Home > Uncategorized > The irrationality of conspiracy theories and disinformation – posted 2/5/2023

The irrationality of conspiracy theories and disinformation – posted 2/5/2023

We have reached a point where conspiracy theories have proliferated so much that they have lost the ability to surprise. The entire right wing ecosphere has been polluted. False information that is intended to mislead has wide range and is everyday fare.

Take the profoundly disturbing example of the attack on Paul Pelosi, the former House Speaker’s husband. When the assault happened last October, the response was telling. Donald Trump Jr. posted an image of a hammer and a pair of underwear with the words “Got my Paul Pelosi Halloween costume ready”. Elon Musk linked to an article claiming that at the time of the assault, an inebriated Pelosi was arguing with a male prostitute. He fed the story of a gay tryst gone wrong.

Many high profile conservatives got in on the act and made fun of the attack on Pelosi including Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and FOX host Tucker Carlson. Apparently attacking an 82 year old man with a hammer is supposed to be funny. Isn’t it unambiguously clear that whatever someone’s politics, such assaults are absolutely unacceptable and beyond the pale?

The recent release of video about the October event confirms the seriousness of the assault. The attacker David DePape violently broke into the Pelosi residence and viciously fractured Pelosi’s skull with a hammer after the police told him to drop it. Pelosi is lucky to still be alive.

DePape has a history as a far right blogger and Trump supporter who embraced QAnon and the Big Lie about the 2020 election being stolen. Contrary to the facts, Sen. Cruz tweeted that DePape was “a hippie nudist from Berkeley”.

This is similar to the Trump effort to blame the January 6 insurrection on Antifa. The right wing ecosphere is often claiming false flag where they attempt to link a perpetrator to their opponents. The classic example is Alex Jones claiming Sandy Hook was staged by gun control advocates to create a pretext to restrict gun ownership.

It is evident now how vulnerable millions are to disinformation no matter how absurd. Repetition of Big Lies can turn listeners into Big Believers. It is a pattern we have seen demonstrated most conspicuously with QAnon. Abner Hauge, the chief editor of Left Coast Right Watch writes:

“Conspiracy theories don’t rely on facts, they weaponize them. The idea of a conspiracy theory is you have an end point you want to get to and you construct reality around that.”

Nowhere is this more true than in the rhetoric around COVID-19 and Dr. Anthony Fauci. The far right wing has swallowed and digested anti-scientific poison. Over-the-top messaging from the far right claims Dr. Fauci has committed very serious crimes and that he should be jailed.

Just to give a few examples (and there are many), I would mention unsuccessful Washington state candidate Joe Kent who called for Dr. Fauci to be charged with murder for “the scam that is COVID”. Kari Lake, failed Arizona GOP gubernatorial candidate, said “that liar” Fauci should be locked up and “I think it is extremely wrong for government, business, and schools to mandate this vaccine”.

Tucker Carlson also has said Fauci “committed very serious crimes” and that he is a “dangerous fraud” who “engineered the single most devastating event in modern American history”. Science Magazine fact-checked Carlson. They wrote:

“The analysis shows Carlson took facts out of context and cited long-debunked studies or reports to attack Fauci. He also repeatedly blamed Fauci and other scientists for changing their minds based on new evidence – the bedrock of scientific progress. In Carlson’s calculus, such reversals equal lying.”

There is no evidence Dr. Fauci has committed any crime. Nor did he engineer the COVID-19 pandemic or lie about it but many want to believe he is corrupt or falsifying data. Dr. Fauci has had a long honorable career as a public health doctor, serving under seven presidents. He won the Medal of Freedom under Republican President George W. Bush. Of course, he has made mistakes and said things that he later regretted. Everyone has.

In the latest incident of COVID wackiness, many far right influencers, like podcaster Stew Peters, have insisted Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin died from COVID-19 vaccine shots after he collapsed in a game millions watched on TV. Far right influencers said Hamlin has been replaced by a body double. Tucker Carlson has lent support to the false claim that cardiac arrests have increased among athletes because of the vaccine.

As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis positions himself for a 2024 presidential run, his COVID “expert”, Dr. Jon Ward, a dermatologist, has said “Fauci should face a firing squad” because of his work. Last August at a campaign rally DeSantis said about Fauci “Someone needs to grab that little elf and chuck him across the Potomac”.

DeSantis must be thinking it is good politics to run against the medical establishment and any mandate for COVID vaccines. He has falsely claimed people are more likely to get infected with the bivalent booster. He and Trump are competing for who sounds most opposed to COVID vaccines. DeSantis now wants the Florida Supreme Court to empanel a grand jury to investigate potential wrongdoing by the medical community regarding how it informed Floridians about COVID vaccines and their efficacy.

Maybe next to Trump, no one did more to downplay the gravity of the pandemic than DeSantis. Since March 2020, more than a million Americans died from COVID-19 and more than 83,000 Floridians. That is a frightening record. The coronavirus killed more people aged 65 and over in Florida than any other state in the nation. No wonder DeSantis wants to retreat from the actual facts.

It is no exaggeration to recognize that the Republican Party, including its leaders, has been captured by voices of irrationality and science-denial. This helps to explain the Party’s intellectual degeneration. Instead of offering any ideas to improve the actual lives of Americans, the Party is lost in a circus of attention-grabbling performative stunts like flying immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard or arresting Florida black voters who thought they could vote.

Bad thinking inevitably leads to bad endings. We are watching a major party rot on the vine.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. jlewandohotmailcom
    February 7, 2023 at 2:22 am

    Another good’un! Someone posted on FB a piece about an early schemer in the Roman Empire, I think, who wrote about disinformation as a political strategy. I planned to copy some of it for future use, but forgot. It feels like this is falling on deaf ears sometimes, but I don’t see any choice but to keep plugging away.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: