I'm greeted by an article by Stanley Fish in this morning's Times, describing a meeting of leftish conspiracy theorists holding that, amongst other things, 9/11 was a faked, inside job. He presented them as basically equivalent to righties with equally lurid views:
Who knew? Merciful heavens...
Our government has given us ample reason to distrust it. Some of its 'fact-finding', as with the Kennedy assassination and Pat Tillman's death, is, at best, unconvincing. Some documented events--Robert McFarlane with his cake and Bible going to Khomeini's Iran to arrange an arms trade violating the law, for instance--beggar the imagination. And outright falsehoods--the involvement of Saddam's Iraq in 9/11, for instance--remain believed by many, and reinforced, or passively allowed to fester, by a government whose purposes are served by them.
A country in which 40% or so reject the theory of evolution, billions are spent yearly on such worthlessness as homeopathic remedies, and where humanity's role in global warming is a political rather than a scientific issue, is fertile ground for such theories. And popular art, from 'X-Files' to '24', Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum, reinforces such things in the public mind, making them a habit of thought. I'd guess the Smiley novels of John LeCarre far more mirror the spy/intelligence environment than derring-do thrillers whose omnicompetent protagonists save the world by a hairbreadth.
Fish never notes the obvious, that 'Truthers' are on the fringe. Nobody believes them outside their circles; nobody makes policy based on their ideas. They have no power in the Democratic Party, no credibility in the media. Equally reality-challenged right wingers, such as Beck and the Tea Partiers, are, on the other hand, a major political force, are taken seriously in their policy recommendations as well as accorded legitimacy. Michael Crichton, a novelist, was called as an expert witness on global warming after publishing a novel whose plot revolved around a conspiracy to create the appearance of environmental disasters, thereby empowering those taking global warming seriously to the disadvantage of the powerless oil companies. A decades-old article in the Nation has been spun into what Beck calls the Cloward-Piven conspiracy. The Federal Reserve, the Illuminati, the Masons, the Council on Foreign Relations, on and on and on. Even those with a grain of truth are spun into impossible thin-air coherences.
One hears no Republican at all disagreeing with this nonsense. The Republican Party, increasingly in thrall to extremists, rejects in large measure not only Obama's policies, but the very legitimacy of his presidency. This is a political fact of far more import, and far more danger to the Republic, than anything emerging from leftish conspiracy buffs. Fish errs gravely in drawing an equivalency between extremists on left and right, as if they pose equal dangers to the country.