The Boston Globe reports: Sometimes, Donald Trump sounds as though he is just passing on information, as he did after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died. “They say they found a pillow on his face,” Trump told a radio interviewer, “which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow.”
Other times, he seems to be wondering aloud, as he did when he suggested the Clintons might have been involved in what he termed the “very fishy” 1993 suicide of former White House aide Vince Foster.
More famously, he helped drive the so-called birther movement, insisting that President Obama was not born in the United States and that investigators he had sent to Hawaii would expose “one of the greatest cons in the history of politics and beyond.”
Trump’s affinity for conspiracy theories might seem the stuff of a few kooks and cranks living in their parents’ basement.
But far from being a marginal phenomenon, conspiracy theories have always been part of the American political landscape and are believed by more than 55 percent of the public — a group that cuts across race, gender, income, and political affiliation, according to researchers and polls.
The surprising breadth of conspiracy beliefs shows that while Trump’s rhetoric may repel a large segment of voters, it is also tapping a deep vein of thought among Americans who distrust elites and suspect that larger, darker forces are orchestrating domestic and world events.
“When I started studying conspiracy theories, I was stunned,” said Thomas J. Wood, a political scientist at Ohio State University. “I thought I was going to find them on the fringes of American attitudes, but they are a core way that Americans read about and explain political phenomena in response to uncertainty.” [Continue reading…]