As I keep saying, despite the insistence of bothsider intellectuals, conservatism is now nothing but Trumpism. A clear sign of this is the brethren’s wholesale adoption of the conspiracy theories Trumpists roll out to defend him as special counsel Robert Mueller’s footsteps get nearer.
For instance, it has become settled doctrine among conservatives that the FBI — the same guys they loved over the years for hunting down Communists, labor leaders, Martin Luther King Jr., hippies, Black Panthers, et alia — are now plotting to overthrow Trump on behalf of Hillary Clinton.
That’s what’s behind the recent #ReleaseTheMemo tzimmes — in which Donald Trump and GOP congress member David Nunes portrayed an alleged memo about FBI malfeasance as hot stuff, and even serious conservatives like National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy called for its release, until enough time passed that people began to wonder why none of these patriots was telling them what was actually in the damn thing.
That particular nonsense still persists — “Trump reportedly working to get Nunes memo released,” the New York Post assured its diehards. But you can get some idea of how little it takes to get these guys riled up from last week’s rapid rise and fall of the “Secret Society” story, in which a gag by two anti-Trump FBI employees about their status after his election briefly became a full-blown conspiracy theory.
In brief: FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page were on the Trump case and allegedly having an affair when they exchanged some salty messages on a variety of subjects including Trump. Though they both left Mueller’s investigation months ago, conservatives still take Strzok’s and Page’s negative attitude toward their Leader, and the fact that many of their messages briefly went missing, as further proof of the Great FBI-Hillary Conspiracy.
Top conservatives have fine-tooth-combed such Strzok-and-Page messages as they could find, and claimed sinister intent wherever it could be inferred. Take the pair’s line about preparing for the “risk” of Trump’s election being “like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.” Normal people recognize this as a feeling many people had about that ominous prospect, but to right-wing glamour boy Ben Shapiro it was the “One INSANE Text Message [That] May Have Just Fatally Wounded The Mueller Investigation.… And that means that there is now more of a smoking gun of FBI corruption against Trump than there is of Trump colluding with Russia.… The Mueller team is filled top-to-bottom with political activists who have a specific anti-Trump agenda,” etc.
Then last week GOP senator Ron Johnson came up with new magic words: As reported by the Washington Examiner, Johnson “said on Tuesday he had an ‘informant’ corroborate reports concerning the existence of an FBI ‘secret society’ working to undermine President Trump.”
Turns out Strzok and Page had referred to themselves as members of such a society. Wing nuts went wild.
“Senator Confirms Existence Of FBI ‘Secret Society,’ ” gushed Benny Johnson at the Daily Caller. “Is There a ‘Secret Society’ Inside the FBI?” gasped Truth Revolt. “Bret Baier is shocked by this revelation about the FBI ‘secret society’ against Trump,” intoned Glenn Beck’s the Blaze.
“Evidence suggests a massive scandal is brewing at the FBI,” wrote Michael Goodwin at the New York Post, citing “talk among agents of a ‘secret society’ and suddenly missing text messages” that “point to the existence both of a cabal dedicated to defeating Donald Trump in 2016 and of a plan to let Hillary Clinton skate free in the classified email probe. If either one is true — and I believe both probably are — it would mean FBI leaders betrayed the nation by abusing their powers in a bid to pick the president.”
Mainstream media outlets, as usual terrified of any accusation of liberal bias, had to treat this gibberish seriously; “FBI SECRET SOCIETY? RUSH LIMBAUGH, SOME REPUBLICANS, TROUBLED BY STRZOK-PAGE TEXT,” bothsided Newsweek. “For some on the right, the notion of a secret society within the U.S. intelligence community has become a serious concern.”
Conservatives, who are not so scrupulous, just blithely went with the story that the FBI had a secret society working to destroy Trump.
“BREAKING: Thousands of New Strzok-Page Text Messages Reference ‘SECRET SOCIETY’ Within DOJ and FBI WORKING AGAINST TRUMP (VIDEO),” babbled Cristina Laila of Gateway Pundit. Laila seemed to conflate the existence of thousands of Strzok-Page texts with the single secret society–related text, though I guess it’s possible she actually imagined the lovers used it as a customary sign-off, like “Hail Hydra.”
“GOP LAWMAKERS: FBI OFFICIALS PETER STRZOK AND LISA PAGE TEXTED ABOUT ‘SECRET SOCIETY’ AFTER ELECTION,” hollered Breitbart, which quickly instituted a “Secret Society” tag that, alas, will probably never have more than the five stories currently assigned to it.
“LIVE: DECLASSIFIED DOCUMENT SHOWED OBAMA ADMINISTRATION BROKE LAW TO SPY ON AMERICANS,” raved Infowars. “The downfall of the globalists is approaching.… A Bohemian Grove-style secret society within the FBI was conspiring against President Trump.”
Some of the classier conservatives tried to indulge the conspiracy-minded while leaving themselves some wiggle room for later, when it all went to shit.
“The ‘secret society’ thing could mean nothing,” said RedState, “or it could mean a lot.” Questions Remain! But, they assured readers, “in this case, the messenger is the message because [GOP congressman Trey] Gowdy does not have a reputation for running off half-cocked and eventually looking like a fool.” Gowdy’s endless Benghazi investigation proved that!
“We’ll say it again: the ‘secret society’ text might mean nothing,” said Twitchy. “The ‘insurance policy’ text might mean nothing. But speaking of Harry Potter: wasn’t there an anti-Trump group working inside the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau calling itself ‘Dumbledore’s Army’?” AHA! Now the libtards are using magic against Trump!
Eventually everyone found out Strzok and Page were just having a giggle and it was reported Johnson “acknowledges not knowing what they meant — and says the focus now on his committee is the Clinton email scandal.” But Her Emails! Well, when in doubt always go with the classics.
The new right-wing rap became: Why’s everyone focusing on “secret society”?
Johnson only “picked up on” the secret society thing because “a whistleblower has informed Johnson’s office about offsite and secret meetings between FBI officials, possibly others, related to the ‘Russia investigation,’ ” wrote Willis L. Krumholz at the Federalist. “Although the text containing the ‘secret society’ language appears benign, Johnson’s point was always to highlight what he had heard from the whistleblower.” He was just saying it to fill space, like some people say “you know” or “I have here in my hand a list of 205 Communists.”
“Nevertheless,” sighed Krumholz, “the media has used the benign language in the text to attempt to show that Johnson was spinning conspiracy theories out of whole cloth.” It’s awful how the media report what conservatives say instead of what they mean.
Snopes memorialized this all-but-dead meme with “Do FBI Agents Have an Anti-Trump ‘Secret Society’?” But who cares what they think — nowadays conservatives claim the famously impartial Snopes is just more Fake News, probably because it is famously impartial; if it were real news, as they see it, it would be dispensed by rage queens with bulging neck veins, or nootropic pitchmen, or Sean Hannity, and would always make Trump look good and persecuted. So don’t expect this embarrassment to teach them anything. Next week, someone from the “Deep State” will be heard saying Trump’s a pain in the ass, and conservatives will claim it’s a plot to get doctors (who are totally in the tank for Hillary) to authorize Trump’s removal as a hemorrhoid.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 29, 2018