George Boardman: It’s time we get to the bottom of those conservative conspiracy theories
Observations from the center stripe: Clever edition
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There is an unparalleled opportunity for Republicans to expose the dark underbelly of America — the secret levers that manipulate us and thwart the good intentions of right-thinking Americans — now that they control all three branches of government.
I’m referring to the conspiracy theories that were a staple of right-wing opposition during the eight years Barack Obama was president of the United States, another one of the “movements of suspicious discontent” that have surfaced periodically in the nation’s history.
The term was first used by historian Robert Hofstadter in 1964 when he wrote that America is a place peculiarly given to “the paranoid style” of politics — the idea that history is no accident but the outcome of a series of conspiracies.
It appears that many Americans were dumbfounded and searching for an explanation when a black man was elected president, and there were many web sites out there that offered possible answers. Certainly, you can find a site somewhere that will appear to validate just about any theory you have.
For people who prefer to let others do the thinking for them, they could find plenty of ammunition at Breitbart News, Infowars, and dozens of other sites. Some cynics among us believe conservative opponents of the Obama administration deliberately concocted theories to muddle legitimate debate on public policy.
When Sarah Palin accused the president of organizing “death panels” as part of his health care plan, the debate veered from the serious to the ridiculous.
When Americans swallowed the claim that Mexican, American and Canadian elites were secretly planning to merge the three countries, no comprehensive immigration reform legislation was possible.
And when conservatives concocted a global conspiracy for totalitarian rule from a non-binding natural resources sustainability plan called Agenda 21, serious discussion of preserving our fragile planet became more difficult.
To be sure, some of these theories were exposed for the nonsense they are. Take Operation Jade Helm, a series of 15 military exercises in Texas and other southwest states in 2015 designed to maintain the battle readiness of our soldiers.
Ah, but didn’t you hear about the closed Walmarts with connecting tunnels that were to be used as detention centers when right-thinking patriotic Americans were rounded up, the “death domes” built by FEMA to carry out mass executions, and the ice cream trucks that were converted into portable mortuaries?
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was sufficiently concerned to order the Texas National Guard to “continuously monitor” the war games for possible violation of civil liberties and other rights. This is the same Abbott who is now leading the Lone Star State’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey. (My fellow Americans, you have my sympathy.)
Then there was the widely believed theory — believed by people who think happiness is a warm gun, anyway — that Obama was going to confiscate all private firearms. That provided such a (so to speak) shot in the arm for gun manufacturers that you begin to suspect they started the rumor. Since Trump’s election, profits and stock prices of the major manufacturers have tanked.
But most of the conspiracy theories that gained traction during Obama’s presidency are hard to prove (or disprove) because the evidence is hidden in the opaque recesses of the federal government, what people like former Trump advisor Steve Bannon refers to as the “deep state.”
But now Trump has the power and people to finally reveal the truth of what many of his supporters have long suspected. A good place to start would be the birthplace of Obama himself. Was he born in Hawaii, Kenya or someplace else? Trump trafficked in this speculation for several years until he backed off the theory during the presidential campaign.
But we know the Donald can change his mind in an instant — just ask Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan — and it wouldn’t take much of a nudge to get him to pursue the “truth.” He now has his own guy running the FBI and there will be a new U.S. attorney in Hawaii if the administration ever gets around to appointing one. I can already see the grand jury sessions, flurry of subpoenas and pre-dawn raids to uncover the truth.
Once and for all, we can get to the bottom of this Agenda 21 business. Is the U.S. involved in a worldwide conspiracy to create a totalitarian world? Or is this just a well-meaning but toothless attempt by tree huggers to save our planet? The truth can probably be found in the files of the State Department, if Rex Tillerson ever gets enough personnel to do some digging.
We can also find out how many guns and ammunition Homeland Security, FEMA and other non-military agencies are stockpiling. If you listen to conservative alarmists, we’re talking billions of rounds of ammo. The agencies insist they have no where near that kind of fire power — just enough to meet their ongoing needs. Taking an accounting shouldn’t be that difficult.
Of course, Trump may be too occupied with the Russian business to give these matters much attention. The probe seems to develop new tentacles everyday, and you never know what the future has in-store.
After all, Vladimir Putin was a career KGB officer before he decided to become the elected dictator of Russia. It is reported that he’s a big advocate of soft power, deceptive tactics put to work in Crimea and other parts of eastern Europe Russia wants to control. We’re now learning that Russian fronts bought ads on Facebook to push hot-button topics, and cybersecurity software from a Russian firm is being removed from American computers because … well, you never know.
It’s not too far fetched to believe Putin’s set some traps for Trump and his associates to step in as part of a plan to sow even more chaos in this country. That’s a conspiracy theory that seems more plausible every day.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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