Editorial: Trump’s Conspiracy Theories Depict a Gotham City-Like America

Donald Trump’s penchant for telling tall tales and promoting conspiracy theories appears to be escalating, if that’s possible, the closer we get to Election Day. The conspiracy theories that Trump has promoted, including three this week during an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, portray an America that increasingly resembles Gotham City in DC Comics’ Batman. Perhaps Donald Trump fancies himself to be a sort of real-world Batman (“I alone can fix it”). But where Batman’s goal was to vanquish crime and corruption, Donald Trump’s goal, under the pretense of wanting to do the same, appears to be to promote it.

This week’s conspiracy theories included these whoppers:

COVID-19 and the “actual” number of deaths from the virus

Over the weekend, president Trump retweeted a conspiracy theory falsely claiming that only about 6 percent, or 9,000, people in the U.S. had died from COVID-19, instead of the 185,000 widely reported. The tweet, later removed by Twitter for violating its rules, was created by a Twitter user named “Mel Q,” who, not surprisingly, is a believer of the QAnon conspiracy theory. “Mel Q” cited a post on the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that said “for 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned.”

The CDC information does not mean that the other 94 percent didn’t die from COVID-19. Many of those who died were listed as also suffering from conditions caused directly by COVID-19, such as “organ failure” or “respiratory failure.” Others had underlying conditions, such as diabetes, that alone might not have been fatal, but that complicate COVID-19.

Australian epidemiologist Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz explained, “When you see that ‘only 6%’ of people had COVID-19 as the sole reason listed on their death forms, what it means is that there were only a small fraction of people who died of the disease who didn’t have any other underlying or immediate causes noted by the medical certifiers. This is completely unsurprising, as it’s pretty rare that someone wouldn’t have at least one issue caused by coronavirus prior to their death, and all it means is that in 94% of cases people who had COVID-19 also developed other issues, or had other problems at the same time.”

People “in the Dark Shadows” are Controlling Joe Biden

In Monday’s interview with Ingraham, Trump said of Joe Biden, “He’s not controlling anything”

“Who do you think is pulling Biden’s strings? Is it former Obama people?” Asked Ingraham.

“People that you’ve never heard of, people that are in the dark shadows….people that-”

“What does that mean?” Interrupted Ingraham. “That sounds like a conspiracy theory.”

“No, they’re people that you haven’t heard of, they’re people that are on the streets, they’re people that are controlling the streets.”

Thugs on a Plane

And speaking of the people who are “controlling the streets” (and, according to Trump, controlling Joe Biden), Trump continued by telling Ingraham, “We had somebody get on a plane from a certain city this weekend, and in the plane, it was almost completely loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms, with gear and this and that.” (How they got past the TSA and on that plane, loaded with all that gear, he didn’t explain.)

When Ingraham pressed him about who these people were, or where they came from Trump said, “I’ll tell you sometime. It’s under investigation right now, but they came from a certain city, and this person was coming to the Republican National Convention. And they were like seven people on the plane like this person, and then a lot of people were on the plane to do big damage.”

At first, Trump seemed to be making this fantastic tale up as he went along. Not long after, however, Ben Collins, of NBC News, tweeted that this was a rumor that had gone viral on Facebook in June (three months before “this weekend,” we should note).

Collins tweeted, “President Trump tonight: ‘We had somebody get on a plane… it was almost completely loaded with thugs, wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms.’ Viral Facebook rumor from June: ‘At least a dozen males got off the plane in Boise from Seattle, dressed head to toe in black.’”

“This appears to be an extension of the viral ‘Antifa is coming to the suburbs’ trope that went wildly viral on Facebook and text messages in June,” tweeted Collins. “The Idaho Statesman and Payette County Sheriff’s office debunked this specific viral rumor.”

In June, when the demonstrations over George Floyd’s murder by police were starting, social media was full of memes and rumors about Antifa going to demonstration sites to stir up trouble. In turn, some local people chased and harassed innocent peaceful demonstrators.

Trump has never acknowledged that the peaceful demonstrators are anything other than violent troublemakers.

On Tuesday, Trump doubled down on his claim: “A person was on a plane, said that there were about six people like that person, more or less. And what happened is the entire plane filled up with the looters, the anarchists, the rioters— people that obviously were looking for trouble.”

Trump may or may not fully believe this story, but he knows that his base will.

“Very Stupid Rich People” Financing Racial Justice Protests

During his interview with Laura Ingraham, Trump also said that “some very stupid rich people” were bankrolling last week’s racial justice protest in Washington, as well as the demonstrations that have occurred across the U.S. since late May. This hints at the QAnon conspiracy theory that a cabal of wealthy Democratic elites, including billionaire George Soros, are controlling the world with their wealth (and are also satan-worshipping pedophiles, according to QAnon claims).

Soros has been the protagonist of many such conspiracy theories over the years, the most recent being that he is behind the Black Lives Matter movement, and that he “owns” Antifa.

The narrative Donald Trump has created about the current social, civil, and public health crisis in the U.S. appears to grow more desperate as it becomes increasingly laced with falsehood. It relies on fabricated thugs, an imaginary evil cabal of wealthy Democrat elites, and a sinister plot by public health experts to deceive Americans about a deadly pandemic. It casts blame everywhere but on Donald Trump.

We have become accustomed to the regular flood of falsehoods that come out of the White House. We may be tempted to roll our eyes at some of the outlandish conspiracy theories that Trump helps to spread. But a significant number of Americans— those who support Donald Trump— hang on Trump’s every word, and live in  his mythical “Gotham City” along with him.

Offering no proof, Trump alleges plane ‘of thugs’ – News |
Reuters [2020-09-01]

Trump Spreads Conspiracy Theory That Circulated On Facebook Three Months Ago | All In | MSNBC [2020-09-01]

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