Lovable caricature of a blue collar mom--though oddly I don't recall my own blue-collar mom ever comparing black people to apes--Roseanne Barr is notable not only for racism, Islamophobia, and antisemitism, but an affinity for conspiracy theories. Leaving aside the question of whether the former are characteristic of Trumpism, there's no doubt that the latter is.
Barr herself latched onto some deeply troubled storylines long before her faceplant last week. Her posts on 4Chan--a message board that seems to be peopled by the kind of guys with homemade tattoos that you see running rides at carnivals--approvingly reference not only the now-well-known fantasy that liberal billionaire George Soros is a former Nazi zonderkommando, but the more obscure notion that Donald Trump has secretly liberated hundreds of children a month from sex slavery. (A later post will address the alt.right's obsession with pedophilia.) Ask yourself who could believe that Donald Trump could do a good deed in secret and wonder how Barr is allowed to have a driver's license.
The conspiracy theory is, of course, an element in the Trump toolbox as essential as the hammer. After all, his political career was launched in Birtherism, a racist fantasy that seemed to be predicated on the assumption that no black person could legitimately achieve the presidency. As we've spun further and further down the Trumpworld rabbit hole, many of us have forgotten the rallies in which he gleefully announced to cheering goobers that he "couldn't believe" what his "investigators" were "digging up" in Hawaii. We have also forgotten the press conference, during the campaign, at which he proclaimed that Obama had been born in America, without explanation or apology.
That's all been buried under the mountain ranges of brazen bullshit he's shoveled out since--historic inauguration crowds, massive voter fraud depriving him of a popular vote win, Spygate one week, Mueller tampering with the midterms the next.
There are two alternative explanations for the primacy of the conspiracy theory in Trump's public worldview. One is a cynical recognition of the gullibility of his trailer-park constituency and the ease with which its resentment can be directed at elites. The other is much, much darker.
As noted above, Roseanne is fixated on child sex trafficking. This is nothing new on the fringe right. But a year ago, it spawned a theory so bereft of supporting evidence and connection with consensus reality that it may have killed political satire for a generation. And almost wound up killing real people as well --Pizzagate.
It's impossible to recite the elements of the theory with a straight face. But here they are: Prominent Democrats, including John Podesta and Hillary Clinton, are pedophiles.
Wait. Really. There's more.
Being pedophiles, they need a steady supply of children to rape. (Please imagine Hillary Clinton having sex with a child or adult of either gender and tell me whether you still want to live. Bet you don't!) So they're part of an international ring of pedophiles that kidnaps children and sells them into sex slavery.
But wait--you said there'd be pizza!
And there is. Several of the hacked Podesta and DNC emails referred to a nice family place in the Chevy Chase neighborhood of DC called Comet Ping Pong Pizza. Apparently some DNC staffers liked to hang out there. For reasons still unclear, elements of the alt.right, being apprised of those references, decided that must have been where Podesta, Hillary, and all their Democratic chums were violating kids in the basement.
Well, duh. Where else, right?
The first Facebook posts on the "story" appeared in late October 2016. Yes, just before the election. Almost immediately it went viral, spraying across the twitterverse like projectile diarrhea. Later investigation found that many of the originating accounts were owned by what we now know were Russian bots. But many of the likes and retweets came from Trump operatives, including Michael Caputo. For a brilliant and very detailed account of the original story and its social-media-abetted spread, see these articles in Rolling Stone and Reveal.
Of course it didn't stop with a couple of kazillion retweets. Celebrated fantasist and bankrupt-in-waiting Alex Jones lit up Infowars with new and improved versions of the story that included Satanic blood ceremonies; apparently, once Hillary had satisfied her desires with shrieking tween girls--not making this up--he slaked her bloodlust by chopping them up for convenient disposal.
Other outlets informed their breathless consumers that Comet Ping Pong's menu contained coded clues as to what was going on in the basement--"CP" stood not for "Cheese Pizza" but "Child Pornography."
Shortly mottled marsh-dweller Steve Bannon stirred in his sodden weeds and got Breitbart onto the bandwagon. Not to be outdone by other sites touting confirmation by entirely imaginary NYPD investigations, Breitbart Radio went right to the top in an interview with Blackwater Security founder and major Trump donor Erik Prince--remember that name--who not only confirmed the story but expanded on it, adding details like multiple trips to Caribbean sex islands on a private jet owned by Clinton-pardoned financier Mark Rich. Hoo boy--is that Hillary evil, or what?
But things worked out as they worked out and the Russkis nudged the Electoral College Trump's way. The story, unfortunately, did not end there.
A couple of weeks after the election a sad addled man named Edgar Welch armed himself with an AR 15--the Schizo Special--and drove up to DC to free those poor kids from the Comet Ping Pong basement sex dungeon.
But Comet Ping Pong doesn't have a basement.
One can only imagine his frustrated rage as he bounced around the kitchen flipping open doors in his desperate search for freshly-violated children and still-engorged Democrat Satanists looking for more. Luckily he didn't go the usual crazed-gunman route and shoot up the place before turning the weapon on himself. He did let one round go, though, before surrendering to the SWAT team, which I'm sure for the people who were there was plenty.
TRUMP AND PIZZAGATE
Remember when I told you to note the name of Erik Prince? There was a reason for that.
Erik Prince delivered a full-throated and highly detailed endorsement of the Clinton pedophilia fantasy on Breitbart Radio. Breitbart is controlled by Steve Bannon, who in addition to tireless advocacy for a healthy lifestyle succeeded Russian vampire Paul Manafort as Trump's campaign manager. Breitbart is bankrolled by Robert and Rebekah Mercer, who, with Bannon, control the now-bankrupt Cambridge Analytica, the datamining and psychometrics firm that microtargeted Facebook ads--possibly with Russian assistance--during the 2016 election.
But that's beside the point. Prince is the brother of Betsy DeVos, the famously uninformed and inarticulate Secretary of Education. But wait--there's more! Not only is Prince the sibling of a member of the cabinet, but also an apparition that appears Zelig-like every time the Trumps are doing dirt. For example, Prince met with a Russian plutocrat, Kiril Dmietriev, in the Seychelles a week before the inauguration in what now appears to have been part of the effort to set up a Washington-Moscow back channel. He's also separately proposed that the war in Afghanistan be privatized and the President create a separate spy network reporting directly to him, outside the normal intelligence structure, and presumably beyond oversight.
So to recap: You have a Trump contributor, the brother of a Trump cabinet member, going on a media outlet owned by Trump's campaign manager, to support the claim that the Clintons are pedophile sex traffickers.
But wait--there's more! In addition, Prince has been circulating the truly crazy notion that George Soros--the billionaire that antisemitic nutters love to hate--is financing a Clinton-backed coup against the Trump administration. It's called the Purple Revolution. Why? Are you blind? Because both Clintons wore purple when she conceded the election!
Christ, do I have to paint a picture? Draw a map? All the evidence is right there!
TRUMPWORLD AND CONSPIRACIES
As I said earlier, there are two potential explanations for Trump's penchant for the conspiracy theory. The first being the more benign--his people like them. The rubes who continue to support him feel as though their rightful place in the world has been usurped by mysterious forces beyond their understanding or control---China, immigrants, globalists, tree-huggers, black presidents--why not tie them all together? And God knows he never pays a price for it--we've forgotten Birtherism, which is about as crazy and blatantly racist a slander as has ever disgraced American politics. Yet there he is in the White House.
But there is an explanation much darker. And that is that Trump believes these mad fantasies. Not because he's insane. But because he knows they can happen. If the bare essentials of what's out there so far are true, it is entirely possible that the Russians used an already-compromised American businessman to launder money and spread nutty lies about a popular President. They encouraged him to run for President himself as a vehicle for further disinformation. They hooked him up with a campaign manager already in their pocket, who in turn led him to a social media consultants they could work with. And much to their surprise he won.
Trump really believes in conspiracy theories. Because he's deep in a conspiracy himself.