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We REALLY need to talk about how conspiracy theories fuel fascism and how the Right's use of weaponized paranoia and white supremacist insecurity threatens our lives.

It is...A LOT.

Here's what I learned writing AMERICAN RULE.

For those who haven't kept track, America is just drowning in weaponized conspiracy theories, including the ridiculous Qanon narrative that is patently absurd but is metastasizing into a terrorist movement that has already inspired violence.

We can regard Qanon as absurd, and it is, but we can't turn our back on it because it is a fascistic movement and is growing in scope and danger.

We have to examine these bizarre conspiracy theories to understand the dangers we have to navigate.

To begin this story, we have to go back to the early 20th century, where auto magnate Henry Ford sailed to Europe to try and end World War I.

On this journey, Ford was told of a conspiracy theory that would change his life and the course of history.

Henry Ford was told by a stranger about a Jewish conspiracy to use wars and societal unrest in order to gain power and profit

Ford bought in big and soon became obsessed with the so-called "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a document that "exposed" this nefarious conspiracy

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion purported to be notes from a secret Jewish meeting where shadowy puppetmasters planned their shadowy war on the world.

It was held up by Ford and others as damning evidence of a worldwide conspiracy.

Here's the problem.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was a fake.

In fact, it was a plagiarized text from a play called The Dialogue In Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu.

The play was a satire of the political manipulations of white people.

This play was about how white supremacy works and the many manipulations those in power must undertake in order to maintain power.

From the beginning, these conspiracy theories about Jewish "cabals" were projections of white supremacist conspiracies.

Henry Ford bought into the antisemitic Protocols conspiracy theory and threw his entire weight and fortune into promoting it.

When he returned from Europe, he began spreading the conspiracy theory relentlessly until it grew by leaps and bounds.

Henry Ford used his wealth to print excerpts from the fake Protocols of the Elders of Zion, filling his newspapers with the antisemitic lies and then gathering them in book form, which became an international bestseller.

It was particularly Germany.

Ford's antisemitic conspiracy theories hit home with Adolf Hitler, who used the conspiracies to fuel his Nazi movement and explain Germany's struggles.

In this warped worldview, the country struggled because it was under attack by a conspiracy.

Hitler peddled the "Knife in the Back" myth that said Germany lost World War I because of Jewish traitors.

Pay attention here.

These conspiracies are used by nationalist movements to explain how a country could struggle without blaming the country.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion conspiracy theory gave Hitler a mythology in which the Jewish problem had to be taken care of.

This legitimized racism, fascism, and extralegal means of dealing with an "existential threat."

It was an explanation for tyranny.

Hitler was so thankful to Henry Ford he awarded him a medal, kept a portrait of him in his office, and told an American newspaper he wished he could send shocktroops stateside in order to establish Ford as a fascist dictator in the United States.

As a quick aside, with all this context, remember Trump saying Ford had "good blood" when he visited the automobile plant.

All of this is predicated on a white supremacist, paranoid worldview. The echoes of the past continue playing out in this modern movement.

Hitler and Ford's antisemitic conspiracy theory caught purchase in America, where hero Charles Lindbergh called for unity between "white nations" against the rising tide of minorities.

He said World War II was a Jewish conspiracy, that government was controlled by them.

Lindbergh's "America First" movement was a precursor to Trumpism.

It used the same slogans and told the same story, only it was explicitly antisemitic wherein Trumpism only *hints* and *dogwhistles* that racist conspiracy.

This stuff has been present throughout out history

White supremacist conspiracy theories have plagued us for generations.

The story is always the same. Shadowy figures, usually Jewish people or communists in league with them, are manipulating people of color and coordinating with liberal traitors.

Anytime a civil rights movement starts or people protest, the story immediately returns to this conspiracy theory.

It gives white supremacists in power an argument to make. They're only protecting us from a conspiracy. They're fighting terrorists, not Americans.

This narrative resurrected in the 1980's when Ronald Reagan actively revised the history of the Vietnam War and created a new "Knife In The Back" myth that liberals and traitors had caused America to lose in Vietnam

It was an explanation of how a "chosen country" could lose

Because America was drowning in nationalism, Reagan's Knife In The Back conspiracy caught purchase and our view of Vietnam changed.

It echoed through our popular culture, in our movies, in our narrative.

America, it seemed, was under attack by traitors.

Following Reagan, the New World Order conspiracy emerged.

It was a retelling of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and explained the emerging global economy as a shadowy system hellbent on destroying America and liberals as being treasonous traitors.

Right-wing organizations like the GOP and NRA peddled the NWO conspiracy in order to win elections, spur fundraising, and demonize liberals as traitors.

It was wildly successful and led to a burgeoning alternate reality where the Left was a satanic, murderous force.

Personalities like Rush Limbaugh amassed vast fortunes peddling the NWO/liberal conspiracy theory, telling listeners and viewers that Democrats in league with the UN and secret cabals were coming for their guns and to takeover the US.

Unfortunately, when you tell people they're in an invisible war against people hellbent on killing them, they often take things into their own hands.

Timothy McVeigh believed he was a soldier in that invisible war. He, like other white terrorists, killed so many people.

Starting in the mid-90's, Fox News came on the air with the purpose of creating an alternate reality where Republicans could win elections.

The main strategy of FNC is to tell the story of the New World Order conspiracy without mentioning it explicitly.

What Fox News does is tiptoe up to the line of explicitly talking about antisemitic and racist conspiracy theories, but allowing their viewers to fill in the blanks.

FNC's America is under constant, murderous attack by liberal traitors and dangerous minorities.

The story is the same though.

It is always a shadowy conspiracy carried out by a Jewish puppetmaster (usually George Soros or others) in league with liberal politicians and organizations, using minorities as mindless soldiers.

It is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

What Fox and the Right has done is peddle a conspiracy theory that fueled Nazi Germany and the original fascist movement.

They maintain "respectability" by not saying the racist part outloud constantly, but the elements are all unarguably racist and fascist.

What has happened is that the Right's conspiracy peddling has entrapped its followers in an alternate reality where they are in danger of being murdered or tortured by a shadowy cabal of Jewish manipulators, liberal traitors, and murderous minorities.

It is spreading.

Though Qanon and associated movements often stop at saying the antisemitic part outloud, and maybe don't even know they're in the original antisemitic conspiracy theory, but it's part and parcel of the belief.

It's just a retelling of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

And what Qanon and associated movements, including the Republican Party, promote is an alternate reality where any means are necessary to stop the murderous conspiracy.

It tells believers that extralegal arrests, murders, torture, all of it is on the table for protection.

These ideas are explicitly fascist.

Public executions. Illegal imprisonment. Secret counter-conspiracies.

All of it is focused on empowering the Right to kill and maim and break democratic institutions.

After all. It's war. An invisible war that means life or death.

In this alternate reality, the means of legally addressing the issues are corrupted.

The Deep State, after all, controls everything.

Only extralegal, fascistic measures can "solve" this problem.

It is a cult of fascistic power.

And like every cult of fascistic power, Qanon and the Right are cults of personality.

They take their leaders, in this case Donald Trump, and turn them into messiah, warriors for the cause of everything good and godly.

Fascist movements are cults. Always have been.

This is the horrifying truth.

America isn't in a political crisis. This is a full-blown fascistic threat. Our myths and weaponized alternate realities are hurtling toward violence and the dismemberment of democratic institutions.

This is how authoritarian states take shape

I can tell you from my time reporting on Trump rallies in 2016 that his base talk openly about "taking matters into their own hands," about murdering, mass arrests, lynchings, violence as a solution against a massive conspiracy.

The point is, America is primed for this.

We've seen these conspiracy theories result in violence before, both in Nazi Germany and here in the United States.

It has happened here. It is happening here. It's our history and unfortunately it's our present.

The Right's alternate reality is a path to fascism.

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