Even as first responders were desperately searching the still smoking ruin of the Twin Towers for any survivors, crackpots and lunatics across America were already sewing the malignant seeds of paranoid conspiracy theories. Thanks to how digitally connected had already become in the early 21st Century, their clinically schizophrenic delusions quickly metastasized into the ironically named “911 Truth Movement“.
The popular availability of these incredibly bad ideas soon coupled with the anti-Bush political biases of broadcast journalists and resulted in pathologically schizoid lunatics gaining access to mainstream broadcast platforms. In the mid 2000’s, this led to many incredibly uncomfortable situations where journalists found themselves realizing their guests were completely bonkers in the middle of live on air interviews.
Beneath the overt insanity, however, remained the baseline lunatic fringe of conspiracy culture, at the tip of their bug eyed insanity spear was the chief lunatic, Alex Jones, purveyor of such crackpot conspiracies as water fluoridation, “chemtrail” mind control drugs, and the staging of the Sandy Hook school shooting. Those who don’t need prescription anti-psychotics have probably have never even heard of him.
The reason I talk to myself is because I’m the only one whose answers I accept.
– George Carlin
Don’t think the Grand Dragon of Conspiracy Nuts matters? Well the current president of the United States certainly seemed to think he did, and he is not alone. Ever wonder why presidential tweets about the “Deep State” conspiring against him are so popular? Ever wonder why Alex Jones‘s “InfoWars” brand is a staple of right wing social media? Ever wonder what the “QAnon” insanity at MAGA rallies is all about? They’re crazy.
All conspiracy movements are inherently dangerous, but when the guy who is sitting on top of the launch codes for America’s nuclear arsenal takes a nutjob like Alex Jones seriously, and his 63+ million supporters don’t call him on it, it’s time to sit up and pay attention. Anyone who has argued with a conspiracy theorist immediately recognizes the disconnect from rational facts that Trump’s many supporters exhibit.
Here’s how it works. First, the conspiracist asserts something hysterically implausible as true. Second, someone points out that the hysterically implausible assertion can’t be true. Third, the conspiracist cites a dubious source to support their hysterically implausible assertion. Fourth, the respondent cites a credentialed source in rebuttal. Finally, the conspiracist dismisses the credible source as somehow complicit.
In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.
– Friedrich Nietzsche
This sound familiar? A Trump supporter claims something completely inaccurate as true, such as the “caravan” of asylum seekers from South America are “invading America“. Someone rational points this out as ridiculous. The Trump supporters cites some Trump-o-sphere meme, right wing blog, or Trump himself to support their claim. The rational respondent cites actual expert reporting. The Trump supporter screams “Fake News!“.
This is where we’re at, wrangling politics with people who are literally clinically insane. How do we deal with this, America? This isn’t a problem that gets fixed by an election or even by several elections. We must fundamentally change how we approach politics in our country, or we will continue to find ourselves held hostage by this sort of insanity until there’s nothing left of our republic to save.
Liberty is For The Win!