by Victor Davis Hanson
American politics over the last half decade has become immersed in a series of conspiracy charges leveled by Democrats against their opponents that, in fact, are happening because of them and through them. The consequences of these conspiracies becoming reality and reality revealing itself as conspiracy have been costly to American prestige, honor, and security. As we move away from denouncing realists as conspiracists, and self-pronounced “realists” are revealed as the true conspirators, let’s review a few of the more damaging of these events.
Russians on the Brain
Consider that the Trump election of 2016, the transition, and the first two years of the Trump presidency were undermined by a media-progressive generated hoax of “Russian collusion.”
The “bombshell” and “walls are closing in” mythologies dominated the network news and cable outlets. It took five years to expose them as rank agit-prop.
Robert Mueller and his “dream team” consumed $40 million of Americans’ money and 22 months of our time—to find the nothingburger that most of the country already knew was nothing. Yet the subtext of the 2018 Democratic takeover of the House was the media narrative that Trump, as Hillary Clinton put it, was an “illegitimate” president, due to Russian collusion.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper claimed on national television that Trump was a “Russian asset.” Former CIA head John Brennan assured the nation that the president was “treasonous,” due to his supposed “lies to the American people.”
All sorts of politicians, retired military, and news anchors echoed the charges. The lies and myths of has-been British spy Christopher Steele made him a leftist hero. They were repeated ad nauseam as truth.
FBI grandees like James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Kevin Clinesmith, and others destroyed their careers in their obsessions over Trump. In the process of destroying themselves, they also nearly wrecked the reputation of the FBI. The Pentagon has the lowest popular support in modern memory. The CIA is more feared by millions of Americans than by our enemies.
Steele could not produce any evidence to back up his scurrilous charges. The inspector general of the Department of Justice found little evidence to substantiate any of the charges. James Comey and Robert Mueller under oath both pleaded either memory problems or denied any knowledge about the FBI’s use of Steele and the role his fake dossier played.
Most of the televised accusers, when under oath before Congress, admitted they had no evidence for their flamboyant charges. Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who claimed the dossier was authentic and that Trump was compromised, has repeatedly been revealed as a liar. In various televised House hearings, he kept getting caught either fabricating, misrepresenting, or warping evidence before his own committee.
No matter. Hillary Clinton and the Left kept pounding “collusion.” The more it was proven false, the more they shouted the lie.
Finally, special counsel John Durham’s investigations, some authentic media investigative reporting, and the preponderance of evidence showed not only that Trump did not collude with the Russians, but that the entire charge was a sick sort of projection on the part of Hillary Clinton and her vassals.
Steele concocted the election-cycle fantasy using a former Clintonite totem in Moscow. Another source was the now indicted Igor Danchenko ( a “primary sub-source”), who was working at the leftist Brookings Institution while feeding Steele.
A cynic might look at this sad chapter and conclude that Hillary Clinton sought to destroy her opponent by paying Christopher Steele to manufacture fantasies fabricated from left-wing and former Clinton associates. Then she used the media, the FBI, the CIA, and the Justice Department to seed the farce while hiding her own role behind three firewalls including the DNC, the Perkins Coie law firm, and Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS.
The ultimate irony?
Hillary Clinton did collude with those claiming to have Russian connections to warp an election, and she projected her likely illegal activity onto the target of her attacks. No conspiracist could trump such reality. Will Merrick Garland look at her role in this episode as he conducts his insurrectionist investigations concerning efforts to undermine an election?
What was the post facto cost when such former “conspiracies” became realities, and former realities became the true conspiracies? The damage done was considerable.
We once realistically used the Russians to balance the Chinese. But the Left, which appeased Vladimir Putin with “reset,” now flipped to create a climate of hate indiscriminately against all Russians.
In this tortuous process from reset to collusion, we have empowered Putin among Russians as the heroic American resistor. We lost leverage against the Chinese. We ended up in a situation today where we are talking tough but are, in fact, sinking in a quagmire of fake collusion, the Afghanistan debacle, the Biden train wreck of 2021, and the woke hysteria. All that is making the calculating Putin wonder whether U.S. deterrence is now a phantom. In other words, we look ridiculous.
The Lab We Dare Not Speak
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, the level-4 security Wuhan Institute of Virology lab has been central to all narratives about the origins, nature, and spread of the pandemic.
There have been four cycles of these fantasies and realities. First came the frantic denials of a connection by the Chinese government, most of the Americana media, a consortium of scientists mostly dependent on Drs. Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci for generous support, corporate grandees with lucrative concessions in China, and the federal health apparat itself.
Second, the iron-clad denial of a human-engineered virus waned by the weight of its own contradictions. Evidence, at first circumstantial, later nearly overwhelming, seeped through the Wuhan denial wall of social media, traditional media, the Chinese government, and the U.S. establishment. Those interests all shared a common purpose of seeing Trump, the supposed Sinophobe, gone and the bat/pangolin fiction conspiracy apparently seemed yet one more way to achieve this goal.
A third phase then emerged, as the true role of Peter Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance was revealed, as the pathetic international and Chinese-fed “investigations” collapsed in conflicts of interests, as interagency emails emerged from the CDC, NIH, and NIAID, and as a hothead Dr. Fauci protested too much in his paranoid denials before the Senate of his own role in any subsidized gain-of-function research. The American people and some media began to resist the intimidation and look at the evidence.
Now we are at the fourth and final stage of the catastrophe. A once esteemed Fauci has been reduced to a cranky apparatchik. At best he will soon retire with some disgrace, and at worst he will be subject to years of investigation and litigation once his left-wing defenders in Congress, who once found him so useful, lose their majority.
Most others who fiercely denied the human genesis of the supposed “bat” virus have either retired or resigned from their posts at the CDC and NIH. Democratic politicos have stopped slandering those who argued there was no natural origin to the pandemic.
Indeed, they are now parroting the once reviled advice of Dr. Scott Atlas. Stanford immunologists and epidemiologists are no longer smeared but quoted with approval. The Left now seeks to ease the lockdowns, to admit that thousands died “with” rather than “because” of the virus, and to concede that natural immunity is valuable. It agrees that there are therapies and carefully targeted quarantines other than just serial booster vaccinations and mass lockdowns to lower the death toll of the COVID strains and the never-ending mass quarantines. That Biden, not Trump, is suffering from the lockdowns offers added incentive to its revisionism.
As the authority, power, and reputation of Fauci, Inc. waned, several scientists and government investigators are now liberated. They are demonstrating why the engineered virus is wholly different from its natural cousins, and why its manufactured nature is so infectious to humankind. We are getting close to learning, despite vestigial Chinese and U.S. government pushback, how SARS-CoV-2 was birthed, why it spread so quickly, and why so many denied its origins and nature.
Pause for a minute and consider: The origins of the greatest pandemic since the 1918-19 flu—one that has killed millions, occurring at the zenith of global scientific progress, world cooperation, and technological achievement—were simply hidden from the global public.
Worse, anyone with legitimate questions about the official Chinese and Fauci narratives of a naturally occurring bat or pangolin virus that leaped over to humankind, one with no relationship to the nearby Wuhan lab and without prior animal infections, was targeted for character assassination.
Again, we are left with the real conspiracy that blamed the realists as conspiracists. The Chinese and Anthony Fauci played the role of Hillary Clinton, in accusing others of anti-scientific conspiracies as they wove scenarios that were dubious but aimed at aligning powerful figures in a conspiracy of sorts to smother the emerging and astounding truth of their own culpability.
The January 6 “Coup”
Finally, we come to the third case of projection, yet another conspiracy to create conspiracists.
The January 6 riot was disgraceful. But it was a one-day spontaneous, chaotic, illegal entrance in and desecration of the Capitol by assorted buffoons.
We now know that even according to the FBI investigation—that was and is eager to prove a coup—January 6 was not a carefully planned putsch as Joe Biden so blatantly lied recently.
New insurrectionist indictments—by Attorney General Merrick Garland in response to left-wing pressures—targeted a disorganized and psychodramatic group of self-important Oath Keepers wannabes and poseurs. In contrast, serious insurrectionists do not leave their guns behind in order to abide by strict D.C. firearms laws. They do not ride to their rendezvous at the Capitol in golf carts. And they do not stage an insurrection by being unarmed as they scatter about, yell, confront police, raise hell, and meander through the Capitol.
If these had been serious insurrectionists, they would have followed the Antifa model: arriving stealthily in the many hundreds if not thousands, melting through crowds to assigned locations, in black with padded body armor, helmets, various clubs, and carefully coordinating their weeks-long and sustained violence on approved social media.
Or if they were serious about using extra-legal means, they would (to take some non-random examples) encourage retired officers to pen a letter calling on the military to use force to remove a president and advocate in national journals that the military plan for a coup against the elected president, or write op-eds suggesting the president leave “the sooner the better,” or brag about a “conspiracy” and a “coup” of CEOs, who coordinate with the rich, with street activists, and with leftists to “stem the flow of information,” to modulate violence in the street, to flood voting precincts with subsidized ballot workers, and to warp the allotment of resources—and post facto brag in TIME magazine about the successful effort. Or finally perhaps they would just do as Hillary Clinton did: advise their preferred candidate (as she did Joe Biden) never to accept a ballot count that goes other than his preferred way.
Then there is the work of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who created a January 6 investigation committee. In an unprecedented move, she vetoed the House minority leader’s nominations to the committee. She instead picked her own.
Only two Republicans were willing to serve. They apparently had to fulfill her three criteria of voting for the Trump impeachment, of being so unpopular with Republican voters that their congressional futures will end in 2021 and being on record as praising Nancy Pelosi.
The committee has one left-wing agenda: ferreting out any statement by an elected Republican official deemed too ambiguous about the riot being an insurrection. It seeks to cast them as Jefferson Davis-style Confederates, deserving of removal from Congress for plotting “insurrection,” along the Civil War standards of the 1868 14th Amendment.
The committee members are not interested in reopening the investigation of the officer who shot Ashli Babbitt, a man who may not have ever been sufficiently interrogated by investigators.
They seem indifferent to the likely presence and use of FBI informants.
They care not a whit about the treatment of some uncharged suspects in solitary confinement or detained in primitive jail conditions.
Nor are they concerned about the asymmetrical and weaponized federal reaction to January 6 when compared to general government indifference about the summer 2020 planned riots.
As far as entering federal property to do damage to sacred sites, in May 2020 hundreds sought to break into the White House grounds, injured dozens of secret service agents, and posed such a threat that President Trump was removed to a bunker. All that is now forgotten.
Nor is the committee concerned about the role of prominent Americans in encouraging that summer’s violence, looting, arson, and rioting.
Current Vice President Kamala Harris boasted during the summer 2020 riots that such organized violence would go on and on, and would and should not cease:
They’re not going to stop. They’re not going to stop. This is a movement, I’m telling you. They’re not gonna stop. And everyone beware because they’re not gonna stop. They’re not gonna stop before Election Day and they’re not going to stop after Election Day. And everyone should take note of that. They’re not gonna let up and they should not.
Had Trump voiced Harris’ encouragement of street violence, he would now be indicted.
In investigating a supposed conspiracy, why does the committee conspire to ensure that thousands of hours of videos are not released that might give a more accurate picture of the culpable who prompted the Capitol riot, who participated, and the reaction of the Capitol police?
Why conspire not to force the attorney general and FBI director in closed session to list all FBI informants involved in the riot, or any intergovernmental law enforcement communications about their use?
Why not simply have a comprehensive investigation about 2020-21 domestic violence of all sorts, and begin with summer 2020 and continue to January 6?
Why not allow the nominated Republicans skeptical of the official January 6 narrative to vie on the committee in the pursuit of truth with their opponents? Instead of equating the riot with the Civil War, Pearl Harbor, or 9/11, why not issue a report about the long history of violence in the Capitol to adjudicate comparisons with the January 6 riot?
The answers are obvious. A midterm election looms in fewer than 10 months. Given Biden’s current historic unpopularity, given the failure of his policies, given generic anger at the Democratic Party, the campaign talking points are not going to be the border, Afghanistan, inflation, energy, race relations, or the build back better multitrillion dollar fiasco.
Instead, it will be Trump! “Democracy dies in 2022!!” and “January 6!!!”
Ponder the costs of this January 6 exaggerated narrative. The U.S. Army is now running war games designed to defeat fantasy right-wing domestic terrorists. The FBI is monitoring PTAs and schoolchildren’s parents.
As it searches for “white supremacists” and uses indoctrination educational methods to ensure the end of “white privilege” and “white rage,” the military polls record lows in public support. More than half the country distrusts it. Efforts at recruitment are stalling, despite generous bonuses.
Vaccination mandates apply even to those with acquired immunity from past infection and are also winnowing the ranks. The military failure in Afghanistan and its diversity, equity and inclusion cannibalism have stirred China and Russia to recognize an opportunity. In tandem both now increasingly salivate over Taiwan and Ukraine.
January 6 has been used to slander anyone supporting voter IDs, which are common in Europe and most of the states.
Joe Biden—who in his earlier career wished it known that officials like segregationist George Wallace, Fritz Hollings, and James Eastland were friendly to him—has a long history of racist “gaffes.” He knows he will either not be reelected, or will not run again, or he will be removed from office, or resign. For a failing Biden and a soon to be thrown out narrow congressional Democratic majority, it is now or never.
The collusion, COVID-19, and January 6 narratives have been terribly costly to the nation.
Conspiracy projection has split apart the country. The Left has fought efforts to learn the full truth, as they project conspiracies to disguise conspirators.
They have grievously weakened the reputation and authority of the U.S. government here and abroad.
We are lectured that “democracy dies” if the Democrats lose elections and “voter suppression” requires drastic counteraction—even as the Left goes after the Electoral College, the nine-justice Supreme Court, the filibuster, the 50-state union, and the constitutional primacy of states to set voting laws.
All this is as pathetic as it is fatal to the survival of the American project.
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Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump and the newly released The Dying Citizen.