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Sunday morning fever: conspiracies, mutations and anxious fish

December 20, 2020
Sterling Hayden as Jack D Ripper in Doctor Strangelove

It’s entirely typical of 2020 that the ingredients of a conspiracy theory across the Atlantic should distract my attention from stuff going on closer to home.

For some odd reason I woke at 5am this morning with the story going round my head of Trump and his wacko advisers meeting in the White House on Friday to discuss options for overturning the election. The story had emerged yesterday in various US media, including the New York Times. The gist of it was that the unholy conclave, who included Rudy Giuliani, the unhinged Sidney Powell and the newly-pardoned General Flynn, (who is fast becoming a real-life version of Jack D Ripper, Stanley Kubrick’s demented general in Doctor Strangelove) discussed the possibility of seizing the election machines for analysis, thereby “proving” election fraud and allowing Trump to declare martial law, under which the election would be re-run, with no prizes for guessing what the outcome would be.

I started constructing my very own conspiracy theory as I tossed and turned in bed. If it had been summer, I would probably have got up and put hands to keyboard. But 5am in the winter, three hours before sunrise, is not a time to be anywhere other than in bed. So I damped down my fevered imagination by thinking about Brexit and a mutant virus instead. Bringing to mind several unpleasant things at once is, I find, a useful noise cancelling technique. So I went back to sleep, rising again only when the first shafts of watery light began to appear.

As with most conspiracy theories, this one starts with a proposition, and the theory takes shape when disparate but suitable evidence can be assembled into a superficially plausible case.

Trump is planning a military coup. The evidence? Aside from General Flynn’s ranting, which serves the same purpose as John the Baptist in announcing a wondrous event, real stuff is going on behind the rhetoric.

A few weeks ago, Trump got rid of a number of senior officials in the Defense Department and replaced them with loyalists. These people have been quietly beavering away at plans for the coup. With Flynn’s help they’ve been sounding out senior generals who might be sympathetic to the cause, with the aim of creating a cadre of plotters who will hold back the military while the goons of Homeland Security take control of the country once the Insurrection Act has been invoked.

More evidence needed? Over the last couple of days, the Defense Department has suspended its cooperation with the incoming Biden transition team, under the pretext of needing a holiday. What they’re actually doing is putting the detailed coup plans in place.

Then there’s the cyberattack on US government computers, allegedly the work of Russia’s hackers. It’s a hoax of course, designed to heighten the nation’s sense of insecurity and give Trump a further excuse to take extreme measures in defence of the country.

“Now is not the time,” he will say, “for a change of government. The nation is under attack from within by socialist election fraudsters who have taken advantage of the pandemic to instil a sense of fear and insecurity. At the same time, China (not Russia, of course) is attacking our government institutions and seeking to weaken us further. I therefore have no choice other than to annul the results of the election and declare martial law in order to safeguard our democracy and the nation’s critical interests. At such time as the situation is stabilised, I will authorise a new election under the supervision of the military and Homeland Security. It will be conducted in such a manner that makes the abuses of the fraudulent election impossible to be repeated.”

All complete nonsense, of course, but the narrative I’ve just described is an example of how easily it’s possible to weave a conspiracy theory that superficially hangs together, even though in this case it would be a theory that might take root in the minds of Trump’s opponents rather than among the usual QAnon rabble.

Or at least I hope it’s nonsense, because we have one more month of Trump’s demented presidency to go. Who knows what surprises he might yet try and spring on his unfortunate fellow citizens?

But we in Britain have more pressing things to worry about than the prospect of a fascist dictator seizing power in the United States. After all, Russia and China are hardly bleeding-heart liberal democracies, so what would be the harm in America joining their club?

A mutant virus threatens to consume us. Our Christmas is doomed. Thousands of truckers will be celebrating the festival stuck in their cabs somewhere in Kent. The rest of us will have to decide what to do with all that uneaten turkey. And our poor fish, such as are left in our waters, are swimming around in a state of anxiety over which political entity is going to hoover them up up over the next few years.

More to come on those matters no doubt, as our happy holidays draw closer.

From → Politics, UK, USA

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