One of the stranger and, I think, less remarked upon elements of the last four years is the way in which it feels as if everyone has been radicalized to some degree or another. I don’t mean in the sense of political partisanship being on an unmistakable upswing — although, to be blunt, I wonder how much we can really call it “partisanship” when it’s closer to being “the people okay with fascism and the people who aren’t,” but let’s go with the partisan thing for now — but, instead, in the sense that I feel like so many more people are now happily, eagerly, accepting conspiracy theories that support their world view.
Any mention of conspiracy theories immediately points to the rightwing, who’ve been in this space for years: remember Obama not being an American citizen, or the idea that Benghazi was a false flag operation? That kind of paranoia and belief that of course they’re lying to us has, surreally, only grown with the right in power — just look at Pizzagate, QAnon, or the recent furore over Hunter Biden’s business dealings and what they really mean, for proof of that.
It’s not just the right, though; late last week, social media was struck by another wave of a theory that is, on its face, absolutely ludicrous, but nevertheless popular amongst far too many people — that Melania Trump is replaced by a Fake Melania in public appearances, for any number of stupid reasons. I saw countless posts arguing that of course it’s not the real Melania, and look what she’s mouthing to Trump, and so on, and so on, each one convinced that, yes, this was definitely a real thing that was happening and why won’t everyone wake up and smell the fake First Lady coffee.
I’m not immune to this, I admit. Part of me is utterly, entirely, convinced that there’s no way that the election this year will be fair. I can’t believe that the Trump administration won’t try everything it can to cheat and skew the result, and I also can’t find it inside me to believe that, in the face of a loss, Trump won’t do everything he can to stop himself leaving office.
There’s evidence for this, I could (and would) argue; it’s far from a baseless theory. What I keep returning to, though, is the strength of my belief in it not as theory, but as fact; I wholeheartedly believe it as if it’s already happened, even though I know that an alternative is theoretically possible. I know better, yet I still believe.
That’s the problem, maybe.