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The Conspiracy Fringe Is Really Phoning It In These Days

From 5G to Bill Gates to whatever ‘Obamagate’ is, these theories just don’t hit the same

Over the years of Donald Trump’s presidency, we’ve heard comedians and satirists talk about how hard it is to spoof an administration so absurd on its face. No wild exaggeration, they say, could be as dumb as the reality, an ever-widening clown show of the grotesque and criminal. That’s why Saturday Night Live wound up running cold opens where Alec Baldwin simply repeated things Trump had said verbatim. Awful!

At the same time, however, an increasingly unstable world — with an America devastated by coronavirus, teetering on the brink of a still deeper abyss — poses a similar difficulty for the right-wing conspiracist fringe. Typically, they deal in the clandestine plots and shadow cabals that operate below a surface of normality, but nothing is normal anymore: A global pandemic and economic collapse have made the actual news more outlandish than their usual theories, not least because Trump and company have fucked up on every conceivable level.

The result?

Their latest material doesn’t quite “pop.” It just gets more half-assed and underbaked as weeks drag on.

Look, calling COVID-19 a simple “hoax” is as lazy as it gets — not even worth addressing. Then you have the people convinced that 5G cellular network technology is hazardous to human health; they used the virus to push that story. This was promising as a lunatic premise, but it doesn’t really go anywhere, and pretty soon you had QAnon weirdos posting videos of birds “sabotaging” 5G towers, in accordance with god’s plan:   

Again, weak shit.

Everyone knows birds aren’t real — why would the government send its avian-camouflage drones to attack the 5G infrastructure it’s using to infect the population? Dumbass.

That brings us back to the president’s favorite idea, which is boilerplate racism: China did it. No rationale offered, no indication of how that would happen or what it would mean, only “they made it in a lab.”

Boring! Skip it.

The next logical jump is back to the states: If the coronavirus is real, it was created by our own government scientists… for the purposes of… selling vaccines?

That’s more or less the take from the popular “Plandemic” video, viewed millions of times despite being removed from YouTube and Facebook. Teaming up with the anti-vaxx crowd should have been a wild time for COVID-19 truthers, since the former movement has come up with all kinds of unhinged stuff about autism, Satanic influence, mind control, etc.

Instead, this combined group now believes that Bill Gates “patented” the virus and stands to profit off his vaccine. Which doesn’t exist. Clearly, this is a better way to make billions of dollars than, oh, whatever he did to make the $100 billion he already has.   

Nonetheless, you get the sense that some kind of effort is being made here: They picked a non-George Soros villain and tried to duct-tape the whole conspiracy together in a way that appealed to the various factions in play.

The same can’t be said for what the president and his flunkies are now calling “Obamagate.” Amazing that it took them a full decade to come up with the name of this purported scandal, and all the more incredible that few, if any, can articulate what it alleges. The upshot is that Obama should be investigated for the Justice Department’s probe of national security adviser Michael Flynn’s Russia connections in 2016. Trouble is, the rank-and-file Republicans are outright bored by the notion, and “Obamagate” doesn’t refer to anything except Obama himself, so at a baseline, it’s roughly equivalent to saying, “Uhhh, Obama did a thing.”   

Ah, well. It’s probably for the best that the conspiracies are getting stupider, to the point where any proper noun — “5G,” “China,” “Wuhan,” “Obama,” “Bill Gates” — has to stand in for the meticulously wrought web of connections that a decent conspiracy would offer. The wackos sacrificed depth and complexity to make their nonsense legible to Trump, and now he’s dutifully tweeting it out. Great job, gang. Savor this empty victory: