, or (2) he is engaging in some 11th-dimensional-chess level of strategery.

      I, and Occam’s Razor, are going with option 1.

      1. chemjeff,

        The quoted text I reprinted was From Fist of Etiquette, and it was to his post (up-thread) that I was responding.

        Using Occam’s Razor again, what do you make of the fact that ‘Fist left his comment at exactly 9-11 on a thread dealing primarily with conspiracy theories?

        1. Apologies for getting the quotations mixed up.

          “Using Occam’s Razor again, what do you make of the fact that ‘Fist left his comment at exactly 9-11 on a thread dealing primarily with conspiracy theories?”

          Fist of Etiquette does seem to be quite the schemer, so I am going to go with “on purpose”. 🙂

          1. We are in agreement.

    2. *On a much more serious note, whatever else his reasons I do have the sense that Trump is in the race to self-aggrandize and gain throngs of devoted supporters to fuel his narcissism.

      That, and I think he sees the lifestyle of the president and wants in on that. He’ll be followed around everywhere he goes by an armed security detail (nothing screams “I’m important, everyone look at me!” like having armed guards follow you everywhere), jet around the world with his fashion model wife on a tricked out 747 and stay at the best hotels all courtesy of the taxpayers, and after he’s out of office he’s set for life and will still get mobbed with adoring followers and paid millions of dollars to show up at places and spout out a word salad speech or two.

      Being a real estate tycoon and reality TV star, I assume, still involves some actual work occasionally. Being president probably seems like a pretty sweet gig by comparison.

      1. I hadn’t thought of your points, CA, and I really should have.

        Topping off his other accomplishments by being elected “Leader of the Free World” must certainly have its appeal.

  11. Why do people find it hard to believe that Obama may be or at least have a soft spot for Islam. Obama has consistently shown his reluctance to engage Islam on any level. Whether he is a Muslim or whether he has been bought and paid for by the Saudi’s, like Hillary, the end result is the same. He is either an idealog or just another D.C. corrupt politician. The former at least I can respect even life I don’t agree

    1. Too much ignorance to engage with….

      1. Pot, Kettle; Kettle, Pot.

    2. Obama openly admits to having a soft-spot for Islam in that auto-biography he supposedly wrote.

      1. But I have it on good authority that he made funny faces during his Islamic education at his madrasa.

    3. What qualifies as “engaging Islam”?

      1. What qualifies as “engaging Islam”?

        A ring and a date.

        1. Or, for a big spender, a fuckton of cash and a free pass to build nuclear bombs.

  12. For more on American conspiracy stories, go here.

    And you link to your own book on Amazon, and include a picture of the cover…

    It’s enough to make one wonder if this whole article was just a conspiracy on Walker’s part to try and drum up interest in his book. I’M ON TO YOU WALKER!

    1. I think that cover is bait for every site troll.

    2. Did Walker even write the article? Or the book? I think this is just some Zionist plot…

      1. I’m pretty sure this ‘Jesse Walker’ is really Ronald Bailey in disguise. The ‘Rick Steves, travel guide author’ routine is getting a little long in the tooth, and RB is branching out into the conspiracy theory niche market.

  13. IIRC, Yglesias was famous for being a precocious pundit. He was graded on a curve. However, he still writes like a 20 year old.

    1. Sounds like you’re describing Nick Gillespie.

  14. “Those comments weren’t just a bit of dark speculation about Obama’s loyalties. They were an off-the-cuff encapsulation of one of the core components of Trumpism.”

    This sounds like conspiracy theorizing on the part of the author…

  15. Excellent, Jesse.

  16. Trump’s a master manipulator — whatever he actually means, he frames it in a way that is sure to fire up people the most.

    I don’t think he believes, or is even intending to argue, that Obama is some secret Muslim sleeper agent — I think he’s saying, in his own unfiltered way, that Obama is responsible for allowing terrorism to bloom by not taking the threat of political Islam seriously, making terrible foreign policy decisions, and branding everyone who criticizes Islam as a bigot. Either he really doesn’t understand how he’s screwed up or this has all been purposeful, and he naively believes that an America that coddles them and turns a blind eye to the religion’s illiberalism will soothe their anger and dampen their destructive plans.

    1. Soothe the anger of the terrorists and hard-liners.

  17. The lefties are always calling the rightwingers conspiracy nuts, but they see the Koch Brothers behind every rock.

  18. Donald Trump Said Correct To Ban Muslims in America to protect Future

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