OPINION: Georgia is at home in the wild world of conspiracy

01/06/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — Chester Doles (center), leader of American Patriots USA, is surrounded by supporters as he makes his way to a ‘Stop the Steal’ rally outside of the Georgia State capital building in downtown Atlanta, Wednesday, January 6, 2021. Doles gave a speech at the rally and then attempted to speak with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger but was unsuccessful.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

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01/06/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — Chester Doles (center), leader of American Patriots USA, is surrounded by supporters as he makes his way to a ‘Stop the Steal’ rally outside of the Georgia State capital building in downtown Atlanta, Wednesday, January 6, 2021. Doles gave a speech at the rally and then attempted to speak with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger but was unsuccessful. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

If conspiracies are woven into America’s social fabric, then Georgia has filled the quilt with plenty of tuft. Being in the Center of the Political Universe has ensured that Georgians experience endless waves of head-scratching absurdity. After all, we did elect the nation’s Q-Anoniest congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene.

A friend recently sent me a list of the nation’s favorite conspiracies, as noted by Google search trends, on the anniversary of the alleged Moon Landing. I was surprised the No. 1 conspiracy wasn’t that or the fact that space aliens delivered us Joe Rogan as a truth teller.

No, it was the time-tested tale that 9/11 was an inside job. Second on the list was the belief that Denver International Airport is a lair for the New World Order. (I suppose Atlanta’s airport is too busy for the Illuminati to sneak in their black helicopters). Third was the JFK assassination.

Those conspiracies have stood the test of time. The newer ones are just as insane and sometimes more vicious:

-The 2012 Sandy Hook school slaughter was a hoax.

-COVID was a Plandemic that allowed elites to control us.

-The Deep State, aided by wily Venezuelans, helped steal the 2020 election.

Two months ago, Conspiracist in Chief Donald Trump offered up a real whopper after Governor Shotgun put former U.S. Sen. David Perdue out of our collective misery in Georgia’s Republican primary. It was a credit to Georgia’s voters (we’re talking a low bar here) that they sent the Trump-toadying Perdue back to his Sea Island mansion by a massive 52% margin.

The extent of Gov. Brian Kemp’s victory caused Trump to blast out a mass email saying “Something stinks in Georgia.” It was attached to an article written by Emerald Robinson, who earlier was bounced from Newsmax, of all places, after peddling another conspiracy. But don’t fret, that goofy pillow fellow soon hired her.

The conservative National Review called Trump’s latest irrationality “the dumbest and laziest election conspiracy theory yet.”

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December 30, 2020 Dalton - U.S. Sen. David Perdue arrives for his campaign event at Cherokee Brewing + Pizza Company in downtown Dalton on Wednesday, December 30, 2020. The North Georgia county now has the highest infection rate among Georgia’s 159 counties, with one in 10 Whitfield residents testing positive for COVID-19. Seeking to boost Republican turnout for Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs, President Donald Trump is planning to hold a rally Monday at the regional airport in Dalton, an event organizers expect will attract as many as 20,000 people. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

December 30, 2020 Dalton - U.S. Sen. David Perdue arrives for his campaign event at Cherokee Brewing + Pizza Company in downtown Dalton on Wednesday, December 30, 2020. The North Georgia county now has the highest infection rate among Georgia’s 159 counties, with one in 10 Whitfield residents testing positive for COVID-19. Seeking to boost Republican turnout for Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs, President Donald Trump is planning to hold a rally Monday at the regional airport in Dalton, an event organizers expect will attract as many as 20,000 people. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
December 30, 2020 Dalton - U.S. Sen. David Perdue arrives for his campaign event at Cherokee Brewing + Pizza Company in downtown Dalton on Wednesday, December 30, 2020. The North Georgia county now has the highest infection rate among Georgia’s 159 counties, with one in 10 Whitfield residents testing positive for COVID-19. Seeking to boost Republican turnout for Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs, President Donald Trump is planning to hold a rally Monday at the regional airport in Dalton, an event organizers expect will attract as many as 20,000 people. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

That’s where Georgia is these days; it collects crazy like a sweater gathers lint in the dryer. And conspiracy runs that appliance.

After the election, there were the zealots who followed, threatened and accused a tech repair guy of being in on “the steal.” There was election worker Ruby Freeman, terrified by fanatics pounding on her door at night. There was the bombing of the mysterious Georgia Guidestones. And don’t forget the loonies who tried to derail the bipartisan, mental health legislation this year, calling it a pedophile bill sent to disarm us.

Most Americans don’t have tin-foil hats by their computers. What is bewildering, though, is that swaths of the population exist in a seemingly normal fashion — they hold jobs, pay taxes, coach T-ball — but somehow still believe what they do.

One poll found a quarter of Americans thought Sandy Hook facts were being suppressed. A third thought Barack Obama was born outside the U.S. And last year, 18% of respondents said “true” when asked if “a group of Satan-worshipping elites who run a child sex ring are trying to control our politics and media.”

Almost worse, 34% were “unsure.”

Conspiracies have long thrived because people want to seem to be in the know, to have figured out something others just haven’t put together. The usual plot has a small, shadowy cabal scheming against “us,” whether it be the Deep State, Illuminati, socialists, the Vatican... you name it. Folks can join a clique of the like-minded. People like order and explanation, not chaos. Conspiracy instills that.

While writing this, I came across researchers Joseph Uscinski, a University of Miami professor, and Adam Enders, from the University of Louisville, who say Americans aren’t necessarily becoming more conspiracy-minded. It’s just become more noticeable and available due to social media and Trump.

They say it’s not just the Righties who employ conspiracy. Lefties, too, are inclined to embrace them.

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Cynthia McKinney's world of conspiracy

Credit: Cynthia McKinney's Facebook

Cynthia McKinney's world of conspiracy

Credit: Cynthia McKinney's Facebook

Combined ShapeCaption
Cynthia McKinney's world of conspiracy

Credit: Cynthia McKinney's Facebook

Credit: Cynthia McKinney's Facebook

“Right now it’s Trump specific,” Uscinski said in an interview with the Niskanen Center, a think tank. “There’s always been this view that the Right does it more than the Left. But in surveys, when we measure generalized conspiracy thinking, we don’t find that it’s more the Right than the Left.”

Trump is truly an evil genius at weaponizing conspiracy, prevarication and bluster.

Those on the Left have long weaved tales about the nefarious doings of “The Man,” the Deep State’s brother-in-law. Remember that the CIA imported crack to undermine the Black community. And please recall that former Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney was a maestro at rabbit hole diving.

Ultimately, though, the Right has simply mastered this art form more completely than the other side.

Call me a conspiracy theorist for thinking that.