One of the major drivers of the Republican Party seems to be conspiracy theories. Generally funny and harmless, conspiracy theories have morphed into something much more dangerous among the far right, prompting someone to shoot up a D.C. pizza joint in 2016. Now, this form of dangerous right-wing demagoguery has led to talks of civil war being broadcasted on primetime network television.
On Thursday, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs called for a civil war against civic institutions based on another far-right conspiracy theory.
Good Lord. Latest from Fox/GOP is claims there's an FBI "Secret Society" working to overthrow President Trump. pic.twitter.com/62Lh62xtjP
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) January 24, 2018
This time it’s based on one of the right fringe’s favorite pet theories – that a massive shadow government they call the “deep state” is operating a concerted effort to humiliate and oust President Trump. This supposed cabal of intelligence agents and FBI officials is apparently preparing for a digital coup against the United States.
Remember, leading conservatives actually believe this.
The leader of this “deep state” is apparently Ellen DeGeneres. It was this shadow government, not the Bush Administration, who fabricated the evidence that got Americans involved in a military action in Iraq with the goal of ultimately embarrassing President Bush. They similarly invented the case of Russian collusion in order to embarrass President Trump.
Remember, even skeptical conservatives just say “we’re not there yet“.
Trump believes his own Justice Department and FBI to be part of this “deep state” and the marker for being trustworthy appears to be if they voted for him, based on the account of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
“It may be time to declare war outright against the deep state and clear out the rot in the upper levels of the FBI and the Justice Department,” said Dobbs. “The FBI and the DOJ have broken the public trust by destroying evidence, defying oversight and actively trying to bring down the Trump presidency.”
Even if this is not taken to be a literal call to engage in a civil war — and remember, a restaurant was targeted by a shooter based on a right-wing conspiracy theory just over a year ago — it absolutely is a call to purge the federal government of anyone critical of President Trump or with affiliations to the Democratic Party. It is at the very least an effort to extend single-party control of government throughout the entire bureaucracy and push fringe conservative ideals through every arm of government.
Despite Salon’s accusation that conspiracy theories are killing conservative media, they have largely become the drivers of right-wing thought. To that end, it doesn’t matter if the evidence supporting them is less than substantive, entirely artificial or totally nonsensical in the case of Shadow President DeGeneres, because the conspiracy has become the soil for the conservative media ecosystem.
In this way, the President is right about the pervasiveness of fake news. He just is wrong about where it’s coming from.
Katelyn Kivel is a journalist and political scientist in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.