US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania tested positive for COVID-19 on the evening of Thursday, October 1. In retrospect, the diagnosis should not have become as a complete surprise. For months, Trump and most of his entourage ignored the advice of public health specialists, in his own administration, to wear masks in public settings and maintain social distance between the president, his key advisers and other White House personnel.
QAnon: A Conspiracy for Our Time
Despite warnings from infectious disease specialists inside and outside the administration, Trump persisted to hold public rallies, often in confined indoor settings, as part of his reelection campaign. These events appeared to gratify the president’s need for attention and unqualified adoration, irrespective of their partisan political benefits. Based on this behavior, extended over the course of the pandemic, it was almost inevitable that the infection caught up with Trump.
This interpretation seems perfectly reasonable. But it is unlikely to satisfy voices on the far right of the American political spectrum despite the House of Representatives’ bipartisan vote on October 2 to condemn the QAnon conspiracy. It requires some speculation, but not all that much, to expect QAnon believers and such deranged media figures as Alex Jones to produce a set of “alternative facts.”
These “facts” are likely to involve the discovery of still another “deep state” conspiracy within the federal government. According to such a conspiratorial view, Trump’s attempts to achieve his “pro-American” white nationalist objective are being sabotaged by a secret conspiracy formed among federal bureaucrats to thwart his policy goals. “Deep state” conspirators will stop at nothing to bring down Trump and his “conservative” administration. We should not be surprised if, over the remaining weeks leading to the November 3 presidential election, various versions of such a “deep state” conspiracy appear across the internet. It remains to be seen how much will be taken up by Fox News and other outlets.
Multiple “deep state” conspiracy assertions and interpretations have surfaced in American political life over the decades. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the journalist John T. Flynn and other right-wing isolationists, including “Colonel” Robert McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, claimed that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had deliberately goaded the Japanese into attacking the United States to make gullible Americans abandon their “America First” ideals and support the country’s entry into the war against the Axis powers.
Flynn and others believed that Roosevelt knew of the Japanese plans to attack Pearl Harbor but deliberately did not alert US commanders in Hawaii, Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and Lieutenant General Walter Short, so that the attack could proceed with maximum effect. According to this scenario, the blood of the sailors on the USS Arizona was on Roosevelt’s hands.
During President Dwight Eisenhower’s second term, when fears of communism became a national obsession, Robert Welch, a retired Massachusetts candy manufacturer, formed the John Birch Society. (Birch was an American missionary in China who had been killed by Mao’s Communists in 1946.) Welch went on to publish a widely publicized “Blue Book,” which, among other things, included a list of domestic “communists” and communist sympathizers who were scheming to bring down America. The president’s brother, Dr. Milton Eisenhower, then the chancellor of the University of Minnesota, was allegedly his superior in the communist conspiracy. The president himself was simply a dupe instrumentalized by powers that be inside the communist movement.
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in November 1963 yielded a bonanza of conspiracy theories. The assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, had defected to the Soviet Union, returned to the US and became a member of the “Fair Play for Cuba” committee while living in New Orleans. Those who espoused this conspiratorial interpretation claimed either the USSR — the assassination occurred after the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis — or Fidel Castro, who had been targeted for assassination by the CIA, were behind the murder.
At the time, competing left-wing conspiracy theories flourished as well, according to which Kennedy had been the victim of right-wing generals and businessmen who wanted the United States to abandon plans for a peaceful end to the Cold War. Film director and Vietnam War veteran Oliver Stone made a movie depicting the dynamics of this conspiracy, featuring an imaginary New Orleans district attorney uncovering the “truth.”
The New World Order (NWO) conspiracy arose at the end of the Cold War. Following the expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991 by an international coalition led by the United States, President George H. W. Bush referred to the emergence of a new world order dominated by America as the world’s only “hyper-power.” His celebration of American dominance was understood by members of various active well-armed “patriot” groups around the country as the government’s attempt to compromise American sovereignty.
Bush’s aim, according to this conspiracy, was to turn the United States over to the United Nations and other dark international evil-doers. In parts of the West and Midwest, NWO believers spotted black helicopters hovering above farms and ranches. Others detected the movement of black trains carrying Chinese communist troops to obscure destinations. Suspicions were aroused in the Northwest that detachments of China’s People’s Liberation Army were massing on the Canadian border, preparing to invade the US. Reverend Pat Robertson, a prominent televangelist, even wrote a book entitled “The New World Order,” warning of the NWO threat and encouraging followers to be prepared.
If Donald Trump’s COVID-19 infection is blamed on the “deep state,” it will surely become part of a line of right-wing conspiracies involving American presidents, either as victims or, in the case of Roosevelt, perpetrators.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.