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What Trump Actually Believes And Conspiracy Mongering As Strategy

By Melissa Ryan

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.

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CPAC Hungary For Further Expansion

Recently HOPE not hatewrote about how CPAC have expanded internationally with conferences in Japan, Korea, Brazil and Ireland. Now, ACU Chair Matt Schlapp has also hinted that CPAC could be heading to Hungary. We explore who in Hungary might be CPAC’s partners. 

Hungarians were also among a whole host of international far-right figures who recently attended a two day conference in Los Angeles organised by the California-based American Freedom Alliance. 

Find out all the details.


Research

  • A haunting new project from HuffPost, a separate database to examine what “go back” means in the era of President Donald Trump. “We collected 800 reports, occurring over the last four years, in which assailants communicated some variation of “go back” to their victims. We found over 300 accounts of these incidents in news articles; 16 in police reports obtained through public records requests; and the rest were tips sent to HuffPost and its media partners in the Documenting Hate project. HuffPost spoke with 80 victims and witnesses.”
  • The Social Science Research Council is out with new research: #Islamophobia: Stoking Fear and Prejudice in the 2018 Midterms. “This report examines the campaign experiences of Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and other Muslim candidates who ran in the 2018 US midterm elections. While many Muslim candidates reported limited encounters with Islamophobia among their constituents, a social media narrative of manufactured outrage was disproportionately Islamophobic, xenophobic, racist, and misogynistic. It was heavily influenced by a small number of agents provocateurs, whose hate-filled messages and disinformation were amplified by networks of accounts operating on a scale that signals the involvement of organized networks.”

ICYMI

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Blatant Self-Promotion

My appearance on The Bottom Line on Al Jazeera English is now online. We taped this just minutes after Twitter made their political ads announcement so there was clearly a lot to discuss! I hope you enjoy it.

I’m also quoted in an extensive report for The Nation on the Global Far-Right.

“One of the biggest misconceptions of the American left—and left-of-center movements in Europe as well—is the tendency to think of the far right as a nationalist movement,” says Melissa Ryan, who writes the Ctrl Alt-Right Delete newsletter for Hope Not Hate, the British anti-racist research group. “It’s actually the opposite. They operate internationally. They share best practices, they share funding streams. They’re internationalists claiming to be nationalists.”

Got questions or comments on CARD? We love hearing from readers. Reply directly to this email. I read every email and respond to most. You can also hit us up on Twitter: @melissaryan & @simonmurdochhnh.

Talk to you next week!