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How To Create Conspiracy Theories

It is easy to birth conspiracy theories.

All that is required is chronic government stonewalling of reasonable requests for transparency. Then add in high officials serially lying under oath, along with the blatantly unequal application of the law. Institutionalize arguments from authority of politicians and bureaucrats who refuse to adjudicate arguments empirically.

Include the weaponization of investigatory and intelligence bureaucracies. Finish with the transformation of an obsequious media into a mouthpiece of the state. And presto, you end up with a skeptical, cynical public that learns to believe the very opposite from what it is told by elites.

January 6th

Curiously. some conservative politicians, media and politicos often remark of their surprise that so many of the Trump base insists that the January 6 riot at the Capitol was in part a federally driven conspiracy, or perhaps just a mere “demonstration” gone awry.

But whether true or not, why would some not believe that—given the efforts of the state to hide and warp facts?

Consider what drives rational people to embrace supposed “conspiracy” theories around the so-called “insurrection?”

One reason, of course, is that there was evidence of FBI informants present on January 6. Do not take the word of conservatives for such suppositions.

Instead, remember what award-winning New York Times’s reporter and keen follower of right-wing political activity, Matthew Rosenberg said of January 6, albeit in an ambush interview conducted by Operation Veritas:

The left’s overreaction — the left’s reaction to it in some places was so over the top. They were making it too big a deal … that gave the opening for lunatics in the right to be like, ‘Oh, well, nothing happened here. It was just a peaceful bunch of tourists,’ you know, and it’s like, but nobody wants to hear that.”

Rosenberg then remarked that he spotted numerous FBI informants among the crowd milling around the Capitol. Or as he put it, “There were a ton of FBI informants among the people who attacked the Capitol.” Cannot the FBI refute such allegations?

Apparently not. Given such speculation, one would expect that FBI Director Christopher Wray might at least categorically deny such inflammatory accusations.

Yet in congressional testimony when asked whether the FBI had inserted informants among the protestors, sphinxlike Wray merely shrugged, “So I really need to be careful here talking about where we have or have not used confidential human sources.”

Then there is the mysterious case of Ray Epps, initially sought by FBI “as a person of interest” for allegedly inciting demonstrators to break the law and enter the Capitol.

But then oddly Epps was de facto exempted for some 30 months from arrest—even as hundreds who urged no such action were indicted and convicted of “illegal parading” or unlawfully “demonstrating in front of the Capitol”—misdemeanors that ended up resulting in felony-type sentencing.

In one video clip, as Epps attempts to gin up the stationary crowd to move illegally into the Capitol, he is met with “conspiratorial” accusations from skeptical bystanders calling out: “Fed! Fed! Fed!”

Epps filed suit against Fox News for defamation on grounds that anchor Tucker Carlson had tied him to efforts to incite January 6 violence. Yet then suddenly Epps announced that he believes he will soon be charged, after all, by the government for his role in the January 6 protests.

If true, such an arrest was long anticipated, since Epps is caught on tape, unambiguously, on more than one occasion, urging demonstrators to enter the Capitol unlawfully (e.g., “We need to go to the Capitol”).

If one would like to hatch an Epps conspiracy theory, then one could do no better than quoting another Ray Epps braggadocious claim that he had texted to his nephew: “I orchestrated it.”

It did not help the Left’s construction of a January 6 “insurrection” theory that it serially misled the country about the actual loss of life. At first, Democrats insisted, falsely, that Officer Sicknick’s tragic death was due to protestor violence. Yet an autopsy revealed that he died a day later from a stroke.

Then Democrat leaders pivoted to claim that any law enforcement officer present on January 6, who for any reason subsequently committed suicide, was to be counted a victim of protestor violence.

All the while, the media kept largely quiet about the fact that the only unambiguously violent death that day was that of military veteran Ashli Babbitt. She was unarmed as she was shot unlawfully entering the Capitol through a broken window.

The name and identity of the officer, remember, were suppressed for months—a protective protocol unlike any other accorded law enforcement officers in the country who lethally shoot unarmed suspects.

Asymmetries

If all that was not enough to create suspicion about media and political narratives, then there was the asymmetrical media coverage and the reaction of the Justice Department to the 2020 summer riots.

Touch an officer on January 6, and one sat in jail for months. Club an officer in summer 2020, and the offender was likely to become certified as a member of the Antifa or BLM resistance, albeit acting up a bit during the “summer of love.”

Unlike January 6, the violence of arsonists, murderers, rioters, and Antifa and BLM mobs resulted in 1,500 injured law enforcement officers, more than 35 violent deaths, nearly $2 billion in property damage, and 14,000 arrests. Yet most of the indictments were dropped, or plea bargained down to minor misdemeanors by sympathetic leftwing city and state prosecutors.

Note that the 2020 rioters also targeted iconic and government buildings. Rioters attempted to burn down a federal courthouse, a police precinct headquarters, an historic Washington D.C. church—all topped off by the mob’s nocturnal effort to stampede into the White House grounds to get to the president.

That failed assault precipitated a hasty Secret Service effort to put Trump and his family in a secure subterranean bunker. Again, why was such violence aimed at the White House largely unpunished given its intensity matched or exceeded that of the Capitol riot?

Even more importantly, the investigatory January 6 committee also fed rather than quieted conspiracy theories. The Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives first denied nominated Republican representatives any seats on the select committee.

Instead, they cherry-picked just two Republicans—on the apparent requisite that both Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger were a) die-hard Trump haters, and b) politically inert and headed for forced retirement.

The committee neither called any contrarian witnesses nor subpoenaed documents and videos felt to be antithetical to their narrative of a rightwing violent and armed “insurrection.” Yet, again, they did not produce evidence that anyone arrested inside the Capitol was in possession of a firearm.

Nor were any plans found of “insurrectionists” planning to occupy government property for any length of time—in the fashion of, say, Seattle’s “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ) or (CHOP) “Capitol Hill Organized Protest.”

In that case, rioters simply annexed government space as their own for over three weeks, ran the sanctuary-like mini-revolutionary state, forbid the police to enter, and were granted exemptions from city and state authorities.

The January 6 narrative of continuous threats of an armed revolution was leveraged to justify deploying 20,000 armed soldiers —the largest militarization of Washington D.C. since Jubal Early’s Confederate raid of 1864. Again, such use of federal troops stood in dire contrast to the abject appeasement of the far more violent 2020 rioters, when sympathetic mayors and governors resisted calls to deploy federal troops to their jurisdictions.

Recall that the suspicions arising around January 6 followed a long series of revelations about government misconduct that confirmed the suspicions of once reviled “conspiracists.”

In numerous cases, the wild charge of conspiracists eventually were proven, while the sober and judicious defense narratives of government officials were exposed as outright lies, and occasionally themselves conspiracies.

The True Conspiracists

There was no “Russian collusion” conspiracy.

There was a Clinton conspiratorial effort.

It sought to hide campaign money through three paywalls to hire Christopher Steele to add to his ad hominem lies and to ensure that they were disseminated throughout the media and government. The point was solely to emasculate her opponent, Donald Trump.

As far as the first Trump impeachment phone call, given the multimillion-dollar corruptions abroad of the Biden family syndicate, and the boasts of Joe Biden about his past interference in Ukraine politics to fire a bothersome prosecutor, any president would have warned Ukraine to clean up its act with the Bidens or face holds on American largess.

The Covid-19 virus did escape from a nearby Chinese virology lab. It was a media and government fed lie that it was birthed naturally in the wild by a bat or pangolin, part of a three-year long effort to appease the Chinese communist party. And there was a clear role of the NIAID and NIH in funding dangerous gain-of-function research under the auspices of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

Most of what the government assured about the quarantines and vaccinations proved eventually to be wrong or only half-true. That reality proved ironic when those who warned of lockdown dangers were eventually vindicated, but never received apologies from their accusers.

Given the blanket exemptions provided to Hillary Clinton for unlawfully destroying subpoenaed material and using a home server to transmit classified information, and the reduction of Hunter Biden’s numerous felonies to minor misdemeanors, and the likely exemption given Joe Biden for storing classified files for years at his various homes and offices, why would anyone not believe that the government and the media work hard to suppress the truth?

And why would any citizen believe the government or the media after the Biden campaign solicited “51 intelligence authorities” to swear falsely that the genuine Hunter Biden laptop was likely a product of “Russian disinformation.”

The entire concocted lie was a Biden-campaign effort to use the gravitas of former government officials and the complicity of the media to promote a fantasy to influence the impending presidential debate. And it worked to a tee.

Note as well that the FBI hired out Twitter employees to suppress information concerning the Biden laptop. The truth was deemed “disinformation” in order to mislead voters on the eve of the 2020 election.

Normally, distinguished government heads of hallowed bureaus carefully weigh in on investigations to warn against idle speculations and convulsed conspiracies. But who currently in Washington could be sure of any such voice since our most esteemed intelligence and investigative directors are admitted liars?

Former FBI Director James Comey feigned amnesia in congressional testimony. He passed off a dossier he knew to be fallacious as genuine evidence to a FISA court.

His successor Andrew McCabe lied on four occasions to federal investigators. Current Director Christopher Wray has continually stonewalled congressional oversight committees.

Special counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller preposterously claimed he knew nothing of the Steele dossier or Fusion GPS.

Both John Brennan, former CIA Director, and James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, admittedly lied under oath to Congress. None of these liars faced any legal consequences.

Anthony Fauci’s incriminating emails keep appearing in the public domain, making a mockery of his earlier, ludicrous claim that he had not channeled U.S. dollars to the Wuhan lab to ensure the continuance of outlawed gain–of-function research.

Worse still, so often those screaming “conspiracy theory” are conspiracists themselves. Hillary Clinton schemed with dark money and paywalls to smear her 2016 opponent.

As election denialists Hillary Clinton (“He knows he’s an illegitimate president”) and Jimmy Carter (“He [Trump] lost the election and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf”) refused to accept the 2016 verdict, projecting such denialism onto others.

So how does the government abort a conspiracy theory?

Simple: Quit the chronic lying and for once tell the truth.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author of the just released New York Times best seller, The End of Everything: How Wars Descend into Annihilation, published by Basic Books on May 7, 2024, as well as the recent  The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump, and The Dying Citizen.

Photo: WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 11: (L-R) FBI Director Robert Mueller, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and CIA Director John Brennan appear before a House Select Intelligence committee on Capitol Hill, April 11, 2o013 in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony on worldwide threats facing the United States. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)