Conspiracy A Go-Go

When the right-wing first started their collective freak-out last summer, some commenters pointed out how crazy some of their worries were. Tyranny, socialism, fascism, death panels, FEMA re-education camps, birth certificates, etc., were all part and parcel of the unhinged imagination of white tea baggers looking for any justification they could find to make their thinly veiled racism look reasonable. The standard response to criticism of these ludicrous positions was, “these are the fringes of our party, not the mainstream.” And, to prove their point, they would trot out the example of 9-11 Truthers, who believe the attacks on the WTC were engineered by Bush/Cheney in a massive conspiracy.

It was a pretty good tactic. By equating their own nuttiness with the wacky theories of the Truthers, they could resort to the “he said, she said” news narrative to proclaim that both sides have their loons. Never mind that Truthers were never taken seriously or egged on by the establishment left. It provided rhetorical cover to the right-wing and allowed them to go on ranting and raving about nonsense.

Which brings us to this week when former FEMA director and horse trader, Michael “Heckuva Job” Brown, took to Fox to proclaim that the Deepwater Horizon oil rig spill was deliberately planned by the Obama administration in order to walk back his decisions regarding offshore drilling. Leaving aside the inanity of Michael Brown having any credibility whatsoever, I think this new conspiracy from the right gives lie to any sort of equivalence between the two parties’ fringes.

I can understand Brown’s desires here. After all, he was in charge of the giant cluster-fuck that was Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina, bragging about how good he looked in a suit while people were drowning and screaming for help. And the whole debacle was a pretty big black spot on an already dismal record for Bush and his crew. Brown can be forgiven for wanting to take some of the heat off himself, even 5 years later.

But remember, this was not the Alex Jones show or some photo-copied pamphlet Brown was using for spin. It was one of the most watched cable “news” networks. The conspiracy has been picked up by the usual suspects and is starting to gain momentum among even some members of congress. I’ll expect the announcement of hearings and subpoenas from Joe Lieberman’s senate committee any day now.

And that’s the big difference. With the left, Truthers are treated like an ugly pimple that just won’t go away. With the right, Brown’s “Oil Rig Gate” is treated like a brand new nose job to be shown off wherever the cameras appear. For those already predisposed to think Obama is a secret Muslim from Kenya, this new talking point is likely to sound logical. Remember, of course, that those same people are the Republican’s base, not the fringe. If you believe in death panels and fascism in the form of moderate changes to our health insurance system, believing Obama blew up an oil rig isn’t that far off the map. The fact that Cheney’s oily hands are all over the oil rig disaster makes the equivalence argument even more galling.

There are a lot of conspiracy theories floating around. But there’s only one party who touts them like political badges of honor. I don’t think I have to tell you which one. Heckuva job, Brownie.

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