What happens when conspiracists take over? We’re about to find out.
As an observer and researcher of conspiracy theorists, and a former conspiracy theorist myself, the election of Donald Trump shouldn’t have come as such a great surprise. The signs were there, that the anti-elitist and anti-establishment ideologues had been finding each other since the advent of the Internet. Once disconnected and disparate groups became increasingly interconnected as social media became a commonplace necessity rather than a hip collegiate networking tool. Unlike conspiracy web pages dating from the early era of the Internet and Web 2.0, social networking cites like Facebook allowed conspiracist folk to meet online, form groups of people with like interests and turn unfounded suspicions into identities. Though others may derisively refer to these people as conspiracy theorists, they can now identify themselves and their online friends as various conspiracy “truthers,” “birthers,” “researchers” or, more generally, as “woke.” All of these connections helped create separate and very distinctly different realities for social media users, partitioned via algorithm, to make it impossible for anyone outside the conspiracist community to fully understand it.
As the 2016 Presidential Election came to a close, the role of conspiracy theories, and fake news stories can not be overlooked. Many of the candidates, their staffers, and indeed the President-elect himself, adherents of various conspiracist suspicions. The campaign take-down of Republican contender Ted Cruz and of Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton were both influenced by liberal use of conspiracy innuendo and accusations. All the while, direct evidence of the corruption and misdeeds of the then Republican Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, were largely disregarded by conspiracists as irrelevant in comparison to the unknown corruption hidden in Hillary Clinton’s emails.
All that is over now. The new reality is that a man who deals in conspiracy theories, whether he believes any of them or not, is the President of the United States. What, then, can we expect from a conspiracy theorist President?
First, more of the same. Donald Trump is not the first megalomaniacal authoritarian in human history, he’s not even likely to be among the worst (here’s hoping anyway), but he is similar to a type that can be predictable in some respects. Whether he used conspiracism such as birtherism or the various accusations he made about Ted Cruz, the media, the political establishment as a means of political advantage or he legitimately believes all or most of the conspiracies he suggests, Trump will eventually take his conspiracistic view further. Even as he may plot or allow covert operations to occur in his name, he will grow increasingly paranoid. That is, of course, if he is anything like the people he praises; Putin, Duterte, or the various authoritarians that came before, Mussolini, Pol Pot, Mao, even flashes of Nero. The things Trump values most are loyalty and his own self interests, will one day come into conflict with one another and he will begin to see snakes in the grass. Eventually everyone will be suspect. First, however, outsiders and dissidents will be his scapegoats.
To be perfectly honest, that may be all that can be said with certainty. Trump will continue to peddle in conspiracy theories, likely shifting the blame from the media, Mexicans and Muslims to those pesky “liberals” (a pejorative term that will eventually include moderate conservatives) and anyone who dares question his authority.
The conspiracy theorists who supported Trump won’t stop supporting their God Emperor Savior just because he starts exhibiting the very activities that Trump and his supporters repeatedly expected from Hillary Clinton if she were elected. Crony Capitalism. State Capture. Pay for Play. All of them already in place before Trump’s inauguration, but Trump’s supporters inoculated themselves to cognitive dissonance by concentrating themselves within a system of echo-chambers and ideological double-binds. The news is really the MSM (mainstream media and not to be trusted). The elites are still out to get Trump, ignoring that he not only is among the elites but is also appointing to key cabinet positions the very “swamp” he claimed to be draining. All that is irrelevant now. Trump will explain in his own words, “I used to say the system is rigged, but [I won] so I don’t say that anymore.”
Maybe the best thing for anyone who wants to know what to expect from President Trump pis to look very closely at Russian President Vladimir Putin. Will Trump use a loophole to serve three terms as president as Putin did, with the aid of loyalist Medvedev? Perhaps not. Will a series of suspicious apartment buildings, such as the ones in Moscow linked to the FSB/KGB, be used to wage a war to drive nationalism to a fever pitch? The Chechen War was a great distraction for the Russians as was the more recent quasi-covert invasions of Ukrainian regions Donetsk and Luhansk. Will such an event occur in America and become an excuse for a new ground war in the Middle East?
Yes, I am trafficking in conspiracy theory right now … but lets face it, conspirative thinking is not uncommon to anyone. Conspiracy theories are often a way for people who are unable to cope with overwhelming feelings of anomie can convert those feelings of disorientation and discomfort with a world seemingly upside down with a simple narrative allowing them the comfort of a person or persons to blame. I am in that state of anomie, that state of formlessness and upside-downiness and choose to allow myself this precognitive fear of Putinesque events caused by or spearheaded by Trump.
Since this is where I know many people are, I offer hope. I suggest consistent non-violent resistance of Americans and supporting vigorous legal campaigns to prevent the loss of rights or social safety nets such as Social Security. And, I suggest an upbeat warrior’s disposition: take joy in a good fight and don’t be discouraged.