Saturday, August 22, 2020

From the Archives, 2002: Republicans Fall for Nutty Conspiracy Theory


Editors' Note: Sure, the Democrats looked pretty good this week. The convention was pretty entertaining and often riveting, even if you don't like fried calamari. And why don't you? At any rate, the usual suspects are gearing up for the Republican response. In preparation, some of them have been shocked, shocked to discover that Republicans have embraced a wacko conspiracy theory that postulates that President Super Spreader is actually a lonely battler against a huge Jewish Democratic female conspiracy to sell children from the secret underground tunnels of a DC pizza parlor. Now this theory, known as “QAnon,” suffers from a few obvious infirmities, like a total lack of factual support. But that doesn't stop today's Republican Party, as the New York Times has latterly discovered.  

They told their readers

Late last month, as the Texas Republican Party was shifting into campaign mode, it unveiled a new slogan, lifting a rallying cry straight from a once-unthinkable source: the internet-driven conspiracy theory known as QAnon.

The new catchphrase, “We Are the Storm,” is an unsubtle cue to a group that the F.B.I. has labeled a potential domestic terrorist threat. It is instantly recognizable among QAnon adherents, signaling what they claim is a coming conflagration between President Trump and what they allege, falsely, is a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophile Democrats who seek to dominate America and the world.

The slogan can be found all over social media posts by QAnon followers, and now, too, in emails from the Texas Republican Party and on te T-shirts, hats and sweatshirts that it sells. It has even worked its way into the party’s text message system — a recent email from the party urged readers to “Text STORM2020” for updates.

The Texas Republicans are an unusually visible example of the Republican Party’s dalliance with QAnon, but they are hardly unique.

The tone of the piece seemed to be shock, bordering on syncope, over the idea that the Republican Party could fall victim to an insane conspiracy that could undermine American democracy.  We sent our intern Louise into the Archives to see if she could find any other occasion on which the Republicans fell for an obviously-ludicrous conspiracy theory that led to disaster.

Of the 425 examples she found since 1932, we chose this one from 2002.

Are Republicans Ready to Embrace
An Unhinged Conspiracy Theory?

By David Bloviator
Political Editor with Douglas MacArthur at the Pentagon

With the nation still reeling from the shocking 9/11 attacks and the overwhelming loss of over 3,000 innocent lives at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and on Flight 93, perhaps it's not surprising that America is looking to blame someone, anyone, for an unexpected attack for which America was not prepared.

Condoleezza Rice isn't taken in by KAnon
Yet the current conspiracy theory now sweeping Washington is still leaving intelligence and defense professionals gasping. According to a theory bouncing around hard-right Republican neocon conspiracy theorists: it was Saddam Hussein's fault.

Despite a total lack of evidence, this hardcore band of conspiracy theorists claim that Saddam Hussein is closely linked with the al-Qaeda terrorists who were actually responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

They base this fantastic claim on what they say are hidden messages in the editorial page of The Washington Post editorial page that are supposedly written by a highly placed Harvard-educated intellectual known to insiders as “Freddie.”

Because these conspirators claim that Freddie is receiving intelligence from a Republican apparatchik who calls himself Billy K., the conspiracy theorists are known as “KAnon.”

Of course, this bizarre theory has no basis in fact.  There are no connections between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, who are in fact adversaries.  Those who really know what they're talking about note that Hussein represents the secular Ba'ath movement while al-Qaeda is a demented offshoot of the ultra-pious Saudi branch of Islam known as Wahhabism.

Recently, Freddie and Billie K. have hinted that not only is Saddam Hussein linked to al-Qaeda, but, despite a total lack of evidence, that he is also executing a program of developing nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction.  For example, they claim that tubes clearly intended as rocket launchers are in fact centrifuges used to create bomb-grade uranium.

They have even gone so far as to claim that Hussein has outfitted vans and railcars as mobile biological weapons laboratories.

Dick Cheney is known as a voice of reason
Knowledgeable Washington observers note that the Bush Administration's foreign policy apparatus remains firmly in the heands of experienced pragmatists like Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell and discount any possibility of the insane KAnon Hussein-related conspiracy theorists influencing President George W. Bush.

According to Bush communications director Nicolle Wallace, “Rest assured that this Administration will rely on solid intelligence in making vital national security decisions and not on the uncorroborated fantasies of a discredited defector – What's that?  Tell Veep I'll get back to him someday.”

But other long-time Capital observers point out that the KAnon conspiracy theorists seem to be making headway with lower-level Bush Administration officials like Paul Wolfowitz and Doug Feith.  They caution that the prevalence of KAnon conspirators in the Administration and the Republican Party could place the Republic in danger.

“The danger of the KAnon conspiracy theorists is not just that they are spreading crazy theories about Saddam Hussein.  Ultimately their goal is to foment an invasion of Iraq, which would cost thousands of American lives and only lead to disaster and instability in the Middle East,” said a source close to CIA Director George Tenet.

But rational Republicans sought to tamp down the war hysteria now being fanned by KAnon conspiracy theories.  “It's frankly insulting to think that this Administration would go to war without a considered and disciplined interagency process just because a few extremists whackos think it would be a good idea to overthrow a Middle East dictator for s***s and giggles,” said a highly-placed official on the National Security Council before departing for a weekend at Camp David with the President.

Democratic Party heavyweights downplayed the importance of the KAnon conspiracy theory: “Invade Iraq to get back at al-Qaeda?  Next thing you'll be telling me, Donald Trump will run for President!” chortled Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

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