The lengths to which our conservative establishment goes to bury Obama in mud often resemble D-Movie spy plots that set new standards for implausibility.
The frequency and outlandishness of their conspiratorial imaginations grows in sync with their desperation. With Obama leading in most polls and the election season drawing to a close, it seems like a good time to recap some of the more ludicrous conspiracies hatched by our conservative fearmongers. So with our tin-foil hats securely strapped on, let's venture down the primrose path of hair-raising hypotheses.
1. Cooking the Unemployment Rate
The most recent crackpottery of the right was revealed last week as new unemployment numbers were released. The new data put the unemployment rate at 7.8%, the lowest it has been since the Bush administration helped crater the economy on their way out of town. Almost immediately, right-wingers declared that the numbers were manufactured by Obama’s henchmen in the Labor Department. Never mind the fact that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is an independent body that currently has no Obama appointees serving. That didn’t stop conspiracists like Jack Welch from alleging that they are “Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers.” That unsubstantiated charge was adopted by Rep. Allen West, Fox News’ Stuart Varney, and much of the rest of the right-wing media circus.
2. The Media Is Skewing the Polls
For several weeks now, Obama has maintained a steady lead in election polling. That fact has been difficult for conservatives to square with their conviction that Obama is the most hated man in America. Consequently, they must conclude that all of the polls have been tampered with by scheming liberals. However, for their conspiracy to be credible, they would have to include Fox News and Rasmussen amongst the conniving lefties because their polling also puts Obama in the lead. One way they have found to workaround that inconvenient fact is to ignore the polls that challenge their thesis. Therefore, Fox News simply neglects to report on polls that show the President leading – even their own Fox News polls.
3. Politicizing the Stock Market
In a year when the economy is such an integral part of the news cycle, conservatives have found it necessary to glom onto any factoid that they can use to bash the President. That manifests into a frenzy of spin that casts any decline in the stock market as the fault of Obama, and any increase as investor speculation that Obama is on the way out. Last week, many of the right-dominated business networks feebly described a positive day for the Dow as a Romney rally, simply because it occurred on the day after the presidential debate. There is a long history of the right making idiotic assessments of the stock market. In May of 2009, Fox News anchor Brenda Buttner gushed, “Call it a tea party rally. Wall Street’s sure partying, up six weeks in a row.” In September of 2011, Fox Nation reported “Stocks Tumble Worldwide After Obama Speech.” Then in June of 2012, they fantasized that “Stock Market Drops After Obamacare Upheld.” Fox’s Neil Cavuto hosted a discussion of what he called the “Bush recovery” nine months into Obama’s term. What they commonly miss is that markets traditionally perform better under Democratic administrations than Republicans.
4. Obama Is Coming for Your Guns
This conspiracy theory takes a considerable measure of willful suspension of disbelief. The National Rifle Association has alerted its members that a second Obama term will result in the repeal of the second amendment and a wholesale confiscation of guns. Their evidence of this is that Obama has done nothing at all to roll back gun rights during his first term. That, they surmise, is a devious trick to lull gun rights advocates into a false sense of security. Then, when Obama is no longer facing a reelection campaign, he will be free to curtail all of our precious liberties.
5. The Social Security Administration’s Arms Cache
When it was discovered that the Social Security Administration had purchased 174,000 bullets, the right-wing sirens went off and presumed that they were preparing for massive civil unrest and intended to use the ammo on Americans. “‘Why would the U.S. government want the SSA to kill 174,000 of our citizens, even during a time of civil unrest?’ Maj. Gen. Jerry Curry wrote on the conservative website The Daily Caller.” That would be a good question if it weren’t rooted in utter dementia. In fact, the actual reason for the purchase was a routine acquisition to arm conventional security personnel at the agency’s offices across the country.
6. The Muslim Mole in the Secretary of State’s Office
A longtime aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton was accused by conservatives of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Huma Abedin has worked with Clinton for many years as a trusted and effective public servant. No evidence was given for the repugnant allegations that cast her as a traitorous double agent. She is also married to former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who is Jewish and unlikely to be affiliated with Muslim extremists. But that didn’t stop Rep. Michele Bachmann who said, “it appears that there are individuals who are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood who have positions, very sensitive positions” in our government. She was joined by other prominent conservatives like Newt Gingrich and Frank Gaffney. This conspiracy dove-tails nicely with those alleging that Obama is a Muslim plant as well.
7. Fact-Checkers Are a Liberal Plot
Creative and shameless conservatives are establishing a new and unique front in the political war zone. Not satisfied with bashing everything about the media (despite the fact that talk radio and their own Fox News are a huge part of it), the wackoids on the right have declared war against – get this – Fact-checkers! This may seem wildly deranged, but upon reflection it makes perfect sense. If your entire movement is built on a foundation of lies, then fact-checkers are your mortal enemy. This became clear a few weeks ago when Neil Newhouse, a Mitt Romney adviser, publicly declared that “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”Since then they have disputed or ignored every challenge of their truthfulness. The result is a record setting collection of dishonorable mentions from PolitiFact and other media lie detectors.
8. The Secret Behind the Gulf Oil Spill
When millions of barrels of oil were pouring into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, most Americans were disturbed by the devastating environmental damage and the negligence of the company operating the drilling platform. But conservatives led by Rush Limbaugh saw through the scheme and revealed that the massive malfunction was actually a deliberate act of sabotage devised to create a justification for eliminating all off-shore drilling. Limbaugh told his audience that “I want to get back to the timing of the blowing up, the explosion out there in the Gulf of Mexico of this oil rig … What better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig?” You can’t argue with logic like that, because it’s the logic of a mad man who thinks the President would murder twelve workers and foul an environmentally sensitive region in order to achieve a political goal.
9. Obamacare’s Death Panels
No list of conspiracy theories would be complete without a mention of Sarah Palin’s “death panels.” (Although the non-existant "death panels" have been roundly mocked, this did not stop Presidential candidate Mitt Romney from basically reviving them at last week's debate.)
These nefarious groups were said to have the power to decide whether your grandmother would live or die based on her level of productivity to society as determined by a team of government bureaucrats. In reality the section of the Affordable Care Act to which Palin referred actually provided for coverage to pay for end-of-life counseling. These were voluntary sessions to help patients determine and document what sort of life-saving measures they preferred in the event that they were incapacitated and unable to communicate their wishes to their doctors. When that proved to be an embarrassing misinterpretation of the law, conservatives switched to another section of the bill, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, and called that the death panel. However, the IPAB was simply a board that assessed the best practices in medicine and made non-binding recommendations in order to prevent excessive billing and unnecessary procedures. Palin was awarded the “Lie of the Year” award from PolitiFact for her imaginary panel.
10. The Green Plot to Enslave the World
Conservatives have never taken to science. So it should come as no surprise that many of them regard global warming as a hoax whose purpose is to enrich Al Gore and a few socialist wind farmers. But there is another faction of the anti-environment movement that has uncovered something even more dastardly lurking behind the effort to maintain a clean, sustainable planet. Agenda 21, a little known and non-binding resolution adopted by the United Nations is viewed by some on the right as an attempt to control the lives of people throughout the world by regulating everything they do. Amongst their paranoid fears is that Agenda 21 will cede U.S. sovereignty to the U.N. and a one-world government. The truth is that Agenda 21 is a set of principles to guide the development of practices to preserve a sustainable environment for future generations. It is entirely voluntary and was agreed to by the U.N. in 1992 and signed by President George H.W. Bush. But to hear doomsayers like Glenn Beck put it, it will “suck all the blood out of [our communities], and we will not be able to survive.”
These are but a few of the tales woven by angst-ridden right-wingers in the dark moments when their thoughts wander from rational reality. However, the science that they scorn may have an explanation for their fantastical imaginings. Ryota Kanai, at the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, examined how liberals and conservatives brains differ. Among the findings were that the brains of liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex which has been shown to produce thought proceses that are more flexible and reliant on data, proof, and analytic reasoning. Conservatives are more likely to have an enlarged amygdala which is associated with greater inflexibility, emotion, and fear response.
This could account for conservatives having a greater susceptibility to conspiracy models of thinking. Whatever the explanation, it is clear that their senses are working overtime and the results produce some pretty wild visions of nightmarish liberals threatening America’s very existence. They seem to have taken very seriously the warning from the Reagan-era horror film, The Fly: Be afraid. Be very afraid.