Another amped-up exposé on the dread QAnon conspiracy came out today, this time from TV2. I dealt with QAnon a while back, when Berlingske ran a feature on the weird conspiracy, and I don’t want to spend more time in that particular rabbit hole.
The world of today is, like the worlds of yesterday and tomorrow, full of conspiracy theories. The human brain is exceptionally good at finding patterns and connections in the world around it. Evolution guaranteed as much: the creature that cannot associate the rustling in the bush with the approach of a predator isn’t going to get many chances to pass along its genes.
But not every rustle in every bush is a saber-toothed tiger.
From a neurological point of view, I’m not sure there’s all that big a difference between a frightened child seeing monsters in the unfamiliar shadows of a darkened room and a grown man or woman putting various news items together and concluding that, say, Ghislene Maxwell was running under-aged girls via submarine from Jeffrey Epstein’s island to a nearby Biden family island. In both cases the brain is simply doing one of the things it does best: connecting dots.
If I were a journalist and I were interested in American conspiracy theories deserving serious attention, however, I don’t think I’d be digging into the patent lunacy of QAnon.
I think I’d be looking instead at the conspiracy theory that’s become so widespread it’s almost morphed into conventional wisdom: the idea that Donald Trump would be unwilling to leave the Oval Office even if defeated in the election.
Politico: Sanders: America must be prepared for when Trump refuses to leave office
Washington Post: Amid fears that Trump might not leave office, two lawmakers press for Pentagon assurances on the election
CNN: If Trump loses and won’t leave, it could get ugly
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer:
And, of course, we have Hillary Clinton herself stating explicitly that Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances:
(Ms. Clinton might not be the best spokesperson for this particular delusion. And then again, she might be.)
A couple of points on all this.
First, this is just a small sampling of a media tsunami of public figures promoting this conspiracy theory, but as you may have already noticed, they’re the exact same people who spent most of the last four years promoting the now completely debunked theory that Donald Trump’s campaign and/or administration had collaborated with the Russians. Remember: we now know that members of Congress were boasting in public that “they had seen the evidence!” even while, under oath and behind closed doors, they were acknowledging they had no evidence at all.
Second, this entire theory is being promoted, as these very people are so fond of saying, “without evidence.”
On what basis are we to assume that Donald Trump would do something as radically and flagrantly lawless as refuse to leave an office he’d been voted out of? These same hacks have been telling us that Trump is a fascist dictator for years, also without evidence.
When his executive orders have been blocked by the courts, has he ignored the courts? No.
During the impeachment process, did he not comply with the legal requirements of the process?
Has he even gone as far as Obama and authorized spying on hostile journalists? (If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, here’s a little refresher.)
Can we not all agree that had he in fact done anything obviously illegal or unconstitutional in office, his political adversaries in Congress and the media would make sure every one of us knew about it? Knowing as we do how badly they want to tear him down by any means necessary, can anyone actually doubt that such a transgression would have had him removed from office in a flash?
So why on earth have Democrats and their establishment media allies suddenly settled on this absurd talking point? (It’s almost as if, one can’t help noting, it were a coordinated effort… but nah, you’d have to be a conspiracy theorist to believe the media were coordinating their messaging with a political party.)
I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess, myself, but others have.
For example, Byron York gave it all a sober look about a month ago, before things really picked up steam, in “Coup porn: Resistance sees military removing Trump from office,” which concludes (emphasis mine):
But perhaps the theorizing about Trump refusing to leave, which in turn would justify military action, is the final product of a deep frustration among those in the Resistance. At this point, they have thrown everything they have at him. Years of investigations. Unprecedented leaks of U.S. intelligence. Media treatment that has been negative beyond measure. And then, they tried impeachment, the constitutionally prescribed means of removing him from office during his term. That, too, failed.
Now, in November, comes the final constitutionally prescribed means of removing the president. At the moment, the polls give Biden a substantial lead. If Biden wins (even if it comes after a vote-counting process that is long and rocky), a reasonable look at Trump’s history suggests he will leave office like every other president. But for some, there could be something unsatisfying about a scenario in which a hated president simply loses and leaves. So, coup porn has appeared. Perhaps for some people, it fills a deep-seated need. But for others, it is a terrifying glimpse of the abandonment of basic constitutional principles.
Michael Anton, author of the famous “Flight 93 Election” essay in 2016, takes a more alarmist view in “The Coming Coup,” which opens:
As if 2020 were not insane enough already, we now have Democrats and their ruling class masters openly talking about staging a coup. You might have missed it, what with the riots, lockdowns and other daily mayhem we’re forced to endure in this, the most wretched year of my lifetime. But it’s happening.
York’s piece makes a solid case that the crazy idea of being forced to remove Trump from office by force is a conspiracy theory of the left, and dismisses it as mere “coup porn”—boob bait for bubba, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan would have called it.
Anton’s piece takes the much more disturbing point of view that these people are serious—not so much about believing Trump wouldn’t step down, but very much so about the opportunity a contested election would give them for ousting Trump by force.
Either way, I think this conspiracy theory should be taken much more seriously than the QAnon conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory. And I suspect we will be hearing about it in the Danish media sooner rather than later: I only wonder whether they’ll report it as a conspiracy theory unsupported by evidence, or whether they’ll follow their American peers and spread the conspiracy themselves.
Just kidding: I’m actually pretty sure which way they’ll go.
So are you.