For about a year, I have been arguing that Trump is trying to pull fringe movements to the center and mainstream extremism — and has succeeded thanks to the cooperation of ratings-hungry, morally vacant members of media. (When I pointed this out on MSNBC, they booted me off the air…) This week, however, has yielded a new development: factions of the FBI are seemingly on board as well. My latest for the Globe and Mail:
The FBI’s strange behaviour did not stop there. Soon after, a previously dormant FBI account began tweeting heavily redacted case files, some of which concerned the Clintons, and one of which characterized Mr. Trump’s father, who was sued by the Justice Department for racial discrimination, as a “philanthropist.”
The FBI chalked up the release of these documents, one week before the election, as automated and apolitical.
But any case file released by the FBI at this time is political, and combined with Mr. Comey’s actions, they contribute to what has been the most successful method of attack on Ms. Clinton: ceaseless insinuations of wrongdoing that provide little new information about her but create confusion and suspicion.
This tactic is a hallmark of the Trump campaign. He has aligned with and is backed by media-savvy conspiracy theorists like Mr. Stone, Alex Jones and Steve Bannon, who has declared that the path to victory lies with the campaign’s ability to manipulate people through the Internet. Now, Trump campaign conspiracies travel not only through social media and mainstream outlets, but through the FBI, whose authoritative reputation lends innuendo legitimacy, intentionally or not.
According to one former State Department official turned conspiracy-mongering Trump fan, the FBI’s actions are intentional. Steve Pieczenik announced in a video that the Trump campaign had pulled off a coup with FBI assistance. Mr. Trump’s fans are rejoicing. U.S. government officials have offered no explanation.
Mr. Trump’s campaign has long been aimed at pulling the fringes into the centre, mainstreaming extremism so that it is not recognizable as extreme any more.
In authoritarian states, conspiracy narratives are a routine part of this practice. They operate both as a method of intimidation and as a way to rally followers. To dismiss those who propagate such narratives as “only conspiracists” is to ignore that Mr. Trump, himself, is a major conspiracist, who may soon gain access to lethal power.