THE DEN – Ah, a quiet, dark and wet evening with soft music from the Prussian Army Marching Band, and… Odd, someone is knocking at my front door. I open the door and there stands a man in a trench coat, collar turned up, hat pulled low, dark glasses. “Greetings, Agent 00X” he says. “The pelican is known to hiccup on Fridays.” Huh? “Marmaduke wears purple suspenders,” he says. I start to close the door. “Wait. Isn’t this 122 Spider Bite Drive?” I shake my head. “That’s across the street. The Machiavelli house.” He is surprised. “Oh, then I’ll have to kill you.” I start to close the door and dial 911.
“Your disguise can’t fool me. You really are Osgood Machiavelli,” he says. “I am known as Grassy Knoll, and I came to warn you about the Great Conspiracy. You know, of course, that Deep State is planning a coup. It will be on November 3.” I point out that November 3 is Election Day. “Exactly. That’s when illegal aliens and Martians will attempt to change presidents. The conspirators won’t use real ballots but Lotto tickets. They go way back. Did you know that people never saw Vice President Andrew Johnson and John Wilkes Booth at the same time? And FDR could walk? That wheelchair was actually a radio to clue him in about Pearl Harbor. He knew it was coming.”
I close the door, but begin looking into the conspiracy theories, which are growing with each false rumor. Like Alex Jones, who runs the website InfoWars, that claimed the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders of 26 children and teachers were a “false flag” attack perpetrated by the government, that “no one died” in the massacre and that the victims were “child actors.” Then we have Glenn Beck whose paranoia and conspiracies include the Boston Marathon Bombing Cover-up. Need I say more? Both Jones and Beck could do their radio shows and social media rants from anywhere. Both looked around to find where they would feel most at home, be the most comfortable with like-minded conspiratorial souls. Both chose Texas – Dallas and Austin.
The conspiracies go on. Hillary Clinton engineered the terrorists’ raid in Benghazi, Roswell’s space visitors held in a deep freeze, the assassination of John F. Kennedy or the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Such fakes are not harmless. On Oct. 30, 2016, a Twitter account claimed that the NYPD had discovered a pedophilia ring and sex trafficking linked to members of the Democratic Party, based in the basement of Comet Ping Pong, a restaurant in Chevy Chase. The report also claimed that the restaurant was a meeting ground for satanic ritual abuse. On Dec. 4, 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch from Salisbury, North Carolina, arrived at Comet Ping Pong, where, he believed, the children were being held in a network of tunnels. He made his way to the kitchen, shot open a locked door, and discovered cooking utensils. He found no captive children in the restaurant’s basement; in fact, Comet Ping Pong doesn’t even have a basement.
The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a barrage of misinformation and public distrust that has led the World Health Organization to warn of an “infodemic.” For example, widely shared Instagram posts suggested that the coronavirus was planned by Bill Gates on behalf of pharmaceutical companies. In Alabama, Facebook posts claimed that shadowy powers had ordered sick patients to be secretly helicoptered into the state. In Latin America, rumors have proliferated that the virus was engineered to spread H.I.V. In Iran, pro-government outlets portray the disease as a Western plot.
Foremost is our Conspirator in Chief, President Donald Trump. He pushed Barack Obama’s birth in Kenya. On March 4, 2017, he tweeted that Obama wiretapped Trump’s phones at his Trump Tower office late in the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump claimed that between 3 and 5 million people cost him the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by voting illegally. Specifically, he claimed that he narrowly lost to Hillary in 2016 in New Hampshire because thousands of people were illegally bused there from Massachusetts. He charged that MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough was responsible for the death of a female staffer in 2001. Wind turbines cause cancer. He said there was something “very fishy” about the suicide of Obama’s Deputy White House counsel Vincent W. Foster.
The Black Lives Matter movement is a gold mine for paranoids, and the First Conspirator is right there. A little background: One America News aired a segment that presented, as news, a totally false theory about a 75-year-old man in Buffalo, Martin Gugino, a longtime peace activist. We’ve seen to exhaustion the TV shot of Gugino being knocked to the ground by Buffalo police during a demonstration. He was hospitalized after bleeding from his head. Trump picked up this story and Tweeted to his 82 million Twitter followers that Gugino was “an ANTIFA provocateur” who had tried to interfere with law enforcement. “I watched, he fell harder than was pushed,” the president wrote. “Could be a setup?”
Ah, but you ask, what is the source, One America News? Its correspondent who narrated the segment, Kristian Rouz, is a Russian native who has also worked for Sputnik, a Kremlin-controlled news outlet. Sputnik has been accused by intelligence services of contributing to Russia’s efforts to interfere in American elections. That is not just a theory. And what is ANTIFA? It’s short for anti-fascists, a group that is growing in fame among right-wing conspirators who claim that the organization is made up of left-wing terrorists, although no one knows who they are, where they come from – no names, faces, HQ or anything. We can rank ANTIFA up there with the deep state, Easter bunny, tooth fairy and objectivity in Fox News.
There is another knock on my door. It’s him again. “You know that vaccinations cause autism and Jeffrey Epstein was murdered by Rachel Madow. Did I mention Elvis is in Argentina?”
Ashby conspires at ashby2@comcast