I'm glad David Corn of Mother Jones is reminding us of this, but I wonder how much good it will do once the presidential campaign gets under way:
As [Senator Rand Paul] moves toward a White House bid, journalists scrutinize his every wiggle and whisper. But one core component of his political personality has largely escaped exploration: The senator is close to being a full-blown conspiracy theorist.Here's the problem with bringing this up: Most Americans don't know what the Bilderberg group is, and don't know why believing the Bilderbergers are at the epicenter of a globalist conspiracy is crazy. For that matter, they don't know who Alex Jones is -- or maybe they know him just as that guy who got into a one-sided shouting match with Piers Morgan on the subject of guns shortly after the Sandy Hook massacre. (Nothing Jones said was very different from the NRA's own propaganda, or the gun utterances of most Republican officeholders, so while he came off as a hothead, I don't think he came off as a conspiratorialist.)
In 2010, before winning his Senate seat, Paul sat for an interview with Luke Rudkowski, a libertarian YouTube personality who specializes in quizzing political leaders about the plot to establish a "one-world socialist government." Rudkowski asked what Paul knew of the Bilderberg Group, a collection of government and business leaders whose annual conference is a favorite target of conspiracy-mongers. Paul replied, "Only what I've learned from Alex Jones." That's right: Alex Jones, the radio host who claims that Bilderberg is a key part of a global plot to create a "scientific dictatorship" that will exterminate the "useless eaters," a.k.a. 80 percent of the human population.
Paul described the group to Rudkowski in unequivocally Jonesian terms, as "very wealthy people, who I think manipulate and use government to their own personal advantage. They want to make it out like world government will be good for humanity. But guess what? World government is good for their pocketbook." The previous year, Paul had appeared on Jones' radio show, noting that he had watched his host's videos and expressing support for the effort to "expose people who are promoting this globalist agenda." (In turn, Jones urged his listeners to send money to Paul's Senate campaign.)
When the public doesn't already understand that a crazy idea is crazy, it's hard to use belief in that idea against a candidate. That's why Joni Ernst is a slight favorite to win the Senate race in Iowa, even though she's said delusional things about the UN's Agenda 21. Hardly anybody knows what Agenda 21 is. Hardly anyone understands that it's innocuous. You can't tell voters that Ernst believes a cockamamie conspiracy theory when they don't know it's cockamamie.
Corn goes on to tell us that Rand Paul has worried about the imminent formation of a "North American Union" with a single currency:
Paul also has embraced one of the conspiracy theories promoted by his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul: that leaders from the United States, Canada, and Mexico are seeking to merge their countries into a socialist megastate that would issue the "Amero" currency to replace US and Canadian dollars and the Mexican peso. (Anti-feminist campaigner Phyllis Schlafly and Jerome Corsi, who led the 2004 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign, are among the key proponents of this idea.)But people don't know that's crazy. We have NAFTA. What's the difference? Why is NAFTA real and this is crazy? People don't understand. It would be hard to get them to understand. And no one's really tried.
At an appearance for his father's 2008 presidential campaign in Bozeman, Montana, Rand Paul was asked what steps his dad would take to thwart the scheme to impose a North American superstate. The first thing to do, he said, was "publicizing that it's going on" and pushing Congress to "stop it." He insisted the Amero push was "a real thing" but cautioned, "If you talk about it like it's a conspiracy, they'll paint you as a nut. It's not a conspiracy, they're out in the open about it. I guarantee it's one of their long-term goals -- to have one sort of borderless mass continent." He did not specify who "they" were.
You're not going to get a careful, detailed story debunking conspiracy myths about Agenda 21 or the North American Union or the Bilderbergers from The Washington Post or The New Republic or The New York Times Magazine or CNN -- maybe stories would appear if a high-profile candidate invoked one of these theories in the heat of a closely covered campaign, but that's not what's happening. (Rand Paul, as Corn notes, stopped talking about these conspiracies once he became a serious Senate candidate. That's also what Ernst has done.)
As long as these ideas are under the elite press's radar, there won't be debunkings. Even Vox, which sells itself as the site where everything you might see mentioned in the news gets explained, has nothing about the Bilderberg group or the Amero. The phrases "Agenda 21" and "North American Union" have never appeared at Vox.
If the mainstream media won't deign to debunk these myths because doing so feels like slumming, the myths will fester -- and the public won't know that candidates who've taken the myths seriously are engaging in crazy talk. Ernst is skating; unless the media's approach to conspiracies starts to change, Paul will, too.