From the far-right fringe to the halls of Congress

Updated
 
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)
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Rachel led the show the other night with a look conspiracy theories, once relegated to the fringes of American politics, now being embraced by growing numbers of conservatives, including elected lawmakers. The segment specifically noted ridiculous theories about the Boston Marathon bombing, spewed by activist Alex Jones, and touted by a GOP lawmaker in New Hampshire.

As best as I can tell, no member of the U.S. Congress has embraced Jones’ Boston-related nonsense, but it’s clear that many federal lawmakers are taking some of his other ideas seriously.

The right wing media’s promotion of a widely-debunked Alex Jones conspiracy theory about the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) ammunition acquisitions prompted House Republicans to hold a hearing to investigate. The theory, which assigns some sinister motivation behind the recent ammo purchases, first gained traction on the websites of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones before finding its way to Fox News and Fox Business and finally to the halls of Congress.

On April 25, Republican Reps. Jim Jordan (OH) and Jason Chaffetz (UT) held a joint hearing “to examine the procurement of ammunition by the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General.”

At a distance, if we set aside the bizarre ideology that leads elected officials to believe nonsense, it’s fascinating to watch the trajectory – a fringe activist comes up with an idea, which is then picked up by a more prominent far-right outlet, which is then echoed by Fox News and Fox Business, which is then embraced by some of Congress’ sillier members who are predisposed to believe nonsense, which then leads to a congressional hearing.

This just doesn’t happen on the left. This is not to say there aren’t wacky left-wing conspiracy theorists – there are, and some of them send me strange emails – but we just don’t see prominent, center-left media professionals trumpet such silliness or Democratic members of Congress racing to take the nonsense seriously.

As for the underlying ammunition claim itself, it’s been shown to be baseless. Someone might want to let Jordan and Chaffetz know.

Conspiracy Theories

From the far-right fringe to the halls of Congress

Updated