Now, when I was young, fringe conspiracy theories were still kept... well, in the fringes. My father was a West Point grad, and as such, sentenced to life as an Army officer; we weren’t exactly flaming radicals and pot-smoking hippies around my house. You had your John Birch Society, but nobody "respectable" belonged to it since the Fifties. On the other side of the coin, there were "those radicals" (technically, an attitude left over from the Sixties, but there you are); they weren’t exactly in the majority in society, and were pretty universally looked down on, too. Generally, expressing a sentiment in public that didn’t fit into the "mainstream" was likely to either get you into a lively debate, or cause people to edge away from you (depending on who was around).
I’d run into fringe ideas every so often, but perhaps less than some people.
I still remember the woman in the kaftan nursing her baby and giving me a glowering side-eye as I, naïve military-brat that I was, cheerfully pored over independent-press books explaining how vaccinating children was another example of the white man keeping the black man down, by poisoning his naturally healthier immune system. That "we must return to the land of our ancestors." That white men were solely responsible for black people being poor. (OK, so in later years I'd learn that this last, while perhaps not even mostly true, did have a certain core of reality...)
I loved some of the fringier ideas: ghosts, UFO's, psychic powers. But for the most part, I always wondered why people would fall for some of the most unmistakably ridiculous ideas.
So, flash forward around three decades or so. And we have people openly believing the most paranoid, ridiculous crap that has ever left a skidmark on a page. And the majority of the sweat-stained stupidity seems to emit from the Right side of the argument.
I mean, if you think about it, it does make a certain amount of sense. First, we had the Clinton Years, where the Right was trying to paint him as a murderer, thief, rapist and philanderer (and as it turns out, one of those was true).
And if you follow that with the Bush Years, where the party in power is trying to build that power up through the force of fear,
aided and abetted by an entire television network devoted to spreading their strange lies, you have a people softened up to believe just any ridiculous pile of idiocy that people tried to feed them.
Oh, I'm sorry. America didn't believe ignorant crap under Bush? You mean, like the multi-billion dollar Fortress of Evil bin Laden had dug into the Pakistani mountains? Or that Iraq could attack the US with unmanned drones any minute now!
But the Huntsmen of Greed failed to keep a tight enough rein on the Horses of Insanity, and, as these things so often do, Entropy entered into the picture and everything fell into chaos.
Actually, to an extend, the Huntsmen of Greed can be blamed for the collapse of their own fiendish plans; it was Rupert Murdoch, after all, who gave Glenn Beck a national stage, and thereby mainstreamed some of the most hair-flamingly batshit conspiracy theories - perhaps we can point to him, but perhaps Murdoch was merely giving in to forces already beyond his control.
Whatever the reason, drooling lunacy has taken over much of the Right Wing, and the politicians of the Gibbering Old Paranoid party, not willing to give up the tattered remnants of whatever power they might have had, are willingly being swept along in the tidal stream of tempestuous Teabaggers: the only strategy left for these figureheads at the bow of the boat of Bedlam at this point, is to obsess over trivialities, to keep the wild-eyed crowd that's carrying them from focusing on real issues.
The rabid weasels who imagined "death panels" and "Obama reeducation camps," and were able to convince the masses that these things exist, are finding themselves overwhelmed by the forces that they, themselves, unleashed, not imagining that throwing open the Gates of Madness might allow more through the door than they had predicted.
We have entire websites devoted to the idea that America has been taken over by a radical, terrorist-loving, Marxist socialist fascist tyrannical Satanic Islamic atheist Kenyan whose sole aim in life is the utter destruction of all that we hold dear.
We'll ignore the biggies: Townhall, Pajamas Media (that plucky, faltering startup of lunacy), Glenn Beck's the Blaze, and look even farther down the ramp, where the gibbering is loudest.
The most obvious of these black holes of idiocy is World Net Daily, where, just dipping into the rancid pools of whatever passes for journalism there, we can discover a banner headline proclaiming:
Birth certificate doesn't meet Hawaii standardsYes, Joseph Farah, the publisher and Birther-In-Chief at WND, can't let go of the idea that Barack Obama is the result of a plot forty years in the making, because there's no way that a black man could get elected as President of the United States, right?
Image White House released 'may not be a certified copy'
In fact, scrolling down the page, we find no less than ten other birther-related stories (and three ads) before we come to the "international coverage" - if, by "international," you mean the-Middle-East-but-mostly-Israel (because we can't have the Rapture if Jerusalem falls, after all...). The overriding focus of everything WND-related is that Obama has taken over the country, and is struggling to put Sharia Law in place.
Other websites can't manage this kind of message discipline, of course. Renew America, for example, has a shotgun blast pattern, with stories on "Obama is a hypocrite!"; "raising the debt ceiling will destroy America!" (a Newsmax crossover!); a story stolen from Fox News telling us that George Soros, a liberal, has "ties" to news organizations (with nary a mention of Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers, of course); Michelle Malkin and her latest "one-lunatic-equals-Islamic-conspiracy" rant; and a string of other "news" items.
The "news," though, is not the entertaining part of RenooAmurika: that would be the columnists (splayed out along the left-hand border, ironically). There we find such notables as:
Jeannie DeAngelis: a housewife and grandmother who conflates things like the USDA studying children's eating habits and illegal immigration; she crossposts at the American "Thinker" and her own blog Jeannie-ology (with the hilariously unself-aware banner "WHERE WHAT STARTED AS A CATHARTIC EXERCISE TURNED INTO AN OBSESSION!" All caps, of course, but with only one exclamation point. This is self-control, for Jeannie.)Among so many, many others.
Randy Engel: claims to be "one of the nation's top investigative reporters," but that's only if you add the codicil "...in the field of Abortion and Stem Cell Research are Eugenics!"
Bryan Fischer: American Family Association member who I might have mentioned once or twice, who only occasionally branches out from "all gay, all the time."
Judie Brown: president and co-founder of the American Life League, who chronicles the decay of the Catholic Church. Oh, and abortion.
From there, we can move on to the already mentioned American "Thinker," which doesn't even bother with the false patina of respectability of the "news" features that RescrewAmerica pastes to the wall. They go straight to the crazy, with columns and inane ramblings by anybody who walks by, as long as they can spew spittle when repeating the phrase "Obama is destroying America!" Some of their winners include:
Robin of Berkeley: a self-proclaimed former ("recovering") liberal, she also claims to be a psychologist, despite the fact that she is willing to diagnose full-blown clinical psychosis based on second-hand reports (or two-line responses from people who argue with her). Irony has no place in Robin's world.Of course, for the deepest, blackest pit of ugliness, there's no place better than Free Republic. Ironically, although "freeper" is the commonly used slang term for this particularly virulent species of paranoid racist, "freep.com" is actually the website for the Detroit Free Press. Don't make that mistake!
Chuck Rogér: Despite the suspiciously French last name (probably born named "Charles" - pronounced "Shar"), he's more of a generalist, finding the death of Society-As-We-Know-It ("we" being white and male, of course) in Sex Ed courses that actually mention condoms. (Because we know how successful Abstinence Only courses are. Right, Bristol?)
Bruce Whitsitt: One of many authors who've only puked out three or less articles, explains how all leftists hate cops and police, and the police should never be chastised for killing the wrong person. Because they don't. And even when they do, it's not their fault.
Lloyd Marcus: Apparently only has one theme: "I'm black, and I hate Obama!"
And there are thousands of little, lesser websites - sweaty loners sitting in their basements, blogging away amid the cases of canned food and ammunition. They're all out there, willing to believe any ridiculous fantasy that comes down the pike. As long as it proves that they're right, and the end of the world is coming and it's the liberals' fault!
They rant, they rave, and they grind their teeth down to nubs, equating Barack Obama with every "villain" in history. Was he Hitler? Marx? Stalin? Mao? Satan? Or even Che Guevara? What about Genghis Khan?
(Quick hint - with looking for Che Guevara links, use the additional tag "-flag" - some low-level Cuban staffer working for the Obama camp put a Cuban flag with the image of Guevara on a wall during the election - probably a bad idea.)
It doesn't matter what you imagine as the most catastrophic event in the history of the universe - there will be someone out there who will find a way to blame it on Barack Obama.