The conservative movement has two new enemies: the FBI and the survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. At far-right Gateway Pundit, Lucian Wintrich managed to package them into one stark raving headline, casting aspersions on 17-year-old survivor David Hogg by noting his father is a retired FBI agent, and accusing him of having been coached on "anti-Trump lines" due to being suspiciously articulate and repeating himself a few times in a taped interview.
Before I explain what's going on, just consider the depravity of Wintrich's smear for a moment. It's a dizzying demonstration of the moral abomination the conservative propaganda machine has become.
So, here we go: Republican propagandists don't like the FBI now due to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation turning up alleged jaw-dropping corruption and crimes among President Trump's inner circle as well as a Russian campaign to influence the election that, at a minimum, the Trump campaign embraced with open arms.
Movement conservatives dealt with this the same way they deal with everything: by dreaming up an unhinged conspiracy theory. Suddenly, conservatives from Sean Hannity on down began braying that the FBI — composed overwhelmingly of middle-aged Republican men who furiously despised Hillary Clinton and whose major significant electoral action was then-director James Comey giving Trump a huge leg up a week before election day — was part of a Deep State conspiracy to undermine the president.
Now comes yet another gun massacre at a school, only this time it turned out some of the people who survived were smart theater kids, who could speak eloquently in front of a camera and were familiar with digital platforms and norms. Naturally enough, they advocated for gun control, stoking instant conservative fury.
Worse, they criticized Trump when he (in keeping with his usual "the buck stops anywhere but here" routine) blamed the FBI for being distracted with the Russia investigation and the local community for not reporting the shooter to the authorities. Infuriated survivors struck back, arguing with perfect justice that it should be the job of national politicians to make some changes to fix the problem, not squirm out of blame — and especially not shift responsibility to the community, which actually had tried to inform law enforcement as Trump suggested.
Also, it must have been pretty galling to see the president try to use a giant massacre of children as a club to beat back a corruption investigation into himself.
But slavish hero-worship of Trump and furious pummeling of anyone who criticizes him are now the basic operating principles of conservative politics. So like some truth-resistant outbreak of flesh-eating mold, conservatives started attacking the kids by invoking their previous conspiracy theory about the FBI. There was the aforementioned Wintrich story, shared thousands of times on Facebook and Twitter (Donald Trump, Jr. liked two tweets mentioning it), while another story insinuated that Hogg wasn't even a survivor. Meanwhile, on CNN, former GOP congressman Jack Kingston accused the survivors of being George Soros plants. InfoWars founder Alex Jones has suggested that the entire massacre was a "false flag" hoax, just as he did with Sandy Hook.
Bill O'Reilly, the disgraced former Fox News anchor, sounded almost reasonable when he suggested the survivors merely have an unreliable perspective due to supposed "extreme peer pressure."
That's the modern conservative movement for you. Every political faction has its blind spots, its hypocrisies, and its inconvenient facts that tend to be ignored. But the Republican Party is far and away the most intellectually diseased of any major party in the industrialized world. Any political problem they face is immediately deluged with a frenzy of unhinged nutcase brain slop. Climate change? Hoax. Inflation staying stubbornly low? Hoax. Polls looking bad? Unskew! President breathtakingly corrupt? FBI hoax.
The old John Bircher theory that President Eisenhower was a secret communist seems almost quaint by comparison with today's attacks on kids who are still burying their slain classmates.
Indeed, the conservative fever swamps now routinely belch up stuff literally out of nothing, as seen with the Pizzagate conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were running a child sex dungeon out of a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C. That culminated in a crack-brained guy, armed with a rifle, looking for a basement that didn't exist underneath the Comet Ping-Pong restaurant.
Only one thing is for sure: You'd be a fool to think there are any depths to which the conservative movement will not sink.