Election 2016: Candidates and Conspiracy Theories

UPDATE: This post was originally written 7 months before the November Election. There is no chance that I could fit even a tenth of the conspiracy theory related content that has become newsworthy in that time. Needless to say, a post-election update may be in order. I would hope that interested parties would read previous posts and archival material about the proliferation of “psuedo-political scientific” bullshit, the Hillary Clinton reptoid conspiracists, the story of who the “Blacks for Trump” are, and the most complete list of conspiracies connected to or attributable to Donald Trump and lesser known presidential candidate, Jill Stein.

The 2016 American Presidential Election has not only been one of the most bombastic in the country’s history. Starting out early, with speculation for Hillary Clinton’s potential Presidential bid beginning as early as September of 2013, and remaining a constant subject of media attention thereafter. It was the GOP side which at its peak boasted 17 candidates running for the nomination, including now famously forgotten candidates as Jim Gilmore, and Bobby Jindal, that started Presidential speculative mockery in a July 2013 New Republic article that mentioned Republican ‘wacko birds’ considering their bids; including Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, and promoted New Republic’s most favored candidate, Peter King (who did not end up running after all).

Back then, Donald Trump was only used as a way to mock other famous loonies that may clog the airwaves:

Making a play for the Donald Trump slot (the celebrity who only threatened to run) is Ted Nugent. No, really, Ted Nugent, who once brandished two machine guns onstage at a concert, shouting, “Hey, Hillary! You might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.”

So, it is amazing that a little under 3 years later, 22 major Presidential candidates came, and only 4 remain: Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Ted Cruz. With all the rancor, speculation, and shady underhanded discourse this Presidential election has brought with it, let’s have some more! Shall we?

 

The Conspiracist’s Choice?

Who do 9/11 Conspiracy Theorists, Anti-Vaxxers, Anti-Illuminati, and the elite of fringe ideologues want for their 2016 Presidential candidate?  I feel like the answer is so painfully obvious at this point that delaying the answer would seem pointless.

It is, as you expected, Donald Trump.

donald-trumpThe smug demented fuck.

The folks that have endorsed Donald Trump are, by and large, the same people who believe that the world is run by a shadow government of elites who wield power from behind closed doors. Why? Because Donald trump is an elite who has wielded power from behind closed doors.

I am not making this up. The conspiracist sees in Trump one who ‘played the game’ and ‘knows the game’ but is, for whatever reason, willing to ‘change the game.’

The cavalcade of famous Trump supporters reads as a who’s who of the famously crazy. Jon Voight (actor), Aaron Carter (pop singer), Mike Tyson (retired boxer and Muslim), Jean-Claude Van Damme (a naturalized American citizen), Kid Rock (American bad-ass), Jesse James (American Outlaw ‘author’), Dennis Rodman, Gary Busey, Hulk Hogan, and Ted Nugent. The list goes on, but the reality is that all of these people see in Trump what most everyone else sees in him, a demented megalomaniac and demagogue. The only difference being that they like that about him.

Trump has also become the outspoken demagogue of choice for anti-Muslim sentiment.

 

Foremost for conspiracy theory aficionados is Alex Jones, who dedicated several InfoWars articles and videos to extolling both tacit support and explicit shade at major opponents to the Trump campaign. The InfoWars.com interview with the GOP candidate on December 3rd, 2015 made Trump look presidential by virtue of Alex Jones’ lunacy. Jones’ interview with elderly Conservative scion Phyllis Schlafly was picked up as a funny-come-disgusting story by Right Wing Watch when he asked the leading question “Does [Trump] smell like Reagan to you?” Jones, for his part, has also made it a point to denounce the other ‘anti-establishment’ candidate in the election, Bernie Sanders, by saying his supporters need to have their “jaws broken.”

It wasn’t always smiles and ‘smells’ from conspiracists for Trump. Early on, Trump was accused of being a ‘plant’ or an electoral ‘false flag’ by conspiracy theorists convinced that his real mission was to destroy the hopes of a Republican President in 2016 and ensure the election for Democrat Hillary Clinton. The Hill’s Brent Budowsky penned an opinion piece on this subject on August 6, 2015. Jeb Bush, during the nadir of his candidacy, floated the theory publicly and two days later it was the subject of a BBC article on the American electoral process.

The difference between conspiracists endorsing Trump and conspiracy theories being promoted by the likes of political candidates, pundits and wonks should be notable. The fact is that this is the type of emotion and mental gymnastics needed to deal with an existential situation in which Donald Trump is running for President and doing well, whether his candidacy was ever fake or not.

Trump himself is a very conspirative thinker. Regularly entertaining conspiracy theories, such as the suspected murder of Justice Antonin Scalia, and regularly using conspirative language in an accusatory manner. During his time in the March 29th CNN Town Hall, Trump has suggested that the GOP establishment is treating him unfairly and that Ted Cruz had planted supporters in a crowd of what was supposed to be undecided voters, specifically calling audience members who booed him “Cruz supporters.” The only conspiracy theories Trump doesn’t seem to enjoy, are the ones that implicate him.

Then there’s the possibility that Trump is experiencing the early stages of Alzheimer’s, how’s that for a conspiracy theory?

 

Conspiracism for a New Generation.

If the Far Right has found their ideological mirror image in Donald Trump, then it could be safe to say that the Far Left has been edging ever closer to its own reflection.

I am referring, of course, to Bernie Sanders.

Surowiecki-Bernie-Sanders-Healthcare-1200Bernie proudly leaning to the Left.

Even though Politico describes Sanders as “the most prominent conspiracy theorist in America,” this claim (mostly an attention getting one-liner) takes Sanders’ simplistic view of economics and regularly repeated rhetoric that the economy is ‘rigged’ at face value. Even though Sanders’ foisting the lion’s share of economic blame on the nameless and faceless ‘Wall Street,’ this is not the reason his candidacy is worthy of consideration for it’s conspirative nature.

Bernie Sanders, save us from your fans!

Sure, like most people, Bernie Sanders may take some liberties with his rhetoric. I am pretty sure no political candidate does not. Sitting at the hard center of Bernie’s political movement are young people, many who are not comfortable with ‘establishment politics’ and many of whom are also learning to deal with the various set-backs endemic of a political campaign season through that all-powerful cognitive management device: the conspiracy theory.

When a narrow defeat met Sanders in the Iowa caucus, Bernie Sanders supporters raged on Reddit and suggested that Des Moines votes were rigged for Clinton and speculating on how she won six coin tosses (resulting in her tacit victory). On Twitter, the crowd suggested the Microsoft voting machines played a role in the defeat (hearkening back to 2000 Presidential Election in which election devices and irregularities were suspected by conspiracists supporting Al Gore).

Little over a month later, and Bernie Sanders voters have; suggested Hillary Clinton supporters have infiltrated the Sanders camp, voter fraud is causing various caucus defeats, and that Democratic leadership has it in for Bernie Sanders. Some suggest that Bernie supporters’ essential take-over of a Donald Trump rally in Chicago, originally hailed as a Progressive political coup, was in fact the world of so-called ‘Hill Shills’ when the event backfired, apparently hurting Sanders in that weeks’ primaries.

The conspiracist tendencies and poor reputation of Bernie’s early deciders showed itself quite early on. A documented attempt to sway reaction polling for the first Democratic Debate by Sanders supporters was thwarted, to which they reacted with indignation and the conviction that they and Bernie were the victims of a conspiracy. An apparent Twitter War between Hillary supporters and Bernie supporters also yielded some very unseemly press, first via the BBC, and later Cosmopolitan and others began reporting on the #BernieBros that have become a blight to the Sanders campaign image.

Of course, all of this is objectively a politics-as-usual issue. Conspiracy theories seem to have a firmly embedded place in the American Democratic system (if only in the mind’s of the runner-up’s base). Whether Bernie Sanders likes it or not, his anti-Establishment campaign has generated a significant amount of fairly commonplace knee-jerk reactions and ‘establishment conspiracy theories.’

The Female Suspect.

If there is one thing Hillary Clinton has been able to boast about, it has been that she has been attacked by Republicans for over 25 years. And, yes, she has boasted about that. A few times. It seems as if she is using that as one of her campaign talking points. Could it be that being one of the most distrusted, suspected, accused (accursed) candidates can end up being a selling point?

Hillary Clinton is banking on it!

clinton-benghaziBenghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi …

Yes, if you have been following American politics within the past 25 years, you have probably heard about this feminazi. Ever since her appearance in the National political spectrum as the first First Lady to be significantly politically active during her husband’s tenure in the White House, Republicans and Right Wing pundits have attacked Hillary Clinton for everything from her decision to maintain her maiden name, to her decision to hyphenate her maiden and married names, to her decision to drop her maiden name, and then of course there is the constant accusation that she has a (Muslim) lesbian lover.

The list of potential conspiracy theories, scandals (be they truths, half-truths, or down-right lies) is too great to list. Benghazi. So much of the fervor from the Right has been centered around one event. Benghazi. That story which was to be her Achilles Heal eventually fizzled into nothing more than a long drawn out narrative of a Fog of War scenario. Benghazi, talk about Benghazi! Rather than focus on the decades of material before Clinton’s 11 hours of testimony regarding Benghazi on October 22, 2015, I will instead focus on the various Hillary Clinton conspiracy theories that have developed within the past six months alone.

In January, The Oregonian posted “11 Hillary Clinton conspiracy theories that could dog her during the general election” which was essentially a list of potential digs that the Trump campaign may have on Clinton if they are head-to-head in the General Election. These range from the e-mail scandal containing a potential money laundering component, to her personal server placing American intelligence operatives at risk, to the suggestion that Clinton is being ‘positive’ towards President Obama so that she may be granted a Presidential pardon should the e-mail scandal lead to charges. This article mainly quotes Donald Trump or paraphrases FoxNews and maintains that hilariously unhinged Right Wing aesthetic we have all come to expect from the Tea Party class of the GOP.

Oh, let’s not forget Rush Limbaugh. He is still alive and still hates Hillary Clinton with a fiery passion. His latest rants claim that Bernie Sanders is not playing dirty-pool politics because he is afraid Hillary will have him suicided (a reference to an older conspiracy theory, also popularized by Limbaugh, that the Clintons had their lawyer, Vince Foster, killed and made it look like a suicide).

From the Left, or from the anti-Hillary left as it were, a growing suspicion that ‘establishment’ politics and other ‘establishment’ entities have a specific yen for a President Hillary and, thus, are pulling strings to prevent any likelihood of a President Sanders. This has played out over months in some of the most likely places you would expect people to shout obscenities into the ether: The Internet. When Twitter algorithms didn’t promote the #WhichHillary hashtag story, meant to show Clinton as a flip-flopping political opportunist with little integrity whatsoever and to promote awareness that Clinton used the phrase “super-predators” to describe Black youths as somehow engineered to commit violent crime, Bernie Sanders’ supporters including the group Guerilla Socialists cried foul (primarily because they were cited by Twitter for spamming).

Of course, the real story of Hillary conspiracy theories isn’t the actual Left or Right leaning narratives. The true power of the conspirative mind is unleashed in brutal fury through the anti-Hillary meme! Image and text flow together with such beauty as to make the viewer think that the conclusion that is drawn from the image may truly be the stuff of ‘common sense.’

Below are a brief selection of conspiracy-related anti-Hillary memes, for a full selection check Google.com.

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Of course, if we are on the subject of memes, we have to turn away from Hillary Clinton and toward …

The Canadian.

If there is one thing that the GOP establishment, the Democrats, the vast majority of Americans and Donald Trump can all agree on it’s that Ted Cruz is a suspicious character. They just can’t seem to agree on what to suspect him of.

This is one case where Donald Trump’s is not the most outrageous claim. Not even close.

Trump’s assertion, by way of innuendo, that Ted Cruz is a Canadian citizen is based on the fact that Cruz was born in Canada to an American citizen was one that echoed years of ongoing ‘birtherism’ surrounding the Texas Senator. Though Trump suggests that Cruz’s election would be “tied up in the courts” for years, the whole subject died down within the course of a few days after Cruz, various legal scholars, and public opinion seemed to unite in asserting the illogic and illegality of the claim.

Well, that’s not what this blog is about.

The Internet, again, has brought the election into a new level of surreality. This time, the major benefactor is Él Canadían Ted Cruz, or should we say, The Zodiac Killer? A meme-based conspiracy theory that neither has the ring of truth, nor the mere feasibility that would required to keep a normal conspiracy theory going (Cruz was a baby during the time of the Zodiac murders) has led to an explosion of hilarious auxiliary memes due to one thing: Florida.

March 14, 2013, @RedpillAmerica posts joke on Twitter eluding to Cruz announcing he is the Zodiac.

February-March 2016, Cruz Zodiac jokes and memes pick on on Twitter.

February 25, 2016, Public Policy Polling release results of poll ahead of Florida GOP Primary stating “38% of Florida voters think it’s possible that Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer. 10% say he for sure is, and another 28% say that they are just not sure. Cruz is exonerated from being a toddler serial killer by 62% of the Sunshine State populace.”

2odiac CruzA 2016 Cruz Campaign Flyer

After the revelation that Florida, by and large, doesn’t get the joke … all internet hell broke loose. Memes of Cruz as everyone from Grampa Munster from the 1960s television show The Munsters, to Mrs. Doubtfire, to Rob Kardashian, to Michael Sweet; lead singer of Christian Hair Metal Band Stryper.

 

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ted_cruz_stryper_meme-620x412

 

As if this weren’t enough crazy for one candidate, there is also the little matter of the conspiracy theories that this guy buys, or bought, into.

If you follow Right Wing American lunacy you may remember a little multi-state military drill called Jade Helm 15. Jade Helm 15 was a military preparedness drill with joint military branch cooperation and coordinated through the SOC (Special Operations Command), but what Ted Cruz and many other Tea Partier GOP and assorted Right-wing folks (especially in Texas) suspected was an absolute arrest of all civil liberties, the removal of all rights, the confiscation of all weapons by the Federal Government through the guise of Martial Law and that all good, hard-working American Patriots would be rounded up and detained in makeshift Fema Camps in caverns dug under Wal-Mart Superstores (no, fucking really, this was what they thought). Though the military training mission came and went without martial law declared and no mass-detainment of the citizenry, the insanity did lead to the arrest of three North Carolina men attempting to launch a massive domestic terror plot, and caused one fearful man to shoot at military personnel (at great distance) outside of Camp Shelby, Mississippi.

Ted Cruz made it a point to state that he “reached out to the pentagon” to ensure that Jade Helm 15 was on the up-and-up because he claimed he “[understood] the reason for concern and uncertainty, because when the federal government has not demonstrated itself to be trustworthy in this administration, the natural consequence is that many citizens don’t trust what it is saying.”

In other words, lack of trust leads to wildly outlandish claims seeming feasible. That, Senator Cruz, is how you get an American Presidential candidate who stands accused of being a Canadian-Cuban immigrant and/or the Zodiac Killer.

 

Errata

John Kasich is still running for the GOP Nomination. As with most things in this 2016 Presidential Election cycle, Kasich-related conspiracy theories are neither as loud or as interesting as those of the other candidates.

635707550955479453-20150624-bp-kasich-01Here he is, waiting in the shadows.

One conspiracy theory remains, and will as long as he the Ohio Governor is still in the running; the theory that there is a conspiracy to keep John Kasich in the running. It’s more-or-less a given that Kasich and his supporters are itching to post a primary victory outside of his home state, which he is also the Governor of. It is also, a fairly believable narrative, considering how loathed both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are of the GOP establishment. It would seem that Kasich is the only remaining candidate to retain the tone and content of the Republican Party in any way.

It may well also be that Kasich is going to lose the next few primaries, miserably.

That would make the ‘President Kasich Conspiracy’ end abruptly. With it, for all intents and purposes, would as well be the ‘Establishment’ that is the Grand ol’ Party.

If Trump was, in fact, a Clinton plant; the darkest deed has been done. An implosion of the GOP has been signed, sealed and delivered at the hands of, as John Kasich often puts them, ‘Sychophants.’ The results of the next few months will be the stuff of myth and legend for aeons to come, perhaps showing themselves to be the true path of Democracy; straight into the gutter.

If you are interested in understanding the workings of an evermore interconnected and conspiracy-minded populous (i.e. the American polity), however, this is perhaps one of the best possible times to be alive.

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