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Donald Trump appeals to conspiracy theorists because he shares their beliefs. Trump’s rise to the presidency began with his dogged amplification of Birtherism, the lie that former President Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Candidate Trump appeared on conspiracy monger, Alex Jones’s program, and met with anti-vaxxers on the campaign trail. As President, Trump continues to amplify conspiracy theories on Twitter.
Choosing to spread conspiracy theories is a strategic choice. I’ve written before about how Trump amplifies QAnon figures while making a point not to endorse the QAnon conspiracy theory itself. But I believe that Trump believes the conspiracies he amplifies and that many of those in his inner circle, including Rudy Giuliani and GOP electeds like Matt Gaetz do as well.
Given all of this, I’m not surprised that Trump’s belief in the Crowdstrike/DNC conspiracy theory has put America’s national security at risk. We learned this weekend that Trump’s then-campaign chair, Paul Manafort started spreading this conspiracy theory internally during the campaign. It’s not surprising that Trump would believe it, and that this belief would inform President Trump’s foreign policy regarding Ukraine down the line. Nor is it surprising that a conspiracy theory with no basis in reality, would be at the heart of Trump’s impeachment.
Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, also believes Ukraine conspiracy theories. Both men have recently had news outlets analyze their Twitter feeds. The Daily Beasts’ Will Sommer found that Giuliani follows just 224 people on Twitter and that in addition to Trumpworld figures “many of those 224 dabble in far darker realms of the far-right conspiracy theory internet than the usual rantings of a Fox News primetime broadcast.”
Last weekend the New York Times did a deep dive into the cesspool that is Trump’s Twitter mentions writing that “The president is also awash in an often toxic torrent that sluices into his Twitter account — roughly 1,000 tweets per minute, many intended for his eyes. Tweets that tag his handle, @realDonaldTrump, can be found with hashtags like #HitlerDidNothingWrong, #IslamIsSatanism, and #WhiteGenocide. While filters can block offensive material, the president clearly sees some of it, because he dips into the frothing currents and serves up noxious bits to the rest of the world.”
And again, Trump and Giuliani aren’t the only true believers here. Some GOP electeds are clearly trying to curry favor with Trump by touting this crap, but others actually believe it. It isn’t always easy to determine who falls into which category but if the entire GOP are willing to give Trump cover it doesn’t matter if they believe it or not. Because they’re willing to let Trump continue running the country. And apparently, there’s nothing Trump can do in order to lose his party’s support.
As for the strategy behind conspiracy-mongering, I’ll note that the goal is to make it difficult for people to discern truth from fiction. The Trump White House doesn’t need anyone else to subscribe to their version of reality but if Americans can’t distinguish truth from fiction, don’t know what to believe, and tune out, that benefits Trump’s defense. Republicans can’t defend Trump’s actions so their best bet is to blur the lines between truth and fiction as much as possible.