Maybe it’s the Internet, and the ubiquity of social media, but it sometimes seems as if we are living in the age of conspiracy theories. Most of these contemporary versions aren’t just new twists on old standbys–aliens landing Roswell, UFO sightings, people who really killed JFK. In this age of hyper-partisanship, they tend to focus on political figures.
We saw an explosion of wild accusations when we elected our first African-American President. Obama wasn’t “really” American; he was born in a foreign country (Kenya, or for the more geographically-challenged, Hawaii). He wasn’t really Christian, but Muslim (which in their “minds” evidently equates with being a fellow-traveler of some sort). He was going to confiscate all the guns, eliminate the election and seize continuing power…
Usually, the people susceptible to conspiracy theories are those who find the real world baffling or uncongenial or both. I suppose it is bafflement that may explain a recent theory about Donald Trump’s inexplicable campaign for President.
This theory, which has been making the rounds on social media, rejects the premise that Trump’s self-immolation is due to his significant intellectual, moral and emotional deficits. Reasoning that no one could be as un-self-aware and self-destructive as Trump appears to be, they speculate that it is all part of a nefarious Clinton plot: he is really running to ensure Hillary Clinton’s victory in November.
After all, as one person considering this thesis asked, how would his behavior be any different if he were trying to elect her?
The posts I’ve seen point to Trump’s previous statements complimenting Hillary, his prior campaign contributions to her, and–especially suspicious–reports that he actually talked to the Clintons at some gathering a few months before entering the race. Ergo, they put him up to running a campaign so disastrous that even people who strongly dislike Hillary would vote for her.
What seems to distinguish this particular conspiracy theory from, say, the aliens at Roswell, is that it is offered by people who are generally logical. They are desperately trying to make sense of farce. No sane person, they reason, could possibly behave the way Trump has behaved. It’s one thing to fashion an appeal to white supremacists–that may be reprehensible, but it’s comprehensible. It’s another to constantly lie about matters that are easily fact-checked, to insult individuals and constituencies whose support you desperately need, to display a breathtaking ignorance of the world and the rules governing the country you propose to lead.
It must be an act, part of a clever, if convoluted, plot.
I’m sympathetic to the desire to explain the otherwise inexplicable, but let’s face it; this conspiracy is pretty implausible.
Freud famously said that “sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar.” Sometimes, a narcissistic buffoon is just a narcissistic buffoon.