One of the many problems with the slow descent into conspiratorial madness unfolding across conservative media and within the Republican Party is that once you’ve reached a point where the president is dialing up state election officials to babble on about nonsensical things he saw on the internet about dead people voting and election workers setting fire to ballots, you realize there's no bottom. Donald Trump’s desperate attempt to cling to power has led his followers (even further) down the path to crazy town.
A recent claim about the U.S. election being manipulated from Italy shows just how nutty the world of right-wing conspiracy theories has become.
Yes, Italy. The land of fine wines, Vespa scooters, and gelato has added the toppling of American presidents to its list of specialties. It goes like this: At the tail-end of his second term, President Barack Obama took money from one of the “pallets of cash” (which is part of a different right-wing conspiracy theory) going to Iran, funneling $400 million to people in Italy in exchange for help trying to “unravel the Trump presidency.” In exchange, an Italian general used a military satellite to upload software to American voting machines that would change votes from Trump to Joe Biden. Just like that, boom, Trump loses. Checkmate, libs!
Did any of this happen? Almost certainly not. Does it make any sense? Not really, and the bizarre audio recording being passed around by Trump superfans and QAnon conspiracy theorists trying to explain this unnecessarily elaborate plot was giving me a headache. Was the election stolen from Trump? For the absolute last time, the answer is no.
Luckily for those of us living in the reality-based world, major pro-Trump media organizations haven’t picked up this story -- yet.
So far, it seems mostly to be bouncing around the dregs of the internet, but given that it was promoted in places like Parler, 4chan, Gab, and pro-Trump Reddit clone TheDonald.win, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that Trump himself will inject this into the mainstream.
Ron Watkins, the onetime administrator of message board site 8kun -- the home of the QAnon conspiracy theory -- has been retweeted by Trump and interviewed on the pro-Trump One America News Network about bogus election fraud conspiracy theories. Yesterday, he tweeted to his growing online audience that this latest loony theory was “fact.”
QAnon and Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Ann Vandersteel also shared the bonkers and factually bankrupt claim on her Twitter account. “Our State Dept interfered. Many govt agencies interfered. This is bonafide proof Obama is involved. #treason,” she tweeted.
Naturally, as these things tend to do, it all came back to boogeyman of the right: George Soros.
This is taking on George Soros. The entire election was orchestrated in the Rome Embassy. A board member from the defense contractor Leonardo used their satellite link to change votes from Trump to Biden.
— SteelKRAKEN! Ann Vandersteel (@annvandersteel) January 6, 2021
Everything is so unbelievably dumb, and dear reader, I regret to inform you that it will only get dumber. It’s not all bad, however.
As supporters of the conspiracy theory tried to get #ItalyDidIt to trend on Twitter, Twitter users who still have some tangible attachment to reality used the occasion to mock them mercilessly, a true pastime of the social media era.
Only time will tell if the Italy conspiracy theory will catch hold in places like Newsmax, One America News Network, Gateway Pundit, Breitbart, and Fox News. If not this theory, it’s a near certainty that it will be something else equally goofy that makes the rounds soon -- maybe something to explain last night’s GOP losses in Georgia’s Senate runoff elections. In the meantime, take solace in knowing that after reading this, you won’t have to ask, “WTF are you talking about?” when your grandma, distant uncle, or commander-in-chief push these claims into your inboxes and social media feeds.