Daily Archives: February 8, 2018

Guest Essay: Conspiracy Theories and the Common Good

By Monica Bauer, Ph.D.

When the world spins too fast, there is a coping mechanism that will ease the blow; conspiracy theories. A conspiracy theory provides great comfort to those in the middle of rapid change who feel powerless to affect the course of their own lives. A conspiracy theory gives a gold-plated excuse for everything that has happened that is out of control. It gives those bewildered by change the option of laying blame on something that could, in theory, be fixed. That the familiar, the status quo, could be snatched back from the past and installed, once again, in the present. All that needs to be done is to root out the conspiracy, and defeat it.

I learned this lesson years ago, not out of books, but out of personal experience. As I try to make sense of the True Trumpist phenomenon, those lessons have been more helpful to me than anything I learned in graduate school.

In 1993, I went to Egypt, and taught for a year in the Political Science Department at the American University in Cairo. I was not a specialist in the Middle East, far from it; I was a Nebraska girl with a specialty in American political parties and elections, and political theory. I had not spent five minutes trying to understand the history of the Middle East, or the role the religion of Islam played in it. I went to Cairo to be a college professor in my chosen field, to teach at the Harvard of the Middle East. But I became, out of necessity, a student, to try and make sense of the surroundings in which my students had grown and developed opinions and attitudes about political life.

The most puzzling thing I found, in the streets and shops of Cairo, among those who learned enough English to cater to the Westerners who lived in the suburb of Ma’adi, was this: Egypt was marinated in conspiracy theories. Everything that happened could be explained, one way or another, by some complex plot. Some of these theories started out on solid ground; yes, it was quite likely that the dictator Hosni Mubarak was actually trying to hand power over to his idiot oldest son. But then these theories would take a turn.

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Donald Trump wants to throw himself a military parade in honor of ‘Dear Leader’

You may recall that the Washington Post in an interview with Donald Trump reported on January 18, 2017, How Donald Trump came up with ‘Make America Great Again’:

All of which raises the questions: How can greatness be measured and sensed? What does it even mean?

“Being a great president has to do with a lot of things, but one of them is being a great cheerleader for the country,” Trump said. “And we’re going to show the people as we build up our military, we’re going to display our military.

“That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military,” he added.

The same day, the Huffington Post reported, Trump Sought Military Equipment For Inauguration, Granted 20-Plane Flyover:

During the preparation for Friday’s transfer-of-power, a member of Trump’s transition team floated the idea of including tanks and missile launchers in the inaugural parade, a source involved in inaugural planning told The Huffington Post. “They were legit thinking Red Square/North Korea-style parade,” the source said, referring to massive military parades in Moscow and Pyongyang, typically seen as an aggressive display of muscle-flexing.

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Russian military parade before the Tomb of Lenin in Moscow

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North Korean military parade in Pyongyang

The military, which traditionally works closely with the presidential inaugural committee, shot down the request, the source said. Their reason was twofold. Some were concerned about the optics of having tanks and missile launchers rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue. But they also worried that the tanks, which often weigh over 100,000 pounds, would destroy the roads.

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