Conspiracy Theory or Conspiracy In Fact?

Last week, Fox Nation aired “Patriot Purge,” Tucker Carlson’s three-part series on the January 6 protest in Washington, D.C. No sooner had the program been announced than the regime media went nuts. The former conservative Anne Applebaum, writing for The Atlantic, said it was a “sinister” piece of anti-American propaganda. NPR described it as an “off the rails” “conspiracy theory.” CNN said that it promulgated a “false narrative” that was “politically, historically and logically confused.” 

Translation: Carlson disputes the accepted narrative according to which the protest at the Capitol was an “insurrection” aimed at undermining “our democracy.” Ergo Carlson must be wrong. Cue the heated rhetoric and wheel out that all-purpose epithet “conspiracy theorist.” 

As a side note, I have always wondered why people of a certain ilk believe that uttering the phrase “conspiracy theory” or charging someone with being a “conspiracy theorist” disposes of any argument. George Orwell noted that the term “fascist” had been rendered nearly meaningless by its promiscuous application to all manner of things or people one didn’t like. “Conspiracy theory” is on even shakier ground, because in addition to make-believe conspiracies, the world is full of plenty of real conspiracies about which one needn’t theorize but simply observe and describe. 

When the Soothsayer came to warn Caesar about the Ides of March, he wasn’t warning about a conspiracy theory. He was warning about a conspiracy in fact, something that Caesar came to appreciate personally when the fateful day rolled around. Caesar to the Soothsayer: “The ides of March are come.” Soothsayer: “Ay, Caesar; but not gone.”

Carlson’s thesis in “Patriot Purge” is that the extraordinary law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus that had been assembled and deployed to battle terrorism in the wake of 9/11 had not been dismantled after Osama bin Laden was killed. On the contrary, it has been maintained intact and is now being deployed against American citizens who have the temerity to challenge the dominant narrative about the perfidy of Donald Trump and the nature of the January 6 protest. (That Merrick Garland, the attorney general of the United States, should issue a memo directing the FBI, together with state and local law enforcement agencies, to treat parents who challenge their local school boards over the teaching of critical race theory as “domestic terrorists” shows how elastic that enemies list can be.)

The two most important commentators on the events of January 6 are Julie Kelly, who has written scores of thoughtful articles on the subject here at American Greatness, and Darren Beattie, whose painstaking investigation of the FBI’s role in various plots and protests has shed a discreditable light on that preening and increasingly lawless organization. 

According to the narrative, January 6 was an “insurrection” designed to cancel the 2020 election and “overthrow the government.” But none of the more than 500 people arrested in the wake of the event has been charged with sedition or insurrection or any other such serious crime. Most have been charged with trespassing. Nevertheless, many have been subject to SWAT team raids by the FBI and have been kept in appalling conditions in a D.C. jail for months. No guns were recovered from the Capitol that day. The only shot fired was the one by Michael Byrd, the Capitol Hill police officer who, without warning, shot and killed Ashli Babbitt, an unarmed vet who was climbing through a window in the Capitol. Byrd will face no charges for killing that unarmed young woman. 

Of special interest to the FBI was a shadowy right-wing militia group called the “Oath Keepers,” which was started in 2009 to “defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.” Some 20 members of that group have been arrested. Some who are not members, like Thomas Caldwell, have been promoted to membership by the FBI and charged with a laundry list of felonies. The FBI’s treatment of Caldwell, expertly dissected by Julie Kelly, is a textbook case of abuse of police power and a stunning confirmation of Tucker Carlson’s argument in “Patriot Purge.” The FBI has had to walk back its indictment of Caldwell, but not before he spent nearly two months in solitary confinement, where he was denied medical care for serious orthopedic issues and subject to all manner of harassment and abuse. He was eventually released but is still under what amounts to house arrest and is facing several criminal charges. 

One of the interesting things about the case of Thomas Caldwell and the Oath Keepers is that while Caldwell—who says he was never a member of the group and never entered the Capitol on January 6—was arrested and declared a member, Stewart Rhodes, the man who actually founded the group and is its leader, was never arrested or even questioned by the FBI. 

Writing this offers me an opportunity to correct something I wrote in a recent piece about “The January 6 Insurrection Hoax.” I wrote that “The FBI does not like the Oath Keepers,” which is true enough. But I was wrong that “agents arrested its leader in January.” The FBI seems to have arrested just about every Oath Keeper but Stewart Rhodes. Why? Darren Beattie has looked into the case of Stewart Rhodes and his possible connection to the FBI and it is, to say the least, thought provoking. 

Beattie wonders whether Rhodes is the “missing link” connecting the FBI to the protestors who illegally entered the Capitol on January 6. “Is it possible,” he asks, “that the Oath Keepers, the most prominent anti-government group in the United States, has been run, in effect, by the United States government itself—and nobody has mentioned it until now?” The answer is, yes, it is possible. Whether it is also in fact true is something we do not yet know. But if it is true, then Beattie’s disturbing conclusion also has the ring of truth: “In other words, 1/6 was not the result of an intelligence failure as FBI Director Christopher Wray, the US Senate, and the media tells us. Rather, 1/6 was the result of an intelligence set-up.”

Think about that the next time someone dismisses Tucker Carlson as a “conspiracy theorist.”

 

About Roger Kimball

Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and the president and publisher of Encounter Books. He is the author and editor of many books, including The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine's Press), The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art's Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee).

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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