Remember the days when there were three television networks, you could fill up your gas tank for $15 and Guy Fieri was just a homophobic, talentless, annoyingly "stoked" tween named "Guy Ferry" rather than a homophobic, talentless, annoyingly "stoked" television mogul? Ah yes, simpler times. I'm also old enough to remember when political conspiracy theories, however ridiculous they seem now, possessed some small layer of believability -- as if a team of experts were working really, really hard to construct a plausible narrative based on their own paranoia and obsessive cravings for attention. Whoever they were, they were craftsmen. Insane craftsmen.
I remember when it was perfectly reasonable to suggest that the CIA and the Pentagon were involved in the assassination of President Kennedy, or when they said the moon landing was filmed by Stanley Kubrick inside a Hollywood sound stage because it was easier than actually going there.
And occasionally a conspiracy theory might've been on the money. For example, yes, the U.S.S. Maine was probably sunk in order to precipitate the Spanish-American War. And, yes, there was talk of repeating the tactic as a pretext for an invasion of Cuba.
But you'd think in the internet age when it's really easy to debunk the truly ridiculous theories via a universe of information, conspiracy theorists would work even harder to come up with better ideas than the hooey they're churning out these days. Instead, modern conspiracy theorists tend to be malicious, stupid and, too often, racist.
It probably doesn't help that the man who's most responsible for marketing in this crap, Alex Jones, is an escaped mental patient who happens to know a thing or two about business models. If he hadn't made a career out of this stuff, he'd surely be institutionalized but, instead, he's become the Walt Disney of Conspiracy Schlock.
Remember a while back when he said -- out loud and without embarrassment -- that the government was reducing our testosterone in order to turn us all into homosexuals? He also blamed gun massacres on anti-depressant medications, a theory that was later repeated by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Regardless, his Infowars.com website is the Walmart of conspiracy outlets.
Here's the newest theory from Infowars.com, and it hit the internet last week.
Obama Now Global Head of Al-Qaeda
Will President order drone strike on White House?
Paul Joseph Watson & Alex Jones
March 21, 2013
President Barack Obama is now the global head of Al-Qaeda – bankrolling, arming and equipping terrorists around the world in order to achieve his administration’s geopolitical objectives – while simultaneously invoking the threat of terrorists domestically to destroy the bill of rights.
The most hilariously moronic thing about this rehash and update to the Birther/Secret-Muslim/Pals-Around-With-Terrorists conspiracy theory is that it directly contradicts Jones' apparent opposition to the president's drone strikes against suspected terrorists. In fact, without flinching, the article's second paragraph begins with the line:
"...it has now been established that those merely suspected of engaging in terrorism, including US citizens, are subject to targeted drone strikes"
So the president, himself an evil terrorist, is killing evil terrorists and needs to stop? Okeedokee.
Clearly, Jones is both against terrorists and drone strikes on suspected terrorists like U.S.-born Anwar Al-Awlaki. He continues by writing:
"Obama must immediately order a drone strike on the White House because the facts documented below incontrovertibly demonstrate that it represents the headquarters of Al-Qaeda operations worldwide."
Unless he's being snarky, Jones suggests here that the president should order a drone strike to kill himself, a terrorist, and whoever else happens to be inside the White House at the time -- most of whom are American citizens. Are you following this? Personally, I'm barely hanging on. It's as if I'm listening to raving street loon shouting in tongues, and he hasn't even really begun to get into the details.
This conspiracy theory is so shoddy that it debunks itself before it's really even underway. It'd be like saying the moon landing was faked -- on the surface of the moon! Gotcha! Either Obama is a terrorist or he's wantonly murdering terrorists. It doesn't make sense if he's a criminal for killing terrorists and a criminal for being a terrorist.
Jones continues by diving into the recently invented theory about how the Obama administration, via the late ambassador Chris Stevens, had been trafficking arms and personnel from the al-Qaida-backed Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) to al-Qaida-backed Syrian rebels. In this case, terrorists are bad. You might remember this conspiracy theory when it was entered into the Senate record by Saint Rand Paul while questioning former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton back in January.
Toward the end, Jones loops back to drone strikes and Anwar Al-Awlaki.
American citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki was killed by a drone strike simply for producing propaganda videos and communicating with accused terrorists. His 16-year-old son was similarly slaughtered for merely sharing his father’s surname. Other American citizens like John Walker Lindh were imprisoned and tortured in Guantanamo Bay for fighting with the Taliban.
Hmm. Yeah. I've heard this before. But never really in the context that Obama is himself a terrorist and that he must attack the White House with a drone.
But isn't the pitch for a drone strike against an accused terrorist on U.S. soil an endorsement of the drone policy? And didn't Jones just criticize the drone policy when it was used against Al-Awlaki who, like Obama (according to Jones), has aided terrorists? And isn't Jones simultaneously indicting terrorist groups in Syria and Libya (and the White House), while defending suspected al-Qaida terrorist Al-Awlaki and terrorist John Walker Lindh?
My head hurts.
None of it makes any sense because it was obviously written while Jones was either in the throes of a schizophrenic episode or he simply dictated it to his intern without bothering to proofread for, you know, basic storytelling consistency. To repeat, Rand Paul, Marsha Blackburn and other members of Congress have endorsed various Jones theories. What's their excuse? Oh, and let this be a cautionary lesson for people like Glenn Greenwald and others who have a predilection for getting all cloak-and-dagger about the president's pursuit of terrorists. There's a really fine line between being a diligent watchdog and being a crackpot zealot who deals in speculative outrage. Speaking of Greenwald, if he's interested in calling out actual racists both in the context of the war on terrorism, he should check out the comments under the Jones article. Over-the-top scary.
Yes, it's all very contradictory and silly. But at the same time, there are serious people in the corridors of political influence who are exploiting the suckers who are predisposed to believe, and so these leaders have tapped into this racist, paranoid, frightened, angry market segment. Tea Party Republicans, like Rand Paul and the others, have discovered that the passion generated by these theories makes for good politics. And the exploitation process elevates even the most ridiculous conspiracy theories to legitimate mainstream circles where they tend to flourish. Dangerously.