Republican conspiracy theory update

Republicans are now so habituated to conspiracy theories that they have become the default mode of reasoning. Even minor news items, unfavorable to the Repub line of the day, instantly produce conspiracy-theoretic explanations. Moreover, existing, previously non-partisan conspiracy theories are being welcomed in to the Republican coalition. Three examples from the past week , two of them for the same news item

* Unexpectedly good employment figures produced the “jobs truther” conspiracy theory that the Bureau of Labor Statistics had cooked the numbers. This was first advanced by former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, taken up enthusiastically by Republican rightists like Laura Ingraham and Allen West, and boosted by Fox News.

* As the difficulties with this theory became apparent, Repubs switched to a non-falsifiable alternative. Unemployed Democrats had conspired to lie to BLS surveyors by claiming they had found jobs, thereby boosting Obama’s re-election numbers.

* The third is a health conspiracy which is based on the idea that the symptoms normally associated with depression or chronic fatigue syndrome are actually a chronic form of Lyme Disease (an infection carried by deer ticks) and that the medical establishment is conspiring to suppress the evidence. Romney and Ryan are pandering to this.

The biggest (non-political) conspiracy theories remaining unclaimed are Ufology and anti-vaxerism. So far, at least these seem to be beyond the pale for the Repubs. Michelle Bachmann got a very negative reaction to her embrace of anti-vaxerism during the primary campaign, even though she was using it to bolster the rightwing case against HPV vaccination for girls. If we ever see a softening on this, we’ll know that the party has finally lost all remaining touch with reality.

Not quite on conspiracy theories, but here’s a Repub member of the House Science committee saying ““All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell,”.

How about Australia? So far at least, “cafeteria crazy” seems to be the rule in most places. Full-blown conspiracy theories on climate change coexist with routine political rhetoric on most other issues.

But the local right has long been dependent on talking points imported from the US, and the supply chain is increasingly dominated by conspiracists. Examples of full-blown crazy are the overlapping circles of Catallaxy and Quadrant who recirculate most the US conspiracy theories. Here’s Quadrant denouncing Darwinism. And more here from rightwing eminence grise, Ray Evans, linking evolution and climate science. And here’s Catallaxy pushing poll trutherism

34 thoughts on “Republican conspiracy theory update

  1. I do think there is some merit to Jim’s point in that there are left wing conspiracy theories. The idea that Bush was behind 9/11 had some momentum, and certainly many people think that the war with Iraq was all about oil. Nevertheless these beliefs are generally confined to the man on the street – I am not aware of any prominent Democrats pandering to this sort of thing.

    There are also surely economic type conspiracy theories about big corporations stealing everybody else’s money, but most of the chatter that I am aware of is fairly well based. The large increase in income inequality over the last couple of decades is an empirical fact, although some of the explanations might be pretty fanciful.

    A quick scan of the right wing punditry reveals popular Republican beliefs including

    (i) Pretty much the entire media is biased
    (ii) The economics discipline has a pro Keynesian bias
    (iii) Climate science is a giant conspiracy
    (iv) Political polls showing good news for Obama are biased
    (v) Evolutionary biology is a conspiracy
    (vi) The BLS is biased (only when they report good news for Obama)
    (vii) Obviously birtherism and Obama being secret socialist Muslim etc.

    These seem an order of magnitude greater than their left wing equivalents, and are certainly echoed by prominent Republicans.

  2. @John Quiggin
    I do agree that oil was likely to be a relevant factor given its political importance. The conspiracy I was referring to was your “crudest form” where the U.S. would steal it all.

  3. @John Quiggin

    While I’ve long found allegations of active involvement of the Bush Administration in 9/11 utterly nonsensical, there can be little doubt that they were grossly and recklessly incompetent before the fact — so reckless that even people who would be sceptical of criminal malfeasance might be inclined to entertain it.

    Ashcroft really was a prize nutter who should never have gone near a management role and was actively involved in complicating the FBI’s tracking of those who in the end carried out the attacks. One of the last things he did before 9/11 was reject an appeal by then FBI head Louis Freeh against a cutback in funds for the FBI to pursue domestic terrorism cases. Poignantly, the refusal letter landed on the desk of the new head of the FBI Robert Mueller’s desk shortly following the event — apparently dated Monday September 10 2001.

    Apparently Ashcroft had wanted the focus to be on the guns and drugs trafficking rings — a not unreasonable thing given their wider policy settings, but which with hindsight looks like one of those famously bad decisions.

  4. @John Quiggin
    thanks John, the 1983 Accord included half-yearly wage increases indexed to the consumer price index.

    As I recall from long ago research, a full CPI wage adjustment was awarded in only 7 of the previous 19 national wage cases. Shame, Fraser, shame! These details were take from Braham Dabcheck’s very good 1989 book on Australian industrial relations.

    Securing full CPI indexation at the end of the recession are being unable to secure cost of living increases in the majority of the recent national wages cases does not seem to qualify as wage restraint. What do you think? The no extra claims commitment, initially negotiated in the metal industry in 1981, was a small price to pay. Money for nothing.

    On “the high point of Friedman’s influence was the late 1970s, when monetary targeting was adopted with enthusiasm”, monetarism is not monetary targets.

    Friedman saw the core of the monetarist policy view was “that monetary growth should be steady and predictable”; on transition to this rule, he said “The most important device for mitigating the side effects is to slow inflation gradually but steadily by a policy announced in advance and adhered to so it becomes credible”.

    Friedman disavowed fine-tuning. His stabilisation policy was a constant monetary growth rule that removes monetary policy as an independent source of instability.

    Friedman also supported full wage indexation. The wage discounts in the Accord were unnecessary in fighting inflation. See Milton Friedman ‘Using Escalators to Help Fight Inflation,” and his books such as Free to Choose (p.277). He must have been a double agent for the unions??!

  5. Much more vigilance is required to prevent the US-stoopid scourge arriving in Australia.

    Cory Bernardi is trying. Campbell Newman seems to be putting it into practice and I’m not sure which US-looney Barnaby Joyce borrows his act from. Jim Inholffe maybe?

  6. @sdfc
    John Quiggin wrote two very nice reviews of monetary policy in 1997 and 2007. One or both noted a lack of a real policy framework from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s.

    John also noted with all good tact that the reviews of monetary policy in the 1980s and 1990s written by bank officials afterwards tended to be rather kind to the Reserve bank as to what it was doing and why it was doing what it was doing.

    The only time I have seen a central bank admit a mistake was Bernanke on the Fed’s policies in the 1930s. Apologising for the long dead is better than nothing.

    basking in reflected glory is a key political skill.

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