Ginni Thomas and the truckers' convoy: Why the right seeks refuge in conspiracy theories

Both Ginni Thomas and the People's Convoy are driven by a rage that is fueled entirely by lies and fantasies

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published March 28, 2022 1:32PM (EDT)

Virginia and Clarence Thomas | Supporters of the "Peoples Convoy" wave US flags as the truck convoy heads east on Interstate Highway 70, on March 1, 2022, near St. Jacob, Illinois (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Virginia and Clarence Thomas | Supporters of the "Peoples Convoy" wave US flags as the truck convoy heads east on Interstate Highway 70, on March 1, 2022, near St. Jacob, Illinois (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

In the end, the People's Convoy ended how it began: Pointlessly.

Daily Beast reporter and Salon alum Zachary Petrizzo reports that, after three weeks of trolling the residents of Washington D.C. by driving around aimlessly, the truckers are finally going home. With great drama Sunday night, organizer Mike Landis declared that, while the truckers were packing up and going home, they would, at some vague future time, "come back to finish this job."

"I am not running away," said Landis' co-organizer Brian Brase before he ran away. 

All this insecure masculine preening about coming back and not running away is all the more comical because it continues to be obscure what, exactly, the truckers think they were fighting for.

RELATED: The "People's Convoy," like Trump's new social media platform, is another right-wing grift gone bust 

Originally, the People's Convoy was organized to protest COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. The problem was there aren't any meaningful restrictions to protest. Lockdowns haven't been a thing for at least a year. President Joe Biden's vaccine mandates on private businesses were decimated by the Supreme Court. And nearly all remaining mask mandates were falling just as the truckers were making their way to Maryland after the CDC adjusted its recommendations based upon hospitalization rates instead of mere case rates. 

The cynical answer — which is certainly true in part — is that the leaders were "protesting" in favor of their own wallets, using the People's Convoy mainly as a vehicle for fundraising.

But Brase also gave the game away Saturday when he was taped telling his fellow protesters "I would have been inside that Capitol building" on January 6. As their critics have contended from the beginning, the People's Convoy seems to be exploiting the politics of the pandemic as a tool to recruit people into insurrectionist politics. The claims about the pandemic were flimsy because it was never really anything but a pathetic justification for an ugly, anti-democratic movement. 

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Thus it's hard not to spot the parallels between the rich fantasy life of the truckers, who imagine themselves to be standing up to some "tyranny" that doesn't exist, and the texts from Ginni Thomas, the Big Lie-hyping wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. What is surprising about the texts sent to Donald Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows is, sadly, not that Thomas was all-in on Trump's attempted coup. It's well-know that Thomas is a far-right activist and maximal Trump loyalist, of exactly the sort that would support a fascist coup. No, what is genuinely shocking is how delusional she apparently remains about her own actions. 

Like the truckers, Thomas appears to be living entirely in a right-wing fantasy land constructed through QAnon postings and the ravings of professional conspiracy theorists. She literally told Meadows, "Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators" were "being arrested" at "right now" and "will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition." Spoiler alert: That wasn't happening. 

RELATED: For "the integrity of the court": Why Clarence Thomas' wife is a major problem for the Supreme Court

Thomas also texted a link to a video titled "TRUMP STING w CIA Director Steve Pieczenik, The Biggest Election Story in History, QFS-BLOCKCHAIN" to Meadows, noting, "I hope this is true" and asking, "Possible???" The video was created by Steve Pieczenik, a professional conspiracy theorist who has argued that both the Sandy Hook and Las Vegas mass shootings were false flags. He even, as Will Sommer of the Daily Beast reports, once claimed to have arrested Pope Francis. 

As Andrew Prokop of Vox points out, these were private texts not meant for public consumption and so it's safe to assume that Thomas actually believes all this, on some level anyway. In contrast, Sidney Powell, the lawyer-turned-conspiracy-theorist that played a prominent role in the coup effort, has been defending herself in a major defamation case by claiming "no reasonable person" could believe all the lies she was telling about the 2020 election. No one seems to have told Thomas that as she was repeating Powell's lies excitedly in private texts to Trump's chief of staff. 

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Thomas appears to be so enmeshed in right-wing conspiracy theories and so allergic to reality-based sources of information that she broke her own brain. A similar situation can be seen happening with the People's Convoy. As journalist Jared Holt explained on Twitter, an analysis of external links from People's Convoy chats shows that the participants have closed themselves off from fact-based media and appear to be entirely dependent on other conspiracy theorists for their "information." 

The concept of "belief" in these circumstances is always ambiguous. Whether Trumpers "really" believe their conspiracy theories is impossible to know for certain, and there's probably a wide range between people that are true believers, people who are knowingly lying, and all the people in-between who mostly don't care enough about what's true to ask if they "really" believe what they're saying. But what can be said for certain is that none of these people came honestly to the "belief" that vaccines are evil or that the 2020 election was stolen. Instead, they embrace these narratives because they are useful rationalizations for the deeper, truer belief that drives them: That the right is entitled to monopolize power, and that obstacles like "democracy" and "freedom" should not get in their way. 

Ultimately, what Thomas and the truckers are coming up against is a problem that's plagued the GOP for so long that I wrote an entire book about it: Their actual beliefs are indefensible by any reasonable or evidence-based standard. So, instead of making their arguments directly, they swaddle them in lies and conspiracy theories. They rail against vaccine mandates that don't exist. They rave about election theft that didn't happen. All to justify that which cannot be justified on its own: Their belief that they are entitled to rule no matter what. And the more unjustifiable their actual beliefs become, the deeper they dive down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, rather than face the truth of what they've become. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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Capitol Riot Commentary Ginni Thomas January 6 People's Convoy