No single ideology holds a monopoly on wacky beliefs, unless you count ‘crazy’ as an ideology. But when it comes to the subset of wacky beliefs commonly known as anti-government conspiracy theories, it’s no accident that the American right embraces them with much greater frequency and enthusiasm than its left-wing counterpart.
For this week's wackiest anti-government conspiracy theory, we turn to Florida (of course), state Rep. Charles Van Zant, who sternly told an audience in Orlando that the organization chosen to implement federal Common Core education standards in Florida is pushing a homosexual agenda:
“They are promoting as hard as they can, any youth that is interested in the LGBT agenda.”
“These people that will now receive $220 million from the state of Florida unless this is stopped, will promote double-mindedness in state education and attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can. I’m sorry to report that to you.”
Crazy? Obviously. Surprising? Hardly.
Van Zant’s word vomit is a completely natural and internally coherent result of a mindset that has surrendered itself to wholesale delusions about a federal government that is forever plotting the demise of morality and freedom.
This general suspicion has only been heightened by the election and reelection of Barack Obama, who for conservatives has been a conspiratorial gold mine when it's come to his place of birth, his religion, his connections to ACORN, his alleged Benghazi cover-up complete with a phony concussion by his then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and, in a stark 180 degree reversal, the supposedly very real head injury she sustained which prompted that stay.
Not that long ago, the term “conspiracy theory” typically conjured up images of Roswell, the Kennedy assassination, and Area 51. It wasn’t until the advent of the internet and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that fantastical conspiracy theories were advanced so widely and often that the very idea of them became banal. Perhaps more than any other event, 9/11 helped push the modern conspiracy “movement” onto the national radar.
Indeed, 9/11 conspiracy theories can be seen most prominently on far rightlibertarianwebsites. Using this list of rankings of most popular libertarian sites, on three of the top six and four of the top 10 can you find at least one article espousing the view that 9/11 was an inside job. Similar "false flag" claims can be found concerning the Newtown, Conn. school shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing.
These and other conspiracy theories just so happen to dovetail nicely with the far right worldview that government is an inherently evil institution that lies, cheats, steals, and kills. In this way, an event like 9/11 is dramatic confirmation bias of a belief system held by only a "perceptive" few. As an added benefit, those who reject The Official Story™ can bask in the glow of enlightenment while looking into the darkness at the sheeple who remain asleep. ("Wake up, sheeple!")
You’ll notice that conspiracy theorists are often averse to civil dialogue. That's because they have no interest in winning people over, and would prefer to assert their supposedly superior critical thinking faculties in the most obnoxious way possible.
That, and the fact that they have no have actual evidence for their claims.
But no matter. Every traumatic event, whether it’s a terrorist attack, or a mass shooting, or even a damn natural disaster, is quite possibly – even most likely – a false flag event conducted by the government to be used as a pretext for eroding civil liberties.
The conspiracy theories routinely spewed forth by conspiracy nuts like Alex Jones and others are no doubt extreme, but aren't representative of mainstream conservative thought. However, such ravings are in fact a natural extension of the tamer but still crazy beliefs of conservatives like Charles Van Zant, Lindsey Graham, Donald Trump, Karl Rove, and a litany of other conservatives who never pass up an opportunity to cast aspersions on not just the federal government, but the very notion of governance itself.