Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



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


Dave Miller said...

All led by the man who says... "Some people have said" thereby feeding the conspiracy theories without having to be responsible for starting them.

On a somewhat related not, Newsweek has an excellent article on the "millions" of Emails lost during the Bush Admin related to the decision to attack Iraq.

I wonder why the "deplorables" never saw a problem or a government coverup with that?

Shaw Kenawe said...

"I wonder why the "deplorables" never saw a problem or a government coverup with that?"

Today's TeaPublicans are monumental hypocrites -- they're supporting a guy they would heap with mounds of criticism if he were a Democrat, but because he's running as a Republican, they look they other way at his serial infidelities, his insults to our military men and women and POWs and at his proposed shredding of our Constitution. They look the other way at his numerous laws suits against him for cheating and conducting fraud.

The TeaPublican family values voters will be forever remembered for abandoning their core values for a con man.

BB-Idaho said...

Along those lines, we note that Kellyanne Conway (perhaps the least egregious of the
Trump machine) when asked why Trump won't release HIS tax and medical records, replied that he deserves privacy, "why do you badger him?"...and launched into the
whiny refrain, "why don't you investigate Crooked Hillary?" IMO, there is a double standard in the press resulting in failure to focus on where the real problem is:
an unqualified candidate with a background in selling crummy stuff, a triple divorced misogynist surrounded by fawning evangelicals with no concept of the
critical economic, international and diplomatic functions of a democratic society.(if he wins, my Mrs. wants to move to Vancouver, BC..I rather prefer Thunder Bay,
Ontario). Yes, Hillary was amiss in calling half his supporters deplorable. That was too kind.

Shaw Kenawe said...


It is rather astonishing that the people who scream "Kill her!" and "Kill that n***er!" at Trump rallies became indignant when she used the mild term "deplorable," which means worthy of condemnation, to label them.

Anyone who DOESN'T deplore the racist language used at Trump's rallies is, well, deplorable. This is a old political trick. Deflect the attention from one's rotten behavior by blaming the person who's called attention to it.

I read an article in the New Republic about this non-gaffe. Hillary told the truth. That's the ONLY reason this is being talked about.

Half of Trump's supporters, or even on third, it doesn't matter, millions of his followers are racists and white supremacists. I even documented their comments from Tea Party blogs that we're all familiar with. Their words confirm their racism and dreams of white supremacy.

Hillary told the truth. They are deplorable.

Ray Cranston said...

You know what's funny? They hypocrites on the right calling Hillary a liar when the world knows that's Trump's middle name! What does it take for the people who support Trump to admit they support a liar?

It's the abject lying he deals in day after day and rally after rally. I hope the moderators in the debates call his ass on it every time he lies. They'll spend the whole time telling him he's lying. He's a lying liar and a con man.

Howard Brazee said...

Issue oriented people ask, "so what?". If she's sick or dying, why should we change our vote?

But identity based people don't care about logic. It's "she doesn't look right", "she's not presidential". So they push that, expecting the rest of us to think the way they do.

Shaw Kenawe said...


The same people who believe Hillary doesn't look "presidential," have no problem with a man who insulted a POW and the military by calling them a "pile of rubble." That, they think, is presidential.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Ray Cranston: "What does it take for the people who support Trump to admit they support a liar?"

Honor and honesty. But don't look for those qualities in Trump's Deplorables. They long ago prostituted themselves for political gain.

Flying Junior said...

Even the powerful Megyn Kelly didn't really seem to have the strength to actually stand up to Trump. I doubt that the rabidly obsessed right-wing females care very much one way or the other about Donald's attitudes towards women, judging by some of their comments attacking the FOX News women suing Roger Ailes. "Somebody tell me I'm cute, I could use five million $$." "I hate sexual harassment as much as anybody, but I think I could handle a little pinch for a million dollars."

My favorite is Donald's latest brag that he has held private, secret liaisons with all of the most beautiful married women in all of the world. He has had them all. But he cares too much about his women to reveal their identities. So the little Trump wannabees can simply imagine the finest woman in the world that they can never even say hello to, let alone meet in polite company. Then they can imagine their great hero ravishing them mercilessly with his big johnson.

Howard Brazee said...

I wouldn't say that most of Trumps supporters "prostituted themselves". They won't gain with Trump as president except psychologically. It is identity politics, Trump has been able to sell himself as being one of them, and they will put up with lots of bad stuff from one of their own.

To get their vote, we need to convince them that he's not one of them. Forget issues.