What is it with people and conspiracy theories? I ask, because I spent a frustrating couple of days arguing on-line with people who really do believe that Hillary Clinton is a mass murderer. I know, right? But there are people who believe this, that the Clintons routinely bump off people who are about to expose them. Expose what, you might reasonably ask? Well, all the women Bill raped, for one thing. The Clinton family drug smuggling. And also, duh, all the murders.
Really, I should know better. It’s completely impossible to argue with conspiracy theorists. For one thing, they’re obsessed. The Clinton-haters spend endless amounts of time reading books about the vileness of the Clintons. Which means they know way more about their theory than you’re likely to. They know the names and life histories, for example, of all 67 people the Clintons had murdered. How do you refute that?
So you scramble. It doesn’t take that long. A quick proficiency with Google leads to, yes, fifty articles supporting the conspiracy, but also to solid, factual evidence. But if you cite that evidence, it doesn’t matter. That’s what’s infuriating with conspiracy theorists; nothing fazes them. Disprove one allegation, and they’ve got twenty more lined up. I’m genuinely angry with myself. The number one rule with conspiracy theories has to be: do not engage. It’s impossible to argue with these people. Conspiracy theories are intoxicating. You get to feel superior. Everyone else is a dimwit; you possess the actual truth of things! You’re one of the secret elite; you’re Someone Who Knows.
There’s actually been some research on this subject, including a book-length study by political scientists Joseph Uscinski and Joseph Parent, which was published in 2014. It makes for depressing reading. Liberals and conservatives believe in conspiracy theories pretty equally, though the two sides like different ones. A third of Americans believe in birther theories about Obama; about the same number believe 9/11 is an inside job. In fact, liberals and conservatives are equally likely to think the favorite theories of their opponents are hilariously silly (because of course ‘those people’ believe that sort of ridiculous nonsense), while holding to favorite, equally nonsensical notions of their own.
Education helps, a little. 42% of people without high school diplomas are prone to conspiratorial thinking, while only 23% of people with post-graduate degrees do. Still, that’s depressing. One of five PhDs believe in absolute tommyrot? Because that’s the reality of conspiracy theories. They’re objectively untrue. They’re unsupported by, you know, evidence. Facts.
Anyway, the Clintons. The false narrative, in this case, argues that Bill and Hillary Clinton have murdered (or ordered murdered) 67 people over their time in the public eye. See, there’ve been all these mysterious deaths! Of people who were just about to testify against the Clintons about something nefarious they’d done! (Except, turns out, they weren’t). And they can name names: Ron Brown, Seth Rich, John Ashe, Victor Thorn, Shawn Lucas. Vince Foster (of course!) So many deaths! Has to be murder!
I grew up in Bloomington Indiana. I am a middle-class, unremarkable, politically insignificant man around 60. But I can certainly think of 67 people who I knew and who knew me, who died. In my neighborhood growing up, the kid who lived to our north died of AIDS. Another kid, a little further north, died in an auto wreck. The kid across the street committed suicide. One of my best friends, in high school, killed himself–I spoke at his funeral. Over fifty-some years, there have been lots of mishaps and illnesses and tragedies. My life isn’t anything special, but if some nasty-minded person wanted to stitch all those unrelated incidents together and create a false narrative about Eric the Lethal, I can imagine what it would look like.
And that’s what’s going on here. Not that it matters, but Ron Brown (Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Commerce) died in a plane wreck. The conspiracy theory is that they found a bullet hole in his skull–he was shot before the plane went down! Except that isn’t true; there was no exit wound, no bullet fragments in his skull. He died of blunt force trauma, because, you know, his plane crashed. Seth Rich died in a botched robbery. John Ashe died of a heart attack, Victor Thorn killed himself, Shawn Lucas died in an accident. And Vince Foster actually, really, did kill himself. Seven separate investigations proved it.
It’s all that silly. People sometimes die. All of us know people who have died. There’s nothing remotely suspicious about either the number of deaths of people the Clintons knew, or the circumstances in which those deaths took place.
Most of this garbage came from a recent book, Roger Stone and Robert Morrow’s The Clintons’ War on Women. Roger Stone is a professional Clinton hater, a guy who has spent his life digging for anti-Clinton dirt. Robert Morrow, meanwhile, spends his free time writing in a genre I had not previously known exists–Hillary porn. Researching this, I found some, read maybe half a paragraph of the most unspeakable vileness. (Now you don’t have to: you’re welcome). Their book is published by something called Skyhorse Publishing, which specializes in all sorts of conspiracy theory books, with titles like American Nuremberg (a truther book about 9/11), American Conspiracy, Spooks, and The Secret Coalition. Thar’s gold in them thar hills.
Of course, as is always the case with these things, the conspiracy requires the active collusion and participation of way too many people. There’s no way; someone would have blabbed. It’s like the Kennedy assassination theories; if, say, LBJ conspired to kill Kennedy, it would have required the cooperation of dozens of organizations and hundreds of individuals. Or the ‘moon landing was faked,’ literally hundreds of scientists and engineers with NASA, and that’s just for starters.
So let’s get real. Hillary Clinton absolutely doesn’t go around bumping people off. She’s been investigated more than any politician in the country, and there’s absolutely no evidence of criminal wrong-doing. And if you run into a conspiracy theorist, there’s a perfect way to handle them. Don’t engage. Don’t argue. Just change the subject, politely and firmly. Exactly the way Chelsea Clinton did, when confronted with Robert Morrow.