“I expected the worst, and it was worse than I expected…”
To provide a little scaffolding, fodder, and inspiration for your quest to create the next great political tall tale, we thought we’d take a deep dive on one of the most obvious sources of conspiracies today: Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus.
Even if you believe, as the 12 year old daughter of a good friend was recently heard to opine, that he’s “so full of s***, we ran out of toilet paper,” his decision and indecision-making has been so breathtakingly bad it seems as if it were designed to make the impact of the virus as devastating as possible.
Meanwhile virtually none of aggressive steps to actually stem the tide have been initiated by his administration; they’ve all come from governors and mayors, college and universities, K-12 school systems, associations, sports leagues and the entertainment industry–if there are heroes at the end of this tunnel, those are them, along with the doctors and nurses literally laying their lives on the line, improperly equipped and with full knowledge of how much more likely health workers of all ages have been to succumb to the disease, e.g. when their immune systems kick into overdrive in response to the constant bombardment.
All of which leaves the average American, now cooped up in his/her/their home with too much time on his/her/their hands, to wonder: He can’t be this stupid and incompetent–what’s the real reason he’s doing what looks like everything possible to insure a perp walk out of the White House next January?
It turns out that if you’re a conspiracist, there are a surprising number of theories with at least a modicum of plausibility, particularly if you assume the levels of psychosis that 60,000+ mental health professionals risked their professional reputations to aver, coupled with ample evidence, from even the earliest days of his term–i.e. before the dementing toll the office could take on a person of his BMI–that his intelligence is just not all that.
In any case, here are just a few hypothes-I from the Whizzo sampler to put you in the right frame of mind to enter and win our contest (playing Hurricane on repeat might help too). There’s no need to provide remotely the same level of length or detail in your contributions to this samizdat genre as what you’re about to read (nor will we allow you to include links–you need to at least a little bit untethered from reality to play); the only reason we’ve done so is there’s a part of us considering releasing some or all of these into the wild, in honor of Comet Ping Pong, the grieving parents of Sandy Hook, the people of Kenya, and more–all victims of Trump supporters alleging machinations with a lot less basis in reality than ours. We don’t go high. Not any more.
If Trump were a criminal defendant before a jury of his all-white peers, he’d have three things against him, any of which would normally convict him in the eyes of any loyal Nancy Grace viewer:
If you’re honest, conservatives, you know that in your mind, you’ve convicted every “predator” who ever “got off on a technicality” for one or more of these legal sins. Faced with these realities, normally the only way to “get [Trump] off” would be to plead insanity, better known in political circles as the 25th amendment, but we know the pumpkinheads among you don’t want to do that. Which leaves us with only twenty or so other explanations for why he so badly botched the response:
(1) To postpone or cancel the elections. This is a popular one, especially since it’s well-known that, as usually is the case, his braggadocio covers a deep level of insecurity, not unlike his hero, Richard M. Nixon, who had far less reason to worry about his re-election than Trump when he ordered the Watergate break-into DNC headquarters. Avoiding the aforementioned perp walk (which can’t happen as long as he’s president) would provide an extra layer of motivational icing Nixon never had. He could technically even get himself “legitimately” re-elected this way for another four years, if Republican state legislatures go along, likely the world’s smallest ‘if.’
(2) To provide the cover needed to steal them. We know he’s openly soliciting foreign interference, because he’s told us so, and other than possibly Iran, there isn’t an authoritarian government who wouldn’t benefit from his re-election in one way or another. That, not coincidentally, includes all the rest of the world’s leaders in cyberwarfare. The longer the virus wreaks chaos in general, the more every part of the election process will be vulnerable, especially the front lines, where the usual army of senior citizens that faithfully person the polls may well be unwilling or unable to do so.
(3) To declare martial law or otherwise assume dictatorial powers, which he is allowed, under the Constitution, to do. Early in 2019, The Atlantic came out with a list of what it considered the 50 “unthinkable” moments of the Trump presidency, many with multiple warheads. Like straight-shooting surgeons, they admitted they likely hadn’t gotten them all, inviting their readers to submit more, and it’s been more than a year since, with the last adult supervision in the Oval long since departed. Most of the fifty had to do with his authoritarianism in one way or another, so it’s no surprise another popular theory is that he’s seeing COVID as his potential Reichstag fire, only bigger and better of course, a Reichstag wildfire across the country.
At a time when experts on authoritarianism are urging mass protests against him before it’s too late, what could be better for a strongman wannabe than this kind of disaster in particular, a virus that not only seems to demand a martial clearing of the streets and the banning of all potential opposition in groups greater than the size of ten (and falling), but is practically guaranteed to be self-enforcing by the people themselves? And how perfect for him that the leading Democratic governors, in a noble effort to protect their citizens from the crisis he created, have essentially legitimated this and are normalizing it through “lockdowns” and “shelter in place” orders, arguably martial in all but name, that his government can now extend indefinitely or reinstate at first cough any time.
(3.5) Deep breath–remember, this isn’t real, we’re just playin’ here.
(4) Because “we have all the guns and we grow all the food.” Is there such a thing as nazdar, and does the alt-right, originators of that guns and butter online chant, know it when they see it in Donald Trump? And do liberals even eat American food? We’ve been reassured that there will be no shortages of food staples while we wait this disease out (even as many grocery stores are emptying in what feels like a slow-motion slide into Soviet dystopia) and there’s actually a lot of common ground between the farmers who grow it and Democrats, dating back to the heyday of the MFLP. But fear and anger are viruses, too, Trump’s best quality is his ability to stoke them, and food shortages and natural disasters go hand in hand with rioting and looting–and demands for law and order, music to Republican ears–soon to follow.
Would it be beyond possibility for the Trump campaign, after all the success it enjoyed planting fake news in highly targeted below-the-radar Facebook ads in 2016, to begin churning out stories suggesting that farmers are getting sick from supplying food to urban areas (good luck finding these scurruli in the new Facebook “Ad Library“)? As for guns, 50% of the guns in America are owned by 3% of the population, and sales are up by more than 80% year over year since this started–are Liberal Gun Club members the ones buying them?
(5) To win the popular vote this time. The fact that he didn’t win the “popular” vote in 2016 still sticks in the folds of the craw of this ratings-obsessed “leader,” and many experts have been predicting a repeat scenario in 2020, only more so. It would hardly be unreasonable for Trump to believe that a contagious virus from overseas would disproportionately affect America’s coasts and its more densely populated cities–in fact, the leader of his response team recently brightly pointed out that half the cases so far have occurred in “only ten counties.” Both coasts and virtually all major urban areas are heavily Democratic…Q…E…D… More broadly, would it be unreasonable for him to bet on the disease disproportionately impacting the demographic groups–African-Americans, Latinx, Native Americans, the poor–who are the most strongly opposed to him (along with the young, who we’ll talk more about below), just like virtually every other health problem in our country? Beyond this, he may well also have figured and/or be figuring that any such Democrats not already dead or too sick to vote by Election Day might also, by then, be quite wary of standing for hours in the long lines that curiously only seem to well up in Democratic precincts, turning cough suppression into voter self-suppression instead.
Of course, none of this is necessarily what’s going to happen by any means, especially if his supporters continue to trumpfiantly flaunt their disregard for the danger, but remember, we’re diving deep into the dark hall of mirrors that was (and is) The Donald’s brain, turning back the clock to the halcyon days when the real scope of potential catastrophe was clear to everyone except allegedly him, in coming up with these “theories.”
(6) To bail out and/or get a built-in alibi for his already faltering, top-heavy, fundamentally unsound economy. The warning signs were already there: slowing business investment, declines in manufacturing, soaring levels of corporate debt, dwindling benefits from the 2017 tax cut that never came close to delivering on anything except the promises of its opponents, the bond inversion, shakiness in China even before the coronaquake hit there, growing deficits in both the budget and between rich and middle, poor. Many Americans were telling themselves (and their Facebook pages) they were doing well, but the rapidity with which the economy collapsed, at first sneeze, like a house of business cards, and the lockdowns made necessary by our greater willingness to risk death than a single day of pay tell a different story, of poetic injustice, told by OVID-8 AD.
Whether Trump is the business genius his supporters say he is, the Cohn school paranoid fatalist his opponents believe, or both, surely he could see this–he’d been screaming at the Fed in ALL CAPS for months about interest rates. So why not create a disaster so big it would force both ‘Fed and foe’ to prime the pump and bring the economy roaring back to life just in time for the stretch run of the election, or, failing that, in a classic Trumpian win/win, give him an economic alibi that he’d personally consider the “whinings” of a LOSER if anyone else yelped it out in self pity?
Smart money saw the economy as his secret Achilles heel–as long as the economy was good, people would feel free to base their vote on other issues, literally none of which favored him, and he knew it; if it was bad, he’d be blamed. But with the coronavirus, not his economic policies, seen as tanking the economy, he gets to force the electorate to go back to voting their pocketbooks without looking like an economic ignoramus–his economy was great, until nefarious Jina, The Who, and Bill Gates ruined it.
(7) To become truly the continuous center of attention. Ubiquity is a hallmark of authoritarianism–in an authoritarian regime there are portraits, pictures, and statues of Dear Leader everywhere. Here in the U.S. we have something better for the enterprising totalitarian–high production value television–and an office-holder to go with it whose narcissism and neediness are boundless. Not content with dominating the news, he’s already tried his hand at intruding into sports and even the weather segments of our local broadcasts, but it was clear by the end of last year that the public was tiring of his shtick–more than half didn’t even want to wait for the election to give him the hook–and in an election year, by definition, attention was going to be more divided. Now, instead, his daily briefings, before a truly captive audience, have become a 2020 version of the thousands of hours of total unearned advertising that the “fake news” media like CNN gave him in 2016.
(8) To torpedo the Democratic primaries–and beyond. Tis the season for the opposition, under ordinary circumstances, as the nation is riveted on the party out of power’s horse race to determine who will take on the incumbent, and its candidates collectively, increasingly train their fire on the man in the Oval to define him and set the terms of the fall contest. Instead Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have all but disappeared from our screens, even on MSNBC, to be replaced with impressive medical personnel who seem to literally be holding our lives in their hands as we rise in the waiting room and the operating room doors swing open, while he looks on, like a proud yet imperious parent, ready to interject and provide sage guidance if his pupils go astray, or to get into it, WWE-style–for their protection, of course–with rude impertinent journalists who don’t represent real America and don’t know their place.
The devastating spread of the virus has not only shut down the entertainment industry, but all but guaranteed there will be no more new movies or documentaries between now and Election Day to challenge his rewrites of history or move public opinion against him into the voting booth. Arguably no set of institutions now faces a more existential threat as a result of this disease than America’s colleges and universities, also implacable Trump opponents, and the branch of government that would predictably have the most difficulty, by virtue of its size, governing by Zoom or in-person social distancing is, all too conveniently, the Democratic House. No age group is more opposed to him than Generation Z, and research has shown that student voting rates are much higher if they register in the same location as where they’re going to vote–so where should voter registration organizers be directing them? Where they go to school, or where they’re cooped up now, taking online classes?
(9) To create the mother of all distractions and accelerate behind-the-scenes skullduggery. As the media is fond of reminding us with frustration, Trump is a master of distraction. Self-absorbed as they are, though, Fourth Estaters tend only to notice what he knocks off Page 1 with his antics, not the slowly moving, but always moving, iceberg that starts on page 10-11 and continues right off the printed page, often surfacing only months or years later, if at all, when some dazed reporter is asked to come up with a “where are we?” list about any subject of interest. Take this beauty, for example. Every day is Friday night on a holiday weekend now.
(10) To support his xenophobic narrative and tactics. Nazi-In-Residence and Goebbels clone Stephen Miller must have been rubbing his hands in glee when he first heard that a deadly virus and pre-fab metaphor was heading from overseas to our shores. It took only days before the first tweet inanely connecting COVID to the need for a border wall that’s already being blown over by the wind and taken apart by smugglers with $100 power tools; now all borders are closed indefinitely, all migrants awaiting their fates on our side of the border are being shipped back to their countries (so they don’t infect each other, or more importantly, break the Border Patrol’s multi-year streak of getting arrested for criminal activity every 24-36 hours), all Asians are being properly demonized (Chinese? Japanese? Indian? What’s the difference? Looking for toilet paper? Go to an Asian-run store–nobody’s bought theirs).
The only vital element yet required to truly crystalize the fascist wing’s “I told you so” story and move it forward towards November are a few hate-filled Trump rallies where he and his true believers can egg each other on until he just can’t help saying “what everyone is thinking,” though in perhaps the first stirrings of karma, those are indefinitely postponed as well. Meanwhile, those first bundles of protein and nucleic acids that slipped across the border via airspace while he was out golfing will never be available for interview to cast aspersions on who’s really to blame.
(11) To become a war-time president. Let the record show that we wrote this before he pretended to be surprised when a press conference plant asked if he was one (and then began repeating it, as surrogates fanned out to do the same). You don’t question a war-time president; you fall in line, bipartisanship suddenly reigns, things finally start getting done, and he takes all the credit for his leadership, even if he completely f**** up (see, e.g. JFK’s approval ratings before and after the Bay Of Pigs, which Trump’s are grudgingly beginning to mimic). It would be as good a reason as any to re-open the country weeks before the experts say we’ll be ready. When you manufacture the conflict in question, it’s called wagging the dog, and there was widespread belief the tensions Trump was ratcheting up with Iran were a prelude to deploying it. Did his pollsters find out we’re too jaded for that old trick, and that just like in real warfare, he needed to start a different kind of war?
(12) We’re not saying we believe any of this, mind, but people are saying…
(13) To enable the Russians and Chinese he’s in hock to to take over world leadership. Throughout his presidency, it’s seemed like Trump’s real mission was to “Make China [and Russia] Great Again,” withdrawing from international agreements, antagonizing our allies at every opportunity, ceding the entire developing world to China, deferring obsequiously to Vladimir Putin, making decision after decision that curiously benefits Russia’s interests (with an occasional kabuki move like the ‘surprise’ Syrian air strike he warned Putin/Syria of, or the ‘lethal’ weapons sold to Ukraine they can’t use anywhere near the Russians). We know he turned to a wide variety of shady financing sources when US banks stopped lending him money, disproportionately Russian–as both of his sons bragged independently–and hasn’t been shy about taking money from China, either, even in office (in amounts that wouldn’t be chump change even for a real billionaire), while the mutual economic saber-rattling we’ve seen between him and Xi does nothing but benefit autocracy.
The telling bottom line: 81,000 cases in China, mainly confined to one province, is a drop in the proverbial bucket for a country of 1.4 billion (.0005% of a drop, to be precise), Russia has only 438, .00003% of their population. Trump has blocked everyone from his conversations with Putin, and we have no idea what Putin and Xi say to each other. Could Wuhan have been a controlled burn by the Chinese with advance warning to the Putin regime? Forget the Kung Fu Flu–could Trump be the Kung Pao Candidate?
(14) To finally get the sympathy he’s longed for since he was a small child, which he still is. In other words, somewhere deep down, he’s yearning to test positive; like a self-hating [insert anything but white, cis, or evangelical here] conservative, his germophobia is just a façade compared to the unconditional love and support he’s always wanted–from everybody, not just his disposable supporters–a love that, at this point, based on the trail of life behind him, he can only get by being gravely ill. SAD.
(15) Because he thought Bill Barr was ‘handling it.’
(16) Because he thought it would just blow over if he did nothing about it. He wanted to keep the numbers down. If we ever doubted that was the primary goal, at all costs, his major fraudian slip about that cruise ship confirmed it. He figured that if he did nothing, including delaying the development of the test kits for as long as possible, corona would just blow through here mixed in with the seasonal flu and nobody would be the wiser. This is also why no masks or ventilators were ordered–why bother, when no one was going to know who had it anyway? Buying supplies just draws attention to the non-problem, chump–don’t you know anything about the long con? As it is, his failure to make testing available is his singular–only–contribution to keeping the numbers down. Thanks to him, we’ll never know how many were infected, how many are now, or how many have died as a result.
(17) Because he’s positively shivan and thanatotic, with no compunction about committing suicaust or terracide. Put more simply, he just can’t stop pushing the envelope–he’s a scorpion; it’s what he does.
(18) He was just playing ‘saved your life’ again, and it got out of hand. In many ways, Trump is frozen in time on the elementary school playground. His favorite rhetorical tactic is “I know you are, but what am I?” and his favorite game is “saved your life.” Time and again, he’s successfully tacked into the wind by manufacturing crises, ratcheting and chickening them up by saying and doing increasingly stupid or dangerous things that convince more and more of us that we’re headed to Armageddon, then solving them, to the relief of some, gratitude of others. Only this time the game got out of control because of his elementary school level understanding of science.
(19) To set the ultimate hoax trap for the Dems. Remember Y2K? If so, probably only as a nothingburger in the original sense of the word–thanks to millions of hours of work by IT serfs around the world, the clock struck midnight on 1/1/2000 and nothing happened. Same thing with H1N1 and Ebola, at least as far as post-modern Republicans (who tend to be more concerned about loss of property than loss of life, unless that life is unborn) are concerned. How hard is it to imagine Trump, who loves high risk to begin with (likely one of the reasons he was drawn to casinos) betting on the following sequence of events: (a) the virus gets going, (b) Democrats get increasingly alarmed, voice increasingly dire warnings and predictions, (c) are finally forced to step in themselves with drastic actions to stop the spread–as we’ve indicated, virtually none of the most aggressive tactics at play were initiated by the Trump administration, almost all came down from state and local Democratic officials and Democratic-affiliated groups–which (d) succeed in holding the line, resulting in minimal casualties. And then, when the dust clears, (e) Trump just says: there they went again, the Dems and the media, making a big deal out of what turned out, by the numbers, to be nothing worse than the common flu, putting people through economic hell, all just to stop me from being re-elected. Boom-shakalaka, ka-ching.
(20) Because at the end of the day, it’s all about Trump, Inc. It’s widely believed Trump originally ran for president just hoping to boost the profile of his perpetually flagging businesses, which we now know were all failing, according to every publicly available piece of data. No wonder he was using his charity as a personal piggybank, ripping off students, and began violating the Emoluments Clause daily from the day he took office, while taking every opportunity to bill us for his use of his facilities. Market crashes always take money from the masses, who can’t/won’t hold on through the losses, and further concentrate it among the wealthy (or those who can act like they are), with each wild swing extracting more and more value into numbered accounts. Further, they provide great opportunities to get even more flush by scarfing up the assets of the middle/working class suckers who go so far as bust (see the Kushner Companies, 2008-9), and if you have inside info and are willing to be shameless about using it, so much the better.
Recent crashes have also included rich opportunities for corporate bailouts, while crony capitalists quickly crawl all over natural disasters like COVID, making inflated claims for costs and damages along the way. Trump and his family are quite familiar with all of the above, or hope to be in the case of bailouts, based on the industries they want to target, even if none of their businesses receive money directly.
(21) To create complete and total chaos. To be fair, this is the one thing he’s been honest and up-front about from the start–he wants, he thrives on, he needs chaos, like a squid needs its ink, and the cat his hat. So much of everything else we’ve cited above comes ultimately down to this. Nobody outmaneuvers Trump in chaos, he outmaneuvers everyone, because it’s his natural habitat, and in an election year with historically bad approval ratings, the ultimate level of chaos–a pandemic in which nearly everyone’s life is at stake in one way or another, the one kind of disaster that historically has divided people rather than bringing them together–is demanded.
(22) Because he’s the Antichrist. E.g. a lot of us may have to die, alone and gasping for air, surrounded by space suits, to keep him from turning this into a positive that helps him get “re-elected,” and depending on who the “us” are who snuff it, he might get re-elected anyway. That’s pretty diabolical, even for a devil’s bargain. And it’s not the only one–how about the one he’s clearly and repeatedly offered us, hellhound whistle in puckered mouth, the choice between the lives of a few (hundred thousand souls) and the economy (it’d be a shame if something happened to it) the other 330 million of us were ‘enjoying,’ knowing full well that the real decent, God-fearing folk among us–the Democrats–would always choose lives over money (while millions of the rest of us would intone sagely, self-servingly and, in some cases, racially, that we don’t know anyone who’s died). We challenge you to come up with a single negative adjective in the English language that doesn’t accurately describe him, even negatives that are antonyms of each other, or to name anyone in your lifetime (or beyond) who has ever gotten away with so much without ever suffering any consequences. He has millions of fellow Americans mesmerized to the point where they’ve abandoned all logic, reason, evidence, and every principle they professed to believe in; isn’t that what’s supposed to happen in Revelation? Everything and everyone he touches is destroyed, and this has been true virtually his entire life. The claim that 98% of his businesses that have succeeded? A classic bott argument–98% of his “companies” are just shells for laundering money for every criminal syndicate around the world.
And how come he never gets the bug himself, no matter how many hands he shakes and positive people he meets with? Hmm? (Trump supporters: if you think China created and released this, it sure looks like they gave him the vaccine–see #13 above). For that matter, how is he even alive, given his diet, his refusal to exercise, his sleep habits, his sexual proclivities, let alone marking time as the stooge-proclaimed healthiest president in history? Even if he does get it, here’s betting that with the best medical care in the solar system available to him, he makes a quick recovery and uses it to tout what a tough guy he is (choreographed with WWE meme knockoffs where he body slams the virus instead of Hillary or CNN). Maybe he’ll even say he got infected for us, like Jesus–isn’t that WSWD?
To be fair, unlike Beelzebub, The Donald does have an Achilles heel so delicate that even bone spurs invisible to the naked eye can prevent him from serving his country when called upon. And of course it could be that the power behind the addling king, Jared Kushner, is the real Anti-Man. After all, he has no irises, makes his living by stealing from the poor, and is headquartered at a building whose street address is 666, just for starters. Right-wing endazers were sure they’d found ol’ Scratch in the corporeal form of our first African-American president––maybe they were a lot closer in time than their usual nostrostications. One thing’s for sure, that assertion about Obama, which they repeated endlessly as if it went without saying, plus the moral track record of the Occupant–who’s no King Cyrus–means evangelicals, with scattered exceptions like Mark Galli, have forfeited any right to take umbrage about pretty much anything, including this joke of a theory.
(23) All of the above. Because unlike the explanations for [insert Trump scandal here], all of the above could be true simultaneously, at least in his ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ frame of mind. Of course, they’re also all consistent with “he’s an idiot”, “a lunatic,” or both, but when the best argument against a conspiracy theory is that the conspiracist-in-chief is too stupid to have come up with the conspiracy, it’s more an endorsement of wringing than ringing endorsement.
To be clear, the point of this little exercise (and associated contest) isn’t to find or describe the truth, though we’ll admit what we just wrote kinda scares us, more than the virus, actually. Furthermore, if you saw the Trumpster’s glassy-eyed, seemingly heavily (self-) medicated address to the nation, in which he repeatedly stumbled reading over words off a teleprompter, chuckling when he did so, devolved several times into Tarzan/PowerPoint-speak (think “no puppet no puppet you puppet“), sniffed loudly throughout (a tell from the 2016 debates), and let out a loud whoop when he finished, not realizing the cameras were still on, you’d have to conclude you just witnessed the moment when the entire façade fell away, revealing that he’s not only in way over the top of his weave, but surprisingly aware of just how overmatched he is, and that he really had no idea things were going to get this bad. Which is not unreasonable, given how many mistakes it took to get here, starting just before he was inaugurated. If, otoh, you missed this photonegative of performance, which, as can be expected, the “liberal” media elided over, trust us, even over the radio, it was stunningly revelatory.
It’s possible he was just experiencing, for the first time in his life, a moment of remorse for something he knew he’d done deliberately, and suffered a cytokine storm in his brain as a result, or it could have merely been an artifact of reading a speech co-written by Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller. But he’s one of the few people not behind bars, or otherwise locked up, of whom it cannot be said–not even by his fans–that he would never consciously cause or risk causing the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans, many of them his supporters, just to serve his own political or financial interests or needs. At this point, he’s already created a new opportunity to shoot rolls of paper into crowds again, if/when there’s paper–and crowds.
In any case, it’s your turn–what’s your fever dream, magic mushroom or Twinkie-fueled conspiracy theory? Tell us in comments below, or, if you understandably want to remain anonymous (at least until you go vi**l ), click here. Remember, if we elect to change the course of history by scattering your theory on the electric currents of the Net, we’ll send you a free Creative Politics t-shirt in gratitude.
Now go already. Go.