Ben Judah writes: Trump is a son and hero to Conspiracy America, a country where academic studies show 40 per cent of citizens believe the US government is covering up the cure for cancer, a republic where 25 per cent believe the “Birther” conspiracy he helped to create, and nearly 20 per cent believe the “Truther” conspiracy that al-Qaeda fanatics were not responsible for the 2001 attack on the Twin Towers. Why do so many Americans believe such fabrications? This is the most urgent question for America today.
The paranoia fuelling Trump’s rise is the curse of the Bush era. Conspiracy America is a delayed reaction to the twin Bush disasters: the War on Terror and the banking collapse. History warns us that fear of demonic plots builds slowly after confusing, traumatic events. And once a conspiracy theory is born – The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, for example, or the power of the Freemasons – it is nearly impossible to kill.
Conspiracies about the Kennedy assassination built slowly, peaking in the 1980s. Germany’s “stab-in-the-back” myth grew only slowly after the Treaty of Versailles, peaking in the 1930s. History warns that paranoia about plots thrives in states which are being delegitimised: whenever they are unable to fulfil their promises – of empire, welfare, or the American Dream – the pattern of history is those losing out see plots, not systems, stealing what was theirs.
America’s shifting racial structure and social-media addiction may be far less to blame for Trump’s popularity than the rightists of Washington would like to admit. Conspiracy theories are able to thrive in atmospheres where the government has embraced the rhetoric of “us and them” – just as the War on Terror produced. Above all, the history books tell us, conspiracy theorists such as Trump thrive in societies that are growing poorer, weaker, more unequal, and where their citizens do not understand why that is happening. And that is America today. [Continue reading…]