Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Republican congressman fuels Egyptian conspiracy theories

TPM noted this two months ago, and I've been meaning to blog about it since then. They called it The Weirdest Story in the History of the World:
I noticed what I have to say is one of the most fascinating and weirdest developments in Egypt’s now week long coup/revolution/uprisingthing. There are a lot of people in Egypt who aren’t just mad at Morsi and upset with the US for not more forcefully supporting his ouster. Many actually think the US is actively supporting a Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the country. And just to be certain we’re crystal clear: I don’t mean supporting Morsi and the Brotherhood as the legitimate government because they won a fairly free national election. I mean a conspiracy to help the Brotherhood take over the country, even to the extent of rigging the election that brought him to power.

This is actually something we covered in some depth last year. But the best capsule summary I’ve found is this piece by Robert Mackey in the Times’ Lede blog. The upshot is this: we all know all the whackadoodle conspiracy theories from the right about Obama being a secret Muslim. But there’s also a more specific sub-whackadoodlism pushed by members of Congress and a group of DC-based Islamophobe activists that argues that the Obama administration has actually been infiltrated by Islamists in sympathy with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Like I said, we covered this last year and I remembered it pretty vividly. But I didn’t grasp until this weekend how far it had spread within Egypt or how prevalent an assumption it had become within the anti-Morsi protest community.

Most of this comes from the Frank Gaffney world, allied with the usual suspects in Congress: Gohmert, Bachmann, et al. You’ll probably remember the charges about Huma Abedin, Hillary’s Clinton’s longtime assistant/advisor and, weirdly enough, Anthony Weiner’s wife. There’s been a long series of accusations that she’s a Brotherhood plant at the heart of Obama administration foreign policy making. The charges became so widespread that John McCain felt it necessary to go to the Senate floor to defend her.

There are many, many other examples of this kind of craziness. Abedin is only one high-profile example. But the key point is that what most of us here take as fringe Crazy has germinated into a full-fledged set of conspiracy theories in Egypt, perhaps one of the most astounding Internet era feedback loops yet seen.

Get this? Both sides in Egypt hate us, both sides think we're helping their enemies, because of lunatic stuff coming from Republican congressmen - leaders in the Republican Party, not just random crazies.

Of course, the Muslim Brotherhood hates us, because they're not crazy enough to believe this stuff - crazy, yes, but not that crazy. But that's how conspiracy theories work, isn't it? It's never a conspiracy to help your side, but always something you oppose.

But their opponents hate us, too, because crazy talk from Republican lunatics has convinced them that we're secretly on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood! Indeed, not just that, but that we've intervened (past actions of the CIA have made almost anything plausible to foreign nationals) to put them in power in Egypt!

Obviously, that's batshit crazy, but Egyptians probably don't know a whole lot more about us than we know about them. Sure, no one in America with two brain cells to rub together pays any attention to what Louie Gohmert or Michele Bachmann says, but all Egyptians see is that they're among the leaders of our country.

Heck, Bachmann even ran for president last year! She was even leading in Republican polls at one point. (Apparently, there are a lot of people in America who don't have two brain cells to rub together.) And they both get elected to help lead our nation at (nearly) the highest levels. They may be crazy, but there's a lot of crazy people in America who support them.

Do they believe the crazy stuff they say? Who knows? Either way, they're still in good standing in the Republican Party. These days, crazy isn't a problem for a Republican politician. Furthermore, even mainstream Republican leaders will say anything, do anything, and support anyone who attacks our president, no matter how crazy it is and no matter what it does to our country.

(Although I must give John McCain credit for defending Huma Abedin, I should note that, in many other ways, he's done everything he could to woo the far-right crazies, since he faced a primary challenge in his own party the last time he sought re-election.)

If Egyptians actually believe it, well, then it must be working, right? What this does to our standing in the world, what this does to our ability to influence other countries, what this does to our efforts to promote peace in the Middle East,... none of that matters to the GOP. (Well, when you're willing to destroy our economy just for political advantage, what won't you do?)

It used to be that both political parties put America first. Oh, they were always ambitious for political power, sure. But there were limits to what they'd do for political gain. They wouldn't actually harm America just to further their own political ambition.

Well, when it comes to today's Dixiecrat Republican Party, those days are gone. Those limits are gone. Now, they'll do anything to gain political power again. If they have to damage our country in order to gain political points, they'll do it. They don't even hesitate these days.

Think of it as phase two in the American Civil War. They lost the first time, in the 1800s, and they lost again when it came to racial segregation. But they haven't stopped fighting. (And they might even be winning in the war on women.)

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