An analysis of how the nature of conspiracy charges and the possibility of confirming and refuting them have changed so radically in the Trump era.
Muirhead (Democracy and Politics/Dartmouth Coll.; The Promise of Party in a Polarized Age, 2014, etc.) and Rosenblum (Ethics in Politics and Government/Harvard Univ.; Good Neighbors: The Democracy of Everyday Life in America, 2016, etc.) note that the Declaration of Independence was a call for the Colonies to unite in resistance against a conspiracy of British subjugation and that Americans have continued to feed on conspiracy theories since the nation’s founding. Occasionally, those theories have even proven true, confirmed by a process that resembles detective work as well as journalistic enterprise. One of the things that distinguishes “the new conspiracism” is that it is “conspiracy without theory. It sheds explanation, and it sheds political theory.” These ever present conspiracies, often launched or spread by the current president, are more like viral rumors on how everything and everyone—Democrats, the press, the “deep state,” the FBI, the special prosecutor—are conspiring to thwart the will of the people and undercut the authority of the elected official. The authors’ closing warning quotes Trump: “There’s something going on that’s really, really bad. And we better get smart, and we better get tough, or we’re not going to have much of a country left.” Where they disagree is on the problem and the solution. So much of the new conspiracism is “sheer absurdity” and an “assault on reality.” They see the strength of the two-party system as essential to that process. When the president is a member of one party in name only and consistently demonizes what is usually considered the loyal opposition, we are left with a “malignant normality.”
Some might disagree with the authors’ disparagement of populism and idealism toward two-party politics, but they are convincing in their argument that there is something different afoot in the world of conspiracy and that danger lies ahead if we don’t confront it with truth and action.