Conspiracy theories have long been a fixture on the political landscape, with political paranoia most virulent among politically marginalized sectors of the polity. So, with Democrats holding the reins of power, it stands to reason that the rightwing fringe has become the prime repository of collective craziness.
Newsweek has a handy primer on the current proliferation of political paranoia, but omits mention of conspiracy-theorist-in-chief Michele Bachmann, who has been added to Newsweek’s coverage by way of sidebars.
Town Hall Face. (Photos: Landov, AP, Getty Images via Newsweek)
By David A. Graham
February 12, 2010
1. Barack Obama was not born in the United States
It’s not clear where he must have been born instead: some say Indonesia; some say Kenya (initial suggestions that Hawaiian natives weren’t citizens when he was born in Honolulu in 1961 were quickly dismissed). The point, so-called birthers say, is that he wasn’t born in the good old US of A, hence isn’t a natural-born citizen and therefore cannot legally be president.
Proponents: Chief birther and Beverly Hills dentist and attorney Orly Taitz, WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah, Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.), former presidential and Senate candidate Alan Keyes, assorted tea partiers.
Kernel of Truth? It’s fully debunked. Forged Kenyan birth certificates have been exposed, and – despite protestations to the contrary – Obama’s birth certificate has been certified by the state of Hawaii, and images have been shown on national television. And that’s leaving aside plenty of circumstantial proof, like birth announcements in both major Hawaiian papers from August 1961.
Sidebar: A ‘Rash of Lies and Falsehoods’ (April 9, 2009)
3. Goldman Sachs intentionally created the economic crisis
4. Democrats’ health plan will create death panels
Part of Barack Obama’s devious plan to reform health insurance will be the creation of panels of experts who will decide whether or not patients are “worth” treating, making them arbiters of life and death.
Proponents: Sarah Palin, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), a lot of angry town-hall-meeting attendees.
Kernel of Truth? Palin was apparently referring to a provision of draft legislation that would have funded consultation about end-of-life care. There was and is, however, no plan for rationing care as a cost-cutting measure, and fact-checking outlet PolitiFact named the theory the “Lie of the Year” in 2009.
Sidebar: Bachmann Rebuked for Nazi Image (Nov. 12, 2009)
Sign displayed at U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s “House Call on Congress” anti-health care reform rally in Washington, D.C., Nov. 5, 2009. The sign reads, “National Socialist Health Care: Dachau, Germany – 1945.” (Photo credit: Lee Fang / ThinkProgress)
6. Sarah Palin is not the mother of her 1-year-old son, Trig
7. ACORN is part of a liberal conspiracy to steal elections
The coalition of community organizations first came under fire after allegations that members were filing fraudulent voter-registration forms in order to beef up the Democratic vote in the 2008 elections. Pressure heated up after a videotaped sting humiliated the group.
Proponents: Glenn Beck, conservative commentators Michelle Malkin and Andrew Breitbart, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), unsuccessful N.Y. Conservative Party congressional candidate Doug Hoffman.
Kernel of Truth? The James O’Keefe videos showed questionable conduct at the very least, but neither they nor anything else proves a vast left-wing conspiracy between Democrats and ACORN to steal elections.
Sidebar: ACORN: Bachmann ‘Pants on Fire’ (July 2, 2009)
8. FEMA is establishing detention camps
The government has quietly made the Federal Emergency Management Agency a shadow government. Even now, FEMA has concentration camps ready across the country to intern American citizens. The idea attracted leftists during the Bush administration and – updated for the Obama administration – now has right-wing adherents.
Proponents: Glenn Beck (briefly), the Internet.
Kernel of Truth? Too silly to discuss.
9. The Council on American-Islamic Relations is trying to infiltrate Capitol Hill and spread jihad
10. Obama wants to conscript Americans into a civilian defense corps
The group would be a brownshirtlike organization that would enforce order in the United States.
Proponents: Glenn Beck, Watergate burglar and media personality G. Gordon Liddy, Ann Coulter.
Kernel of Truth? Liberal press watchdog Media Matters says the theory stems from a speech Obama made in which he argued for the importance of the Foreign Service, AmeriCorps, and the Peace Corps. That’s a far cry from an American Gestapo – a claim for which there’s no support.
Sidebar: Bachmann Brainwashing Paranoia (April 8, 2009)
11. Time magazine wants to restrict the Internet to licensed users
12. 9/11 was an inside job
Kernel of Truth? Not even the staunchest mainstream George W. Bush bashers believe this one. Enough said.
13. The Omnibus One-World Government, Unified Currency, Dollar-Abolishing, Free Trade-Advocating Theory of Everything.
To make, first reheat old theories about elite organizations that supposedly control various world governments and would like to create a single, unitary, global regime – the Bilderberg Group, the Council of Foreign Relations, and the Trilateral Commission. Add a healthy portion of slightly newer but equally discredited theories about the Amero, a pan-North American currency, and the NAFTA superhighway, a planned thruway from Canada to Mexico said to be six football fields wide. Freshen with the economic-crisis-born idea that Ben Bernanke is trying to destroy the value of the dollar. Add a pinch of tea-party spice from former Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who believes there’s a plan underfoot to have a United Nations guard at every American’s door. The finished product should taste a little like this.
Proponents: Alex Jones, finance blog Zero Hedge, WorldNetDaily, conservative news site NewsMax, Roy Moore.
Kernel of Truth? Eh, sounds plausible to us.
Sidebar: Bachmann Says “I’m Not a Kook” (March 28, 2009)
By David A. Graham
August 25, 2010
Chances are that by now you’ve heard about the Aug. 19, 2010, Pew poll that found that nearly one fifth of Americans (mistakenly) believe that President Obama is a Muslim. Perhaps you think that a terrifying outlier; or perhaps you’re a believer, and then you are in good company. Either way, you’re wrong: in fact, remarkably high numbers of Americans believe the most unusual things. Although the portion of poll respondents who believe Obama is a Muslim has risen recently, some of these oddball opinions contain more consistent numbers of believers. Here’s a sampling of the nuttiest. …
FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — February 20, 2009
One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that Muntadhar al-Zeidi, the Iraqi reporter who hurled his shoes at George W. Bush, said at his trial that President Bush’s smile as he talked about achievements in Iraq had made him think of “the killing of more than a million Iraqis, the disrespect for the sanctity of the mosques and houses, the rapes of women,” and enraged him.
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