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Six liberal conspiracy theories also clouding the political conversation

from the Movie Poster for "Signs" great looking tin foil hats!

Feb 24, 2024

From The Gazette

In my column last week, I took a tour of mostly right-wing conspiracy theories that are infecting our political dialogue with a vertigo-inducing warp of reality.

It’s only fair that we explore some of the most prominent left-wing conspiracy theories this week, for no party has a true monopoly on tinfoil hats.

1. Maybe the most outrageous liberal conspiracy theory swimming out there now is that Donald Trump is a Russian asset.

I saw this post on X just the other day from Republicans Against Trump:

“Feb. 19: The entire world: Putin murdered Navalny.

The Russian government: Navalny died from 'Sudden death syndrome'

Trump this morning: 'The sudden death of Alexi Navalny.'

Donald Trump is a Russian asset."

Ex-Republican lawmaker Liz Cheney issued a similar warning recently on CNN’s State of the Union: ‘I believe the issue this election cycle is making sure the Putin wing of the Republican Party does not take over the West Wing of the White House.” Throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, information including a dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele posited collusion between Trump’s aides and Russian operatives.

While liberal media outlets like MSNBC promoted these rumors, many more reputable news outlets never aired the claims from the dossier because they could never be verified. They turned out to be baseless. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation found no evidence linking the Trump campaign to Russian interference in U.S. politics. But now these theories have reared their head again as Trump runs for his old office and seems to avoid most criticism of Vladimir Putin. That doesn’t mean he works for the Russians.

“We went down that road. The Clinton campaign planted a rumor in the press that Trump was a Russian asset,” Constitutional scholar Rob Natelson told me. “It turns out to be completely false. I don’t see very many people buying into that. Most conspiracy theories tend to be for fund-raising purposes or so the left can titillate themselves about what danger they are in when they control every major commanding height in America.” And Colorado.

2. A conspiracy theory Natelson does worry about is one that claims a handful of reform groups on the right are trying to overthrow the Constitution.

“The most serious conspiracy theory is regarding Common Cause,” said Natelson, who is a senior fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence for the conservative Independence Institute in Denver. Common Cause, a watchdog group based in Washington, D.C., recently put out a fundraising letter that demonizes those seeking a convention for proposing new amendments under Article V of the Constitution.

Many different groups that favor constitutional amendments on campaign finance reform, a balanced federal budget, and extending term limits to Congress have called for such a “convention of states.”

Yet Common Cause depicts the whole lot as conspiring in “a dangerous far-right plot” promoting a “secret plan to rewrite our Constitution.”

“These groups obviously represent a threat to the D.C. establishment, so many people who want to blunt that engage in conspiracy theories: ‘This is a deep, dark conspiracy against the Constitution, they’re going to rewrite the Constitution, they are going to gut the Bill of Rights,’ said Natelson. “This is all garbage but apparently generates contributions.”

3. Another conspiracy theory out there is that right-wing groups will erupt in violence if Donald Trump loses the presidential race. Natelson believes this is left-wing conspiracy theorists crying wolf.

“Many leftists seem to get a thrill from fantasies about right-wing violence. In the real world, however, large-scale domestic violence and intimidation come almost exclusively from the left rather than the right,” Natelson said.

“Leftist violence and intimidation went big time in 1968, at the Democratic Convention and in the Watts section of Los Angeles. It continued through the campus seizures in the 1970s, the 1980 Miami riots, the 1999 anti-World Trade Organization riots, the 2011 occupation of the Wisconsin state capitol, the 2018 occupation of the Hart Senate office building, the 2018 storming of the Supreme Court,” the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, and on and on. “Intimidation continues today, as mobs harass Supreme Court justices and their families.

“And unlike the mostly spontaneous — and nearly unique — right-wing riot of Jan. 6, 2021, leftist uprisings sometimes kill dozens of people.”

4. Another raging left-wing conspiracy theory: The Hamas attack was a “false flag” staged by Israel.

I’ve seen this claim made right here in Colorado by pro-Palestinian protesters who have taken over the state Capitol and city council meetings.

Hashtags and terms linking Israel to “false flag” — a staged event that casts blame on another party — tripled on social media in the weeks after the attacks, according to the Network Contagion Research Institute, a nonprofit tracking disinformation.

This conspiracy theory comes from a small but growing group on the left that are so upset with Israel’s retaliation they deny the basic facts of the attacks, pushing a range of falsehoods.

The thing is, the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack is among the most well-documented in history. A crush of evidence from smartphone cameras and GoPros captured Hamas’ breach of the border.

5. Next: The world can live without fossil fuels.

Last count, about 79% of our energy in the U.S. still comes from fossil fuels. Even if one assumes that fossil fuels are behind the rise in global temperatures over the last century, it is just not rational to believe that we can abandon fossil fuels for many, many years.

If fossil fuel production were stopped tomorrow, the world would quickly grind to a halt. “Without that power, electricity grids would see widespread blackouts. Within a few weeks, a lack of oil — still the major fuel used for trucking and shipping goods worldwide — would impede deliveries of food and other essential goods,” a Washington Post science reporter wrote recently.

Natelson believes the facts of climate change have gotten drowned in an “ocean of climate propaganda" and the fight has become so politicized that claims are being exaggerated all the time and every weather event has been turned into a political football, whether it should be or not.

6. A Washington Post columnist, ABC News and Gloria Steinem all recently voiced versions of an ungrounded conspiracy theory that when Roe v. Wade was overturned the anti-abortion movement and the Supreme Court majority were merely pretending to oppose abortion while secretly wanting only to boost White birthrates for the sake of perpetuating dominance of the White race. Seventy-one million Catholics who oppose abortion for religious reasons will be surprised to hear this.

At the end of the day, my central concern isn’t necessarily that the left embraces conspiracy theories more than the right, or vice versa.

A recent study published by Political Behavior found, in fact, that Americans who lean conservative in their political beliefs are no more likely to believe in conspiracy theories than liberals.

In addition, many conspiracy theories are equally supported by both sides of the political spectrum, the study found.

The larger concern to me is that people on the left and the right are losing their ability to distinguish conspiracy theory from plain old controversy or disagreement, or conspiracy theory from reality. My bigger worry is that facts no longer matter.

In a world awash in conspiracy theories everybody thinks they are being lied to and manipulated — and they’re right. Now our disagreements are mostly about who is doing the lying and the reasons for the lies rather than healthy disagreement about the issues themselves.

In a new book, writer Naomi Klein worries that we have created a kind of “Mirror World” with our culture of conspiracy theory and the separate news and internet bubbles in which left and right dwell.

The Mirror World “is a strange mirror image of the world where I live,” she writes. “It’s a place where many ideas that I care about are being twisted and warped into dangerous doppelgänger versions of themselves.” Think, for example, of Putin claiming that he’s liberating Ukraine from fascism.

“When looking at the Mirror World, it can seem obvious that millions of people have given themselves over to fantasy, to make-believe, to playacting,” writes Klein. “The trickier thing, the uncanny thing, really, is that’s what they see when they look at us.”

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