Tuesday, September 13, 2016
The Far Right and Its Conspiracy Theory
Hillary has pneumonia. She felt overheated, stumbled, left the 9/11 ceremony on Sunday in New York City, and the wingnuts declare she has Parkinson's disease, and it's being covered up.
And they declare that with absolutely no proof whatsoever.
A video by an anti-Hillary anesthesiologist proves nothing.
Speculations by registered nurses on facebook and the internet prove nothing.
But the wingnuts love their conspiracy theories. We've seen evidence of that over the past 7+ years.
They believe the media conspired with President Obama to hide the fact that he was born in Kenya or Indonesia or Mars -- anywhere but where his birth certificate said he was born -- Hawaii.
They believe the government is ready to march them off to FEMA camps and then it will declare Sharia law as the law of the land.
There's even a conspiracy nut who believes President Obama helped plan the 9/11 attacks because he's a radical Muslim.
So it's not surprising that when Hillary became ill with pneumonia, instead of accepting that diagnosis, they took a gigantic leap of paranoia and landed on the wild notion that Hillary has Parkinson's disease -- with absolutely no evidence from Hillary's personal medical records to back up that claim.
Instead of rational thought to suss out the truth, they engage in confirmation bias -- they seek out professionals in the medical field, who believe in the same nutty theories as they do, to confirm their biases. And, Voila! For them, that's proof enough.
Here is Dr. Steven Novella,'s informed and unbiased opinion about those Parkinson's Disease theories racing around the internet and facebook:
"What appears to be happening is that the far right have created a conspiracy narrative about Clinton’s health. Those who are ideologically predisposed to this narrative then engage in aggressive confirmation bias, or simply adopt the claims of others who are engaging in confirmation bias.
The process is identical to that of UFO conspiracy theorists who pore over hours of NASA video and thousands of pictures looking for anomalies or anything they can interpret as alien. Those opposed to Clinton have cherry picked apparently unusual episodes of her on video and then weave them into the ill-health narrative. As with many conspiracy theories, if you pile enough curious episodes together it can create the powerful (if misleading) impression that something must be going on.
That is the basic strategy of the Loose Change video, for example. Individually, however, none of these episodes is evidence that Clinton has a neurological disease. The “chai tea” episode was not neurological, and seems to have been just an awkward exaggerated surprise for rhetorical effect. The “freezing” episode appears to be nothing more than a protest interrupting Clinton’s talk. The “aid” was secret service giving her the all-clear.
Conspiracy theories are nothing if not adaptive and opportunistic. Like all good illusions, you adapt the narrative to the facts that happen to exist, and the illusion becomes much more compelling. The neurological narrative is not panning out – not that the conspiracy theorists are abandoning it.
The debates, however, will likely kill this narrative in terms of affecting the election. If Clinton can be sharp for two hours continuously on live TV, it is difficult to maintain a conspiracy theory about her mental function.
So, the conspiracy is shifting over to adapt to events, such as the Labor Day speech in which Clinton had a persistent cough. This was explained by her campaign as allergies, and now (based on a reexamination by her physician) as a mild pneumonia.
It is not my purpose here to defend Clinton or make any political statement, simply to address the medical claims that are going around social media. What is interesting is the degree to which people tie their analysis of the health claims with their political ideology. In other words, if you are against Clinton politically, you are more likely to believe the evidence that she has health problems. If you support her politically, you are more likely to dismiss them.
Further, when I criticize some of the health claims because they are inept or simply wrong, I am often accused of supporting Clinton, as if the two are inextricably tied. But I am not being pro-Clinton, I am just being anti-conspiracy theory.
As I said above, I have no knowledge of Clinton’s health status and whether or not the current information we are being given by the campaign is accurate and complete. I can only comment on plausibility and the evidence that is presented.
What I can say is that Clinton does not have Parkinson’s disease (of course I cannot rule out an extremely mild or early case that would give no evidence on video). The evidence presented also does not support or constitute a diagnosis of seizures, or any other neurological condition.
The cough is less clear. What we can say based on the evidence is that she has a persistent cough, but the cough that I have seen on all the videos is fairly mild. "
Here's another theory reported in the Boston Globe:
The man who discovered CTE thinks Hillary Clinton may have been poisoned