The conservative mainstream is embracing conspiracy theories

False flags are no longer the realm of the fringe right.

Even mainstream conservatives are calling the attempted bombing of prominent Democrats a "false flag." (Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Even mainstream conservatives are calling the attempted bombing of prominent Democrats a "false flag." (Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

In the wake of Wednesday’s attempted bomb attacks on CNN and the offices of multiple prominent Democrats, it was inevitable that conspiracy theories would start to snowball online. The same pattern has repeatedly emerged after mass shootings, where those on the far-right and fringe online communities claim that the shootings were in fact false flags designed to help further a liberal political agenda.

But what’s the made the latest “false flag” claims so worrying is that it has been picked up by mainstream conservative commentariat.

For example, Candace Owens, Turning Points USA’s communications director who has been praised by Trump and is a mainstay of Fox News, said in a since-deleted tweet on Wednesday that the only thing suspicious about the bombings was their timing.

Anne Coulter meanwhile, fresh from a preening Guardian profile, tweeted that “bombs are a liberal tactic.”

Coulter and Owens’ comments were echoed by several other right-wing commentators. Town Hall columnist Kurt Schlichter tweeted that he was “not buying it,” while right-wing media personality John Cardillo said in a since-deleted tweet that the bombings “smell like the false flag tactics of unhinged leftists who know they’re losing.” Noted pro-Trump baby boomers James Woods and Bill Mitchell also quickly got in on the act.


The false flag theory was also readily abetted by Fox News, which made no attempt to stop the rumor when it was mentioned on their network. In fact, a since-deleted tweet from Fox News host Lou Dobbs indicates that he thought the attack was fake news as well.

What makes the spread of this theory so depressing is that it has moved into mainstream conservative conversation despite being the exact same theory that is currently being propagated by neo-Nazis like Andrew Anglin at the Daily Stormer and conspiracy theorists like Laura Loomer.

The fringe internet to Fox News pipeline has proved increasingly successful in recent months. Republicans for instance have now increasingly begun adopting George Soros, a recurring enemy of the fringe-right whose invocation is a dog-whistle to anti-Semtisim, as their go-to boogeyman. This week, Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) both claimed that the migrant caravan might be funded by Soros. Donald Trump also blamed Soros for the protests against now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.


Similarly back in August, Trump said that he’d asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to look into the supposed “large scale” killing of white South African farmers, a fake news story which has been one of the far-right’s main talking points for years. Trump picked up on the idea after seeing a segment on it on Fox News by Tucker Carlson, who himself often promotes white nationalist stories and has been praised by the Daily Stormer.

Meanwhile, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been doing her best to gaslight the world about the incident. In a tweet on Wednesday, she accused CNN of attempting to “divide America” — ignoring the stunning hypocrisy of how much Trump had incited violence against journalists.