Republican front runner Donald Trump is embracing a new campaign tactic that sets him apart from nearly every other presidential candidate in history: He is embracing the fringe opinions and the conspiracy theorists.
On December 2, Trump sat down to speak with with Alex Jones on Jones’s radio show. Jones is probably the most famous conspiracy theorist in America. The fiercely anti-government radio personality strongly believes that the September 11th attacks, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the Sandy Hook shootings were all “false flag” operations that were planned and executed by the government to create fear and create controversial new policies.
“Sandy Hook is a synthetic, completely fake, with actors, in my view manufactured. I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids,” Jones said shortly after the 2013 killings.
On Jones’s show Infowars, Trump got along incredibly well with the host, with most of the 30-minute interview consisting of the two exchanging compliments. Towards the end, Jones said that about 90 percent of his listeners supported Trump. Trump wrapped up the interview by saying that Jones’s “reputation is amazing.”
Just hours after Jones and Trump spoke, 14 were killed in San Bernardino, California. Shortly after, Infowars, theorized that those shootings were also a false flag operation.
As Rachel Maddow pointed out in a Washington Post editorial, Trump’s methods strongly contrast those of former GOP frontrunners John McCain and Mitt Romney. McCain and Romney both went out of their way to debunk Jones-approved conspiracies, like the 9/11 and Obama birth certificate “truths.”
Maddow claims that Trump’s endorsement of conspiracy theorists validates their beliefs, and elevates it out of the fringe, ever so slightly. The fact that Trump is favored by conspiracy theorists is not a huge shock, especially considering that the GOP frontrunner promotes questionable theories and unprovable claims himself, like his story of seeing “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheer at the collapse of the World Trade Center.
Maddow says that the vast amount of information — and misinformation — on the Internet makes it a fertile breeding ground for conspiracy theories. Although the theories may be disgusting when promoted by fringe groups, they become exceptionally dangerous when political leaders refuse to shoot them down.
Leadership has its burdens. Among them is the necessity of correcting and redirecting the well-meaning folks on your own side who are attracted to dangerous conspiracy theories.
There will always be someone out there cooking this stuff up and selling it to the unhinged and gullible. But that just makes it a workaday responsibility of political leaders to make sure this stuff doesn’t get mainstreamed. I’m not saying we’ve always been great at that, but at the level of presidential nominees, we’ve at least recently had the benefit of candidates who see it as their responsibility to try.
Featured image via Flickr