On Saturday, writing for The Washington Post, conservative columnist Max Boot outlined key reasons why the spread of conspiracy theories has become more dangerous than ever in modern America.
One of the most important reasons: They are being amplified and promoted by the man in the Oval Office.
“Every great disaster of the past century has brought forth conspiracy-mongers. They claimed that World War I was started by arms manufacturers, a.k.a. ‘merchants of death’; that Franklin D. Roosevelt goaded Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor and knew all about it in advance; that homegrown traitors ‘lost’ Eastern Europe and China to communism; that the military industrial complex assassinated John F. Kennedy; that the crack cocaine epidemic was started by the CIA; that 9/11 was an ‘inside job’; and that George W. Bush invaded Iraq to help Halliburton,” wrote Boot.
“The impulse to ‘conspiracize’ is as old as the human race. Often that means blaming despised minorities for larger ills,” wrote Boot. “Plagues have been a particularly rich breeding ground for conspiracy theories. In 14th century Europe, Jews were massacred after being accused of spreading the bubonic plague by poisoning wells. So it is no surprise that there is now an epidemic of coronavirus conspiracy theories.”
“The virus was said to have been started by a Chinese biological warfare laboratory, the U.S. Army, Bill Gates or a ‘globalist conspiracy to establish sweeping population control’ — and it is said to be spread by 5G towers,” wrote Boot. “A movie called ‘Plandemic’ alleges that masks make you sick, that bleach can heal you and that a vaccine may kill you; it has been viewed at least 8 million times online. Naturally, the novel coronavirus has been subsumed into the all-encompassing QAnon conspiracy theory that has become a quasi-religion among some Trump supporters. They think that the virus was created by the ‘deep state’ to bring down their hero.”
All of this is worse, Boot wrote, because “we now have an unhinged conspiracy-monger in the White House.”
“When he is not ranting about a vast, nebulous plot perpetrated by the prior administration (‘Obamagate’) or about how Joe Scarborough supposedly murdered an aide, Trump is opining that the virus started in a Chinese lab, that hydroxychloroquine is an effective prophylactic, and that injections of bleach can treat the disease,” wrote Boot. “His son, Eric, recently said that the coronavirus has been hyped by Democrats eager to stop his dad from holding rallies, and that ‘after Nov. 3, coronavirus, will magically all of a sudden go away.'”
“This is nuts, but it gains credence by being promulgated by authority figures,” wrote Boot. “In fact, the entire GOP — which just nominated a QAnon believer as its Senate candidate in Oregon — is becoming a modern-day Know Nothing Party, a cesspool of prejudice and irrationality. What was once the fringe has now moved into the mainstream — and will become even more prominent as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Let’s hope that people can find saner and safer ways to make sense of this terrible time, because if they give in to irrationality, our current predicament will only get worse.”
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