Op-ed: For alt we know

  • By Bob Franken
  • Tuesday, August 30, 2016 5:03pm
  • Opinion

Forget about the anti-everyone-else zealots, the so-called white nationalists who hang on Donald Trump like a hooded robe. They like to refer to themselves as “alt-right,” which is all right with Hillary Clinton and her peeps, who argue that the Trumpster has pulled the crazies out of their dumpster and spewed their noxious garbage into the mainstream of politics. He’s even made one of their most outspoken haters his campaign chief. Still, Donny responds to her charges with his usual finesse. He’s now calling Hillary “a bigot.” It’s great entertainment. If you like horror movies.

But “alt-right” is nowhere near as much fun as that other characteristic of this campaign, the constant litany of conspiracy theories. Let’s call them alt-wacko: The election is rigged; a judge of Mexican heritage can’t give Donald Trump a fair hearing; Vladimir Putin is in cahoots with Trump, so the Russian government is releasing private emails that embarrass Hillary Clinton and the Democrats so much that the emails will sway the election toward Trump. After all, look at all the nice things Vladimir says about Donald. And look at the experts citing evidence that hackers attached to his government are the ones dumping material that discredits Hillary, though she does a good job of that herself.

Yes, look at that stuff. But also consider how blatant it is, how heavy-handed, how widely accepted it is that Putin wants to put his guy Trump in the White House. Except that maybe it’s too neat, too obvious. So let me show you a double-cross conspiracy theory, one that will demonstrate that I, too, can play the nutcase game.

Consider the possibility that it’s really Hillary that Vlad wants to win. What if he’s floating all the assumptions that he’s a Trump guy, because of a public perception that he’s manipulating Donald like a puppet — actually, it’s more like the Trumpette Show. If his geeks at the Kremlin really wanted to humiliate the Democrats, would they be so transparent about it? In this case, the Russians have done everything they can to take credit, short of tagging their hacks with “I’m Vladimir Putin, and I approved this message.”

So my theory is that it’s Putin and the Clintonistas who are orchestrating this subterfuge. Do I have any proof? Of course not, but then what proof do the right-wingers have that Hillary Clinton has health issues or that Barack Obama was born in Kenya? The answer is none whatsoever. What you have is an audience that wants something to be true, so much so that they lose any commonsense skepticism. That’s also the mindset of those of the liberal persuasion, who would desperately love to believe it was anything but wild speculation that Melania Trump used to be a hooker. There is nothing whatsoever to back that up, other than the fantasies of Obama supporters who would love some payback for Donald Trump’s years of Birther hooliganism.

If we are alt-anything these days, it is alt-universe, where facts don’t matter at all, where “vast right-wing conspiracies” explain away questions about Hillary’s honesty, or Donny’s rants about Ted Cruz’s father being connected to the JFK assassination are taken seriously. That was given credence because it appeared in the National Enquirer. Often, it’s because “many people say.”

Let’s face it, folks: A political system that leaves us such a pathetic choice should be reformed. Perhaps we’re not capable anymore of producing a campaign that’s not silly and nasty. Not that many other countries are doing much better. France has its burkini idiocy, Britain its Brexit, so we aren’t the only ones. But whatever happened to “American Exceptionalism”? In reality, our unreal system of choosing leaders with its reliance on corrupt money and demagogic foolishness can be described this way: It’s an alt-embarrassment.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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